Tag Archives: Youth

Evan and Gordon Talk: The UK Porn Ban

GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen, things are happening in England.

No, no that.

I’m talking about the recent decision by the Cameron government to make pornography blocked by default on British internet service.

EVAN: To segue into us talking about this in earnest, I thought it’d be good to go into our personal experience with this.

No, not that. Continue reading

What Happened to Reading?

Now I know that there’s a certain degree of irony attached to this post. Just now you read my question on why people don’t read anymore. I’m not really talking about reading in the the sense of skimming the occasional article online, though. Before anyone tries to point it out- yeah, I’m aware that the medium for communication has shifted a lot since video is now accessible to pretty much everyone.

I’m talking about books, people. When did we stop reading books?

I would go bankrupt buying books with gifs for illustrations…

I can’t count how many times I’ve been reading a book in public and people act as if I’ve started cleaning a black-powder musket.

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What Do You Want From Me?

As this Sunday draws to a close, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable chorus of “So… what did you do over the weekend?” I’ll be encountering at work. I’ll be giving the same answer I always give:

“Nothing.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. I slept in, did a little reading, cleaned up my house, shopped for groceries, and surfed the web a bit. Barring the occasional oil change on my car, that’s pretty much all I do.

And for some reason, people take issue with that. I really and truly can’t count the number of times I’ve been called “old.” “You’re the oldest 22 year old I know.” “Your idea of fun… it’s like a 50 year old’s.” “You’re like an old man.”

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Fame Day: Socialism Conference

I’m writing these words in the last hours of what has been a quiet May Day.

For me, at least.

Elsewhere in the world, red and black flags are being proudly waved as people march through the streets, chanting and singing. In Greece, a nation-wide strike is being carried out in defiance of massive lay-offs enacted by the government. In Bangladesh, thousands are protesting after the collapse of a sweatshop resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of workers. Similar protests have broken out in the Philippines as nearly 10,000 workers march in Manila. Youth in Spain are raging against the nearly 30% unemployment rate. Korea, Cambodia, Turkey, Indonesia- just to name a handful- are witnessing similar turnouts.

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Fame Day: Basic Human Decency

I like to rail on our society.

Our blatant disregard for the poor. Our willful ignorance in the information age. Our hypocritical sense of morality. Capitalism. People who have perfect eyesight but wear glasses for “fashion.”

Worst. People. Ever.

But for all of that, I genuinely do think we’re making some (small) progress as a culture. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that beneath every person’s thin veneer of civilization lies a seething volcano of barbarism, cannibalism, and baby-punching-ism waiting to be unleashed at any minute. There’s no changing that.

How awesome was this scene?

Nevertheless, we are getting better in some regards. Specifically, I’m thinking about an image I saw not too long ago.

You can’t really argue with that. When something is wrong, it’s wrong. “Injustice anywhere is…”

Well, you get the idea.

Now this guy deserves some applause on his own, but it’s really the bigger picture I want to direct the spotlight to. It’s the simple belief that there’s a basic set of expectations for human behavior. Being morally outraged not simply when the news is covering one story, or during a particularly heinous scandal- but for every act of injustice out there.

Let me break it down a bit.

Chances are, you’ve run into some post on Facebook or any other social networking site in which someone attempts to make a supposedly bold or heroic stand, voicing their support for gay rights or the body positive movement, or something of that nature. While this doesn’t typically happen on any of my feeds, when I do see it, I’m usually pretty underwhelmed. Wow, _____ is coming out in support of gay rights? Brave move, next thing you’ll know he’ll be speaking out against segregation!

I know that sounds needlessly harsh, but more often than not, I feel proclamations and manifestos of that nature are looking for applause more than anything else, and that’s the whole problem. Is it good to be a tolerant, passionate, socially, and environmentally conscious person?

Yes, it is.

What do you want, a cookie?

There’s a 1994 movie by the name of Quiz Show, a drama based off of the true story of a rigged gameshow in the 1950s. While I only ever saw the tail end of the movie (and that was years ago), there’s a scene that stuck in my head. The character who had been cheating at the game is called before congress to testify. Standing up, he offers an eloquent “soul-searching” speech on how he struggled to reclaim his integrity and self-respect after having been a pawn in this entire sordid affair. The congressmen congratulate him on giving such a moving speech- all but one. A congressman by the name of Derounian leans forward and states states that he doesn’t see why the contestant should be commended for simply having told the truth.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it?

We’re patting each other (and more than that, ourselves) on the backs for what? Decrying injustice? Raging against waste and greed? Supporting equality? Should we be praised for this? For briefly rising out of ignorance and selfishness to meet the minimum requirements for human decency?

Seriously, do you think you should feel a sense of pride over not being a racist? Should we applaud ourselves for not clubbing a baby seal to death?

I don’t think so.

And it seems like people are finally starting to get it. Moral outrage for the purposes of fashion are being attacked. Not, perhaps, on a grand and noticeable scale (barring, perhaps, Jon Stewart), but quietly; with caustic jabs like that picture up above. And it’s about time, too.

Best movie of all time.

And yes, I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy of commending basic human decency not being commended. Consider this more of a public service announcement, if you must.

Fame Day: The Young Turks Arabs

A few days ago, a client at the nonprofit where I work heard that I was from the Middle East.

The conversation went as it usually does, beginning with some surprise, followed by a few questions like “why on earth were over there?” and “How did you learn to speak English?”

You get used to questions like that.

Then came the inevitable comments on the ongoing violence in my adopted homeland of Syria. Those comments are always pretty vague- existing as a result of having to say something so as to not appear ignorant while being ambiguous enough to avoid proving that you are ignorant. In this case it was a theatrical, sad shake of the head, followed by the statement “Well that’s a shame. But y’know? There always has been fighting over there and there probably will be to the end of time.”

I’ve always hated that statement.

In all fairness, that’s true as well…

First and foremost, it’s a complete lie: “There’s always been war in the Middle East?”

No, there hasn’t. For centuries, the Arab world was the shinning pinnacle of human civilization. Even in its decline, the Middle East was still a relatively peaceful place- especially when compared with the rest of the world. Look at European History in the 19th and 20th centuries and compare its body count with that of the Middle East in the same time period.

Secondly, there’s a deeply racist implication in the statement that “there will always be war in the Middle East.”

Why?

Because of the way the borders are drawn? Because there’s oil in certain parts of the desert?

Or is it because the Arabs are simply and inherently angry, violent people?

That statement is on par with saying “Africa will always be poor.” Why?

Because, you know… Africans?

This is some ol’ bull. “Africans are capable of nothing but starving, as they always have done and always will do, and Arabs are capable of nothing but fighting- always have and always will”?

Nevertheless, that was the line (and often still is) that was fed to the public over the past couple decades. Recently however, the events of The Arab Spring have completely and utterly turned that picture on its head.

Starting with the self-immolation of 26-year-old street vendor in Tunisia, ripples of protest spread out across the Arab world, building in power and momentum until they evolved into revolutions against some of the most brutal and dictators and entrenched bureaucracies in modern history. Egypt, in particular, stands out as a shining example, with thousands of young, unarmed Egyptians doing in 18 days what the US and all her allies couldn’t do for Iraq in nearly 10 years.

And no, in case you’re wondering, that had nothing to do with either Facebook or Twitter. I recall during the weeks following the victory of the Egyptian revolutionaries, pundits in the West were desperately fishing for some way to co-opt the accomplishments of the young Arabs and paint them as somehow being ultimately rooted in the bounty and decency of America. Facebook and Twitter were cited as essential tools, without which there would surely be no free Egypt. Again, any sane person is going to call bull on this. Twitter never set itself on fire. Facebook didn’t dodge gas canisters or face-off with riot police and tanks. Again, as a result of the American media’s desire to scare you without actually showing you any blood or gore, grasping the full scope of what many of these young protesters were up against is difficult, if not impossible.

You’ve got to see the casualties of battle to really and truly understand the courage and sacrifice of those going into the maw. Perhaps its for that reason that westerners often look to social media to take a slice of a glory (though my bet is still on jealousy).

And what’s even more impressive isn’t simply that the Arab people have faced off with their governments in the past, it’s that they’re still doing it.

You might think “Hey- we came, we saw, we conquered. Insert-dictator-here is dead and/or gone, let’s all go home and take a much deserved and well earned break.”

That’d certainly be a temptation for me.

But instead of resting on their laurels, the Arab people (again, the Egyptians serving as a prime example) continue to stand on the front line and demand nothing short of total freedom and complete justice. Yesterday, another young Tunisian vendor set himself ablaze in protest. In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians continue to hold hunger strikes. In spite of recently reaching over one million refugees, the rebels in Syria continue fight on against the Assad regime.

Across the Arab world, in the face of vicious repression, the Arab people are fighting on. Through their perseverance and valor, this generation of Arabs is changing the image of the Middle East from a place that “always has been violent and always will be” to something soon to be synonymous with democratic revolution, collaboration, and freedom. There’s certainly still a long way to go, but time and time again the young Arabs have proven that they’re on the right path and they’re not taking one step backwards.

What did you do today?