Fear and courage.
Bravery and cowardice.
Loyalty and treachery.
All suddenly sides of the same coin, the same dice; all image and reflection.
It seems the vices battle not only in verbatim, but also in the hearts and minds of all who practice them.
Over 600 youth in prison. Who knows how many more.
A handful of who we hear regularly. They smuggle their letters out, they get their food, clothes, supplies smuggled in for them.
All those who love them working hard outside, to make them feel loved and warm inside.
How much warmth can you add to a cold cell though? How much familiarity? How much hope can you shine into it?
I imagine there are moments of darkness, or bleakness, when you know, or when you realize, when tomorrow, will be just as dark as today, if not even darker.
What if I finish all my thoughts? What if I have nothing to think of tomorrow?and if I hold out tomorrow; how about the day after, or the day after that? That's why prison writings hold so much intrigue, so much appeal. Because the situation is unlike anything anyone has experienced or can imagine. You always have the choice to choose how you want to sit, you can adjust the temperature you sit in, the amount of light you can expose yourself to, the level of noise, the degree of company.. all levels of adjustment. You can also very well control the extent to which your imagination is stimulated.
And then suddenly there is narrowness, and darkness and emptiness and sometimes even darkness. It is dirty and you cannot clean it, you will be hungry and cannot eat; hot and unable to find a breeze, cold with no blanket to cover you. Soar, aching, with no gentle hand to soothe you.
Suddenly , the choice is no longer yours.
It's just not your say anymore.
You wait,and you wait in fear.
Footsteps send a million different thoughts and fears scurrying through your imagination. Or maybe you just don't hear them anymore.
Prison always seems to be the other side. The other side of the world. The other side of freedom, of living, of happiness, but also, what we've been brought up to believe is the other side of being 'right'. Only bad people go to prison.
Highly unlikely any of us will be telling that to our children anymore.
Prison does not seem to be the place for bad guys anymore, needless to say, neither are cops any longer our salvation from the bad guys. Nor are presidents. Nor are leaders any source of inspiration.
A leader is now one who sets on the very top, and refuses to get off. Someone who sits and gives orders to those below him to make others miserable. Or does not even bother to. Someone who sits and top, and makes sure his shit makes the right 'trickle down effect' that wealth never seems to.
They are people that either practice their tyranny internally or externally.
Leaders are either people everyone hates, or people most people hate.
But a leader is sure to have someone to hate them.
And it's not the shallow kind of hate, that you have towards an ugly colour, a tacky restaurant, an unpleasant person; it is not even the kind of hate you have towards bad guys or spinach as a kid.
Leaders have developed a deep seething, bitter hate in people.
A hate that makes one ready to kill and loose everything for it.
A hate that wells from your inner most depths, a hate that is created off seeing your children starve to death, or feeling helpless to help your family prosper or offer your kids a better life. It's a hate that stems from insecurity; knowing they have made the word a worse place for you to live in. Knowing you have fear strongest, where you once had nothing to fear.
But the worst thing in the world is not the hate. It's the self-depreciating feeling that comes right before the hate. The helplessness. The pure shit.
Hearing Om Salah's fear that if Salah leaves the house and works in the market, he might be arrested by wandering police and be caught, have a pack of neela shoved down his pocket and taken to prison on account of it months on end. A fear that has her keep her now disturbed son with some sort of nervous disorder after spending months of horrific circumstances, for coming back home after work. Work that's BARELY keeping om salah, salah, ahmed and samia going.
Hearing Sheikh Moussa's bitter accounts of 'that country you call your own', and dare to imply I am part of. The state that marginalizes me, so that , not only does it claim no responsibility for me, but insinuates MY treachery. MINE. I who lives in the place that is his home, living by the traditions I was born to , ready to fight to protect myself, my family and my land at any point. I who's passion for the stretching land sands and mountains is infinitely loyal, and you who poison it and threaten to push me out of it on account of treason.
Mostapha of the Sarayya who we was presented to us as a typical case of paranoid schizophrenia. His situation is so bad off he no longer has any sense of time, the doctor tells us. His situation may be even worst than usual right now, because he has been drugged for some time. Mustapha, how long have you been here? Mustapha looks up at us in a slow wry smile.. "6 years, eleven months , 7 days and 16 hours.." The doctor smiles nervously and doesn't bother to correct him..
Question after question the doctor asks, patient after they patient; all of them staring straight ahead of them and answering the questions with as little expression, as little feeling as possible. Patient after patient as the doctor squirms in his seat and his students' scepticism grows and grows, perplexed at first, then pale, heart beat faster, lips partially open as the truth reveals itself to them. Ofcourse, the doctors files were just mixed up today.
Na'eema in Qanater prison, smiling and cheerful, adjusting her scarf on her head every now and then, her smile sweet , her face open, her eyes asking a million questions, and waiting patiently to alternate on of your questions with one of hers. She was in there with murder, with a wide smile. Her husband's cousin. Her husband was paralyzed and he tried to rape her daughter.. She had seen him try before.. what were you expecting, that I sit back and watch her scream? Straight on his head. He crumpled to the ground. Prison is wonderful. She has many friends. IT's the day she is released into her husband's family's wrath that she fears most. She is safer here.
And all those in the 50's and 60's and 70's that sat in their houses, bent over their chairs, weeping silently praying that they won't hear the knocks on their doors, that their loved ones would come back safely, or that it would just STOP hurting.
And all those that lay inside prisons, no longer counting the days, knowing that none will come for them.
We have lead a good and secure life, yet we fear for our lives terribly. We have locks on our doors, we have friends of friends of friends, in all the high and low places that cushion our falls. We know we will never be forgotten, that at least a group, if not nations, will be hot on our pursuit, if we fall, or disappear for a while. And yet we experience a fear. And it chills us. And our adrenaline pumps. And we shudder, shake the thought off, and try to think of a safer way around it.
And the man that stays up at night, praying his door won't be broken down one day, and he will helplessly watch his son be carried away, his own daughter hurt or raped, and his wife, his salvation and his source of warmth and comfort, violated if only by a touch.
All those people that are picked off the street when a 'retard' attacks a church, or when people are murdered mutilated and castrated in menya, or when almost a hundred people are blown to smitharines in Sharm.
it is enough, not it is CRIME that these atrocities go by unpunished, but to have the wrong people prosecuted is committing crime after crime after crime…
And then you blame people for trying to live?
You complain that there is theft and dirt and corruption and misery…
You complain the children don't go to school and walk around the street barefoot and that cab drivers charge ridiculously high rates. You complain that the men on the streets harass the women, that the women cover up inch over inch, until they can no longer breathe.
We have for the first times in our lives, experienced fear. If even at a fleeting thought of doing something that might involve us risking our lives.
And what of those who have, who LIVE their lives in it.
Who are helpless or powerless, who are victims before a single risk is taken.
Who scream 'la2 ya beyh!!' and start to weep like children, once they are grabbed by the lapel and as they receive their first slap.. not because it hurts, and not because their pride hurts, but because they have been expecting this moment for years, for lifetimes!
And it starts early on.. as children wait quietly at school for their turn to get a beating. If they can't read, because the letters don't' speak up to them as they do most people, or if they can't approve to pay the troll's tole. Resist. They were told in a workshop. Ask why. Tell them how it hurts you.
I can't spoke up a fifteen year old boy, before countless of others. I can't he stood up and said quickly, his voice shaking, choking as he tried to explain. The moment I am beaten , everything inside me starts to shake. Everything. And everything inside me is closed tight. Even if I am asked to speak, my mouth does not open, it is clenched close. And I know I have to sit down quickly. I have to sit down very quickly because if I don't, then everyone will see me urinate. Yes! It still happens to me! I can't resist!
We do have a lot to fear. We have a lot to fear because we have not felt fear before, and so we start at the very bottom of the ladder. And we experience it in it's rawest and simplest of senses. We have not had it for years and so the possibilities have not built themselves inside us. It starts very slowly and it builds with question mark after question mark, and yet it remains, always, constantly, JUST out of reach.
But what if when our fear disappears. When we experience all there is to fear, and we settle down. Or when we realize all the fearful consequences and manage to secure ourselves.
What of when a different leader takes over.
Someone new. Someone fancy, someone old, someone blue.
And if we can mute our fears enough so our children are not afraid. If we DO manage to protect them. What of all those that are powerless, that remain at the mercy of the known or the power'ful'. When will their fear erupt.
When will it implode.
If it explodes.