Do you want me to work for you or not?

My second job interview in Egypt had convinced me beyond all doubt that there is no redemption for this country’s “professionals”. I just quit that job, teaching at the American High School section of an Egyptian private school, but in retrospect I realized how much the interview was a reflection of the state of affairs at the school as a whole; disorganized, useless, ridiculous and a general waste of a time.

My first job interview, post-graduation, was at a bank. It was precise, smooth and to the point. Amicable but not too friendly, professional but not to the point of being stuffy. It was just right (though I hated having to wear a suit and still do). The whole recruitment process was carried out by an independant HR company. What amazed me is that the company was owned by three Egyptian women (The Egyptian part is what amazed me… not the fact that they were women). The three women managed to come off as confident, knowledgable and all-round impressive. I still remember most of the questions they asked me and how they went about the various recruitment “sessions”.

My third series of interviews I experienced throughout the last week and a half. It was at an American contractor for a USAID development project. The interviews were not interviews… but none of those “interviewing” me claimed they were (I gave them the name for ease of labelling. They were more of… orientation meetings; we sat down and had a long chat/talk/whatever you wish to call it about the job, my previous experience, responsibilities, mission, goals etc. Thing is, the process went in such a smooth manner, I could scarcely believe it. Not only that, most were over without me feeling like I’ve been grilled by some country’s intelligence agency.

Every single time I left the building I was thinking: why can’t all interviews be like this?

I think they should be. You don’t have to make people feel like you ain’t worth shit, and they ain’t worth shit and life in general ain’t worth shit.

And that’s the way I see it.

To say that Egyptians are tolerant…

…is the same as saying that arctic temperatures average out to 45 Celcius annually; completely bogus and ridiculous.

An hour or so ago, I was engaged in a conversation with a friend about various topics of interest in Egypt and the world. We were thinking of doing some research, for our own purposes, about minorities in Egypt (ethnic and religious); Armenians, Gypsies, Coptic Christians and Baha'is etc.

I mentioned how I hated the fact that many Egyptian Muslims, while claiming to be accepting of "others", still call Coptic Christians names behind their backs. Others don't bother to hide their bigotry and call them obscene and vile names to their face. I have been personal witness to both these types of people and I find it pathetic.

My friend also mentioned that the traditional Egyptian way of dealing with minorities is either to claim that there are no differences between all members of society or it denies their existence. Obviously, the Coptic Christians' existence cannot be denied. But, few know about the Gypsies, the Armenians and the Baha'is. Few know about them because they are not integrated cleanly in society. They are forced to supress their identity and just be Egyptians.

Whatever happened to embracing our differences? Whatever happened to accepting the other even if you do not believe in their religion? Why is it that Egyptians believe that you have to say you're Egyptian and nothing but Egyptian or you have no place in this society? Personally, I believe it's because of all the authoritarian regimes that have ruled this country. All the wars, struggles and "struggles" that Egypt as a country and people have been through have forced a sense of nationalism upon the people. I do not criticize nor refute nationalism, as a concept or practice, but it appears it has guided state policy regarding how knowledge and information has reached the people.

The people, the general Egyptian public, know near nothing of all these minorities. What they know is usually tainted by the voices of a few horrible bigots who have spread malicious lies and falsehoods about the minorities I mentioned previously. The people who belong to the minorities are every bit as Egyptian as everyone else. Yet, they are also Christians, Armenians, Gypsies and Baha'is.

They have a right to celebrate that and we are obliged to accept it. Not forcibly, but willingly.

And that's the way I see it