The below concept was adopted for a contemporary theatre play in Cairo and Berlin
Below is my philosophical concept that underpins the play (it is not a description of the play)
When the Debris of Paradise Calls
There is a deep-seated crisis within Egyptian society, the youth no less, that sees the human condition under assault by global consumption and material culture. An assault largely fanned by elites invoking market-driven economics to justify perpetual development and redevelopment, as well as the erasure of heritage and vibrant communities. The impact goes beyond the citizen facing chronic underemployment, poverty, and the entrapment within a predatory economy dominated by opaque forces beyond their control or understanding.
The individual has been torn away from a sense of cause and effect; suspended above time and its continuity by a severing from historical awareness; developed a deteriorating association with aesthetical standards; all forms of logic have been degraded to shades of ad hominem and confirmation bias; and conspiracies have become the lingua franca. Survive rather than thrive has become the norm. What is needed is to restore the individual’s dignity and agency by “recalibrating” it to relate to the city.
This, in part, can be addressed by raising philosophical thinking that unpacks the core areas of philosophy – aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic and metaphysics – and narrowing them to digestible, understandable and fundamental questions that can be engaged with through the arts. Some of these questions can include, in the face of neoliberalism’s dehumanisation, how do publics sustain or retrieve meaningful communities? How can historical imaginaries, ideas, persons, sensibilities, and aesthetics, work their way into renegotiating the citizen’s relationship to the city? How can a crippling nostalgia be appropriated for a forward-looking civic vision? How do these themes make one better understand the familiar spaces such as neighbourhoods and coffeehouses? How do groups understand their role in endowing their urban terrain with a clearer identity and coherent narrative?
This concept is driven by the view that the public should be recognised, and elevated, as the primary ideal, and the individual’s present difficulties in experiencing or attaining pluralism and civic responsibility is tied to the city’s loss of meaning and the citizen’s alienation from one another. The development of philosophical thinking, and its performance, can help address this malaise.
The use of “paradise” alludes to the beauty that weaves its ways through the urban terrain; in social relations, love, language, buildings, decor, music, books, among others. Yet what happens when that paradise crumbles? The sight of tangible and intangible debris is a call to intellectual arms, an artistic awakening required to alert the citizens that something is not quite right. The broken paradise should not be normalised.
There is a need to humanise Egypt, animate the idea of citizenship, and flesh out plurality, biographies and stories from a landscape under assault by the forces of homogenisation and mediocrity. A grand vision is required to nurture the creation of a vibrant public that will demonstrate to other publics that there is another way, a viable way, of looking and dealing with Egypt.