A Week of Laughter and Forgetting: Day Six
A year after its outbreak, Youssef Rakha lists seven of the more revealing flights of humour that have punctuated the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath
The purging of “the media”, not to mention that of the Ministry of the Interior, was among the earliest demands of the revolution. So far, it has proved impossible. I think I have a few jokes of my own in this department, but first the word fuloul, which literally means something like remnants. It has acquired legendary status in popular consciousness since it was first used to describe Mubarak’s cronies and their subordinates — a good half of the population, as it turns out — but due to its phonetic similarity to the word for fuul, the all-Egyptian bean dish and the majority of the population’s source of sustenance, it was only natural that it should solicit a certain amount of wordplay.
There are two main reasons why “purification” remains an impossible objective. First, the depth and breadth of the reach of fuloul — and the difficulty of defining them in the first place — is such that it would take divine powers of investigation and judgement to identify and isolate them in the various state institutions, which even then would leave us with the question of what to do with them. They could always defend themselves with the argument that they were pro-Mubarak because they had no other choice; they could always pretend that they were pro-revolution in the first place. One joke had it that Mubarak himself was the one who called for the revolution.
Like baltageyya, fuloul seems to be more of a state of being than an action or even an orientation as such. Anyone could use it against anyone else — to eliminate them.
But the second reason why “purification” is difficult is even more pertinent. Unlike previous “revolutions” in Arab history, this particular string of events had neither leadership nor dogma. Who on earth is going to undertake the task of purging state institutions? Surely not SCAF, which was itself one such… In this sense perhaps we are all fuloul. Perhaps we should just gulp down our falafel and forget.