Waiting for the World to Help Free Libya

We sit in our living rooms, waiting for the world to help free Libya from a monstrous dictatorship.

We watch and wonder when the world will act as one. This time it’s different, each liberation is bound to be different. Yemen is in the offing, as well as Bahrain, Oman and others. And then there’s the wonders yet to come out of Algeria and Saudi Arabia. Meantime the Ivory Coast continues to suffer under an illegitimate regime.

I for one am quite tortured. It’s hard to sleep when so many cannot for far different reasons. The people cowering behind doors in Tripoli and its environs haunt me most right now.

Meantime, the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt continue to have to deal with counter-revolutionary types, unwilling or reticent to let go control, to let go access to a privileged elite lifestyle. I imagine unliberated, needy, privileged wives harassing their beleaguered counter-revolutionary husbands, egging them on to find a way to keep, get more….and vice-versa, especially amongst the professional classes.  Some of  their sons and daughters must be part of the revolution and thus, a family civil war, crises of conscience. Those who have lost sons and daughters and who support revolution and change are keepers of the threshold, watchers at the gate; they will ensure the sacrifice of their children does not go unrecognized and justified by serious change for the good. It is a fluid and terrifying social mix. Stories, programmes, pictures, blogs, news items–emerge across the gamut of media. Nail-biting stuff.

We watch and wonder, reflect upon closer to home. The Independent (UK) newspaper worthily goes for Belarus’ and Europe’s ‘last dictatorship’. Now is the time. In our own backyard.

In a very old church last night, in my rural fen village in Cambridgeshire, we were called out to support ‘localism’, a code cover name for Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ programme, a cover-up for government not being brave enough to put a Robin Hood tax on the bankers (or other means to get back what the taxpayer has spent to save the banks), close the tax loops for the rich right away, deal with delinquent big tax avoidance. The ghosts of the village ancestors were surely rising from their graves to demand justice. There was resentment and anger in the old church pews, not a sense of inspiration to go forth and do yet more volunteering to save our souls and keep the old, sick and vulnerable from further encroachment upon their ‘benefits.’ This is where the Murdoch fascist right wing propaganda approach (read Fox News in USA) leads to: stopping support and encouraging everyone to go back to the bad old times when suffering was normal but very British indeed. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer; the middle-class squeeze encourages people to work more if you want to earn more and take advantage of any loopholes you can. Taxes will continue to rise as well as the cost of everything but you will get less for your money. You will join the poor or if you are extra cunning, greedy and don’t waste your time being political (just work more for money), you might get richer, but unlikely, as it’s a scam. The elite have it planned, you’ll be their Victorian servant soon (read economic slave) as the Poles are leaving the country. And the Russians are really smart migrants, moving up the economic ladder so fast one can hardly catch them at it. They know what hard times really can be.

So it’s all very well to watch the revolutions on the media, just watch out you don’t get too riled up and get involved.

 

Isis Unveiled, Inshallah: A Response to the Revolutions in North Africa and the Gulf States

2 March 2011

 

She reveals Herself to us

As Her ancient homelands

Erupt in revolution

 

She speaks through

Many mouths

One truth

 

They do not call Her Name

But when they call His

She is also there

 

Faces bared or covered

Arms naked or clothed

Hands raised as one

 

The March to Freedom

In Her Old Lands

Is His March too

 

Man and woman, child and adult,

One Spirit, encompassing religion,

Spirituality in the yearning for freedom

 

And yes, Death stalks the sands

Pours out upon the streets

And the wailing of the women in black

 

Tears my heart

For the wild children of Freedom’s Call

We sit in the waiting room

 

Over in the so-called West

Watching the fabled East

With trepidation

 

Where our mutual sun always rises

Where the moon symbolizes beauty

Where Red Cross and Crescent Moon

 

Side by side on the Tunisian border

Serve The People

Sharing an old history

 

We must look up and back

And inward, around and through

To understand where we must stand

 

The pain, the agony, the torture

Of needs unmet for too long

Human together we shall sing

 

The Song of Freedom

Hope in Our Time

To hell with vested interests

 

Just this once, forever,

Can we get it right

All of us

 

As we face the even greater battle

Ahead, as winds and seas,

The very substance of earth

 

Also demand justice,

An intelligent response

From a liberated species

 

 

 

 

Isis Unveiled: Letters from Egypt, The Freedom March & The Shared Pain of Revolution

Lucie Duff Gordon’s Letters from Egypt (1st edition, 1865) reveal a woman in love with her adopted country, an Egypt that has changed in many ways since the 1860’s when she was writing to her husband Alick (Sir Alexander Duff Gordon) and her mother, Sarah Austin. In many others, it is the same, ancient land where injustice has reigned for centuries. The impact of Lucie’s letters, even after 146 years, is still profound. The first batch were reprinted three times in the first year of their publication (1865). Two more editions were published in 1875 and 1902, and a centenary edition in 1969. My (appropriately) well-worn ‘Virago Travellers’ copy is a 1986 reprint of the 1983  publication. The Letters‘ long-lasting, continuing popularity is justified, for despite my initial skepticism (having been put off by Frank’s biography and a fictional account of Lucie’s English lady’s maid Sally, Mistress of Nothing) because of her ‘upper class point of view’, I quite soon put aside my judgments of Lucie’s class and privilege as I drank in her absolute love of Egypt and its suffering people. The Egypt of Tuesday, November 11, 1862 (the date of the first letter in the 1983 edition) is one under the Pashas’ malign power. Egypt was a semi-autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire. The  first ‘modern’ viceroy of Egypt was Muhammad Ali, followed by Said and then, Ali’s nephew Ismail (from 1863). British rule was yet to come; in fact, Lucie avers that many Egyptians (of several classes) were asking for British intervention, to help them out of their desperate plight.

Lucie’s picture of the brutal misery of the people, over taxed and forced into labor (the corvee--building the Suez Canal and other projects at the whim of the Pasha) is painful, even now, or especially now, in light of recent events and the peoples’ suffering under the Mubarak dictatorship. Then the French were hated as they were the financiers and builders of the canal. In her ‘new’ 1983 Introduction to the Letters, (the original introduction that of the famous English doyen of letters and family friend, George Meredith), Sarah Searight refers to the ‘unveiling of modern Egypt’ (to ‘the west’) as stemming from Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798; the accompanying French artist Dominique Vivant Denon provided extraordinary images; access to Egypt was largely unavailable till then due to the ‘prevailing anarchy’ of the Ottoman Empire.

I leave you to discover the fascinating details of Lucie’s journeys up and down the Nile, her stays in Luxor where she endeared the people to her by becoming their healer, her trials and tribulations, and her special devotion to her servant, Omar, the paramour of Sally (by whom she became pregnant), whose dismissal and disappearance is not remarked on; one supposes the daughter (Janet Ross) edited out any (?) references to the ‘scandal’.

Lucie’s Egyptian adventures all came about because she was forced to travel abroad to a warm country (in truth, a very hot one) to relieve the symptoms of TB, made worse by wet and cold British weather. It now seems an accident of sweet fate that she found herself and gained literary fame through her love of Egypt and its people. In today’s Egypt, she would may have had to evacuate, like my resident pal finally had to–but today she returns on the first flight back to Luxor, to the land she too has fallen in love with, that she has adopted and it, her. During the time of her brief exile we have seen events unfold, the powerful virus of revolution spread–The Freedom March across North Africa and into the Gulf states–and beyond, strangely reflected by the battle in Wisconsin USA to hold onto western democratic rights (“Our turn will come”, my husband says, ominously), to gather as a body to demand workers’ rights over capitalistic chicanery by big, brutal moneyed forces. We call these gatherings ‘unions’. The Misguided Right, funded by predatory corporations and bad governments, has attempted to turn the word ‘union’ into a bad word.

Words are such powerful tools; we have to constantly be on our guard to protect them, and those who dare to speak them. Free speech has been won at great cost by our ancestors; it is our duty to protect what they lived and in many cases, died for.

Each day, as The Freedom March has proceeded across North Africa and our TV and computer screens, I have been viscerally impacted. When they were battling for their rights in Tahrir Square in Cairo, I felt as if I were there with them, as a woman, beside the other women. In Libya, where I have never visited, it was at first harder to envision myself (unlike Tunisia and Egypt where I have spent time) and thus the despair, rage and pain I felt seemed at first not to be able to find a place to concretely ‘link to’.  And then suddenly it happened: I was inside the houses with the women (there have been few images of women seen outside in the crowds, but some have been); I was one of them too, as they bravely opened their doors to let in and look after wounded strangers, the ‘pro-democracy protesters’, boys and men who could be their fathers, brothers, sons. And sometimes I went out with them, carefully. Many householders had (according to some reports) been gathering supplies, as they foresaw some of what was to come with the Egyptian uprising and revolution. They were somewhat prepared. Their sacrifice, both men and women, adults and children, is great. The fear is palpable; the determination even greater. They speak of a revolution that is about honour, the honour of the individual’s role in the state, of remaking the state with the blood and bodies and minds of the protesters. As their mangled bodies pile up in hospitals and morgues, are buried in hasty graves, some dug by Gaddafi forces to hide massacres, our common sense of Power to the People takes on a new note of urgency. And finally in the last few days and hours, ‘the international community’ through the United Nations has started to make its voice heard–our unified planetary human voice in fact as represented by the UN, an institution that many retrograde people (especially in the USA) have been trying to diminish and even destroy. Individual states have also raised their voices and imposed sanctions that hopefully will curtail the remains of the Gaddafi regime (and not the Libyan people at large).  We can only hope that these diehards finally will see the writing on the wall and disperse, leaving Gaddafi and his ever declining circle of thugs isolated and ultimately available for the international justice for war crimes. That China and Russia (and Iran, as it was unanimous) also agreed to the UN statement is hypocritical but rather useful for future finger-pointing when their own peoples demand change.

The shared pain so many of us feel with regard to the uprisings and revolutions for democracy in Tunisia and Egypt (still very much ‘a work in process’ as we’ve seen in the last few days) and now Libya, as well as Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and most recently Oman, is salutary. For many of us in the ‘democratic west’, our heroic ancestors won the rights of democracy long ago; we are watching the future heroic ancestors for those in North Africa and the Gulf States (and beyond). We don’t honour our ancestors sufficiently for the deeds of bringing us freedom from despotic rulers and regimes. By honouring the present democracy freedom fighters (and they all avow that aim for a civil society, one with democratic institutions) we help to rectify our remissness as it it brings the shock of recognition: it brings the world closer, and in particular it brings those of differing cultures and religions, especially Christians and Muslims, closer. Those on the far right (and far left although the latter doesn’t really exist any more in the west) who try to undermine democratic human rights, who for the sake of personal and corporate greed try to wrest those rights from ‘we the people’ (selling off public utilities and woodlands to the highest bidder for example) or want to have the advantage of crimepetitive capitalism (as my cousin Gary calls it) need to think again, look back in respect and renew their commitment to what makes life ‘in the west’ free–relatively speaking that is. There’s a level at which such a selfish citizen or entity is a little Ben Ali, Mubarak or Gaddafi: that member ‘of the public’ who wants the advantages that democratic taxation gives without paying for them or lazy types who want it all without putting in honest labour to deserve them; they end up being the same crazy selfish entity. The ‘democratic body politic’ will survive despite a certain number of aberrants, but when the boat tips with too many on board, we could drown in the open seas of crass materialism, gross, untrammeled uncontrolled capitalism and selfishness, so we’d best rethink  nasty prejudices, all sides, as we watch the Freedom March across North Africa.

May the March proceed as the Ides of March approach….

Caesar, then Anthony after him will fall, when and who and what will replace them? Another tyrant like Augustus? Or a new body politic informed with wisdom born of the pain of revolution?

Isis Unveiled in The Revolution: Remembering the 1919 Revolution and Egyptian Feminist Huda Shaarawi

Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist (translated and introduced by Margot Badran)  offers a fascinating and inspiring window into Egypt’s revolutionary past. I determined that my first post following the extraordinary events over the past 18-20 days had to be to remember Huda and her feminist compatriots. I fondly hope that on some level they were watching with the rest of us, this so very visceral, painful, experience of revolution..and that they lent their wisdom and power as ancestors to the cause.

Even the BBC’s veteran of many wars and revolutions, the inimitable John Simpson, reminded us that it’s not just 30 years of repression being overthrown, but 8000; I had thought maybe 5000, but his history is perhaps better than mine. This is a revolution long overdue, but not without precedent, for Egyptians have risen before many times–the Egyptian People are not strangers to demonstrations and battles against injustice. The one Huda and her compatriots fought was against the ‘bloody British’. Bloody indeed. Sorry lads and lassies, but wherever one looks ‘our boys’ have been there defending the Empire and/or our ‘interests’, as as we still do. The British Occupation of Egypt occurred in 1882 and the ‘Protectorate’ was imposed in 1914. Will ‘we’ ever learn?

Born in Minya, Upper Egypt, in 1879, growing up in Cairo, “the daughter of a wealthy and respected provincial administrator from Upper Egypt and a Circassian mother,”  Huda managed to find a way through crushing obstacles. Married off in 1892 at the age of 13 (unwillingly) to a cousin in his 40’s who should have remained her guardian not her husband–luckily she got the first 7 years free of him as he betrayed the terms of the marriage contract–denied freedoms we would take for granted, this extraordinary spirited woman found a way through the maze of Egyptian mores, the prison-like life of her era, to emerge as Egypt’s foremost feminist,  decorated by the state in 1945 near the end of her life (she died in 1947) with the ‘Nishan al-Kamal’ award for services rendered to Egypt. Her husband Ali Shaarawi made up for his imposing marriage upon Huda (and they did have two children) ended up semi-heroic, as he became deeply involved with Huda in the freedom fight, developing the Wafd Party (begun in 1919 as part of the Egyptian Revolution that year), that although severely weakened by despotic repression still has a small voice that might grow larger in today’s New Egypt. Sadly, despite their heroic battles together, the Wafd men let the Wafd women down badly by not supporting the rights of women, so Huda resigned her post (President of the Wafdist Women’s Central Committee) in 1924 but carried on to her death as  the head of the Egyptian Feminist Union, leading the feminist movement in Egypt, and supporting women in other Arab countries to get their rights.

One of Huda’s most powerful political acts was to remove her veil in a public demonstration of women’s rights in 1923. In fact, my search for Huda began with a statement by Egyptian-British journalist Adel Darwish, Political Editor of The Middle East, that Tahrir Square had seen earlier revolutions including the political unveiling by Huda. This point was challenged by another commentator, and in fact, it was at Cairo’s railway station that this took place. At a time in Islamic history when women are re-donning the veil, it seems paradoxical perhaps (or more likely, simply confusing) for this act to have such importance, but important it was. According to Badran and other historians, the veil was mainly worn by ‘upper class’ women (but in addition many city women), but not by peasant or country women. Now, to raise the issue of ‘to veil or not’ , to remove the veil or re-don the veil, is one that only women of Egypt and other countries where Islam holds sway on a cultural and religious basis, can decide for themselves. But for Huda and her compatriots unveiling meant freedom from oppression. A crowd of women were welcoming Huda and her friend and colleague Saiza Nabarawi (editor of L’Egyptienne, the feminist literary voice) back from a feminist conference held in Rome. Unveiling in public at that time was absolutely a daring act, and one that signalled (as Badran says) the end of the ‘harem system’ in Egypt.

Sadly, Huda did not get to have her political rights before she died, but perhaps she saw the writing on the wall: Egypt was ‘declared’ a Republic in 1952 but the British did not leave until 1956. However, democracy, the rights of the people, have never been instituted; from Nasser to Sadat to Mubarak, it has been a military dictatorship and a small elite running the show. Huda and her friends, male and female, all Egypt’s compatriot-ancestors, we hope they are celebrating this February 2011 and trusting the military will abide by their promises and help Egypt found a democratic state in the next six months.

Huda is watching. We are all watching. InshAllah, InshIsis.

Isis Unveiling IV: Brigit and Isis, She of Many Names

Last night I put out my special white scarf to catch Brigit’s blessings with the dew, and there it was this morning, resplendent, recharged…

…and turned again to Al Jazeera and BBC24 for my daily charge on the Revolution in Egypt’s streets, now called (by some) The Lotus Revolution…with many of my pals round the world at my virtual side.

I grasp the small white alabaster scarab given (not bought) as we drove away from an alabaster factory on the edge of Luxor. We’d had one of the best experiences of the three week visit, the day before we left; we’d been taken there by an exceptional taxi driver (named Muhammed of course). He said he represented (in his spare time) a Belgian charity that was working to help educate the women of the poorest classes in the local villages. First of all he took us to see the amazing work of noted Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy  (housing/meeting hall and mosque) in a nearby village, and before taking us to the papyri and alabaster outlets of his choice (ones he had intimate experience of as a worker in one case), we joined him in the twisted back streets of one small village whilst he checked on the state of one of the projects; offered a cup of welcome mint tea, we sat with him and two village elders whilst an educated young women taught a group of women of varying ages, Muslim and Coptic Christian, about a variety of subjects. The women looked shyly our way; none could speak English, including the young teacher, but in their eyes, I finally saw what I had been waiting for, a real welcome from Egyptian women, because we had come with men of honor and we appeared decent (not shameless Western whores): one of us married and one of us a widow. We were wearing wedding rings (and they would look for them). One of them passed their baby to me to hold–poor babe, I must have seemed to be a white ghost, so she cried. I pressed Muhammed about his own life; he said he had a very ill wife on whom most of his money was spent; it was an arranged, unhappy marriage. He’d gone from job to job, trying to find a way to keep his honour and his integrity, not to speak of his freedom and making a living; from being well educated and a teacher, he’d worked at the papyri factory (a kind of hell) and being a clever taxi driver in a clapped out taxi (about to fall to bits) was his best option. Working to help these women was his way of keeping and developing his best talents. They treated him with respect (and he was in charge of the money).

Muhammed and these women is what the Revolution is about.

So today on Imbolc, Brigit’s special day, I greet Her. My husband and myself named our joint website, small Press and small business after Brigit, using one of Her several aliases: Bride. (www.brideswell.com). After finishing this blog, I will leave my magic cabin (Bridie’s Cabin) in my magic backyard garden for my magic kitchen where I will stir my cauldron and whip up a bunch of fairy cakes, Bridie cakes, throwing in a touch of honey in Her honour. I wish I could pop over to Tahrir Square in Cairo to share them with the women there. I know the Muslim women would have a tricky time relating to my goddess lore on the surface, but secretly, down deep, as Nawal El Sadaawi has revealed in her books, Isis is there in their hearts and the hearts of many of their menfolk. The Great Goddess comes in many forms, is known by many names;  Isis is one of the oldest and greatest. I can do it virtually. I sit with them (as one English woman finally has) and join them in their magnificent effort for freedom. Of course, it’s dangerous, any number of bad things could happen; we all know it and there are forces trying to derail the peaceful process.

Millions of us are sending good thoughts and hopes to the Million (+) ‘Man’ Marchers (maybe in Arabic it is ‘People’, she says wistfully) on this day when we honour Brigit/Bridie. Maybe (or maybe not) it doesn’t matter what Mubarak does, The People of Egypt have found their Voice, their Freedom; the youth activists in the centre, at the heart of the Revolution, have laid down, committed their lives, to the justness of their cause. One man cried that this comes after not just 30 years of oppression but 5000 years; there is an Egyptian who knows his history!

InshAllah, dear Egyptian brothers and sisters, InshIsis.

Isis Unveiling: Part III

Well, it’s happening, Isis and Allah Willing…fingers crossed…

I sit on the edge of our red sofa watching live continuous coverage of the Egyptian Peoples’ Revolution on the Al Jezeera Channel, the best coverage to date (naturally). France24 is rather good at times as per the wider world picture and the BBC comes a distant whatever. My anger occasionally focusses on the sins of omission by Brits/UK and the USA–their plummy warm holiday destinations being under threat and their fears of Islamic Revolutions sending shivers down old and new imperial spines. I cannot but be wholeheartedly with these downtrodden and abused people, whose fearlessness in the face of tanks and tear gas stirs my own revolutionary leftist soul. I cheer them on despite the fearsome prospect of more Islamic control worldwide that Western pundits promote in us, thus evilly justifying supporting corrupt and repressive regimes. When I see women in the crowds my heart leaps, their bravery even greater, for what awaits them at the hands of security forces and prison is substantially more frightening.

If Only. If only their calls for freedom and the end of a repressive 30 year old regime can culminate in the fall of the Mubarek Monstrosity, replacing it with (as we are nervously hoping for in Tunisia as their so-called Jasmine Revolution continues with daily pressure on authorities who seem to be trying to follow some of the peoples’ guidance ) with an effective non religious handover of power. There’s no point in speculating right now on any number of possibilities, they are in the thick of making it happen. A righteous anger and a powerful youth culture, relatively well educated like the Tunisian youth, needs to be accompanied now by the rank and file of the oppressed majority. Many older Egyptians like Nawal El Saadawi will remember the battle to rid Egypt of the occupying Brits, and Egyptians know their history and they know what their country represents as the top and most populated Arabic nation. Hopefully the right elements will coalesce as they have in Tunisia (so far)–and Egypt is a very different country from Tunisia, although there are similar elements in the oppressive and corrupt nature of the regimes.

One interviewee (wish I’d noted his name) on France24 especially moved me with his description of how the corruption had entered the ‘very homes’ of Egyptians. I recognized this as the very same problem that I referred to earlier as the ubiquitous reign of the baksheesh god, backhanders for every little thing, the corrupt nature at the top reaching down to the very way people behave in personal interchanges: all for money. The bestselling novel The Jacoubian Building centrally focuses on this. No level of human interchange is uninfected with this nasty baksheesh bribery motif. It seems to me, watching young men support and nurture their fallen comrades today on the streets of Cairo, Giza, Suez and Alexandra, as their blood pours out for freedom, that the evil spell of the baksheesh god, Mammon by any other name, has been broken. They left their mosques on their holy day (today), streaming out in a leaderless, spontaneous explosion of righteous anger about living under an evil god and an evil and greedy regime.

I’d like to think that high up in some imaginary distant universe/reality, Isis and Allah got together and said: “enough is enough”, and The People heard them because they were listening in the silence of prayer. The question is, will their miscreant Pharaoh? “Illegitimate” they are crying out. Perhaps they are trying to dethrone the ancient Set, the evil brother of Osiris, embodied in his modern representative, Mubarek.

Enough is enough. The gods have spoken through The People.

Isis Veiled: Part 2

Felucca-time is old Egyptian time. The felucca is the traditional Mediterranean wooden sailing boat. Going by felucca to the Temple of Philae (relocated from its original site due to dam changes) near Aswan brought it home to me. The patched sails, the easy sailing skills of the older father and younger son, the varying speed that small or good wind gives, going with the current, the sense of silent, silky smoothness of water and wind, as versus the punchy, buzzy raucousness of the usual and ubiquitous clapped-out motor boats. All this was amusingly offset by the young sailor moonlighting with his incessant cell-talk and texting.  And Old Nile Time must have been amazing, the time set by seasonal inundations, all changed by the making of dams, as the inundations are no more. This has of course created many problems, the first being the traumatic change in peoples’ ancient lifestyles. One of these is the continuing rising of Lake Nasser, where the Nile’s waters gather apace, another, the need for ‘modern fertilisers’ now the inundations no longer bring natural fertilisation to the critical arable lands, the immense production of which thus partially and seriously offsets (some say) much of the energy created by the dams.

Nostalgia aside for real or imagined different kinds of ‘Egypts’ experienced in time past, the present Egyptians struggle with the modernisation of their ancient heritage. One of the unusual rumours that is about (Luxor at least) is that The People will be asked in certain areas (mainly urban) to stop wearing the gallibya, the floor-length loose garment worn by both men and women. Up in Cairo and Alexandria it’s less commonly worn, the ‘western-European’ style of clothing increasingly more popular. The natural outrage that this elicits is phenomenal. However, it is as nothing to the anger of the people as regards the unfairness of their economic and political system (unless you happen to be in the august presence of the ruling elite and their favoured followers, all usually well employed, as versus the majority). It’s a people-bomb waiting to blow. The recent events in Tunisia have indeed made many wonder how Egypt might be influenced, as President Mubarek has been trying to settle his (generally unwelcome) son on his hidden pharoah’s throne. One feels the seething distress and anger, but we must of course back off and watch The People find a way, or not, to make it better, hopefully with little or no bloodshed. But it has been the same all through Egypt’s very long history, the righteous anger and distress of The People, long before modern Islamic fundamentalism came to pass. In all modes of time-passing, The People have suffered.

It makes it hard to speak platitudes or niceties, let alone pearls of wisdom. Watching the young eager and determined faces of Tunisians trying to find a way out of their own maze, I remember my time there in the 80’s. A lot of them would not have even been born. I almost want to be back there, with them, on the streets. I suspect a lot of us old leftover lefties must feel the same. We are afraid for them, we may root them on but if we do, we do it with our hearts in our mouths, we know at what cost, just as the young Nawal El Saadawi did on the streets of Cairo years ago. We might wish we could  speak and write Arabic (I started and then lapsed, as with Russian, years ago) so we could show our solidarity with their Hope. They want what we think we have, and what many of them think we have: freedom of speech, lack of censorship, democracy, end of dictatorship in government, genuine opportunities to work and feed their families. But some of us know how flawed our own institutions, our own ‘states of the union’ really are. We are all still working hard to not only keep but upgrade what we have, whilst some (supported unknowingly or knowingly by different segments of the electorate) are working busily to take advances away from The People. Our Coalition Government in the UK is a case in point. Those of us who supported the Liberal Democrats, even joined the party in the absence of a True Left let alone Any Left, watch with growing pain wrong-footed attempts, all done with the hue and cry of lowering DEBT, to solve problems, whilst the ‘financial sector’ and the wealthy (why blame just the bankers?) get wealthier, as the middle-classes and the poor get poorer.

Isis remains veiled. So She needs to, in a Dark World, especially in the Black Land (Egypt), but Her Light shines nonetheless; it escapes from behind Her Veil. In countries such as Egypt, she remains to the majority as simply an ancient idol, one too many misguided tourist-cum-pilgrims come to ogle. But She lives deep down in their genetic memories: The Great Mother/The One with Countless Names: originally more likely Aset, She was a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Worshiped as the ideal mother (of Horus) and wife (of Osirus) as well as the matron of nature and magic, She was friend to slaves, artisans, and  downtrodden.

The Downtrodden. The People. She awaits Their Call, Their Remembering. Our Call, Our Remembering.

Isis Veiled – Following the Call of Isis, Part 1

It’s been well over a month since my return from three weeks in Egypt. My procrastination to tell the tale of my adventures reveals my mixed thoughts and feelings.

Ecstatic, yet painful. Magnificent, magical monuments, spectacular sunsets, views along the Nile, whilst watching women in thrall, men in bondage to patriarchy and bad government. ‘We Westerners’ dressed inappropriately, crowding the aisles of ancient processional ways, cameras clicking, following guides who deliver misinformation in multiple tongues. Served by modern slaves to tourism in the Name of the God Baksheesh. What a price to pay, one’s ethical integrity, to visit the land of Cleopatra and Nefertiti, not to mention Isis Herself. As per pharaohs, Ramses II seems to come out of it well enough, along with Seti I, Om Seti (nee Dorothy Eady) having memorialized him with her life’s work as a more-than-average-amateur archaeologist.

The prep-reading came in handy: the biography of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon (1821–1869) A Passage to Egypt by Katherine Frank, then a unique novel by Canadian author Kate Pullinger from the point of view of Lucy’s maid (Lucy comes out badly), Mistress of Nothing, thus leading me away from Lucy’s own works to other adventurous ‘western’ women travellers’ accounts: Amelia Edwards’ A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. who travelled to Egypt in autumn 1873, to escape the rain on a walking holiday in France, followed by  a real find upon my delivery to Luxor, Florence Nightingale’s stunning Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile, 1849-1850, edited with an introduction by the maverick but fascinating Anthony Sattin (see his Pharoah’s Shadow). There’s others to follow up on of course, including, as I am advised by my Egyptophile poet pal Penn Kemp,  Stacy Schiff’s recent Cleopatra. And a worthy read indeed is A Travellers History of Egypt by Harry Ades.

My near daily account of our adventure (of the three of us, all devotees of Isis) may serve me in the future for some sort of more serious literary response to Egypt, although the phenomenal number and variety of such literary responses dissuades one. It was an ambitious program for a three week stay, thanks to our intrepid Arabic-speaking (Brit-born) hostess. As we travelled the main length of The Ancient Black Land, deeply breathing in Luxor/Old Thebes and especially the West Bank where our hostess lives in a true Isis Temple of her Own Making, down the Nile by boat to Aswan/Philae (Temple of Isis, literally moved from the rising waters of the Nile  because of the new dam), stopping off at Edfu (The House of Horus) and Kom Ombo (Crocodile God’s Temple), back home to Thebes, up to Cairo(Giza to be exact)and Alexandria, and back home to base, ensuring we visited Hatshepsut’s Temple, remembering the slain tourists (sacrifices to fundamentalist Islam), the Valley of the Kings (3 tombs allowed per visit), a side trip to Abydos (Om Seti’s beloved Temple of Osiris) and on the last day,  Medinet Habu, mortuary temple of Ramses III.

In Giza we stayed at the Sphynx Hotel facing/abutting the Sphinx/Pyramid site, thus enabled to see and hear close up from the balcony (without paying) three night versions (in multiple tongues) of The Sound & Light Extravaganza. Being the guests of the inimitable, generous and hospitable Gouda Fayed of Fayed-family fame. His forebears were granted land and rights around the pyramids with the British takeover. It is an experience not to be missed.

Apart from the amazing tales travellers always have to tell of their Egyptian adventures (and we were no different), what stays with me is a deep melancholy for what Egyptians are experiencing in their daily lives on all levels. Having read some of their history, one might venture to say, it’s more of the same, continuing poverty, political unfairness, gender and job inequality, etcetera, on and on–not so different and yet of course different, from so many other countries. A great number of police of many sorts are ubiquitous; their presence, supposed to engender a sense of security, engenders the opposite.  Like the multiple site-guards, they too worship Baksheesh. No one seems free of this plague upon the people. Although the people appear miserable and afraid (all classes), they invariably tell you how much they love Egypt. A good majority of them smoke; one taxi driver told me (when I noted this) that they smoke to stop feeling bad, so they can cope.

This brings me back to some old reading I did years ago, reading that both prepared me for Egypt in the deepest sense and put me off, nearly permanently. And that is the extraordinary writings and life of Dr. Nawal El Saadawi (b. 1931). Nawal’s brave exploration of women’s life under Islam is both frightening and inspiring. Long may she live–she has been threatened enough times by governments in power and intolerant extremism, imprisoned for her work (1988), having to go into exile in the USA for a period but at present back in Egypt. Nawal ‘says’ better than I ever could what the life of a woman in Egypt is like–except to say, it’s not any easier with the continuing rise of fundamentalist Islam. They do well what they intend: harass, intimidate, bomb and kill.

A more recent Arabian language (translated into English) best-seller backs up and further explores this sad and depressing picture of life in Egypt: Alaa Al Aswany’s The Jacoubian Building.

It has been this depressing aspect, the truth of the matter in Egypt,  that has driven my procrastination to tell my own Egyptian tale. But as the weeks pass, it lifts slightly, and I feel I must try to stand alongside Nawal and Aswany and so many others in Egypt and out, who want a better life, a better way. And it’s not simple, by half.

So more, anon.

A Waking Vision…Lifting the Shadow with 100 Human Monkeys

Last night I experienced a wonderful Waking Vision; I have had such visions before–they are always profound, and this one especially so as it gives me hope. AND, today when I saw that at Cancun they had at least come up with something positive, however small, my hope was augmented and wondered about whether last night there weren’t millions of us ‘working on the Inner’ (and of course the many working on both the Inner and Outer there in Cancun and elsewhere) and THUS, presto, a small victory (and step forward for humanity). Let’s hope.

Here’s how it happened.

I have this ongoing dialogue with one particular of my Inner Guides, who seems to be the Diplomat Politician amongst The Group. I was taken (a process in itself that I will save describing fully for another day in my eagerness to get to the point), to what I experience as a ‘Parliament of Planetary Beings’ (or Council of Self-Aware Beings but organized on a planetary format). I have ‘been there before’ and now in fact, can attend when I request it in the right mode.  Whilst there I was given a Task or rather, asked to be part of a Task that was about to take place. I was reminded of the 100 Monkey Theory, that when a 100 monkeys know about washing their potatoes, the entire species ‘gets it’, the point being that Knowledge/Wisdom spreads like a Positive Virus. This theory was used a decade or so ago as a hopeful metaphor for humanity’s potential progress, such that even today you can still find a  cafe on the famous High Street of Glastonbury UK called ‘The Hundred Monkey’.  Part of the New Age Phenomenon but who’s knocking what works, eh? Then I was ‘asked’ to count up to 100 (was this a way to help me over come insomnia, a small part of me wondered!) BUT with each number, seeing/saying within the name of a country and sometimes thinking of a person who I knew of or knew about who was indeed ‘part of the positive solution,’ one of the seminal ‘hundred human monkeys’…I got a bit muddled and overdid it,  did more than a 100 as I was amazed at how I was SEEING countries round the globe and being aware of people whom I knew and didn’t know, working toward solutions to climate change and other challenges facing humanity and the planet. Several times, countries were thought/’mentioned’ more than once, especially Canada and USA, and I believe some countries got left out, but not many. Each time a country/person energy was thought of/mentally pictured or mentioned, there was a sort of’ ‘lift-off’ because The Essential Task was to offset the forces at work that are trying to hold back or block progress, to mentally lift off the Shadow (or Cloud or Force) that is weighing us down and is embodied in greedy, avaricious, power-over, violent people (world-wide).

As I progressed, I could literally feel the lift-off of the Shadow, it was a very sweet process and I thank my guides for persevering with me, lazy sod of a woman that I am as regards The Inner Work. You’d think all those years at The Findhorn Community would have trained me up better, but I tend too get too caught up in the immediate challenges on my doorstep, this country (UK), Canada, whatever. Yes, I sign the endless Avaaz Petitions (bless their Santa Claus socks) ETC, but this is Powerful Stuff and I shouldna be surprised to see that one small step was made forward in the Cancun Climate Talks. And only last year I was ‘down there’ LAST NOVEMBER in Mexico, in the Yucatan, working for the cause of wilderness at the 9th World Wilderness Congress, where Climate Change featured significantly. Ancient and modern Mexico with all its problems (and indeed, because of its problems)  was an inspiration, as hopefully with Ancient Egypt (so recently experience THIS November), has a magical grounded activism at its soul.

As Maggie Muggins used to ask when I was a kid (or something like), what’s happening next?