We Are All Egyptians

This morning cold shivers ran up and down my spine while reading Nicholas Kristof’s account of what he has experienced on Tahrir square. Been there on that square. Cairo is the womb that I return to for nurturance. I love the city, and the country, especially the people that give it cohesion and sense. Just two little quotes from the article.

We Are All Egyptians – NYTimes.com: “At Tahrir Square’s field hospital (a mosque in normal times), 150 doctors have volunteered their services, despite the risk to themselves. Maged, a 64-year-old doctor who relies upon a cane to walk, told me that he hadn’t been previously involved in the protests, but that when he heard about the government’s assault on peaceful pro-democracy protesters, something snapped. “

It is good when something snaps and you feel alive and ready to die. Those are the moments that make life the adventure that it is, not the complacent excuse for consuming oxygen and annoying others with silly power struggles that neglect the rights of others. Could you consider that you have an obligation to respect the rights of others? What kind of difference would that make on how you lead your life?

We Are All Egyptians – NYTimes.com: “Unfortunately, usually what determines the fate of such movements is not the courage of the democracy activists but the willingness of the government to massacre its citizens. In that case, the survivors usually retreat in sullen silence, and the movement is finished for a time. “

I hope this time, it does not go the way of retreat in sullen silence. I want to see history written in another way, and that the government is by the people and for the people.



At present there is an initiative up for votation this month that wants to forbid the construction of minarets in the country. I read a rather good column on Der Bund paper version today written by Rudolf Strahm that sketches the history of the moslem migration to Switzerland. Yes, it is called migration. Yes private sector interests were involved, and these were fueled by greed. Go read the column, get some facts straight, and then think.

This reminds me of a story that a friend of mine once told me when we were either in Salt, Jordan or some other place a few kilometers from there. Anyhow, the place has both christian and moslem worship places, and the story went that one demonstration of power was to see who had the highest tower, the christians or the moslems. Then I think of all the towers scattered through Bologna or Venice, and my perverted imagination tells me that once more we are discussing phallic symbols. Umberto Eco would undoubtedly agree with me, but really, the whole thing is ridiculous.

What is this minaret initiative about? Discrimination, religious discrimination. This is evil, this is bad, this initiative is to be fought and defeated. This is how it starts, and the process is not pretty. Hate symbols are created and propagated, then dehumanization, mobs, polarization. When things get really ugly then the mobs start death lists and then extermination is planned. It lands in genocide.

For those who need a refresher here is the Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948. If that was not enough, go to the European Convention on Human Rights that you can read in German (French, Italian also available). It might not hurt to have a look at the Swiss Constitution while you are at it.

Use your right to vote to make a positive contribution. I think a few minarets and a few modern mosques might be a very positive contribution to the architectural landscape of the country. Discrimination is the unjust and unequal treatment of diversity.

I do not know about you, but I have the fondest memories of exploring Venice with my son when he was just a little boy and climbing one tower after the other. Actually we worked a compromise, for each tower he wanted to climb, we got to go to a museum that I wanted to go to . This way he discovered Mondrian before he could read, and I the joys of stair climbing. Still, I think that this bit of the phallic symbols is a good contest to have!

Parallax II

I am what in my book may go as positively annoyed by the place that politics has taken in my life. I also very tired of the lack of involvement by those who feel free to criticize while being ponderously possessed by massive amounts of ignorance and paralysis. It could also be that I am peeved at having being accused of arrogance, but it could be that nothing else would be appropriate as a reaction to a supercilious being. Be it as it may, there is a discourse about politics that I want to continue within the context of Theoretical Man.

Mind you, ignorance is nothing bad in itself, it is even the driving force behind the acquisition of all knowledge. Power and influence are however another matter, and when it comes to politics these two take center stage. From then on, that is once power and influence start courting each other, things do get confusing once the private and the public get so meddled that one no longer distinguishes between media masturbation and capital greed. Both of these two last constructs, media masturbation and capital greed, are clearly not real, however a strong perching on intellectual fantasy and rational bigotry will get hung on these two imaginaries. Greed in itself is one interesting phenomenon, it tends to affect individuals and collectives alike, and according to my reading of one distinguished academic whom I have been reading and talking to recently, it can be taken to account for both the demise of communism and liberalism.

Your mileage may differ, but of all the things that I have been slow in learning, the necessity to impose order is one of them. While my attitude is to live and let live, between consensus and imposing order, I find little space for anarchy in my vagabond’s life. Now those who are really awake now will be quick at pointing out to a major logic flaw in that anarchy is not between imposing order and consensus given the fact that consensus and imposing order are already fairly close and both within government. Through this abstract contortion for which I am fully willing to take credit for, the conclusion is that anarchy is not a form of self-organization, and has nothing to contribute to peace or sustainability. When we engage in politics, and that we all do, at all time, even when claiming to be apolitical, we are engaged in social intercourse.

Now, intercourse is the sort of word that most like to associate with sexual, however I tend to omit such use as to me that is a misappropriation of the word, and I would like to rehabilitate the word for what it most aptly expresses. It is dynamic, and it expresses a whole lot of qualia associated with social behaviour, perception and communication.

By now you have noticed that I like words, and that I like to look at them in some detail. I like potent words, and I like hacking the language. Call it literary schmoozing or call it an attack on my own ignorance, call it naivety or call it anything you want. What I want to address is the nature of our – human – relationship to politics and government. Politics is human behaviour, and government is the virtual structure that that behaviour expresses to create action, control and rule.

In an epoch marked by affluence, what is it that I am rambling about and why does it have anything to do do with participative democracy? Since my last installation of parallax more than a month has gone by and a lot of water flown down the Aare while I have pondering the unlikes of pistic and volitious.

Berne Communal Elections 2008

Communal elections are slated to happen in roughly one year to then decide who will take a seat in the new city parliament and executive from 2009-2013. For the past few weeks since the national parliament elections, the local press are doing all they can to sell their paperware by agitating and intriguing. At least one reporter seems to opine or vomit all over this much too intellectual party that I have joined, and although he seems to collude with some poor idiot – without much good sense and tons of ambition – who has been leaking internal emails and other indiscretions to him. I am amused and annoyed all at the same time. I have, like most of my colleagues in the party the grand privilege of insider information. I also do not know who our wonderful media blabber mouth is, however I would be willing to take a guess in private. One element of what prevents me from doing so in public has to do with wonderful piece of personality rights that regulate the like of what is called libel and slander. The fact is that all I can do is guess. Personality rights here or there, somehow, defamation, slander and libel are just not the kind of activity that I like to engage in, although these are well known tools within propaganda. It is a question of moral and ethics, and those are always a matter of choice and conscientiousness. But it is not just my penchant for walking the moral high ground that restrains me, it is the absence of hard facts that would inculpate one person beyond doubt. The more I think about it, the more it seems that we all, perhaps with one exception – our district attorney in the fraction – and including myself would have a plausible reason for such disloyal behaviour.


So it happens that the riots of October 6 brought one of our city executives under attack within the local press, those aspiring at his job, and all politicians running or hoping to run for the coveted executive offices or already serving a term. While the members of the city parliament get a pittance that barely pays the added expenses of doing politics, the executive offices in this city pay a good salary and bring with them a rather sweet retirement pension. Anybody with a few gray hairs, and worried about being comfortable in old age fantasizes with being elected to one of these five executive offices or for city president (mayor). It is also not much of a picnic of a job, long hours, extreme exposure to the public and media, and a rather complex manifold of decision making processes all to make sure that the sewers function, the garbage gets picked up, and that the dog taxes get collected. Of course there are more glamourous aspects of the job, but there is also a lot of drudgery and legal nit picking.

In the past weeks our party has also taken the decision to form some sort of electoral alliance with other liberal, middle and right wing parties in order to have a chance at defeating the socialist-green block now holding the majority. However the constellation in such electoral alliance, in particular the names that will go on the ballots, are causing quite a bit of a stir, only because some people seem to be too dense to figure out that the decision was a tactical decision, not one aiming at excluding anybody in specific from any ballot. Go figure, but this is really difficult, and the one person in the hot seat and cross fire of much speculation and intriguing, the executive who is also in charge of the police department, fully understands the fact that the circumstances are confusing to the feeble minded.

Indeed politics is a good mixture of strategic decisions aiming at resolving issues and a whole lot of personal choices. Personality is also involved, heads and faces are part of the equation, and leadership has always been a rare resource while egoism and greed are easily accessible to all. To add insult to injury, the media is grossly neglecting what in my understanding ought to be their primary task, to inform. Instead they are feeding petty personal feuds and playing one character against another like puppeteers. The results for me are that my ignoring the local media is part of a strategy to keep my wits and maintain ignorance of hen fights that tend to bore me. In our little parliamentary fraction we have had a surge of screaming emails begging for clarity within our ranks. When I read these emails I analyse the language for traces of culpability in the ongoing intrigue. This grasshopper has much to learn about the carnival of political intrigue based on deviant interpretation of recent history.

(to be continued)