The burning of a Library in Egypt and the Philosophy behind it

The damnation of this earth as a realm where nothing is possible to man but pain, disaster and defeat, a realm inferior to another, “higher,” reality; the damnation of all values, enjoyment, achievement and success on earth as a proof of depravity; the damnation of man’s mind as a source of pride, and the damnation of reason as a “limited,” deceptive, unreliable, impotent faculty, incapable of perceiving the “real” reality and the “true” truth; the split of man in two, setting his consciousness (his soul) against his body, and his moral values against his own interest; the damnation of man’s nature, body and self as evil; the commandment of self-sacrifice, renunciation, suffering, obedience, humility and faith, as the good; the damnation of life and the worship of death, with the promise of rewards beyond the grave—these are the necessary tenets of the [mystic’s] view of existence, as they have been in every variant of [mystical] philosophy throughout the course of mankind’s history. Ayn Rand

Yesterday December 17, 2011 during conflicts between some Egyptian protests, the Egyptian Scientific Institute which established in 1798 by Napolean Bonaparte was burned. The Egyptian Scientific Institute was the oldest scientific institute in Egypt and Middle East at all. It has the most rich and rare library in Egypt.

Eyewitnesses were reported to have seen protestors throwing a Molotov cocktail at stone-throwing soldiers at the Shura Council building, but the projectile missed the intended target and instead landed in the Egyptian Scientific Institute.

The library contains about 40.000 items of rare books and manuscripts, however it has unvaluable items, like:

  •  The original copy of the french book “Description de l’Egypte”
  • Atlas of Old Indian arts.
  • German atlas about Egypt and Ethiopia, 1842.
  • “Egypt: the mother of the world”, 1753.

Professor Mahmoud al-Shernoby, the general secretary of the institute, told state TV in a phone interview that the damage is a “great loss” to Egypt and that those “who caused this disaster showed be punished.”

Photos about burning the Egyptian Scientific Institute:

Fight internet censorship and IP address blockades

A security line outside Google’s Beijing office. (AP/Andy Wong)

Is Internet a neutral zone? Is it a network that runs freely in any place of the world? Or is it controlled and regulated by governments and companies?

Sadly, it is not a free space in which people is able of doing whatever they rationally please. Internet is to a large degree a networked controlled and its globalizing effects are constantly been limited by the regulations and institutions of the countries from which we access it.  Specially in countries that have had a long history of citizen’s censorship and IP address controls.  CPJ‘s list of these countries that have managed to control the most it’s citizens freedom is #1 Iran, #2 Belarus, #3 Cuba, #4 Ethiopia, #5 Burma, #6 China, #7 Tunisia under Ben Ali, #8 Egypt under Mubarak (still continues being so), #9 Syria and #10 Russia.

Also, as noted in Wikipedia in 2006, Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), a Paris-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press, started publishing a list of “Enemies of the Internet”. The organization classifies a country as an enemy of the internet because “all of these countries mark themselves out not just for their capacity to censor news and information online but also for their almost systematic repression of Internet users.” In 2007 a second list of countries “Under Surveillance” (originally “Under Watch”) was added. Both lists are updated annually.

Enemies of the Internet:

Internet censorship by country

As mentioned by Danny O’Brien in CPJ, “The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression.”

Now, the principle in discussion here is what can we do to act freely in the Web? First, there are some services that enable you to block the origin of your IP address (learn what an IP is at the end of the post) and to access many websites by hiding your country of origin; one private and free service is HMA! or How to Bypass Internet Censorship.  But the most important one’s are the following online agencies and organizations that are working to inform and educate internet users of their rights and obligations:

What is an IP address:

Every device connected to the public Internet is assigned a unique number known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. IP addresses consist of four numbers separated by periods (also called a ‘dotted-quad’) and look something like 127.0.0.1.

Since these numbers are usually assigned to internet service providers within region-based blocks, an IP address can often be used to identify the region or country from which a computer is connecting to the Internet. An IP address can sometimes be used to show the user’s general location. vía: http://whatismyipaddress.com/

Egypt and the first modern factories

Today I had an epiphany in Economic History thanks to Ph.D. Isa Blumi who gave a lecture on “The Ottoman Legacy: Socio-Economic Dynamics and the Origins of Modern Politics” emphasizing the economic history of Egypt and The Ottoman Empire during the 18th. and 19th Centuries.

The first great argument was rooted in how Egypt had been already transforming its economy and society long before The Napoleonic French Campaign (1798-1801).  As well, he made very clear how Napoleon’s interest in acquiring Egypt’s wheat was much more important than posing for a picture in front of the Sphinx. He explained the consequences of this invasion and the resulting liberation of Egypt by the genious of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

The epiphany to my research interest came when he localized the first modern factory 2,500 miles away from the cities of Derby, Birmingham and Manchester. Most surely, researching this argument would surely enlighten the current historiography of Economic History and establish more roots of entrepreneurial activity, innovation and mass production in the Middle East.  Doing this will also disentail the roots of the creation of Wealth from the Eurocentric historigraphy that has been in fact characterized by its antipodes: mercantilism, patrimonialism and altruism.

If you are interested in learning more of this subjects here are recommended readings that Professor Blumi shared with me: