Here We Start – Join Us in Our 2nd Anniversary

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

 

With this issue, we mark our second anniversary of Sail eMagazine. In those 2 years we witnessed many great achievements for the team, a lot of growth in the content, and definitely, a steady increase in our readership.

To commemorate this date, we are hosting an event on the 3rd of March, 2012 to celebrate where we have reached with our journey, and to celebrate our team with our readers. Join us in our anniversary! For more details about the event, please view this link.

Also, with our 2nd anniversary, we are revealing our new logo. The new logo, designed by Shamsa Al Abbar, is meant to reflect a publication style of a logo, and also to integrate officially the electronic “e” into the logo, so that our logo can reflect our identity of being an online magazine through stating it as an eMagazine rather than a Magazine. Many thanks to Shamsa for helping us redefine our logo as per our vision.

We are glad to announce 2 new members to our team, Abdulla AlSuwaidi is joining us as an editor, and Fatma AlHashemi is joining us an illustrator. We welcome them both to the team and hope you enjoy their work.

Here is the content of our 24th issue:

  • Art of Living: Hamda AlHashemi writes about understanding, accepting, and overcoming disabilities.
  • Beyond Inspiration: AlAnoud AlMadhi explains how our feelings of admiration towards a person doesn’t prevent us from wanting to make them different.
  • Community Talk: Khalid AlAmeri discusses the recent survey that 72% of UAE’s expat population knew nothing about the UAE’s Culture.
  • Interview: Rooda AlNeama interviews Dubai Abulhoul about her debut novel: “Galagolia”.
  • Just Another Undergrad: Fatma Bujsaim explores ways to cope with losing someone/something dear to us.
  • Scenes from Life: Rawan Albina interviews Iman Ben Chaibah and writes about the importance of perseverance.
  • Sense & Suitability: Haif Zamam challenges us to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.
  • Society of Tomorrow: Mohamed Al Juneibi looks at the relative ease through which people become polarized in their views through their day to day use of cyberspace.
  • The Mind’s Eye: Moadh Bukhash addresses the issue of tolerance in today’s globalizing society.
  • Too Blunt for Words: Fatma Alkhaja urges to treat everyone with equal amount of respect that they deserve in an office, regardless of grade, rank, pay, or education.
  • To The Point: Mohammed Kazim discusses how people have gone from worshipping Allah to worshipping society.
  • Words, Observations & Ramblings: Reem Abdalla gives 8 tips on dealing with negative people.

Enjoy the reads!

Warm regards,
Iman Ben Chaibah
Editor in Chief

 

Looking Beyond One’s Physical Disability

Hamda Al Hashemi (@Hamda_alhashemi)

Column: Art of Living 101. Previously as: Living Through The Eyes of Art
Hamda AlHashemi is a 20 something year old interior design graduate, and an SZHP employee. She appreciates art, food, psychology and culture. For her, Arabic calligraphy is music for the eyes; beautiful and calming. She thrives to become an entrepreneur of her own furniture line and aims to get her Phd on the long run. Hamda’s articles revolve around how our psychological thoughts influence our actions, and how to use them to our advantage.

Latest posts by Hamda Al Hashemi (@Hamda_alhashemi) (see all)

 

American author, political activist and lecturer Helen Keller once said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision,” (Helen Keller, 1880-1968). We meet different people every single day of our lives, some pass through our lives and nothing changes while others light a spark in us; they inspire us with their words, actions and stories. They astound us with their genuine determination to grow and innovate no matter what condition they are in. Like Helen Keller, many people with physical disabilities have enabled themselves to prove that any obstacle can be overcome if you try hard enough.

“Now, I am inspired less by what I see and more by what I hear, remember and imagine.” (Barbara Romaine). Barbara Romaine is a visual, performing and teaching artist who was diagnosed with retinal degenerative disease in 1984. The news struck her hard and she was not sure that she could go on as a “visual” artist. “I questioned my ability to continue painting, and slowly transformed my thinking and techniques to incorporate my physical limitations as an integral part of my work.” (Barbara Romaine).

That transformation and change in technique that occurred can be seen clearly throughout her work; it has become more expressive and more personal and interesting. Before losing her eyesight, her brush strokes were subtle, the subjects typical and inspired by her surroundings..

Alan at Tiny Naylor's, Barbra Romaine (Before losing her eyesight)

After losing her eyesight she began to refer to her other senses to create a painting. For example, her painting below, Mind Over Matter, was inspired my music. She responded to each element of music with a gesture, a layer, and a stroke. She repeatedly listened to that particular piece of music until she felt like she was satisfied.

Mind Over Matter, Barbra Romaine (After losing her eyesight)

Dr. Taha Hussein (1889-1973), who was nicknamed “Dean of the Arabic Literature), was a blind 20th century influential writer. Beethoven (1770-1827) was a deaf music composer.  Claude Monet (1840-1926) was a founder of the French impressionist painting and an iconic visual artist. All of these people have embraced their so-called disability; they accepted it and spent a large amount of time and effort into dealing with it and understanding it. Eventually, that made them stronger and pushed them to accomplish things that they might have not done otherwise.

“The problem is not that the (deaf) students do not hear. The problem is that the hearing world does not listen. “ (Rev Jesse L. Jackson, American Civil Rights Activist, Minister). When we will be ready to look at people beyond their physical capabilities, we will see their true potential and what they are capable of bringing into our lives and into society; even though they might have a physical condition, their mentality is as pure and abounding as anyone else.

 

You’re Perfect, I Love You, Now Change

AlAnoud AlMadhi (@aam_alanoud )

Column: Beyond Inspiration
Founder of @BetweenTheSips -a social media initiative that moderates social conversations. Alanoud’s passion is public speaking and designing infographics, reading and researching.
Through “Beyond Inspiration”, Alanoud aims to share personal experiences, struggles, and aha moments that can spark a flame within the reader to reach their full potential.

Latest posts by AlAnoud AlMadhi (@aam_alanoud ) (see all)

 

 

Illustration by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

If you’re a fan of musicals and Broadway shows, you must have come across the musical that holds the name of this article’s title. This award-winning musical comedy stages several scenes on love and relationships, but that’s not what this article’s diving into. The main character here is the title itself.

When I first heard about this musical, I was fascinated by what it’s called: “You’re Perfect, I Love You, Now Change”. It was so profound that I had a slew of questions popping in my head to grasp its greater meaning; “How could a person be perfect?” and “If I loved someone, why would I want them to change?”

Its allure and the answers to all my questions lay in the elaborating words “perfect” and “change”.

We’re all aware of the fact that nobody is perfect and no one is considered complete. You and I have our shortcomings, and no matter how great and flawless a person is deemed to be, that only means they’ve skillfully hidden their imperfections.

Although the “nobody is perfect” notion is a winning argument, we still hear people chirping “you’re perfect!” or “s/he’s perfect for me!” If we pondered more on this flattery, we would see that the acknowledgement here is not on the seamless abundance of the opposite person’s character, but rather on the unimpaired acceptance of the first person of the other. What I mean is:

If I had a friend who I consider “perfect”, then what I have in mind is that I wholly accept them as a person. That is, I’d adore them for better or worse.

Though we see our friends, colleagues, or partners as perfect, we still implicitly ask them to “change”.

A daunting thought, but a true one at that. To put things in perspective, it’s important to know that there’s a difference between changing the enduring parts of a person (which is impossible), and changing the acquired traits in them. Rather than asking them to change feelings and innate attributes; as these represent their uniqueness, which are probably what attracted us to them in the first place; we’re focusing on attitudes based on acquired knowledge or imitated behavior and looking at improving what they’re already good at and unique in.

In the end, if I were to briefly explain the meaning of the famous musical’s title, I’d simply reiterate:“You’re Great, I Accept You, Now Be Better”.

 

A Question of Culture and how Expats are Living in the UAE

Khaled Al Ameri (@KhalidAlAmeri)

Khaled Al Ameri (@KhalidAlAmeri)

Emirati. Columnist. MBA @StanfordBiz. On a journey to make the world more beautiful. Khalid aspires to generate healthy discussions, spark positive change surrounding social issues that affect our everyday lives, and more importantly how we can improve and develop as a society to a better tomorrow.
Khaled Al Ameri (@KhalidAlAmeri)

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Illustration by Fatma Al Hashemi (@f6amyi)

When it comes to a country’s culture, I believe there are two separate definitions; one which is defined as the traditional customs more related to the history of a society, while the other relates to the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has gone through massive changes both economically and socially over the past 40 years. These changes have led to a wide gap in the two definitions in a relatively short period of time.

In a recent survey carried out by the Abu Dhabi Police and the Ministry of Labor, up to 72 percent of the 2,000 people who contributed to the survey had hardly any knowledge of local customs and traditions.
When I looked further into the data provided I noticed 77 percent had lived here for over a year, and interestingly enough, despite the lack of cultural knowledge 70 percent admitted there were enough resources available through which expatriates could learn about the traditional customs both historical and modern day.

Moving on to the effort side of things, expatriates, when asked how often they try to learn about the UAE’s culture, half said “occasionally” and 16 per cent confessed “hardly ever”.

Putting aside the numbers and statistics, let me dive into some of the reasons, I believe, are behind the numbers.

First and foremost is the all too familiar ‘Comfort Zone’. What the UAE has to offer, in such close vicinity, is next to none in terms of ethnic and cultural diversity.  I bet you anyone from around the world could move to the UAE and, within a matter of hours, find their ‘local’ hang out spot. Therefore, when one realizes how easy it is to actually live a pretty similar lifestyle as they had back home it becomes somewhat difficult to get out and discover new things; especially when things seem to be going so smoothly as it is.

Cultural understanding requires efforts on both sides of the playing field; on one side, it requires effort on behalf of the international community, as per the numbers this isn’t happening too much, especially when most of the cultural knowledge is at your fingertips.

Escaping your comfort zone is necessary in this case and the UAE is all too welcoming when it comes to passing knowledge and traditions on to our visitors, our history both economically and socially proves this.

On the other side of this two way cultural understanding, the government is putting a ton of effort in promoting the culture and ensuring the right messages are spread throughout the community on the cultural practices, knowledge and understanding. Both locally and federally, the government has spared no expense in undertaking various projects through out the UAE to promote cultural awareness.  Having said that, this is only one half of the story with the other half being communicating and promoting these projects throughout the community.

As shown in the survey approximately 50 percent of those surveyed rely on word of mouth for information on UAE culture, this is pretty risky when you consider that everyone has their own certain opinion on matters of culture and awareness.

Corporations, that rely heavily on foreign expertise, should make it a moral obligation to have introductory session for their staff about the Emirati modern day culture, historical traditions, and how various Islamic practices are part of our every day lives.  Think of the amount of confusion that could be avoided by this simple step.

Additionally, various government-related entities could develop a more proactive approach to cultural communication and initiatives, and make efforts amongst themselves to centralize these efforts.  This way the UAE can sleep easy knowing the right messages are being communicated on a topic that, in essence, shapes our very identity.  One culture, one voice, right?

Last but certainly not least is the simple demographics of the UAE, which leads to the second definition of the word “culture”; the way the people of the UAE live their modern lives.

When UAE Nationals make up approximately 10 percent of the population, it’s more a matter of finding a UAE National, than actually learning from, or befriending, one.  But once again this is where effort comes into play.

I have known several expats who have lived in the UAE for years and the only interaction they have had with UAE Nationals is the friendly lady, or gentleman, that stamps their passport on arrival.

As sad as it may seem, this is the reality we live in, but one bears the question of does the responsibility lie on the expat to go out, meet and learn from Emiratis? Or is it the Emirati who should go around looking for expats to spread the UAE customs and traditions?

To answer this question we always come down to the “Two Way Street” conclusion.  How can we expect expats to seek out Emiratis, or vice versa, with the various attitude, language and religious barriers that are so evidently present?

Having said that, I’m a firm believer that there are more commonalities between the human races than there are differences and it’s through consistent dialogue that people of all different cultures, races and religions realize.

This is where initiatives like Promise of a Generation or ‘POAG’ do a great job at promoting respectful intercultural interaction between people, essentially putting a stop sign on that two way street where everyone must come together and learn about each other.

Culture is the needle that sows the fabric of a country’s identity together, it is what the foundation for our future will be built on, and it is part of how we live our daily lives.

When it comes to understanding the UAE culture it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part in breaking down the walls of difference, and through communication and dialogue build new bridges amongst various communities, with the hope of keeping this culture alive for generations to come.

 

Interview with Dubai Abulhoul

Rooda Al Neama (@ThinkDubai)

Rooda joins Sail Magazine to explore the different viewpoints of current issues. She hopes to share her thoughts and experiences through her column. Passionate about writing, Rooda wants to build up her writing portfolio to eventually include a novel.

Latest posts by Rooda Al Neama (@ThinkDubai) (see all)

 

 

Cover of Galagolia by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

Many of us have so many ideas, dreams and ambitions in the back of our minds that one-day we will get to.  That’s not the case for Dubai Abulhoul, author of the upcoming novel ‘Galagolia’. She’s only 15 years old but she’s not waiting to chase her dreams.  For those of us waiting for the right moment, I think we can take so much from Dubai and her drive.

Dubai talks passionately about the book and how the characters come to her, forcing her to put them down on paper immediately.  You can tell from her tone how excited she is about everything she’s experiencing. I needed to know the secret behind her drive and how she overcame obstacles that many of us aren’t able to.

Q – So What is Galagolia, and does it portray experiences from your life?

Dubai: It’s a fictional world; a portal that the main character Maitha finds and realizes that she has inherited the throne after her parent’s death.  It might seem very fictional but it has an Emirati essence; you will feel it in the setting and its easily relatable to Dubai.  I wrote something I would pick up and read!

Q- How do you get yourself to write?

Dubai: Because I have so many ideas I feel like I need to write them, I didn’t have a problem writing, I think it’s because of my imagination. I am very grateful that my imagination hasn’t diminished as I grew older because it has been the main reason I wrote the story: the non-stop ideas and the fact that I have to get them on paper.

Q- Do you experience writers block? How do you overcome it?

Dubai: I sometimes find it hard to translate all my ideas into words, just because there are so many of them.  If I am really stuck I try to go back to books, I love reading and it reminds me why I want to tell a story.  Reading the detailed descriptions in books I love like Harry Potter show me why I love writing. I am really inspired by the stories I read which make me go back to finishing my novel.

Q- What steps can potential writers take to reach to a published book?

Dubai: the most important thing is to write for yourself. Publishers can see your passion in the writing, so be true to the story you are trying to tell.

  1. Finish writing the book
  2. Send it off to a publisher
  3. It’s a long process so don’t let it stop you. Be patient.

Q- Did you receive any criticisms? Which one was the toughest and how did you get over it?

Dubai: I used to write at times I shouldn’t have, like in class, people would say focus, pay attention to your studies.  I realized that what’s important to me may not be important to everyone else. While I do care about my studies and know they are a priority, but so is my writing.  They said I was naive and should concentrate on studying, but I didn’t want to wait till graduation. That made me sometimes doubt myself, but I blocked negativity, and didn’t let it affect my writing or my academic life.

Q- Twitter has been great at raising awareness of your book, how do you hope to maintain that? What have you found works?

Dubai: I was really in denial about it when Galagolia was trending on twitter, it felt like my birthday! It felt so good seeing people interested about the story, so I tried to keep it going by showing them sketches and pictures of the final book, it’s all about sharing without giving it all away.

The conversation went back to how she deals with pressures of being a 15 year old, balancing family, school, and writing a novel.  Dubai still had wisdom to share: “in our culture you always have to have a Plan B, but why? Why are we settling? There should be one plan that is achieved!” Not only that she also thinks her age doesn’t matter “age is just a number; you don’t need a degree or wait to be a certain age to be successful or start working towards achieving your dreams. As a 12 year old I had to ignore those who said I am too young and start writing.” She said.

That’s a girl who knows what she wants! I learned so much from this interview and the enthusiasm needed to achieve my goals!

Galagolia will be out in all major bookstores in the UAE by March 08, 2012, and we can’t wait to delve into Dubai’s world of fantasy!

You can follow news about the upcoming novel on its twitter page: @Galagolia.

 

Losing A Special Someone

Fatma Bujsaim (@FatmaBujsaim)

Senior Editor. Ex- Column: Just Another Undergrad

After graduating with a Bachelor degree in International Studies and a minor in converged media, Fatma still finds herself hungry for knowledge, which led to her enrolling in a postgraduate program. Her passion for both reading and writing has made her extend her stay in Sail eMagazine so that she can learn & develop her skills. When not buried in her books and novels, Fatma is found on tennis courts or in a classroom learning a new language.
She wrote her previous column: “Just another undergrad” hoping she can give what she didn’t have when she was a freshman: comfort and guidance, and also bring back memories to all those graduates out there. She wonders if things are going to be the same after graduation.

Latest posts by Fatma Bujsaim (@FatmaBujsaim) (see all)

 

 

Illustration by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

“You never know what you had, until you lose it,” is something that we often hear; and no matter how many times we hear it, we never truly realize the value of what we have until we actually lose it. Sometimes, we lose people we love and care about, whether to death, or simply because they moved on with their lives.

The worst part of losing someone is to know we might not see them again. We start wondering if we ever had the chance to say goodbye, what would we say? A question popped into my mind, which kind of loss is harder? Losing someone to death? Or them leaving our lives and we can never have them again like we used to.

Some might argue that losing them while they’re still alive, is much better than losing them to death. At least we know they are somewhere in this world, maybe even happy.

Some might say that losing someone to death is better than the former, because deep in our hearts we know that the person who passed away is in a better place; a peaceful one.

In the end, a loss is a loss. A loss means being deprived of “someone” or something of value to us. The question is: how do we deal with the grief?

A friend of mine was reading ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert when she told me this theory:
When you lose someone, you usually go through five phases of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I never took her seriously until I lost someone very dear to me and started to deny the loss.

I denied that anything ever happened; that’s when I realized I’m in the first phase. I thought I’d give myself time and found myself sometimes isolating myself from my friends and the people around me. Eventually, I acknowledged the fact that my grandmother wasn’t coming back; I felt helpless and angry.

I wasn’t sure who was I angry with, maybe myself for not being with her in her last days. Maybe for other reasons, I wasn’t sure. I knew for a fact that I was confused and angry. I realized again that I unconsciously fell into the second phase.

The third and fourth phases are bargaining and depression, but I won’t write about those two simply because I was upset and started denying everything. Was I depressed? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not; I do know I was down. As for bargaining, it is said that it starts with feeling helpless, and I know that feeling helpless is what led me to anger.

I knew my friend was right. It was only a matter of time until I accepted reality; and so I did. I accepted the loss, knowing that she was at peace now.

Maybe it’s normal for people to go through those five stages, maybe it’s not. Maybe people have different ways of dealing with losses. All I know is that we have to allow ourselves to grieve, to be sad, but then accept it because as Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “eventually, everything goes away.”

 

The Power of Perseverance

Rawan Albina (@RawanAlbina)

Rawan, CPCC, ACC, is a Professional Certified Coach, owner of Leap Coaching & Training whose life’s mission is to help women achieve their dreams.
Her strongly positive nature and calm demeanor enables her to gently draw out a person’s full potential as she helps them get in touch with their passions, find their purpose and LEAP into a truly fulfilling and extraordinary life.
Women who are at a crossroads in life, young women ‘Entreprenettes’ and teenagers have all found a strong guide in Rawan who has helped them discover the life skills needed to begin the new phases in their life with confidence.

Latest posts by Rawan Albina (@RawanAlbina) (see all)

 

 

Illustration by Fatma Al Hashemi (@f6amyi)

Someone once said “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”  Today I’m inviting you to look at such a race, one that we have witnessed over the past two years. Sail eMagazine started as an idea, a spark, an answer to a calling. Since we’re celebrating it’s second anniversary this month, I decided to look at perseverance more closely by interviewing Sail’s founder, Iman Ben Chaibah, to get the inside story on how she set sail and how far she’s come. Here is the journey in Iman’s words.

How did the idea of Sail eMagazine come about?

“I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing, and always wanted a career in that, but my life drifted me in a different direction. I came to a point where I needed to fulfil my passion to feel whole again, so the idea of reading & writing came back but this time into a more specific context of how to get it done and what does our generation really need. It took a lot of thinking and reflecting until the idea of the magazine came about in a way that it doesn’t revolve only around me writing, but rather in bringing more people into reading and writing again with short fresh reads about topics that interest us. The online concept came later after defining the idea as it was more budget-friendly, and was easier to market and go viral and international with.”

What would you say contributed the most to making this idea a reality?

“The ease of online publishing and social media have definitely contributed as they helped to grow the magazine in terms of reach. They also helped in attracting more members to the magazine and encouraging them.”

Two years down the road did you ever imagine that Sail would be where it is today?

“Partially yes, but I was never really sure. After I crossed the first year it started to become clear as a vision that it is actually possible to grow steadily and grow even further. At first it was just the hope that Sail would persist & persevere that kept me going.”

Where do you want Sail to go from here?

“I have a lot of plans for Sail’s growth, some are planned for this year and some are planned for the long run, and I’m sure much more is being planned by God that is waiting to happen! Just stay tuned.”

No matter how far we drift from our passion, if it is truly what we are meant to be contributing to the world, we will always come back to it. It takes courage to jump into the unknown and start new things but it takes perseverance to keep moving forward in spite of everything. Iman kept her dream alive and turned it into an online publication that brings value today to hundreds of people and this is only the beginning!

You might feel that your dream is too big for you; people might put you down and stop you from pursuing it. The key here is to go for it and never let it go. If you know in your heart this is what you’re meant to be doing put all your passion and hard work into it, persevere and you will make it happen. Break out of your shell. Get out there and let your light shine; Iman did!

 

The Speak Up Challenge, Breaking the Silence About Children With Disabilities or Learning Difficulties

Haif Zamzam (@haifnothaifa)

Haif Zamzam (@haifnothaifa)

Column: Joie de Vivre, Ex-Column: Sense and Sustainability
Haif Zamzam is a bon viveur who just can’t get enough of life. Her inflexibility for the norm coupled with her constant hunt for a challenge pushed her to the private sector where she is a professional in a top-tier consulting firm. Haif has an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelors degree from the AUS. Through her column, Joie de Vivre, French for “Joy of Living,” Haif hopes to show how living with your head in the clouds is highly underrated.
Haif Zamzam (@haifnothaifa)

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Illustration by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

The type of fig leaf which each culture employs to cover its social taboos offers a twofold description of its morality. It reveals that certain unacknowledged behavior exists and it suggests the form that such behavior takes.”  Freda Adler

In this article, I am going to ask every reader to participate in a challenge.  For added effect, let’s call it the Speak Up Challenge.  I challenge each one of you to break down the wall that is standing in the way of our society from openly discussing and tackling issues such as:

1) Education for children with special needs

2) The integration of children with delayed learning symptoms into mainstream institutions.

Through my work with the Abu Dhabi Centre for Language and Speech Disorders, I am constantly exposed to how our society portrays anything that is a slight deviation from “normal” as taboo.  Sometimes, I sit in on some meetings with my mother who has to break the news to a parent that their child is diagnosed with mild autistic features or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).  Nine times out of ten, the parent will respond saying that the diagnosis is too harsh, and that the child with autism takes after their father who is very quiet and soft spoken or that the child with ADHD is spoilt and needs to be disciplined.

My mother’s instant reaction is to reach out and comfort the parents by telling them that everything will be ok.  Immediately, the parent lowers the defense mechanism that they had held up as they see a glimmer of hope.  They walked into the Centre knowing that their child was not flourishing in a mainstream educational institution or was sent here by a teacher who merely suggested that the child might need some “extra help”.  When I think about how many times I have sat in on those meetings, I try to understand why the parents’ natural response is denial and resistance.  Then I realize that it is most likely due to the taboo nature of this topic set by society.

So what is the Speak Up Challenge?  I challenge you to do the following:

  • Speak to parents of children with special needs or learning difficulties
  • Speak to centers such as the Abu Dhabi Centre for Language and Speech Disorders and see how you can volunteer at various events, donate educational toys, or school supplies and help with spreading the word
  • Speak to the children in your family and educate them about special needs and learning difficulties; take it a step further and take your children with you when you volunteer or make donations
  • Speak to the nurseries and schools that your children go to and support the integration of children with special needs
  • Speak up so that families with children with special needs or learning difficulties and the children themselves know that the society is supporting them

Speak up so that, together, we can silence the taboo that is hindering the development of a group of our society’s youth.  At the end of the day, each individual comes together with different individuals to form the society we live in.  Let’s start speaking up for those that can’t speak for themselves.

 

The Polarising Effect of the Internet, Cyberspace Discussions

Mohamed Al Jneibi (@maljunaibi)

Mohamed, an IT Professional with a background in web development, database administration, technical support, and project management. His work includes enhancing corporate systems and designs, and further enhancing current business strategies and processes.
Mohamed enjoys reading literature and political commentary, with a love for Sci-Fi reading and writing. He’s also a big Formula 1 fan, and also heads the Mercedes GP UAE Fan Club based in Abu Dhabi.

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Illustration by Fatma Al Hashemi (@f6amyi)

Every once in a while, I would often find myself pitted in the middle of a debate on twitter. Usually, I don’t seem to be bothered by much of the debate topics, after all, it only adds to the variety and material that I later read up on. But one can at times be reflective of such discussions, and put serious thought on the reasoning behind the deliberations.

What strikes me most is the ease in which these discussions are later brought forward to the public. On the internet and with the varying ways in which discussions are connected together, people can consider themselves fortunate to have the readily available access to information. Now this might vary within different locations, but the enablement of which people are now capable of, is truly extraordinary.

That being said, it seems that nowadays its easier to bring up an opinion, than would have been previously possible. Discussions and deliberation of all kinds now take place in an arena which knows no time, boundary, nor limitations. That arena is cyberspace (or the internet).

While raising views and arguments to a public forum may seem to be both commendable and beneficial, as the intended roots towards such debates stem from the fact that arguments would at best be objective in nature. More often than not, they hold the seeds that would take even some of the most trivial discussions to areas of heightened extremes. The smallest of arguments can almost instantly bring about labels to individuals.

Whether or not either side wishes to be labelled or “pre-associated” to a particular side of a discussion, it is in many cases an inevitable reality. It would be easy for me to point out the cause as being either subjective tendencies or egotism within a discussion. But, I personally believe that much of it is related to the fact that while we use certain “interactive” media to bring forth our ideas and arguments, they are for the most part, two dimensional in nature.

Put simply, the tools we are using to communicate to one another can be considered somewhat linear mediums. The 3rd degree angle to any discussion is the first hand personal account of your interaction with that person. What I mean to say is: we are more likely to speak in a different tone to a person in front of us, as opposed to what we might have written to them (in a discussion forum). This lack of the human element to discussions within cyberspace is what causes many unwanted results to occur. They can include textual assaults, enraged feelings that would instantaneously appear, misinformation (or rumours), lack of focus to the originating topic, and others.

These might be the more extreme reactions to the points I’ve mentioned earlier, but much of these sometimes irrational behaviours are also further encouraged by the news bites, blogs and almost always biased sources that seek to further their opinion. It becomes a battle of ideas, where the participants have an almost unlimited amount of ammunition at their disposal. Both camps gather information, data and counter with the sole intent of having a reply or rebuttal ready to be used.

These debates “escalations” sometimes branch off to other participants and the grounds of neutrality virtually become impossible to come by. Furthermore, this leaves a bad taste to societies becoming more ‘virtual’.

As societies progress, so does this phenomenon of the polarization of ideas and views. It is as if the world has too much information for its own good. In the United States, the past 2 cabinet and presidential elections had seen a growing increase of extreme views on both sides being adopted and even included in political debates (Tea Party v/s Occupy Movements). In other countries, it’s not so much elections, but instability that is also further increasing the flames of these debates amongst people.

A good example of this would be the post revolution(s) Middle East.

Most of us have hailed the internet as being some beacon of hope, and that its limitless bounds further enabled us to do more. While it still is an important and critical part of our day to day lives (and will continue to do so), there’s still a lack of further understanding the social and psychological implications within a wired community. Its ignorance to the fact that the internet can (and most certainly does) condition minds and views.

Understanding this will help change approaches towards how we view things surrounding us, but more importantly help increase the presence of a middle ground in any discussion.

 

Tolerance, a Sign of Civilization

Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash)

Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash)

A brand manager by day and a ‘wannabe’ philosopher by night, Moadh graduated from the American University in Dubai with a degree in Marketing. All about logical discourse and self improvement, his aim is to be a 21st century iconoclast. Though born and raised in Dubai, Moadh aims to develop and nurture global identities built around shared humanistic values. A writer of his own blog, which bears the column’s name, Moadh’s ultimate ambition is to be the spark of a positive change in any individuals who come across his words.
Moadh Bukhash (@MoadhBukhash)

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Illustration by Fatma Al Hashemi (@f6amyi)

One can think of a number of shortcomings that humans have that lead to societal or interpersonal issues; jealousy, hatred, envy; without having to expend too much energy on drawing up a list. One shortcoming though, seems to have a much wider effect on societies, particularly in this day and age.

We stand at an interesting time in human history, never before have we been so meshed together, never have we had so many cultures clash on a daily basis in so many corners of the world. Without cohesion and coexistence, we cannot progress as a people. As the world becomes more interconnected, whether through global media, the internet, or the increased span and ease of travel; one thing becomes evident: the ability to accept other ideas becomes paramount to create a well integrated global society.

The key determinant in such a situation is tolerance. Tolerance is what we must aim for when faced with opposite opinions or situations. By definition, tolerance is the capacity to endure continued subjection to something. There’s an important point to make here, tolerance isn’t believing what the opposing view is, it’s simply acknowledging and accepting it.

The problem with a lack of tolerance is it creates an inescapable situation, where the intolerant point of view assumes it is true, that it is the only truth, and all other views are automatically false. What needs to be taken into context, on a cultural and more so on a human level, is that different backgrounds create different viewpoints. Values, beliefs and opinions are born out of the environment that they originated in. Having one opinion on one side doesn’t make it better than any other opposing opinion, but rather just a different version born out of different circumstances.

One situation recently gives hope to the fact that we, as a civilization, are developing well in this regard. The topic might be mundane, but the essence of it is true. This happened when the first anniversary of the Christmas Tree debacle came by a couple of months ago, and the debate began on whether Christians celebrating the festivities should be congratulated and wished well by those not celebrating it. I am not picking either side, nor do I think the topic of the debate was very relevant to the point I’m trying to get through; the debate centered around one idea: why can’t we put aside our one-dimensional views and wish someone of another faith, of another opinion, well?

It was this debate that brought around the idea that tolerance, and the acceptance of other views is what ultimately leads us to coexistence. On a personal level, I was proud to see that these topics have come up in our society, that the presence of a plethora of cultures has not alienated us as citizens, but rather gave us the opportunity to expand our minds and to accept other viewpoints more readily.

If we look at modern societies, and the range of views that exist within them, it would be safe to assume that tolerance and the acceptance of opposing views is a sign of civilization. Modern societies not only exist on a multitude of opinions, but actually depend and thrive on them. It is the existence of a variance of opinions that leads to collective decision-making that addresses the concerns of all those involved. And much like a modern society does that in certain locales, a global society must also ensure that the spirit of tolerance is carried forward on a larger scale.