Going Around In Circles

ImageSo here I am, wishing I had more time for all the things I love. Unfortunately there is no price on time, it’s one of those thing money can’t buy. Recently I have been doing things completely out of my way; I mean, is this even real? Everything seems stable, a bit too stable… I am craving adventure, a taste of something new; yet, I don’t make any effort to search for this so called “new taste”. I have always thought “oh there is so much to think about, when it comes to over thinking”, but nowadays, there is literally nothing to over think about, it just feels like I am going around in circles, and those circles keep getting smaller and smaller. But it’s all good, and by good I mean neutral, neutral in the optimistic sense. I miss being here so often, having all the time to do all the silly things that I love. 

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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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Letter To Anger

ImageDear anger,

I write you this letter to inform you that things won’t work between us. It’s not me it’s you. You are always there, waiting for me at the peak. You make me do things that I don’t intend; you make me say things that I don’t mean. You promise me serenity but all you offer is regret. Your existence is beyond justification. Your force is beyond measure.  I wish I could tame you; I wish we could be friends. I understand that you want your freedom; I understand that you want to escape, but I can’t let you, because I may lose my self along the way. Every time you show up, I promise myself that things will be different the next time. I put more locks and I build higher walls, but you always find your way. Sometimes I wish you could just disappear, and then I stop, I think and I realize that we are one. Maybe I am blinded by justifications; maybe it’s my fault. I blame you all the time, but I never try to change. My vision is distorted; my thoughts are hazy. I need more time to think.  Sorry, things won’t work between us. It’s not you it’s me. 

Moufti

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“simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

-Leonardo da Vinci 

“simplicity is …

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An Egyptian Dream: A Response To Insanity

 Image “ I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter.”(Inception 2010). Sadly, this rings a bell; this rings a bell to most of us, the Egyptians.  In Egypt, our hope is not getting to our destination on time; our hope is to make it, alive. But it doesn’t matter, because if you have a family member who was deceased in a train accident, there is a good chance the government will compensate you with money; money that is nearly enough to buy the latest iPhone. In fact, we should look at the bright side. We have a president that appears in short videos to sooth our agonies. We have hospitals not ready with medicine but ready with broadcasts and tweets to ask for money, volunteers and supplies. We have government officials who refuse to resign or take responsibility, but are humble enough to apologize. The current situation concerning how crisis is being dealt with in Egypt can be described in one word, “insanity”.

Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?  Insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting things to change. Every single catastrophe, the one’s responsible think “this time it is going to be different”. As a side note, I have asked myself how vague I was, when I attributed the blame on “the one’s responsible”? I found that my description was too vague and that’s when I realized the actual tragedy.

Heartbreakingly the amount of people who are responsible is indefinite; there are several people who are considered to be responsible. Consequently that brings us to a psychosocial phenomenon titled “Diffusion of responsibility”. Basically, Diffusion Of Responsibility occurs when a person is less likely to assume responsibility for an action when there are others who share the responsibility. In Diffusion Of Responsibility, the individual either assumes that other people are responsible for taking action or assumes that other people have already taken action. In other words, have you ever passed by an accident and made the assumption that somebody else has called for help? In a perfect demonstration of Diffusion Of Responsibility, everyone assumes that the other one has called for help and the ending result would be no one calling for help. I see that this is fairly analogous to the situation in Egypt. The time we start pointing fingers is also the time when we realize that we do not have enough fingers. 

I remember around 7 years ago, my school implemented a method called “ the call chain”. The call chain is a cycle, where each student is accountable to inform another student about class information. Each student had a back-up plan if the person the student was trying to call, did not pick up. If the student did not deliver the message, he or she is responsible for all the other students who did not get the message and that student faces consequences. A call chain system would look something like this:

Teacher → student 1→  student 2→ student 3→ Teacher

Only now I have comprehended the importance of this system. Unlike the Egyptian governmental system; in the call chain, responsibility is not diffused; responsibilities, roles and consequences are explicitly assigned and well explained.

Sometimes individuals don’t want to be liable for failure, so they force the responsibility to be diffused by placing the blame on anything but them. When a person succeeds, he or she attributes that success to their personality; however, when a person fails he or she attributes that failure to the situation. For example, if a beggar approached a man walking on the street and the man decided to give him money. The man’s first thoughts may be “oh! That was kind from me, I am generous because I shared my money with someone who needed it”; however, the man ignored the fact that the beggar asked him for the money several times before he decided to give him the money. Days later the same man goes to a restaurant and the waiter mistakenly forgot to bring him skimmed milk with his coffee, so the man starts shouting at the waiter in anger. After the man calms down his first thoughts may be “ I knew this day was going to be a bad day since the moment I saw that black cat in the morning ” or he may think “everyone was getting on my nerves today and that waiter was not professional so he deserved it anyway”. Contrary to the preceding scenario, the man’s first thoughts were not “ I am ill tempered, that’s why I shouted at the waiter”; the man simply attributed success to his good nature and attributed failure to the surroundings. This response is somewhat similar to the response of the Egyptian government officials, when they succeed they praise themselves and their far-sighted planning, but when they fail they blame it on “the third party”.

In Egypt, one of the major flops is management.  The government provides short-term solutions, rather than preventive measures. What we need is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A business continuity plan is a map for continuing procedures under adverse conditions such as a fire, or excessive rain. BCP minimizes risk and saves lives. In other words, it is not only expecting the unexpected, but also having a plan to deal with that “unexpected”.

 We need government officials on the streets doing audits, not in their office all the time doing only paper work. The process of reforming supervision needs to be top-bottom. If the supervisor with the highest rank was doing his job, the worker with the lowest rank will be also doing his job. Just like the call chain, responsibility should be assigned specifically to prevent diffusion. Also the government needs to have incentives of safety and freedom to work efficiently. For example, the government should have a wide time frame to fulfill certain goals, and at the end of that time frame, the government can be judged fairly.

I am not here to judge governments; I am here to raise ideas to be further developed. I dream of the day where we know for sure where the train will take us, a day that we no longer witness insanity; I dream of the day where every Egyptian receives fair education and has equal rights.

 -Moufti

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