Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Fear–Revisited

I've written an earlier post about fear in a religious context, but maybe the religious context is not all there is to it. Fear is such a complicated emotion that consists of layers upon layers of life experiences, some not even our own, and some we never knew had that effect on us.

On the first few days of the revolution, a friend asked me, "are you coming to Tahrir?" my answer was no. When he asked why I told him I was too scared of what might happen to me if things go wrong. He admired that I was so open and honest about being afraid of something and admitting it. I'm not always like that; I don’t admit them, and sometimes I don’t even realize what they are.

One day, I decided to list down all my fears. The most prominent were the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of being alone, and the fear of mediocrity.  I get scared in tunnels too but I doubt my tunnel specific claustrophobia is of much importance in this argument. I guess I have little or no control over the first two since they are rational fears to some extent, and they are common fears as well. I have my reasons to have them on the top of my list of fears, and those reasons vary from one person to another. The fear of mediocrity, however, seems to be the one that doesn’t really belong on that list of most feared. Again, I have my reasons to have it there; I blamed my mother... No that was a joke, not funny, sorry!

I’ve tried to convince myself of the irrationality of this fear. What is mediocre anyway? It's to do things and be a person that is not really bad at something; however their actions and their existence would seem insignificant. My work and products are okay and acceptable but they don’t measure up to any bar I set for them. Above average is mediocre, which isn’t really bad but not quite glorious either. So I'm egotistical and proud, sue me!

The funny thing is I'm not really mediocre. Sure, I've come second more than once in my life, and in things such as studying, I never really cared to come first. Yes, I'm competitive, but only when it counts. I’ve always had the “you’ve got so much potential” speeches, and so I am mediocre only in my own eyes. So mediocre is not really what I am afraid of. Not that I’m praising my own virtues but how can a tall person be afraid of being short?

If it's not mediocrity then what is it? My overly analytical brain has come to the following conclusions. At the top of the list, there is the fear of rejection, doing something that someone somewhere wouldn’t like, or wouldn’t appreciate which would get me frustrated (as usual) and thus I would forever believe the misconception of me being mediocre. This added to the built in instinct (this time I really d blame my mother along with school, stupid teachers, and society as a whole) to always be the best just about sums up the first layer of my deep dark fear of mediocrity. Then comes the fear of going about unnoticed. Imagine Addison discovered electricty but no one knew about it, you'll know what I’m talking about. This is more prone to actually happen than people may think, that's why they invented marketing people! So it isn’t just about doing something great, it's about making sure the right people see that great thing and spread it out. If we assume that the first point can be dismissed using strong will and moving out of one's comfort zone, the second point actually requires work to get over it since it's a problem that not only I but so many people face; how to market for yourself and your work. Finally, this is the tricky part, for me, there is always the panic of "what now?" after finishing something. So the last most complicated and by all means the silliest layer of all the complexities of my fear of mediocrity; what if I succeed? What if I prove to the world that I can achieve everything I want to achieve however I want to achieve it? Isn’t there no way but down when you're on top? Aren’t I hindering myself on purpose sometimes just because I’m afraid of making it to the top? Do I really want to finish the race? I never thought I’d ask myself that question, but I did, and it frightened me how close t home it rang. It frightened me even more how it never consciously occurred to me except after 25 years of my life have passed. Only with the help of a friend have I come up with the solution on how to overcome this last sticky layer of fear, obvious as it may be. If I ever reach the top, I’ll probably have a new adventure waiting for me there, I got to get there first to actually find out what happens next!
I've admired people who seem to go about life with the will and energy of energizer bunnies, The never-say-die people. There are people out there who dream and follow their dreams, who fall down and get back up again, and who keep on going until they either get there or die trying. Thos people remind me of Peter Pan who seems to be so forgetful that he always forgets how treacherous Captain Hook is. Those people forget how life can really take them down even if they are on the top of the world. But isn’t that where the fun is? Peter Pan would have been such a boring story if Peter had figured hook out and stopped fighting him. Isn’t that what children are all about? Fearless and brave, always willing to explore and not letting the world get in the way because the world always holds something new to them. How we’ve forgotten how to learn from children!

As a final note, I would like to tell the critics who will always think my work is not good enough, those idiots who dismiss everything as too easy and anyone could have done it, those people who don’t even know I exist, my teachers who are a part of a stupid society that is too competitive about belching contests, Captain Hook, life, the universe, and everything: Bring It ON!!!!!

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Happiness Checklist

Every now and then I get really upset at the rate my life is going. I get days that are so very slow, and I get days where I can hardly take a breath. C'est la vie, that's life, etc. But what I hate most are the days, sometimes weeks, that pass without doing something valuable. One should spend one's life doing something new, learning something new, and adding value!!!! The value could be to oneself but it is preferable that the value is added to the world. My favorite quote after all is:"Make a dent in the universe"

If you, dear reader, have been following up with my blog, you would know that I come up with all these plans for action, calls to arms, sudden surges of energy maybe. I never follow up because let's face it, I never maintain anything. It's a missing culture in the world, especially in Egypt. We are not brought up to maintain projects and to keep them running, we try to get on track and once we're on it, we don’t really care anymore whether or not we fall off the wagon, we care about the ‘A’ but we never try to keep it.

So I’ll keep this short, I get really depressed whenever I feel like I should have been doing something and I don’t. So I thought, since I’m so horrible with doing what I plan to do, I am going to create a checklist, yes another one. Duh! I know it doesn’t really work with me all that well. But I thought I’ll make a different kind of checklist this time, I’ll keep it simple and open, I will not limit myself to specific tasks as much as I will limit myself to specific outcomes. I better just give out my checklist and then explain it.

Note: this is daily

  1. Write
  2. Learn
  3. Have fun
  4. Socialize
  5. Keep the faith
  6. Pump the energy
  7. Do something to help
  8. Work
  9. Laugh
  10. Family in mind
  11. Remember the dead

If I spend a day where I:

  1. Write anything, since it's where I feel most productive
  2. Learn something new, whether it be at work, through a book, or even some trivia
  3. Have fun by watching a movie, going for a walk, or dancing to a nice tune
  4. Talk to people, chat with people, meet people, friends, family, anything
  5. Make sure I don’t forget my religion by reading Quran, praying extra, or even talking to God
  6. Stay energetic, walk, exercise, dance, jump up and down
  7. Help someone at work, donate money, help in a charity, teach math to my kid cousin
  8. Make sure I work on something really, truly, and from the heart so I feel a sense of achievement
  9. Laugh my heart out at a joke, tell a joke, make fun of the world
  10. Keep up with my family, close. Or distant relatives
  11. And finally, make sure I remember one dead person I care about and something to keep their memory alive on this earth

The best thing is that they’re so easy, I can mix them up, like socialize and keep up with the family, remember my late father as we talk, crack a joke about the old times, and it wouldn’t hurt going for a walk as we do it. If I do all the above, I think I will always be happy. I think if I miss a couple of items the world won’t fall apart, but let's call the above the optimum minimum.
And the best thing about it, anything will do as long as I keep in mind why I’m doing it. Easy right? Oh well, I hope I follow up on that one day and say it works great for me, but meanwhile, would you try it too and tell me if it works for you?

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Friday, June 24, 2011

I am an Egyptian Feminist

The word “feminist” on its own is controversial. What is feminism anyway? Who counts as a feminist? Who doesn’t? what do women really want? There is so much to say in relation to one word, most of it doesn’t really have a lot of valuable meaning.



1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

The problem is men and women are NOT equal! If anything, women have to go through way too much more than men, which is okay because they are built to do that. If anything, feminism should not be about having men and women as equals, it should be about understanding and appreciating the differences, and working on making the best use of them so that everyone’s happy.
Before I start setting my ideas out, I think I should first shed the light on some ideas that fall under the misconceptions of what women want and what equality is all about. Firstly, women are not stupider than men, they are not incapable of thinking, they are not inferior scientifically, and they are not in any way less of hard workers. Graduating from a college that hardly had any girls, and the girls there hardly noticed that they were girls to begin with, including yours truly, I’ve seen how girls are treated as stupider, work less, work worse, and are commonly conceived as having to memorize first and try to get it later. WRONG! I will not go on defending these concepts because I will be honest with myself and with everyone when I say that the above applies to some girls. In the same sense, everyone should agree that generalization is a disease and people should not generalize in order not to get stereotyped themselves.
Secondly, women are not irrational, emotional, crazy, or anything else that makes them incapable of making coherent and sound decisions. Before anyone speaks up, remember your mothers who raised you and try to reconsider. Just like men, there are the women who make too much sense, and there are the ones who don’t. When women get overcome by emotion, they’re emotional, when they don’t, they’re cold. Just because it may be more common that women are prone to showing more emotions than men due to the fact that the female hormones affect that part of the brain while the male hormones make them more prone to being showy and reckless does not mean that every decision they make is because they were overcome by emotion or that when they shed their emotions aside that they are cold and heartless. The last misconception I’d like to set straight and it is by far not the last on this long list of accusations, women are not weak, they do not always need protection, they are not more vulnerable to the big bad world. Being a woman is not a cry for help or salvation, so let’s have enough of protective and dominant male for a change. As a final note, I will not go into what God given rights we women have because that would be fit for a wholly different series of posts and would not serve a purpose of opinion since they are more facts than anything else.
Now that some misconceptions are out of the way, we can get down to the business of feminism. What I’m about to say, I do not say on behalf of anyone but myself, although I know a lot of friends who agree to some, if not all of my views. The point is not to fall under the misconceptions of stereotyping all over again!
In my opinion, Egyptian women are not oppressed in any way, they are not underprivileged, they are not without rights. However, they, along with the men, seem to idolize society and its rules. If society says women are not to go out alone after dark, then women don’t go out alone after dark. If society says that women should not work, then they will not work. And if society says that women should prefer cucumbers to tomatoes, then women will prefer cucumbers to tomatoes. Society does not set rules, society creates beliefs that are shoved so deeply down our throats as children, both men and women, that it becomes strange to consider moving out of them. Some of these beliefs may be justified by ideas of safety and religion, others are purely nonsense, however we abide by these beliefs in our natural need to be accepted and to blend in. society has also given us values which are where my idea of Egyptian feminists comes from.
I define myself as an Egyptian feminist. By this I mean I am a woman who cares about the basic values and rules of the Egyptian society. I am not trying to be controversial, I am not calling out for rights that we don’t have. I believe that I have the right to work and excel at my work as long as it does not turn me into a robot and takes away from my personal life. I believe that I am smarter and more competent that some men, and that just because I work does not mean I have taken a man’s place who has the right to work and support his family. If I have taken his place, then I’m simply more competent than he is. I may not need to work for money however I most definitely don’t work for charity or to prove myself, I don’t need to prove myself better than men, I already have proven to be an equal at work even though I have to fight for that belief over and over again with some retro people who don’t believe it. I have the right to support my family if I need to, or to help support it if I need to. I have the right to improve my life by however means I see fit as long as they don’t violate any laws, legal, or otherwise. I also have the right to contribute to the world through my work. In my opinion, there are some jobs that women can’t do like construction working or iron working, which is perfectly normal because men and women are have different structures, but coming from a girl that got the comment “she has the arm of a blacksmith,” I’m in no position to judge if the woman is good at it. In other words, if I want to work, and I can work, and I do a good job at working, and I feel good doing it, then let’s see someone tell me not to work because I’m a woman!
I believe in family more than I believe in money. I’ll work hard to maintain both my job and my home and family along with a social life if I can. If I can’t, I’ll prioritize, and my personal priority is having a healthy family where I get to raise my kids not the daycares. It would be however my decision of when and how I will work my priorities not anyone else’s because no one has the right to tell me where my priorities lie, no one has the right to judge me of not doing a good job either just because I’m juggling my priorities and it’s working for me. I believe that if I’m married, my husband should understand that he should also help around with the house and the kids because I have chosen not to be a full time housewife. If he thinks it’s above him then he should make sure he shuts the door on his way out because there is so much one can take without having the pressure of criticism and pickiness hovering over our heads. I believe that I’ll do a better job at cleaning the house, but if he picks up the vacuum cleaner, his manhood isn’t really at stake here, is it?!
I believe that instead of telling girls to be careful out there on the big bad streets of the city, they should teach them self defense in schools so that they never have to be in positions of victims unnecessarily. I believe that instead of blaming girls about how they dress, they should apply the rules against sexual harassment so that all those harassers out there think twice before they consider harassing a girl on the street; we all know it is not about dress and apparel anymore but it has unfortunately become embedded in a culture that makes women victims and thus has to make men predators so that every idiot with an idea can actually become a predator since nothing is stopping him.
I believe that gossip is for people who do not understand the meaning of productivity because they care more about nosing into other people’s lives. I believe that as long as I’m minding my manners and following with the general laws of society, I should not be persecuted for any action I do. Anyone has the right to form an opinion about me or my actions, but if their opinions are going to cause me trouble, they should keep them to themselves which is my basic human right of not getting hurt for nothing which stems out from both religion and society.
Finally, I believe that I am smart enough to think and form opinions for myself even if I am a girl because having testosterone does not entail proper brain activity.
I’m pretty sure all the above seems valid as basic rights to humans and not to women specifically, which is why I want to tell the antifeminists and the hard core feminists out there: “BUD OUT!”

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Staring, Groping, and Getting Your Ass kicked!

I’m a citizen of Cairo Egypt, a city I've lived in all my life and am very much in love with. I guess being too close to the picture to be able to see it clearly applies here since I've gotten used to so many things that apparently seem to be " only in Cairo", or at least are not as apparent in other cities in Egypt. So we get used to the horrible smog and the sky always being a little grayish than bluish. We get used to the dirtier streets, with plastic bags twirling around in the wind, and the lack of trees. Certainly a Cairene girl like me is also used to the horrible amount of sexual harassments on daily basis, Ranging from rude stares to, well, worse things.

I think things started to go south around 10 years ago, or maybe before that I was too young to know. But what I remember distinctly is that I was NOT afraid to walk down the street after dark then, especially in residential areas where the weirdos stood out on the streets. If I was walking with my brother or my mother then no one would even consider glancing sideways at me. If I were alone, I'd get some of the stares and a couple of comments, but at least it wasn't on daily basis. We learn to ignore these comments and these stares because it would be rude to make scenes, and usually they went away when we ignored them. As a side note, I'm not beautiful, I don't have one of those head turner figures, and my clothes are conservative to a great extent. Bottom line, if there are people that say girls have it coming because of the way they look or dress, I wouldn't qualify. That does not mean in any way that I believe in this justification. Things started to progress after a while, the remarks got more obscene, the harassment started to get more physical and most probably to complain would be an invitation for the harasser to get more obscene and for people to stop and stare. At some point, girls lost hope in having someone standup for them when they get harassed publicly, or to be more precise, we lost hope in the existence of "na5wa" in the Egyptian people. We go around avoiding being groped and letting those animals get away with what they're doing. Walking around after dark was an invitation to get harassed. A while later, even if it weren't dark, cars would stop for girls waiting for buses, crowds were issues, and being in broad daylight on a busy street just didn't save us the trouble. Walking with a man down the street does not keep anyone safe anymore, if the man you are with attempts to address the harasser, there was a strong possibility that he'd get stabbed. Not to mention, the idea of ever asking a policeman for help was out of the question since he would most probably start harassing himself, assuming that he wasn't the one who started it.
We got used to it and bore up with it and life goes on, I mean it’s better to hear a word or avoid being touched than have it topped with a scene and listening to words that would most probably hurt more than a wound ever would. One day, the first day of the feast, there were several mass sexual harassment incidents, and the people got really scared. After how that was tackled in the media, the government tried to save face by passing a sexual harassment law, and we heard about a couple of cases for people going to jail for a few years, which was a step in the right direction, but since no one obeyed the law in issues such corruption, embezzlement, or even traffic lights, the law didn't make much difference on the street!

But the revolution came, and it wasn’t just about political demands, it was about the people demanding to be human. It was where the man in every Egyptian finally came out, where respect and pride were the highlights of the demands, and where laws would finally be applied. 18 days without a single harassment case, and suddenly there is hope!

I decided that after the revolution, I will NOT ignore that jerk who decides to intercept me, I'd scream and shout and get Everyone's attention. I will get my rights and I will be scared no more, passive no more, harassed no more. I know that most people will continue to stand still and not interfere because this is the status quo, but maybe one day soon most will turn to some, and some will turn to "selected few" and then it will become the exception rather than the rule. Today we talk against sexual harassment in Egypt. Tomorrow we act against sexual harassment in Egypt and the next day we will stop sexual harassment in Egypt.
I choose to be passive about it no more! Next time I get harassed, there will be some serious ass kicking involved!

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