The Alarming Tolerance
When I started working in Manshyet Nasser, one of Cairo's biggest slums, I thought I'd come back with stories of a different world. And although it was a world very different from mine only a few kilometers away, this is not what I'm writing about. I'm not writing this to weep about how bad our slums are, or how unfair it is to have people living a life that is so poor to be even humane under the same government with people who live in villas, ride the best cars and have a couple of summer and winter homes. I'm not writing about this, although all of it is depressingly true. I'm writing about us, all of us, about the one thing we all share.
In Mansheyet Nasser my job was to ask people about the problems they have, some of which lived in a room with five others, who are no just their children, but maybe even their in laws. A room that is used not just as a bedroom and a living room, but also a kitchen. A room that doesn't even have a bathroom. Many answered that their problems are few, their lives are fine, they're happy and feeling grateful that they live a life much better than others. And although it is true that Manshyet Nasser is not the worst slum in Cairo, it still drove me crazy how accepting those people are.
A few days later, the diesel shortage is back, and the lines fill the streets. Trucks and buses spend a whole day in line to be able to fill their tanks. People eat, sleep and make friends in line. They adapt and accept and live normally. They accept even though they have the power to bring down the whole government.
And a month later the power cuts start and it becomes "normal" for students to study under candle light, for people to stop working because their laptop batteries had died, for doctors to use the lights of their phones to operate, and what do we all do? Accept! We look for alternatives if we can to help us adapt, we buy generators or solar panels, or we just accept and live as if this is how life should be.
Maybe there is a good thing in it, that we're able to accept change and adapt with it, maybe it is good in essence. But there is a fine line between adapting and accepting. We adapt to be able to live while we fight in order to improve, not to live forever accepting the unacceptable. Because otherwise what does this make of us, even worse, what will it make of us? What else shall we accept?
This is not how we always were....
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