In life, there are specific happiness and unspecific happiness’s. The former is logical in character and the latter has the nature of an essential insanity. Specific happiness is easy to quantify, since it’s action-orientated: it’s the Happiness you get as a result of an act, whether done with people or with groups (e.g. from being happy due to a loved one’s action or presence, to being happy because you just took a fantastic shower).
Unspecific Happiness, on the other hand, has no conclusive source; you are simply generally happy, even if the whole world is weighing down on you. Egyptians these days don’t have much going for them in the area of specific happiness, so logic would dictate that unspecific happiness shouldn’t exist in Egypt either, but… it somehow does, and it’s weird.
You drive down the streets of Cairo and you marvel at the decay that has befallen the city. Your daily dealings with the population are becoming less and less pleasant. You note with great concern the not-so-slow rise in the prices of everything, and you openly contemplate the notion that by the end of the year we will probably play monopoly with the Egyptian pound, yet somehow you are not miserable, and somehow you are not alone.
You see the world going to hell in a handbasket all around you and a population that always had nothing and will now have less; a population that gets crushed daily on every level and yet, somehow, they still have it in them to crack jokes and laugh loudly, and produce a never-ending stream of snark, humour and laughter that leaves you both dumbfounded and in awe of their spirit. It is nothing short of amazing, and it is more amazing when you consider their legacy and history.
The legacy of the Egyptian citizen is simple: throughout his/her history, there are some overwhelming forces, both external and internal, that have ganged up on him to ensure his continued oppression. For more than sixty years, he has been oppressed by the Islamists and the military rulers, and before that, he went from one foreign occupation to the next for more than 2 millenniums, and each one abused him, crushed him and committed horrific crimes against him.
Before the various types of oppressive foreign rulers, his rulers were the pharaohs, who, despite their great achievements and civilisation, were … well, pharaohs. They were God-Kings; divine rulers; the word we used to describe our current and local dictators.
They ruled using religion and divine right, their regime was made of priests and military, and they were so uncaring and self-involved that one of them could wake up one day, and decide that the people should build him a pyramid, even if it would take decades of organised hard continuous labour, keeping the labourers in line on a daily diet of nothing but bread and beer. Beer. He had them under control and doing his bidding by literally keeping them drunk. Our forefathers, the Egyptian people.
You read pharaonic literature, and you find clues as to why everything is the way it is in our country. In pharaonic stories, sex was normal and everywhere and everyone was having it with everyone. Brothers and sisters were having sex, fathers and daughters, sons and mothers, incest and paedophilia galore, and yet we shriek in horror at our ridiculously high birthrates, how Viagra is used as a bribing currency, or how pervasive incest and inbreeding are in our culture.
In case you didn’t know, our president is married to his first cousin, which is not only culturally acceptable, but as a concept it has always been heavily present in all of our TV and movie dramas as something normal, preferable and encouraged. In the 21st century, we have a culture that still actively encourages inbreeding, and it dates back all the way to our earliest and proudest civilisation. And if you think that’s telling, you should see how the priests and the military were portrayed.
The Priests of Amon presented themselves as the only conduit between the citizens and the gods, and were always characters who would deny you something in the name of religion and order, but would be completely ready to cast that all aside and give you holy permission to do anything you damn well please if you agree to bribe them.
The military was centralised, comprised of warriors carrying the holy and divine duty of protecting this land from continuous attempts at invasion, and who believed themselves superior to the general populace. However, like the rest of the population, they were deeply religious, and believed whole-heartedly in one of the basic tenants of the Amon religion: that the world is comprised of Egypt, and that everything outside of Egypt is darkness.
That notion was compounded by the belief that you could only go to the afterlife if you died and were buried in Egypt, which inspired pharaonic literary sagas of expelled soldiers going through horrific ordeals to be able to die on Egyptian soil and buried there. For both the military and the people, to leave Egypt was insanity, to be buried outside of it was unthinkable, and to lose an inch of its land unacceptable, but the oppression and death of the regular population was both normal and a non-issue. Nothing has really changed in seven thousand years when you think about it.
Despite all the horrors, crushed dreams, chaos and death we have seen over the past two years and continue to see today, we are somehow carrying on. We don’t flinch at the sound of bullets or teargas; we are adapting to the daily chaos and entropy of Egyptian society, and we have become accustomed to tragedies in our lives, and yet we don’t want to leave and we can still laugh.
This is not a new phenomenon; it is ingrained in our genetic make-up. Despite all of the reasons not to, despite the absence of all causes of specific happiness, we still have unspecific happiness running in our system and helping us to get by.
Maybe it’s not that unspecific after all, but simply the testament of a population that, despite all the attempts to wipe them out and destroy them, has endured, survived, prospered and still laughs. It’s our one and only message to a world that has always tried to crush us: “You won’t break us. Do your worst”. It might be illogical, insane and masochistic, but it’s also so awesomely Egyptian.