HarassMap Achieves More Than Just Crowdsourcing Data

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.

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Trash Government

Originally aiming for peaceful demonstrations, the #YouStink protests turned into violent ones, resulting in riot police responding with water cannons and tear gas. The photos from the protest are hard to look at, making it hard to believe this issue would start riots – unless it is from years of anger built up against the government. Which is what happened in Lebanon: the people were not happy about the corruption in their government and how little they care about public accountability. This is reflected by them not collecting trash for  a month because they never came up with a long-term plan for after the temporary landfill has filled up.

The Lebanese government needed the pressure from its people to start making change. At the time of the movement, Lebanon had been without a president for a year. Like what Paul Amar discussed about uprisings in the Arab world, its a battle between different kinds of sovereignty, and the people usually want democracy – we saw this in the movements in Egypt, even though they did not succeed. Lebanon on the other hand, has a parliamentary government system that is divided amongst religious groups and they have an electoral system. However, in the comments of Alan Taylor’s article, the common question is “wow, Lebanon has a government?” Some people are just ignorant when they ask that, but seeing #YouStink does make you question what can the people do for the government to reform and turn into a better one.

How Egypt and the U.S. Can Help One Another

As I mentioned in class on Thursday, the fact is that social media and digital technology as a whole carries an altogether different weight in certain regions of the world. In the United States and certain parts of Europe where we can enjoy more liberties than say Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, social media and digital technology has achieved a level of trivialness to it. A large portion of media exists primarily a entertainment for the masses. In countries like Egypt, these same technologies are more of a tool to fight back against authoritarian military rule. Where we post videos of us and our friends standing still while Rae Sremmurd’s Black Beatles or paste the Jordan crying meme over anything we can, the digital generation of other countries post horrifying evidence to injustice. The digital generation of other countries create movements, an unofficial network, a system of resistance where it can only exist. The digital world is a safe haven in countries like Egypt. Don’t get me wrong, all across more privilege countries social media and the digital plane are being utilized to galvanize the masses. Especially recently, places like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr have been used to organize movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and the Occupy movement. There are two things you can say about this:

The first would be that these movements are all fairly new considering when countries like the United States were first introduced to social media. This fact can be both concerning and comforting. It is concerning because it speaks to a sort of devolution of society. It seems as if more and more problems arise everyday. Every time you look at your phone a new social injustice threatens to further divide our society. But one can argue that all of these social injustices have always existed only now with the blazing fast interconnected network that is social media and the digital age, every single indiscretion is at the mercy of being highlighted and magnified and rallied against. And that’s why the fact that so many movements are popping up in the digital realm is comforting. Because people are finally beginning to understand how to use social media and other digital outlets as ways to unite and inform and fight for what is right and just. Because the internet is no longer just a place to find memes or porn or other nonsensical stuff. Because online you can find support from people you’ve never even met. All of these reasons are why things like Black Lives Matter are important and comforting.

Which brings me back to the youth of the digital age in places like Egypt. Since their inception Twitter and other social media platforms have been tools utilized by the citizenry of Egypt to fight back against the military rule. Because of this these societies have been learning how to use their digital advantage for much longer than other more privileged places. Like I said, in Egypt the capabilities of Twitter matter much more than in some parts of the United States. The power of digital technologies is not only more valuable but it has been explored more by the youth and the oppressed. It is because of this fact, the fact that the youth of Egypt have been fighting their fight for years and years in the digital realm, that the studies and research on the impacts of digital technologies on the new generation should focus in places like Egypt. Not only that, but that countries like the United States should both pay close attention, and work vehemently with digital warriors of these regions to fully explore the revolutionary power of new technology.

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.

Social Movements in the Middle East and North Africa

The people in Middle East and North Africa have been misidentified for many years due to their culture that is defined by Islam. In the articles by Joel Beinin and Joe Stark we see a different perspective, one that doesn’t view these areas as corrupt countries swarming with terrorists. The Middle East and North Africa are in fact full of hard-working citizens who demand democracy and mobilization. These two articles focus on how these areas are much more like our western-civilization than we think. Before reading this article, I was unaware of the activists who are working hard to enrich the lives of people in their country. It is unfortunate that the governments have been unhelpful towards creating human rights organizations. “Most governments in the region have been actively hostile to human rights organizations, particularly when their activities go beyond training and they attempt to monitor violations and hold local authorities accountable” (Storke 106). I also find it extremely frustrating that the citizens in these countries have a very hard time making progress towards a just public and economic society. How do citizens in these areas get punished for running vigorous social movements and who decides to do the punishing? I was intrigued by the constant strive towards the growth of mobilization in the Middle East and North Africa. I was unaware that there were people with such strong desires for upward mobility that they put themselves in high risk situations. I wish that the media would publish more articles on the people who want to make these changes towards a better society in places such as the Middle East and North Africa. It is my understanding that it is our duty as American citizens (who have access to information around the world) to educate ourselves on others social conditions so that we can give positive feedback and possibly come up with helpful solutions. We may eventually be able to (if we haven’t already) help large networks in these areas come up with plans and tactics to enhance their social movements. Although this is my hope Beinin states, “In these situations repression is not the only fuel for contention”. The amount of corruption in these areas fuels people to mobilize, and therefore the motives of these social group leaders may not be exactly what we hope.