Monday, November 21, 2005

The balcony from overseas

Haven't blogged in quite some time. Have been away for some time. Following news of home from overseas is well, different. In a way it accentuates the sense of "alienation" (?). One is not part of the news, one cannot be because one is away but one realizes one wouldn't have been part of the news, probably, even had one been at home.
I followed the news of the parliamentary elections with interest, tried hard to "curb my cynicism", to little avail. I follow the news on blogs (all around the world people are interested in blogs now, more on that in a while) but it somehow makes me feel older somehow and none the wiser. I read the blogs by enthusiastic young people who seem quite fresh and eager. I am jealous of their energy, their idealism, their optimism; i hate to say it but also their innocence. I keep hoping it might rub off on me somehow, that energy of theirs. But at the end of the day I remember that things don't change this way, entrenched imbalances of power, autocracy, despotism you name it, won't change without changing the root causes of the imbalance. When one moves away from home one becomes even more aware of the deep polarization in contemporary society. Many good people have profoundly sinister ideas and are not ashamed to boast them.
just the other day I came across a random item in an English newspaper about a Muslim community in Europe who were building a mosque. Under local pressure they compromised and agreed to lower the hight of the proposed minaret so as not to offend local Catholic sensibilities. Of course I am attuned to focus on the words negotiation and compromise, but what jumped at me from the page of hte newspaper is how familiar such a debate was: from medieval times when churches in the Arab Muslim world were not supposed to build towers or ring bells to modern times when even otherwise "good" (Muslim) citizens complain of the hight of neighbouring churches and the "audacity" of their ringing their bells - sometimes....
now this last random thought might seem unconnected to the above but trust me it isn't. what i was trying to get at is that while i am sure that in egypt many people would read this item and complain of the discrimination that Muslims face in europe, if you had the same item about the Arab world or egypt but involving a church, they wouldn't be annoyed. And in fac they would refuse to acknowledge the parity. And this makes one feel quite alone.
And I envy the blogger community who seem to be developing a certain comraderies in cyber space. One question that I now find interesting is the spill over from cyberspace to real "public sphere" as it were. From my limited observation I'd say in a country like Egypt there's quite a bit of spillover. But are connections maintained in society and does this open up a new space for collective social action hitherto unavailable? One characteristic of blogging and of cyberspace has often been presumed to be its solitariness. But isn't blogging in some parts of the world helping to subvert and circumvent authoritarian control while in others accentuating the alienation of the individual?

I wish they'd invented the thing ten years earlier, or else I wish my parents had had me ten years later! But such is life!