I Can Haz Hiatus?

Every now and then, we all need a break, and I certainly needed one. Especially from the bubble that is social media, where one day you wake up and start the robotic routine of posting, tweeting, replying…before realizing you’re not adding anything of value. That’s when you realize you’re probably just adding to the noise. That’s when it’s time to step away from the computer and get some fresh air. That’s when you remember you actually like fresh air. That’s when you realize you wouldn’t mind some more of it. And pretty soon, the thought of a digital universe is as distant a thought as the possibility of life on other planets – replaced with family, friends, work, books, and of course, fresh air.

And pretty soon, the only rational reason for you to return to that world of noise is that thing deep down inside of you that yearns to make sense of it all. Unfortunately, out loud.

So this post is just to say that I’ll be returning from my vacation, and hoping to sit back down behind the glare of my screen and try to put words to thoughts once more. At least until the static just gets too much.

And now, I leave you with the obligatory lolcat.


It’s Time (Seven Years Later And Other Thoughts)

“God help us from those who believe that they are the sole possessors of truth. How we manage at times to agree willingly to become prisoners within our own minds and souls of beliefs and ideas on which we can never be flexible. How can we resolve problems if we do not place ourselves in the position of others with whom we have problems? How can we move ahead if we do not have mutual respect for each other, and stemming from it…trust?”

Today, this blog finishes its seventh year. It was perhaps the most dramatic and turbulent years in the country’s recent history, and I think a great deal of what I’ve written these past 12 months is a reflection of that. I usually take this time, this day, this post, to reflect on the past. It’s usually a chance for me to see what lessons I can personally glean from my own writings and from the events that have unfolded in the Kingdom these past few years. The only problem is that this past year is so dominant in my mind that it clouds out everything else. In other words, I’m forced to look at the present over the past. And when looking at the present, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this confused or unsure of things. Reflecting on everything, I’ve actually tried to reduce the frequency of writing on this blog this past year due to the fact that the situation is incredibly confusing. It’s kind of ironic I suppose as I clearly remember many of the days that would pass me by in past years when I’d wish something was going on worth writing about, worth talking about, worth debating. And then 2011 comes along and the words come out all jumbled; the thoughts scattering like birds amidst the confusion.

From protests, to movements, to critics, to government political maneuverings, to parliamentary absurdities, to media blunderings, corruption case after corruption case, a dwindling economic state, statements, tribalism, suspicions, conspiracies, loyalties, thugs,  rallies, pop-patriotism, and more and more and more. Of course, this is to say nothing of the region that surrounds us, and affects us, and manipulates our political landscape unpredictably.

And in the midst of all this…the picking of sides is demanded of us. Everyone wants to know where you stand. Are you “with” or “against”? And for the life of me, I haven’t a clue as to what we’re supposed to be “with” and what we’re supposed to be “against”. But it doesn’t matter. There’s black and there’s white, and you’re supposed to pick a color and stick to it – all in a country that is immersed in a thicket of grey. And when we pick a side, we’re supposed to apparently attack the other side. If we disagree with them, we tear them apart. If we don’t agree with their opinions we’re supposed to insult them, their background, their personal lives, etc. Disagreement is good, but this kind of animosity towards one another is on a whole other level. There’s a game being played on a chess board, and everyone is shifting themselves around to counter the other’s moves. And it is all so, very, very, very tiring.

For the first time in a long time, I cannot see the way forward. And everyday, something seems to happen that reminds of that fact; something that makes the fog around us thicker and thicker.

All this is enough to keep a person from writing. A part of you might want to speak and articulate a thought, but with so many elements at play, with so much polarization, with so much aggravation, so much animosity towards one another, you have to wonder if it’s worth it. If not for anything else, but for one’s own sanity. Perhaps even for one’s own safety. For the sake of not descending in to that dark abyss of cynicism, dispair and hopelessness. One wishes only good things for the country he or she resides in or belongs to, and in one way or another, tries to work towards that. But it becomes incredibly difficult to do this when the light at the end of the tunnel is not only dim, but blocked by so many shadows in the foreground. And those shadows belong to us. All of us. In every statement, every comment, every response, every thought articulated in the public domain – all of it plays a role. We remain our own worst enemy, and this is the worst time in any country’s history to play that role. This is the worst time to become prisoners within our own minds and souls; to be the possessors of inflexible ideas.

With that in mind, the only personal resolve I have when it comes to the future is to try and elevate the debate. Our public discourse has been dragged down so low by the maddening crowd that its probably time to start a new chapter. I’m not demanding consensus, but rather respect. This pillar has been increasingly absent from the public discussion, allowing egos to clash and personal vendettas, suspicions and loyalties to play out instead. I think this country and its people deserve to have a better debate; an elevated discourse. I think we deserve to have a discussion built on respect and not animosity. I think we deserve to grapple with the bigger issues, as tough, complex, grey, sensitive, controversial and confusing as they are – without having to feel like we’re under attack.

I do think it’s time for something better. And that’s my personal resolve this year.

p.s. if you’re wondering who the author of the quote above is – that would be HM King Hussein.

At The Third Arab Bloggers Meeting In Tunisia

arab bloggers

I’m here in Tunisia for the next four days at the third Arab Bloggers meeting, which has brought together what I think are some of the most significant digital voices in the Arab world today. It’s quite interesting to be in Tunisia, the first Arab country to gain its freedom from a tyrannical power and set the whole region ablaze with mass political movements.

The first day of the meeting is an agenda filled with speakers and panelist from the Arabian digital sphere, discussing everything from the role of twitter in the Arab spring, to mobile security, digital design and much more. The rest of the week will be a barcamp style meeting, where the participants dictate the agenda.

You can follow the hashtag #AB11 for a massive stream of tweets over the next few days, and I’ll be using storify for the first time on my blog to chronicle the event – Internet connection permitting.

NOTE: this is my first time using storify so it’s a learning experience befitting this conference I suppose. That said, if you’re following the story, I would advise reading it from the bottom up.
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About My Hiatus

So. It’s been a little over six weeks since I’ve published anything, and while my instinct is to simply dive back in to recent events happening in and around the Jordanian landscape, this is one of those rare moments where I feel a need to recap my hiatus – if only to help me catch up on what’s been going on. It’s kind of like the first day of work after a long vacation. The mental jet lag is so dizzying it needs a moment of review for the sake of one’s sanity. And I’ve actually experienced some re-entry problems when it comes to getting back in to the online game. I am no longer constantly tapping away at my keyboard or refreshing my Twitter app on my iPhone, which I suppose is a good thing in the sense that I know I am physically and mentally capable of quitting without having a seizure.

So. In the past six weeks the following has happened.

First. Yes. The rumors are true. I got married. And yes, to the one and only Mariam, who is, legally-speaking, my favorite Jordanian blogger. The process of getting married in Jordan is a topic that requires several blog posts of several hundred pages length, and can essentially be defined as a journey towards a rapidly receding hairline. The one thing I’ve really learned from this experience, other than the obvious fact of it being incredibly expensive, is that weddings in this country are completely for “other people” – and not for the bride nor groom. This is especially true if you have tribal origins. The process is completely consumed with the fact that this is an event that is designed pretty much to please others. Which is fine I suppose, but someone should put this down in a manual somewhere. Might help a few souls.

Second, some interesting digital accomplishments seem to have taken place while I was away, which I am grateful for. CNN recently listed the Black Iris as one of the top ten must-read blogs in the Middle East. And what better way to live up to that title than to disappear for a month, eh? Also, 7iber ranked third in the global BoB awards amongst the Best Arab Blog category, which was a sweet surprise and I am personally grateful (along with the rest of the team) to everyone who voted for “us”. And I use air quotes here simply because we’ve always felt 7iber belonged to a community rather than to a group of specific names – or at least this is part of our definition of citizen media.

One of my favorite digital accomplishments lately, comes in the form of a Muppet…

Since May kicked off, I’ve been focused on work at 7iberINC and preparing for a boatload of projects that will be keeping nearly every day of the summer season packed. Water visualizations, digital media camps, refugees, storytelling, cameras, and a dash of oral history – not a bad way to spend a summer, locked in creative mode. Meanwhile, at 7iber, things have been colorful. The Hashtag Debates seem to have been generating some useful conversations and I was glad to see HRH Prince Hassan stop by and join a recent debate at the WANA Forum.

Lastly, travels have filled up the empty pixels of recent weeks. Rome, Venice, Amman, Cairo, Amman, Casablanca, Amman. I’ve actually discovered more and more that I’m not crazy about traveling as I once was. The romance of flight has been extinguished. BUT it does offer a breath of fresh air from the Jordanian bubble. There are times one gets so frustrated in this country that they need to get out a bit just to get some perspective; some contrast. And I think anyone who is Jordanian and reading this probably knows that these days, the need to break through the suffocating and take a gulp of fresh air is very, very, needed.

Vote For 7iber! Support Citizen Media In Jordan!

Dear Readers, our one and only 7iber has been nominated in the “Best Arabic Blog” category over the BoBs. It’s up against some steep competition this year, especially from the Egyptian side. But in this category, 7iber is the only Jordanian born-and-bred platform that has spent several years serving as a community-driven initiative seeking to create and promote a platform that hosts a diversity of Jordanian and Arab voices. If the past few weeks and months of regional turmoil have proven anything, it’s that citizen voices are important now more than ever, especially in a country like Jordan. So cast a vote for 7iber and support some Jordanian-bred citizen media.

Need help voting for 7iber (ink)? Here’s a how-to diagram that’s useful. You need to be logged in to either your Facebook and/or Twitter account (you can vote from both), and you can vote daily until April 11.