Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Caugh in the Middle

Many of the bloodiest battles that caused millions to loose their due to arrogance. Pride is one of the biggest sins caused by pride in oneself while looking at the others as inferiors. It comes from an inside feeling of emptiness and low self esteem. To compensate the afflicted person or entity attempts to glorify itself and down-look on others. The arrogant demands rights and privileges that he/she does not deserve and can not be fulfilled at the current circumstances.

Egypt has had more than its fair share of arrogant people from ancient times up until now. Egypt suffered under the stubbornness of Pharaoh against Moses, Abdul-Nasser and Mubarak. The tyrants have always refused to heed advise and went even against their best judgments to their doom. Pharaoh has drowned, Abdul-Nasser got defeated by Israel in the six days war and Mubarak left a nation in shambles.

Now lets take lessons of the past and apply it to the present situation of the transitional period. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) is made up of the army commanders is now in charge of the transitional period. It has absolute power; it has the executive powers of the president and the legislative power of the parliament. SCAF from the time it took power from Mubarak have been down looking at the youth of Tahrir Square as irresponsible kids that need to be schooled, fooled and beaten. After the youth have proved their strength and political ability, SCAF have attempted to vilify them by claiming they have foreign agendas.

From the other side, the youth have been very suspicious of SCAF, they saw the army as an extension of the Mubarak regime. The youth saw SCAF as a group of old fashioned generals that have outlived their times. They believed that the generals are as easily beatable as the old regime and will bend under intense pressure. The arrogantly forgot that the Egyptian Army receives annually $1.8 billion in US-aid. They have state of the art weaponry like F16, tanks and chemical weapons, unlike the outdated police force that folded during the revolution.

The political parties secular and Islamist are full of vanity. The Secular parties are living in their ivory tower believing that the public chose their opponents out of their ignorance. They forgot that they lack the ability to provide a clear understandable election platform and stop squabbling about their petty pedantic issues. The Islamists are no better, they are basking shamelessly in their election victories. They are machiavellianly allying themselves with SCAF or the youth depending on the situation to get the most privileges during the transitional period. They conveniently forgot the voters' interests and many of their candidates broke the election commission rules to win.

Hence, it is important for each side to be humble and remember that we are all in the same boat. For this country to survive the youth, SCAF, the secular and Islamic parties need to learn to cooperate. Each should compromise and learn the etiquette political dialogue. All political participants need to exercise self restraint. SCAF needs to refrain from using violence and youth needs to halt protesting giving the country a chance to heal. The secular parties need to learn respecting the will of the voters. The Islamists show that they genuinely believe in democracy and stop intimidating women and minorities and actively care for the people who gave them their vote.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How a dictatorship forms

Democracy is defined as the rule of the people through elected representatives. For the system to work for the interest of the electorate, there should be a balance between the government, the market and civil society. The government should regulate the market ensuring fair distribution of wealth, sustainable business practice and labor rights. Civil society monitors the government to prevent government abuse of power, maintain civil & individual rights and educate people. The market provides goods and service, provide employment for most of the population and pressure the government for economic reforms.

The government itself is divided into executive, judiciary and parliament, thus creating a system of checks and balances. Currently in Egypt, the military, a part of the executive branch, is taking over the role of parliament passing laws like the election laws. The juntas are also replacing the judiciary by subjecting civilians to military courts. Hence the military has unchecked powers in a critical transitional period.

The juntas are not using this power wisely; they are gradually rolling back the civil rights of citizens. Many activists are being prosecuted like Assma Mahfouz for exercising her free speech right of criticizing the military. They have used violence to disperse peaceful protesters in Tahrir square. They also subjected female activists to virginity checks in order to intimidate and humiliate them. Furthermore, they are also gradually taking the Islamist side, hence they are not neutral party in the political game.

Finally, to avoid a new dictatorship, citizens need to be vigilant by maintaining pressure on the military to stop trying civilians in military court, create a civilians transparent process to write the constitutions and put a firms deadline for handing power to a civilian government

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why the Army can not lead a country

Although, the Egyptian army is full of brave men and women who are willing to put their lives on harms way to protect our homeland, I believe that it is important for the army to remain neutral from politics. I have nothing personal against my brothers and sister in uniform, however, I have serious doubts about the military as an institution and as a culture could undermine our nascent democracy.

The army is built on culture of blindly following orders,it is important during military operations that the commander have full control of the troops, thus maintaining a close link between higher military strategy and tactical operation on the ground. To optimize operational security it is important to keep as few people as possible in the know and only the few high rank officers have the whole strategic picture of the war theater. It is important to trust the fewest people as possible, those key military leaders have to pass background checks to minimize the infiltration enemy intelligence.

On the other hand, an open political process depends on diversity of opinion, decent is encouraged to provide the widest array of solutions. This is followed by deliberations between different political factions that is covered widely by the free media. The informed electorate then pick wining vision to prevail and in some cases a compromise have to be reached. In the democratic system, freedom of information is critical so that the electorate can account the government based on accurate media reports. For the political process to work rival factions have to trust each other and compromise, especially if neither have electoral majority and to maintain social peace.

The militarily culture is not inherently evil, it best used to defend our homeland. The military can not manage a democratic process or even a democratic transition because democratic values and norms are not part of the institution culture or individual officers psychology. Asking the military to be democratic could be like asking pigs to fly.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The nation of fear

Fear is one of the most important instincts that makes us human. Fear helped early humans avoid dangerous situations like predatory animals. It made humans unite to form tribes which evolved into nation states, so they are able to defend themselves and protect their resources.

Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish between two types of fear. The first type is reasonable fear being based on a real foreseeable danger. It is prudent and wise to take appropriate protective action to protect oneself and others. Taking risks without proper assessment of danger is a sign of foolishness not bravery.
The second type of fear is unreasonable fear that keeps one from developing and growing that is fear from no real or reasonable danger. Some of these fears could really be determinant like fear of failure preventing one from taking calculated risks. Fear of rejection as if being refused by a loved one, a client or a boss is going to be the end of the world. There is also fear of innovation and of trying anything new leading to stagnation and being behind in technology.

As an Egyptian I found that our society teaches us fear from infancy. We were taught to be submissive and blindly follow authority. Our education system discourages critical thinking and makes students terrified to use their brains. At work employees are put in a bureaucratic system that encourage risks aversion and diffusion of responsibility. In the government and the private sector no one is responsible for anything and the few people who are willing to take charge are usually the most corrupt using the system for their personal gain. Those corrupt officials are very confident not because they are smarter than everyone, but because they are sure that noone is going to account them for their actions, since everyone is afraid.

Mubarak and his corrupt cronies are like a paper tigers that would crumble in front of people's will. However, in Egypt most people do not vote, thus giving the regime a plenty of room to forge the election. In addition, very few people are willing to demand real political reform, hence the government is giving them fake reforms to make it look better in front of the international community. Furthermore, many of us are afraid of rival ideas and wanting to live in our comfort zones, this makes democratic exchange of ideas impossible if everyone is guarding his/her mind perceiving any disagreement as a threat.

A nation living in fear will never progress unless it breaks the barrier of fear and looks into the future. Egyptians have a rich history with a glorious past that many try to reenact. However, time has changed we need to live in the present and plan for the future, but also learn from our past mistakes and achievements.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eat less Meat

Many of my compatriots are complaining about the recent increase in the prices of meat, due to shortage of supply compared to the rise in demand or may be due to many monopolies that control the market. Meat has been one of the main tenets of Egyptian culture. Eating it is a sign of wealth and it is supposed to bring you health and happiness. It is an integral part of our religion Islam, Muslim celebrate their feast by eating meat to commemorate Prophet Abrahams sacrifice of his son Ishmael and God ordering Abraham to slaughter a lamb instead . In addition, Meat is a rich source of important proteins that are called essential amino acids that crucial in formation of muscles.

However, Egyptians consume too much meat which undermines to their health. Over consumption of meat is really harmful because meat has an abundant amount of Cholesterol, a chemical that is linked to cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Cooking red meat produces cancer causing compounds that causes colon and breast, also high Iron content and nitrosamines encourage cancer cells to grow faster. Large amounts of proteins put an extra load on the liver for processing them and on the kidneys.

Overconsumption of meat also is a waste of resources, because it takes 4.8 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. This grain wasted in feeding cattle could have been used to feed three times more people than the number fed by the cattle. Our country is a desert with a projected water shortage; it would be wiser to plant wheat and crops to feed more people. It would be also cheaper to import more grain and vegetables than livestock.

Over consumption of meat destroys the environment, cattle waste is a significant polluter to our water streams. The energy needed to produce one pound of beef is enough to drive for 20 miles, there is energy wasted on growing grain for cattle, energy wasted in breeding cattle and energy wasted on getting rid of cattle waste.

Finally, remember that an increase in meat prices may not be a curse. Take it as a chance to improve your health by adding variety to your diet, save the environment and also some money.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday, a holiday for forgiveness. Today Jesus Christ has forgiven his enemies after all the pain and anguish they caused him. Prophet Mohamed has also forgiven the Arabs of Mecca in the public after all the wars between them, he declared “what do you think I will do with you, you are all free”. God has forgiven the Children of Israel every time they have repented for their sins. In Buddhism, the feelings of hatred and ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind karma and the teachings of Buddha have encouraged the wise to forgive others. In Hinduism, Vidra has said that people misunderstand the forgiver as being weak and Lord Krishna has said in the Gita that forgiveness is one of the characteristic of the Devine state. Even until today, God has not given up on humanity with all their sins and greed.

Forgiveness not only means letting go of the grudges that one has against others, but also learning to pardon him/herself for the shortcomings. Forgiveness helps to free oneself from the prison of the past by letting go of bad feeling of haltered envy, thus letting one live in the present. We all have our disappointments at others and our selves. By realizing that no one is perfect including me, I became a more accepting human being and I can let go of the bad feelings. Forgiveness frees the forgiver to live on and heal his wounds.

Revenge never helps anyone, It never moves time back to undo the damage and it never heals the wounds. As Gandhi said “eye for an eye makes someone blind”. I advise, to avoid living in the darkness as a monster waiting for revenge or like Shylock waiting for his pound of flesh. I want you to live and enjoy life.
However, it is also important to learn from the lessons of the past, thus it is important to forgive your enemies, but keep your guard so that you are not hurt again. It is also important to uphold justice in the society by punishing criminals, thus deterring future crime. This means that one has to still be careful and learn from the past mistakes, a fool always repeats his/her mistakes. However, one cannot be a prisoner of the past and making it a hurdle towards one progress.

I realize that this is much easier in theory than practice; one cannot take a forgiveness pill. It takes will power to forgive and it takes courage to defeat the ghosts of the past. Start now by writing on a piece of paper all the situations that people have wronged you with or when you were disappointed by yourself , say out loud that you pledge to forgive everyone including yourself and then set it on fire, you will feel great trust me.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Muslims Today

Today is the birthday of our prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him), although he was deceased more than 1400 years ago his legacy is still with us today. Whether, you believe he was a great man or disagreed with his vision, his teachings are followed by around 1.5 billion people that live all around the world. The early Muslim philosophers live Averroes were able to preserve the Greek and Roman philosophies. Muslim mathematicians translated the decimal system from Sanskrit , thus benefiting humanity. Hassan Ibin al Haytham were one of the few scientist who focused and refined empirical research.

Currently, the Muslim is in a predicament economically, politically and socially. Muslim countries are the poorest the world. Politically 50% of the world refugees are Muslims. If one looks at the Arab world as a microcosm of the Muslim world, there are 53 news papers to 1000 Arab citizens showing the lowest information media to population ratios. There are 4.4 books translated to a million Arab, furthermore Arabs spend less than 0.2% of their gross national production on research and development. There are also 371 Arab scientists per million. It seems that we Muslims have forgotten the first command that God have ordered him prophet, “read”. Islam has encouraged people to analyze and think, yet governments have abused the religion by aligning themselves with orthodox theologians than encourage the status-quo helping to maintain government control and stifle dissent.

The problem is much more complicated than it looks. Creating a knowledge society that encourages free thought requires freedom of expression so that those thinkers do not fear prosecution and creates a meaningful exchange of ideas. Good education systems that focuses on scientific research and develop the critical thinking of students, is required. A free media that is accessible so that scholars can exchange information and also interact with the public is important.

Many would claim that Muslims do not have the resources to build a knowledge based society. However, I believe that ignorance is the reason behind our poverty. Muslims waste most of their resources on consumption and importation of technology rather than innovation. Most governments and companies attempts to focus on industrial productions were based on imported factories, these factories eventually became outdated and new machines had to be re-imported. Hence, technology importation led to a spiral of technology importation and further waste in resources.