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Who is beating up ‘am Helmy with a shoe? - Daily News Egypt

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Who is beating up ‘am Helmy with a shoe?

In the Middle East and Egypt, people have gotten used to utilising the words “shoe” and “slipper” in verbal insults. Of course, the physical usage of the items exists, as demonstrated by the Iraqi journalist with the former President George Bush junior. We have also witnessed women living in low-class neighbourhoods use slippers to beat …

Farid Zahran
Farid Zahran

In the Middle East and Egypt, people have gotten used to utilising the words “shoe” and “slipper” in verbal insults. Of course, the physical usage of the items exists, as demonstrated by the Iraqi journalist with the former President George Bush junior. We have also witnessed women living in low-class neighbourhoods use slippers to beat up people during street fights.

The concept has gained a symbolic aura, which points at humiliation rather than physical harm. Therefore it has become enough to wave the shoe or slipper to humiliate the adversary; people would shout “I will hit you with a shoe”; an empty threat that seems to do the trick.

So, the use of shoes and slippers in the language has become so common that it has seeped into political talk as well.  Insults in political conversations have become much more common and people use them all the time, especially through social media websites like Facebook. It started with using these insults with adversaries who were hated by everyone and so it became accepted. Then it transformed from being used against enemies to being used against anyone who disagrees with you.

We have seen politicians vehemently announce that this or that person should be beaten up with a shoe. Insults also included “slaughtering” or “shredding” the person or even the whole of the Egyptian people.

I was told that police cadets are told during their years in the academy that they are the “owners and masters” of the country. I also know many rich and influential people who act as if they own the country as well. They see the rest of the people as a burden; they are seen as excessive breeders and eaters who refuse to work. Therefore, they should thank those “masters” for their generosity. In this context, hitting people with a shoe becomes understandable or even necessary. This behaviour is copied by those who belong to a lower class, in an attempt to become more like the country’s masters.

The 25 January participants were hoping to create a country that sees everyone as an equal, where people enjoy freedom and justice. Yet, the police decided not to work, and people started missing the country’s security. So much so that it became impossible to report any crimes. The police gave the country a choice: if you want us to work, it means we have to beat up people with a shoe.  Of course, those who belong to the upper middle class and upper class will rarely be beaten up with the rest of the people. Therefore, public opinion chooses to go back to that humiliating state.  This has been reaffirmed by people’s belief that 30 June would have never happened if the police and army did not unite against the Brotherhood.

Therefore, instead of asking the police to do its job without humiliation, people demanded that others be beaten up to ensure the return of security and stability. This trend has even befallen those belonging to lower classes. A young man working at one of the TV networks once told me: “’am Helmy told me, ‘I want the president to beat me up with a shoe’.”

Which president would be willing to do such a thing? And after dreaming of a different country, will we accept this humiliation?

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  • sam enslow

    After 10 years of living in Egypt (so I must find a lot to like in Egyptians), this article discusses one of the saddest aspects of Egyptian society, the people seem to believe they are garbage. The elites or those with any position of authority believe they are actually better than others and entitled to special rights and privileges. “The difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich have more money,” doesn’t satisfy them. They seem to want a return to the days of Pashas and Beys and Sultans. It seems one finds he has two pts. more than the others, and his nose becomes elevated. I have too many times seen bosses speak to employees in such a manner that if done in the US would result in a quick punch in the nose. At the same time the concept of “to whom much is given, much is expected” seems not to exist. I seldom read about rich Egyptians sponsoring cultural events or charities (with the exception of building mosques and churches).
    The attitudes of the police are regrettable but understandable. The security apparatus in Egypt was developed by former Gestapo officers and the KGB. Their philosophy was to rule by fear – not by rule of law. “Sweets” are part of their pay package. Human rights and the rights of citizens are not even considerations. To be “strong” means to be “mean and nasty.” While the police forces face many problems, I believe with some encouragement, it could be one of the easiest institutions to reform if the politicians would encourage reforms, including paying police officers a living wage and giving them the tools and training to work in a proper manner fitting a democratic society. The members of the force would be happier if they were respected – not feared and hated. All police forces have a “thin blue line” attitude. This comes from US police uniforms and a belief that the thin blue line is all that separates society from chaos. Police are very protective of police even when errors happen. Even in the US, Internal Affairs officers who investigate the police are most often disliked.
    The politicians in this new democracy are strangers to the people. They have no desire to “know the people of Egypt.” It is still, “We will tell the people what they want and what rights they have.” You do not see politicians, following Gandhi, traveling Egypt to get to know Egypt. They stay in their circles in Cairo. I was recently in Siwa. Representatives came from the government to discuss the building of new roads. The people of Siwa said they did not want the new roads yet. The money would be better spent on schools and staffing and equipping the hospitals. What they said made no difference. It should be noted that due to government planning Siwa has a sports stadium that will seat thousands that has never been used. But Cairo knew best. I often listen to conversations in coffee shops. The people of Egypt know what is happening to them. They are not stupid. Politicians are called “actors” and “big liars” (true most everywhere). If this government wants to end the appeal of The Brothers, it will start addressing the real problems of Egypt and involve the people of Egypt in the discussions. The people of Egypt, although “they can make me crazy” are pretty good people. In fact the real people of Egypt (as they are in reality) are a lot better than the “official” Egyptian.
    As soon as the elites are willing to capture the spirit of 2011 Tahrir, Egypt will blossom. Egypt has it all. The people do not need punishment and control, they need encouragement, hope, and respect.

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