A good question, a better answer

I was just watching the Suze Orman show entitled, “For The Young, Fabulous and Broke” on DVD. She ended her show by mentioning this question that she was asked by a teacher: “How are you deceiving yourself?”

I thought, while listening to her and before she mentioned the answer given by her teacher, this is a really good question. I was looking for quick answers in my mind. I always thought that awareness is the best we can ever have; especially awareness of our own selves. It wasn’t actually difficult to come with answers in my own situation, and I was sure that if I am to give this question some thought, I’d come up with many important facts about how I deceive myself, and therefore have less awareness and understanding of the real causes of my problems.

Well, Suze Orman did the same, she kept telling her teacher of ways and things she deceived herself about, but every time she was getting the same feedback, “Wrong”! So she finally gave up and asked, “Ok, you tell me”, and her teacher gave her an answer that was even more illuminating than the question itself:  “You are deceiving yourself by thinking that you are not perfect!”

Isn’t that a good point, that when we have perfection as a starting point, we are more likely to become and do more and better?! No matter what our current situation, we are perfect in our human potential, we are perfect because God is perfect, fair and merciful. Only if we know it enough.

Gimme a better earth!

I live in Ithaca, and my favorite coffee is not found at the nationwide Starbucks, but I go get it from the local and nice Gimme! coffee. Gimme is really an example of success for me, it has the spirit of localism, yet the brand has the image and quality of the big chains. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about coffee, but I want to mention another thing that I like about this place.

You know when you go into one of those fast food places, and you want to get some ketchup, or even some black pepper, how about some salt?! What do you do? You find those little packs, you open it and it will give you very little of any of the spice that you want. What is that? It is the CIVILIZATION OF DISPOSABLE. We live in the world of disposable today. Plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic cups…. Can we really count how many plastic/disposables we use every day. We just don’t see the rest of the picture. We use them, then throw ‘em. Looks easy. Well, but it is not easy on our earth. It’s suffering, it’s been suffering for years, and we just add tons and tons of suffering to her lungs every day, 360 days a year.

With that in mind, we can now appreciate Gimme coffee stores when we go there, and find a little jar (or whatever it is called!!) with “clean spoons”, and another for “dirty spoons”. This is what they make available for customers to stir their drinks instead of a disposable piece of wood or piece of plastic! Does that sound primitive to anyone? Well, I see this little practice as highly civilised. The Civilization of Disposable is meant to fall, sooner or later, because it is working against Nature itself. When Man and Nature combat, the latter wins. And usually it is not a pretty war. Too many victims will fall, from both sides. What all conscious people should do is work for a new civilization, The Civilization of No-Waste. Or we might find a better name for it. What matters is that this new civilization will be “truly” smart and truly scientific, both in theory and in action. A civilization that knows a lot of scientific facts but acts in the best way to misuse or not use those facts at all is just tooooo stupid to survive!

The Bright Side of Spam!

I have no doubt that every email user now suffers from spam – unless there are new solutions that didn’t come to my knowledge yet. You open your email inbox, or download your messages, and here you spend a few good minutes just deleting messages. Well, you might also get a little irritated when you see that you have to delete the SAME useless ads every day! And now the worse side, spammers aren’t usually like those good advertisers who will put a small link at the very end of their email ad and give you the option to “opt out”, and never have to delete their messages again. The most common solution so far is junk folders, but you still will have to spend some of your valuable time online there, because you never know, sometimes messages you do want to read get caught in this folder.

So as we see, email spam is a problem. It wastes our time. However it does have a good side to it. We lose time anyway, and at the end, we only lose minutes deleting spam emails, not hours (thanks God!). Now we are all familiar with a much worse sort of spam, which is useless paper ads and brochures that we receive in the mail. It’s amazing how much paper we just shred or throw in the trash every day or every week here in the US. In my country, Egypt, we don’t have this problem, so here is one more bright side for something not so bright: developing countries are very modest contributors to the destruction of our earth, and therefore our health, compared to the first world countries.

Waste is a serious problem. Email spam wastes a few minutes every day. Paper spam wastes millions of trees every year. Don’t you wish with me that all paper spam just go to our email inboxes?

American Mexican Border, Fence Or No Fence?

God created Adam and Eve, and from them descended billions upon billions of people. Equal in their humanity, due to their one origin, they came different in many other aspects: color, tongue, religion, and place of birth. Among those children, some were born in what is currently known as the USA, some others were born further north (Canada), yet some others found themselves in a place totally different from the rest of the continent, a poor country with the name of Mexico.

In our present time, Americans don’t have the smallest problem with their northern border; beyond it lays a brotherly country with a similar style of life and economic conditions. No Canadian enters the US illegally, because their birth given pieces of paper, called citizenship documents, allow them free movement. But more importantly, their conditions of life do not make them feel that fleeing their mother land is the only way out of inhuman conditions. And this is what makes the southern border a complete opposite. On the other side of this border, millions feel that they are deprived of their basic human rights and needs. Their human nature, shared with all other humans anywhere in the world, is to escape from danger, and to look for ways to survive. The closest solution to their dead-end conditions is a rich country whose media promises equal opportunity for everyone, a happy life and easy money. It is close, but not easily accessible. Millions with otherwise no hope are willing to risk all their money, and even their life, for a chance to find themselves in the northern side of the border. They are not sure what to expect once in America, all they think of at this time is to escape and to get there.

And here the problem starts and grows. Millions cross the southern border into the US. They enter and stay in the country undocumented, another word for “unknown of”. People are nowadays reduced to papers, if they are not on paper, they don’t exist. But they do exist, no matter what the papers say or don’t say. They work, rent apartments, pay bills and spend money every day. They will even have kids who will automatically be US citizens. But on paper, they remain in the shadow. Some look at this situation as a healthy and necessary one. Those poor, undocumented workers have to accept any job; they don’t have much of a choice. Businesses will prefer them because they work long hours without complaining, and they accept lower wages. They are good for the business, so they should stay and keep coming. On the other side of the debate (not the border!) stand those who see the danger of having millions living in the shadow. Their solution to the problem? Well, building a 700 mile long fence, high enough that Mexicans will not be able to climb it!

To say the least, the idea of building this fence reflects a great lack of creativity. It suggests a superficial solution to a complicated problem. Illegal immigration is not an illness, it’s a symptom of a complicated one, and we all know that treating the symptom is of no real help. Those who cross the border every year in terrible conditions risk their life, with the fence on their way, they will just figure out other ways to go for their quest of a new land. Let’s also not forget that they represent a multi-million dollar business for smugglers, and this kind of business will always find ways to keep going and making money. The fence would be a distraction as far as the real sources of the problem, which would let the problem grow bigger and bigger, until it eventually destroys the fence itself.

The kind of fence required to block the border is neither an easy nor an affordable project. All the money and efforts and time that will be spent to build it could be used for more realistic and fruitful action toward solving the problem. What if this kind of money is to be spent on US-Mexican partnership aiming to improve the conditions of life in Mexico, which would lessen the number of those willing to risk their life to escape from their country?

History teaches us lessons for our present and our future: Once upon a time, not too long ago, a big “fence” separated two countries, people on the eastern side wanted to flee to the western one, and they kept trying, until they no longer needed to, when the Wall of Berlin came down. I believe that the fence, if built, will not have a better luck.

Bridge in Cairo

A picture I have taken in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, some years ago. This is one of the bridges connecting the Jazirah island to Giza.

I didn’t bring all my photo albums from Egypt, but I promise to take many more pictures the next time I go to Egypt and post them all here :)

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