Sunday 13 February 2011

Between Egypt and us

When I attended a conference last November, I was seated next to a gentleman whom I have been exchanging emails in the last couple of weeks.  You would have guessed the content of those e-mails when I tell you.... he is from Egypt.

We are of the same profession and he heads a similar function of mine in a French electric company based in Cairo.  We kept in contact after the conference mainly because I would like to know more about the industry happenings in that region but the conversation soon deviated into what is now a global headline, albeit a brief period of mail silence due to a halt in internet service there.

If you do not know what headline I am referring to, you ought to put your head in a used toilet bowl and flush... might just clear up some blockages.

It was very interesting to know the perspective from a local, of which I believe offers a more un-bias view compared to deriving information from the media.

As I mentioned, my friend (I consider him one) is an educated professional who has a good stable career, possibly considered the upper class in Egypt... did he participate in the protest? The answer is a big "No". 

Just like someone in similar shoes in Malaysia, he has too much to lose. 

Those who have taken to the streets, burned down buildings, destroyed the police stations, etc.  are those who are unemployed, those with nothing to lose.

Many people started flooding facebook statuses with statements such as "the govt should take note of what is happening in Egypt and beware..."... "PM, if you don't reform, what happened in Egypt or Jordan may just happen here"... etc. etc.

Will what happened in Egypt can ever happen in Malaysia? Definitely not... at least not in that magnitude.

Do Malaysia have a population of "nothing-to-lose"? Yes... however, a big portion of this population thinks that is it not that govt's fault that they are in such situation.  Worse... some of them think (or being propagated to think) that they are in such situation because the minority population has 'stolen their wealth'.

What about those in middle or upper class, those who drive nice cars, live in fairly comfortable house... those who have "too much to lose".... those like my friend... those the likes of you and me?

Throughout the ordeal, I asked my friend about the socio-economy impact but my friend never complained about the protest, he never thought about the impact to the economy, he never whined about the inconvenience caused by the event.

Malaysian in similar position of my Egyptian friend.... the very first thing that will come out of the facebook statuses of these people would be... "fuck the protest, I am in a fucking jam!". And that is actually a good sign because at least such people is aware of the protest... because I would think many will have statuses such as "OMG... why is there a massive jam, what is happening?!!??"

The racial and social demography of Malaysia makes it a little complicated to initiate such united effort.  The BERSIH rally was impressive, but it was only one off.  And it probably had more non-participating critics that support.

According to my Egyptian friend, the protest in Egypt gathers both participating and non-participating support. I just can't see that happening in Malaysia.

And just to close... my friend also specifically mentioned that the level of corruption and poor public service in Egypt has resulted in the collapsed of the healthcare and education system.  Sounds familiar isn't it?

But then... we all found through the highly publicised 1Malaysia evacuation that there were 11,000 Malaysian students in Egypt (possibly on govt scholarships). Such high participation in what Egyptian deemed as "collapsed" education system is... mind boggling.