Outlaw: From the Diary of an Arab Millennial
“Who did you vote for?” asked my friend. Our evening had turned political after a few beers (as is the case with most evenings where alcohol is involved).
The truth is, I didn’t vote. I didn’t vote for anyone; I never do. Out of the dozens of political parties-those with logos of roses, handshakes, doves, tractors, animals and even insects- I chose none. I did not feel I was represented by the extreme left, the extreme right, the moderates, the monarchy, the constitution or the parliament. I am not alone in my sentiments. The majority of those registered to vote in the most recent elections did not exercise their “constitutional right”; yet their aversion to the polls was under-recorded.
Is it because I don’t care? That would be a reductionist claim. I am fully aware that any decision taken by anyone operating within the ridiculously complicated and hierarchical chain of command, no matter their level, directly affects my daily life. Most of my common activities are considered illegal or at best, frowned upon by the law: the fact I do not practice Islam, having romantic feelings for a person of the same gender, carrying out sexual relations with a person of the opposite gender, or dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. These are just a few reasons explaining my constant anxiety in the presence of police officers.
Despite the social prevalence of the aforementioned issues, none of the political parties tackle them as part of their campaigns or at the very least acknowledge their existence. On the one hand, the silence is understandable. For political leaders in a third world country, there are decidedly more pressing matters to attend to. What worries a large part of the population are issues like education, healthcare, unemployment, economic recession and state negligence of particular regions and ethnicities. I, too, care about these matters; however, I find myself faced with an all too familiar frustration when I look at what’s being proposed to address them.
What, then, is the alternative? Should we take to the streets like we did during the Arab Spring, only to be attacked up, arrested, or even killed? Should we be content with being silenced by a sell-out settlement? Do we vote for the lesser of the many evils, assuming that such an option exists? Should we continue to debate at bars about what could have and should have been done? Do we sit around developing conspiracy theories, spreading them on social media platforms as “slacktivism”? What can one twenty-something year old, someone filled with a passion and desire to improve life for himself and everyone around, do? What do we do? The question leaves an uncomfortable echo.
I suppose a few short-remedies can appease the frustration. We will light a joint, pour a beer, get laid, tell off a cop, flirt with girls and boys, then maybe write about it. My only way of protest is living life as who I authentically am, loudly and unapologetically. Perhaps it is useless, ineffective, offensive, risky or controversial, like most means of protest are… for now, it’s all I have.