When I can’t die

I grew up in a family that has been fanatical about death, although they claim the contrary. They took being concerned about death to a whole, other, unhealthy level.

Muslims, and Egyptians especially are highly concerned about death. We think about it all day everyday. I don’t know exactly the reason behind this: it could be because of the doctrines we were brought up with, or engraved in our genetic structure, but it shows, and it is clear. I grew up in a family that has been fanatical about death, although they claim the contrary. They took being concerned about death to a whole, other, unhealthy level. The first thing that jumps into my grandmother’s mind when you tell her a story is that someone must have died. This may be because my grandfather’s favourite story to tell people was how Gamal Abd El Nasser died, what happened when he died and what they did with the body before burying it.

Despite my fierce, and ongoing struggleto avoid being obsessed with death like my family, I couldn’t help but think about it from a very young age. I cannot count the number of times as a child I have fantasized about my death, my premature death as an infant, and I kept wondering, about how people surrounding me would feel, who would feel bad, and who would feel guilty.

I grew up to be a teenager with the same thoughts, but only then did I begin to add some purpose to the equation. I don’t want to die in vain. At the time that purpose was a very silly, dreamy, naïve, teenager purpose most probably. I guess it would have been something in between saving my girlfriend from a falling helicopter, and fighting with the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation.

Thinking about it some more I suppose I wanted a glorified death, a martyr’s death, and I wanted to die a martyr for a very significant, and important reason. I want my death to benefit a lot of people. I want people to remember my death, and what I died for, and to remember that I died an honorable death for a good cause.

But I can’t. That’s the conclusion I have now reached. I cannot die the kind of death that I wanted to have, for what sacrifice could I give that is more heroic than the little kids, teenagers, and women are giving every day to their country, who have died for their country, died for a better future for us all? One would think that they died heroes, and in my eyes they did. But if you go and ask the state, or the president, or even a pedestrian on the street who supports the Muslim Brotherhood, the answer would be something like this, “ they were thugs, they were foreign agents, they deserve to die, they are criminals who are threatening the stability and prosperity of our country”

When you come to think about the stability and prosperity of Egypt that our president is fighting for, you will find that this Egypt still does offer us a variety of ways to get killed - a shameful, insignificant death, with a guarantee that nobody would care - but nevertheless. To the usual causes on our list the last ten years have allowed us to add things like swine flu, bird flu, and shark attacks. And if you are old fashioned, you can always die due to negligence and carelessness in our hospitals, following a car crash, or a traffic accident. The Egyptian state offers more than 7000 opportunities to die in a traffic accident every year with an 8% increase every year, meaning that 20 citizens could die in a car accident every day, so don’t give up on those numbers.

They might not be heroes in the eyes of the president, and his people, but they are my heroes. And meanwhile, think about the mentality of a generation of kids that cannot even die the kind of death they want….

About the author

Refaat Mohamed is a Cairo based marketing and innovation graduate, freelance writer, music and film buff, and a social observer

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