I always start my day with coffee and several online newspapers, a local one, and Dutch ones, and whatever else they may link me to. That makes me a sucker for many reasons. The world of news has preciously little relationship with the world. For a closet depressive it’s a bad idea to consume so-called news for breakfast. My monkey mind doesn’t need the diversion of random toy bits of news feed, it needs focus. What can I say? It’s a habit, the coffee and those morsels of diversion. I enjoy that part of the day very much. I tend to pick up interesting thoughts. Interesting because they fit into and thus confirm my existing world view (mmmmm, feels good, even if that’s a pitch-black outlook), interesting because they’re new to me, interesting because they’re funny or aesthetically appealing. That’s about it in terms of possible response. I agree, should try something else for a while. Seriously. Might make me a wiser, healthier and nicer person.
Anyway, this morning came across an opinion piece in the Ahram online that I liked. But first something appropriate from my youth, about waking up. Meaningless to anyone not Dutch and not my age, but watch the cars on the street, could have been filmed in contemporary Cairo.
So what about Egypt’s culture wars? The opinion piece is about the confrontation between Egypt’s intellectuals, writers, directors, musicians, visual artists, sculptors, photographers and dancers and the new Brotherhood Minister of Culture who commenced his work in the ministry with a series of decisions to sack leading ministry figures, starting from the head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation, and then the head of the Fine Arts Sector, followed by the head of the Cairo Opera House, and finally, the head of the National Library and Archives.
The writer is no friend of the Brotherhood: The interest of the Brotherhood in the ministry of culture is based on an old and long engraved belief they have; namely, that Egypt’s identity has been hijacked by a handful of Westernised intellectuals, and that the time has come for Egypt to regain its original, pristine Islamic identity. I am not the least bit comfortable with this question of identity, and I consider it to be a fake and misleading quest. Time has proven that the quintessential identitarian slogan, “Islam is the solution,” could indeed win elections, yet it could not solve the problems of traffic, diesel shortages or the Ethiopian “Renaissance” Dam.
But interestingly he directs his arrows at the protesting culture czars and asks them why they were quiet about the miserable state of the National Library, the National Archive, Egypt’s museums etc. even before their leadership changed into Brotherhood hands.
Makes me think about the Egyptian Judiciary about which a similar identity battle is being fought while its performance before the Brotherhood started targeting them was nothing but dismal.
Are these battles unavoidable? Does political control trump performance improvement? First control, then only policy and implementation changes? If one dreads the implications of the ideological other taking control, is there no other strategy but to support the incompetent (but ideologically less threatening?) incumbent?
As I cannot answer these questions, lets switch subject: did you know that the former Dr. House is an excellent musician? And that he’s actually English (very much so indeed) but adores New Orleans?