Esseily doesn’t ‘predict’ and doesn’t have ‘plans’, but we were sure that he’s the right person to run to when we want to talk people, dreams, community and freedom. We met with Esseily over coffee when he finally settled down after 18 rebellious days in Tahrir.
Are you satisfied with the freedom we got?
We still haven’t accomplished anything. We just broke the box that was capturing human rights. We are still hoping to build up freedom and it should be achieved through the right constitution that protects the rights of the Egyptian people, and if that doesn’t happen, all of this will evaporate.
“We still haven’t accomplished anything. We just broke the box that was capturing human rights.”
What do you think your role was in this revolution? You’ve always believed that Egyptian youth will create change someday.
I never predict what will happen in the future, I’m always working on improving people’s qualities. Some readers came to tell me while in Tahrir that they were inspired by the things I say and highlight.
Where could this feeling of ownership take us?
The problem is that some people think that what happened in Tahrir affected every Egyptian which is totally incorrect. Only free people felt this as well as the real victims of the rotten regime, but we can’t ignore the fact that there still are thugs out there and deep corruption that did not yet surface. Media and individuals have a huge role in this, for example, when I see a paper on the street nowadays I throw it in the garbage bin and that’s the role of the individual. A man who harasses women on the street should be beaten up on the spot as a lesson for everyone who thinks of harassment. There are some people who go to Tahrir today just to feel this sense of ownership however there couldn’t be real benefit but they just like to go. We’re in a critical political situation that could drive us to devastation, but this tooth wouldn’t have been taken out without blood.
“Only free people felt this as well as the real victims of the rotten regime, but we can’t ignore the fact that there still are thugs out there and deep corruption that did not yet surface.”
Are we healed from the Stockholm Syndrome yet?
Not everyone is healed. There are people who were never free and suffered from Stockholm Syndrome and won’t heal by this revolution. They will heal when the country faces major changes, when there are better conditions, when they become free.
Although there were a huge number of citizens in Tahrir, we didn’t hear about sexual harassment cases, which is totally odd in our society, so why was that?
Before the revolution, no one lived with a greater purpose. When people go to war, you don’t find them stealing, there are some incidents that overtake your soul and we have always lived with no greater purpose or cause. There are people who live by a daily wage of 5 LE and there are others who live by 5 million with a target of making money and increase it.
“There are people who were never free and suffered from Stockholm Syndrome and won’t heal by this revolution.
Most of Egyptians ignore their talents and dreams and live their whole lives by a 9 to 5 job and that’s it. Why do you think that is?
When the dream of the motherland dies, the dream of the self motivated individual takes its place. People want to save their lives by any means. If you’re living in the slums, you’re goal will be owning a Tok-Tok . The way every Egyptian is bred limits his options and kills creativity. It’s hard for you to do Tabla or Ballet for a living and there are some other aspects that limit our choices related to our potential for example it’s not that easy to be an astronaut or a rock star if you want. Liberation of thinking must come before anything else and you take its roots and creativity will have space. The creativity we witnessed came in jokes, but there should be other aspects like the techniques we will use in rebuilding, how to raise awareness, how to obtain the feeling of belonging. Cleaning up the streets isn’t a creative thing to do, but how to clean it is another way of thinking. We even used the same old terminology in revolting and raising signs.
“Liberation of thinking must come before anything else and you take its roots and creativity will have space.
How much time will it take to destroy the corruption of the old regime?
Egypt was like a farm of eggplants, the president was the owner and there were some men who work for him and benefit from the eggplants, when the president is gone, we will start figuring out what should be done with the huge amount of eggplants with all its large roots and the diseased ones that affect the others. We should leave some eggplants to eat from and see what should be done with the rest. This will take a decade.
Do you think we’re ready for democracy?
I think that people around the world aren’t ready for democracy. Each people should understand the real meaning of voting and that’s not applicable in all countries by the way. Democracy has an important factor like when a president takes office; he won’t stick there for thirty years. Hundreds of years ago Plato tried to solve this and place a real definition for democracy but people didn’t listen to him. There are some negative aspects in democracy that should be treated first in order to obtain its positive aspects. American presidents talk about democracy by telling their people that they have the absolute right to vote, unlike here, they tell you “that’s how things are”. For example, Bush didn’t know how to turn a wheel, but he used to talk to Buddhist and gay communities about their rights in their country and that’s why people felt the democracy, they felt that they have a voice and their rights are protected.
“There are some negative aspects in democracy that should be treated first in order to obtain its positive aspects.”
We view western families not as interconnected as we are and the kids start leaving their homes when they turn 18, so do we have a healthy family life here?
Everything in the world has its positive and negative factors. Here in Egypt, we have an interconnected family which is a good thing, but on the other hand, American kids obtain much more responsibility and experience than Egyptian kids. American kids grow up feeling that they have a voice, unlike Egyptian kids who feel like followers or Egyptian girls who feel that they’re treated by their fathers as a caged animal. Kids here feel that they don’t have freedom so they try to replace this by materialistic dreams asking for cash and cars.
“He earns only 800 LE and he’s asked to be nice to customers, decent and groomed with a welcoming smile. The regime is responsible for this.”
There is a huge gap in the Egyptian society, what created this undefined gap?
(Esseily asks the waiter about his salary and he responds by saying 800 L.E) See? He earns only 800 LE and he’s asked to be nice to customers, decent and groomed with a welcoming smile. The regime is responsible for this. In any other country, the employer shouldn’t earn more than 30 times than his employees and if that happened here, we will find an office boy earning 1200 LE. Yes cost will rise but things will be improved. People will feel that somebody is getting them their rights. There will be a voice giving them their dignity.
What are your biggest worries?
I’m worried about the man on the street, the ignorant people who aren’t aware by the economical state of the country. They won’t understand why you can’t guarantee them a possible raise. There are some people who might think that the money stolen by Egyptian business tycoons are enough for the less privileged but this needs major calculations and measurements to come up with a solution. We still don’t have a Minister of Economy and that’s a problem in the upcoming phase.
Are we ignorant or naïve?
We are both. Being away from the political scene for a long time made people blinded by only seeing the effect or impact on individual basis not as a society or the larger picture.
“Being away from the political scene for a long time made people blinded by only seeing the effect or impact on individual basis not as a society or the larger picture.
How much time will it take us to change bad habits?
Look there is no regime in the whole world that depends on your self-consciousness. In London you could spend a month without anyone asking you if you paid the bus ticket or not and you could skip paying it a lot. You should give people their rights first then hold them by an iron fist and slowly loosen this fist. The Egyptian traffic man earns 140 LE and he doesn’t have any kind of authority and everyone passes by tells him ‘you don’t know who I am?’ which makes the guy afraid of giving him a ticket and gives him back his driving license just because the guy with the fancy car has a friend who is a prosecutor. So this traffic man should earn around 1500 LE and have the authority to make everyone respect him. To sum it up, this kind of change won’t be regarded in the streets at this time.
“You should give people their rights first then hold them by an iron fist and slowly loosen this fist.”
Are you against or for stating one’s religion on the ID?
I’m still not sure why it should be there in the first place. If someone tells me the real reason behind it I could answer that. In my opinion, it shouldn’t exist as the country doesn’t have the right to ask me about my religion, I have the right to be a Buddhist if I want to. But it could exist if the government needs it for statistics and that would be a reasonable thing.
Is it true that we are a religious nation like everyone says?
Yes of course but the trick is how you define ‘religious’. Some people teach their kids that being religious depends on how many times you pray; others say that being religious depends on not throwing garbage on the street.
What’s religious awareness for you?
Religion is a great thing that we must take into consideration. We must take care of it as it improves human’s behavior. We should take advantage of people who give good speeches and provide them with the environment to spread their messages. If the Azhar is moderate with what it says, then the government should provide it with facilities like helping it organize international conferences or local conferences in rural areas. Sectarian strife is created by TV channels and websites that send negative messages about Muslims; they have all the ingredients for that. We were living in a very corrupted environment and anyone would have done anything to get what they want.
“Some people teach their kids that being religious depends on how many times you pray; others say that being religious depends on not throwing garbage on the street.”
Why do we always complain?
You don’t have a credible vote; you don’t have anyone who could highlight your problems. A person who complains a lot is a person who doesn’t have self confidence or rights, so he doesn’t find a way to express himself. He also doesn’t have a source of information or awareness and if he went to the police station he will be treated badly. We are a natural result to what we have lived through. The flawless among us are the odd ones.
Do you think this revolution has a leader?
No it doesn’t and if someone says it does that would be a mistake. Wael Ghonim and Mohamed Diab said some messages like ‘I’m here talking on my behalf’ although they were joking and saying that they are the Revolution Command Council which wasn’t a good idea. They are my friends and all and I know that they didn’t mean it but if I ran to every camera I see at Tahrir to speak, then I would have been a leader. Wael had a great role starting this initiative and he said that he didn’t do anything and he was out of the scene for 12 days, but his role was effective and he made us rise from our bed and do something. A salute to everyone who helped in making a difference!