Category Archives: THINGS I AM THINKING

#endSH

 

 

Today, June 20th, marks a day of blogging and tweeting against sexual harassment. Follow #endSH on Twitter to see more pieces (Arabic and English) against sexual harassment. Here are some relevant Canonball pieces that I have taken part in.

I wish we could #EndSH so I could end the violent fantasies I envision against all the gropers, leerers, catcallers & harassers of the world -@lissiejaquette

To all those men- young, old, religious, secular, rich, poor- who think that your words convey flattery, that your actions are excused, I dedicate the following.

When you say, “Hello, Beautiful,” I think about taking my half-empty can of Coke and dumping it on your head.

When you hiss at me, I think about shooting at you with a squirt-gun full of bleach and ruining your brand new shirt. I think about “accidentally” getting bleach in your eye.

When you say, “Suck my dick,” [or, more accurately, “Sick my duck.”] I think about having my taller friend hold you down while I cut your face.

When you grab my ass, I think about grabbing your hand and breaking your index finger. I think about smashing a glass bottle over your head.

When you rub your crotch, I think about jamming my blunt keys into your junk. I think about throat-punching you, and I think about taking off my shoe and breaking your nose with it.

I think about watching you get hit by a car. I think about pulling the hair out of your head and making your scalp bleed. I think about breaking your knees with a large stick. I think about buying a gun in Ataba and aiming it at your left temple. I think about poking out your eyes with a rusty spoon. I think about castrating you.

I never thought I’d think about taking a human life, much less as a fucked-up coping mechanism. I never thought I’d literally hate men, that I’d resent my own brothers, my own father, my best friends. But, here we are.

You, on the other hand, have gotten your kicks from humiliating a woman who you don’t know. I will continue to carry my burden of rage. Congratulations. You’re the man now, dawg.

(Image by Ayman Farag; Cross-posted to my Tumblr)

IT’S JUST A LITTLE BLOOD

It appears as though some Massachusetts liberals (or faux-berals, as I like to say. Or neo-liberals, even!) have gotten their panties in a bunch over some things that my congressman Mike Capuano said. Let’s review, shall we?

Mike, potential future challenger to centerfold Senator Scott Brown, was at a union rally in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin with a few other congresspersons when he made the following statement:

“I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”

Cue the we’re-scared-of-violence backlash.

I honestly believe that Congressman Capuano was not advocating a bloody, violent takeover of the state, and was instead engaging in some Real Talk, which is the fact that facilitating social change is a chaotic, messy process (you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, the revolution isn’t a dinner party, insert other aphorisms here, etc.). I think this is a real problem amongst progressive communities (not just in Massachusetts, though lord knows it rings true, but throughout the US), this presumptuous notion that social change can be a la-di-da process. It can’t be. It doesn’t matter how peaceful your tactics are. The state will use brute force (even in a democratic state!).

Stop being so scared of blood, guys.

P.S. I think it goes without saying that if discourses like this continue, it might get bloody whether we like it or not, the tragic events involving Representative Giffords being proof positive of that.

“SETTLEMENT” REACHED

AUC Students will know this already, but yesterday students received an email from the provost, subject line: “Resolution of the labor issues”. Text is as follows:

To the AUC community:

I am delighted to confirm what is obvious to anyone who has been on the New Cairo campus today, that the university has reached a settlement with our housekeeping staff.  Representatives of the administration, the Syndicate, the affected workers, faculty and students met last night and, after nearly seven hours of negotiation, reached a compromise on all of the outstanding issues.

We know that the events of the past few days were very difficult for our staff, as well as those who advocated so admirably on their behalf, and we appreciate the spirit of commitment and collegiality that was maintained throughout the process of negotiation.

As we move forward, we will be developing mechanisms to ensure that this spirit is not lost and that we continue to consult as widely as possible as we review staff and management salaries, working conditions, and indeed, the many other issues of that concern members of the AUC community.

In the meantime, let me simply say that I am proud to be associated with an institution that exhibits the forbearance, inventiveness, and dedication which have characterized AUC over the last few days.

Thank you,

Lisa Anderson

Here’s the problem, though. It’s not resolved, as confirmed by another email widely forwarded amongst faculty:

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, AUC “housekeeping” workers started a job-action on Wednesday 28 October demanding better pay and work-conditions. AUC community,  especially students, have shown impressive solidarity and support of the workers’ action and their demands.  More than 3000 members of AUC community signed a petition supporting the demands in less than 48 hours.  AUC workers and students have also shown extra-ordinary commitment towards their university, trying to limit media involvement and scandalization, refraining from personal attacks on individual members of the administration, and standing firmly against any attempts of littering or vandalism.  Despite the fact that many of the workers received direct threats and bribes from their supervisors -to go back to work- the workers held their position until the scheduled meeting with administration on Sunday 31 October.

AUC administration came to the table with a refusal of ALL five demands!

They continued to adhere to their original plan of reviewing salaries in March 2011, with no commitment to a minimum wage. They refused to provide a meal compensation IN ADDITION to the minimum wage and considered a 200 EGP -to be paid starting November 2010- as BOTH a salary increase and a meal compensation!!  They refused to make Saturday an official holiday -as with other members of the staff- or to even provide an over-time pay for working that day.  They refused to commit to an annual 10% increase.  And finally they refused to be held responsible for workers Social Security insurance during their years of service at AUC -when they were COMPASS hires.

Moreover, AUC administration came to the table with a firm position on ending the strike and clarifying that their will be clear repercussions for workers if they don’t. After 6 hours of negotiations, the workers finally managed to convince the administration to give them ONE Saturday off per month, a commitment to announce the expected salary increase in February (with no commitment to a minimum wage).

Those workers are going back to working under conditions more fitting with corvee labor than waged employment.  In brief, they have to be ON the buses heading to work 6:30 A.M. and leave campus 4:00 P.M. six days a week  Their contracts are 6 months to one-year maximum, with different clauses giving AUC administration the right to dismiss them at any moment, not renew their contracts with no justification, and to change regulations without consulting with them  There are no clear mechanisms to protect the workers from abuses by their supervisors, which prevail (especially towards female workers) and no recourse for harm or abuse of power.

The current work-conditions breaches principles pertaining to workers’ rights and the very essence of what AUC preaches and strives to represent.  In how it responded to the workers demands, AUC administration went against the basic principles of social-responsibility and providing a fair, respectable, equitable work environment.

At this point, we owe it to ourselves as responsible citizens, educators, and above all an integral part of AUC-community to send a clear message to the administration that this is UNACCEPTABLE.  We call on all faculty members, and AUC community at large to show their support for workers demands, and to send a clear pedagogical message to students to be responsible citizens.  We call on you to meet under the Administration Building on Wednesday, 3 November at 1:00 for a one-hour stand demanding the administration to listen to AUC community and change the current conditions of workers.

This is a turning-point for the AUC to be the place we can be proud of.  The workers’ action have given us the chance to come together as one community supporting equity, justice, and fairness, and faculty members should be at the lead.

Please circulate this to ALL Faculty members you can access.
Rabab El-Mahdi, Political Science Department
Hani Al-Sayed, Law Department

There you have it. I mean, there’s nothing shocking about the fact that the regime- ahem, administration- tabled all the demands. Rabab El-Mahdi and Hani Al-Sayed have been incredibly proactive faculty members and I think it would be great to follow suit. Attend the meeting on November 3rd if you can.

AUC WORKERS’ STRIKE

This seems as good a venue as any to post the email that the AUC Community just received regarding the custodial worker’s strike at present. I just want to remind AUC students, faculty, and any journos that tomorrow (Monday) there will be a campus-wide strike by both faculty and students.

To the AUC community:

Over the past several months, the university has been reviewing and assessing our management and staff salaries to ensure equity among the staff and alignment with the market.  As a part of this process, Compass workers were offered the opportunity to become full-time AUC employees.  This move was designed to ensure that all employees would share the same benefits and privileges.

In addition to addressing the issue of Compass workers, the university will be adjusting salaries for all management and staff to assure that they are competitive and there is equity within the system.  Due to the financial implications of these changes, this is an ongoing process and the university is making the changes in stages.  The first adjustment was made in September, a second adjustment is scheduled for March, and there is also one scheduled for September 2011.

In moving Compass workers to full time employment, which took place in September, the university assured them that – if they chose to move to AUC – their salaries would not be negatively impacted by this move. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error, the cost of optional benefits was deducted from their paychecks, which reduced their pay significantly.  The university apologized for this error and moved quickly to make the necessary correction.

The effected employees were justifiably upset with the error and walked off their jobs in protest last Wednesday.  They were subsequently joined by other support staff who were not negatively impacted by this change.  Since last Wednesday, the university has continued talks with the elected representatives of AUC staff to address the dispute.  Those talks continue today.

Because most of these staff are members of the housekeeping unit, the regular cleaning of the university has not taken place.  I ask for all of your patience as we work to resolve this issue.  I remind you that deliberate acts of littering or, worse, vandalism are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Also, keep in mind that AUC operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week and many of our staff work regular hours during nights and weekends.  We are encouraging everyone to be respectful of the university property and to continue to maintain business as usual.  We expect everyone to be present for their job as required; anyone who does not come to work risks losing their job.

AUC will continue to address salary inequities systematically and will be as generous as possible, given our financial constraints.  We value our staff, as we do our students, faculty, and administrators, and we want AUC to be an institution with which they, like the rest of us, are proud to be associated.  In the meantime, we encourage all involved to return to work as we continue to discuss these issues with the affected staff and their elected representatives.

Thank you,

Lisa Anderson

 

“clerical errors”? “financial constraints”? My ass. I yearn for the day that AUC exercises actual discretion with its spending, because my tuition sure as hell doesn’t seem to be going to any workers.

Related:

Tabula Gaza’s Letter to President Arnold on the AUC Workers’ Strike

Sign the Petition: AUC Community for AUC Workers’ Demands

#AUCWorkers on Twitter

WHITE GUILT-INDUCED POST #1

Thanksgiving, and ‘Eid el-Adha, have passed, and thus another November (generally my least favorite month, followed by February). Kelsy and I spent our Thanksgiving day doing data entry for a research project we’ve been recruited for. As a theory person, I generally look at numbers and mock them. Now that I’ve been exposed to such tedium, every time I look at statistics I will think, “Oh! but the poor grad student who had to do all the data entry for that!*” New found sympathies abound!

While I’m not clear on the Bigger Picture of the project, it involves investigation of smuggling and the Somali and Ethiopian refugee communities. I am learning a lot, namely that White Guilt is a nagging thing that never goes away, and that I am beyond privileged, and that I don’t deserve it, and why did I get security and education and CITIZENSHIP, and these people got nothing? (so THIS is why humanitarians become raging alcoholics.)

Thanksgiving Day gave me pause to consider the bountiful blessings bestowed upon me (yes, that alliteration is annoying, but I DON’T CARE). Here in Cairo I can live like a princess for a mere pittance, and moreover, more importantly, I have a really amazing community (comparable, even, to the diaspora of friends in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and DC) composed of Americans, Canadians, Germans, Greeks, and self-hating Egyptians¹. And, I have CATS². I am 100% content, and not a day goes by where I don’t sit back for an introspective moment and bask in this Glowing Moment of My Life.

But I want to get back to this issue of theory and practice. I can talk all the jive I want about how I need theory to engage in my Academic Future, but though this is certainly true I know I also use it as a crutch to avoid the Harsh Realities present in my field. Most of my colleagues are really engaged in their communities-of-interest, and I’m not, and I know it’s because, to a certain extent, there’s a crippling despair hanging over the whole thing. Hannah Arendt, who is essentially the founding mother of my thesiswork and, along with Spivak and Butler’s Who Sings the Nation-State? and Anderson’s Imagined Communities, inspired me to pursue my current discipline(s), spoke of the refugee as threatening the very fabric of the nation-state system. For me, the fact that the Nation-State and “international community” (the puppet of the Nation-State, essentially) are incompetent (at best) and yet hold all the power in electing who receives citizen-ship, is beyond frustrating, and speaks to my own powerless-ness (and incompetence, for that matter) as someone in a very small, very elite community (Academe). It’s one of those things that consistently keeps me on an existential plane of wondering, “is this right? Why do I care? Why don’t I care enough?” Somedays, I wonder if I should be doing more, and other days I wonder if I should just give up and stop caring. But I know what I’m good at, and I know that I’m happy, and this is enough to convince me that I’m Doing the Right Thing (BUT AM I??).

I don’t mean to bomb the blogosphere with existential wanderings and bleak statements, but November, though I hate it, is above all my favorite time for introspection. YOU’RE WELCOME.

*Actually, I need to give Kelsy all the credit for this statement. She’s the one who said it. I’m just repeating.

¹Up for discussion: is self-hatred always the province of the upper echelons?

²One of whom is sick right now so SAY YOUR PRAYERS FOR THE LITTLE DUDE. Please and Thank you. 😦

HALF-HEARTED APOLOGY (SORRY I’M NOT SORRY.)

I guess I should apologize for a lack of content, but I don’t really feel like offering a pitiful little apology. Last night I asked someone (half-jokingly) if he blogged and he said, no, he didn’t, because he didn’t feel like he could continually provide New Content. I feel a little bit this way too, I think, because I haven’t been doing anything magnanimous or amazing (though I went to Istanbul, and that city WAS magnanimous and amazing, but I am still trying to compile all my journaled FEELINGS about it into something somewhat coherent and maybe profound¹), I’ve mostly just been living and schooling and building relationships with people, things around me².

On a daily basis, I have somewhat of an established routine, and by routine I mean wake up and make coffee (it was very wise to bring my MokaExpress with me) as soon as possible, then sip it and try to plot out my day. Classes are in the evenings, and since I am loathe to learn new tricks (e.g. stop procrastinating), I am usually scrambling to finish readings and writings up to that point. What else? Oh, I eat a lot. Lots of bread and cheese and delicious tomatoes and koshari and cookies. Nights are usually composed of studying and taking dance breaks and sometimes a beer or two at the local watering hole, Horreya, which is composed solely of old Egyptian dudes and international youngsters³. Of course I’m compiling things in my Things-to-Write-About-and/or-Analyse bank, but most of the time I don’t really have the inclination to do so… yet.

But you all should know that I’m alive, and Really Alive at that, and that Cairo is loathsome and wonderful and chaotic and everything, all at once. I think people who have been here know what I mean, but I don’t think you can know what I mean until you’ve been here. You dig?

With this half-hearted apology, I also present some Things on the Internet that I’ve found intriguing lately:

¹Ha. Haha.

²To Certain Persons: did you find that sentence CLOYING?? 😉

³A certain Mr. Gupta recently g-chatted, “you hang out at huriya? why am I not surprised?” OF COURSE I DO, boy!