7iber organized a debate last night that could fall under many categories, social media, activism Jordanian reform, and/or revolutions. They all intersect and because they do a lively discussion was had. Like in any debate you have the people who discuss the topic at hand, the ones that go off on tangents, the ones that bridge the ideas together and the ones that have no clue. Yet everyone had something to say.

 

I was surprised, and happily, with what was said. People discussed the influence of social media tools on organizing and everyone was aware and quickly moved on that these are tools. Yet some of the more poignant questions were: Is social media taking the debate to the next level? Is social media raising the ceiling for traditional media? And Is social media going to spark the next revolution?

 

But discussion that really interested me was one that was about Jordanian reform and political activism. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about political youth movements that have been active since 2006 and the political activity of Jordan in the 1950 and 1960 which had died down after 1967. It was amazing to hear about our first parliament and the political diversity and opposition movements in Jordan of that era, that spoke of anti- monarchy and elected government ideas and such; Ideas that are not new today and have been in our history for over 50 years.  It was bluntly said that 1967 had killed us, put us in a coma. One person went on to say that he grew up in the 80s and 90s with two central ideas Making Jordan a better place and the Palestinian Cause and the two just get so messed up in one’s head after a while.

 

So what happened, other than 1967 and the loss of Palestine? Where did all that political engagement go? Why do we not know about it? It’s right there in our history books and the media archives if we cared to look. Why didn’t we care to look? Speaking to a friend today  about what transpired in the debate, she said  “I was politically disengaged because it so disheartening and defeatist”.  That may capture how people were feeling , alongside many factors such as state propaganda, educational systems that fed us rote memorization and glorification or the system, the lack of political parties, the emergency/ martial law we lived under until the end of the 80s and other factors deaden us to political engagement. The few that did voice their opinions were marginalized and ignored by the media and so nobody really heard of them. Like the Youth groups that staged many a protest since 2006, or the hundreds of strikes and protests that took place just last year in Jordan.

 

But things have changed, and I think that change, that shift goes back to the Gaza Massacres. When Israel was razing Gaza, people mobilized and went out and voiced themselves. This was mostly in the form of humanitarian assistance, volunteerism and vigils and protests. But something clicked in the psyche of the people.  They felt they had a voice, and somewhere to pour their energies outside the shisha bars and cafes, away from television and computer screens.  A lot of what we did see in the past two years is social activism; People wanting and working on social change within their communities. A lot of initiatives old, new and newer became more visible as more and more people found them and engaged with them and thus with the various communities around the country and especially in the capital. And once again regional events have resonated and continue to resonate in Jordan.

 

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have meant that the social has become political in the Jordanian context. It has sparked a different kind of debate and people have raised the ceiling and are talking about things that they would not have before without their eyes shifting and looking over their shoulders. I think the timing has a huge effect, now after two years of social activism and social work people know they have a voice, know they can make a difference, have seen people in action and are ready to go to the next level. This is where all the reform talk is coming from and this is where our energies need to be spent.

 

The #hashtag debates  are a great way to take the discussion offline and start bringing people who were invisible before into the discussion sphere and make us more aware. It is also time for more opposition voices and reform voices to come online and garner support to their demands online. The #hashtag is one of many things that need to happen.  I am optimistic about the process as we are talking and we are not afraid to speak and point the light at our issues and shortcomings and problems. We are crossing the first of our hurdles and that is the ostrich pose, our denial. What happens next is yet to be seen, and as always I am optimistic.

 

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I was very disturbed about a month ago when I saw in my Facebook feed the following:

“Don’t ya just LUV when you’re walking in BROAD DAYLIGHT & some GUY runs up behind you, CHOKES you, RAMS his hand UP YOUR ASS, DIGS his fingers in SO HARD you’re STILL SORE hours later, DRAGS you to the ground so you CUT YOUR LEG & PULL a TENDON & he RUNS AWAY like the fucking COWARD that he is & you (think you) CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE DON’T LIVE IN THAT KIND OF WORLD… don’t ya luv when that happens?”

The first thought in my mind when I read this was this must be a story she came across when doing research for OD. This can’t be real, this can’t have happened to her. But it was real, it did happen to her and this is her story.

I am angry, I am tired and I am frustrated of how unsafe and unforgiving this world is for anybody who dares to claim her or his space, her or his rightful space in this discriminatory world. Especially when that space is one outside the “norm”. I am tired of walking out into the street in a bubble that is prickly and made of steel, ready to burst at the simplest provocation. I am tired of the friendly neighbor that had become a threat, the grocer that crossed the line with snears and lustful good mornings, the man on the scooter that thinks it’s OK to ogle you. And if you let your guard down, or forget your bubble and they get too close, they touch you emotionally, psychologically, and physically and scar you.

I have a right to my integrity as a being, to be here un-harassed, unharmed, to walk in the sunlight and enjoy the moonlight without worry of being followed, grabbed, pinched, catcalled or worse. I want to be able to walk down the street without my smile interpreted as an invitation. I want my rightful space and freedom.

I have spoken about this before and will continue to do so, Jackie and I have worked on ObjecDEFY (OD) for over a year now and we encourage you to break the silence as well and defy our daily objectification, let your voice be heard, share with us your stories and here is the starting point:  www.objecdefy.com. And if you can tweet the story, repost it on your blog, and tell everyone Jackie’s story because we need to break the silence.

When the assault on Gaza was taking place something clicked. It wasn’t expected, it wasn’t planned for, and it just happened. It happened here, it happened there, it happened just about everywhere. People were outraged, as they always are, but this outrage manifested itself differently. People did not just sit at home and lament the latest Israeli tantrum. People poured out into the streets and took that outrage into action.

There were demonstrations, there were donation drives, there were organized activities, the blogosphere went crazy. People mobilized themselves and others in a way and with such determination that I had never seen before. But now what?

The energy that was generated was used in very productive and proactive ways at the time but now three weeks after Israel “withdrew” that energy is nowhere to be seen. Activism is not a way of life here. We are not volunteers by nature. Yet this experience has proved we have what it takes to make a difference in each other’s lives and in the lives of those we don’t know. So why cant we keep up the momentum? Why do we only have to react and respond to emergencies? Can we not build this kind of community today and sustain it?

I have a friend who made a comment that sticks with me and is very relevant “why do we have to volunteer for death, cant we work for life?”

On Saturday January 17 2009 a community got together and donated time, effort and goods to Gaza. When I arrived I expected to see a few stalls and a few people instead I saw every possible space at the YWCA filled with stalls goods and people.

 

Young and old had volunteered to do various roles from setting up the shoe throwing game, to selling raffle tickets, young musicians had volunteered their voices for a concert and the stalls were filled with various wares from used books to handmade jewelry and such. Stall proceeds were pledged to the cause and they ranged from 100% to 10% of profits and proceeds going to Gaza. The goal was to raise JD 1000 to use for medical supplies and goods.

 

After seven hours of giving and taking, after a lot of running around, people started to tidy up and put away their wares. Happily tired volunteers were packing what little was left of the donations that came through for sale. And as the money was being counted we quickly realized we had exceeded our expectations of JD 1000. Slowly we counted 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, and 5555 Jordanian Dinars (USD7845) in sales, proceeds, and donations ALL GOING TO GAZA.

 

Well done, one and all! Well done to every one that pitched in, to everyone that brought or made something to sell and to everyone that brought their wallets and emptied them out.  I would also like to thank the women behind this event (this event was initiated and run and 90% manned by women from the community).

 

In my opinion, what we saw that day was amazing and worth much more in human spirit and generosity. The community came together and it didn’t matter where they were from, what religion they were, what color or creed, what nationality. That day we were all humans out to help other humans in need. Thank you for reaffirming to me that humanity still exists in this ever growing and alienating city.

My body aches for Gaza and in a good way. Last night I was one of the lucky few who went to the ARAMEX warehouse in Qastal to help with the donations campaign for Gaza. There were nearly a hundred volunteers working last night. We prepared packages of food for our brethren in Gaza.

What amazes me is how tirelessly everyone worked pitching in with a smile working as a team. Many of us came as strangers and we left as strangers, but throughout we worked as one family… a team. Helping each other, working together, knowing that at the end of this day we have helped many.

Last night when I spoke to organizers of the group we had unloaded between 12-15 truckloads of donations and packed upwards of 900 boxes of aid, and yet we were a handful of volunteers.

The warehouse is massive to say the least, it is full with donations ranging from medical supplies, food, hygiene products, clothing, blankets and tents and every other random item you can think of. Children, youth and adults, men and women were all there. No one is too young or too old to help. Everyone can make a difference. There is so much work to do that I am calling out again to each and every one I know and don’t know.

If you have to go to the gym, this is defiantly a work out. If you want meet friends, then bring them here for an hour or two. If you have a family engagement then ask them to donate too. That argileh can wait, that meal, that coffee wont miss you as much as the children will miss warmth, and food.

Each one of us makes choices everyday on what to do, where to go, what to eat… we are privileged. Use that privilege; make that choice come help us sort out donations today, tomorrow, and everyday until we are done. Does Palestine, does Gaza not deserve two or three hours of your time? Come and let your body ache too and in a good way!

For more information go to 7iber.com where you can see pictures, videos and get directions of all the good work we are doing.