Awake: the collapse of buildings and morals

Update: Campus Magazine published a refined version of this article in it’s February issue; to view the article “The Wake up call” Click here

First I’d like to wish you all a happy new year, and give you my warmest season greetings… hope all the feasts that have been concurring during these two months are happy and full of joy.

With that said and over with, I’d like to get to the real reason I’m sending out this mail; as most of you know by now, a building have collapsed in Louran area in Alexandria last week, on the 24th of December, killing as the latest body count revealed, nearly 40 innocent Egyptians, between mother, father & child. Amongst whom is “Roba Salah Ayoub” may God rest her soul & also 4 other members of her family.

I came to know her during my study in University and the least I can say about her is that she was a young and vibrant character, with a kind heart & a bright future awaiting her; fate has it that she was one of the many victims of this tragic collapse. And this touched me deeper than I imagined such thing would, as I’m sure it did to all those who knew her.(please pray for her)

But I also didn’t send you this mail to share my grief with you… (those of you who know me well, knows I don’t care much about the “sharing & caring” culture!)

Egyptian rescuers save Lila Mahmoud Safwat, who was found alive under debris of the 12-storey building which collapsed in Alexandria.

I’m sending you this mail to discuss what you and me are going to do about such a tragic accident. Wait, did I just say accident?! No! CRIME would be a more accurate way to describe it.

Because that’s what it is… a crime, a cold blooded crime, if ever there was one, and you know who the accused is?

It is YOU & ME before anyone else, it’s our apathy and indifference!

You know how many people I met, who are well educated and very cultured, and yet knew nothing about the incident to start with? They didn’t even know it occurred! Although not only was it all over the local news, but also made it to all the global ones!

Did I sleep through some time relapse, where people stopped watching TV and reading newspapers?

Are we really that busy, being productive, that we don’t have enough time to follow the news? If that’s the case, how come the country is still going down the drain?!

Or do we not care about anything except if it has a nice butt in it?!!

But hey, that doesn’t make us guilty now does it? Not knowing about a building collapse that happened in our 2nd biggest city, and claimed 35 lives, doesn’t make us guilty, now does it?

No, you are right, it doesn’t, it just makes us ignorant, shallow and pathetic!

You know what is it that makes us truly & genuinely guilty?

What makes us really and undeniably guilty is the following fact:

During the last 5 years only, we had about 15 major building collapses in various areas of Egypt, 5 of which was during the last two weeks. (almost as frequent as, say, rock concerts?!)

At least three people were killed in May 2007 in the poor Cairene district of Al-Sayeda Zeinab, when an old building collapsed as workers were restoring it.
In October 2006, seven people died when a four-storey building fell in the city of Mansoura.
A year earlier at least 16 people, including two children, were killed and 17 injured when a six-storey building collapsed in Alexandria.
An 11storey building, fell like a house of cards in the eastern Cairo suburb of Nasr City on 26 January 2004 claiming the lives of 16 people, following a fire outbreak at an appliance store in the ground floor.

Within a period of less than two weeks after the tragic train accident on the Cairo-Aswan route, that claimed the lives of 58 people in 2002, Egypt has been confronted with the collapse of four buildings within one week claiming the lives of at least 50 people.

Not to mention that the smaller scale collapse have become a norm. Actually, and on the same week of the Louran tragedy, 2 other “low profile” collapses happened in Alexandria, one was a villa, and resulted in the death of two construction workers, and the other was a staircase of yet another unlicensed building and resulted in multiple injuries and one fatality.
Governmental statistics after the collapse revealed that there are 80,000 unlicensed buildings in Alexandria alone, 10,000 of which are endangered and should be immediately evacuated. (and that’s Adel Labib the Alexandria governor statement, while he was trying to ditch the blame to his processor)
Now, you might still be wondering, why are we guilty? Are we responsible for the corruption of the construction sector? We didn’t build those buildings, hell, most of them were probably built before we were even born, why should we be held accountable for them?
I’ll tell you why… because through all these “accidents”, no one ever took the blame, no one was held accountable for the deaths of complete families!!! No public outcry, no governmental investigations (of course there were theatrical ones, with no real closure) no one was given the death penalty, or even spent a couple of years in prison.
And that’s only in the “buildings collapse” department, if we widen the scope a little bit to include the Al-Salaam 98 ferry that sank in the Red Sea on feb. 2006, with a death toll of nearly 1,000 passengers dead, several boats that sunk near turkey & italy claiming the lives of hundreds of illegal Egyptian immigrants (trying to flee the country), Young Egyptians, desperate to find employment and opportunities to improve their lives, the numerous train crashes, and most recently, On the second day of last Eid Al-Adha a subway train overshot the platform and entered the Helwan station injuring (literally and physically entering the station) seriously injuring 46 passengers, You might start to get the picture. On the fourth day of Eid Al-Adha 16 people, including four children, drowned and five others were hospitalised when a minibus plunged into the Nile in el Minya. Traffic accidents claim at least 6,000 lives a year and leave more than 30,000 people injured according to a reports issued by the Ministry of Transportation.
The owner of the Alex. Building fled the region, not only the country. Mamdouh Hamza, the owner of El Salam ferry was much luckier in the “connections” area, so he didn’t even bother leaving the country. The corrupt governmental officials all channeled down the blame (and the shame) and ultimately were left to revel in their corruption. As for the nation, well, we got emotional, and maybe even our eyes taered a bit & we prayed for those victims of course; but just for a day or two. After all, this is just a small 12 storey building, in suburban Alexandria, not the World Trade Center in mid Manhattan! And we had a new years eve to celebrate…

Now; you know why there were no real trails for those responsible?
You know why no one took the blame?
You know why there were no emergency evacuation of the thousands of endangered buildings in both Cairo and Alex.?
You know why no governmental official resigned over these tragedies, or took the fallout for it?
You know why there were no new strict construction laws or maritime regulations?
Because of our apathy & indifference.
Because of our silence and fear.
And ultimately because of our ignorance, which we think is a bliss.
We are aiding the corrupt, and helping them finish their crime.

We have the blood of all those innocent victims on our hands as much as the ones responsible do.

You might be thinking, what about the government? Well we all know they don’t care about the country or the people, but what’s worse is that the government knows that we don’t care about the country or the people… we don’t care about us!

They know that the only things we care about are bread & sex… that’s why the national product support will be lifted from all items, except bread! And well, the media takes care of the “sex” part.

As for shelter, which is only the 2nd most basic human need after hunger, well, we don’t mind living in unlicensed, unstable, illegal death traps that, collapse only a decade or two after it’s been built, as long as we have bread and sex. And as long as the collapse don’t make it to the headlines of the stuff we are reading, which are mostly mindless social magazines, with lavish weddings, cars, and semi naked models.(that’s of course if we still read)

Ignorance, apathy & corruption claims yet more innocent victims & adds more guilt & blood to our hands. This time sleeping in the fake safety of their homes … but they aren’t the first, and won’t be the last.
How much is enough for us to wake up?
How much is too much?
How many buildings have to collapse? How many trains have to crash? How many road kills? How many have to die by pollution related diseases, for us to realize how much the system have betrayed us?
To comprehend that there is something very wrong with this country!
And that it falls to us to change it!!!

But we don’t intend to, now do we?

Welcome to the nation of SLEEPING SHEEP, please memorize the national anthem “I don’t give a FCUK”, and keep your head in your butt at all times.

Roba Ayoub didn’t deserve to go that way; as a matter of fact, no one deserves to go that way. May God bless her and rest her soul. And may God have mercy on us all; but may he also never forgive us for our silence.

In the beginning of this mail I wrote that: “I’m sending you this mail to discuss what you and me are going to do about such a tragic accident…”

You know what should we do? We should be prosecuted.

We are all guilty, very guilty, as guilt-ridden as sin, but who is to try us if we stood trial?
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like a fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

George Washington


     “إن الله لايغير مابقوم حتى يغيروا مابأنفسهم”

صدق الله العظيم

Foot note:

The CNN coverage stated that:

Buildings regularly collapse in Egypt, either as a result of deterioration with time or shoddy construction that fails to meet standards and regulations. Also, some owners tend to illegally add on more stories to buildings”

Al Jazeera, Reuters, Herald tribune & New York Times coverage gave statements to the same effect. As for the MSNBC, they went further to state:

“Shoddy materials, illegal construction and a culture of corruption were blamed Saturday for the deaths of more than three dozen people buried when a 12-story apartment building crumbled to the ground.”

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