Freedom

Two interesting things came to my knowledge in the past day. The first was through personal experience and the second was something that a friend told me about. They may be inconsequential to some (my friends certainly thought so), but I found them worthy of mention.

First thing

I went down to Maadi Grand Mall (located in Maadi, a Cairo neighborhood and where I live) yesterday to this internet cafe that I have been frequenting, on and off, for the last 7 years. It is the one of two internet cafes that I’ve been to in Maadi¬† (the second one foundered and closed down) and I’ve gotten to know the owner pretty well over the years.

This day, he had a paper sign on his glass door which said, roughly and in Arabic, “Under the instructions of the Ministry of Interior, all internet users must leave their data with the management.”

A few days before that, coincidentally, I was at the store when this dude comes in with a clipboard and talks to the store owner for 10 minutes. I heard him talk about a meeting and other things. When the man left, I turned to the store owner and asked him what that was about. He said the man was a plain-clothes officer from the Maadi Police Station who was informing him about this annual State Security (Amn EL Dawla) meeting of Internet Cafe owners.

And now this.

Oh, and when I asked him if this paper sign was related to the meeting, he said yes… and¬† that it was State Security that gave him the instructions. He also said not to worry about it and that nothing will come of it.

Second Thing

A friend of mine just came back from a trip to Lebanon and she told me that they now give them little slips of paper on the plane, before landing, asking them to fill in how much foreign currency they have, how much Egyptian currency they have amongst other things. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to be bringing in any gift that is worth more than $1,500 too. Also, they’ve gotten quite uptight about letting young males of military age that have not yet completed military service from leaving the country unless it’s for a medical reason or they’re visiting their parents who are outside of the country.

They are required, it being Egypt, to provide tons of documents proving these claims.

I now know for sure that I won’t be going to that internet cafe to use the internet. I cannot explain the psychological effect of knowing that whatever I do on the net can be traced back to me, even if I don’t want it to be. That day I went, I was just checking my email accounts… but still, it’s the “Big Brother” feeling.

Hello. We’re here. We know what you’re doing. Ha ha ha. You won’t get away with it, whatever it is.

I’ve been told by friends that this was already in effect in various other neighborhoods around Cairo… that may be so, but this is definitely a first for Maadi. What this means to me is that State Security are spreading their tentacles and giving us healthy doses of good, old fashioned totalitarianism.

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Is it my fault?

Is it my fault that the only reason I sit at ahwas downtown is because they’re readily accessible to me and my friends and not because of any cultural reason or excuse? Is it my fault that I don’t want to attend all these “really cool” foreign movies that are shown around different Cairene venues year-round because I honestly don’t believe I’m a cultured person?

Is my fault that I don’t like attending plays, ballets and/or symphonies or because I don’t enjoy them or (in the case of music) don’t see the reason why I have to listen to some orchestra playing when I can get an almost perfect copy of the aforementioned piece on my PC?

Is it my fault that I think art died with the turn of the 20th century and thus I would love nothing better than to visit Florence, Paris, London, Rome but not all these art galleries where people express themselves in ways I don’t even come close to understanding?

Is it my fault that I prefer movies with happy endings even though they may be the complete opposite of what real life is? Is it my fault that I prefer watching most movies at home rather than at a cinema?

Is it my fault that I’d rather write a small piece/article/whatever on the state of Egyptian or international politics than demonstrate? Is it my fault for saying that yes this government is f*cked up beyond all recognition and yet not forget that one has to give credit for things done correctly?

Is it my fault that I consider myself liberal yet wanting to shove some self-righteous morality, ethics and lessons of behavior down the throats of most Egyptians? Is it my fault that everytime I see a police officer, I cannot quell the feeling of rage that rises up inside me because of the way things are?

Is it my fault that there comes a point where one stops trying to come up with solutions and just gives up? Is it my fault that I’m laying the blame on everyone but myself? Is it my fault that my pure and utter disgust and shame have pushed me to levels of apathy I did not know I possessed?

I suppose there’s a yes there somewhere… so I suppose it is.