Sheer, unadulterated brute force.
From the Ultras, to the Brotherhood’s ‘militias’ (can you believe that our president is a member of a group that has ‘militias’? Doesn’t that sound utterly ludicrous; does it not strain credulity to breaking point when you say it out loud?), to the MOI, to SCAF, to the mysterious (and probably non-existent) ‘third party’ or ‘hidden hand’ that seems to be conveniently present wherever there are protests…
We’re surrounded by it right now.
And boy does it have an effect on you. Even if you’re a member of the ‘couch and lava lamp party’, as I am, you cannot escape it.
For most of us sane, balanced human beings, violence is an ugly thing: Disturbing, unsettling, troubling; something to be avoided at all costs.
But violence is also effective. No doubt about it: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, are all, as repulsive and stomach-churning as they were, testament to that fact.
And in the case of fighting for a cause or during instances of self-defence (remember the Eighteen Days?), violence can also, unfortunately, become absolutely necessary and even obligatory (and as the Beastie Boys so eloquently reminded us, one may even be forced to fight for one’s right to party; what is the world coming to?)
And sometimes—just sometimes—violence can also feel fair, just; satisfying, even.
Anyone who was ever picked on at school, and who (finally) after enduring months and months of agita from that annoying, snotty-nosed little school bully, reached boiling point in a maelstrom of uncontrollable rage (one that should, really, if the universe was truly fair, have been accompanied with the final bars of the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth ringing from the heavens), knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Your clenched fist—practically, at that moment, a storage device for all the agony and the rage—makes that beautiful (almost erotic) clean impact with the bastard’s nose; the blood oozes out; the little squirt falls to the ground; he looks up at you from the floor with that expression on his face (you know exactly which one I’m referring to), humiliated and shocked (shocked!): The quiet, meek little fellow whom he has been playing like a joypad for months now, has suddenly, and without warning, transformed completely into a hound from hell (Surprise! There’s a Mr Hyde to this Dr Jekyll).
Yes. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” asks Tyler Durden in the anarchic, deeply satisfying Fight Club.
Violence is an undeniable, inextricable part of who we are as human beings. Civilisations have risen and fallen as a result of it; it has catalysed great acts of courage like the Battle of Badr and the D-Day landings; it has even spurred creativity and invention (the bond market was pioneered during the European renaissance to fund the conflicts between the warring Italian city-states, who were then competing furiously with each oth—wait, wait; Orson Welles can say it infinitely better than me: He improvised this, by the way; it was neither in the book nor the script).
But as effective, essential, and satisfying as violence can be, those of us with even an atom’s weight of conscience within us know what usually comes next after those fleetingly orgasmic, pyromaniacal moments of rage: the guilt, the shame, the regret; “whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame” (by the way, moments later after the elysian orchestra ascended once again to heaven, I gave snotty-nose my hand and pulled him up; our eyes met; glances of mutual respect were exchanged; weeks later he was in my room and we were playing Mortal Kombat on the Sega Megadrive. Finish him! An enduring friendship was formed. True story).
During the last two years there has been so much violence—the Eighteen Days, Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud, Port Said, Abaseya, Mohamed Mahmoud (again), Ittihadeya, Port Said (again)—that it has been hard to keep count.
I often wonder what effect this has had on children in the country. During the Eighteen Days, some of the newest members of my family were so frightened whenever protests went by the house (some of these, especially on the 28th, were extremely violent), that we were nonplussed as to what to do or how to explain it to them (one of the youngest would cry and cover her ears whenever she heard the chants). The only way we eventually put a lid on their fear was to get them—inspired by these little stars, God bless them—to stage their own little protests in the living room.
“Khalas, violence is the only answer now,” I said to my father the other day (he thought different). We had just watched that snake Beltagy (Baltagy?) getting pwned on Yosri Fouda by US researcher Eric Trager, after denying that he told him he wanted to “restructure the ministry of interior”. (By the way, I’ll believe Trager over Beltagy any day; hell, I’ll believe Satan before I believe anything Beltagy says).
The next day, there were clashes outside our house in Alexandria. Teargas again; something was set on fire; youths were running for their lives in the street.
“How can you expect me to react to all of this except with anger?” I asked my father. “We need to lock these guys up in the Moqattam HQ and set the damned thing on fire. That’s the only solution.”
Ok, let’s calm down for a minute. You’re angry; I’m angry; everyone is angry. We all feel the country is being flushed (very slowly) down the proverbial toilet. What is happening around us convulses our moods and dispositions until they are perhaps as ugly and repulsive as the violence itself.
I’ll admit, I’d like to do very, very violent, bad things to Morsi, Badie, Beltagy, Shater, et al—believe me. Not only are these vile pieces of high water-content excrement (the higher the water-content, the worse the smell of the faecal matter; it’s the water droplets in the faeces evaporating through the air that carry the smell; this is why rabbit droppings, say, which are almost perfectly spherical, hard pellets with negligible water-content, carry no smell at all) liars, they also have blood on their hands. Rivers of it.
I am, for example, reserving this next one especially for Khairat “the engineer” El-Shater (top contender for the Satan lookalike award 2013):
During that centuries-long party that was the Spanish Inquisition (and, which, it seems, nobody expected), ingenious methods were used to extract confession. One of them involved tying up the poor sod in question with a box full of rats attached to their stomach. Heat was applied to the end of the box that was perpendicular to the stomach, forcing the poor creatures to chew their way through the opposite end, and, eventually, into that other poor creature’s stomach, in order to escape being fried alive (another favourite pastime during that period).
(I actually suspect this was stolen from the almost certainly clinically insane Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the self-proclaimed incarnation of God, who apparently used a variant of the above rat method utilising cockroaches, instead—and he didn’t use this to extract confession; he did it just for fun.)
I’ve even fantasised about starting up a modern day Order of the Assassins from a virtual Alamut in order to take out Brotherhood big cheeses like Khairat. Sunni propagandists from the Middle Ages would have us believe that this Shia militia initiated their followers by plying them with copious amounts of hashish, transporting them, during their drug-induced reveries, to a ‘garden of delights’ choc-full with fruit, dark-eyed houris, and everything else their little hearts desired; whereupon the Imam, the Grand Master (Supreme Guide?) Hasan Ibn Al-Sabbah would appear and instruct them to go out and mercilessly butcher fulan or so-and-so. In that state, the initiates would believe themselves to be in heaven, and Ibn Al-Sabbah to be the Mahdi himself; so to hear was to obey; they would no doubt have killed their own fathers if so instructed.
By the way, the Ultras, those die-hard fans, pretty much lost a die-hard fan yesterday. I sympathise, empathise wholeheartedly, with their loss, with their desire for justice for their fallen brothers. I watched them in 2009 during a match I attended in Alexandria between Al-Ahly and Al-Etihad, impressed with these youngsters who were so organised, efficient, intelligent, loyal.
But what we saw yesterday, despite the empathy I feel, was simply wanton.
The revolution was violent—but only in effect. In spirit, it was nothing less than selmeya; peaceful. Let’s not tarnish it. Besmirch it.
Violence is not—cannot—be the answer. To anything. To paraphrase Buddha somewhat (“I quote others only in order the better to express myself”; he says, quoting someone else in the process), if you were to pick up hot coals to throw at your enemy, you would have to burn your own hands first. Throw them, you might; and burn the aforesaid enemy, you most certainly will. But you will walk around with the rest of your life with burned tissue on your hands, a reminder of what you had done. And every time you caress your wife’s cheek, or pick up your children (how will you answer them when they ask you where the scars come from?), they will be there, with you.
Violence, as mentioned, is sometimes necessary, but we cannot be so quick to use it. It need not be pinned to the Start Menu. Keep it in a hidden, password-protected file, just in case.
May God forgive us all.