After reading my latest column, my 12 year old son emerged from his room with a frustrated look in his eyes, asking “is there nothing good about Egypt that you can write about?” The question was like a slap in the face. I suddenly realised that I have been consumed by my anger at the state we are in, consumed by the frustration of post-revolution events. The disappointment that followed a time of being so close to the fantasy of rebuilding a once-great country hand-in-hand with my fellow Egyptians.
At the age of ten, my son witnessed the revolution and what it had done. To him, to me, and to everyone he knows. Suddenly, a little boy who was surrounded by western culture, woke up to his own. For the first time in his young years, he admired his countrymen and was proud to belong to those people who were spoken of on every TV channel, every newspaper and every world leader’s speech.
All his family were pro-revolution, no matter how different they were. We stood united in Tahrir. His perception changed. My perception changed as well.
I had lost faith in the Egyptian people and I had lost faith in myself. Over years and years of reading the news and the books and the columns of everyone who dared hold a pen, I felt that words were in vain, and no action was possible. I believed that we were incapable of rising up, incapable of greatness. Then 25 January came along, and in my heart I apologised to every Egyptian I had wronged by my disbelief.
I do not tend to make the same mistake twice. I will have faith in my fellow Egyptians, I will take in my stride those who humiliate us by their mere existence. I will swallow the disgrace they are bringing to our freedom square, because there is hope yet in this country. There is hope because those who “do” are more than those who “speak”. If the state is not doing its job, is not caring for its sick and needy, Egyptians will do that instead until further notice. They were doing this anyway during the Mubarak era, and they continue under the Brotherhood one.
I will put my faith in the poor taxi driver who gives money to a beggar. I will put my faith in the truck driver who clears the road for me to pass. The sweet old man who had the thought of congratulating our European Arts Editor for the Coptic Pope election (!). The garbage collector who lifts as much garbage as humanly possible. The governmental school doctor who took the time to examine the kids and detect their illness early on. The enormous number of doctors who treat patients for free and travel to rural areas to do surgeries. The microbus driver who flickers the light to warn us of the upcoming road accident. I will trust my people.
Those who think that they can beat us and force us into their set of beliefs are always welcome to try. They just need to remember that almost every empire and great country in the world has tried before, and we remained the same. This country had been colonised for almost all of its history, and yet we remain unaffected. The Hyksos, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans, the French, the British and the Turks were here and left. Egyptians were exposed to Judaism, Christianity and Sunni and Shi’a Islam… and the Egyptian man remained as spiritual as his Pharaonic ancestors.
We have survived folly after folly, and we will survive this one.
Have faith, son!