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Thrift shops tell you something

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In Egypt we have a lot of people who are dirt poor, and a thin stratum that has lavish spending habits. They spend their money on things that are trivial and just plain inconsiderate when it comes to their fellow citizens.

Refaat Mohamed
11 April 2013

I might not be able to find a solution to the economic crisis we are facing in Egypt, but one doesn’t need a degree in economics to realize that those in charge don’t know much either. Common sense, meanwhile, seems not to have been applied.

I must admit that I am and have always been a big fan of hip hop, and have even had the good luck to be part of the hip hop movement burgeoning in the Middle East. Hip hop is always underrated as a social and cultural medium by the wider public, while hip hop enthusiasts, artists, and fans overstate its importance as a tool for social change. If we try to fairly evaluate hip hop, I would say,  “it is a form of art, music, and poetry, which has the capacity to deliver a message, and raise awareness about a certain subject. The content, and quality of the message, and the level of awareness it can raise is highly variable “. This is by way of a long introduction to Macklemore’s song  “thrift shop “, and how it touched me in ways that I am pretty sure he did not imagine.

Although it is kind of too mainstream for my taste, this song really got to me. A hip hop song performed by a white man from Seattle, talking about the ways he can save by visiting the thrift shop instead of buying his clothes through conventional means, and spending much more than he can afford. For the artist, this might have just been a stunt aiming to launch his music up the charts, which he succeeded in doing, but for me it suddenly made a lot of sense.

I have always thought that it is quite strange and disgusting, the social, and economic gaps in our societies, in Egypt, and in society generally. In Egypt we have a lot of people who are dirt poor, and a thin stratum that has lavish spending habits. They spend their money on things that are trivial and just plain inconsiderate when it comes to their fellow citizens.

What saddens me, and makes me jump up and down angrily is that these spending habits are encouraged by previous and current regimes and state systems, and also by the diminishing middle class. The government is always encouraging foreign direct investment in projects that induce consumption, and importing goods, while offering temporary employment opportunities. Meanwhile, people pour their money into the coffers of international corporations.

What the government should really encourage is projects that are industrial and productive, which result in exporting goods, and require a work force. Which may sound pretty easy, but in fact it is not, because as a country you need to attract such corporations to invest in your country, which we haven’t been doing for a while.

So if ever the song you hear on the radio makes more sense than your government does, then you should know that you are in trouble.

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