| The location: A famous law office in downtown, whose owner is the honorable and well-known intellectual, law professor in Cairo University and former minister.
The time: Almost a year after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on the 11th September 2001, and the announcement of the Bush universal war against terrorism.
You’d find the old clerk, as you open the entrance door sitting on the front office, drowning in those hundreds of documents, legal memos and law books. He’d surprise you with his usual warm smile before you even say hello.
In the office, everyone loved and respected the old calm clerk…Calm, wise and always minding his own business. He’s the type of person who never cares about anything but his well-achieved work, the satisfaction of his honorable boss and his colleagues and the maintenance of the warm and cozy atmosphere in the office. He never cared about politics or public anxiety (as his boss calls the public work). He never commented on the political authority, the corruption, democracy…etc.
The old clerk used to come from his faraway village at 6 AM, take the train in order to reach downtown at 8 AM ( almost an hour before the beginning of the office working hours), then back to his village after the working day ended at 5 AM. Reaching his village at 7 PM, he takes off in his small store till midnight.
And one day, the old clerk stepped into the office of his boss, the law professor. His face was gloomy, grey and his eyes were down to the floor …
“What’s wrong with you? You don’t seem all right”, said the law professor.
He remained silent for some seconds, having difficulties in hiding his tears, in finding words to express his calamity.
“My brother…my little brother, he was arrested last night…” said the clerk.
“For what crime?” asked the law professor.
“They said he goes to pray Alfajr on a regular daily basis in the mosque…” said the clerk.
And he added:
“I went to ask about him in the police station, but he wasn’t there…he wasn’t anywhere in the village, he disappeared sir…Nobody knows where he is…”
The law professor nodded heavily, and whispered:
“The Emergency law…again”
The clerk had a look on his face as if he wanted to say:
“Oh boss, it’s no time for such clichés…this is not an article you’re writing in the national newspaper about citizens rights…”
In a week, the boss managed to let the clerk visit his detained brother after he found out where he was jailed.
The following day, he stepped into the boss’ office defeated, fractured, inverted…
“Why Boss? Why did you do this to me?” said the clerk.
“What happened? Weren’t you able to visit your brother? Did they humiliate you in any form?” said the alarmed boss.
“No, Boss…they treated me well and ordered me tea…and I saw my brother, but that one is not the brother I used to know, he’s another one…they tortured him, humiliated him…and I’m not only talking about the physical contusions and scars…I hardly knew him, he was defeated, life had disappeared from his face. They murdered hope in him, life…they murdered my dreams and they years of hard work I’ve paid in order to offer him a flourishing future…”said the clerk.
“Boss, believe me…If I had a bomb, or if I knew how to get it, I would’ve bombed that jail, I would’ve bombed each and every jail and police academy, I would’ve killed each and every policeman I saw”, he added.
And seeing his boss stunned, astonished, shocked…he said:
“In that very short visit, they taught me hatred and grudge very well…”
In a meeting with human rights activists in the process of a campaign to pressure the government to cancel the state of urgency, the emergency law, the famous law professor was telling the story of the old clerk:
“And since that day, he became a different man, bearing a grudge against the state. The warmth and his calm smile had disappeared from his face for good; he began to believe each and every rumor being said about the regime. The emergency laws and other laws of terrorism – in any country, whether the US (after the 9/11 attack) or another country, such as Egypt and Algeria for example – have created a culture of hatred, grudge and oppression instead of solving objectively the problems that the society faces, whether it’s extremist groups, violent opposition or whatever obstacle facing the state.
The US and UK have adopted in their war against terrorism a policy that the Green party had previously adopted in the campaign of prevention of the global warming: that governments are allowed to take whatever procedures to help them preventing such environmental disaster without submitting proof of the existence of such danger, as they are predicting such danger in the future. Therefore, they started to arrest people randomly without any proofs of condemnation, and it is the same policy adopted by other countries in similar situations under the umbrella of the state of urgency and emergency laws.
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Where Can Compassion and Empathy Lead? Zorica Vukovic
| Jun 5th, 2005
Interesting subject in an article well written and with characters depicted so nicely is making us think about compasson and empathy the other way. Usually we assume they both have calming and comforting role in human lives and are leading to peace, providing relief, but we become more and more aware how compassion and empathy, feelings for the other human being can become the fertile soil for emerging rage, growing distrust and sharing pain that calls for the revenge, sometimes (or always) blind revenge. That is the serious issue which modern humanity has to consider as its reality and unescapably dangerous standing point - that in a life of humans who have been drawn to the bottom of their rights or existence and to those ones who have lost all they have estimated valuable the revenge stays as one of the firmest if not only cause of life.
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