Cairo Drive

One part that stuck out to me most about the documentary was how lively the city of Cairo is. Most of the videos that I’ve seen of the protests in Egypt took place at night when not much else is going on in the area other than that protest. I feel like it helped the public relate to that region a bit more. As somebody who hasn’t lived through a revolution like the one in Egypt and who hasn’t seen much of Egypt at all, the documentary made the region easier to relate to.

What stuck out to me most about the video was the government official talking about plans to make driving in Cairo more similar to driving in other big cities and how people really did not seem interested. It was to the point that they needed to start teaching children how to use stoplights properly. I have to say that I’m on the side of most of the citizens of Cairo here. The ways people move about is part of culture, how people in Cairo drive is a part of how people in Cairo live. While it may seem chaotic, and probably is more chaotic than orderly, it’s organized enough where people can function in it and they seem happy doing so. While Cairo might not be the safest city to drive in I think that culture carries a lot of weight and people feel like they lost touch with the city is the roads suddenly became safe, almost sterile.

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Cairo Drive

Beirut and #youstink

Of the readings, the part that stuck out to me most were the pictures of Lebanon, both the protests and the trash covering the streets. The people contest that the government is showing itself to be weak and inefficient if it is not able to properly carry out waste management duties for the country. The reading states that the main landfill in Beirut was closed down and since then the trash had been collecting for over a month. The article was from August of 2015. While I’d agree that the government of Lebanon is certainly failing to address some issues related their garbage, and more importantly their citizens, I also think that the trash crisis in Beirut is relevant to something other than rights and government abuses. I’m not sure why that landfill was shut down but it could have been that it was full. If so the Beirut trash crisis is more of a caution of human failing than just the government’s. People generated too much trash and people didn’t plan for what happened if the landfills they currently had weren’t sufficient to accommodate it. As landfills around the world fill up it seems only a matter of time before a similar situation occurs in another country. The Beirut trash crisis is just as much an environmental warning as it is an example of governmental neglect.

The article that stuck out to me most was the first one, the one that pertained to issues surrounding the privatization of Dalieh. The article went into a lot of detail about how the area was public use and sovereignty could be defined as those who use a public space. However the property was still bought by investors and the communities surrounding it were bought out.  It reminds me of the after Tahir panel discussion of the government and military working with contractors to gentrify the country. It seems something similar is going on in Lebanon.

Beirut and #youstink

After Tahir Film Festival

The After Tahir film festival was, I thought, a good glimpse inside a country undergoing a revolution. The film that had the heaviest impact on me was the longer video in the middle, the one where the military trucks were shown running over civilians. Previous films that day had shown the revolutionaries throwing rocks and having rocks or flaming objects thrown at them but really didn’t convey any sense of danger. Seeing the army fighting and sometimes mowing down, running over, or even shooting the protesters showed the true urgency and danger of the situation in a better way. After seeing the first videos I wasn’t overly impressed with the Egyptian citizens. Their assembly was something to be proud of but it didn’t look like they had suffered the resistance one would expect. Seeing them continue to stay out on the streets even while fighting for their lives was nothing short of heroic.

I also enjoyed the discussions with Gandhi’s grandson. Although Gandhi wasn’t really active in Egypt his ideals of freedom, religious coexistence, and peaceful civil disobedience clearly informed some of the ideals of the Egyptian revolution. It was interesting to have a relative discuss a man who truly changed the world but isn’t known or discussed at length in the United States.

After Tahir Film Festival

After Tahir: The Ultras

The part of the After Tahir panel discussion that stuck out most to me was the discussion of the football fans in Egypt, also known as Ultras. The Ultras are characterized by their synchronization and demonstration during games. They have coordinated cheers, dances, and celebrations. The Ultras are getting attention from both activists and the government as of late. Many activists believe that their methods of assembly and demonstration could be adopted by people demonstrating against their government. Unfortunately the government may think the same thing because they often harass Ultras, taking away banners and arresting leaders of the groups before big games

The Ultras are often the case of mischaracterization. Both the public and government view them in two conflicting ways. The first is that these people are heroes of some kind. Oftentimes they are on the front lines of protests against the government and their experience with large scale, organized, demonstrations is valuable. They are often passionate about the future of their country and as young men they often side with the more progressive activists. They are also seen as potentially dangerous hooligans, as most sports fans are at some point or another. It’s no secret that fights often break out after sporting events, especially soccer, and sometimes those fights lead people to view the fans involved in a strong negative light.

In my opinion, the Ultras lie somewhere in the middle. They are primarily young Egyptian men who love both their club and country. In terms of soccer they may occasionally get violent but they are not really a public concern. However their raucous nature and experience demonstrating can be vital to the continuing progress in Egypt. Are they heroes? Probably not, certainly not in more of a sense than any other protester. However what they are, publicly involved Egyptian citizens, is enough to create some social change.

After Tahir: The Ultras

A View from Egypt

The best aspect of the article on Digital Citizenship in Egypt was its discussion of generations. It is noted that a generation is a very diverse grouping, more so than other fairly broad ones like social class, and that they are capable of achieving “actuality” where they realized they have similar best interests and work towards those interests.

The youth of Egypt are a generation to keep an eye as far as making social change. Compared to the rest of the countries around them, more young Egyptians have access to computers and the internet and are computer literate. More people being able to access blogs, social media, and other types of media is crucial because it can lead to new ideas as well as discussion, and the people of Egypt have shown that they are especially adept at discussion. The article mentions a few young people who were active on chat rooms or social network sites and states that the majority of people in that demographic use the internet to access alternative sources of news on events. The youth of Egypt are using the internet to dodge the censorship that was and is still present in their country.

Several of the people who have access to the internet become activists forming blogs or Facebook pages such as the page of the We Are All Khaled Said group. This is a great step for the dissemination of information and mobilizing people but as evidenced by some of the stalemate on social justice issues it is not enough. The article mentions that about 58% of the youth in Egypt can access a computer and 52% of those can really use one. That means that only about 30% of the youth in Egypt have reliable access to this information. More effort needs to be put into giving access to the internet so that more of the youth can get involved in these movements. Some sort of computer literacy program, maybe not in the universities but maybe through some activist organization, could really help the cause.

A View from Egypt

The Flaws of the Khaled Said movement

The flaws of the Khaled Said movement are as numerous and egregious as the flaws in the reading entitled Distorting Digital Citizenship: Khaled Said, Facebook, and Egypt’s streets by Amro Ali and Dina El-Sharnouby. Where the authors found complicated ways to explain ideas so simple and intuitive they hardly needed to be written, such as two long sentences detailing the fact that protestors react to the world around them, the creators of the Khaled Said movement overlooked the obvious character flaws of the unfortunate young martyr and managed to turn him into a national hero but alienate his local community. The facts remain, Khaled Said was the victim of a brutal, and by all accounts undeserved, police beating and death. However, by any of those same accounts Khaled Said was an unsavory character in the community and I’m shocked the police were the first to assault him over his behavior. Not that this makes police brutality, even in this case, justifiable, simply that the activists in Egypt were hasty in choosing someone to rally behind. Khaled Said was a troubled youth of some kind of privilege. The article states that he was from Egypt’s middle class, however the fact that his connections bought him out of prison after deserting his military service assert that he may have been wealthier than commonly thought. Regardless, the WAAKS set about making him into a national hero, almost a messiah of the young revolutionaries. Unfortunately their focus was too narrow. They used the death of that young man as a weapon against the oppressive regime and once that regime fell soon afterward they had no momentum for further and more lasting social change. The article did a good job pointing this out when it mentioned that on the second anniversary of Said’s murder there was a disappointing turnout when Hamdeen Sabahi visited Said’s grave. Although there was a large number of people, most of them had traveled and had learned of the event via blogs and social media. Very few of the people who had known and interacted with the young man would be bothered to walk a couple blocks from their homes. What is clear by that, is that the WAAKS spent too much time turning Said into some kind of saintly figure in opposition of the oppressive government, and not enough time using him as an example of what could happen in a country run by tyranny.

The Flaws of the Khaled Said movement