Monthly Archives: March 2011

A word of gratitude to those who keep us informed

I know it’s been said before, but I feel like it’s important to say again:

We owe a great deal of gratitude to the men and women who are out there getting us the stories that keep us informed, journalists, photographers, editors, etc… all those working in news media who are on the forefront of this communication revolution.

We may have contradicting thoughts and opinions about the events of the day and about the way different media cover those events, but the freedom and safety of those working to keep us informed should be sacred.  There should be zero tolerance to any abuse against any member of the press no matter where no matter what.

I am very grateful to them, in whatever capacity they are working, and it makes me very angry when transgressions against them are committed by ignorant regimes and individuals.

Freedom of the press is a pillar of a truly enlightened society, truth has many faces, and the dark forces that fear the truth will be burned by it sooner or later…

 

 

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Media Terminology Deciphered (101 Level)

Just a word to the wise, even the most objective media can slant your opinion: not by overt propaganda (as most Middle East media do) but with simple language nuances.

Language: a system of symbols that help us to communicate facts, thoughts, and feelings.  Sounds innocent enough, well it isn’t, and the media and advertising industries have known this for a long time, and so have some of the world’s best writers.  Since these are the “communication” times, where information is disseminated at dizzying speed and in overwhelming quantity, it’s important for those who want to be well informed to be able to do a quick analysis and an instant filtering in order to discern the real facts and arrive at some sane opinion.

Below you will find different terms used in media today to describe one situation, occurrence, or phenomenon,  using different terminology (in both English and Arabic), as well as some suggestions as to what they may really mean to imply. This is just the very short list, as this is a 101 level, feel free to add your favorite “synonyms”.

 

Fundamentalist-Extremist-Ultra Orthodox    أصولي-متطرف-ارثودوكسي متطرف

All very close in meaning, I mean a fundamentalist is an extremist ultra orthodox believer.  But note how Ultra Orthodox is a little less threatening than fundamentalist, and how fundamentalist is a little less threatening than extremist.

 

Dead-casualties-martyrs   قتلى-ضحايا-شهداء

The dead simply ceased to be living, casualties were victims, and martyrs are heroes, that’s how we quickly interpret these words in our minds.

 

Killed-Murdered-Slaughtered  قتل-ذبح

Killed implies some violence, murdered implies violence and criminal intent, while slaughtered implies barbaric violence.

 

Hundreds-Thousands-Tens of Thousands… مئات-آلاف-عشرات الآلاف-مسيرة مليونية

Ah, the numbers game! When do hundreds become thousands? Is 999 about a thousand? Or is around 800,000 a million?

 

Demonstrations-Riots-Civil disobedience  مظاهرات-أعمال شغب-عصيان مدني

Civil disobedience is perceived to be the tamest and most peaceful, demonstrations are a bit scarier, but riots are really scary.

 

Rebels-Insurgents-Freedom fighters   متمردين-مقاتلين-ثوار-مجاهدين

Freedom fighters are noble, rebels are romantic, insurgents we don’t really know what to feel about.

Leader-Strong Man-Head of   قائد-زعيم-رئيس

A leader is a father figure that has supporters, a strong man is more like a gang leader who rules by force, and a head of is kind of neutral.

 

Militia-Gang-Guerrillas   ميليشيا-عصابة

All of these terms carry negative raps, Guerillas however sometimes has more of the freedom fighter connotation than a gang or a militia.  And militia implies a more organized gang with a purpose.

 

Stormed-Attacked-Stomped   شن هجوما-اقتحم

To storm something is almost neutral in its outcome, although it means a swift and strong action.  To attack is a bit more aggressive in nature, and to stomp implies greater angry aggression.

 

Invaded-Occupied-Marched into   غزو-احتلال

The nuances of language here are at their best, to invade has a sort of temporary feel to it, while to occupy implies long term.  March into is the most neutral.

 

Supporters-proponents-followers   مؤيدين-أنصار-أتباع

Supporters and proponents seem to be well aware of what and who they are supporting, while followers implies a type of blind and ignorant faith.

 

Never underestimate the power of a single word, every word carries within its folds many emotional and intellectual triggers that (unfortunately) can move the “masses”.

 

P.S.  My hairdresser and I were discussing this issue yesterday (just to dispel one more stereotype about hair salon conversations!)

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In Defense of the “Cold” Generation

My generation, the one that is stuck between the old idealists and the new revolutionaries is cold!

We have in this corner of the world seen too much death,  conflict,  blood,  politics,  despair, injustice, and violence.  We have heard our parents’ stories of their golden days of struggle (whatever their ideologies were), we lived through some of what are now historical events, and we did this over and over again.

Some of us were young revolutionaries, some of us lived for the “cause”, and many of us struggled to find the true meaning of being who we were where we were.  Some of us didn’t bother with ideology and just tried to have normal lives from the get go, but what is a normal life for someone living in the Middle East?

My generation understands the corrupt systems, may be too well, we are the ones who have had to deal with them the longest, we may even have become part of them, in our quest for a “normal life”.  We have had our day against the evils of these systems whether sectarianism, nepotism, human rights violations, etc… and that is why we are cold!

We are quite a bit more informed than our parents’ generation, and have more life experience than the young revolutionaries, and our sometimes neutral stance on the events of the day leave both of those generations baffled.  So in our defense I’d like to ask the forgiveness of both the old ideologues and the new revolutionaries: We are tired of re-re-revolutions that only spawn more of the same evils eventually.  The lofty ideals of today’s revolutionaries will soon become slaves to the power struggles that will ensue, and to the greed inherent in the hearts of men.

As long as our social systems stay the way they are, no other outcome can be expected.  We are cold because we see what is coming, because we have other humans to take care of in the midst of this uproar, we have children and aging parents.  We are cold because in all this uncertainty our roles have become blurred, our feelings tepid, and our core beliefs shaken.

There are solutions, and revolutions and bloodshed are necessary for change in some cases.  But the way I see it the bloodshed and misery going on now will only lead to a “same shit different regime” status.  Our problems in this region are deeper and more fundamental than dictatorships and totalitarian leaders.  It is worth a pause to think about that before more deaths are offered at the altar of these uprisings…

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For Teachers and Students

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
Bhuddha

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It’s Time to Step Out of Line

This seemingly linear process of human social evolution since the onset of “civilization” has led to the power systems of today, power systems that hold within their folds norms, traditions, laws, religious dogma, etc… that dictate societal behavior, and create unequal, and sometimes unfair treatment of certain groups or individuals (we are not talking about the naturally existing forms of inequality).

This inequality and power struggle extends to gender, as the female of the human species has been directly affected by these systems.  I really don’t want to talk about feminism; I don’t like the term feminist since in and of itself it contains a “them and us” connotation.  I want to talk about rethinking some of the cultural and social concepts that still persist-in varying degrees-and that create all sorts of obstacles for women, and will be taking a “humanist” rather than a “feminist” stance on this one.

Many theories, movements, and revolutions have rectified the social situation some.  The status quo still persists, this is because the principles that it was based on are still deeply entrenched in the psyches of modern humans (male and female) due to centuries and centuries of cultural and social programming.

The main glitch is in the overall system; the political, social, and religious systems that govern our human transactions today are flawed to say the least, and we seem to be convinced that it’s all we know.  It isn’t!

Our current human organization “systems” have led us astray from our true natures, from nature itself.  Women are playing in an unleveled field, one that has historically been customized to the male nature (yes it is different from the female nature, naturally!)  In order for females to gain ground in the existing systems of power, they have to fight those systems and their own innate natures, which is an unfair and difficult process.  The field can only be leveled if the systems are thoroughly and CONSCIOUSLY rejected.

It’s time to step out of line, to abandon the existing systems of thinking and perceiving, to create a new vision for the future of our societies… Not an easy task but doable.

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نحو شكل سياسي جديد (1\3): السؤال الأول: هل “الدولة” ضرورة؟ Is the modern state necessarily necessary?

نحو شكل سياسي جديد (1\3): السؤال الأول: هل “الدولة” ضرورة؟.

This is a very interesting and thought provoking entry form ninar.  I will attempt to translate what I found to be the most meaningful message of this particular part of a series of articles that ninar is writing about anarchy.  The use of the term “Anarchy” seems to scare a lot of people away from exploring its full concept, so the writer has proposed using an alternative term like “non-authoritarian” or “cooperative-society”.  What is most interesting here is the following premise: (this is a quick translation from the text)

“it is true that it is a very difficult task to imagine the human state without formal government.  the difficulty lessens when we realize that over the past 200 thousand years (the approximate age of human existence on earth) the species existed without government t until about ten thousand years ago, when our socio-political evolution led us to the concepts of city states, and later to the concepts of empires, proprietorship, and to the present “globalization empire” which lacks a clear center.

This historic trend was not necessarily inevitable after the emergence of civilization!  This trend is the complex result of millions of individual and collective choices made either consciously or unconsciously by humans over the last ten thousand years.  It is also the result of of millions of random events that different societies have experiences, such as the invention of the steam engine which paved the way for the creation of nationalistic centralized states in Europe, and the discovery of oil, that consequently led to the building of a global industrial civilization.

The first step to abandoning the traditional framework of political thinking is to question the true validity of the state.  It is important to  at least to take into consideration that the modern state is not necessarily the only and inevitable outcome of socio-political evolution, nor is it the only way to prevent communities from becoming  proverbial jungles.

When we ponder this, we open up an infinite amount of possibilities in our collective minds.  Some of these possibilities might be frightening, the human mind has a primordial fear of the unknown. This however should not prevent us from opening some of those doors.  And why should we take it for granted that the modern state in our lives is a positive force? Let’s think of this question together…”

I think this is definitely heading in the right direction, whether you agree or disagree with the theories of anarchy as they have been developed so far, the questions raised here are worth seeking answers for…

 

 

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A WTF moment from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

OK, I have time on my hands these days so I’m reading a lot, and I decided to read Hamlet again, and stumbled on this little dialogue:

Hamlet:

I did love you once.

Ophelia:

Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

Hamlet:

You should not have believ’d me, for virtue cannot so

inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I lov’d you not.

Ophelia:

I was the more deceiv’d.

Hamlet:

Get thee to a nunn’ry, why woulds’t thou be a breeder of

sinners?

No wonder poor young innocent Ophelia ended up in the river: ( I loved you, I loved you not) (to be or not to be) make up your mind man! And he also asks her to stay celibate after him, so she is not the breeder of sinners… That boy just can’t get over the fact that his mother has a sex life and lashes out at Ophelia!!

I loved Hamlet when I was in college… Hamlet simply gets on my nerves now and now I like Horatio a lot more too.

It’s so nice to re-read classic literature at different stages in our lives. Try it, I strongly recommend it.

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