Democracy Arsenal

« Iraq: An Honest Exit | Main | The Left Rediscovers its Love of Manifestos »

October 24, 2006

Dispatches from an Angry Taxi Driver
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Since I came back from Cairo nearly two months ago (where I was on a research trip), I’ve tried to take a break from the vicissitudes of Egyptian politics. Well, the Vanity Fair piece I referenced two weeks ago reminded me of a similarly disturbing exchange I had with a taxi driver in late July. This was one of those encounters that captured for me all that I dreaded about the Arab world. Afterwards, I sat down and typed up some of my impressions of the conversation. I wasn’t planning on posting this, but I decided that I should, in order to shed some more light on the crucial question of how political distortion leads to moral distortion:

(From July 2006). Sometimes, I learn more about Egypt from taxi drivers than I do from professors and politicians. Before I meet with some of the more prominent figures in Egyptian or Jordanian politics, I can usually predict with relative accuracy how they’ll answer each one of my questions. Occasionally, they will surprise me, and it’s those moments that I wait for as an interviewer (recently a Muslim Brotherhood MP, speaking mostly Arabic while interspersing bizarre references to B-list American movies, used the F-word to make a point I didn’t quite understand). Taxi drivers, though, almost always surprise me. Today, I had one such moment. The driver was pretty much spewing out nuggets, so I had to take out my trusty jot pad and take notes. He looked at me with measured incredulity. No one here cares about taxi drivers. I suppose he was taken aback by the fact that some random American researcher was hanging on his words. It would be tough for me to reconstruct the conversation I had. His facial expressions, that calm look of utter disgust on his face mixed with equal parts frustration and anger captivated and disturbed me all at once. 

We got to talking politics. He painted a bleak portrait of the economic, political, moral, social, cultural situation in his country (it’s hard to separate these things in the Arab world - everything’s part of the problem).

- Well, what’s the solution to the mess? I asked knowing quite well that there was no answer.

- He paused: …An earthquake (zilzal) that would wipe [most of] Cairo out. And then we could maybe start from scratch.

- But a lot of people would die, including friends and family? I countered.

- We’re already dead. Do you call this life? I would prefer death.

Silence followed. When he said that, I looked at him. It wasn’t only that he was angry. For this was a different kind of anger, a kind unique to a troubled region. I couldn’t tell where his anger ended and his resignation began. It’s always frightening to watch when you catch a glimpse, however fleeting. His spirit had been broken and his dignity wrested away. His complaint wasn’t that the government was corrupt or brutal or that it was mismanaging the economy. No, it was something more fundamental, basic, and, thus, much harder to solve – “all we ask is that they treat us like human beings,” he told me. It was a simple request but one that could not be granted.

Oppression comes in different forms. Some leaders do away with pretenses and literally kill off thousands of their opponents. Others do it differently. The Egyptian regime is brutal, but not particularly so. The effects, however, are similar. The Egyptian regime knows that the only way to truly control a people is to suck the life out of them, to bury them with the mundane, to trap them in the past and consume them with the present. And so we are left to pick up the pieces knowing that they will soon break.



TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dispatches from an Angry Taxi Driver:


hydrocodone vs tramadol adderall with ultram

ultram a ultram order

cheapest fioricet side affects of zocor [url=]low fee payday loan[/url] low fee payday loan [url=]play keno online[/url] online keno [url=]roulette game[/url] play free roulette [url=]payday loan personal[/url] payday loan personal bad credit payday loan [url=]bad credit payday loan[/url]

faxless payday loan [url=]faxless payday loan[/url] [url=]free slots no download[/url] online casino slots [url=]savings account payday loan[/url] savings account payday loan payday loan store [url=]payday loan store[/url] casino baccarat [url=]online baccarat[/url] [url=]quik payday loan[/url] quik payday loan [url=]cash advance paydayloans[/url] cash advance paydayloans payday advance loan [url=]payday advance loan[/url] [url=]payday cash loan[/url] payday cash loan [url=]loan til payday[/url] loan til payday

Not much on my mind worth mentioning. What can I say? My life's been generally dull today. I've just been letting everything pass me by recently.

[url=]payday loan canada[/url] payday loan canada [url=]play keno online[/url] video keno [url=]keno online[/url] free keno cheap payday loan [url=]cheap payday loan[/url] [url=]payday advance loan[/url] payday advance loan [url=]free blackjack game[/url] blackjack odds [url=]cash advance paydayloans[/url] cash advance paydayloans [url=]online roulette game[/url] roulette table payday loan personal [url=]payday loan personal[/url] [url=]cash until payday loan[/url] cash until payday loan

[url=]java blackjack[/url] online casino blackjack craps game [url=]casino craps[/url] [url=]play keno online[/url] keno casino [url=]casino game[/url] casino game [url=] loan payday site[/url] loan payday site

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use