In the double issue (July 9 & 16) of The New Yorker, Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) weights in with a Talk of the Town item on wasta, the term for ‘connections’ in the Arab world. Peter tells the story of Mohamed Morsi, not the new president, but ‘another’ Mohamed Morsi (Hessler says is a distinctive name) who Peter met at the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party in downtown Cario… “Two Sundays ago, ninety minutes after Mohamed Morsi was named the winner of the first free Presidentail election in Egyptian history. ”
In his short piece, Peter tells one man’s story, and at the same time he tells us a lot about what is going on on the ground in Cairo. He takes an incident: this man in nearly a hundred degree heat walked an hour from El Madabegh to the headquarters of the Muslin Brotherhood to cash in on wasta because he didn’t have one thousand dollar for the bribe demanded by the administrators of a government hospital to get his oldest daughter into a nursing program.
Maybe Peter has always had the ability to look for the slice of life that tells a bigger story. Or maybe he learned that trick in China, on the Yanagtze, teaching school as a PCV in the small city of Fuling.