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Posts Tagged ‘arab spring’

Did you ever have a secret language?

I spoke a lot of Goose Latin when I was about 10. (How-fow do-foo you-foo spee-feak goo-foose La-fa-ti-fin? Tha-fat i-fis my-fi se-fee-cre-fet.) I don’t think my mother had much trouble cracking the code.

I have always been interested in how people disguise what they are really thinking when they speak, and I once made a video about having an extremely polite tea with someone I didn’t like, using a voiceover for my true thoughts.

A more serious reason for speaking in code was described in a Boston Globe article by Joshua J. Friedman last month.

“To communicate while living under an authoritarian regime requires a special sort of linguistic creativity. As a new paper by Nassima Neggaz in the journal Language, Discourse & Society reports, one solution that Syrians have found is to speak in codes. …

“Neggaz interviewed approximately 20 members of several close groups of relatives and university friends in Homs, Hama, and Damascus about the codes they used between 1980 and 2011. She found that members of one group, to speak of someone who was hiding from the regime, would say that the person was ‘sick,’ mardan. Members of another group would say that he was ‘studying’ (‘am yadruss) or that he was ‘taking exams’ (‘andu fhussat).

“To describe someone who was being detained or who was in jail, it was common to say that this person was ‘at his aunt’s house’ (huwa fi bayt khaltu). To suggest that a person was an informer, some speakers would say khattu heluw: ‘His handwriting is beautiful.’ ” More here.

Image: Christoph Niemann for Time, content.time.co

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Do men and women have different approaches to charitable giving?

In the July 12 Christian Science Monitor, Temma Ehrenfeld writes that the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University has found that “female-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed households, and that in nearly all income groups women give more than men.”

In addition, continues Ehrenfeld, “Insiders say women have their own culture in grant-making. …

“For example, the Global Fund for Women (GFW), unlike most grant-givers, accepts handwritten proposals of any length and in any language, and is unusually open to grants for general purposes rather than specific projects. It also funds meetings to create networks of women activists.

“The approach demonstrated its power during Egypt’s Arab Spring, said Christine Switzer, GFW’s director of development. ‘Our women were able to mobilize together,’ she said, pointing to 77 grants totaling more than $1 million GFW has given to Egyptian women, young and old.”

I often wonder, though, Are women more generous to the underprivileged when they become heads of state? I doubt it. Indira Gandhi? Maggie Thatcher? Golda Meir? Kirchner of Argentina? Let me know if you see studies on this topic.

Meanwhile, there’s more to read at the Monitor.

Photograph: http://www.dw.de

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I like reading about street art and what motivates the creative outbursts. I have blogged on this before (Slinkachu, Banksy).

The Art Newspaper recently did quite a long feature on street art inspired by (and inspiring) the Arab Spring.

Anny Shaw and Gareth Harris interview “Hans Ulrich Obrist of London’s Serpentine Gallery, who is chairing a discussion on art patronage in the Middle East as part of a summit at the British Museum and the Royal College of Art (12-13 January).”

” ‘What is interesting to see in Egypt, and in all these countries, is that artists are not only going out into the city, they also become agents of change in society. … If you think about it in terms of the Russian Revolution and Mayakovsky saying “the streets are our brushes, the squares our palettes,” it’s about art going beyond the museum and blurring the boundaries between art and life.’

“Obrist also notes that there is a long-standing tradition, particularly in Egypt, of contemporary artists using the street to mount performances or install works. Indeed, several contemporary Egyptian artists, including Susan Hefuna and Hassan Khan, have used the city as a site for their work, both before and in response to the uprising. …

“As Anthony Downey, the director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, editor of ibraaz.org and a speaker at the summit says, the region has ‘antecedents in graffiti-based pro­tests,’ citing those against the Shah of Iran before his flight from Tehran in 1979 and the graffiti and posters used in Beirut during the civil war in Lebanon.”

What a hoot that this art has been taken up by auction houses like Sotheby’s! But on the whole it’s good for the artists. I know what a great moment it was when the favela artists from Brazil were able to sell their work in the movie Waste Land.

Read more here.

 

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My sister buys a subscription to the Utne Reader even though you can read much of it online. She loves the variety of articles it reprints and thinks she should support the effort.

At Thanksgiving she told us about an article Rachel Kadish wrote that originally appeared in The Good Men Project Magazine. It’s about Kadish’s Israeli cousin, Noam Galai, and a photo he took of himself screaming up at the sky. It’s about how the photo struck a chord with Iranians and with Arabs working to overthrow oppressive regimes and how they used the photo widely, knowing nothing about the photographer.

Rachel Kadish writes that people originally lifted the photo from Flickr, and soon it went viral. “Shortly after Noam began investigating the spread of his scream photograph around the globe, he discovered something completely unexpected. Images of his face were turning up graffitied on walls in Tehran. In Tabriz City.

“His portrait, it turned out, had been picked up by some antigovernment protesters in Iran. In the year following the Green Movement’s first open clashes with Ahmadinejad’s government—a violent [June 2009] confrontation watched anxiously by the world—images of Noam’s face were reproduced by activist graffiti artists, sometimes veiled in red-painted blood. His anonymous face was rendered by anonymous Iranians on metal fuse-boxes and walls, alone or amid a crowd of other spray-painted images: part of a mute but vociferous message dangerous to utter aloud. …

“When Noam learned that his self-portrait was being used by anti-Ahmadinejad protesters, he emailed some of the Iranian graffiti artists through Flickr, where they’d posted images of their work under aliases.

“ ‘I told them, “It’s me. It’s cool. I’ll be happy to see more of what you do.’ ” ‘

“One of the Iranian graffiti artists wrote back. It was a two-line exchange.

“ ‘He was cool,’ Noam said. ‘He was “Nice to meet you, I like your picture.” I didn’t tell him I’m from Jerusalem.’ ”

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Gene Sharp (founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and the go-to guy on nonviolent revolution) is proof that one and one and 50 make a million. Sharp is one man, but his writings have had a powerful influence on many of the players in the 2011 Arab Spring and democracy movements elsewhere.

Today I went with Jane’s family to see a movie about Sharp at the Boston Film Festival. (Jane’s cousin, Ruaridh Arrow, directed it.) It’s a remarkable film. There were interviews with organizers of nonviolent change in Serbia, Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, and beyond. The documentary was interspersed with news footage and video from recent uprisings around the world. A key message is that change takes strategic planning (you can’t wing it) and is a kind of armed resistance, only people are armed with ideas for undermining the pillars that support an oppressive regime. In addition to conducting research on the subject of nonviolence, Sharp has offered a list of 198 techniques that effect change.

After a standing ovation, a frail Gene Sharp, 83, his assistant, Jamila Raqib, and nonviolent-change trainer Col. Robert Helvey, retired, came up on the stage with the director and took audience questions. Raqib was asked about the funding for the Albert Einstein Institution, which operates out of a small space in East Boston. She said that likely funders back off because the ideas do relate to overthrowing a government. The institution is struggling.

I wish you could have been there to hear a young woman stand up and say that she is Egyptian and took  part in the January uprising. She said the overthrow of the government was easy but the rebuilding is hard. She wanted to know if any studies had been done comparing the transitions to democracy of other uprisings. When Sharp said that studies had yet to be done, I couldn’t help thinking what a good use of new funding such research might be. The film itself was funded by large and small donations from around the world through Kickstarter, which I blogged about here. Perhaps it can kickstart nonviolent change elsewhere.

Update: Gene Sharp died at his home in East Boston on January 28, 2018. He was 90.

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