Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Giving Mubarak the Middle Finger

I thought about the title for this posting while walking to the supermarket the other morning. It is certainly a different Egypt than the one we had left. I suppose you could say “what a difference a revolution makes” or something along those lines. Has the fall of Mubarak made a difference? I suppose if you count the spirit and the productivity of the people. I don’t profess to be an Egyptian history expert or even a novice…maybe I would fit in better with the beginner group. Based on simple observation I will definitely state without a doubt that the country has come out of hibernation.

We have been waking up to the sounds of pounding along with various street noises and not the typical produce vendors or street traffic, but the sounds of productivity. The people are getting busy as in taking ownership of their country. I know it is something we take for granted in the west as most of us pay taxes to keep our streets tidy and have officials maintain some sort of order in our towns and cities. The only thing missing from this equation is that there is no real sense of order, there is a limited government, no checks and balances; just people taking pride in something that they can truly call theirs after quite a long time. And this goes further back than Mubarak as one co-worker stated “more than 60 years, since Nasser!”

We have seen buildings disappear overnight as new construction is rampant. Three story apartments now have five floors. Piles of trash along the streets are gone. Young people are painting curbs and covering up graffiti on the walls. Ordinary citizens are taking place of absent traffic police and doing their best to move cars along. Yes, things are different.

I can say much of the new construction and building is the result of opportunity. Currently there is no process to purchase building permits or I should say no one to pay a bribe to. So in this ideal state of anarchy people are bypassing rules and regulations and making things happen on their own. Is society falling apart in the absence of government and authority? No, not really. Is there chaos in the streets? None that I’m aware of. Have people been more respectful and civil? Maybe, it seems that way. I can’t help but to recall the Tao Te Ching where Lao Tzu proposes that with an unobtrusive government people are civil and decent.

Chapter 57 form the Tao Te Ching (Alan Watts, Gia-fu Feng, and Jane English)

Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with surprise moves.
Become master of the universe without striving.
How do I know that this is so?
Because of this!

The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the sage says:
     I take no action and people are reformed.
     I enjoy peace and people become honest.
     I do nothing and people become rich.
     I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.  

I’m not suggesting that everything is wine and roses. Right now life is uncertain and it can change at a moments notice but for now things seems to be heading in a positive direction. As each day passes people are settling back into their routines with hopes and dreams of a brighter future.     

What can I say? I never pass up a good photo op. Having a picture taken with military hardware is all the rage these days. My students tell me that newlyweds are showing up to tanks in their wedding dress and suits.

When we left there was an old villa here...Now you see it now you don't.

Protest leftovers...It looks like some sort of vehicle was pushed through the bench and set on fire. The window leaning against the wall has gov't decals and bullet hole(?) marks

Detail of the window.

On Friday morning I took a walk along the Corniche from our school to downtown (6-7 km) to get a feel for how things are changing. People were supposed to gather again after midday prayers to celebrate the one week anniversary of Mubarak stepping down. I saw several people making their way to the celebration and many stopping off at one of the flag vendors along the way to pick up some merch.


We all do.

Wrapping oneself in a flag is in vogue.

Add caption

Even the cement blocks that keep the city from flooding were showing discontent.

Many hours before the celebration. Back home we call it a tailgate party.

At Disney you take a picture with Mickey, in Egypt you with a tank.

In giving back to our community, about 100 students, teachers, workers, board members, alumni, showed up to school on Saturday to help clean up the neighborhood around the school.

Like i mentioned early on, buildings are coming down...the man above is doing it one sledge hammer swing at a time.

The truck that takes it away.
One of the clean-up teams.

More trash pick up.

This looks like the cart that secretly delivers cases of "teacher beverages" in potato chip boxes during Ramadan.

The cleaning crew.

It is Spirit Week! Yesterday was National Pride Day.

Hania taking face painting to the next level.

When I snapped this shot, the owner of this building approached me and asked why I took a photo of his building. I responded by telling him I wanted to document the process of it being torn down then rebuilt. He will be adding 2-3 more floors for his family (parents, siblings). It is common practice for entire families (and I mean entire families) to live in one building.

Gone! Lets Get Gone, Real Gone For A change

Newly painted curbs and no trash.

A mural in progress.

Peace Out!

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