Monthly Archives: February 2013

REBEL ECONOMY

A disturbing, but unsurprising leak from an unnamed official in Egypt’s finance ministry reveals that funds allocated by the government for diesel fuel subsidies have run out for the current year, with the Cabinet scrambling to find a solution, according to Egypt Independent:

An official source within the ministry has said that meetings are being held with Ministry of Petroleum officials to solve the crisis, adding that the government’s subsidies for diesel fuel are estimated at LE50 billion.

The two ministries are considering opening an additional source of credit for diesel subsidies through a law giving the finance minister the power to approve additional credits.

Rebel Economy has repeatedly called for a swift overhaul of the energy subsidy system. Read here for a round-up of why.

But in a nutshell, and according to industry sources, in 2002, EGPC’s total debt stood at half a billion Egyptian pounds.  In 2012…

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Egyptian Men Don’t Cry

ImageA young boy falls out of his bed and starts to cry out loud. The father approaches his son in an attempt to cease the cries. “Men don’t cry”, shouts the father. At first, the boy may not understand why men shouldn’t cry. I mean, to him what’s the difference between men and women anyway? Slowly the boy is conditioned to be the man who does not cry…  Sometimes human nature strikes with a moment of vulnerability, and boys helplessly cry; however, when boys cry they may hide their tears from the people surrounding them so that they do not look “weak” or “fragile”. Yet, not all boys are ashamed of their tears, tears may be viewed differently, based on culture, tradition and gender schema. In one place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of emotion; in another place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of weakness. For instance, in a country like Egypt, real men ought not to cry. That raises a question, Why are tears dependent on culture and tradition to a large extent? 

From the moment babies are born they are socialized into genders. For example, a baby boy is more likely to receive gifts in the color of blue. While a baby girl is more likely to receive gifts in the color of pink. Does pink or blue have anything to do with enhancing masculinity or femininity? No, but the unspoken consensus among people, is that blue is masculine, pink is feminine.  Apart from biological influence, people shape babies into their “gender schema” of how a boy or a girl should look or act. In other words: putting genes aside, people treat boys differently than girls, so babies are treated according to a certain image inside the people’s head. This image is  “what a certain gender role should be”; the image shapes the babies to act in a certain way that is consistent with the way they are “treated”. Yet, the schemas of how a boy or a girl should act, slightly differs from one society to another. For example in one culture, it is okay for men to wear earrings, while in another culture it is not accepted for men to wear earrings because they may be considered as “feminine”.

 

In Egypt, no one goes to a man who is crying and explicitly tells him that it is not accepted to cry. Crying is one of the unspoken norms of the society. Paradoxically, Egyptians may find it more acceptable to cry for the love of a sports team or patriotism for the nation, than to cry because of the man’s emotional side. Many men cry; however, they may find a lot of trouble to share that with someone else. Even when grown up men want to cry, they may move to a different room so that their family do not see them crying.

Men do have an emotional side, but the way of expression remains to be a choice. As an Egyptian I grew up being conditioned not to cry; therefore, I find crying not an easy task. I am not arguing that all Egyptians should hug, let go of their feelings and start crying. I am just looking at tears from a different perspective.

Moufti

 

 

 

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Easier To Advise…Harder To Improvise

Image“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own” (Coelho 16).This is one of the most paradoxical quotes that I have always tried to uncover. Sometimes we feel like it’s a lot simpler to give good advice to someone, when the situation is not of our own; however, when It’s us who are facing the situation, we feel like we are lost in oblivion. We try to find a way out by thinking in third person view, but we still feel that something is wrong; it’s like there is a mystical force stopping us from making our own decisions smoothly. Our thoughts seem distorted like dark clouds surround them; our sense of rational thinking is present, we acknowledge its existence, but we can’t grasp it; it is just like bubbles floating in the air, we see them, we reach out for them, but once we hold them, they’re gone.

When we think about a situation that is not of our own, we see things from more perspectives; we see the same story, only from different angles. Have you ever noticed that when other people speak to us about their concerns, we tend to give very logical replies? On the contrary, when we think for our own, everything seems to be a little more complicated. Maybe we know others better than we know ourselves? Maybe we don’t care about others, so we think less carefully when the concern is not of our own? Perhaps the previous assumptions are valid; nevertheless, none of them provide a logical reason, because they are based on human nature assumptions. There must be an element that is present when we make decisions of our own, but somehow absent when we give advice, an element that affects our decisions subconsciously, an element that twists our rationality.

This element is the voice inside our head; the voice that wants what we can’t have, the voice that is making us afraid of rejection, the voice that doesn’t know patience and the voice that doesn’t know reason; this voice is the sound of our emotions. We want to follow our heart, but what we don’t realize is that our heart has no sense of direction. When we form an idea about the life of others, we don’t follow our heart, but we follow reason, and avoid exaggeration.

We are always in the pursuit of happiness, we want our decisions to be invincible, but when we try so hard, we lose ourselves along the road and end up over thinking, and thus over-complicating our lives. Life is simpler than what we think; instead of looking for shortcuts, we can sit back and enjoy the journey. So for us to be rational decision makers, do we have to kill our emotions? No, because if we try to stop our feelings, we will end up over thinking; consequently, all we need to do is…“nothing”. Instead of trying hard to make the best decision, we just need to relax, get out of our head and focus on the moment, because only then we are able to see things from all angles, and thus we are able to be rational at all times.

 Moufti

 

 

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Thoughts Within Oppression

ImageI know what I feel,

I feel oppressed.

I feel hopeless.

I feel possessed.

I feel love for a nation, a nation that doesn’t know that I exist.

I feel skeptic about nations; I doubt if borders exist.

I feel that I belong to this place.

I feel that to my countrymen, I have no trace.  

I feel that its time to pick a side.

I feel that I don’t care if both sides collide.

I feel ashamed.

I feel that I am not the one to be blamed.

I feel the need to be influential.

I feel powerless.

I feel deep as an ocean.

I feel shallow as a puddle.

I feel free.

I feel locked inside my head.

I doubt if I know what I feel anymore.

I doubt if what I feel is even real.

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Reflection On Perfection

ImageI remember when I was young; my parents always encouraged me saying, “ You did a great job there, next time you will do even better”, this phrase got me really frustrated at many occasions. Although my parents appreciated my efforts, they always made me feel that my efforts were not enough. It appears that my parents were trying to send me a message. I grew up in a small family that each member gave their best at whatever task they were handling; a family that I saw as somewhat perfectionist. My family was neither discouraging nor extreme; nonetheless, the task of perfecting everything seemed far out of my reach. As I have thought of the reasons why perfection seemed unreachable, I understood the message my parents were trying to communicate.

Each one of us sees perfection in a different way; yet, most of us are in the chase of perfection. Sometimes when we lay down on bed to sleep, we try to picture how our perfect life may look like. We wander with our thoughts and play with them like a kid plays with his puzzle; we search for the missing pieces to make the picture complete; we search for what we need to make our lives perfect.

I was not any different; I wanted a taste of perfection. I tried to think of all the possible ways that I can reflect perfection. I was always disappointed, because my expectations far exceeded my abilities. One day, I realized that I don’t desire to be perfect anymore. I felt grateful, I felt human and I felt that I was complete. In fact, I started to see that our imperfections are simply, beautiful. If our lives were perfect, we would have nothing to live for. Hope is the shadow of our flaws; so, if we have no flaws, we will live without hope, and I doubt the existence of a life without hope.

After my realizations, I have reached a stage of my life were everything seemed neutral. I was neither discouraged because of high expectations, nor encouraged to grow and improve. I started to think, “Okay, what should I do now?” I felt lost; I felt unchallenged. I needed middle ground, where both aspirations and acceptance meet.  I realized something more profound; I started to see a tradeoff. When we don’t care about perfection, we don’t grow and change that much, but we don’t feel bad about it either (because we are in a state of acceptance). On the other hand, when we try to be perfect, we grow and change, but we still feel bad about it (Because we put so much emphasis on our unrealistic expectations). So the optimal situation is when we grow and change while maintaining our state of acceptance.

When archers aim their longbows, they don’t aim directly at their target, rather they aim slightly above it, so that when they shoot, the arrow goes further and hits their target. Notice that the archers’ expectation was their target, not the point where they aimed upwards to reach their target. Same thing with us, if we do efforts slightly above our expectations, we will end up improving at our task.

Not all archers have the same bows; some archers have strong bows that can take their arrows further without much effort, while other archers have weaker bows that require a lot of effort for the arrows to go far; yet, all bows are adjustable. Same thing with us, we are not all born with the same potentials. Yet, some of us make use of what they have better than the others.

If the archers’ target was really far, aiming high may still be not enough for them to get their target, but bear in mind that if the archers aim higher, their arrows will go further than they would have gone if they aimed lower. In different words, doing our best may not be always enough to achieve our goal, but doing our best certainly gets us closer to that goal.

Yes, we can’t achieve ultimate perfection; but we can keep getting closer and closer. Every step we take closer is a step of improvement and growth. If we understand the beauty of imperfection, but at the same time we “make the best out of what we have”, we will end up not only achieving more, but also we will feel great about our achievements and progress. My parents were sending me a message that there is no limit for the steps you can take towards perfection; there is always room for improvement.

Moufti           

            

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