Nawal El Saadawi: “If you are creative you must be dissident. And if you are female you must be a feminine dissident”

No 184 Posted by fw, May 31, 2011

This is creativity. It is inspired and stimulated by our living our own lives, and not by copying theories of struggle from books. Every struggle has its own unique theory inseparable from action. Creativity means uniqueness, innovation, discovering a new way of thinking and acting. Of creating a system based on more and more justice, freedom, love, and compassion. If you are creative you must be dissident. You discover what others have not yet discovered.”Nawal El Saadawi, acclaimed Egyptian feminist, writer, activist, physician, and psychiatrist.

The above passage is from the BBC Radio 4 program, Something Understood, more precisely, from an episode entitled, On The Edge, which was broadcast on the May 29, 2011. The beginning of this post is, in effect, a continuation of the previous one: Music and poetry for dissidents: Ravel, Dharker, and McLachlan.

NOTE: This week’s Something Understood broadcast of On the Edge will continue to be available for listening here but only until this Saturday, June 4.

Here, again, then, is Mark Tully to introduce Nawal El Saadawi.

Those who choose to take an active stand against a regime they regard as immoral in some way or another, to be active dissidents, have to be prepared to face the consequences. They may be nothing more than ostracism. But they can be as dire as execution. In her book, Dissidents and Creativity (sic), Nawal El Saadawi describes how she was put on the Egyptian government’s blacklist, thrown out of her job, imprisoned and forbidden to publish magazines. She believes dissidents should look behind the veneer of words which are generally considered positive, or at least harmless, to detect the deceit that they often hide.Egy Many of them are words that governments use to justify themselves. And even a word like “peace” can be deceitful.

The following words of Nawal El Saadawi were delivered by a BBC reader –

Our struggles are becoming more and more difficult. They need more and more creativity. There are always new words emerging that we have to demystify. Words such as “peace”, “democracy”, “human rights”, “privatization”, “globalization”, “multiculturalism”, “diversity”, “civil society”, “non-governmental organizations”, “cultural difference”, liberation theology”, “religious fundamentalism”, “post-modernism”, and others.

We need to discover new ways of exposing the paradoxes or double meanings in the many new and old words that are endlessly repeated. We cannot acquire this knowledge through books, through formal education or the mass media. All of them are controlled by the global powers of domination and exploitation. And they help to veil our brains with one myth after another. We have to acquire this knowledge by ourselves from our own experience in the daily struggle against those powers globally, locally and in the family.

This is creativity. It is inspired and stimulated by our living our own lives, and not by copying theories of struggle from books. Every struggle has its own unique theory inseparable from action. Creativity means uniqueness, innovation, discovering a new way of thinking and acting. Of creating a system based on more and more justice, freedom, love, and compassion. If you are creative you must be dissident. You discover what others have not yet discovered.

END OF On The Edge SELECTION

El Saadawi: Revolution Transforms Us (video)

To supplement the above reading, here is a 5:43-minute video of El Saadawi, talking to a New York City audience about her experience in the Tahrir Square revolution. Uploaded by Women in the World: Stories + Solutions, March 12, 2011 A Transcript follows the video..

Interviewer: Let loose with stories about Tahrir Square.

Well, I’m very happy to be here with you in New York and to have my friend — even, I think, 40 years we’ve been in contact — and to speak about something that [is] almost my childhood dream. When I was 10 years of age, a child, I was dreaming of a revolution. I didn’t know what a revolution, but I was so dissatisfied with everything around me. I was dissident. I was a feminist when I was a child because what’s feminism? You don’t need to read books to be a feminist. When you are born female in a poor family then you become feminist because you are oppressed by class, by patriarchy – by everything – in school, in the street, at home.

So I was rebelling since I was 10 and dreaming of a revolution, of a new world – that there was justice, freedom, dignity, and love for all, regardless of gender, religion, anything. But this never came into my life until in January. So the revolution in Egypt was delayed 70 years. And that’s why I was in the streets, in the Tahrir Square. The Tahrir Square became my home. And all the men, young men, young women, old men, Christians, Muslims, poor, rich, from all classes, families, from Aswan in the south to Alexandria – 20 million people in the streets – 5 [million] of them in Tahrir Square, and they were living there under tents. So it became my family.

And I was happy to get rid of my biological family, the nuclear, very narrow, tiny nuclear family within four walls. And now I am in the street. That was my dream, to get out of my room and be in the street. And we lived like that for more than two weeks.

And what happened was a miracle. That all the discrimination between – that we inherited from slavery, from patriarchy, differences between Christians and Muslims, conflicts between men and women – dissolved. I saw young sleeping under the same tent with young men whom they don’t know, and not a single harassment. I saw Christians and Muslims praying at the same time and protecting each other. We distributed food, we lived together as one family. So I was so happy, as if I was reborn, as if I am living my childhood again.

And I’ll tell you some little things because time is short, about how people cooperated and helped each other. On the Wednesday, 2nd of February, Mubarak [inaudible] the gangs invade Tahrir Square on horses and camels. Some were killed by live bullets. Some were knocked by horses. I was about to be knocked by a horse and I felt around me 20 men who carried me away and they protected me and there was a sense, a feeling that we protect each other. And to help each other

On that night, I went until midnight and there was curfew, and there were no taxis, nothing to go from Tahrir Square to my home in Shubra. So one of the young men had a motorcycle, so . . .

Interviewer: You didn’t? [audience laughter]

I did it. But you see I am 80, 80 and the day was so tiring to us with these horses. So the young men carried me on the motorcycle. And the driver – I was hugging the driver like that so I will not fall – and another young man volunteered to sit behind hugging me so I will not fall. [laughter]. So I was a sandwich between two young men who I don’t know. They were like from my blood, from my body. They were my son, my daughter. We forgot our gender. I didn’t know I am a woman, they are men. We were hugging each other. I forgot my age. And they took me on this motorcycle to my home in Shubra with the bumps on the street and al that. And you know I have a collapsed disc {inaudible] writer’s disease. So I went home, I was dead. But next morning at 6 o’clock I was again in Tahrir Square.

I’m just describing [for] you, I think the revolution transforms us. The revolution gives us new life. The revolution is giving Egypt new life. But it gives us women and men, individuals, new life. 

END OF TRANSCRIPTION

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