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The ‘Other’ is not a new concept. As a society we have marginalised minorities and those that we disagree with or misunderstand for hundreds of years. It is a social construct by which we develop not only our own identity but shape the identity of others. And it is the group or groups with greater political and economic influence that have the greater ability to shape and represent identities. It is important to note then – that an identity, especially the identity of the Other is not something we are born with – rather it is a social construct we step into and live in by design.

Zygmunt Bauman said on Otherness that Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend (Bauman 1991: 8). This is an awareness that we form our own identity through the inclusion of an element of exclusivity. In order to define the self or society you must also define what you are not. Man identifies himself as a superior being by comparison to the animal in attributes that are similar but also attributes that are different or lacking.

Societies have advanced through time by defining identities of civility as opposed to barbarity, colonial as opposed to indigenous, black as opposed to white and free as opposed to oppressed. These same societies have wielded their substantial political clout to shape and re-shape the identity of the other based on characteristics that would be most economically beneficial at the time. When Colombus ‘discovered’ America, the marginalisation of the Indian as Other was economically motivated. How else would Columbus and the ensuing British colonisation have been able to usurp land and build profitable a profitable society? How else would Manhattan be bought for $24?

 

When the British colonised India, Africa and Australia, the characteristics of being poor, dirty and inferior were associated to the colour of their skin and Black became the Other to White. This too was economically motivated. How else could the Dutch East India company convince it’s men that Indian were slaves to be herded onto ships bound for the fields of Africa? How else would the British have been able to commandeer and mobilise large contingencies of colonised peoples to work on infrastructure and fight in wars that were of no material benefit to them? How else were members of the Pakistani Army and society convinced that Bengalis were not Muslim, not human and thus ripe for raping, looting and killing? Man identifies with Man till society finds an economically beneficial reason to distinguish differences and draw boundaries.

Societies of economic influence wield the authority of their social institutions such as the law, media, education, religion to hold the balance of power through their representation of what is accepted as Normal and what is considered Other. Organisations such as the UN are a prime example of a selection of powerful economies distinguishing themselves as leaders and thus authorises to interfere in the societies and economies of other countries. This is not to say the UN is bad – No. Rather it is to understand that our world is governed by a man made awareness of who we are and who we are not based on the economically motivated decisions of the politically and financially privileged.

When we understand and are aware of this concept and remember that none of us are born as the Other, our minds can awaken to the political hegemony being played out on a global scale. Our minds can awaken to the realities of being the Jewish Other in 1940’s Europe. Of being the Asian Other in 1970s Australia. Of being the African American Other in America … always. Of being the Muslim Other in America, Australia, Europe and Burma. When we understand that we have a choice to accept or reject the identity of the Other, we can explore and seek to learn about the so-called Other. If we only venture outside of the propaganda sold 24/7 on mainstream media we can come to an enlightenment on what Islam really is and who Muslims really are. If we do this we can strip the fear we associate with the tag other. We can remove the animosity that drives decisions like the Burkini ban in France and we can celebrate the diversity through embracing our similarities as well as our differences.

What kind of society have we become when a 10 year old boy cannot feel safe in his own front yard? When the very figures of authority that are sworn in to serve and protect are the ones that run down and gun down first and ask questions (or provide weak justifications) later. What kind of society exhorts the values of Liberté, égalité, fraternité and yet leads the way in dictating how a woman should and should not dress? If you ban someone from covering, is this not the same oppression and banning someone from revealing? What kind of society have we become when we spin bias on everyday actions based on the attire of the individual. Would these women have been singled out as ‘members of Isis’ (a horrible thing to accuse someone of!) for being on their phones if they were not in Hijab? Surely there is logic and common sense left somewhere in the world?! Thank God for Canada where Hijabs are not part of the official uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Justin Trudeau who says the burkini ban has “no place in Canada,”

Allah swt says in the Quran, O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (49:13) We are encouraged to know each other for where there is knowledge and enlightenment there can never be fear and animosity no matter how profitable it is to the ruling elite. We are the masters of our own fate and we the masses shape the direction of our society. So don’t let an economically motivated Big Brother tell you who to like and dislike, don’t let faceless corporations teach you to hate – go out and talk to people who you don’t know, who you don’t understand and who you don’t like – you might just find you have more in common with them than you think.

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The US presidential election has given not just Americans, but citizens of the world much cause for concern. As the candidates have whittled down from a flurry of Republicans each as stupid and dangerous as the other, we’ve been left with the most dangerous one of them all – A man who doesn’t value his word.

Each time Donald Trump opens his mouth, it’s to say something rude, offensive, racist and/or sexist. His comments are mostly outright lies if not grossly misleading and he has been successfully misleading the American public for the last several months. Trump may or may not be broke and this may or may not all be a big publicity stunt but what worries me is the vitriolic hate speech and actions that he seems to have legitimised in the minds of his followers and supporters…

Read the full article HERE.

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“You’re beautiful, but you’re empty…One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passer-by would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

This is one of the most compelling extracts from a novel which uncovers such detail about human behaviour and how our perceptions of our lives forms the basis of our life trajectory. The Prince and his Rose have always represented for me the need to find what you are passionate about and invest in that love and passion to make your life worth living.  If you have noticed the dormancy of my activity on here, it is because of my recent apathy. A year that was started by me with so much fervour and passion has dwindled to an apathetic state from which I need respite. Today I seem to have gotten it from the unlikeliest of sources. Facebook.

I dislike Facebook. You wouldn’t know that by looking at my profile as I am constantly online, but I dislike it A LOT. Why? Here’s a few reasons why

  1. It’s killing privacy. There is no such thing as the public and private sphere anymore. I wonder what Habermas would have to say about Facebook. At a global level the CIA use it to ‘do their thing’ (not getting into ‘what’ it is that they do. That’s a story for another day) Here’s the video that explains it if you haven’t seen it yet. At a local level, every ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’ is now on Facebook and wants to be your friend so conversations like this can happen:
    Mum – Who is [insert random guys name]?
    Me – A friend. why?
    Mum – You went to the same lecture as him?
    Me – Yes but why? and how do you know?
    Mum – [insert random name] aunty told me that she saw on your fb that you were tagged in a photo with him.
    And at a personal level, we are all now at risk of oversharing and becoming the annoying people we like to whinge about. See if you can find your fb self in one of the profiles articulated here.
  2. It’s bad for the economy. When ONE person earns a record $2.3 BILLION a year and more than half the world is dying of hunger, poverty, warfare or all three at once, it really makes you wonder at how your tacit involvement is helping this world go to ruin. It’s easy to dismiss your contribution as minute, but it is our collective minute contribution that is widening that gap between the rich and the poor and creating a discrepency in the division of wealth in society, a precursor to much of the issues plaguing society at large.
  3. It’s a waste of time. More than a third of women check facebook first thing in the morning and while this study is old and no doubt the figures have risen significantly since, its not hard to beleive that more and more of us are wasting more of our time on facebook with no visible benefits. We check our fb several times a day, in the middle of the night, even before we go to the bathroom in the mornings. Why? What could possibly be happening that you are missing out on? That is more important than your sleep? your time with family? your time to LIVE your life yourself and not through the voracious mastication of vapid fb status updates from other people. I recently deactivated FB and it was one of the best things I did with my time… because it let me have MORE time. (I am back on FB now but read on to find out why this is ok)
  4. It causes depression. Facebook users are more and more lonely. Articles like this used to make me think the authors were silly to write that people actually let online updates affect their sense of self. But then I realised I do too. I do THIS. I think I am entitled to more than I deserve because people on my facebook show me that their world is unicorns and rainbows and I inevitably compare. Those carefully filtered, posied and cropped pictures hide the rain that came before the rainbow and the crap that the unicorn leaves behind. It creates a sense of rejection, despondency and fear in us that we would otherwise not experience had we a more rounded insight into the lives of those we ‘befriend’. Facebook allows us to ‘befriend’ more than we would ever do in person and the larger our circle of ‘friends’ become the more at risk we are to falling off the proverbial facebook cliff like a lemming looking for the pot of gold in the form of that perfect facebook status update to outdo all the ones in our newsfeed.

THIS is why I dislike Facebook. But today, this morning – I opened my fb app and my newsfeed did something – it educated me. It inspired me. and It made me shake off my cloak of apathy and put on the cloak I always wanted to wear – the one that will let me save the world. I don’t open FB to read news, I have my news apps and google for that, but almost every second post on my newsfeed today was a newsarticle or some sort of article that had me thinking, moving out of comfortable position as the couch potato in my brain and realising that the time to act is NOW. I read that in a recent study, 78% of a group of Facebook news consumers gets news on the social network while they are there for other purposes, such as catching up with friends or sharing photos.

This morning my fb feed gave me these:

  • Brand’s article and interview  supposedly sparked a ‘revolution’. I disliked Brand. I disliked his alter egos, his crude, brash, self destructive and womanising ways made for good ‘bad tv’ and a ridiculous role model for an impressionable youth. And then I read his article. His ability to articulate himself on a level far beyond the hollow celebirty he is made out to be is impressive on a singular level. There are so many many quotes in his article and his interview that spur in me a fervour for change and revolution that it is impossible to list them all here. I would encourage you to read his article and listen to the interview. I hope his realisation that “Profit is the most profane word we have. In its pursuit we have forgotten that while individual interests are being met, we as a whole are being annihilated. The reality, when not fragmented through the corrupting lens of elitism, is we are all on one planet” will lead him to find Islam and sees that it answers every question he has. Till then he is singing the same lines as The Who say it best in their lyrics for “Won’t get fooled again”

There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

  • Praying in public – Pulling out of self-inflicted (or life-inflicted) apathy is made all the more easier when you see things like this and things like the Modest Street Fashion project by Langstone Hughes. Singular individuals enacting change and revolution in their own way in their own capacity to act to create and precipitate a collective revolution is all around us in so many ways and forms. It’s only a matter of being open to people and fiding your own space to catalyse your own revolution.
  • Reza Aslan talks about Palestine and Israel – Reza Aslan is a Muslim. Yes, he has four degrees and a PhD in religious studies and over a decades worth of knowledge, skills and expertise in all forms of religion and religious scripts but hes ‘a Muslim’. This is only ONE of the many speeches on youtube that are a must watch – this guy speaks the truth with frankness, sincerity and a sprinkling of sarcasm. My only criticism of him would have to be where he likens hadith to ‘stories and retellings’ and discounts their validity in contention with history. Mate, it’s called His-Story for a reason. If you discount the hadith of Rasul SAW then discounting some ‘facts’ written up by a white supremacy and handed around as ‘history’ is just as easy. But still. Beyond that – I like his work. I love that Aslan says, Prophets did not create religions, their followers did. Prophets are reformers. their job is to take the religious and cultural milieu and challenge it. This is what we must all do in our own capacity. Because all the religions and all the Prophets have the same goal and the same message. To live in harmony and peace and spread the love beyond your own lifetime in whatever capacity you can. He tells it like it is and his frank statements calling for a revolution, calling for a change, calling for people to stand up and take the future of our collective forward as a whole is reminiscent of Brand (in a more stately academic way of course!).
  • Mark Twain’s Top 9 Tips for Living a Kick-Ass Life – It’s everything we’ve been told before, but the more I read the more I realise how little I know. This is great advice and should be a reminder of who we want to become to become who we want to be.
  • 20 Pictures that will warm your heart – In a world where Rape occurs almost as frequently as a birth (don’t quote me), pictures like these restore the faith in humanity that we all need instilled in us if we are to care about our surroundings and our future generations enough to take a stand and make a change. A great reminder of the community and the love we are working to retain and restore.
  • Amazing quote from a Random NYer for HONY – Brandon (photographer behind Humans of New York(HONY)) asked her to tell him something about Nonviolent disobedience and she said, “Nonviolent disobedience is strategic for many reasons.  One, it’s an important way to attract attention and compassion from the international community.  Also, it’s the only type of response that can include the entire community.  Violence is more exclusive, and can only happen in pockets.  Nonviolence can involve everyone, and can help leave behind a sense of community after the objectives of the disobedience have been met.” We are at our most basic a body in which a soul craves to meet its Maker. We wander through life trying to fill that hole in our hearts with materialism, consumerism, Love, idealism and shoes. In doing so we become apathetic, immoral, despondent and most of all angry. And anger makes us violent. Controlling that anger, channelling it through strategic disobedience is much much more rewarding, constructive and adhesive in pulling together the collective for your cause than a whack over the head. She says what Prophet Muhammed, Gandhi and Martin Luther King have all said and DONE before her… to great success. Strategic non violent disobedience is telling of a collective which encourages cohesion and change in a non threatening way to ignite revolution and create the utopia we all crave.

And much much more. And I realised that while Facebook has its shortocmings, like every other invention of man – it is a tool that can be used to great benefit, should I chose to do so. When man invented Fire – he could use it to warm himself and cook his food or he could use it to wreak havoc and destruction. Aeons later, the same holds for all other ‘discoveries’ and inventions – there is two sides to each coin.

Beyond my choices of deactivating my fb and living in ignorance of the great wealth of information out there, or immersing myself so wholly in living through the status updates of my friends, that my own life passes me by… there is a third option. The option to recognise the tool for its capabilities and use it only in so far as it is useful for you. Facebook for me, has evolved from merely a stream of what my friends had for lunch and their outfits of the day, to a stream of updates on life, education, world events, politics, charity and education. My friends circle has been carefully cultivated so that when I am on fb I am learning, I am growing, I am being inspired and affected to shake off the apathy and live not only in the real world where my feet touch the ground, but in the online world where I can reach out and touch another person’s heart and mind with my words.  I can live there and make a great life for myself, if only I am passionate and intelligent about how I do so.

So how do I do so? How does reading articles linked on Facebook and ‘sharing’ them with friends catalyse change in the real world? I read somewhere that “one’s search for answers can be more important than the answers themselves”. The answer to this is to go on that journey. To find what you are passionate about and articulate it, pursue it, paint it into your reality and onto your facebook – so that one day we actualise our longing for the meaning of life by filling that hole in our hearts with love and contentment… in a private and public sphere that would make Habermas proud.

One Republic got it right in their lyrics for “Goodbye Apathy”

So goodbye apathy
(As I’m trying)
So long fancy free
(Just to keep things right)
Goodbye apathy, I don’t wanna be you
(Kill  myself to make everything perfect for you)

Go out there. Find your Rose. Love it. Cherish it. Water it. Protect it. And say Goodbye to Apathy for YOU are the change you wish to see. In the words of Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC) in his Odes, “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” which translates to “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next day/future.” Rush towards your future and enjoy the Journey – for sometimes it is far more telling than the answer waiting at the end.

I don’t walk right, not like I used to
There’s a jump in my  step as I rush to see you
I could be happy here as long as you’re near to me
As long as you’re close to me

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