North Africa, West Asia

Hatred for authority and self-loathing

The police institution is the ugliest reflection of authority in Egypt. It is almost a duty to hate it – but this hatred breeds self-loathing. عربي

Ahmed Zakaria
31 May 2016
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Amr Nabil/AP/Press Association. All rights reserved.A few weeks ago, while I was watching a contemporary dance performance in a government building in downtown Cairo – part of a local independent arts festival – three policemen entered the premises. Their ranks ranged from brigadier general to major general, some of them clad in civilian clothes, others in police uniforms ornamented with stars, eagles and swords. I won’t lie to you: I was nauseated and furious. I felt stressed. Seeing police in this country is never a happy moment. Which brings me to the issue of murdered policemen, for whom I do not feel any real sympathy. That’s how I feel – call me extreme or fanatically prejudiced against the policemen who sacrifice their lives for their country; it does not change a thing. 

It is a matter of emotion rather than reason. The image of a policeman has been conditioned in my mind. It is linked to oppression and injustice against any vulnerable person who cannot obtain their rights unless they have strong support. In my mind, the police are the killers of Khaled Said, Sayed Bilal and Emad Effat. In my mind, the police are those responsible for forcible disappearances, political detention, rape in police stations, and the unjust abuses of power that reflect inferiority complexes among policemen of all ranks. 

I am not able to see the police officer who slapped this man or kicked that woman as an “isolated incident”. Why do we consider the bad examples as ‘isolated’, rather than the good examples? How can a man be given the power to manipulate the fates of other people and destroy their lives with the stroke of a pen and without hesitation, then ask for that to be considered an isolated incident?

Why has the principle of ‘virtue is the exception, vice the rule’ (one bad apple spoils the whole barrel) been turned on its head? The policeman who killed a young man in Al-Darb al-Ahmar district; the petty police officials' attack on doctors; the journalist’s syndicate crisis – are all these abuses ‘isolated incidents’?

I feel I am always being watched, by society and security forces.

The police institution is the ugliest reflection of authority. It is a duty to hate it: authority in general and the police in particular, both individuals and institution, as they are inseparable. The institution produces the individuals, and the individuals manage the institution, laying its foundations and planning its strategies.

This hatred sometimes makes me feel less than human. Even though hatred, like love, is a feeling that cannot easily be controlled all the time, it breeds self-loathing. I do not like to see myself hating any other entity or person. But power corrupts, moulding whoever enters its corridors as it pleases. The police may be the base of the hatred pyramid, but all who clutch at power are responsible for the hatred growing in the country.

This citizen – the policeman – who sees himself as the defender of the nation and assumes the right to monitor others’ patriotism, is the ugly face at the bottom of the pyramid. You feel his presence while walking in the streets. He looks at you with doubt and suspicion. He examines your physical appearance, which he sees as an imminent threat to national security. There are not just one or two of these prototypes; there are clones spreading by the day. While wandering the streets, you feel they wear the same mask, the same stare that instills fear in you – although you are in your own country.

Three years have passed and I still feel that walking in this country has become a huge burden weighing me down. I feel I am always being watched, by society and security forces. You won’t know what will hit you next. You try to protect yourself, crawling into a cocoon where you can delude yourself that everything is fine and is bound to get better, until your daily journey in the street ends at home and you sink into your bed to hear the deceitful reassuring voices in your pillow.

I hate myself because cowardice has overcome me. I feel weak, incapable of confrontation. I feel it is no use speaking the truth – it won’t make any difference. The escape that sleep provides is the best way to get through this tiresome journey of life. The meek will not inherit the earth, because our weaknesses will never unite to be strong enough to break the despotism of authority, even the authority of a father's control over his daughter’s life.

I do not know if my self-loathing is a reason or result of my hatred for authority. Do I hate myself because I am too weak or too cowardly to confront it, and therefore hate rule and ruler? Or do I hate authority for what it is doing and therefore loathe myself for feeling hatred? Either way, one thing is sure: hatred kills.

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