Ezzat Amin is the author of the new book ‘hezb elkanaba’ (The Couch Party) and co-host of the TV show of the same title on El Gomhorreya Online TV. In his book he talks about his journey from the couch to the Square. We got to sit with Amin and got more insight on his life on and off the couch.
“My friends knew me as the laziest person ever. They’d say, Ezzat is sitting on his couch, in front of the TV, actually looking like a TV, squared and with antennas coming out of his head!”, he says. Ezzat used to be passive and didn’t like to do much. Over the past five years, approximately, things started to change and his life took on a different path that he never really expected.
“Remember when Van Gogh’s painting was stolen?” Ezzat says, “Every night, at around 2:00 a.m. I would walk over to the museum and yell out to the guards, ‘you idiotic people! You’re useless! You Gamal Mubarak lovers!’ I was fed up and they thought I was insane,” he adds.
This theft was one of the things that contributed in making Ezzat Amin get off his couch. Another major event was the 6th of April strike in 2008. In his opinion, the government is what made it into a successful movement, “If the stupid government had ignored the strike, it would’ve remained no bigger than a Facebook event. The government, though, took them to the headlines the next day with things like ‘Failure of the Strike!’ and ‘The Vandals Failed!’ It was obvious that they were scared of them,” he says.
Another main reason was Khalid Said’s murder, which, in Amin’s opinion, “broke the code”. Ezzat described the Egyptian people as classists, “I used to work at a factory as a chemical engineer,” recalls Ezzat, “I once got on the bus and sat in the back seat. Apparently, that was a catastrophe. I had no idea what I did wrong, I just sat there. Someone, then, came up to me and explained that every seat in the bus is specific to different departments or employees. For a week wherever I sat, I created a problem until I knew that I was supposed to sit in the third row. We, as Egyptians, are classists”, he tells.
“In Egypt, if you have 5LE you could by pass the law,” Ezzat says. He thinks that the police used to treat civilians depending on what car they drive, how they look, where they live and so on. “So when Khalid Said was murdered, people were shocked because they thought this class couldn’t be touched but Khaled Said broke the code,” he said. On the Facebook page ‘We’re all Khaled Said’ Ezzat said that Wael Ghonim was smart to write ‘It could happen to you’ and that was the moment that woke a lot of people up and got them off their respective couches.
Ezzat is preparing for a new book to be titled, ‘El Berens’ (The Prince), inspired by Niccolò Machiavelli’s masterpiece ‘The Prince’. Now that he knows how people go about doing things, his book appears to be a parody of the original classic, “I want to dedicate the book to my son who is only about 10 months now and explain to him how to take on the character of ‘el berens’, how to get to power in Egypt, how to act dirty and be a hypocrite and vile. Not necessarily governmental power but even at work. There’s the character of ‘el berens’ everywhere in Egypt. This person who is manipulative and conniving and no one is ever sure what his/her actual job is and they seem to want everyone on bad terms,” he says.
Ezzat’s ‘Couch Party’ isn’t just about the physical couch that many people really don’t want to get off. He also talks a lot about the Ideological Couch. The couch that has been created due to the mainstream, due to model answers that Egyptians always seek, due to the fact that nobody wants to think outside the box. “There are those who want to keep you in that Ideological Couch, your parents or society, even fashion has something to do with it. You have to wear this, you need to buy these, you want this product,” he says. He mentioned, and also dedicated a chapter for it in his book, an incident on Ellen De Generes’ show. “She was telling an intense story on the show and all of a sudden, 50 vacuum cleaners were brought on the stage. When the audience found out that they’ll get free cleaners, some actually cried!”, he tells us.
Ezzat wants people to be more active and leave their respective bubbles. He advocates creativity, different takes and perspectives. He says that even if someone wants to support the Armed Forces, it’s their right to do so. “But just don’t protest and support the army with Tawfiq Okasha and Ahmed Spider as your leaders. They are catastrophes! What are you trying to tell if these are your leaders? It’s a joke!”, he says.
At the end of our interview, Ezzat concluded by asking, “You know why the fight against illiteracy is a failure in Egypt? Because illiteracy is a form of national security. Without illiteracy and ignorance, they won’t have anyone to work for state security.”
5 easy steps to get off the Ideological Couch:
1. Get rid of and completely ignore the phrase ‘you should’. Just face your destiny whatever it is.
2. Do not measure your success by the failure of others.
3. Do not give in to the idea of “whom we know is better than whom we don’t.”
4. Don’t let your role model be your limit.
5. Have the courage to face your destiny and the courage to admit when you’re wrong.
Do not ‘Sweep under the carpet’.