Links, Links, Links! 21st April 2013

 

How are we all this morning? How has the week been? I've been super busy with a crazy week at work (I've a new trainee), getting excited about being published and wrote one of my most-read articles on an encounter at the airport.  Enough about what I did though...here is what I came across on the net!

I love this piece by the Informed Comment: Top Ten Reasons why Terrorism is Forbidden in Islamic Law...

From the simple dollar: 5 pieces of advice that changed my life.

Young people need to be more involved in all levels of decision making in society; even though public and corporate decisions usually affect us we are rarely party to the decision making process.  That should change, and one way is by getting young people on Boards.

I completely relate to this writer - the love of technology mixed with nostalgia for print (I was an insane bookworm growing up and still feel guilty that I own a Kindle...I feel like I am betraying print) and it's interesting to read this piece from a lady who says her life is better without Facebook. I don't know if I could leave Facebook (isn't that a sad state of affairs!) - working out in the sticks doesn't help I guess...

Feel like you have media overload? A piece from Wired on balancing your media diet...

Why aren't there more women in technology? Forbes thinks it's a numbers and expectations game...

On one hand, the Boston bombing reaction reporting seemed relatively free of bias...but that was definitely not the case. 

Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you're feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that's the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday's victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs. However profound a loss you recognize the parents and family members of these victims to have suffered, that's the same loss experienced by victims of US violence. It's natural that it won't be felt as intensely when the victims are far away and mostly invisible, but applying these reactions to those acts of US aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.

A post (a rant, really) from an irate Sudanese blogger who is frustrated at the fact that in Sudan, skin colour is still an indication of status...

I don't agree with everything the United Nations does, but I do believe there is a place for it.  Why we get value for money at the United Nations.

I love examples of Muslim women challenging the expectations, and this Bosnian Mayor is a inspirational case!

The difference in treatment and expectations of male and female CEOs - Queen Bees getting the flak.

The age old question about "peak oil..."

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday (and the Formula 1 and MotoGP!)

PLEASE EXPLAIN: Why my clothing choice matters to you?

A small incident occurred in my life a couple of weeks ago that I had trouble processing.

On my way to a flight, travelling through airport security, the lady standing at the metal detector stopped to ask me  about my head covering.

"What do you mean it's because of your religion?" I was asked.

"...uh, it's what I wear for a hijab.  I am a covered Muslim woman and I have to wear this because it's compatible with my field engineering job..." I was a little confused and at this point frustrated; they were holding up the entire line and the questioning was causing an unnecessary scene.

"Yeah look it really isn't religious enough.  Aren't you guys supposed to wear the..." She trailed off, looking at me.

"You mean the full veil/hijab?"

"Yes, that.  You have to wear that for it to be religious.  Guys who wear turbans can't come in with a baseball hat covering their hair and say that is religious, because it is a baseball cap, not a turban.  Look do you have a veil with you to prove that this is religious?"

I looked at the lady, incredulous. Was she serious?

"No, I don't carry an extra scarf with me in my hand luggage".  The lady didn't seem to pick up on my dry tone.

"Oh okay. Well in the future, carry with you a scarf so you can show the security"..

"Wait, wait a minute." By this point I had all my luggage and was ready to leave, but I just had to clarify. "So you're telling me that I can't wear what I am wearing because it isn't religious enough for you and I need to bring a 'proper scarf' with me to prove to you that I am Muslim?"

"Yes. Do you understand me and where I am coming from?"

"...no, not really. But I'm going to go catch my plane, I'll just go with it. Thank you for your advice..."

***

Women's bodies, in particular Muslim women's bodies, seem to be a battlefield for all sort of political debates and concerns, exemplified by the never ending French battle with the burqa/niqab/hijab.  This particular incident and raised questions on two levels: one a personal level, and one around the question of Muslim women, their clothing and bodies in general.

***

Firstly, it must be clear that I am not assigning blame to the security lady per se, as such an incident is likely due to a combination of ignorance, poor training and miscommunication.   If a Muslim individual had made the same comment - 'this isn't religious enough' - I would have taken umbrage for a completely different reason.  In this case however, it is more an unfortunate reflection of the understanding of Muslims and their traditions in Australia society.  

There are two sides to this coin.  On one hand, there is an onus on the Muslim community to go out and educate the wider community on traditions, so as we are not taking on a 'victim mentality', as we did so often after September 11.

On the other hand, it is also important that members of our security forces, particularly those in sensitive areas such as the airports, be properly educated and trained.  It is quite likely (though I am making the assumption) that the training consisted of explaining "what a Muslim woman looks like" and subsequently only showing the traditional/stereotypical image of a Muslim woman in the classic hijab.

Unfortunately (ahem, surprised?), not all Muslim women look the same and dress the same, and as the community matures in Australia, looks will diversify further.  Stereotypes should not be the way we expect our community to look.  

Perhaps recommendations can and should be made to the security department in order to improve their training.  If their existing programs are already quite extensive, perhaps it was an isolated case...? The tendency is to give people the benefit of the doubt (although in this case, that may be counter intuitive).

***

On a personal note, it was uncomfortable being told by a complete stranger that I wasn't dressed 'religious enough'.  I don't take offense to much at all, but I personally felt affronted by someone judging whether or not I was practicing my religion appropriately or 'enough', particularly by, essentially, a random individual...

Religion is a purely personal thing, and so is clothing choice.  In a nation which prides itself on all sorts of freedoms, the fact that individuals are made to feel uncomfortable due to either choice may require us to have a look at ourselves, and if our societal norms and expectations are eroding those freedoms.

***

The second point this incident raised is related to the debate about Muslim women and Muslim bodies more generally.  The existence of organisations such as FEMEN and the responses from the Muslim women around the world exemplify the battlefield that is the 'Muslim Woman'.  I might leave this point for another day actually, there is a lot to it...

***

Illuminating Links! 9th February 2013

 

Isn’t this an interesting article? Written about the Internet…in 1995!

Hillary Clinton is extremely popular right now.  Will she be the first female candidate for US presidency? What do you think about her policies?

A terrible, but instructive look at celebrity altruism in Africa – which celebrities “own” which nations?

An interesting Freakonomics experiment: Have a question? Let Freakonomics flip the coin for you!

Thinking of volunteering abroad? 5 expectations to avoid!

Jeremy Fernandez, a TV presenter, has an experience with racism and asks, why do people want to still vent their hate in 2013?

A little science on paying off your sleep debt!

From the Harvard Business Review: Now that it is February, it is time to think about the year in earnest. The question is, do you want to have a year that matters?

These are some very misguided international aid ideas…

Muslim fashion finds its flow! There are a fair few fashion ladies in the Muslim world getting amongst it, here is just one example.

For something a little random, here are funny pictures of animals.

On a lighter note as well, which was your favourite superbowl ad this year?

Lastly, a lovely tune heard on the radio recently. A little strange, but an amazing sound.

*Click images for source.

Shoot the Messenger?

"Everybody, at the end of the day wants to come back with the best shot." The Bang Bang Club.

Wow, does this film give some food for thought.

Where …are they getting the guns?

What …do you care man, it doesn’t matter. Just take the picture!

***

The movie, The Bang Bang Club, follows the lives of four war photographers during the apartheid in South Africa and their adventures while they attempted to record and broadcast the events of the conflict through image.

Although the film did capture part of the emotional journey, the film makers did not interrogate the moral and ethical dilemmas as deeply as they could have.  Instead, the film chooses to follow the stories of the men more generally and to refer to greater issue indirectly.

This doesn’t detract completely however from the question underlying the film: what is the role of photojournalist in a war zone, a person driven by humanity or by the passion and job description?

How then, does that fit in with moral and ethical expectations that we have as a society?

***

Kevin Carter, one of the four members of the club profiled in the film, committed suicide shortly after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for taking a photo of a starving child in Southern Sudan.

The guilt of not doing anything to save the child, and moreover being constantly asked and berated for his “inhumanity” was said to be his undoing.

…But who are we, as mere observers, to tell people like conflict photographers what they should and shouldn’t do in the line of duty?  How would we know what we would do in such a position?

The more important question is…Should they interfere? Are we allowed to judge them as we do if they do not?

Human Torch – Greg Marinovich (1991)

It is interesting to read interviews with the journalists themselves, years after the fact.  For example Greg Marinovich speaks below about the piece “Mob Attack”.

***

…the door was flung open and this guy with a scarf tied like a turban around his head came dashing out. He looked me straight in the eyes, and then took off.

All these other men started chasing him, and he hadn't gone far when he was brought down. About 15 or 20 men were all around him, hitting and stabbing and clubbing. And I was right there, photographing it. On the one hand, I was horrified, and at the same time I was thinking: what should the exposure be?

It was the old days: analogue, manual focus, crappy cameras. I felt torn between the horror of what I was seeing and trying to capture it. I was also thinking, how am I going to survive this? Because sooner or later these people are going to say, "There's this guy taking pictures of us committing murder." I was 1km from my car and the nearest outsider.

They killed him. And then one of them turned and said, "The white guy's photographing." Everyone leapt away, and I said, "No, it's fine, it's fine. Why did you kill him? Who is he?"

It was my first exposure to such a thing. And although, as a journalist, my reaction was fine, as a human being I felt I'd really let myself down [emphasis added]. It wasn't how I'd expected I'd react – I thought I'd try to intervene, or do something more noble. Yet I hadn't. I was really quite torn up about that. I was gutted that I'd been such a coward. From that moment, I was determined that, no matter what, I'd try to intervene and save someone if I could.

***

Greg’s PhotoBystanders: mob attack

It cannot be easy, and it isn’t an area with black and white distinctions; war never is.  It is easy for those sitting in comfortable chairs at home to disparage decisions made in the heat of the moment of an intense conflict zone.  The fact of the matter remains that without photojournalists, journalists and the men and women who put themselves in the line of fire to report, we would never have records of the atrocities that occur around the world.

As a society, we send soldiers out to fight on behalf of our “freedom”, but then avoiding dealing with the effects of war on a conscious.  Similarly, I believe these photographers, and many journalists in similar situations around the world, sacrifice a part of themselves for what they believe is a greater cause.  It is a sacrifice they have volunteered, and sometimes, they pay the ultimate price.

Whether we agree with their actions in the heat of the moment is a speculative, and a question of morals and values based on the individual.  Either way, we as a society should be grateful.

***

Read more about this fascinating topic via the links below:

NPR Podcast

New York Times

Greg Marinovich

Joa Silvia

Movieline Review

Links, Links, Links - 17th November 2012

 

Satire at its finest!

The Good Giraffe

A man who dresses up as a giraffe and carries out random acts of kindness towards people across Scotland has said he does it to feel good.

image

Child Labour in Pakistan, a photo journal

Talking about the different parts of you and your present voice…

I find myself struggling with being both content and restless. I have ridiculed myself for being the researcher, therapist, wife, and friend separately, constantly feeling as though I am lying to someone.

Three career paths…

Choosing a career seems endlessly difficult, but actually, most of work falls into just a few categories, and most of what we love to do falls into just a few as well. Look at your choices. They probably reveal to you which of the three paths you should take.

 The psychology of tetris

Since Tetris was launched on the world in 1986, millions of hours have been lost through playing this simple game. Since then, we’ve seen games consoles grow in power, and with it the appearance of everything from Call of Duty to World of Warcraft. Yet block and puzzle games like Tetris still have a special place in our hearts. Why are they are so compelling?

Really clever app…

India no longer a receiver of UK aid.

Lowy Institute’s ‘Interpreter’ article on why Israel’s Gaza escalation is a calculated risk.

Great article on doing good

The terrifying truth is that I’m making a difference no matter what I do, whether I like it or not. The math is right there: Everything else being equal, my actions amount to 1/7,047,833,249th of human existence, give or take whichever babies are being born right now.

Great for friendships as well as dating..I found it interesting.

It happened to me, I was a lazy welfare mum…and interesting story about surviving on welfare

The Weekly Grapevine: First Week of October 2012

 

 

Can you believe it is October? I spent the week learning about killing wells and trying to get decent phone reception… but enough about me, this is what I found on the net!

How politicians get away with dodging the question: The Pivot:  "Politicians," he says, "are exploiting our cognitive limitation without punishment."

This ought to go down well with my fellow uni students: why lectures are ineffective

 Top myths about the Iranian Nuclear Program

It is alleged that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. It has done no such thing. Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy, repeatedly enunciated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed the hope that the ‘Zionist regime over Jerusalem” would ‘vanish from the page of time.’ But he didn’t threaten to roll tanks or missiles against Israel, and compared his hopes for the collapse of Zionism to the collapse of Communism in Russia. Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967 and Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. The list of aggressive wars fought by the US, including the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, is too long to detail. So why is Iran being configured as the aggressor?

I know we have heard so much about the video and the backlash, but here is an interesting take by an American Muslim on the analysis…

…that’s not to say the film is an “excuse.” The film rather is a “last straw.” The attack on the embassy in Cairo following the one in Libya was not an attack on America but an attack on American intervention of Egyptian affairs. This is why it is so crucial for Egypt to establish its own democracy without Western influence. It restores a fundamental inseparable right of a people to determine their own government, and the morality of this principle on which America was founded means less war and less hostility. And it means more opportunity for us to focus on our own defense and build it in the event of an attack against a single nation (rather than five total wastes of military occupation).

They don’t hate our freedom; they hate that we think it’s ours.

10 favourite TED talks by a fellow blogger; these are great!

An interesting article: The Trouble with South Africa that highlights the issue of representation in the media of figures and groups not as “human beings with stories”, but more a collective that thinks and acts as a single monolithic non-relatable entity.

I’ve been puzzled and not a little disturbed by the lack of empathy on South African social media with the horrific events at Marikana, where 34 protesting miners were killed by police on August 16th.

So what’s going on? Partly, it’s to do with people’s tendency to believe and react to images over text….

But it also has to do with the way most media have covered and continue to cover the strike. This was pointed out by academic Julie Reid, also in the Daily Maverick. Her piece also argues that the day-to-day event-based coverage has also helped obscure a very worrying much larger trend of police violence against citizens. Beyond a lack of investigation and intelligent mining of the data, I have not come across any article that has attempted to get into the lives of the miners, show them to us as individuals, and help us genuinely understand their daily struggles. Much (if not everything) of what has been written lately glosses over miners’ past, dreams, desires, frustrations, etc. Short: their lives. The failure to give attention to those details made it impossible to imagine what it would mean to live a miner’s life, which has allowed the debate to be sucked into a very ordinary South African debate — a spiral of numbers, acronyms, figures, maps and politicking that works as a cover to say: we haven’t got a clue.

This is sad: An interesting recent piece of research on farmer suicide.

The study revealed numerous male suicide clusters of high risk from across Australia, but generally not (state/federal) capital city regions. Only the capitals of Adelaide and Darwin were found to have male clusters, although these are the fifth and eighth largest of Australia’s eight capital cities, respectively. The Adelaide cluster has also been found to have a higher incidence of mental and behavioural disorders. Suicide rates tended to be highest in areas that were both of lower socioeconomic status and with a higher concentration of Indigenous inhabitants. Only one female cluster was identified and over 40% of statistical local areas (SLAs) had no female suicides at all during the study period.

Win an Adventure to Africa  -- Sounds exciting, but a it does frustrate me sometimes that going to Africa is seen as one single destination: Africa is a continent made up of over 50 wildly diverse countries…

This does sound amazing though: UNREASONABLE AT SEA

Aussie Racing Legend, Jack Brabham and a chat with SPEED

The Muslim Dilemma?

The West and the rest of the world will not know peace until critical thinkers in the Arab and Muslim worlds start speaking out and getting an audience from the global media. There is no alternative to native dissent to the suffocating culture of the sacred. Muslims are as intellectually capable as anyone else in the world, but their minds are almost hopelessly shackled by taboos, big and small, social and political. Instead of producing a culture of critical thinkers, Muslim societies are teeming with thin-skinned moralists.

Meanwhile, Muslim-majority nations, those whose flags display stars, crescents, and swords, can’t compete with a nation like South Korea in contributing to global scientific research, or invent anything to save their lives.

Muslims are struck in an impossible bind: They are totally dependent on the West for all the good things in life but are fanatically attached to religion as a marker of their separate identity. By being unable to be fully Western, they have forced themselves into an orthodox corner. Fanaticism is the result.

Westerners and Western-educated folk who apologize for Muslims by invoking the depredations of the West are not helping make things better. Muslims don’t need to indulge in a victim mentality; they need to develop their societies, build stronger economies, cultivate the arts and and encourage innovation and critical thinking in all fields. Neither self-pity nor piety will get them there.

A tune to finish off your reading: Skyfall from Adele, for the new James Bond film…

Blogroll: #SudanRevolts 27-28th June 2012

Hello all. In the essence of laying low...here is some information other people wrote =) Also posted on the SudanRevolts blog, of which I am current Media Monitor. For any suggestions for articles etc, please let me know.

Now that the international media is picking the story up a little more, there is plenty of analysis to get your teeth into.

Here is a tip: If you are on twitter and want to follow people clued into the movement, check out this list.   

June 27th, 2012

A great collection of photos from Foreign Policy

The United States condemns the crackdown on protesters 

Christian Caryl asks the media to cover the story of #SudanRevolts in the piece: The Sudanese Stand up

Jadaliyya provides a great analysis on understanding the prospects and challenges for another popular intifada in Sudan.

Sandstorm Friday on Foreign Policy

Economic hardship is joining corruption, war and crackdowns among the grievances of Sudan's citizens against the ruling regime as political forces unite for change, writes Asmaa El-Husseini in this peace in Al Ahram

Armin rosen from World Affairs asks the question, is this a Khartoum Spring?

Of all the Arab Spring processes, the violent and nonviolent opposition to the NCP could turn out to be the least predictable—and the most destabilizing—in the region. But it could also offer Sudan something it hasn’t had since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the treaty with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement that ended decades of civil war, and a pact that Khartoum has been sabotaging and violating in various ways for the past seven years. It could offer a chance for the egalitarian and democratic future that Bashir and the NCP have so violently denied their country.

***

So on the eve of the Lick Your Elbows Friday...what can we offer in terms of reading fodder?

June 28th, 2012

Round up of great links by Foreign Policy for some background information.

Darfur SLM offers its support for peaceful protests

Change is in the air in Sudan says the Guardian

Elbows and Sandstorms in Khartoum

Egyptians in Solidarity:

We Egyptians have learned over the past year and a half that people all over the world can make a difference, and so solidarity and support are essential for the success of any legitimate call for justice and human rights. When the international media was reluctant to upset our dictator, the words of the people all over the world on social media and their protests in front of Egyptian embassies made a difference. We are all in the same trench, so regardless of nationality, we must seek freedom for others, just as we do for ourselves.

The Independent reports on the importance of the Lick Your Elbow demonstrations:

Khartoum is braced for a "make or break" day of demonstrations tomorrow, as anger at the rising cost of living spills over into Arab Spring-style protests on the streets of Sudan's capital.

The guardian highlights the elbow licking jibe

Reuters analysis on the movement so far

Links: Updates on #SudanRevolts

If you read one piece today, make it Amir Ahmad Nasir's article on Foreign Policy: "Sudan Needs a Revolution". Actually make that two articles for the day: Brilliant analysis on why the regime will fall.

News

Bloomberg correspondent Sarah El Wardany deported from Sudan by authorities

Omdurman dormitories set on fire by the NISS

The Washington Post highlights the facts

Apparently there are "foreign elements" aiding the protests, according to the official line. (Could it be, Oh, the diaspora perhaps?)

Shadi Bushra talks about #SudanRevolts raging underneath Tahrir's shadow

The fuel subsidies will not be reinstated says the finance minister

At the same time, bombing occurs in Darfur...

Blogs and what not.

Sudan: Shaken and Stirred

Great Song for the Revolution

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QxWn_kmKx0

The Word on the Street

It seems all my recent posts are published at 4am, with very little proofreading and more of an emotional outpouring in response to the situations I find myself in. Maybe I should invest in a diary instead... ***

So, you might find my tone in this post a little different. I have decided to jump feet first into the fray, helping out where I can and doing what I think is right. Taking the moral road, if you will.

You know what I've learnt? It is actually scary as hell.

I don't know if I am supposed to say that. I really don't. Perhaps I should be strong and courageous in the face of adversity and not be admit apprehension...but experiencing things first hand is different indeed to hearing stories.  It makes you truly appreciate what *ahem* actual freedom fighters go through.  It makes you ask the question, is it really worth it?

I think it is. I really do. The sad thing is though, I am not sure everyone else shares that opinion, and that is what truly scares me. For if your everyday Sudanese doesn't care for their country... why will anything change?

***

I like to make a habit of talking to the raksha (tuk-tuk) drivers and the shop keepers and what not to get a feeling for what the average citizen is feeling.

Let me tell you this: the average citizen is weary.

Khalas, they tell me: enough.

'Life is hard, tough, ridiculous... how can we keep living? Where is this country going??' They ask me.

I don't have an answer, because I wonder the same thing.

'Why don't you try to change things?' I ask them.

"Why should we?" 

***

Why should we?

This is the question that makes Sudan different from the case of say, Egypt.

People are not overwhelmingly proud to be Sudanese!  They don't want to do things for their country.

Oh, they will be proud of their tribe, that is for sure. They will tell you yes! I am Shaygi, Ma7as, Ja3fari... and they will defend their tribal name to the death! But defend their country? No...

I was given the example once that if you walked into a restaurant and started loudly bad mouthing Sudan, you wouldn't elicit a response. If you walked in and slandered a tribe though, oh, lord forbid! You would have to be brought out in a stretcher.

To be honest, as someone brought up in Australia I had never considered the tribal aspect of being Sudanese until I returned and Sudanese people would ask me: "So, where are you from?"

"..uh..Sudan?"

"No, who are your people??"

"...uh...My people?..."

*cue awkward conversation endings that included answers like: uh..engineers? ..lovers of rnb?*

Odd, I thought. (They all thought I was odd too, trust me).

Why is it, that people have such strong tribal affiliations but no connection to their national identity?

Perhaps it is because, as my cousin so aptly put it, Sudan has given them nothing.

Sudan, as a nation, doesn't support its citizens.

There is poor education,

A health system that kills more than it cures,

An economy that is strangling its people,

...and even if you make it through all that, there is no opportunity for progress.

Everywhere you turn, people tell me, things are made difficult for you. My own experience backs this up completely: to register at a university or even change a tire takes an entire day, because you have to chase every.single.thing.up.yourself.

I have been told by numerous Sudanese people not to bother trying to change anything. Just get out! 

Why?

Because apparently, Sudan isn't worth the hassle.

It isn't worth getting caught or arrested for, it isn't worth being afraid or losing opportunity for... Sudan, they tell me, is getting worse and there is no uphill from here.

***

I disagree.

***

I don't think it is going to be easy.

I don't think it is one person's fight -- or even just one generation's fight.

I don't think it will happen quickly, or painlessly.

But you know what? I think it has to happen.

I think the people have to believe that Sudan is worth fighting for. Because it is!

It is the land of the Nile, a land of culture, family, food, hospitality and tradition. 

A land with promise!

A land that needs its people to believe in it. 

Oh yes, the idealism of the youth, my older, more jaded family members tell me.

You will learn that this system strangles the hope from you they say.

Well, let it try.

***

I have learnt a lot over the past few days...

Learnt how difficult it is to control something like a "movement"; sometimes you just have to go with the flow,

How to speak as a "we" rather than an "I",

What people will give up for the cause,

What lengths people will go to in protection of the status quo...

To think, I only came to the country to learn Arabic!

Blog Roll - 25th June - #SudanRevolts

Doing a little Media Monitoring gig so will be collecting articles and analysis that comes out on the current #SudanRevolts.  Please let me know if you would like to be featured or if I have missed anything significant.  This can also be found on the #SudanRevolts blog.

Highlights from 25th of June 2012
Women set the spark (as we so awesome!)
Honourable mention from the 22nd

What can we do differently?

الجمل بيمشي و الكلب بيمبح.... The camel walks on and the dogs keep barking...

It is one of my father's favourite Sudanese sayings.  He says it to us all the time, whenever we are up against people telling us what we are doing is wrong, or "barking" at us to stop.

Stay on your path and just keep walking, he says to us, because if the camel stops and tries to reason with the dogs, it's over.

#SudanRevolts

***

So, we have entered the second week of protests in Sudan.

Things are spreading slowly, but I think I have only just begun to realise what an enormous mission we have embarked on.  It doesn't make it any less worthwhile, on the contrary,  it makes me realise how much more seriously it needs to be taken.

We -- the generation pushing for this change -- haven't seen a revolution in our lifetimes.  The last time anything changed was a good score and three years ago, so we are new to this whole situation. We've seen change in our neighbours, and we want that for ourselves as well -- I mean, why shouldn't Sudan be free and fair?

I do think something is desperately wrong in this country, and I do think things have to change. However, I think it is folly not to learn from what is happening around us and what has happened in the past.

Things have been bad before: How did they change and why didn't the change stick?

I often wonder how and why authorities in places such as Sudan get away with so much, when that doesn't happen to the same extent elsewhere around the world.  It isn't because the Sudanese people are inherently different?  I would ask myself.

No, it isn't.  One of the reasons is because there is zero accountability.

Technically, Sudan is a democracy: There were elections in 2010 where the current government was brought into power.  Why! people ask, did the public vote for the status quo?!

Well firstly one must ask, how many voted?  Something like only 9 million people registered for the voting, out of the what, 43 million inhabitants? 20% of the population. Which meant that the 73% winning margin amounted to about 14% of the actual population.  Not decisive win by a long shot, but hey, Jimmy Carter said it was recognisable.

So, the process was there for people to make change.  Why didn't they take up that opportunity?? Why didn't more people register? For a variety of reasons, one of which was a despair that their vote would amount for nothing. By not registering and voting, it became a self fulfilling prophecy.

The other main reason though, I personally think, is because there was no alternative...but that is a blog post for another time.

So, people believe their vote would amount to nothing. Why? Perhaps because they thought the votes would be doctored.  Why would they let their rulers get away with that?

Well, who would stop them?

When you grow used to an oppressive regime, their omniscience becomes larger than life and the fear itself is enough to keep you from doing anything. That, and of course the actual repercussions that do occur, because the fear isn't based on fantasy...

Ah, the crux of the issue. There is noone to hold the authority accountable.  The international community can't seem to, it legitimised them! The reason outside governments do things for the people is because they know the people can remove them if they are unhappy; the people hold them accountable! Here, that is not the case...yet.

This has to change if there is to be any lasting progress.  

The question is, how do you make that happen?

If I knew, I wouldn't be here in front of a screen asking you that question.

***

Yes, it is strange for me to harp on about this idea of the votes and democracy when there are ***things happening on the street!!!*** however I think it is important for some of us to take a step back and see the big picture.  People on the street is but one part of a puzzle in rebuilding a community.  The rest of the recipe includes a large scoop of organisation, a few dollops of realism, two cups of long term strategy and faith; let that simmer in a pot of experience and lessons from the past and we will see how it turns out.  

 I knew my grandmother's cooking lessons would be useful...

Picking my battles.

The past couple of days have been interesting indeed. Having watched the rise of the Arab spring through TV sets from the beginning of last year, I had always lamented "not being there" and getting involved.  The thought of history being made in "my" part of the world while I was in another country simply watching frustrated me -- I itched to do something.  

It is fortunate (or ironic) then that in my last few weeks in Sudan, people have taken to the streets responding to the recent hikes in costs.  What started as small scale protests in the University of Khartoum (by mostly women students actually) has now spread throughout the main city...

http://youtu.be/4k7jHObBQds

(Updates can be found on twitter under the #SudanRevolts hashtag or here)

Here is my chance! I thought immediately, when I started to hear the news and the rumblings on the streets...

Here is my opportunity to be a part of something that could actually make a tangible difference.

Yeh. I (to the dismay of family and friends) am the kind of person who walks toward a fight rather than away from it, so I can find out what is going on and see if I can help. Like a moth to the fire, I was drawn towards the drama, the intoxicating call for change that I had so desperately sought during my time here.

I posted on facebook, consulted with family, starting mentally critically analysing what was going on, glued to my phone and laptop with innumerable twitter/facebook/google reader/blog tabs open, trying to figure out what was happening and where things needed to be done...

I had a number of friends and family members give me various pieces of advice over the last few days; some said to "stay sharp, courageous and keep writing/getting involved", some cautioned me to stay safe, and a couple (some of whom had lived in developing countries) suggested that I get the hell out and pick my battles wisely.

...and at about Fajr this morning (around sunrise), after I had spent hours crafting Arabic posts to add to the Girifna (rough translation: "We are disgusted/We have had enough") facebook site, the main opposition to the ruling NCP, something occurred to me.  Perhaps this was one of those cases where I should listen to the sage advice of those around me.  

Reading the posts and comments and seeing the videos, it is clear that there is a lack of real direction, and that people needed organisation and support from a long term strategy point of view... but am I the best placed person to provide that?  I guess the fact that it takes me half an hour to read a long post in Arabic (my proficiency in proper Arabic still requires some practice) when these were protests and discussions being conducted in Arabic was one of the indicators that perhaps not.

Moreover, I am going home rather soon...and I want to be able to actually leave the country.  If I get involved in activities that are likely to get me arrested or detained and I don't have the support of a party or group, it is unlikely I would find my way out easily and if I did, coming back into the country safely would be nigh impossible.

The thing that did encourage me though was that there were people talking about the very ideas I was suggesting; organising protests, making sure things weren't destroyed etc.  What is still missing is the talk of an alternative and a long term strategy... but who is going to trust a random newcomer talking about long term strategy?

Even to me that sounds suspicious: with everyone looking over their shoulder for the NISS (the national security forces), I can understand why organisers didn't jump at the opportunity to bring me into the fold.

This doesn't mean that I am giving up (ugh, what a negatively loaded phrase), I think this is a case of picking my battles.  Perhaps what I can do is write rather than march recklessly, raising awareness for those outside the loop, perhaps an information relay rather than an organiser.  It doesn't seem like much, and it is galling for me to be here while all this is happening and not out on the street making my voice heard... but it is a case of recognising that there are more effective ways of making my voice heard and contributing to the conversation.

Like the engineer that I am, I think I will focus on efficiency rather than pure brute force: trying to add to the conversation intelligently rather than just add noise, provide a different perspective and different level of analysis and see if perhaps there are others there that are interesting looking at how sustainable, long term change can be established from the current happenings.

It is the responsibility of the educated to translate the cries of the people into something more than just destruction and the statement of frustration -- otherwise money, livelihood and eventually lives will be lost in vain.   

If I go out on the street, I am just one more dispensable Sudanese life to the NISS.

After all, as a few friends said: I'm probably more useful alive than missing, or dead.

Some links:

Sudan inches closer to an Arab Spring (apparently)

Sudan Revolts Twitter Feed

SudanRevolts Facebook Link

The Aljazeera Stream

The Official Girifna Blog

SudanRevolts in Pictures

Mimz -- A great Sudanese blogger with interesting analysis