Hidden Grandeur

First published by Obelisque Magazine, Cairo, Egypt. Click on photo below to read article.  I would like to express my apologies for not including the names of Miss Nihal El Mogi and Miss Naela El Mogi – the daughters of the late General Salah El Mogi – along with Mr. Yousef El Mogi, son of General Salah El Mogi – in this article. Hidden Grandeur

Advertisements

Reflections on Work and Life in Egypt Today

Here in Egypt, despite the ongoing negative worldwide media reports, Egyptians continue to work, live, study and play.

At this moment I sit around a large rectangular table with twelve Egyptian managers (6 women, 6 men, age 35-55) who are engaged in their bi-weekly steering committee meeting at Ipsos Egypt, the country office of the 2nd largest research firm in the world. Ipsos, based in Paris, France, is located in 85 countries worldwide.

These twelve young Egyptian professionals are skilled, educated, empowered and committed to their work, families, company and country.

As the only American working with them, I can say without trepidation that they are amongst the top professionals I have had the pleasure of working with for the past 30 years of professional life.

Not only are they competent, precise, effective, professional and ethical in all their dealings, they are also supportive and kind to each other. There is no semblance of back-stabbing or negative competition. It is a real pleasure to labor with them and I feel grateful to find myself in such a healthy and positive work environment. They get the work done, creatively and professionally and they laugh and smile at the same time.

Ipsos Egypt offices are located on the Corniche El Nil in Maadi, Cairo. As we participate in our steering meeting, we see the Nile River below us and the green banks of river on the other side remind us each moment of the ageless dignity and life in this marvelous country. We can see the farmers working in their fields, the donkeys carrying their loads, the water buffalo turning around the water pumps and again we are reminded that Egyptians continue to work, taking care of their small piece of this magnificent country, whether they be a corporate manager or a farmer, despite the turmoil Egypt finds itself in.

There is something so very real and romantic about this scene….something that the world news media never begins to understand or capture or relay. There is hope. There is resolve. There is endless love for this land, this people, this country. Something I have not seen or felt, quite like this, in any other country.

I see this hope and resolve and tenacity in my fellow Egyptian Ipsos colleagues and I see it in the farmers toiling on the banks of the Nile, outside our Ipsos window.

No wonder that Egypt was rated 4th most positive economic outlook, amongst 25 countries worldwide in the Ipsos Global Advisor, for the next six months.

The Ipsos Global Economic Pulse (a monthly syndicated survey of 25 countries) welcomed the addition of a new country: Egypt in Jan. 2014. Egyptians reflect notably positive assessments of their national economy (64%), raising the global aggregate two points (39%) and the regional aggregate in the Middle East and Africa three points (54%). More than half (54%) of Egyptians rate the economy in their local area to be ‘good’ while six in ten (61%) expect it to be ‘stronger’ in the next six months. After three months without change, the average global economic assessment of national economies surveyed in 25 countries inches higher this month with the inclusion of Egypt in the global survey. When asked to consider the current economic situation in their country, 39% of global citizens rate it to be ‘good.’ Without Egypt, the figure remains unchanged at 37%.

Saudi Arabia (86%) is the country with the highest proportion of respondents rating their national economies to be ‘good,’ followed by Germany (75%), Sweden (72%), Egypt (64%), China (63%), and Australia (59%). On the other end of the spectrum, a small minority (5%) of those in Italy rate their national economies as ‘good’, followed by Spain (7%), France (8%), South Korea (17%) and Hungary (17%).

So lift up your heads Ipsos colleagues because we have something to smile about.

EGYPT: We need our funny man back!

BassemYousef

WELCOME BACK BASSEM – EN SHAH ALLAH
Word on the street is that Bassem will be back On Air in a matter of weeks, albeit on another Network since CBC caved into and sucked up to the Interim government and broke the contract. Why? Because Bassem took pot shots at everyone including the Interim government.

But will Bassem have the guts to take pot shots at the same Interim government who shut down 1000 Egyptian NGOs yesterday, many of whom provide much needed healthcare to the poor of Egypt? We need our Funny Man back!

Will Bassem be allowed to criticize the new law that criminalizes any Egyptians who take part in demonstrations without first acquiring a permit? A permit???? Can you imagine Egyptians WAITING for a Permit? Now that is FUNNY!!!

The good news is that Bassem and his team have TONS of new material for the upcoming episodes!!!

________Below Written 3 November 2013_______________

Life in Egypt is so unpredictable. Totally the opposite as it used to be. Nothing changed for years. One could leave for a year or four and come back and nothing had changed. Now it changes every day. The American University announced at 4pm today that it will be closed tomorrow because of the trial of Pres. Morsy and the possibility of unrest. So I don’t teach as expected. No one, including the Americans ever have a game plan in advance. Everyone seems to be responding to events instead of creating the future.

Friday I sat in front of my television set at 10pm ready to watch the much awaited second-show-of-the-season of Egyptian comedian Bassem Yousef (the Egyptian John Stewart). The entire country sat waiting and it never came on. The previous week Bassem Yousef took pot shots at everyone including the Interim Egyptian President and General Sisi (who is really in charge of the country). It was brilliant and funny and cutting edge. He spared no one as he has done for the past year – during the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)year of Pres. Morsy. Of course he was slammed with some law suits that went no where and he stayed on air. Now under a new interim government – one episode and he was Unplugged! Rumors flew on Twitter that BY even fled the country.

The fact that most of the country was sitting in front of the television (politics is now the national sport taking over football since January 2011) and then got stiffed was a BAD sign. What could the new interim government be so afraid of? A comedian? We have all taken this as a bad sign and many of us feel that this means that we are back to square one in terms of revolution and the reasons for revolt. The economy certainly has not improved – the main cause of the revolution – rising cost of living, high unemployment, poverty rising, no future for the average Egyptian, etc. Now it seems that censorship is back in style – even greater censorship than under Mubarak. The difference is that the genie is out of the bottle, meaning Egyptians have no fear any longer, they know what their rights are supposed to look like and feel like and they are not going back to the bitter days of stagnation, control and despotism.

In other words, shutting down Egypt’s number one comedian was a bad move, a very bad move. It may seem insignificant to people outside Egypt but it is very significant here in Egypt. It means the revolution is still ON! (Remember the French Revolution lasted 100 years and they rewrote their Constitution 13 times.) Is Egypt in for the long haul? Do we have the patience and the resources to endure a long lasting revolution?

No matter what camp you are in: “It’s a coup” or “It’s NOT a coup” or whether you are Anti-MB or Pro-MB blacking-out Bassem Yossef was a slap on the face of ALL Egyptians. A huge wall (15m x 4m) in my neighborhood reads: OUR REVOLUTION IS CONTINUOUS.

As I sit on my balcony overlooking this magnificent scene, this auspicious antique land of the Nile River, I see one of the main arteries of our Mother Earth. I see an ancient body struggling to regain its power and beauty. The land, the river and the people have such character and depth that even after 7,000 years of pillage and abuse it still survives. Have you ever seen faded glory? This is Egypt. I can see nine pyramids across the Nile that stretch from the Giza Pyramids in the North to Sakkara Pyramids in the South. It enfolds before my senses and gives me pause.

If Egypt is allowed to fade even further and implode politically it will be the fault of all of us. Yes, you in New York, you in Dehli, you in Beijing, you in Paris, you in Washington DC, you in Cairo, Alexandria, Assuit and Aswan. For Egypt is the Mother of the Earth (Om Il Donaya). We should all be taking care of her. Egypt has given the world so much of what we humans treasure in life; from wheat to astronomy to pottery to glass to medicine and surgery. From agricultural methods to artistic techniques… Two of the nine original Wonders of the World – the Giza Pyramids and the first Light House (Alexandria) ever built – are in Egypt. Today Egypt holds 85% of the ancient anthropological and archaeological sites of the world.

Egypt is inhabited by 90 million people who like everyone else in the world simply wish to work well, live, marry, have a family, take care of their children, eat their delicious food, enjoy their families and friends and most of all ensure the future of their children. Egyptians truly live for their children. Economic and political policies and alignments, corruption brought from outside and fomented inside the country, resources spent on military instead of education, these are the macro reasons that have led the Egyptian people to despair, poverty and revolt. And don’t be fooled these same scenarios are being played out slowly in the west as well.

Is this future foreordained? I don’t think so. I think it is a matter of choice. Our choices everywhere, no matter where you live. If you are on my email list, chances are you are not part of the 1% elite that are greedily destroying our world for profit. We the 99% need to do more to make the rulers, corporations and bankers of our world more accountable to us. They and we must be accountable and care for our Earth. We must do what is good for us the people of the Earth, our children, our animals, our rivers, lands, seas, our souls, our life. For in the end it is a matter of life or a slow miserable death. I choose life.

WE ARE ALL EGYPTIANS – A warm welcome to Margaret Warner (PBS anchor) visiting Egypt

Saturday 7 September 2013 — Mari Girgis Church, Al Fustat Old Cairo

Welcome to Margaret Warner, Anchor, The Mac Neil News Hour – PBS, USA

Samia, Konstantin and I just took a little outing this morning to Al Fustat, the ancient area of Cairo that was once the Fauborg Saint Honore (Paris) of the Silk Road. In other words it was the most lavish and wealthiest area along the ancient Silk Road where traders from every culture, religion and nation exposed their wares of silk, gold, silver, carpets and more.

Today it is a run down area and it is hard to imagine that it was once so lavish. Five hundred meters away from the souk is Mari Gergis Church, the first church built in Egypt in the 2nd century AD.  Saint George is the patron saint and the story goes that the church was built on this site because there was already a Pharaonic Temple and a Jewish Synagogue at the site. What better place than to have them all together. This was their thinking back then. Mari Gergis church is also known as the “hanging church” because it literally hangs over the two ancient temples – Pharaonic and Jewish.

The church is under renovation so we didn’t actually get the chance to go inside. We went into the dungeon where Saint George was tortured and held by the Romans. They story goes that a virgin from the community was fed to a dragon every year until one year the mother of the virgin next in line prayed to St. George and asked that he intercede. He did. He slayed the dragon and the girl was spared as well as all the other girls for years to come. There are plenty of icons of St. George slaying the dragon hanging on the walls of the dungeon and in the small adjacent chapel. The instruments of torture used on St. George by the Romans are also on display. You can even put the “original” chain which enveloped St. George around your neck.

Next to the church is a cute little gift store where a young Egyptian Coptic woman named Basma (Smile in Arabic) sells everything from Pharaonic to Christian and Muslim souvenirs. Basma is very smiley and kind and bored because we were the only ones in the vicinity.

Tourism is all but dead in Egypt, thanks in part to CNN who has covered Egypt with enormous bias for the past 2.5 years. CNN has shown Egypt up in flames pretty much every time they cover Egypt, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

We stopped to look at photos in a small shop and that is when Konstantin disappeared. He had gone to find a trash can and poof he was gone. Samia and I panicked and began scouring the street looking for him and calling his name. During this panic I noticed Margaret Warner the anchor of the Mac Neil News Hour on PBS in the US. She was standing on the side walk with a couple security men and her crew. I recognized her right away but continued looking for Konstantin. He is my priority. When I found him I scolded him for disappearing and we walked back to the entrance. I introduced myself to Margaret. Samia joined us and we had a short discussion about Egypt and the Copts.  Samia let her know that we are all Egyptians and that our identity is firstly Egyptian and not by religion. Samia feels very strongly about that and came off as such.

Margaret and the crew were having trouble getting permission to enter the area and film. Samia went over and talked to the guards at the entrance.  She told them the crew were with PBS and not CNN. This seemed to do the trick and they were allowed to enter right away.

I spoke to Margaret’s cinematographer and told him how angry we Egyptians are at CNN. We call it CN-Zift which translates to CN-Shit. I told him of my experience being in Tahrir Square often with 500 thousand peaceful people making music, eating sweets and listening to each other. I told him how CNN rarely covered the peaceful demonstrators in the square and instead went around the corner to a side street where 3 dozen boys were paid to start small fires and throw Molotov cocktails and make noise. I was in the square, saw the boys on the side street and saw the CNN coverage that followed. It was always distorted and biased. The anger we feel towards CNN, as Egyptians, grew each time we saw their biased coverage which persisted until this day.

The cinematographer a strapping handsome man with tats up and down his arms, perhaps an Australian accent, not quite sure, told me “I am not surprised. When you are behind the camera, it is easy to make a small commotion look like a huge violent affair. Listen, it all comes down to money. When the network spends $50,000 to send a crew to cover a story in Egypt, they want some action. They don’t care home many peaceful demonstrators there are, that’s not action.”

“Do you realize that this kind of coverage by CNN has destroyed our country. Everyone all over the world has the impression that there is chaos and violence everywhere in Egypt. People are afraid to come and you can see for yourself that it is not true. It is safe and peaceful almost everywhere,” I said.

He was a nice man. He got it. He understood and he seemed genuinely sorry about the plight of Egypt.

Then Samia told him how, when we took to the streets in the tens of millions on June 30th CNN hardly bothered to cover our ongoing revolution. Why? Because it is not what the US administration was supporting. The US administration has been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and CNN might as well be state-owned-media because CNN walks the line of government policy, not bothering to tell the story of the masses of Egyptian people.

I gave Margaret my name and phone number and invited her to call if she needed any help or connections while she was here in Egypt. She has several stories to cover and file Imageback to NYC. It would be nice if she does call. Hopefully she will connect with the vast array of Egyptians who love their country with such passion and are crying buckets for their beloved Egypt.

I would like her to meet the singer Mohamed Munir and show his latest video that depicts the enormous variety of Egyptians all sitting together on a boat. Mohamed’s video captures what we all want for Egypt; the kind of cohabitation and tolerance for all people that is at the center of Egyptian culture and character for 7000 years. We are people who embrace and love the “other.” We are people who have welcomed visitors from every corner of the Earth with open arms, open hearts and minds, with the best of hospitality and food and kindness. We are people that learned all the languages of the world in order to welcome our visitors warmly.

We are a people who are the salt of the Earth and our country is the Mother of the Earth – OM IL DONYA.  This is who Egypt has always been and will always be. And that is why we passionately reject any group amongst us that want to divide us. We will not be divided. We are Egyptians. We are Nubian, Berber, Bedouin, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Secular, Young and Old, Rich and Poor, Salafi, Sunni, Shiite, Catholic, Protestant, Coptic. We are dark and we are light skinned. We are fat and thin and tall and short. We have brown and blue and green eyes and some of us even have two different colored eyes like David Bowie. And many of us are blind and handicapped in other ways, but we are all ONE. WE ARE ALL EGYPTIANS and we will not be divided.

God bless and keep the Egyptian people and our beloved land and country safe from those who would divide us.

Can the American government dupe the world again? Is war really necessary?

The American government changed its justification for military action against Iraq three times. Each time it was a lie. First WMDs. Then to relieve the Iraqi people of a horrendous dictator and finally to usher in democracy. Eleven years after the start of the Iraq war the world knows the true motive for American military action was – in a word – OIL. 

Now it is Syria’s turn. Connecting the dots and paying attention to the modus operandi of the American government, I remain totally unconvinced that the use of chemical weapons is the true justification for US military action against Syria. 

Today, world leaders and journalists at the G20 Summit questioned Obama on many points but not one person questioned American justification – the “use of chemical weapons on civilians.”  As if by divine right – there could be no other justification (hidden or unsaid) that Americans may have?  

It remains a mystery to me how the international community, top journalists and the most powerful leaders on Earth can swallow this justification whole without even questioning Obama on other possible motives for military intervention. Did no one learn anything from the American propaganda machine surrounding Iraq? 

As I have stated previously, the US historical record does not reveal a country that is deeply concerned about the use of chemical weapons against civilians. The Americans used chemical weapons during the Viet Nam war and murdered tens of thousands dropping the nuclear bomb on Japanese civilians. 

Today at the close of the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, leaders of the world’s most powerful nations were deeply divided over whether to take military action against Syria. The G20 was dubbed the G10 + 10, the divide was so real. 

The Russian people were surveyed. Nearly 100% of Russians are against military action and President Putin stands with them calling for peaceful alternatives. South Africa, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Egypt, UK, Italy, Germany, and most of the world stand against any form of military action in Syria. There are political tools that have not yet been employed. For example, the UN Security Council can firstly set an ultimatum with the Syrian government, asking them to sign an international treaty against all forms of chemical weapons and the turn over all CW stockpiles within 30 days or face military action. 

The British Parliament voted against any military action in Syria. Despite this, UK Prime Minister David Cameron continues to verbally back the American stance for war, very much against the will of the British people who are overwhelming against any military action. 

The French people have been polled. Two-thirds are against military force. Despite this the French government is rallying behind the Americans. So much for representative government. And the same goes for America where 75% of Americans are against military action. Despite this, President Obama is determined to take military action.

Questioned at length at the G20 Summit, Obama looked exhausted and the more he spoke the less convincing he became, until I could no longer stand it, “Obama why are you doing this? Who are you? You are betraying your very being! You don’t have to do this.” I shouted at the TV.

Obama is doing his best to sell the war to the American public. John Kerry has been on the Sunday morning TV circuit also “selling” the war to the American public. Most Americans are not buying it. Maybe we are getting smarter.  

Obama was asked directly (two times) during the Summit, “If Congress fails to authorize war, what will you do?”  He refused to answer the question directly, twice. Instead he answered, “Did you think I would change my answer? I repeat. I think we will be more effective and stronger if Congress authorizes this action.”

Minutes later he said, “I think it is the right thing to do (go to war). It is better for our democracy. I think we should go ahead. When you start talking about chemical weapons, those images of those bodies can be quickly forgotten. I am trying to impart a sense of urgency on this. We cannot condone a sense that a country can get away with something (use of chemical weapons) like this.”   

I ask you, where and from whom is Obama getting this gargantuan push to enter into yet another war in the Middle East? Who will benefit? Who will loose? What will it cost? What are the REAL reasons? Not the propaganda justifications? We all must demand answers to these questions. 

Mark my words, the justification of chemical weapon use is another fat lie. It is only for public consumption, justification and support. 

Surely our memory is not so short. We must not be duped again. 

Hypocrisy Rules the White House – The Question of Syria?

Barak Obama and John Kerry have said “This is so egregious that we have to take military action against Syria” speaking on the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. “This war is about enforcing the standard of human rights” said Kerry. “We didn’t draw the red line, the world did” said Obama.

So why doesn’t the US administration care about human rights consistently? Does the US government care about human rights only when it serves “US interests?” If the US truly cares about human rights the US would not be a close ally with Saudi Arabia – the worst human rights abuser perhaps in the world. Add to that the US ally Israel which has a terrible human rights record in regard to the occupation and killing of 1000s of Palestinian civilians over the past 60 years. Israel has used chemical weapons against Palestinian civilians on several occasions. So what is the real “US interest” in striking Syria?

Is it really defending human rights? Why doesn’t the US administration care about the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia or Israel? Furthermore, what about the human rights abuses carried out by the US government in Guantamo Bay, US Rendition programs that torture civilians throughout the world, the US torturing of Iraqis in Iraq prisons, and much more? I see far too much hypocrisy on the part of the US government to believe that the use of chemical weapons is the reason to strike Syria. I can’t believe this is the reason.

Furthermore, even if Assad may have gassed 400 of his own Syrian children, how many more Syrian children will be killed if the US takes military action against Syria? How many Syrian children will the US strikes kill? 400? More?

What is the REAL reason the US wants to take military action against Syria?
Syria doesn’t have oil as Iraq does. Syria has no resources that the US wants. So why strike Syria?

Could it be a proxy war for Israel? Is this part of the on-going plan to bring every country in the ME region to destruction?