Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Crimes against humanity

* This clip is upsetting- there is no sexual content, however some images are upsetting. This clip is BANNED in Egypt because of its scandalous nature.

I never thought I'd ever write this...
Crimes against humanity at "my home"

Reflecting on the SYMPOSIUM - Revolution in North Africa: Dynamics and Prospects
17th March 2011, organised by the School of Law & Politics, University of Liverpool
1-3pm at Moot Room

After the recent events, the Middle East has become one of the hot spots. In the Symposium organised by the School of Law to take place on the 17th March 2011, three speakers traced back the recent events and discussed their implications and consequences on the future of the Arab world and equally the Western world. 
There were many comparisons of events between the Tunisian revolution and the Egyptian revolution. One thing that was noted by one speaker is that the Tunisians do not call their revolution, like many people do the jasmine revolution. This title was assumed and freely used by the Western world but not by Tunisians. The Tunisian revolution is rather a revolution of “dignity”. The revolution of dignity shows the peoples' humbleness and plea for a democratic parliament whilst the Egyptian revolution called for the fall of Mubarak and his regime having ruled for over 30 years in tyranny. Whether Egyptians are asking for a democratic parliament or a new authority figure/ruler is unclear. The change of the constitution as many would say would put various regulations on those who are going to be eligible to stand for the post and also regulations on their activity, period of ruling and the amount of sovereign power they would have over the country as a whole. Unfortunately, the idea of one authoritative ruler is well rooted in the minds of many Egyptians and apparent throughout the country’s history. It is a shame that this chain seems difficult to be broken- even at the light of the 25th January 2011 revolution and continuing up rise in various areas.

The reason of the sudden up rise in Egypt has long been predicted- some say “it was boiling under the service”. Egyptian people have accepted a lot of humiliation and deliberate killing and quick response to oppress all demonstration deeming them as “terrorism”. One major incident that fuelled the anger of the Egyptian people is the case of Khaled Saeed/Said. The story starts when a 28 years old young man from Alexandria got hold of a video clip exposing a few police men on their shifts in their police station one night exchanging information and discussing how to sell the amount of drugs- on the desk- which they seized whilst on their duties. The clip is of a low quality, possibly recorded using a phone camera. The origins of the clip, how he found it or managed to record this incident are still unknown, but it is clear from the clip and the statements said in Arabic that there was a deal happening as there was a lot of money being exchanged and haggling. This clip was put on the Internet by Khaled who was totally unaware of its implication especially living in an area where there are a lot of pity crimes (Sidi Gaber area of Alexandria where my Dad is from and where I used to go on regular basis to see some family). No one really imagined from those close to Khaled that this will be the cause for his death. June the 6th 2010 is the day he was in an Internet café at 11 am suddenly arrested by two police members- said to be ironically from the security forces- for no apparent reason at the time, dragged Khaled outside the café in the buildings hallway and beaten him to death. The graphic descriptions by many eye witnesses who were warned at the time not to get involved or say a word or their fate will be the same, are horrific to listen to and see from the pictures exchanged all over the Internet. A few people from the opposite side of the building managed to record on their phones the incident, yet fearing for their lives are unable to speak out and tell more about this crime. A prominent Facebook group, "We are all Khaled Said", moderated by Wael Ghonim, brought attention to his death and contributed to growing discontent in the weeks leading up to the Egyptian Revolution of 25th January 2011.

This incident is one of many stories that Egyptians hear of besides house arrests, kidnapping and disappearing members of the public and others targeted. This all was Mubarak’s making under his tyrant state of emergency laws which gave him and others the right to deny any Egyptian his/her dignity and humanity.

The aftermath of the 25th January revolution in Egypt meant that there will be change in the economy, the politics of running the country and the social structure. I remember various campaigns during my undergraduate years in the university trying to recruit us, students, to join governmental parties- mostly the one that was chaired by Jamal Mubarak, possibly because he thought he was going to be the next president. Thankfully, this is not going to happen as he was the first to leave the country fearing for his safety and his family’s.

Q.Why give one man the power when you can form a Parliament of excellent men?
Above are the nominees who will be running for presidency in the current elections. It is worth mentioning that two of them are Nobel prize winners, Ahmed Zewail-Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry in 1999  and Mohamed Al Baradei who was the of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an inter-governmental organisation under the auspices of the United Nations, from December 1997 to November 2009. El Baradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
Others are influential people who people started repeating their names either as important figures who hold a political status of business men who called for change and expressed their anger against the government. Thankfully- or not- none of those running for election seem to have the strong charisma so far to sway all Egyptians' votes.

The two paths that I see Egypt taking today are either throwing the past constitution away, avoiding the same mistakes within the single authoritative regime or forming a democratic ruling parliament of the best Egyptian men and women equally to collectively rule the country and allow decisions to happen. 

There is no need for Western intervention at this stage, I believe that the Egyptian people have proven themselves worthy of everyone’s respect and admiration and worthy of living in this beautiful place called Egypt.




Friday, 18 March 2011

Steven Berkoff's King Oedipus at Liverpool Playhouse

In an exciting intriguing performance, King Oedipus (played by Simon Merrells), torn between unravelling his own life story and dismissing all doubts, makes a strong claim against Creon (Vincenzo Nicoli)- his wife's brother in the first scene of the play: 

"Creon, the soul of trust, my loyal friend from the start steals against me... so hungry to overthrow me he sets this wizard on me, this scheming quack, this fortune-teller peddling lies, eyes peeled for his own profit--seer blind in his craft!"

I was lucky enough to get a free ticket from Everyman theatre to attend the play in Liverpool's Playhouse. The playhouse itself is breathtaking with its high colourful ceiling and wall paper, a perfect setting for a great tragedy to unfold.

Steven Berkoff's retelling of the story brings to life the complexity of emotions that Oedipus goes through as a king who is faced expected to rule, as a husband expected to support his wife, a son who is longing for a mother, a friend who fears betrayal, and most of all a self lost in its own misery seeking self realisation and recognition from others.
As the tragedy unfolds, he realises the curse upon him as a dammed soul by the Gods. Unable to change the course of his own life, no  matter how much he tried in the past, he falls a victim of his own doing and consequently, he takes his own sight in the final scene as the truth becomes unbearable.

"O god-all come true, all burst to light!  O light-now let me look my last on you!  I stand revealed at last-cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands!" 

The most interesting and thought provoking thing about this play, in my opinion, is the role of the chorus. Having re-written and directed a few Greek tragedies myself like Medea and Pygamalion, I find that Berkoff's version of the play gave the chorus a more fundemental role more than the protagonist and other characters that at some scenes where overshadowed by the chorus' contemporary movements. Do I like this? I found myself wondering as I watched with wide eyes glowing in fascination. I think I Do! Does it work? Well, to many it did not- on various occasions throughout the play, the girl beside me kept whispering her frustration. I tried to avoid listening "politely" saying that it will all fall into place at the end and that she should be patient...
I was so captured by the play that I felt that Berkoff's play was only staged for me and only me. No other audience present but me. The musical scenes where interesting enough and relevant to the course of events unfolding. One criticism though is the choice of using "Zorba" in specific as Greek music in one of the scenes. A stereotypical mistake perhaps...? The sound of the accordion playing as the chorus moved about on the stage receiting various versus from the original script with a modern twist made my day! I could have watched the 8 chorus alone for another 4 hours non stop. So the question remains: did the chorus steal the main roles? Was the protagonist overshadowed by their performances? the answer has to be "Yes" from me.
Oedipus' wife/mother (Louise Jameson as Jocasta) was not I am afraid as strong as I would have liked her to be- compared to the Oedipus whose performance was superub conveying his aggression and arrogance. She moved, not like a queen, but as a defeated queeen from start to end not allowing the audience to feel the transition from not knowing that she is the one who gave Oedipus the child away, to realising that she has bedded her own child. There was something lacking, missing and truely to me, frustrating.
Again credit to Barkoff's directions, the chorus did a marvelous role in tying together the left pieces of the tragedy in a fun enjoyable way whilst conveying the main characters' thoughts, fears and worries. This gave the performance another dimension and proved that the tale is indeed timeless.