All Hype or New Reality

When social change occurs is it the result of social media as the sole catalyst that creates the new change? Probably not, as it is only a vehicle for change and factors are many that help facilitate the long battle for social justice. The text explores an incident in which a Emad al-Kabir was being brutally tortured by Balaq Police. The police posted the video to other bus drivers cell phones to instill fear. Instead of fear the video was posted to YouTube and went viral…The Khaled Said movement was more prolific and unfortunately, more complicated. Movements seek martyrs and Said was one that appeared to fit the bill. He was a common youth that shared many of the problems of his peers..”drug abuse, unemployment, and conscription …” It would appear that the need for leaders and not martyrs are more powerful tools for social change. In other words, the qualities of a martyr may fizzle out with regard to political change unless the death sadly occurs following the strife of protest, imprisonment and injustice. In other words being a poster child for the victims list is not a powerful as say the path of someone like Nelson Mandela.  With regard to the hype or reality of  digital media it is purely a powerful vehicle for change although, it takes real leadership to actually achieve change.

Defeating the Past by Embracing the Future

The youth’s greatest advantage over the oppressive systems that it finds itself in, is the understanding and ability to quickly embrace new technology. The youth often lives in a separate world and the youth of today find that world in the digital realm. the young people of today who are disgruntled and unsatisfied by their governments more likely than not can find refuge in the internet. They can also find a means to fight back. Because the media is relatively new, things like social media and there outlet are dominated primarily by young users. It is here that the youth can organize to topple old institutions and practices. The youth shapes the future. The youth alone can correct the injustices of older generations.

To reduce Khaled Said to nothing more than his imperfections is incredibly irresponsible in regards to fighting the injustice that very much exist today. The same can be said when people insist that Trayvon Martin was a thug. There is absolutely no crime that could warrant the murder of unarmed civilians by veteran police officers who are trained specifically to detain not kill. Especially not when much of the socio-economic factors that push individuals into tough lifestyles are created by the forces that so eagerly label them as “thugs” and “hoodlums”.  To accuse individuals of wrong doings as some sort of justification for their murder is to brush away and hide the actual fact that women, minorities, and other groups face very real oppression.

The beautiful thing about the We Are all Khaled Said movement is that it is not the only movement. Khaled Said can stand for torture and abuse. Eric Garner can stand for unnecessary police brutality. Sandra bland can stand for the neglect, corruptness, and unfairness of the jail system. As many injustices as take place in this new age of technology, thats how many movements will pop up. WAAKS does not have to encompass every single problem but rather serve to galvanize the youth and justice seekers to take a harder look at their society and find the other problems. The WAAKS and other Egyptian youth movements may not work perfectly but they do work. Especially in a country where freedom of speech is not granted to all, that’s saying something.

In order for the youth, the generation of tomorrow, to defeat the socio-economic and political oppression of the regimes of old, they must embrace the technologies and possibility of the future. The youth must constantly look for ways to stay ahead of the curve. To reinvent itself. The youth must always adapt and continue to fight for a better world by leaving the world of yesterday. The only way to leave the world of yesterday is to live in today and tomorrow. And by fixing our todays, the yesterdays of the future become a source of pride not shame.

Digital Youth

Coming from a perspective where I choose not to/hardly participate in social media (no snap chat, twitter, Instagram, work forces me to have Facebook though), I particularly thought that the two readings were really intriguing in a sense that social media can be used as an invaluable tool to give social movements momentum. It’s simple to see this fact though, especially in cases such as how the youth in Egypt used social media platforms to give WAAKS momentum. I think it was rather surprising how the Ali and Sharnouby article explained how Egypt youth were seen as a burden rather than the “future hope” for the country –it all became rather ironic when it was the youth movement which drove the January revolution– its just strange to me how the whole country seemed to underestimate that particular demographic. If it weren’t for the presence of social media though, it would have proved to be very difficult for the young Egyptians to gain momentum in connecting the masses to see the police brutality occurring.

One term that particularly struck me within the “Distorting Digital Citizenship” article was the term “Digital Youth,” I have never heard this term before, and it took a lot of thought to decide what the term was insinuating. It wasn’t until after reading the introduction of “Social Media Revolutions,” by Wolfgang Danspeckgruber that I had a better idea on the topic. One quote that had the strongest impression on the idea of “digital youth,” was the what Danspeckgruber said “ Social media has given young leaders a unique voice…the new forms of interaction facilitated by social media hold the power to shake the very foundations of government itself” (3). This made me consider the fact that if I don’t participate in social media, does that make me socially irresponsible? I choose to not participate because I am a little unsettled by the idea of a “global village” (Marshall McLuhan); I have a long explanation for this. Still pondering this question probably until we discuss it.

Are We All Khaled Said?

Yes and No. (Of course this is just based on the readings)

Yes, because the message behind the WAAKS page and movement is very important – it played a huge role in the 2011 revolution – it not only exposed the social injustice and especially police brutality that had been swept under the rug for so long, but it also succeeded in obtaining local and international support, assembled people virtually and made real life protests possible. Khaled Said was not the first nor the last person to die because of the abuse of power and emergency law, but through digital activism he was made a martyr for their cause.

  • Emergency Law – before 2011, the emergency law gave authority the power to “impose restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, move or residence; the power to arrest and detain suspects or those deemed dangerous, and the power to search individuals and places without the need to follow the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code”

This law was extended many times and gave the Egyptian police too much power. WAAKS was mainly a movement against this law. Even though this movement was successful by reaching out to the middle class and youth through the internet by making Said a relatable, everyday Egyptian, it still had its shortcomings.

When the title suggests it, you try to relate to the cause, but maybe the movement was not all that relatable, as it does not cover all aspects of the problems existing in Egypt, especially problems experienced by the youth. Drug abuse, sexism, depression… these are all common problems that were not discussed because it did not serve the agenda – and if they made it apparent that Said had these problems, it would bring down his martyr image. So no, maybe we are not all Khaled Said, because the movement only reached out to some of the people.

WAAKS was and is still a very important movement, though. It mobilised the country, especially connecting the youth demographic through digital activism, which had not been done in Egypt before that. Reading the Facebook page and its back story made me realise how all of these successful campaigns are small and easy to start, but if the right tools are utilised (in this case, the internet), it could start a revolution.


Our Role for the Future

After reading about the Wired Citizenship article, I really wondered what my role for the future would become. Learning about the restrictions on youth activism in the Middle East is quite alarming for me as a citizen of the U.S. Due to my ability to have a voice through many different platforms and media outlets, I feel oddly yet gratefully privileged to have such tools. The We are all Khaled Said Social Movement is a positive light for Egyptians to move toward useful change as new mobilizations became available for young activists. Khaled Said is a renowned model for an act like this because he was a man that had to find his own identity on place he was born. The way I interpreted the point of view of Egyptians on Khaled Said is in both a good and bad way. “Khaled Said fits perfectly well into the deteriorating social tapestry of an Egypt where emigration attempts, drug abuse, street mistrust, and questionable friendships characterize the life of a young Egyptian.”(Herrera 92) Even though Khaled Said’s punishment was drug-related, he remains the symbol for Egypt’s cruel police force. Knowing that Said was 28 years old when this tragedy happened, I have a feeling to ask myself if I am going to put myself in a position to help stop things like this happening. Reading this also reminded me that I have different assets and resources available for me to help with a cause. The Egyptian politics are corrupt as a system to unable young activists to strive for change. As the government loses its handle on citizenship, education, and social progression, I feel that some sort of trust should be laid on the youth for brighter ideas and changes.  Ultimately, the question for me is, “What is my role to help mold the future?”