In the late 1960s, there were only seven houses in our neighbourhood and the rest of the region was agricultural land. Mr. Atteya, who came from Sharqeya and had the second largest house in the neighbourhood, was the only one who owned a television set in this part of the governorate.
No one knew anything about television or the programmes broadcasted on it except through Mr. Atteya’s. Moreover, anyone who upset him would be deprived of watching television, especially the heated football matches between Al-Ahly and Al-Zamalek clubs, until they regained his favour.
Hours before the game, the distribution of tasks began, through which Atteya decided to take advantage of television as a means to strengthen his power over the neighbourhood, which had been dominated by landowners for many years.
Atteya used the television, his special weapon, in many ways since it was his only strategic advantage over his rivals. He was not a man of wealth nor did have special physical or intellectual advantages to distinguish him among people. However once the television screen flickered on, he managed to elevate himself to become the sole decision maker of the neighbourhood.
Football match days would start very early; you would find Atteya walking around the neighbourhood, telling the young people how important it is to come watch the game, on condition that they come early to prepare the streets and benches for the grand audience. Visitors came from other neighbourhoods to watch the game on Atteya’s television. Even the officer would attend, claiming that he was there to maintain order. Atteya nonetheless knew that he came to watch the match and used the opportunity for his own needs. He would use the opportunity to ask the officer to sign this paper or that or request that one of his men be released.
That television box, with its few channels, remained Atteya’s treasure box. Before sunset, the streets would be cleaned up and everyone would be sitting on the benches waiting for the genie to come out of the box. On the chairs sat the officer and the VIPs of the first row, while on the mat sat the less prominent but nonetheless important audience members. There was no space for ordinary people or strangers.
Atteya would begin the evening by giving a religious sermon then would start cursing former president Gamal Abdel Nasser and his followers if the officer was not around. Finally he would call on the people to donate to the orphans and the needy and the “mujahideen2 in the land of God, of whom no one heard except through Atteya’s please.
The game would begin and with it the cries and cheers of the audience. The largest families in the neighbourhood supported different teams and so there was constant bickering between them. One camp believed that Al-Ahly is more worthy because the football scene stabilised at its hands while the others believed that Al-Zamalek would add new blood and talent to the game and to the national team.
One camp claimed stability and experience, while the other is attracted by the hopes of stepping out of the box and into a bigger world. Atteya maintained his place between both camps and did not respond to any questions unless he had something to profit from it. He did not take sides, whether in victory or loss.
Over time, Atteya’s power increased. The television became indispensable to the neighbourhood. However, coming to watch the television forced people to listen to Atteya’s tales and consent to his demands. With time Atteya became the star of all gatherings and he was in control over everyone; he would direct people as he saw fit; allotting a certain degree of power to his supporters and banning his opponents from the benches and the floor mats.
For years and years I would see him at these gatherings. Time had left its marks on his face. I asked him about the reasons behind his insistence on running in the parliamentary election more than once, depending on his television and the success it brought him, despite belonging to a group that was banned at the time. His response was always; “Nagging. People hate nagging but when you nag about something for long enough, people change their minds. It is easier than actually thinking.”
At first, I could not grasp the concept easily but after a while, and after the death of Atteya himself, I found myself thinking gradually about the “nagging theory”. I thought about it whenever I turned on the television and found figures who are purported to be media professionals. Their rhetoric was nothing more than defamation and attempts to convince the public of certain political “truths”, even if the reality is completely different. It was then that I was convinced that Atteya’s theory was accurate.
Nagging was the theory adopted by Atteya and is the one adopted by media figures today. Moreover it appears to be the only theory that actually works.
Thus, out of our firm belief in Atteya’s theory, and in affirmation of the need to nag about everything, we say: “Down with all the oppressors!”
Mohamed Abdel Kareem is a journalist and a columnist in a number of publications, including Dostour, Tahrir, Sayidaty, and Rotana. Abdel Kareem has produced a number of short films, including “The Painter”, “Mestany”, and “Not Entering the Festival”. The films participated in international festivals in France, the US, and Macedonia, among others.