It’s basically impossible to ignore the obvious major drawback of crowdsourcing: the unreliability of the data it gathers. Taking HarassMap as an example, it’s not a far stretch to image fake or otherwise untrustworthy incidents being reported. This is not to say that in Egypt (and worldwide really) sexual harassment doesn’t exist, because it very much does, this is only to point out that the idea of crowdsourcing incidents like this is not completely reliable. What I personally love about this project isn’t the data at all, but rather the fact that it’s managed to do the impossible. HarassMap, against all odds, has managed to inject sexual harassment and the maltreatment of women in Egypt to the forefront of social discussion. This in itself is monumental. I was shocked and angry and completely dumbfounded when I read that victims often didn’t even report their abuses because cops, the very institutions that we would think of to go to in times of crises not only didn’t defend their rights and privacy, but they were the ones abusing them as well. I became terrified thinking about the prospect of living in a society where the rights of women are so far removed from social norm that even the law enforcement was harassing half the population with abandon. When you fall that low in terms of your place alongside other genders in society it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim yourself. When you matter so little that 99% of you can be sexually harassed and still nothing is done about that horrible injustice, it’s terrifying. Personally I would’ve given up faced with those odds. And that’s why I love HarassMap so much. That’s why I love so much what they were able to accomplish. Using their greatest strengths, their numbers, their connectedness via cellphones, victims and their supporters alike are able to shed a light on this very real issue. When they were turned away by the institutions that are supposed to protect them, they found the strength and the will in each other to address the issue. There’s just something so powerful and inspiring and respectable about how these women have fought back against their oppression that I admire completely.
The idea of a completely autonomous, free, unchecked blogger corps is an interesting double edged sword. On the one hand it is the fundamental right of human beings to not only be able to access the internet as a public good, but to be able to post, search for, and partake in whatever they desire on the web. It is a right for the individual (and after all what is the blogger if not a private citizen free of regulations and censorship that news publications might impose on journalists?) to speak their mind and to draw from their own personal experiences to perhaps connect with or inform other individuals on the internet. That being said, a blogger corps does not carry with it the credibility of the journalist and the news publication. Just as it is unchecked in regards to censorship, it is unchecked factually. The blogger is free to publish whatever they desire. Now often times the blogger is motivated to publish content because of very real circumstances, very real injustice, very real and raw emotion. But the fact remains the same, the blogger’s content is unchecked for everything, including the truth. That being said, I think it is extremely necessary to protect the existence and the rights of blogger and the individual existence of opinion on the net just as much as it is important to protect the right of the fourth estate. The two do to have to exist in unison. The two, although both dealing in the developments of society, actually cover vastly different areas of the human condition. The news outlet can remain as the factual news source while the blogosphere becomes the source for the actual emotion the experience of the oppressed. Both remain very real, both can work together in unison to appeal to both the logos and pathos of the individual in order to inform the public, but where they divide and become different is where the blogger must be protected. The publication of personal biases may be a double edged sword but it is nonetheless a basic human right.
“The central contradiction of the civil-rights movement was that it was a quest for democracy led by organizations that frequently failed to function democratically.”
It is almost impossible to determine whether or not the Black Lives Matter movement, or any movement for that matter, would function better with or without leadership. On the one hand, we see how misguided and unproductive, social activism can be without a rock steady plan or a leadership to take it in a forward direction. Instead what comes to be is an amalgam of angry individuals with points of view and emotions each unique to every individual. In this kind of climate there is often nothing but rage but with no clear objective, all the potentially powerful energy sort of just dissipates and nothing is really accomplished. Then if you assign leaders to the movement, it becomes far too easy to overlook the outliers of the cause. A leader can never fully represent the entirety of everyone they speak for. And if a leader speaks only to the majority, then again the minority is neglected and the vicious cycle repeats itself. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement needs not leaders, but role models. BLM isn’t desperate for leadership to direct it where to go or what to feel. The individuals that identify with the BLM know what they feel. They can see the injustice. They know they want better for themselves and the people they love. Instead, BLM requires role models like Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks and Muhammed Ali who, as central to civil rights movements as they were, they led by example not by instruction. BLM needs to become a movements that showcases the potential and the beauty, the power, the unity, the support of black individuals. And to do that it must be achieved by looking to minority role models and understanding that that is how we want to live our lives. Because for Black Lives Matter to succeed and make real change in the world, it can’t be an organization demanding respect. It has to be a way of life commanding it.
On Madamasr.com, the articles detailing the Shura Council case and the No Military Trails for Civilians movement pierce right to the heart of the issue of inequality in today’s Egypt. Whereas Herrera’s article detailed the evolution of the “wired generation” in the past two decades and how it contributed to the earlier revolts and the ousting of Mubarak, the articles about the Shura Council case give insight into the corruption that lingered in Egypt even after Mubarak’s ousting.
I could list the egregious civil rights crimes committed by the Egyptian government against its own citizens, but it’s shorter to instead start with the fact that many citizens are being tried and convicted in military courts, because it explains how the government gets away with every other crime against its own citizens. First of all, to try a civilian in a military court is a huge civil rights violation in itself. The US equivalents are the people held at Guantanamo Bay, stuck in limbo in horrible conditions, while they wait for a trial that may never come. US lawmakers constantly argue over whether to try these detainees in civilian or military courts. Military courts, in these situations, are viewed so badly because they basically function as faux-justice courts where none of the normal proceedings of fair practice or judicial law actually need to be upheld. This holds true for both the US and Egypt, but if anything the Egyptians have it much worse.
It’s fitting for the Egyptian government to have citizens tried in faux-courts because the Egyptian government is a faux-democracy. They have an elected president and a prime minister but half of the time that president (it’s now Sisi) is put into power through a military coup and the other half of the time he’s elected in rigged systems or without running against any opposition. Under this semi-presidential, semi-tyrannical government, the military and police force are given the power to bring any civilians to military trial, under pretty much any charges they see fit. There is no system or precedent to say that a person guilty of any charge, talking back against an officer for example, should face x number of years. The judged make it up on their own, and sometimes a citizen can face years of prison for a “crime” that another walked for. This system is inherently oppressive, and it’s undermining not only democracy but the human rights of Egyptian citizens.
From someone who had just started learning about activism in Egypt, it is a little bit hard to believe that the 2011 revolution’s success only lasted that long. Herrera’s article helped me understand this a little bit. It went into depth about how the ‘wired generation’, or simply the youth, was able to mobilise the revolution through the internet. The article also pointed out the limitations of the wired generation – in relation to going backwards after the revolution – short attention span and lack of long term planning skills.
Herrera raised an important question: “Does our generation possess the skill sets, vision, resources and organisational know-how necessary to build and sustain the type of democratic and just society it values?”
From Egypt’s current state, its clear that the youth is able to voice their ideologies alright, but they were unable to take the leadership role themselves, and now they are unable to overthrow the regime because it has become more repressive than ever. Its government had issued highly restrictive assembly laws that banned public protests back in 2013. In the following year, Egypt’s current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gave the military even more power than they already had by placing all ‘public and vital facilities’ under military jurisdiction – this means that since protesting is illegal, civilians will be trialled in military court for doing so, which is what has been happening in Egypt for the past few years.
Before the 2011 revolution, it was police brutality, but now its the military. As shown in so many cases, they can arrest and hold people up to years without ever giving them a trail, they can torture people into confessing or they can trial them without following due process. Military court also does not have a different set of rules for juveniles, making it dangerous for anyone and everyone.
Going back to Herrera’s question about the new generation’s ability: I think it has been repressed before it could mature, and is being led into wrong directions.
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.
Social media has started to play huge role in the lives of people across the world. It interconnects people who lives on opposite ends of the world, in completely different societies. Social media has promoted social and political change, and disseminates important information in a matter of seconds. Social networking through computer applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram gives activists and social groups the ability to spread information quicker than any other type of media. This phenomena of the increasing role in social media in all societies is called the “social media revolution”. It is taking over and creating a new world. In places such as the Middle East and other Arab nations social media has made a great positive impact. Social media has played a big part in changing the governments and how the rulers view the way they run their nations. Social media, although having many negative attributes allows people to voice their opinions in ways like never before. The internet is a somewhat safe place to talk about government issues and social problems without being completely scrutinized or physically harmed. It is the easiest for of communication in repressed areas because it is not hard to learn how to do and can usually be easily accessed. “Social Media Networks are fully comprehensible and usable even to novice activists, needing nothing beyond standard computer literacy” (Farid 2010, 5). It is amazing that Social Media has reached people in non-democratic societies, and is used as a tool to protest against discrimination and unlawfulness in their countries. I think social media has become so popular in areas with repression because it is a safer and more efficient than any other form of communication. Unfortunately there are downsides to everything in life and social media does have its faults for social movements and activists. In the articles, this easy and fast access to the outside world also creates problems for groups because of poor planning, coordination and communication. Organizers can make changes easily through social media and many people will not get the message or do not have direct access to the groups location. This can result in the diminishment of social movement groups because organization is a key foundation in creating a strong group.
Perhaps the most terrifying revelation to be had after reading the two articles is the fact that not only are the uprisings in Arab countries emblematic of a much larger issue, but the catalysts and the reasons for which the uprisings occur the first place are actually present in dozens and dozens of countries around the world. The problem is growing so fast, with the power of the people being eroded so effectively, that authoritarian rule, economic misery, a growing gap between rich and poor, widespread corruption, and so much more are all commonplace in most governments. It is frightening to realize that every single one of those problems is present in the American government today. With a twitter troll president elect who has the power to destroy company stock by the whims of fingers that type heinous messages 140 characters at time, to the untold power of potentially appointing three supreme court justices, Donald Trump is eerily skirting the line between democracy and authoritarianism. His wealthy cabinet appointments and willingness to allow Wall Street to police itself are also lending doubts to the sentiment that one day soon the gap between the rich and poor will be finally closed. And most recently, allegations that his campaign team might have worked with Russian agencies to weaken the DNC during the election race, also depict corruption that reaches the highest levels of two of the most powerful countries in the world. Couple all of those things with the fact that an ever-growing mass of young people, angry at the climate that they find themselves in, are not afraid to stand up to the traditions of old, and the entire American social system mirrors almost perfectly the trials and tribulations that people in Arab countries face.
The major difference between the two is that in the United States of America, citizens have a right to question and to disagree and to fight for what is right. Often times in Middle Eastern and North African countries the people are subjected to the impulses and tempers of those who govern them. The people of eastern countries have it far worse than the citizens of the United States. But much like how law abiding citizens are being thrown in jail for speaking their minds, black men and women are slaughtered in the street for being nothing but a different race. The American way of life is under attack more than it ever has been and it is under attack by its own self. It is as close to the hardships that Arab countries face everyday, than it ever has been. It’s sad that it’s taken for us to get to this point to perhaps start to comprehend what’s happening all over the world but from experience and from trying to solve our own issues we can hopefully now start to pay attention to what’s going on outside our own borders. We can now work to fix our own society while at the same time help to rebuild and free other people from their own suppression using what we learn to free ourselves.
When people think about social movements in the middle east or north Africa, they might not even think the word social – they usually relate to Islam, irrational radicalism, authoritarianism, terrorism and violence. It’s true, because those words pretty much describe the extent of my knowledge on the topic prior to reading the articles.
The Social Movement Theory (SMT) is usually used to explain why social mobilisation occurs, and its consequences, but people rarely take the middle east and north Africa into consideration during discussion, according to Beinin and Variel. This is because it takes similarities in different social movements and tries to explain them as a whole – this cannot be applied to the middle east and north African countries; every social movement, mobilisation and contestation is dynamic and relative, their context, networks and contentious practices all need to be take into consideration for each individual case.
What I have gotten out of the articles is that the difference between those countries’ movements and those of the western world is that they do not have the same freedom and resources to form organisations. Informal networks are also key to their mobilisation, even though the goal of these networks is to unite people and make their voice heard without presenting themselves as threats to the authority.
Other than movements and organisations with religious agenda, human rights is actually a main factor behind a lot of recent movements/revolutions in the middle east such as in Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain and Morocco. The exact cause of mobilisation and outcome in each country is different for each country. For example human rights is more supported by the government of Bahrain than by Egypt, and human rights activists often do not want to work with Islamist groups even though they are usually more powerful. Maybe this has an obvious answer, but why not?
What I do not understand is how social and political change can be achieved when most of these countries are under authoritarianism with heavy constraints against protests? I would not want to challenge that, which is understandable why they connect locally through informal networks. Even though it makes sense to not have conventional forms of activism against authority when the society is politically closed, its hard to wrap my head around how this collective but silent effort by the people could work.
So maybe a lot more research needs to be done to understand more than the fact that secular movements had and will continue happening under those circumstances.