Sunday, 28 November 2010

NPR: Cairo And The "Disconnected"



This touches on photography/multimedia only tangentially, so unless you're into Middle Eastern-international politics, you may want to skip all the stuff below and just click on the movie.

A number of media outlets are gingerly covering Egypt's political scene due to the imminent parliamentary elections. I say gingerly because Egypt is a so-called major ally in the "war against terror" or whatever it's called these days, so it wouldn't be politic or in our national "interests" to criticize its ossified and corrupt regime. Why the United States aligns itself with despots in the Middle East and elsewhere will always be an anachronism.

NPR has featured a number of short articles and some multimedia for the occasion, and I found this one titled In Cairo Slum, Little Hope For Change to be an exemplar of what the current situation is in Egypt. I say "current" but that's not really correct. It's always been that way, and it'll continue to be that way, perhaps get even wider...a profound disconnect and an immense gap between the poor and the elite. Trust me...I know that for a fact.

An Egyptian investment banker (I'm not sure how he can be one with such an atrocious spoken English) complains that his children are disconnected from the rest of Egypt because they go to American schools, wear Western clothes and barely speak Egyptian Arabic. Well, I've got news for him....the "disconnect" has been prevalent since the Pharaohs.

Every dog has his day as the saying goes...so going back in modern history, it was the Ottomanophiles, then Anglophiles and the Francophiles who were the elite class, and disconnected from the people. Identical to the Tsarist elite in Russian who would only speak in French, the Egyptian elite would live in bubbles of their own making, separated from the "non-elite" and the rest of their compatriots. To a lesser extent, the time for the socialist Nasserites and Sadatites came and went. Now, it's the turn of the Mubarakphiles...the business cronies, the oligarchs, and the corrupt corporate/political alliances who form the recent elite....but these will also vanish when their time comes, only to be replaced by a hungrier demographic. We've been there before, and it's only a matter of time before the cycle repeats itself. A class will just replace another class. And by the way, claiming to have Turkish ancestry (some extremely tenuous and others grossly made up) is currently a de rigueur affectation for many of the newly minted Egyptian wealthy class. Go figure. Having Turkish heritage was once viewed as being regressive, not authentic and even unpatriotic. I know that for a fact as well.

But back to the "disconnected"...which many of the privileged (some would describe them as spoiled) Egyptian youth are. Confused by a brainless embrace of a culture that is not theirs; an embrace made possible because their parents are the current moneyed elite and can buy into an ersatz Americanism; confused by their own dichotomy...seeing no conflict between binge drinking, heavy partying and then fasting Ramadan and claiming religiosity...but unable and unwilling to adopt American meritocratic values, its democratic values and work ethics.

Watch the multimedia piece...then shed a tear for the real people of Egypt who deserve infinitely better than the dismal life they're leading.