Monday, October 26, 2009

What lies beneath

We’ve a general tendency for not believing our government. Whenever someone in authority shows up on T.V. to give a statement or something, we usually doubt everything he/she is saying and try to search for the truth between the lines; though he/ she might actually be honest. This attitude from us is most obvious in the times of disasters and crisis. When we hear, for example, that a plane crashed somewhere in the world and hundreds of people died, the government quickly declares, may be before any other country, that all the Egyptians who were on board of the plane are safe and sound. This turned into some kind of a public joke such that whenever an accident happens, we quickly say that for sure all the Egyptians are fine.

The whole world was suffering from the last economical crisis (recession) whereas the finance minister declared that our economy is doing just fine and was minimally affected! I’m not an expert in economy and I don’t claim to understand its theories well but if the speaker is a fool, the audience shouldn’t be.

To my good luck or bad luck, I can’t really tell, I work for the government in an important ministry. So, I’m sometimes aware of what is going on behind the scenes. That is why in a recent crisis that we faced when the ministry officials showed up on T.V. to assure the people that everything is fine and that the government has made the best it could, I wasn’t really assured because I knew that things weren’t that fine. Indeed great efforts were made but as usual the work wasn’t perfectly finished. It seems that the government is more concerned with the image that reaches the population than the actual work that affects them.

I became very depressed when I examined this situation because I measured on that all the other declarations I hear from different officials in the government and I completely lost trust, because I realized that things aren’t as good as they say, if not worse.

I believe that we’ve all the right not to trust our government because it rarely says the truth and has never been a “transparent” government. It’s better to tell your people that things are bad but every effort is made to make them better, than to tell them that everything is perfect while they can see in their daily life that they aren’t. I think that I’ll feel more secure if the government adopted this attitude.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dignity….to where?

El Sawy Culture Wheel launched an awareness campaign lately to restore dignity to the Egyptian society. They called the year of 2009, “The Year of Dignity”. The campaign had four main focuses; among which is a program aiming at eliminating the profession of “Begging”. They asked the people not to give money to anyone who asks for it in the streets, transport etc. because this would encourage them to continue doing so. The good thing is that, for them, things didn’t stop here but they had a plan to support people in need. They said that they’ll make some sort of database with the names and data of the individuals & families who can’t support themselves. Then according to the condition they can give them monthly salaries or make them small projects that would allow them to afford themselves and quit begging. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the volunteers’ monthly meetings after that, to see the progress of their project or idea. Anyway, this made me think of whether I should really stop giving money to people who beg and does this apply to those who sell products in the streets or transport? Because, you know, most of these people are actually begging while pretending to sell their products. In the following lines I’d share with you some of what I see daily regarding this issue, may be we can decide together whether we should give those beggars or not, whether we should buy from beggars disguised as sellers and what to do about those who really sell goods in the different ways of transport.

Situation 1:

A middle-aged woman gets on the bus and starts asking the passengers for money to buy a life-saving medicine for her daughter. She tells us that she had to take permission and leave work for some time to get the money and also tells us that the shot her daughters need costs 150 L.E. She finally adds that if it wasn’t for the sake of her sick daughter she wouldn’t be begging in this way.

Now, let’s analyze this situation. First, when people give charity to those they don’t know (in the streets, transport etc. ), they don’t usually give large sums because they’re in doubt that the beggar may not be telling the truth but they might give money anyway so that they can relieve their consciousness. So, if the woman was telling the truth, how could she imagine that she can collect the 150 L.E. in a couple of hours or so? And wouldn’t it be better if she tried to do some serious work, like cleaning a house or mopping a ladder (especially because she seemed pretty healthy to do so), instead of begging in the bus? One might say that it’s humiliating to clean others houses, but I don’t think that it’s more humiliating than begging!

So the conclusion is that I think that this woman is a liar and whether my idea is true or not, I wouldn’t be giving her money under any circumstances.

Situation 2:

A young lady gets into the ladies carriage in the underground. Shortly she begins to get out her goods and show it to the passengers and sell. I didn’t buy anything from her and didn’t really bother to examine her goods but I rather examined her situation. She was well-dressed and from her appearance and behavior I could tell that she had some sort of education. I admired the fact that she chose this job instead of begging or more worse do other illegal or unethical work. I thought that I can buy things from her to help and encourage her, but here rises another problem! The underground police forbid selling in the stations or carriages and they usually chase such sellers. I don’t know the real reason why the police forces are doing this. May be it’s the preservation of our civil appearance! May be this is because of the beggars disguised as sellers or may be there is a law that forbids selling in the underground. I really don’t know.

My conclusion here is that, if this young lady or whoever was selling something that I need I’d buy it even if it was sold elsewhere in order to help such people. As for the police, why don’t they interview such sellers, take their names and ID numbers, etc. and those who are really selling would be given some sort of permission to do so. This way the process would be organized and those who are seeking to earn their living decently won’t be punished because of those who don’t.


The previous two situations repeat everyday as well as tens of other similar scenarios and I believe that we should all agree on the right behavior towards dealing with the problem and stick to it.

The topic is open for discussion!