Friday, September 01, 2006

On Classism..

El 3Ashera masaa2an episode of tonight, was really enjoyable and highly recommended!
Mesh 3arfa law beyet3ad bokra, bas i would generally recommend it awey..

Otherwise maybe we can get Heba Raouf and Samer Soliman and i'm not sure how Abdel Wahab el MEssiri's health is doing - bas maybe we can get them for a salon on classism in Egypt and how it is affecting a movement for change. Not only how it's affecting the movement negatively, bas how existing social structures can boost or contribute positively.

The topic covered was el tabaqeyya (ma bada leey ya3ni) and they featured Abdelwahab el Messiri, Dr Heba Raouf (assistant Pol Sci proffessor at gam3et el qaherra), Dr Samer Soliman (of the New left- prof at auc and Author of النظام القوي والدولة الضعيفة) and AbdelBasset Abdel Mo3tey (whomi think it s political economist or political sociologist i'm not sure bas is author of ( م(الطبقات الإجتماعية ومستقبل مصر -- دار ميريت

They talked about a number of interesting issues, bas off the top of my mind keda and just to tempt you to watch the program;

Dissappearing Middle Class

THey were discussing how the middle class has not disappeared as is usually indicated or assessed, but it has more like 'exploded' or become very stratified. So that the gap pertains withIN the middle class itself, and the rising gini coefficient is not just an upper-lower class one.

That 'class' was supposed to be determined upon a social-economic basis , but that now it is mainly a social determinant. According to Heba Raouf; the way the society has been socially engineered is such that 'i consume; thereby i exist; i cannot afford to consume and thereby i do not afford to exist'. She was saying that social class is no longer determined by your income kaman, bas also by where you live, where you go to school, where you work. It is both determined AND determines those factors.
That we are now becoming what are referred to 'gated communities'

She also said it's almost like we were one huge continent (teh way teh world was zaman) and are now slowly drifting apart as different distant islands, not connected to each other at all.

What class do the police belong to for instance? El geysh?
It's a complex social map and and that your social status 'upper or lower' depends on who sees who in their rear view mirror. ( i particularly liked this)

Abdel Basset Abdel Meguid and Samer Soliman, talked about how the middle class has become al tabaqa al mu7bata aw el tabaqa al mahzuma, constantly in fear of falling into what lies beneath them, and constantly intimidated by what lays above them; what they spend their lives working towards and fearing at the very same time.

Social Class in Social Movements.

They then talked a little about the middle class and why it doesn't move or mobilize for change. What's stopping them.
here they talked about lack of a national project, or the labor and communist movements in the 40's and the student movements then and thereafter.

They talked about citizenship and el entema2 and the huge effect the social class structure was having on both belonging and the sense of agency.

Dr Heba was also saying how you need a strong level of consciousness amongst classes after which this consciousness must be transformed to action, and how we are finding it difficult to achieve the first level on both political and social basis.
Abdel Maguid and Soliman added how this is on account of the lack of effective political parties and how it is their role to transform consciousness to action, and the way i perceived it , also their role to encourage hegemonic formations that was severely lacking.

Abdel Maguid also talked about the lack of resistance displayed by the middle class - and when attacked with their helplessness presumed and presented what seemed to be models of passive resistance that the classes can adapt.

Overall ya3ni, the way they tried to trace the social engineering, social structuring and the general warped social map we live in and it's affect on all the 'nodes' in its network/web, from a cultural/socail/economic and political standpoint, was just very interesting to watch/engage in.

At the very end , Abdelwahab El Messeiri closed with a few words about Egyptians, and the nature of Egyptians and how he 'knows' they will pull through and change prevailing consciences and conciousness regardless of the engineered structures they are stuck in.
it was a very Messiri thing to say in a very messiri way. And although everything talked about was structured, and hard-core keda and thrashing and almost angry, something about his softness and conviction keda was very reassuring. ( i know i could get stoned for this one!)


That was a very quick preview keda, bas complimenting this; one of the most interesting findings in my research this summer was that what seemed (to me) to be the core problem in the class issue, particularly in pertaining to the movements, was not really the gap bas the lack of communication between the classes. Although no one centralized it; the issue came up in most of my interviews.

A proffessor was talking masalan about how there used to always be a poor far3 and a rich far3 in every family and how rare that is now, or at least how rare the regular interaction that is ; another was telling me how he was friends with the driver's and house keepers children, and how that helped encourage him in the movement in the 70s; and truly understand the issues he was calling for.

An activist was talking about the events of the 25th of May , (the harassment) and how the fact that both parties (the wataney perpetrators and the girls in the movement) had never really communicated or made any kind of contact before.. and how that can make it very easy for any outsider to spark blind anger and aggression between them. They can easily believe anything anyone tells them about 'these girls' because they are so mo7arameen or so far away from them. (it almost sounds like the colonial woman- occupied man issue now that i mentioned it)

What's interesting kaman is the role that art and culture played in this sort of communication in the 40's and the 70's... there were songs and poetry that communicated the movement and its issues and pulled people together. Emails and Sms's mobilize much less than they exclude, apparently. The idea of the above-mentioned techniques, was they were communication techniques that involved and engaged the illeterate kaman. ranging from songs ('takhleed zekra al moqawma wal monadelun') which contributed greatly to collective memory and a genearl feel and drive for the issue; to plays, and Negm's poetry kaman...
Also ba7ess in teh revival of the cultural scene right now, there is alot that brings people together - finally something that is all of ours; something that purchase power can't be a deterimental factor in.
(And here i'm only discussing the effect of art and culture on 'communicating' and unifying; bas it's also SUCH an infinately effective development tool; not to 'develop' people or help them fish, bas just its power in enableing people to realize what it is they can do and how best to do it given culture , values etc - it's really strong..(check arjun appadurai on 'cultural aspiration maps))

Akher qessa 'interesting' wallahi we 7a2afel :)
In the 40's a narrative of a student activist was that after being arrested after mozahra's they received genuine help and sympathy from drs and jailers, bas very little of it from the guards that broke the protests.
One medical student in a protest in the late 30's was saying 'el ragel kan nazel feyya darb bey2uli 'ba2a enta kolaha sanateyn we teb2a daktor - we anna mesh ader 2adakhal weladi ebteda2i??!') and that it was something he never forgot.

In the 70s however an activist was talking about how the most beautiful and secure thing was 'masr kolaha kanet ma3ana' so you have romantic stories of crying zobaat, weeping officials, or relenting ones, from many different fronts. How the lower classes seemed empowered by the revolution so that there was so much bitterness; and there was so much more scope for unity.
Another interesting thing an activist - now professor was saying was how in the 60s/70s you could not really tell much about someone from their clothes; except for their taste, now you can tell almost everything from her car to where he/she lives to what their dad does...

This is not to underestimate the stregnth of the national projects of independance and the revolution and it's values that must have been hegemonic in and of themselves at teh time; and the lack of a common unifying goal at the moment...
bas bardo there is so little we know about each other :)
And for that 'realization' alone; i think a great number of us will always be indebted to fat'het kheir :)

Once again, i am infamously not getting at anything but throwing random thoughts at you :)
This is little opinion and analysis and much recollection we bas..