Sunday, September 25

Strawberry Fields Forever

When John Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields Forever, he was thinking "There was something wrong with me, I thought, because I seemed to see things other people didn't see. I thought I was crazy or an egomaniac for claiming to see things other people didn't see. As a child, I would say, 'But this is going on!' and everybody would look at me as if I was crazy. I always was so psychic or intuitive or poetic or whatever you want to call it, that I was always seeing things in a hallucinatory way. It was scary as a child, because there was nobody to relate to."

It is precisely this feeling of not fitting in, being almost constantly misunderstood, that motivated unique minds to express themselves differently. Thinking in retrospect, I find myself letting out a deep sigh, saying "yeah, tell me about it!" For I too belong to Strawberry Fields. At some moment in my life I was wondering "where the heck did the ship which had dropped me onto this planet disappeared? Why did my folks leave me behind?" Then it was like, "or maybe there ain't any folks of mine! What made you think you have any affiliations, Fantasia?"

Doubting yourself is by far the worst thing you can ever do. Yes, you become a natural haters-magnet (that's part of the package, you know) but your meanest enemies could not harm you a bit without you getting into this self-destructive mode. Still, as it turns out, all my folks allowed themselves to slip into it for some time.

The good news is, it turned out that I did have folks!.. My creed! *wide grin* Fellow aliens with the same hallucinations that I had! Hurray!.. I was not one of a kind!

But it took me a long long time to realize they existed. Wow!!.. What a moment that was! It was like discovering a fellow castaway on a neighboring island. How amazing can this be, huh? And then you start receiving these bottled messages and your jaw drops with awe at how similar your experiences have been. Then this alien leads you to another and another.. until you finally find it.. your spot, your world, your Xanadu .. strawberry fields.

The thing is.. although Lennon drove the name from an actual place where he had lived for sometime, he used the name to refer to this alien-dropping-spaceship, which still is not located, you see. So, ehm, this place actually exists in our heads. Yeah, we're sort of equipped with wide wide imagination. So we do see this place, we know it, we thrive on it, we're nourished by thinking about it, yet.. we can't get there. Even more, we know, in our sober state of mind, that we don't have a chance of ever getting there. It is unattainable.. and there lies the dilemma.

Well, I hope I didn't lose you by now.. sounding too vague and, maybe, spooky. Come on guys, I haven't gone that crazy.. at least not yet. As a matter of fact, I'm trying to analyze why generations and generations of my folks ended up shut into their own universe. (Mind you, it is a universe.. it is so vast.. stretching endlessly.. but way out there, far from our reality.) Not just so,.. Unable to resist this aggressive desire of wanting to change the actual world, they almost always completely screw up, causing this huge discomfort and disturbance, then end up in a very dramatic way, leaving their work undone.

Yes, they do inspire others. (You know, this sorta madness is contagious.) They have this huge impact on arts and culture. But our world, our crappy rusted f***ed-up real world, remains the same. Since the beginning of history.. Since the big bang or whatever.. it has remained the same! Peel off these illusionary layers of modernity, and just LOOK.. hey, IT IS THE DAMN SAME!

Hey life, I believe our worlds do not intersect! I'm off to Strawberry Fields. Yes, I would give up on you, you bitch! You enjoy devouring your lovers and thrive in the arms of your rapers. I HATE YOU!

You know what? I believe my alien buddies have made things even worse. Maybe if they had not interfered things would have been better in any way. You see, they have cast their pixy dust for the street smart guys to use it and sugar-coat all the ugliness there is.. prolonging the life of all evils! Now, thanks to these geniuses, people could live with tyranny, injustice, fraud, fascism, corruption, abuse, crime, deceit, divisions, wars, disease, famine, disaster, global warming.. you name it. All there is.. just wrap it in some shimmery, ethically, romantic, artistic ritual, as part of the process of moving on. Changing the world can be a great theme for a song.. perfect! But in reality, in practice, in our offices, societies, parliaments, governments, world order.. pouf

And as for all the victims falling along the way, there are all the f***ing tributes and stuff. Yeah, once someone is dead, s/he suddenly becomes a hero! But of course.. they've finally left this piece of crap alone! No more disturbance. Rest in peace!

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about lifeIt goes on." ~Robert Frost

Wednesday, September 21

Random Thoughts

The more I see men, the more spiritual I become.. thanking God that I was born a woman.

Friday, August 5

Me and Drepression

Ain't it great when you still got followers long after you quit blogging! Thanks all.

Don't know if I still have it.. I mean the ability to write. But since I'm struggling with my depression, and this struggle is all about trying and trying, then be it.

I've done it before. Taken myself as an example and laid it out there for others in hope it will help someone somewhere sometime. However, this time, I'm the one who needs help. It's the same old story.. trauma.. tears.. anger.. depression. And once you slip into this last one, you are sucked in.

Been there for years now since I was diagnosed with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Feels like it has become part of me, although I've been fighting it with all I've got. The thing is, it is very difficult to find true help with this battle. It's like a ghost, many talk about it while very few have ever seen one.. experienced what it is.. or is able to define it even.

My therapy sessions were like long arguments between me and the psychiatrist, who is an excellent person by the way, and highly professional. Still, he talks about human conditions which he had studied.. studied very well, but never experienced. He did his best to help me out. Can't say he failed. He was honest enough to tell me he has no exit door to offer.

One of our discussions was about the definition of depression. He went on and on about the medical condition and the chemistry of the brain, bla bla bla. Gotta admit, I learned a lot from the man. What I needed to know, though, was whether depression is a disease or a state of mind.

The good doctor insisted that depression is a disease, yet he made it clear that even when I am 100% cured I have to say bye-bye to my former self.. that is the Fantasia who existed before depression. That is why I thought that treating depression like some disease or virus which takes control over your body for some time and then becomes cured is so far from the truth. Maybe it is more accurate to describe it as a state that will continue to have its effect even after its dangers are reduced.

Our talks were more philosophical I would think. Of course, we discussed personal issues and stuff that led me to this. However, I guess that denying to see things the way they truly are is the root of all evil. Human beings spend so much time and energy in deceiving themselves. My experience with depression proves that the pain is due to the shock of someone who has been blindfolded for years and years and then all of a sudden you open your eyes to this strong light, and you can't deny, no matter how hard you try, that what you are seeing is real, has always been real, but you were simply unable to see it! And you can never go back pretending it didn't happen. It is an educational experience of the first degree.

Now, the only logical reason why someone suffering from depression cannot go back to point X before s/he was hit by this hurricane would be that this so-called "disease" gives you eyes.. which is the total opposite of what psychiatry claims.

What antidepressants do is simply shut down your nervous system, making you unable to feel anything, like constructing a thick glass wall between you and your emotions. The idea is to reduce the stress on your nervous system until you miraculously recover. Antidepressants are the materialization of hell. After 2 years, I stopped medication, without consulting my doctor. His opinion was I gotta live on this stuff no matter how long it may take, or else I'll crash.. like a computer crashes. Being a very scientific person, I waited and waited for things to change, until I could take it no more. Finally, I decided to trust my senses.

Is life any better? No. But I am definitely better.

This programming process that we go through ever since we come into this world is the true disease. Almost every single aspect of our lives is wrapped in lies. You are being trained to practice self-deceit and you go through life depending on this skill. You have to pretend that certain things have value, although they don't; because things which are really worthy are very few in life and are simply not enough to weave a whole lifetime around. So you gotta fabricate your own list of valuable stuff and toil to reach one by one, learn to celebrate when you get them and act dramatic when you lose them.

Of the truest words I found on depression are the words of someone who's been there, Elizabeth Wurtzel. In her book Prozac Nation she says:
"I start to feel like I can't maintain the facade any longer, that I may just start to show through. And I wish I knew what was wrong. Maybe something about how stupid my whole life is. I don't know. Why does the rest of the world put up with the hypocrisy, the need to put a happy face on sorrow, the need to keep on keeping on?... I don't know the answer, I know only that I can't. I don't want any more vicissitudes, I don't want any more of this try, try again stuff. I just want out. I've had it. I am so tired. I am twenty and I am already exhausted."

P.S. I've been on Prozac for over a year.

I can't forget this session when my doctor was trying so hard to convince me that life is worth trying, no matter how many times we fail to achieve what we aspire. He gave an example of a test they perform on lab rats. They place a rat in a cage with a piece of cheese, and every time the rat tries to take the cheese they give it a mild electric shock. The rat then spends longer time between each attempt until it completely gives up and stops trying, although they remove the electric current. The doctor then told me: "You see? If the rat tried for once after it had given up, it would have finally got the cheese." I couldn't help but laugh out loud, and I said, "Doc, are you really expecting me to be more stupid than your rat? If a rat can learn its lesson and spare itself the pain, then the least I can do is learn when to quit trying."

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 19

Part 2: The Secret of the Sacred Bitch


So, why do I scare you so much? I do wonder!

Is it the divinity in me? Something that I cannot help being.

Was there no other possible way of getting even other than dragging me in the mud, dumping me into the whirlpools of shame, cutting off my throat, burning me, and scattering my remains in hell? Can't you see, you fool, that you're becoming my slave once more? You sure are, for you're dedicating your life to demonizing me, you idiot! And it's not doing you any good. It's not doing anybody any good. Look around you, the whole life lies in ruins.. wounded beyond healing. Just because of the stupidity of a bunch of psychotic idiots who started this machinery in motion.. your glorious grandfathers! Yeah, smile, sucker! You've inherited every bit of their chauvinism, bigotry and greed.

Smile idiot!


At the age of 9, I went on a field trip with my class to the Pharaonic Village in Giza. It is a living museum, a miniature of how life used to be like in Ancient Egypt. What a charming trip it was! We sailed down canals which go through the whole village, passing by replicas of tombs, temples, houses.. watching actors planting, making paper out of papyrus; women weaving and making perfumes. It all left me mesmerized. And that same year I would ask Santa to bring me a time machine! Imagine a kid experiencing this type of nostalgia. Life sucked back then, but definitely it wasn't anything like how it sucks right now.

*Sighs* OK, so we were on this boat, with a nice guide from the Village who told us all the stories behind what we were seeing. We stopped by many monuments of Pharaohs, gods and goddesses. Of all of them, I somehow got very attracted to the statue of the warrior goddess Sekhmet.

Back then I was still being introduced to the world of mythology. I had not known about the existence of similar goddesses in other cultures and found it so interesting that Pharaohs fought battles behind this female goddess. Why did the men choose a female to lead them in warship? It seemed a mystery to me. Why a lioness, not a lion? Certainly a lioness never comes to mind when words like bravery, heroism, fight, battle, glory or the likes are mentioned.. so I could not really understand it. I thought like Pharaohs too must have had their eccentricities.. lol.

So, we continued our trip, took photos and all. Then we went to the gift shop to collect some souvenirs . Mind you, at that time the Village was only a fraction of what it has become today. It has immensely expanded ever since. Yet, for us, what we'd seen was too much already. We'd never seen history come to life in such a way.

My friends started picking their favorite items. I had little money with me, and thought I'd better spend it wisely. It is no surprise that the only thing I thought to be worthy of purchase was the object which had inflamed my curiosity.. I bought a postcard with the image of Sekhmet.

On the bus, while on our way back to the school, I kept staring at her, almost talking to her and begging her to explain it to me. “So what is your story lady?” How have you managed to become the bravest of the brave; the invincible bloodthirsty warrior that you are?


It is amazing how my feelings towards this lady remained unchangeable when many years later I saw her dignified statues in the British Museum. I actually spent a lot of time by her side there, telling her memories of the good old days. I apparently still admire her, although I am a person who utterly denounces all sorts of violence. To me, though, she stood for much better things.

Sekhmet means 'all powerful' or 'the one who is powerful'. This goddess also received many other titles when her religion flourished, all of them depicting how mighty she was. She's been called the Mistress of Dread, the Lady of Slaughter, Lady of Flames, Scarlet Lady (related to blood), the One Before Whom Evil Trembled, and The Avenger of the Wronged. She was also thought to be the reason behind diseases, and thus the only one who has their cures. So, her powers and knowledge were sought after by physicians too.. not only warriors. And as she brought war, she also brought peace.

Now, you see how she gathered polar elements of cruelty and mercy, disease and healing, conflict and reconciliation... etc. Her rage was enough to evoke ultimate destruction. She had to be calmed down, and the only way to soothe her was through music! Music would keep her happy and relaxed.

I absolutely fell in love with this lady.. the lioness with a taste for music; the one who healed the sick and wounded coz she felt responsible for them. Other warrior goddesses wouldn't give a damn about the sufferings of those affected by their wrath. Maybe they deserved to be viewed as bitches in a way.. but certainly not the lioness! It seemed so fitting, though, that men would work around their fear of her by dragging her image into the lowest abyss of shame. Yeah, the same old scenario! Won't you try for once being more creative, dudes?? Just for change?

The 'Labua' Complex

OK.. For those of you who don't know, in Arabic, the worst name to be given to a female is that of 'lioness'.. that is, if a woman is said to be a 'labua' (which is the Arabic word for 'lioness',) it means she is the most disdained being to walk the face of earth.

When I first learned about the horrible implications of this “insult” I found it hard to understand what the metaphor was all about. The common explanation you'd receive was that a lioness sleeps around.. she ain't faithful to one sexual partner! This is just so stupid, isn't it?.. For one, what is the difference between a lioness and any other female – or male – animal in this respect?? Hello!! Anybody seen a giraffe who spends her life with one sex partner?? or even a fish??? WTF is this about?

Ancient Egyptians actually made sense when they chose to fight under the image of the lioness. People used some logic back then, and could clearly see that the lioness was in fact the best hunter in the animal kingdom. So, while Mr. lazy lion lies there sleeping most of his days, she was the one doing everything, including teaching her cubs how to hunt. A lion actually wins his fights by the mere shape and size of his mane!! (How adequate!) But rarely engages in a real fight, or displays actual courage. He depends on his intimidating appearance and counts on the females of the tribe to feed him. Plus, he's not any different from his selfish human counterparts, for whenever he finds an easy prey that does not require much effort, and thus decides to hunt once in a while, he never shares his meal!!

That's exactly why today the lion became the icon of bravery and heroism! You see? Don't you just love our patriarchal societies? I mean, the guys hardly make any effort in identifying with the exact fitting types!.. Not forgetting, of course, to demonize their former goddesses who scared the sh*t out of them.

Macho Macho!

To be continued.. Justify Full

Monday, January 4

Do I Scare the SH*T Out of You?

This should have been a post for Halloween. Sorry I missed it. Been dealing with my own ghosts and stuff. But, no matter where I turn, I can't help but notice the amount of horror that a free , intellectual woman is greeted with in our society. Sometimes, it's too hilarious.. However, other times the defense mechanism which is automatically triggered at such a moment causes its beholder to turn offensive. Now, this is indeed pathetic, yet unacceptable.. and should not be tolerated.

Alright, check this out. Independent women in our society are constantly under attack. It's fine if you have a job, but it is not fine at all if you've really got career ambitions and professional goals. It's not fine at all if you're seeking financial security. It's not fine at all if you're planning to hold a high position one day. It's not fine at all to seek to be really competent and perfect your work. Why? Because you're a woman! For God's sake, you're created to be dependent! You're the pet of our human world! What the hell are you thinking? Career? Ambitions? Money? You wanna make your own money? that is not inherited or bestowed upon you by a generous husband? How can you call yourself a woman?

Women here don't get jobs to work or become productive. They have jobs so that society can indulge in the lie that women are enjoying their full rights. The majority of women have jobs that are not mentally challenging. Their employers always keep in mind that they won't stay long enough to hold any managerial position. Some workplaces cut the crap and make it clear they are employing men only. They don't even care what "a few" would think about that. They are putting the blame on women for being so unreliable.

If, however, they come across a woman who has got clear goals, who is career oriented, and has got what it takes to really succeed.. the applause doesn't last for long.

Somehow a woman cannot be separated from her personal life. She carries it with her everywhere.. you name it.. the office, the street, the club, the hair salon, the mall.. anywhere on earth. It's always the same old story.. Are you single? Why? Don't you intend to get married? What? You want a post-graduate degree? What for? You have career ambitions? You are I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T??!! What does that mean?

Let's say she gets married.. All expectations then revolve somewhere around her regaining her sanity and forgetting all about this independence crap. You're a wife and a mother, and you're not allowed to ask questions about the husband/father thing. We're not kidding here. You're a WOMAN.. remember?

Yeah, hell I do. I do remember when I took driving lessons. Everybody was asking my father (not even me) why he was allowing such a thing. "Do you really intend to let her have her own car?" they would ask. And when I traveled alone for the first time, it was like "Wow! How could she live on her own?" No rationale whatsoever. They expect you to be responsible for a whole family, yet they can't trust that you can take care of yourself!! And if you ask simple logical questions, like how do you expect me to be naive, weak, ignorant, vulnerable and yet at the same time become a super wife and mom? you get anything except what could be classified under "answer".

Men have always feared women. It is part of who they are. There is a whole culture built on this ancient instinctive fear.. it is manifested in myths, legend, fairy tales, traditional practices, religions, literature, language, art.. all possible forms. A very good read on this issue is Wolfgang Lederer's Fear of Women, published in 1968. It is a pity that libraries all over the world are so lacking when it comes to this subject.

In this book, the author argues that women have always been mysterious. Their body functions perform miracles that were beyond men's abilities to understand. The fact that the continuity of the whole human race lay in the wombs of women was indeed scary. Giving birth, a human coming out of another human, this oneness that splits into two.. that was also scary. The male's exterior genitals made him so vulnerable and insecure. While women have their genitals and all their 'magical powers' intact. They are tough in handling pain, yet they are smooth, delicate and charming. That's why a woman was often associated with the serpent, smooth yet deadly.

I'll just quote a few lines here. Lederer says:

"We have forgotten, or tried to forget, how much we are in awe of woman's biological functions, her menstruating and her child-bearing, and how much we abhor the smelly fluids of her organicity, the many secret folds and wrinkles of her inevitable decay. We are trying to deny her threat to our manhood, her serpent's tongue and the sharp teeth in her two bloody mouths. We refuse to believe in the lure of her depths, and the infinite demandingness of her void. We belittle her sexual challenge and deride, uneasily, her fighting strength..."

Another interesting read, which also draws on the serpent imagery, is Youssef Zeidan's novel Shadow of the Serpent (Zil al-Af’a). In a series of letters from an anthropologist to her adult daughter, the author unravels many episodes of human history and the factors which shaped this complex relationship between the sexes. Fear, is man's most instinctive and deeply hidden emotion towards women.. it is indeed which kept this huge snowball rolling. And, through those letters, the daughter is learning how she, as a female, has fallen from grace.

It seems that whoever refuses to become a fallen queen.. whoever attempts to regain her throne.. rekindles this dormant volcano. It seems the traditional wisdom goes along those lines: women cannot be contained.. unless enslaved, they turn into goddesses.

To be continued....

Friday, January 1

Yes, It's Me

Dear friends and readers of Fantasia's World,

I'm so sorry for letting you all down through those last months. I've been receiving your messages of love and support, urging me to go on writing, and surrounding me with a sort of warmth that has touched me so deeply.

For those of you who haven't noticed my absence, I say: skip this post.

For those of you who did, pardon me and spare me the pain of reliving those past times in order to provide an explanation.

Just wanna tell you all that I LOVE YOU. And just as you've been there for me, I owe it to you all to be there for you. This is YOUR blog now, I can't claim any ownership over it any more. If you want to read more from me, then this is what you shall get.

I may have started this blog for very personal reasons at one point. But you certainly gave me the inspiration and the dream of reaching out to serve bigger aims.

Thank you all. You gave me something so precious.. so real, although it exists in the virtual world. Thanks to you, I'm back. I'm back to my self. I'm back to life. And I'm back to this blog.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, March 8

Happy Women's Day!

It is the 8th of March.. which means that today we celebrate the International Women's Day. Fantasia's World Blog would like to wish all women all the best, and we invite men to celebrate this day with women in their families.


Tuesday, December 23

Notes on a Scandal

This post has got nothing to do with the movie holding the same name. It just popped into my head while writing about what our Egyptian society would classify as a scandal.

A few weeks ago a horrible murder took place in the 6th of October city, precisely in one of the new luxurious compounds which were initially built on the outskirts of Cairo before the 6th of October turned from being a mere district into a governorate . Two female students, Heba (daughter of the famous singer, Laila Ghofran) and her friend Nadine ( daughter of an Egyptian engineer who works and lives in Saudi Arabia) were brutally stabbed to death inside Nadine's family apartment.

It is generally expected that the Arab media would prove to be more brutal than the murderer himself in its coverage of such cases. The newspapers, which were first to announce the news, have extremely increased the dosage this time, though.. seeking to exploit the fact that one of the victims is the daughter to a celeb. Mind you, I'm not talking about some tabloid papers.. No! These are daily newspapers that Egyptians read every morning to check local and world news and daily columns written by the top writers in Egypt. Thus, they are considered to be a trusted source of information, and usually people take what they say for granted. Yet, this time, we found journalists competing hysterically in spicing up the details related to the murder, with a special focus on the moral conduct of the two girls (the victims). They spread rumors in the form of news from their trusted sources, and made headlines out of imaginary crap, building upon a social stereotype which basically condemns a girl living alone, even if she is a nun! Those journalists kept making their wildest guesses and casting their dices on the best they could get out of this story, which instantly became a huge buzz in Egypt.

It breaks my heart to go through the details, but I will just mention some examples to elaborate on how our media has got a very strong hand in misleading public opinion, of course without being bound by any ethical codes or rules or laws to organize this chaos. In Egypt, an editor-in-chief gets in trouble if he published fabricated info concerning our president's health.. but it is fine if his paper is totally fabricated from cover to cover. Just don't come near the presidency. It is true the press enjoys great freedom.. You can accuse anybody of anything you wish, without even having to prove it. We have a huge problem with the definition of "freedom" in this country, and usually what we consider to be freedom is nothing but chaos and meanness. Just look at our streets for God's sake! Isn't this the land of absolute freedom??

Anyway, back to Heba and Nadine. And I'd like to apologize in advance for mentioning the following rumors, which, I repeat, were written as facts directly delivered from security sources, friends, and neighbors to the victims.

Newspapers said that Heba and Nadine were drug addicts, who were notorious for their multiple relationships with guys and crazy partying in the apartment where they were both killed. It was said that during those parties the girls would invite friends from both sexes, serve drugs and alcohols, and dance till the early hours of morning. Journalists were specifically keen on suggesting the idea of "free sexual relationships" which took place during those parties, with special focus on the two victims.. not forgetting to mention the names of their boyfriends, who, according to colleagues and neighbors (the papers said,) were used to spending hours with the girls in the privacy of this villa!! Yeah, all of a sudden the apartment turned into a villa.

As to how the girls were stabbed and the possible reason behind the crime (which journalists claimed was according to police investigations), it was said that revenge was a primary suspect, because both girls were stabbed several times, Nadine's throat and tongue were cut, and it was said that a post-mortem examination revealed the presence of explosives inside her womb!! You may wonder why this sadism was mainly directed towards Nadine, although she ain't the famous one.. Well, I have got no idea.. But I guess it is because the apartment was hers, and she was the one who lived alone.. which is such a shame according to our local customs and traditions. Basically, people assume that a girl living alone would normally indulge in all the worst kinds of behavior, including sex, of course - being the taboo of all taboos here - and in this case, one sex partner won't be enough, she has to have several.. while drinking and doing drugs are just to complete the stereotypical image.

It was said that this "revenge" was either carried out by one of the girls' boyfriends, out of jealousy, or by a drug dealer!! And details just kept getting more disgusting, always ending by talking about Nadine's father who lives in Saudi Arabia without knowing anything about his daughter, while sending her a monthly allowance of 11,000 EGP (yeah, coz 10,000 won't be a convincing figure, the extra 1000 would make it sound more precise and thus causing people to believe all the other details) and that she had recently lent her boyfriend 40,000 EGP to be able to buy a new car!.. Oh la la!

Why turn a simple apartment into a villa? and what have those amounts of money got to do with the murder case? and why is it considered to be such a shame? Well, again.. I don't have the answers.. but probably because a society where the majority suffers from poverty will definitely feel curious about how the girls who belong to the high society of Cairo live. Thus, those kinds of details are guaranteed to verify the stereotypical image that those people have become familiar with through the Egyptian TV series, soaps and films, which always show the rich family as leading a life full of corruption and vice.

So, to make a long story short.. It wasn't long before the truth came out (and this drove people even more crazy because they expected this real-life crime series to last longer). The facts were as follows:
1- Heba was officially married to the guy they named once as her boyfriend and later as her fiancé. She called him after the murderer ran away and that's how journalists got his name.
2-Nadine's autopsy report proved that she was a virgin, her so-called boyfriend was a colleague she loved, has proposed to her family and was asked to wait until she completes her education.
3-The murderer was found to be a 19 year old blacksmith who came to rob the house, thinking that both girls were already asleep. But, Heba, who was still awake, saw him and started screaming. He was already shaking, so he kept stabbing her hysterically to make her shut up. Her screams caused Nadine, who was sleeping in her room to wake up. Then during a struggle, Nadine injured the guy's hand with the knife he held, running to the kitchen to grab a knife.. he then ran after her stabbing her repeatedly in the back, and when she fell, he thought she died, but she held on to his feet.. then he decided to cut her throat to finish her.

Now it's questions time.. Why would our society insist on making a scandal out of this crime? A scandal involving the victims!.. while the murderer in almost all similar cases has always had some kind of a ready-made scenario on his side.. from being a hurt lover, driven to commit the crime out of jealousy, to the young victim of poverty, to even suggesting a conspiracy theory in which the Egyptian police resorted to dragging an innocent guy to present him to the public as the murderer!.. Why?.. To spoil the fun of the masses, maybe!

Anyway, I've written about this terrible crime before, in Arabic, presenting a kind of humble reading of what might be the hidden motives behind the industry of social scandals in Egypt.. Why a female victim of murder is automatically shifted to become the subject of a scandal, and may indeed be considered a criminal herself in a different context, in which a very strange definition of "honor" usually appears.. much related to the idea of "honor killings." In this context, the assumed violation of social customs and traditions is in fact viewed by the majority of people to be a very serious crime.. much more serious than murder.. to such a degree which makes the act of murder itself a righteous act or even "the sole cure" in such a case.

A female exercising free will over her body is committing the most horrible crime. Anything else can be forgiven. Anything else can be dealt with. Any other crime has got a fitting punishment, and in such a case, the criminal can indeed be forgiven after undergoing this punishment.. even if it was execution.. he can still have a good name, and his family won't live with the burden of shame hanging over its head for a lifetime. Anything and everything can be forgiven, except a female out of control. This is the scariest notion.. It is a social obsession.. It is the greatest fear of every man in our society. Families are constantly under the stress of this ever present nightmare. And it just keeps getting worse and worse as their daughters grow up.

I often get criticized when I tell my female friends that I pity Egyptian men, and that I can, on a certain level, sympathize with them. I might be asking for too much if I expect them to accept this coming from me. Yet, it won't be fair if even someone who has got the insight to realize such strong influences shaping men in our society, ever since their early childhood, can not bring herself to understand their motivations and inner struggles. Yes, we have all the right to be frustrated and to consider our men to be the worst ever at times, but we must not forget that they just can't help it.

Imagine this.. A little boy being taught from his early childhood not to mix with girls, being urged to play the role of a bodyguard for his sister/s, and even his own mother in some cases. He is bullied at school by merely naming his sister or his mother (not to mention the dirty language dictionary which mainly focuses on using the mother as the source of shame. For example, mother f***er and others). This boy then grows up to see women as a source of shame and scandal.. his own shame and his own scandal. His next mission is to go through puberty and teenage years, suffering from feelings of internalized shame, because at this age he fantasizes about females a lot, yet he cannot understand his mixed feelings towards them.. a love/hate sort of relationship. Add to that the feeling of guilt that a teenager always carries like a bulk of chains weighing down his/her soul, merely because they are normal human beings who have got a reproductive system!

Then, this young man goes through the biggest challenge off all, a sort of "to be or not to be" kind of dilemma. He is brought up to believe that his manhood lies between his thighs.. And now he became old enough to put this to the test. So, what will it be? Man or Not Man?

There are 2 ways to find out: Marriage or else.. I won't go through the second option.. it needs a separate post. Let's say he chooses marriage. Then again he faces another challenge.. not the one you have in minds.. no.. finding "the one" is not really a big deal when choosing an Egyptian wife.. The challenge here is not finding real love, it is finding the absolute virgin.

In a society like ours, a mere virgin just isn't good enough.. every man's quest while mating is to find the absolute virgin. Well, I'd better clarify what that means.

An AV is a never-been-touched, never-been-in-love, never-had-a-relationship, kind of girl. This is different from the simple "virgin".. Coz it is taken for granted that the girl must be a virgin in the biological sense! She has to bleed on her wedding night. That is out of question. The absolute virgin goes beyond her hymn.. Her husband has to be the first man in her life. It is even better if she told him he was her prince charming.. and she would really do the perfect job if she was able to convince him that his ghost used to visit her in her dreams.. a very common proto-image inspired by some Egyptian movie classics.

Let's say our guy (thinks he has) succeeded in his mission, and he was able to find his half human, half angel AV. Is the nightmare finally over? Hehehe.. you wish!

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 26

Are You Making Your Country Poorer?

This post is a special dedication to all the bitter, ever-complaining, dissatisfied housewives.. who were once my school buddies, university comrades, and work colleagues, but have chosen to stay at home after marriage.

Sorry, all. You have always found me to be your comforting pillow.. always an attentive listener, with whom you can split your pains, and someone you can always count on for relief. You've always found me to have a great ability to sympathize, or even empathize. I realize the amount of your shock at my sudden loss of those abilities, and I understand how painful this could be at times, especially when it adds up to your bitterness and misery. I'm sorry, gals.. I can't do it.. Not when it comes to this.. and certainly not when you are responsible adults who are supposed to be accountable for your decisions.

I've always understood your weaknesses, and swallowed your follies.. being careful not to criticize you or blame you until you are totally in the right mood for thinking and re-evaluating your acts. I was extra gentle with matters of the heart.. less with life-defining decisions.. yet constantly focusing on absorbing your pain and frustration. I am still the same. Only one thing is too many for me.. and that is when you complain that you are stuck in a bad marriage, having to stick to a tight budget (complaining about the high cost of living), and that you can't help transferring your anger unto your kids! Now, that's way too much. I can't absorb that.. and you'd better be ready to find your emotional sponge turn rock-solid.

Again and again I say.. there is a huge difference between being a victim and being a criminal. Turning into a criminal because you've been yourself victimized is not a good excuse to get out with, for one.. and won't change the fact that now you've become a criminal. So, be an adult and face it. You made a huge mistake.. and even if the whole world deceived you into thinking that you did your family a favor, you can not deceive yourself, especially after seeing all of those disasters that you are causing everyone around you.. in addition to harming your country as well.

I seriously don't get it! You said that your family needs all your time, so that's why you don't need a job.. then you complain of loneliness and the huge spare time you are never able to fill! You said that your husband has got a handsome income that would make your slim salary seem ridiculous, that's why you're better off without your work.. then you complain that prices are rising and that your budget is getting tighter! You said that work for women is not primary.. then you envy your ex-colleagues whenever one of them gets promoted or whenever you see one of'em on TV! You just turned into one of those horrible women you once hated and criticized. You are searching for the faults in others to prove that nobody is perfect, as if this will calm you deep inside, instead of trying to improve your life or make it a happier one.

Anyway, if a woman makes this choice, it won't be logical of her to expect sympathy from others. Believe me, it is not because the other busy bees out there are too envious of a coach potato. Those who told you this tale are the ones responsible for your misery. Simply, I can't forgive you for adding up to the poverty of our country. Yeah, that's right. You are making this country poorer.. so at least do not complain, baby.

Belonging to the third world is not like being a member in a club. A country earns its place in the so-called third world because it belongs there.. it is poor, has a slow development rate, and does not contribute much (if any) to global economy or development (for example, in scientific research). Hence, if a country does what you do.. that is, become dependent on other productive countries.. it fits into the third world. And as long as half the population in those countries think the way you do, then those countries have got zero chance in improvement.

To be able to imagine how weak our production rate is, I'll just give a couple of examples.. The average productivity of an Egyptian citizen is estimated to be around 1000$ a year.. and it tends to be fixed around this figure through many years.. while in Israel for example, a citizen produces the equivalent of 15000$/year.. And in a country which used to belong to the third world only a few years ago like Singapore, this amount reaches 45000$ per capita.. meaning that the productivity of the Singaporean citizen is 45 times as much as that of his Egyptian counterpart!! Now, where can this get us for God's sake?

It is as simple as this.. there are 78 million Egyptians.. half of them are brought up to think that their primary role in life is to reproduce and serve their households. Then the whole population is dependent on the other half to feed them and satisfy their basic needs.. How lovely!

By sitting at home, you are just turning into a huge burden on economy. You keep adding to this burden when you keep getting more children to keep yourself occupied at home. The end result is more poverty and misery for thousands. Urban women are the worst of the lot.. they are not productive at all. A rural woman bakes her own bread, plants her vegetables, raises chicken, sews clothes...etc. While all what urban women do is consume, consume, consume. Not only do they consume goods.. but also endless hours on the phone and in front of TV to keep themselves entertained. They consume energy.. which (in case you don't know) is becoming rarer and rarer, and is expected to be the number one reason behind endless wars to come.

So, back to urban women.. What do they produce? What is their share in the national income? Zero.

The government has contributed to this crisis when it failed to provide adequate daycare service to help their female employees stay in the workforce; hence, making it easier for the private sector to get away without having any obligation towards female workers. Why on earth would a company owner bother to provide a service that the government itself does not require or care to provide? The ridiculous alternative of the 2 years maternal leave (in the public sector) only means that those women do not actually work, or else how would 2 years of absence be OK with them? Those women then return (if they ever do) to resume their work in the same position they occupied before their leave, falling back behind their colleagues who got their promotions on time. The private sector is even worse.. it gives a maternal leave of 3 months, after which you can bid your job goodbye. Most probably what a woman pays for daycare and transportation to be able to carry on this daily tour (home-daycare-work-daycare-home) will be enough to swallow her full income. Thus, she finds herself compelled to stay at home with her baby.

Now, let's do the maths to find out why Egypt continues to be a poor country.

1- With the gender gap in favor of males in literacy rates, we have to confront the fact that only 59.4% of females could read and write, 93% of which complete the primary stage, while only 67% attend secondary school.
2- Only 23% of women join the labor force.. they make 22% of the total labor force in Egypt.
3- Of those women in the labor force (23%), only 22.6% hold a university degree, (which means that only 5% of Egyptian women are highly educated working citizens! Freakish!) 16% of those are in administrative posts, and 28% hold professional and technical posts.

Aside from those horrifying figures, one might think that a crisis of this magnitude must be a top priority while designing reform programs.. yet, unfortunately, we can not count on that.

In her "Egypt: A Poverty Profile," Professor Mahassen Mostafa Hassanin says:
Reform programs tend to work to the benefit of men than to the benefit of women. Macroeconomic policies concentrate on the reallocation of resources to achieve both stability and growth rather than on microeconomic issues and gender differentiation. Development programs usually address males while neglecting females.
Not only so, but the pop culture is another huge obstacle, acting as a strong barrier, preventing girls from aspiring to play an active role in society. And I quote again from the same source:

Equality and equity among males and females represents the cornerstone of this new development paradigm which concentrates on sustainability of the development process and this requires changing the prevailing social paradigm, and re-educating men and women on how to work together to create a more humanitarian world order.
On why Egyptian women would ever consider having a job , Professor Hassanin says:
The pattern of women in the development process is controversial. Women devote nearly all their income to the welfare of their family and still have to comply with the constraints of their gender role in the society. This makes the cost of their participation in the development process rather excessive.
And that is so true.. Women are rather pushed into the workforce than deciding to join it out of a personal will.. They lack empowerment, ambition and a sound environment which might inspire them to be productive citizens.

For further elaboration on this point, let's check out what was in a paper called "Women and Poverty," by Ms. Sahar Nasr, as part of the Joint Report of the National Council for Women and the World Bank (2003).. In her research on women headed households, Nasr has found that most of those women are widowed. Which means that as long as there is a man at home, poor women would never consider having a job.
Poverty has Higher Price for Women and Girls. While poverty per se is not a gender concern, women, along with their children, tend to be more vulnerable to poverty than men.

Poor women often face a triple disadvantage:

•Heavy reproductive burden and their non-market contributions are often not recognized—undervaluing a significant part of their economic contributions.
•Social concerns may also limited women’s access to labor market and the type of jobs from which they can choose.
•Finally, women generally have lower educational achievements, reducing their earnings ability.
Do you realize now that you can not just sit there and complain? Your country needs you, because you are one of the very few young, healthy, well-educated women who expected to be productive, and any development would simply not happen as long as you insist on throwing all your education and personal skills against the wall and sitting there doing nothing.


Wednesday, November 5


In celebration of Obama's win.. and in response to this positive air of change which proves that dreams are indeed possible to achieve.. and in expressing hope that one day nations will rise above all kinds of discrimination, to finally co-exist in harmony and declare the victory of their humanity.. I thought about re-publishing the following post, which I wrote more than a year ago, calling for keeping the faith in our dreams. I seize this opportunity to revive this call and share the optimism that the wind of change will reach us here.

I have a dream.. that one day Egypt will have a woman president.

A Woman with a Dream

When Martin Luther King stood there, giving his public speech in 1963, saying his famous "I have a dream...", he certainly had no idea that his dream will come true. He had no idea that his speech will be a historic one, or that it will later be ranked the top American speech of the 20th century. He was only being sincere and dedicated to his cause. He spoke his mind and heart, giving the American people a peek on his dream: that one day both blacks and whites will exist harmoniously as equals.

That was a black man, whose dream exceeded himself to include all people of his race. He did not hide his dream in shame. He did not say that everything is OK as long as he himself is not negatively affected by the racial discimination practiced in his country. No, he made it his mission to fight for the rights of the vulnerable and to stand up in the face of the powerful. He knew that nothing will change as long as he and others are silent. He believed in the power of reason and justice. He understood the value of words and how taboos can be broken by talking about them. He stood there, solid and firm, expressing a beautiful dream, where black and white kids can play together, without feelings of hatred or superior/inferior relationships to destroy their innocence.

Just like it took a black man to fight for the rights of the blacks, it takes a woman to fight for the rights of women. It takes a woman with a dream; a dream of a better future, where men and women would coexist harmoniously as equals in society. It takes a woman with a mission and determination to bring down all the false taboos and misconceptions about her sex. It takes a woman whose dream extends beyond herself and her present wishes. It takes a woman who believes that she's not an inferior and that she deserves to be treated with respect. It takes a woman who believes that she was created equal, and that she holds the same brain that men hold. It takes a woman who's not afraid of imaginary ghosts haunting her life. It takes a woman who believes in herself and her abilities. It takes a woman who is strong enough to face the winds of opposition and ridicule. It takes a woman who won't give up the fight for justice and humanity. It takes a woman who will stand up and face the world with her dream.

Don't say that most girls are happy with the way things are. You know better. Your level of awareness is a gift, a precious gift that only a few get to possess. And with this gift comes a responsibility. Your awareness enabled you to understand why those vulnerable girls are silent, why they act satisfied, and why they even sometimes stand against their own rights. They are victims of a massive brainwash, just like black men were once made to believe that they were born black to be marked as salves, and that it was their inescapable destiny.

Patriarchs used the same mechanism used by Great Britain when they invaded African countries and made its inhabitants become their salves. The British colonialism was clever enough to convince those slaves that they were born slaves. They made them believe that it is a bless that they now found masters who can take care of them, because slaves can’t think for themselves. They even turned their colonialism into a crusade of some kind, where the mission was to bring civilization to these savage lands. The idea of “The White Man’s Burden” was so popular and found its believers among the colonists themselves. The “burden” was that of educating and civilizing the black barbarians. It turned intro a sacred mission, just like that of the Arab men, who want to protect women from themselves. So now we have ”the Arab Man’s Burden.”
Women are the only ones who can fight their battle. Just like blacks were liberated by the blacks, women will be liberated by women. Therefore I'll continue to say, "I have a dream."
"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid" - Audre Lorde