Despite my cynical disposition I actually like the concept of a new start. I love looking at a blank page; it holds the promise that anything can happen, like beautiful sentences flowing out of my fountain pen if only I would sit down and write. There is always a small thrill when I meet a new person; they could become a friend who does not know any of my flaws or dark secrets and I could pretend to be a cheerful and happy person. If only I would manage to keep my snarky personality in check.
The feeling that anything is possible and that the only thing stopping miracles to occur is a combination of fear and familiarity that potentially could be quenched, is seductive. For brief moments in time I allow myself to expect new steps in old dances, but before euphoria overwhelms me experience usually kicks in, and as I twirl around the room on the familiar tunes my feet fall in the rhythm I have known all along.
2014 is only one week old and so far it has not delivered on the implicit promise that a new year supposedly holds. Far from offering something shiny and new, it is not just a seamless continuation of the disappointment of the last years; it is starting to feel like an endless loop of what has come before. A little like Groundhog Day.
In the classic movie the bitter, cynical character Bill Murray portrays masterfully gets sent on an assignment to cover the appearance of the groundhog who, legend has it, will predict the arrival of spring. His disdain for the subject matter is only bested by the rude way he deals with everyone he meets and works with. After following him through the day where he entertains us with his snarky comments that alienate everyone he encounters we see him waking up on the exact same day again and again.
This is what Egypt feels like. The same protests fill the streets on set times of the weeks, clamouring for a subjective justice that will never be theirs. Television channels broadcast news that tells only one side of the story in complete disregard of the objectivity that should be the foundation of their coverage. With the changing of the guards a different version of the truth and nothing but has been adopted yet again and those who are not in agreement are not just considered people with a different opinion but potentially dangerous elements that need to be investigated, arrested and charged.
Recommendations for the foundation of society are being made by yet another committee, whose members eventually produce drafts of documents that will be voted upon in yet another referendum. The same couple of activists are arrested yet again, for as many times as there have been leaders in the past few years.
My latest favourite is the accusations levelled against a hand puppet in a commercial for a mobile phone provider of relaying secret codes of imminent terrorist attacks to terrorist organisations. Of course the cactus with Christmas decorations was secret code. Sigh.
In the movie the protagonist changes his pattern though; after the first few times of reliving the tedious day his incredulous horror makes place for cynical acceptance, and he finds ways to shorten the experience by killing himself, only to wake up yet again to the same song on the radio.
This kamikaze attitude can also be found in here; after years of fighting for freedom and justice many think they are back where they started and in their desperation they feel they have very little left to lose.
Bill Murray eventually finds salvation though, as in any good American movie where the end should be uplifting no matter how far from reality. Out of sheer boredom and after having tried everything else first, he starts using his time to learn to play piano, to stop bad things from happening to the people he meets and to eventually learn to be a better person.
In the movie this is conveniently facilitated by the fact that anything good the main character does is still part of him the next time he wakes up, but any scars he suffers from his successful suicides disappear overnight. Nothing will be able to wipe out the memories of the past few years in Egypt though.
Still, it is another seductive concept: redemption. The idea that if you plod along long enough and just keep trying, good things will happen. That in the end all will be well.
The small part of me that likes new beginnings is willing to entertain the possibility that progress can be made and that when we just keep believing eventually the outcome will be different. I am not holding my breath but if I could have any wishes for Egypt for the new year, this would be it.