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Many things have been/are getting hijacked, and I am not saying that this is one of the really important ones but it has pissed me off on a couple of occasions in the past few years that I think it’s about time someone points out how many things are being sort of sold out indirectly within our private sector.

A few years ago, I wanted to intern at a local magazine, and thinking that JO was one of the strongest I sent them to inquire about the issue. I was told that I needed to have a journalism background or experience, which was somehow the point of me asking for that internship. I did not push or follow up, but you can see from the following few pictures from different JO issues from this year and last year that their editor in chief has almost always been a foreigner with many foreign contributors and interns. Interns who for the most part are foreigners residing in Jordan for a while as they study Arabic or volunteer with the peace corps or any other organization, many with no background or experience in journalism, their only advantage is being fluent in English. It’s becoming a pattern, half of the names are foreign. It has not only become an industry easy for them to infiltrate and find a job at,  they also get a priority over any local.

I afterwards went to intern at Al-Faridah, with Viva magazine, Trendesign magazine and Layalina magazine which came with the package. An American intern was allowed to write pieces while I went to pick up items to be photographed; searched for images of dresses and the likes and on occasion  wrote some of the horoscopes and a ‘kitchen talk’. The editor in chief at Viva and Trendesign was an American, the other English writer was a Jordanian who needed help writing in Arabic and transferring data from a recorded interview she made in Arabic into written text and translating it into English.

The following pictures are from different GO magazine issues this year and last year as well. Go magazine defines itself as the “go to monthly guide for what’s going on in Jordan”. It shows almost the same model of foreign names taking over. I am not saying that they don’t do a good job, but why is it that foreigners lead such magazines, isn’t it possible that locals might just know a bit more about Jordan than expats? How hard is it to find a Jordanian with good English and local roots that can really let you know about Jordan?

What really got on my nerves this week was seeing this in Akhtaboot, Al-Faridah’s English editor post is for those who graduated from US or British universities only! So basically someone who has spent the past 4 years of their life outside of the country studying is the best candidate for a Jordanian magazine!  Bottom line is, if you’re an expat or a graduate from a foreign university, even if you studied sports or law or anything at all, you’re always a better candidate than any Jordanian can be! I simply cannot make any sense of it! What to do?

“The West Asia – North Africa (WANA) Forum is a non-governmental, civil society initiative, voluntary in nature, which brings together regional stakeholders from different backgrounds to work towards addressing social, environmental and economic issues facing the peoples of the region.”

The 4th WANA Forum took place on the 29th and 30th of May-2012. The theme: Identity. My skeptical persona shines brighter than ever at times like these and I like to see what things are all about. The event had several panels on Identity and several sessions from “Region in transition and the concept of identity” to “Identity and religion” , “Identity and social cohesion”, “Multi-layered identity”, “Identity and the environment” and a few others. The speakers were from all over the world as were the 150 attendees whom stayed at the Kempinski for the duration of the forum.

The familiar faces were very few, Prince Hassan Bin Talal (Chairman of the Forum), the all too precious Munir Fasheh, Aroub Soubh, Dima Khatib and Raghda Butros. Other than that, to me and I suppose most of us here in Jordan, the rest of the faces and names were very foreign and new. People from Taiwan, Tajikistan, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Malaysia, Bangladesh and a few other countries where speakers. They do not represent the West Asia and the North Africa region the Forum is entirely about, nor do they relate in any way to ‘our’ identity. I’m not sure to what identity the forum was entirely about because it was not in Arabic either. Many Egyptian, Jordanian, Lebanese and in general Arab speakers spoke in English although there was live translation for foreigners and as far as I recall only 3 speakers insisted on speaking in Arabic connecting their language to their identity. I’m not personally one that is too hung up on the language   issue (Hello, i’m writing in English) but I found it a bit interesting that a forum on identity took place when the only things that were  identity related were the couple of Indian sari’s, the Omani dishdasha and a Palestinian embroidered dress the attendees/speakers wore. The event was closed to mostly international invited high profile/active individuals from the public, private and civil society sectors around the entire world.

The talks were very varied, many were mostly introduction pieces about the area/background the speaker was from and were mainly not too deep or related to the idea of identity but to the identity of the speakers themselves. I personally expected things to be more on an intellectual level than on an introductory level between different backgrounds.

One of the talks I found most interesting was that of ArabNet founder Omar Christidis on “Identity and social communication”, who went through several quotes that introduced perspectives on identity related issues. He mentioned transitions in identity, how some movements/events challenge our identity and turn us from mere observers or an audience to an agent of change in which identity is redefined into something that we sense we belong to considering we took part in its creation. He talked about altered expectations and about events that get mixed up with their own causes and get linked over time and space to create shared narratives and stories, and eventually identities. He mentioned the ‘arab spring’ but his talk unlike many others did not speak about him or his experience but more about his thoughts which was certainly admirable.

Another was Munir Fasheh’s talk entitled “Identity: A modern invention.” Fasheh connected Identity to our knowledge about ourselves and our lives and to the wisdom gained through our daily life and interactions and not from talks and discussions and dialogue on identity itself. In the war of حوار vs. جوار Fasheh repeats in many of his talks, ‘jiwar’ or neighboring wins every single time over good old dialogue -the concept of the forum itself.

Lebanese Ziad El-Sayegh was one of the most well ordered and straight to the point speakers. He also separated his talk from his own background and story. He talked about “The minority illusion”, how being a minority is more about mentality and perception than about truth and facts. “The distention of the majority”, when the majority ensures its right at full governance and the exclusion of any partnership or pluralism. “The sagging of the Liberals”  and “The fragility of social, economic and political justice.” His talk concentrated on the civil state,  values and citizenship as an identity.

Kurdish Bakhtiar Amin from Iran talked about “The Kurdish Identity: From Denial to Digitalization.” His talk indirectly made it clear that our identity as Arabs is a collage that is very hard to break apart even if we take it down to the mere geographical factor disregarding everything else.

Many other speakers talked about their mixed identities, others considered themselves to sort of be citizens of the world, another group shed some light on certain -mostly negative- experiences that were caused by their identities and it seemed to me like all talks portrayed how complex it is to find a definition or a measure for Identity.

On a personal level, I found it interesting to interact with and listen to people from across the world, but I failed to see the point, I failed to understand who is targeted with such an event, did the audience really learn anything new? What are the outcomes? How have these random and no so well structured talks helped us find ourselves or move forward at such a critical time. The forum carries itself as an event that facilitates debate and the exchange of ideas whilst the attendees were all from sectors that are well aware of most of the not too deep issues that were brought up throughout the 2 days. The youth were for the most part excluded from the event, the chairman barely stuck around to listen to the speakers and the general atmosphere during the talks was somewhat boring and monotonous.

I’ve come out with a few things to play around with in my head about identity, but the question that remains is how long will we continue on this road of dialogue about things that can not be discussed deeply at this level nor will really give us any push towards actively rising with our communities? If events that directly come from the royal palaces with endless resources and capabilities for real change are sticking to dialogue then what are we commoners to do?

Being a strong believer in the importance of education (both formal and informal) in the rise -and fall- of communities and nations, I can’t say that I wasn’t totally excited that the theme for TEDxYouth@Amman will be ‘Educativity‘.

Educativity = Education + Creativity. I will write a more detailed post about my thoughts later but for now I want to bring attention to an interesting new concept that TEDxYouth@Amman is bringing to the table. Other than all the youth who will be sharing their thoughts on Educativity on stage, there’s this competition that revolves around hearing your thoughts on Educativity, what it means and how it can be applied.

Read about it and do participate if you have something to share about the subject and about education in Jordan and in the world as a whole.

Youth Award: What is EDUCATIVITY?

Do you have your personal definition of EDUCATIVITY? Do you have a vision for how “education” and “creativity” can be put together? And do you want to be an official speaker at TEDxYouth@Amman?

As you may aready know, “Educativity” is the theme we have chosen for the TEDxYouth@Amman event taking place this coming November 19th 2011 at the Cultural Palace – Hussein Sports City. We created a competition to get you engaged and to hear from you.

What you have to do is pretty simple:

1. Take a 3 minute video of yourself telling us your vision for Educativity. A video using your personal camera or even your webcam would be good.
2. Send us the video to before November 15th.
3. Wait for us to review all sent videos and pick the winner.

Three easy steps, all you need is a good vision or an idea to share about Educativity and a video camera.

The Prize:

If you are the lucky winner, your prize will be a 3 minute talk on stage on the day of the event in front of 1500 Jordanian audience! Get your cameras rolling!

Original Post.

In my previous post I wrote about the Charter for Compassion, how it started and what it’s about. All things remain as ideas until we act upon them, and I think the Charter for Compassion is providing Jordanians the best way to do good this Ramadan.

The idea is very simple and I will take you through it backwards. At the end of the holy month of Ramadan 5 winners will get a prize each. The first: a one year scholarship to an outstanding student in need in the winner’s name. The second prize will be a one year health insurance for a family in need also in the winner’s name. The third is full payment of heating bill for a family in need during the coming winter. The forth prize will be 3 different skilled labor courses for people in need. The fifth and final one is entertainment and interactive nights for the elderly throughout a full year. All prizes will be given to individuals or families in the winners names’.

The Pay it Forward concept is one of the most amazing things out there. You do good and you are repaid by good being done to someone else and not to you directly. When the circle gets bigger and bigger I am sure that you will be repaid somehow, but this concept takes the definition of goodness into another new selfless dimension. Read more about the Pay it Forward Movement here.

Now if this Charter for Compassion competition does not apply as Paying it Forward then I don’t know what does! For you to be able to win one of these prizes and help put a smile on someone else’s face all you have to do is share your own daily act of compassion, a specific commitment you are making to live more compassionately, or a compassionate act you have witnessed, on the application here.

The competition defines acting compassionately as: treating others like you would like to be treated yourself. To relate to and try to alleviate the pain and suffering of other humans beings. To seek to bring joy, empathy and kindess through your actions towards others.

It can be something as small as helping your mother prepare Iftar to a big initiative you’re doing to encourage skilled labor. It can be your own act or one you witnessed others do. What’s interesting as well is how this might encourage people to actively do good in order to help someone they know who might need a scholarship or any of the prizes.

I personally hope that these acts do not become monopolized by Ramadan or any other religious event but remain a habit within us all.

Compassion: a small selfless act; unconditional kindness; a creator of happiness.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. One of the very few things that I personally think all of humanity agrees upon.

During a TED talk on February 28, 2008 Karen Armstrong made a wish: to help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion. on November 12, 2009 the Charter was unveiled to the world. The Golden Rule lies at the core of the charter which consists of a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national difference.

The Charter for Compassion is a document that was drafted by a multi-faith, multi-national council of thinkers and leaders. Here it is:

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others even our enemies is a denial of our common humanity.

We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

The Charter of Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life.

The good news is that this charter is not just Karen Armstrong’s project anymore, it has been adopted by a great amount of people and volunteers who are taking this charter and applying it in different parts of the world. And you guessed it, Jordan is on the list.

You might be wondering how one can restore compassion in himself or in others or how the idea will be applied, my hint to you is: Thirty kind acts in thirty days. After all, it is Ramadan.

I will let you know more about this tomorrow once the campaign is officially launched. Till then you can check the website, the Facebook page, the twitter account, or ASK ME :D.



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