“We’ll rise again, and we’ll f**k them all.”
Thus spoke X, a decent-looking close relative, firmly, arrowing me with his gazes, jolting his lips together, like an experienced general.
“We” refers to Muslims, that particular “we” in which he’s more likely to exclude me, while “they” refers to “Christians,” “Jews,” or more generally, the “West.”
He began his rhetoric minutes ago, asking me with this sarcastic tone, “Who the f**k did this Brussels operation?”
“Well, most likely the Islamists, but I, personally, don’t know,” I said tactfully, which instantly got its punishment when he yelled back at me.
“You don’t know?! Islamists?! With such weapons?! Are you kidding me?!” He paused for a second, then said as the angel of death “It’s Mossad, man, Mossad!”
I have to say that I envy him for the certainty he has.
For sure, he doesn’t think that I don’t know. He thinks that his “bright” close relative knows it all, but he’s “a mole of the West,” as he would say several minutes later, putting me in the same category with Mahfouz (though that doesn’t stop him from asking me if I think I’m Mahfouz “himself” when I don’t agree with him on any topic).
It was, and is, such a gap.
We lived separately, in very different circumstances, but don’t let that trick you into false conclusions; I was raised with my dad’s family which shares X’s support, vehement support, for the army. They too would not disagree with the same categorizations of “they” and “we.” Sometimes I think they really weren’t such ideologists when I was a kid, or I was, just, a kid.
In his bowl of contradictions soup, he has lots of elements; he does admire the army, but he doesn’t believe it’s the post-colonial solution by the west, the very West he doesn’t like. For him, the intelligentsia is so, and I’d say it’s a justified angle. A friend once told me that an army general lectured to a gang of miracles he happened to be among about how Mahfouz was a mole of the West and that’s why he got the Nobel.
X doesn’t like “Jews” or “Christians” but he has no good answer as to why Prophet Muhammad would marry a Copt, in a union which the Quran calls “cordial and merciful.” He’s relentless and relays the usual coinage: “If they were peaceful to me, I would be to them. But they’re not!”
Before you even open your lips, he will hit you with crusades, and if that’s too ancient, well, he has Iraq. You say that it’s the businessmen of these countries, not on religious bases away from mobilizing ignorant people. He looks at you and says “Secularist.”
You can imagine his feelings for “Secularists,” but he admires the pseudo-secular revival of the modern Egyptian State under Ali and Cromer. On speaking of Cromer, he recites again what the army generals says about Egyptians, “They are not ready for democracy,” which is the exact rhetoric of Cromer, by the way. He believes in Islamic bonds, yet his words have this distinctive chauvinistic Egyptian speech. Once he said, that a long time ago “stealing for handymen in Egypt was proof of their craft”—please don’t get him wrong, he’s one of the most honest men I know in Egypt, he even got into fights and troubles for righteous causes, he just doesn’t believe his countrymen are that honest. He doesn’t believe that the average Egyptian can do something without getting a profit out of it, out of mischief or other motives. He once gave me one of his gazes, “One Love, Thousand Hates,” this old Egyptian proverb, he uttered.
Before you judge this, remember the distinctive boundaries we have made for concepts like “idealist” and “pragmatic.” Don’t be too harsh on him. I, myself, can be a big, gigantic fool.
Sitting by his clothing store in the heart of Old Cairo (I am really, really proud of him), after the middle of a Cairan night, looking at the old market of vegetables and fruits before us, glittering with gas bulbs, breathing away our cigarettes, we talk and he listens, or tries to listen, before cutting me off by calling me a “sophist.” He uses the definition of Aristotle, while I think that being “sophisticated” is good. No? He says I master the “Art of Talking” as it’s my profession. I can’t help linking this with “sophistry,” yet going all the way to “democracy”? We speak about Islam and apparently he has no answer to my statements, taking into account that he has already called me a sophist. He goes on to say I shouldn’t “lecture” him in religion, what do I know about it?! I don’t even pray. I want to remind him that he doesn’t pray as well, but I keep the friendly ties knotted.
Once it hit me, in one painful defeated moment, that X is “more Egyptian than me,” that he represents what Egypt truly is. You know that lust which takes over us, symbolizing things that way, yet I return to my reason, saying that he uses Socrates and sells jeans. Yet I delve deeper to ask myself “Egyptian?! What does that mean? “ Then I remember the story of Moses and “the Egyptian” and I fall silent; both for the story and for the ideology after its reason. Ideologies are false truths, perhaps, but then, I ask myself, what is “The Absolute Truth”?
This is how conversations with X spur my own contradictions.
Yet, I sit beside him, us both gazing at each other, imagining, and allured by the idea that we’re so different. We are blood relatives, yet aliens. It does not amaze me, as the idea of how he could be such a wonderful young man, yet say all the wrong statements.
He begins with “We will f**k them all,” yet he ends with “But not in our lifetime, our generation is f**ked!”
Surely he gazes at me as I am one of the reasons for this status quo. While I do, for sure, think similarly. Daniel Defoe once wrote, “In solitude a man converses with himself, and as a wise man said, he is not always sure that he does not converse with his enemy.” I think that is the most paranoid things to think, of all time.
It’s not Islamic, by the way.
Yet we drink tea, we exchange cigarettes. I am the blood-relative he doubts, and he’s the “noble savage.” I think we are both f**ked up in the head, anyhow.