It took me a while to figure out how to write this post. The campaign has been an interesting learning experience and even a glimpse in to a few truths I was glad to have restored. One absolute truth stands out: there is a population of this country, perhaps not enormous but definitely large enough, that, when pulled together, has the ability to move mountains. In this case it was mountains of donations, but it’s really the spirit that I’m emphasizing here.
We have continued to receive endless phone calls from young people still wanting to help with the packaging. People are watching their TV screens and seeing the death toll rise every day, not to mention the images you probably won’t see on western channels, and they are eager to do something.
What they seem to be sick of is all the labeling, categorizations and ideologies that come with participating in anything in Jordan. Platforms for volunteering in this country always seem to involve an agenda, there’s always some form of partisanship. It might be religious or political or even strictly ideological, but in any case, it’s not always inclusive and even when it strives to be, it forces people to either conform or step outside their comfort zone.
I think young people in this country shouldn’t have to make such a decision, and quite frankly, I think they’re all sick of it.
What I saw happening in this campaign is the creation of a safe environment where we had people coming for a common cause. Not because they were from a certain political group or from specific religious organizations. And I don’t see that happening in this country a lot. There is always a single entity with a prior agenda, spearheading a campaign, rallying its own people.
And you can see this happening right now in the streets in the way people are talking these days. A rally taking place in one area is said to be “lead by the Islamists” or “organized by the unions” or, or, or. A lot of these protests are being broken in to such categorizations, where the religious groups do their own thing, and the political parties do their own thing, and the unions do their own thing…
For the largest segment of this society – the youth – a great deal of this identity is yet to be formed, and for many it’s something they are so jaded with.
What the 7iber/AC campaign taught me personally was that you can mobilize this segment of society, which is inclusive of people that may or may not adhere to a higher order, and you can put them in a public space where they can get to know each other, work together, and even make friends. And you can do this away from all the protests and rallies; away from the slogan-chanting and flag-waving.
And what’s more, you can do this all using the power of the Internet.
It is the most unexpected thing to have hundreds of people showing up because of something posted on a blog or a website or Facebook, and to even have that electronic-based message trickle down so quickly in to the mainstream of radio, newspapers, SMS messages, email forwards and even word-of-mouth was just as interesting to observe. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happening here and the circumstances were certainly conducive. It is unfortunate that it takes tragedy to yield such results, or to even form this growing community of online activism, but that is the very nature of tragedy: it manages to bring people together.
So hopefully this online community that has emerged will become something 7iber will look to cultivate and keep together as part of an ongoing process.