The fail boat sets dock somewhere down the Nile

[Howdy Left Fieldians, I’ve been away for a while. Following American politics became a trying matter, then I transferred to Cairo for a semester to brush up on my Arabic. What follows is a dispatch from a country that is very, very unlike yours.]

Back in the United States we had to deal with Bush for eight years, and now we have a president who some people (like a surprising amount of Republicans in New Jersey) think is the Antichrist. So we’ve always had a head of government in Washington that wide swaths of the American people regarded as incompetent and placing America on a path to imminent ruin. However, even with the crushing financial crisis, America’s domestic situation always stands above what residents of most other countries have to live through.

Would you rather be in poverty in America or in, say.. Egypt? And would you rather deal with a democratically elected government* or a dictator?

If you missed it, last Sunday’s New York Times had a front page story on how stupid the Egyptian government is. Often, the accuracy of NY Times stories are subject to questioning — but I’m living here right now. I see much of the situation directly, and from my view, the story is pretty accurate.

For starters, it explained the sheep on the streets. I took an afternoon walk through Cairo’s streets on Sunday and didn’t understand why flocks of sheep were being led down the road, followed by a cloud of nasty bugs, in the Islamic district near Azhar and the Khan el-Khalili. I’ll summarize the explanation offered by the NY Times story:

The Christian Copt community of Cairo used to handle much of the trash collecting in the city. The Copts took the trash, sorted the recyclables out to sell, and let their pigs eat the food refuse to fatten them up so they could later eat the pigs. Great system and everybody wins, right? Yep — until the Egyptian government freaks out over swine flu earlier this year and slaughters all of the Copts’ pigs. These swine had nothing to do with swine flu, the Egyptian government just acted in a brash and stupid manner. Since people in this part of the world are prone to holding grudges, the Copts have given the Egyptian government the finger and said, basically, that they would rather see the city (even their own community) infested with garbage than clean it up. Making matters worse, one of the sanitation companies Egypt has a contract with has gone on strike. The result: One dirty ass city. Especially since sheep aren’t the prodigious refuse eating champions like pigs.

Remove the sheep from the picture above, and the picture is a pretty accurate representation of what many parts of Cairo currently look like: piles of trsh everywhere. It’s putrid, too.

So the Egyptian government really porked the pig creating the mess. With summer turning to fall and winter just around the corner, another swine flu pandemic scare has arrived. Couple this with the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in November — the hajj — where in many Muslims from Cairo will be in close quarters with a crowd of nearly two million worshipers; in other words, a great place for swine flu to spread… When the pilgrims return to Cairo possibly carrying swine flu, they’ll have an incubator for infection waiting for them in the form of a dirty city. And Cairo is a densely packed city. Instead of making the country safer from a swine flu outbreak, snap reactions from the Egyptian government have made it more susceptible.

Of course, some residents are different. We live outside the city where piles of trash everywhere don’t exist. This doesn’t protect us from government incompetence, though — it was the Egyptian government that forced my university to cancel its classes until October 3 (along with every other school in Egypt). This is despite the fact that classes had already started, and despite the fact that students were given free reign to travel anywhere — and possibly bring swine flu back with them. I’ve argued that this doesn’t make any sense, and I’m glad to see the NY Times story backs me up on this:

The garbage is only the latest example of the state’s struggling to meet the needs of its citizens, needs as basic as providing water, housing, health care and education.

The government announced last week that schools would not be opened until the first week of October to give the government time to prepare for a potential swine flu outbreak, a decision that could have been made anytime over the past three months, while schools were closed for summer break, critics said.

So the Egyptian government could have uh, you know, planned for this closure since the damn well had the time to do such. Yet they didn’t. If you think that’s bad, it gets worse:

Officials in the Ministry of Health and other government ministries said they had not made this decision — and that they had counseled against pre-emptive school closings.

It appears to have been ordered by the presidency and carried out by the governors, who also ordered that all private schools, already in class, be shut down as well.

Just another brash decision made by an executive office that doesn’t seem to know what the hell its doing. Just like the Copts’ pigs were led to a useless slaughter, part of my semester has been axed for no good reason at all.

Unfortunately, it could get worse. When the government acts in such an erratic manner which makes the situation worse, you never know if the other shoe has dropped. My whole semester could be cut if Egypt gets a sniff of swine flu cases. And let’s face it, that city I’m living outside of isn’t clean — a virus could spread easily through it. I just have to live day to day, get my studying in, and hope the Egyptian government hasn’t made me waste half a year of my life.

That’s just life when you live under an oppressive, and quite frankly stupid, government. But I get to leave, at least. Were I an Egyptian, the NY Times spends a couple paragraphs explaining what I’d have to look forward to:

Speaking broadly, there are two systems for receiving services in Egypt: The government system and the do-it-yourself system. Instead of following the channels of bureaucracy, most people rely on an informal system of personal contacts and bribes to get a building permit, pass an inspection, get a driver’s license — or make a living.

“The straight and narrow path is just too bureaucratic and burdensome for the rich person, and for the poor, the formal system does not provide him with survival, it does not give him safety, security or meet his needs,” said Laila Iskandar Kamel, chairwoman of a community development organization in Cairo.

Over the past decade, at street protests in America I’ve seen signs depicting two president’s from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum as a dictator; predicting ruin for the American country if their policies continue. And through it all, my standard of living my have dropped but that standard itself was never in peril. Do you want to see how an actual dictatorship works? Come to Egypt. Never in my life have the decisions of a federal executive office effected me so directly than what’s happened to me during my stay in Cairo. And I’ve only been here a month! With three months of my tenure left, I can only hope the government doesn’t pull any more stupid stunts. But I have hardly any control over my destiny here — realizing that is scary. Feel grateful for the government you have in America.

* – Some will shout “What about the 2000 election?!” Yeah, I think those were fixed too — but let’s face it, 48-49% of the electorate voted for Bush, so comparing that to an actual dictatorship is like comparing apples and Panamas.

15 Responses to “The fail boat sets dock somewhere down the Nile”

  1. i don’t think that Obama antichrist, He just wants peace of the world, like Jacko’s song.. heal the world. every country has own policy. peace man, and great post…..

  2. ObamaLied says:

    I’m sure the flies in Egypt are buzzing around your head tas … they’re attracted to turds. Nobody thinks Obamba is the Anti-Christ, again you get it wrong. We just think Government needs to step back from us rather than continue to step ON us. Obamba’s policies are deeply intrusive and rather socialist. Big Government gets even bigger !! I don’t envy Socialist Europe nor Egypt, so why go that direction. Saul Alinsky was his mentor, Obamba learned these “rules for radicals” well … rathe than act as a uniter, Obamba is the most divisive President ever …

  3. Kathy says:

    Uh, excuse me, but a whole lot of people think Obama is the Anti-Christ.

  4. ObamaLied says:

    Not really Kathy … it’s all in your head and overemphazed on these Progressive sites. A broad brush is being used to paint people here .. Sorry, but as a Teabagging Astroturfer I can assure you I didn’t see any of this stuff. But if so, then SO WHAT?? Bush was portrayed the same way by people on your side. He was called a Nazi, Hitler, Anti-Christ, burned in effigy, movies with mock assassination were made, Loser, Liar, Killer, Baby Killer, Murderer … etc. Check all boxes for names Bush was called. So the “tone” really hasn’t changed …

    Maybe this is the time for the NEA to release some positive thought provoking art in support of Obama and his policies??

  5. tas says:

    Results of a recent poll:

    Bet this is a question you didn’t guess pollsters would be asking a few months ago: Is Barack Obama the Antichrist? According to Public Policy Polling, over one third of New Jersey conservative voters either think yes or not sure. (That’s 18 percent yes; 17percent unsure.)

    Here’s a PDF file of the poll itself.

    This is called empirical evidence.

  6. Welcome back TAS. How is your trip by the way?

  7. tas says:

    Hey Michael, things have been pretty.. Unexpected. To say the least. Heh. But I have seen the pyramids and held a baby lion, so those were cool.

  8. Lol. Actually, there is a more “touristic” way to explore Cairo, Egypt. I found this Cairo travel guide very useful to find great attractions to visit while staying there last year. Hope you find it attractive 🙂

  9. Emperical or faulty or a Joke? Well I think it exemplifies what happens when a ridiculous question is mixed in with more serious ones. Heck, I might even check off Obama = Anti-Christ just for laughs.

    Using your same example, note on page 6 that even 5% of Obamba voters think he could be the Anti-Christ while another 5% are not sure !! So 10% of people who voted for Barry think it’s possible he’s the Anti-Christ !! Note on page 8 even 5% of Liberals are not sure whether Barak’s the Anti-Christ. Where did this comparison even come from?? Why not make more realistic comparison’s to Hitler or Stalin?? So for Chrissake consider the psychology of how this silly question is mixed in with the rest of the study.

    The more ridiculous the question, the more ridiculous will be your answers. And get a sense of humor …

  10. tas says:

    I must have a sense of humor because I’m laughing at you.

  11. tas says:

    I also like how, in a 1100 word post, I have 7-8 words set aside conveying a random tidbit about the inner thoughts of NJ Republican voters, yet people harp on those 7-8 words. Get a fucking life.

  12. Well look how you started out the post tas? Very inflamitory. Admit it, your own link was used to hang you, now you’re crying about it .. getting your ass kicked, like a white kid on a busload of Blacks … but no, that can’t be racist now eh?

    I read the rest of your scribble and it was ok. Bet you felt at home amongst the sheep huh tas? Your experience exemplifies why I worry how Obamba is taking us down the road towards greater central authority and socialism. Where the government dictates what you do and how you live. I don’t think we’ll be Egypt anytime soon but a Chavez-style rule is possible.

    Enjoy your time amongst the filth, flies, and sheep. It is a worthwhile experience….

  13. tas says:

    Well look how you started out the post tas? Very inflamitory.

    Bullshit. I’m not sure if you need a writing class or if you have to drop down to basic reading comprehension first. I’ll do both in one shot. Here’s how I started my post:

    Back in the United States we had to deal with Bush for eight years, and now we have a president who some people (like a surprising amount of Republicans in New Jersey) think is the Antichrist. So we’ve always had a head of government in Washington that wide swaths of the American people regarded as incompetent and placing America on a path to imminent ruin.

    I’m making an argument, which was stated quite clearly here: “..we’ve always had a head of government in Washington that wide swaths of the American people regarded as incompetent and placing America on a path to imminent ruin.” When a writer makes an argument, they try backing up that argument with facts. Now I thought it would be obvious for anyone to see, especially after reading my whole post, that I’m taking both the left and right to task in my argument. I start out by claiming that much of the left regarded Bush “as incompetent and placing America on a path to imminent ruin”. I fire the same salvo against the right. Of course, since there’s currently a Democrat president in office, there is more news about the opposition to him — hence the availability of an attention grabbing link. Writers, I’m not sure if you’re noticed, like grabbing a readers attention, too. Hence the picture, and hence the link.

    The fact that you choose to harp on that link, which wasn’t even a main point of the argument and merely a minuscule part of the article as a whole, must mean you’re a pretty dense person. And, given that you ignored all the arguments and content of my post, it’s pretty ironic that you come on here claiming I’m trying to be inflammatory when your first comment on here was meant to start a flame war. Try reading my whole post first before predicting my intentions.

    One hopes you’ll get some critical thinking skills in the future, but maybe, once again, you just need to get a fucking life first.

  14. TAS – As you can see, no amount of physical distance will remove you from the crazy.


  15. tas says:

    Yeah. The comment sections here seem to attract a breed of moronic douchebag trolls who love showing how idiotic they can be.

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