“Nafad.” “Fokak.” “7a2ak 3alaya.” “Tanesh.” “Khalas ba2a.” “Kabar Demaghak.”
“Ma3lesh e7na f Masr.”
No. I’m going to get angry, and I’m going to talk about it. Because if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.
This morning, I had a discussion with a well-educated young woman about the state of LGBT rights in Egypt. I do not think what people do with their private parts, as long as it’s consensual, should be a matter for public consideration. I do not think, as a group, they should be scapegoated for religious and political influence. Her stance was that, while she was in total agreement that they should have the same ‘rights’ as any other Egyptian citizen, nothing was ever going to change and it was stressing her out because the situation was ‘just hopeless’. And then she said the magic words, kabary demaghek.
Without exception, I have a similar argument every single day. Family, friends, and colleagues are all in the line of fire, and I’m like a dog with a bone – the social issue conversation doesn’t end until it is somehow ‘resolved’ (I either convince you that you’re wrong, we meet in the middle, or I resign myself to the fact that it’s a hopeless case). Without fail, somebody will always jump in with the supposedly-helpful suggestion that I stop getting angry, stop stressing, stop talking, and ultimately rise above it all. I mean, Noor, why are you always angry? We’re in Egypt – kabary demaghek ba2a.
To be completely fair to the ‘haterz’, I often discuss things that are considered taboo, or inappropriate, in a culture that is politically, socially, and religiously conservative. Gender inequality, ‘class’ and social mobility, elitism and privilege, censorship, sexuality, virginity, and anything else you could term ‘provocative’ are my go-to conversational gambits when tasked with ‘small-talk’.
You’re absolutely right that it is argumentative, combative, offensive, and I 100% utilize it to provoke a reaction. I think you need to be angry, and you need to back it up with an argument with more than just a ‘this is just the way things are’ mentality.
Harsh truth time: objectively speaking, on all levels, we – Egyptians – are doing culture and society wrong. This doesn’t have to be the case, we can definitely improve, but that improvement takes debate, openness, and education that many of us are unwilling to consider. If the Bassem Youssef experiment is any indication, we only like ‘freedom of speech’ when we agree with what’s being said.
The ‘kabar demaghak’ sentiment makes me so angry because an individual is willfully turning a blind eye to injustice, either for their mental well-being or out of sheer laziness. It echoes a particular brand of Egyptian hopelessness and sends a message that nothing will ever change which feeds into a rhetoric of general despair.
Things will always change and if more of us talk about things that are a little bit uncomfortable, if more of us work towards giving people their voices and angry opinions back, things might just change for the better.