Tuesday, February 06, 2007

...صح النوم

On the lives we lead and the imaginative forms of resistance/non-resistance :)

السائق: اسمع دي: "واحد ماشي في الصحراء لقى مصباح علاء الدين...دعكه...طلع له جني...قال له شبيك ابيك أمرك بين إيديك, الراجل مصدقش عينيه وراح طالب ميليون جنيه...راح
الجني مديله نص مليون... قال له طب وفين النص التاني؟ إنت حتخنصر من أولهاو الجني رد عليه وقال له أصل الحكومة مشاركة في المصباح فيفتي فيفتي", تم إنفجر ضاحكاً: أضحكتني ضحكته أكثر من النكتة.

السائق: إنت عارف إن الحكومة فعلاً بتاخد ييجي نص مكسبا؟
أنا: إزاي؟

السائق: عن طريق التأليب.... كل شوية يطلعوا لنا في حدوتة جديدة...بس صراحة أحلى واحدة بتاعة الحزام
أنا: ماله الحزام؟

السائق: ما إنت أكيد عارف إن الحزام ده أصلاً كدب في كدب, الكل عارف إن الحزام ده ديكور, يعني بنركبه أونطة (....)
إحنا عايشين في كدبه ومصدقنها...والحكومة دورها الوحيد إنها تراقب إن إحنا مصدقين الكدبة

من "تاكسي :حواديت المشاوير" لخالد الخميسي

I think this last sentence is powerfully descriptive of el wad3 in general..
This particular story was the one presented at the back of the book - out of respect for the writer's copywrights, and an effort to get you to buy this book! A book, i believe we've all been wanting to write forever :)
(How many of us have scribbled a mental or written note to write down all they've learnt, all they've heard of jokes and tales and experiences from cab drivers....)


James Scott presented this notion of 'public transcripts' that a hegemonic/ruling power enforces, be it rhetoric, habit or procedure to make sure it maintains rule over its 'subjects'.
In the late 19th centry, the falla7een on certain areas of ba7arey, wrote petitions to the ministry of interior and sometimes even directly to the khedewy, complaining of el 3omdas or the governmnet officials that cheated them as they measured and taxed their lands. Needless to say, these farmers , in the late 1800s, could not right. However, it seems, when they found that the prevailing system was one of petitions (or the system set by the governemnt) they tried to buy into the existing system in order to ensure htey got their rights. So, they would hire a petition writer, (someone who claimed to be able to write, as the petitions are drenched in spelling mistakes) and used a language and terminology that was clearly government rhetoric and not what they were used to. The idea or notion that they were 'adopting' a language or rhetoric was also particularly clear in how the details of the petition itself were oh-so-difficult to decode. It reads like a thousand people are 'talking' and not 'writing' at the same time. In the eye of my mind i can see 10 or twenty standing around the 'petition writer' shouting out what they have been subjected to...

Their power is an oral one - it was one that relied on gestures, tone of voice, facial expression and details.. it was obviously difficult to encapsulate it all in words that were to reside on a piece of paper and speak on their behalf. Also, although they seemed to enjoy a clear sense of pride and 3azeema, there was alot of referece to the almost 'majestic' or Godly ministers, and a reference to themselves as slaves or subjects.
There was alot of 'cunningness' between the lines... these were not stupid people, nor were they mazluleen in anyway. It was more of a , 'if this is the way you work...' or 'if this is how you will listen, then in the name of my taxes...i am here to claim my rights...'

A number of years into this, the government stopped collecting taxes from el falla7een, and thus robbed them of their negotiating power - teh taxes somehow helped them buy into the system.. 'if i'm paying anyway...'
and the petitions stopped.

Another thing this reminded me of awey, was Fairuz's play 'Sa7 el Nom'..
It was presented in Lebanon, just as the current protests were exploding in late November. Lebanon was tight, and bursting at the seams.. the air was tense and no one had any idea what was going to happen.. An explosion was coming and this was clear.. bas what would it be? A huge protest? A civil war? Riots? Even when it was anounced as a huge protest/strike.. the puppeteers behind it were still not clear. People were stocking up on basic food items, jobs were being lost, tanks were strolling down narrow lanes.. There was an air of tight suspense, and a period of suspended lawlessness keda.. as if all the thin lines of discipline, legality and all those strings that keep us together, were suddenly and momentarily suspended, and no one could really tell what was going to happen.

"if you want to buy anything, buy it now... i don't know when and if i'll open again..." An old shop-keeper called at us as we contemplated buying a book.

In the play (sorry for diverging and divulging!) El Sultan el 7akem, slept all month 'round and woke up when the moon was full. He would wake up, sit in his court and people would come up to him one at a time with their pleas and requests - they needed to buy a piece of land, open a store, get married; in Fairuz's case she needed a new roof.. all these requests large and small had to be stamped by the sultan to be processed. THe issue of whether or not the petition was passed depended greatly on the kind of gift he was presented..
Moreoever, by the time he reached the third or fourth petition he would start getting sleepy, and all would have to wait till the same time next month!!!

The deal is, Fairuz steals the stamp after he sleeps, and stamps the rest of the petitions away. She then panics about being found with the stamp and throws it in a well. Come the next month, the sultan cannot find the stamp and the village errupts in panic. PANIC.
HOW WILL WE EVER LIVE?

This was as hillarious as it was ironicallly and eerily true. THe sultan was wailing and wailing how he had become just like his ra3eyya... no different. He no longer had any power over them. It was the stamp that symbolized and encapsulated his authority and now that it was gone what authority did he have over them? they could all live on without needing his monthly permission. and get this; teh whole village paniced with him!! THe priority then, to EVERYONE was to FIND the stamp! Otherwise, what system would we have. Everyone was thrown in utter confusion and the stamp had to be found for life to continue. :)
Ya3ni with a tyrant this lazy you would expect a revolution of sorts... no more stamp! hip hip....!
But it was more like " Oh -shit... now how does it work???"

And so it seems there is sometimes a comfort in this sort of system... In a tyranny that can be expected, and one that you can build or construct your life around. If htis is the way you work ( it doesn't really matter how ridiculous or unfair it is) you're in control; you're the boss, so here you go...

Scott and others speculate tab3an that folklore, arts, plays, songs, poetry, is what people use, (the populace ya3ni) to express the truth of how they feel/think of things...
Ironically though in a country like ours; plays, songs, poetry, are used and have been used for a very long time to get us to think and act in a paritcular way. Notions of nationalism and patriotism and the values and zeal of the revolution for eg were very well fed to us and our parents as such.

Those social scientists believe people find ways to express' their own true 'hidden trascripts' at home or through their very own creative channels. I think in casese like ours, we very knowingly and cunningly adopt the transcripts, buy into the system and find our way around it. El 7ede2 yegebha. And then we talk , quite openly about whatever it is we believe in. Let them dictate their lies, and we will nodd and lie along with them... like the cab driver indicated
...والحكومة دورها الوحيد إنها تراقب إن إحنا مصدقين الكدبة...
أنا أعتقد إن دورها التأكيد على إننا كلنا بنلعب اللعبة كويس - وكل حد عارف إن محدش مصداْ حاجة.
All said; i think one of the most powerful effects of social movements, and of these particular movements in Egypt in general, is that the infaliability of such regimes, and such transcripts,slowly but surely falls apart. The realization that it is all a lie and a game becomes so blatantly clear to us, that it becomes difficult day by day to play along.. especially when you realize that you wait and work all month long, and never actually ever get your turn... How much we could do without the stamps becomes clearer and clearer to us...

And then? After the tipping points?
Let's wait and see :) we're living it out!
Till then though as an ethiopian proverb in one of Scott's books relates;
"When the great lord passes by, the wise peasant bows low and silently farts..."

And they get louder, and smellier.

4 comments:

توتة توتة said...

الحكومة دروها انها تراقبنا مصدقين كدبها ولا لأ

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! Its so thought-provoking at times and other times the posts are so comforting with their failiarity, London, SOAS, and to an extent egypt too, even though i only go there in the summer. Leaving soatica post made me cry almost, u captured the atmosphere of soas so brilliantly, i think it affects and enriches anyone and everyone that has studies there.
F.

Alia said...

Akh!
I'm so touched you can relate!
It's wonderful to know whatever's been expressed has been shared. Begad, indescribable :)
I'm particularly glad you shared SOAS. It's a wonderful place ( i daren't say institution- just doesn't work!)but not everyone/anyone can really tap into it.
Cheers :)
And thanks for reaching out..

حسن ارابيسك said...

أتمنى أن تشرفيني في مدونتي الجديدة عامل حفلة على الضيق عازم فيها الحبايب كلهم ومفيش داعي تكلفي نفسك وتجيبي إي حاجه معاكي كفايه هاتنوري المدونة