Here We Start – Issue #33

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)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dear Sail Readers,

As we publish our 33rd issue, we are entering into the month of December. It is a special month from many aspects for us. From one aspect, on 2nd of December, we will be celebrating our beloved country’s 41st National Day. The festivities and joys surrounding this beautiful milestone of our UAE are so immense that fills our hearts and souls with so much over flowing love and gratitude to where we have reached as a nation by the amazing support from our beloved leaders.

From the other aspect, December is the last month in the year. The month of reflecting back on what you have achieved and accomplished so far in this year. Did we mark off every item we planned for 2012? Are we happy with what we’ve done so far or are some more milestones there to reach before this year turns its page? Are we planning our 2013 or not yet? Are we planning what’s achievable yet challenging enough? All those questions and way more would be buzzing in our heads as we are soon about to bid farewell this year and start a new page with a new year soon. We better do all the questioning and thinking now, so that when 2013 knocks our doors, we are well prepared for it.

In this issue, we are welcoming a new member to our team. Khaled Bin Hamad through his column: “Modern Philosophies”. Khaled holds a Masters degree in marketing from Japan, and studied manga arts in Japan while doing so. He is the creator of the upcoming graphic novel Naser’s secrets (writing & drawing) coming on the 13th of January, 2013. Former writer in Al-Mijhar medical magazine about health and fitness and many other articles online. Artist in oil painting, pastel, charcoal, iPad arts and digital arts since the age of 16. Heavy reader in psychology, philosophy, history and literature. Khaled is currently dedicated to working on the graphic novel and starting his own business. He explores in his column history, self development and enlightenment.

We also welcome to our team: Dana AlAttar, a new member to our creative team. Dana is a young Emirati artist and has graduated from Zayed University in Dubai with a bachelor’s degree in Art and Design, as a graphic designer. Her hobbies of designing, event planning, and photography have helped her explore design in various ways. Art for to her is creation, innovation, and inspiration. It is not only about creating something that is beautiful, but also having a story and meaning behind the creation itself.

Here is our content’s listing for December 2012 – Issue #33:

Enjoy our reads and of course our creative illustrations by Dana AlAttar, Fatma Bujsaim, and Hamda AlHashemi.

Warm Regards,
Iman Ben Chaibah
Editor in Chief

The UAE: 41 Years of Love

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.

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

“Our father is the kindest father, in our hearts we hold for him so much respect.” These were the lyrics of one of the oldest songs we used to chant during school celebrations about the UAE and Baba Zayed. Simple words that represent joy and bliss. Simple words which we sang from the bottom of our hearts. So much love, respect and gratitude do we hold for this dear country. No matter what we do, we can never repay its gifts.

If anyone wanted to understand the meaning of Love, they should forget about searching for it in a dictionary. Instead, they should look at how the Emiratis love Sheikh Zayed, may he rest in peace, and in return how they cherished this precious country. We are beyond lucky to be the people of this land, we have learned how to love, how to give, how to appreciate, and more important than all, how to be loved.

We lived under the wing of a man who protected and treated us like his own. Even other countries felt the strength of his temperate love. From him we’ve learned the fundamentals to create a strong, loving family. The mere reference to him as “Baba (dad)” is implausible. How many people on Earth have referred to their ruler as “dad”?!  Love…Love… Love!

When we lose someone we love, someone who meant the world to us, what remains is his/her memory. One of the most beautiful ways to preserve these precious moments are photographs; to capture someone’s genuine smile, to capture an expression so that every time you look at that photo, those wonderful feelings would come back rushing to you.

Old Photography – Source Unknown

The older these photos get, the more meaningful they become. One of the oldest, most famous photos of Baba Zayed is the one above. A ruler, a man with so many responsibilities, sitting with a group of children, playing with them, laughing, and beyond all, loving them. What is wonderful about this captured moment is that he seems to be enjoying his time the most; anyone can tell that from that shining smile. Love… so much genuine Love!

We would think that as the years go by, we would gradually forget our loved ones. Turns out we thought wrong, at least when it came to this loving man. When we see how far a ruler might go to keep his position and to maintain sovereignty, even if it means the destruction of his own people, all we can say is thank God for our guardians and rulers. It is a true blessing to live under the protection of people who look for our own good more than we do. Their honest love is the reason we love them so much; they look out for us, and in return we look out for them.

Many of us heard about the Cleaning Jumeira campaign last year; a group of locals went out to celebrate and express their love to their country. After the celebration, Jumeira road was a mess, so a group of young boys and girls went out and cleaned the streets. Why? There are workers who are paid to clean. It’s called love, and this is how they express it. We don’t want someone to tell us how much they love us, we want them to show us how much they truly love us.

Baba Zayed started with this country from scratch, and now we live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. He was motivated to achieve and work hard and plan because he loved his people and he loved his land. Not anyone has the ability to accomplish what a simple Bedouin like him has done in such a short time.

Our loving father, Sheikh Zayed, once said, “ We do not judge an individual based on his/her origins, we judge him/her based on what they have done to express their love for their country. To build on that statement, I quote Lord Byron, “He who loves not his country, can love nothing”

A leader, a father, a ruler, and a role model, a man who in return raised leaders and lovable rulers to carry on his footsteps.  A man whose love reached many, a man whose love changed lives, a man whose love built a strong nation, a man whose love reached millions and millions of people, a man whose love gave birth to more love and love that the entire world can be a witness to, a man whose love is a source of inspiration, a man whose love guided him to stand out in every field, a man whose love made him a father to all, a man whose love is the reason why we still talk to our children about how great and kind he was, a man whose love is immortal since even those who haven’t seen him fall in love with him.

In the inspiration of the UAE’s 41st National Day, “love” was mentioned 41 times in this article. Go on, you can count them.

The Portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood

Shaima Al Tamimi (@iamshaima)

Shaima Al Tamimi (@iamshaima)

Shaima, a 20 something year old who loves to immerse herself in all things fresh and interesting. She loves to travel, observe people and experience new cultures. Her quarterly column “Food for Thought” discusses important social topics from thought provoking perspectives. Shaima is also a food blogger
Shaima Al Tamimi (@iamshaima)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Illustration by Hamda AlHashemi (@Hamda_AlHashemi)

Since the turn of the century, the concept of Arab identity and its role in the media gained prevalence throughout society, from educational institutions, through to casual conversations within one’s home.

Subsequently, it goes without saying that many of us have grown up watching American cinema and media; naturally inflicting upon us American lifestyles and values. Although, how sure are we about the accuracy of the ‘American Dream’ that media companies sell to us?

It has come to my attention the widespread of displeasure in society on the misconstrued representation in the media; that we (Arabs) are terrorists, oppressors, wife beaters and so on. Despite being largely discontent with the image depicted by the media, I also find that we truly do aspire to change this stereotypical image that western media portrays us in but struggle in finding support to go mainstream.

Working within the film industry, my job involves reviewing films for festivals, screening content, analyzing and learning more about the power of film. Though it wasn’t until recently that I completely appreciated the power of film in how intriguing and educating they can be for young minds and society alike. The sheer fact that it can provoke one’s thoughts with questions, subject matters and ideologies on a wide spectrum of topics highlights cinema as a powerful tool for communication – one that the entertainment industry has fully utilized.

Last week, I watched an interesting documentary called “Valentino’s Ghost”. And no, it wasn’t about the Italian fashion mogul, but rather, about the depiction of Arabs in media. The first portrayal of that was in the 1920’s in an American film called “The Sheik”, starring the late actor Rudolph Valentino. The documentary traces the origins of Arab/Muslim images in Hollywood from the onset of the 1900s to date. It touched upon one of my personal favorite topics, orientalism.

More often than not, orientalism in Hollywood tends to negatively represent Arabs in the media. Millions and millions of dollars are spent on creating films, fabricating news and music to feed people false information about Arabian history, politics, culture, religion and they have been very successful at that.

I do not intend to fan the flames of conspiracy theories, but I do acknowledge the lack of retaliation in rectifying our image whilst educating the masses about who we are, our culture and lifestyle.

Unfortunately, cinema in the Middle East has remained very much local. The only films that are mass-produced in the Arab world is Egyptian Cinema, and lucky for them, are commercial enough to infiltrate theatres in other Arab countries.

This trend is now slowly changing. The establishment of filming bodies (government backed or private) such as twofour54, the Doha Film Institute and Enjaaz in the GCC, Gulf Cooperative Council, is aimed at starting and nurturing a film movement within the region. This movement is aimed at reaching international audiences, in a bid to alter and educate the west’s perception of the Arab world and its society.

It all starts with educating society about cinema, supporting independent filmmaking and working with distributors who play a major role in bringing films to the big screen. It has to be commercial after all.

Regional film festivals not only provide opportunities to soft drinks and munch popcorn but they also play a substantial role in influencing and supporting independent cinema. While film festivals in the GCC aim to educate its local population on film appreciation, it also spends large sums of money hosting global industry professionals, international producers, directors and distributors to watch local films that are produced by the real voices of this Middle East; its own people.

Our stories and culture are parallel in importance to that of the ‘American Dream’, thus if America can utilize Hollywood to fabricate our image, we can use Hollywood to fix it.

Embracing the Irrationality Mechanism

Budoor Al Yousuf (@BAlYousuf)

Budoor Al Yousuf (@BAlYousuf)

Budoor takes a unique look at the world around her. She applies a sense of the mystical to everyday happenstance and turns it on its head. The result is her column: “Mental Pondering”.
With a background in communications, her passion for writing is driven by the need to voice her thoughts. Budoor also hold an eMBA in innovation and Entrepreneurship, other than writing, her interests include reading and traveling.
Budoor Al Yousuf (@BAlYousuf)

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Illustration by Hamda AlHashemi (@Hamda_AlHashemi)

The “Irrationality Mechanism” is a thought that suggests human beings are more “irrational” in their decisions than they know they can be. It suggests that we are wired to sometimes take impulsive decisions that if thought through well enough and correctly become “rational”.

Many people disagree when confronted with this thought. While growing up we are taught to think logically and measure things sensibly, the older we get the more realistic we think we are, but without wanting to, we tend to take the “irrational” approach more than we think.

“Irrationality” in decision-making has been in our heads forever. Every one of us has made an “irrational” decision at some point in our lives, whether this decision was driven by emotions, a gut feeling or taking a risk, it has been done and in many cases it can’t be logically explained.

Now, like everything in life, “irrationality” has a negative side that can be dangerous or bad. “Irrationality” is dangerous when a person makes decisions that are life threatening or are against the law. “Irrationality” is bad when someone goes back in a relationship with a person who makes them miserable or has eating habits that are a threat to their lives.

However, “irrationality” doesn’t have to always be a bad thing or a risk, it has a positive side to it that is actually very good and very funny.

If it wasn’t for “irrationality” human beings would be miserable, they would never take a chance, never give something a shot, never trust their gut and never take a risk in their lives. Think about it, why do we believe in a better tomorrow? Why do we push a smile on our faces when we are down? Why do we continue to be optimistic? Why do we dream?

“Irrationality” becomes funny when we realize that people know we are “irrational” and play with our minds. In fact, sales and promotions are one of the best examples of how “irrationality” is funny.

When we see the word “Sale” on a shop’s window, or learn of a special offer on a gadget or even find out about the “free shipping” option on an online website, as human beings we automatically react to it and most times end up buying something. Ask yourself this: how many times have you bought something you didn’t need because there was an offer or a sale or a promotion on it? And then think about this: When you go to a shop, why is it that the first thing the sales person will tell you about is the special offer they have? Because it works!

This logic of the “Irrationality Mechanism” can be applied on almost anything in life, the more we are aware of how “irrational” we can be the more we will be able to control those negative “irrational” decisions, and as a mater of fact most of us will be able to resist buying unnecessary things!

So believe it or not, the “Irrationality Mechanism” does make the world go round.

Enjoy Being Hated on the Road to Success

Khaled Bin Hamad (@KBinHamad)

Khaled Bin Hamad (@KBinHamad)

Khaled holds a Masters degree in marketing from Japan, and studied manga arts in Japan while doing so. He is the creator of the upcoming graphic novel Naser’s secrets (writing & drawing) coming on the 13th of January, 2013. Former writer in Al-Mijhar medical magazine about health and fitness and many other articles online. Artist in oil painting, pastel, charcoal, iPad arts and digital arts since the age of 16. Heavy reader in psychology, philosophy, history and literature. Khaled is currently dedicated to working on the graphic novel and starting his own business.
He explores in his column history, self development and enlightenment.
Khaled Bin Hamad (@KBinHamad)

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“For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” This formula does not apply to physics only; it is the law of the universe that people inherited from generation to generation. Only the truly wise fully understands that philosophy and takes full advantage of it by applying it in their daily lives. For example, success and happiness beget hate and jealously.

Success is a road filled with obstacles, some you dodge, while others you break or move. It has happened throughout history with all the greatest and biggest success stories humanity has ever known.

From Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, the first Rashid Caliphate whose first task was the great challenge of saving the Islamic state and religion when it was on the verge of distortion by the renegades after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. To the Indian guru of peace, Gandhi, who stood against the largest empire in the world at that time seeking freedom for his people; a man who gave up the material life so he will have nothing to lose except for his beliefs and become an indestructible weapon without raising a weapon. Then passing by the middle of Europe to find Mozart, one of the most revolutionary musicians in history, who led an opera at the age of eleven. His rival Antonio Salieri, who wanted him to fail more than anything, was also the biggest admirer of the brilliance of Mozart who wrote perfect notes from his mind on paper on the first try with no corrections.

All the way to the U.S. with Steve Jobs who didn’t only create a company that is richer than the American government itself, but also created technology that changed and shaped the world of business, saved the music and the movies industry from piracy, took social media to the next level, started a new age of computer programming, and based on his technology; a new breed of billionaires emerged to the world. In other words, he changed the world.

The obstacles you face in life come according to how strong you are. The stronger your will power, the tougher these obstacles become. Having problems is not a bad thing. Your obstacles are nothing but a chance to improve and elevate yourself, rise above the negative emotions and learn from your mistakes.

All the best success stories ever told have a higher value to them, higher than financial gain, business or career. Success is about making an impact on the people around you, enlightening your community, inspiring your family, and changing the world.

The message we learn from every success story does not come from the ending only, but it comes from the journey, the hardships and the enemies fought along the way. In most cases when you take the road to achieving success, your enemies will respect and admire you, but their ignorance will make them fight.

When you try to do something different with your life, you will make enemies along the way. There will always be people who want you to be the same as they are or even less just so they can feel superior. If you break their cycle then they might try to convince you that what you’re doing is wrong, spread false rumors or maybe even hate you. It’s the way life goes so don’t look back and keep going forward. Jealousy, hate and envy are all poisonous fruits that fall from the same tree of anger. You might eat one or two of these fruits sometimes but only the smart ones will eat as little as possible; because these fruits can be addictive and they will lock you in a prison of misery.

The timeless recipe to success is: hope mixed with willpower and hard work with a hint of consistency. Add in a big chunk of belief with a twist of confidence, served with a flavor of positive energy and a positive message. Cooking that meal with a heart full of love will make it complete. There is no harm if you are or have been surrounded by jealousy, because the only ones who are not hated are the ones who sit at home all day and do nothing with their lives. So, don’t be sad and enjoy being hated, my friend, because that means you are giving something to the world.

Where is KONY?

Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul)

Dubai is an Emirati girl with a passion for all things art. Her number one passion was to find a place between Emarati artists and filmmakers , and her dream turned into reality in 2008 , when she was officially named as the Middle East’s Youngest Director at the age of 11.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

If you live in the 21st Century, then you must have heard of Kony. Not so long ago, a video, or say a movement, started on Youtube. A group of young people started a movement to put an end to child soldiers and to finally capture one of our time’s greatest criminals, Joseph Kony. Invisible Children Inc. created the video, under the slogan of ‘Stop KONY’. It reached 93 million views on Youtube and 17 million views on Vimeo. No one questions the importance of stopping the accumulation of child soldiers, for children shouldn’t be dealing with war and violence. What I question is, does the world really need ‘our’ awareness to find a criminal and to free the children of Africa? When did the world ask for our opinion, needless to say our help?

After the video went viral, people started analyzing the video and the movement itself. It seemed rather odd to me, and I’m sure to a lot of other people, that the world needed our help to find a criminal. Yes, awareness is always vital, but there was something about this movement that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Malcolm X once said, ‘“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power.’ We, as people, don’t know our true power. We buy whatever the media sells us, and we do not take the time to analyze or think through what’s being handed to us. As I sit and write this article, I can’t help but ask: Where’s KONY? Does the silence of this once viral movement indicate the freedom of the children? The children who, according to the narrators of the KONY 2012 video, are the main concern of this whole propaganda?

The world has no problem with starting wars, internally or externally, and now it seems like it needs our help to find a criminal. I can’t help but smile at the irony of it all.  To clear one thing up, I’m not against awareness. Yes, the world needs to be aware of the fact that thousands of children worldwide are being deprived of an education and of a childhood, and those children need to be saved. I’m targeting the lack of transparency in the media, and how it, whether we agree on it or not, controls the minds of the youth. The media, in fact, has the ability to brainwash an entire generation.

In a world of smartphones and Wi-Fi, the media has the power to make absolutely anything go viral. We belong to one of the most dangerous generations to have existed, for the ideas of the youth nowadays can easily be tampered with.  We as people need to acknowledge our importance. We can’t afford to let the media spoon feed us lies at our own will. So, dear media, please answer my question: Where is KONY now?

Friends, the Family We Choose for Ourselves

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.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Illustration by Fatma Bujsaim (@FatmaBujsaim)

“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves”. If this is the case how come some of them stay and some of them go? How come we’re close to a friend and then one day something happens, which we may not totally understand, that changes that friendship forever?

I like to think of life as a train made up of different wagons. Puffing and churning as it travels up mountains, down hills, through forests and cities until it finds its way home.

One of its wagons is the ‘Friends’ wagon. Some friends are with us from the beginning of our journey and they accompany us throughout. Some friends we pick up at different stops, the city, the mountains or the forest, they ride along until one day they get to a stop that seems attractive to them and they decide to get off.

The reality is, along the journey of that train, no one remains the same. At each stop, new lessons are learned, perspectives are renewed, and new experiences are gained that help us mature and grow. They make us contemplate why some people are in our lives and we may find that the reasons that made us cling to them in the past no longer apply to this leg of our journey. As a result, some of the friends we’ve made along the way can no longer be with us on this journey. For different reasons we grow apart and we take different routes.

Our journeys diverge; our role in their lives is complete as well as their role in ours. In this new phase, even if it’s sometimes hard to admit and even harder to understand, it is time to bid farewell to the old and welcome the new: new friends, new ways and a new perspectives.

“New” is exciting, it’s fresh, adventurous and fun. “New” is different, it might be scary because we don’t know what it has in store for us but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. We just tend to see it this way.  Different might be perceived as harmful because we’re only human after all, and we love our comfort zones. Friends make up a big part of this comfort; take the comfort away and you’re only left with emptiness and fear. We find ourselves in a strange land that we don’t know and we are not sure how to deal with it.

To overcome the fear and the uncertainty, our egos decide to step in. They take control of the train and steer it in the “I” direction. Our egos don’t take rejection well. The moment a friend decides to leave our train or we decide to leave theirs, we automatically assume that we’re better than them, we’re better off or they don’t know what they’re missing. Our egos push us to focus on ourselves so much, on our needs, wants and regrets that we forget to make room for the new and welcome it.

Acceptance and non-attachment are the keys to taming the ego.  Our friends are an outward reflection of our inner journey. If we don’t get attached to the results of our friendships and have no expectations, it will be easier for us to go with the flow and just accept it when someone leaves our friendship wagon. Bid them farewell with a smile and rest in the fact that we were able to contribute many lessons to their journey just like they contributed to ours.

Factors That Shape Cultural Norms

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 Bujsaim (@FatmaBujsaim)

In our nature, or at least, our natural tendency to draw conclusions onto groups of individuals rather than individually assess or pass judgments, we naturally gravitate towards generalities. While generalities, which in some cases can become stereotypes, can prove to be true more often than not, they also need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But what makes these generalities come to life? What group behavior leads others to draw conclusions upon them? Many factors play a part. This article need not be a lesson in sociology or anthropology, but rather it is a couple of ‘big-bucket’ factors that shape what eventually becomes a set of cultural norms.

First and foremost, and perhaps a less evident factor is the natural environment that surrounds the people. By the simple nature of the environment, through the natural state of the climate, the provision of nourishment, and the state of the terrain; it has a direct impact on the way our minds wrap themselves around it and make sense of it. For example, in an environment devoid of proper nourishment, the value of conservation grows high, we find that people from harsh environments make use of all that they can get their hands on, just ask any Arab what his or her favorite part of the goat is – I promise you’ll find an interesting answer!

Harsh environments also promote a group culture, where individuals in the society tend to care for one another and ensure collective prosperity, much more than in an individualistic culture. We find that in modern times, with modernity allowing us the luxuries of life, we tend to deviate away from a group-oriented mentality and start thinking about our own needs and wants. This shift is a natural shift, group-orientation was necessary when times were tough, but as we find ourselves leading comfortable lives, the extended society has a lesser need.

Another key element that shapes cultures is each culture’s version of morality. Looking at world cultures from a large lens, we find that morality is as subjective as subjectivity gets. Every culture comes up with its own set of right and wrong, based upon the circumstances and consequences that they, as a group, have gone through. Of course, we aren’t talking about the basics here of ‘don’t-kill’, ‘don’t steal’ and any other rudimentary piece of morality that comes to us as instinct; but rather, the extended morality that we force upon ourselves and pass on to younger generations.

A simple example is that of gender roles, different cultures view the role of males and females from a different lens, depending on the needs and requirements of the environments they live in. Even the intensity of which those roles are enforced on people differs; some cultures take it upon themselves to force the roles on its individuals, and we find that that is more evident in group-oriented cultures, than a culture that allows the individual his or her freedom and space.

The beauty of analyzing cultures, in my eye, is that there is never one single factor that defines it all. Rather, it’s a series of interwoven elements that have, over time, build themselves on top of each other and come out with an end product that is truly incomparable with another. Scholars such as Geert Hofstede have done a good job (book reference: “Culture’s Consequences”) of creating a set of dimensions that all cultures can be judged or marked against; but again, these are generalities that aim to combine rather than dissect. The only way to truly understand how a culture operates, and more importantly why, is to delve deep.

Rewarding Evil and Punishing Good

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed, an Emirati involved in healthcare business development, comes with a background in biomedical & clinical engineering, technology management, finance, and business setup related project management. Mohammed has a keen interest in relevant social, religious, economic, and cultural affairs.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.
Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

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Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

“I don’t know why we welcome them, all they do is crowd up the place and ruin our city”, a young “Emirati” couple commented as they passed by me in Dubai Mall at 2:30am. The comment was clearly targeting tourists in the city during the festive Eid season, most of who come were from GCC countries. I found this rather surprising given that our culture is one known for its hospitality and warmth. This incident along with others I have been witnessing over the past few months has made me realize that certain important aspects of our culture are being lost and other not so important ones preserved.

The drive to do ‘good’, I believe, is an inherent part of human nature. To stand up against injustice, to promote what is good, and to cease what causes harm are all characteristics that should be a norm in our society. However, when you take a good look around you, you will notice that in the race to look out for one’s own benefit, our society’s reward and punishment structure has majorly changed. People are revered for acts that can be classified as evil or vicious and ridiculed or condemned for things that are considered humane or compassionate.

Although many different factors are involved in changing the reward and punishment structure in our society, in my point of view, the main factor leading to this shift is the post-oil syndrome or sudden wealth. This in turn has led to the appearance of a superficial society whose emphasis has deviated from strong moral values and moved towards material gain. Now, people are applauded for reasons such as bank account balance, how many fancy cars he/she owns, and genetic/ethnic background rather than being applauded for good educational background, hard work, and moral/ethical values. Over time, to be accepted by society under these new social rules has become essential in order to succeed socially and financially. The impact of this can be detrimental in the long run if left neglected. I believe it can potentially lead to a collapse in basic social, economic, and political functioning of our society. Some examples I have written about previously include marriage, employment, wealth distribution, and positions of leadership.

The question then becomes: how do we reverse this shift? What is evident is that a significant amount of effort needs to be exerted by like-minded people who recognize this negative paradigm shift as a recipe for disaster in the years to come. This effort should be focused in 3 broad areas.

First, It is crucial we understand Islamic principles of interactions. Islam has a detailed approach to how interactions should be conducted and managed. This includes how actions should be governed and how intentions should be purified. Understanding these principles can emphasize the focus on our actions on things that “matter”. This means, superficial value reduction and content value magnification.

Second, after understanding these principles, I believe they need to be taught to the immediate circles around us. This includes: families, friends, and loved ones. Speaking of these teachings and propagating them through society allows for the correction of the building block of all nations; the individual. A major success factor of spreading solid fundamentals in a society is making sure the “family” block is content which is a result of the individual understanding these very principles. Examples include: the Islamic upbringing of children, support for good causes, and speaking up against injustice done under the umbrella of culture.

Finally, by using being associated with interest groups that stand for similar values that allow to create positive impacts on society. This can range from things like Charitable Societies and Autism Centers, all the way to Anti-Terrorism or Anti-Racism efforts.

In summary, the current post-oil wealth that is evident around us has led to the loss of certain fundamental values that our society was built on. There has been a shift where evil behavior has become incentivized and revered as cultural acts and positive behavior is punishable due to it going against this newly created “culture”. However, I believe, by understanding Islamic principles (that are also general/basic human principles), spreading them amongst individuals, and associating ourselves with like-minded people, it is possible to reverse this newly created and unreasonable reward and punishment structure.

That said, would we embark on this journey? That’s something we should all ask ourselves.

The Media & the Fascination with Being Rich

Reem Abdalla (@Reem096)

Reem, a 24 years old Emirati female who will stand up for any cause she believes in and is curious by nature. She believes in connecting the dots and coloring the world with her magic markers. As a marketer, she likes to sell her ideas. As a female, she tends to listen and support. As a UAE National, she stands by her country and religion.
Reem aims through her quarterly column to explore issues in society and discuss emerging new trends. Listen to other people’s thought and view their perspectives about the subject. Then raise questions and form unbiased conclusions about it.

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Fast cars, expensive suits, $100,000 gala dinners, and $500 haircuts. No, I am not referring to life in Dubai or any metropolitan city on Earth. I am referring to all these glitzy Hollywood movies and series we are surrounded by on a daily basis. We are fascinated with movies the likes of James Bond, TV shows such as Gossip Girl, Royal Pains, Las Vegas, and various rich celebrities reality shows.

Excessive richness is entertaining. You get glitz, you get wealth, and you get lavishness. At the same time, art that depicts this opulence gets built-in relevance and profundity as it takes a bold stance. Who can resist such a delicious blend of luxury and affluence?

As you waltz in any bookstore you will see hundreds of thousands of books that claim to help you get rich, some actually claim they’ll make you rich in days. So what is all this fascination of getting rich, owning an island and 100 pairs of crocodile shoes? One answer: Media.

It seems everyone wants to get rich in any way they can. Movies push this need further as they portray the rich as crème de la crème of society. Showing that the only difference between the rich and the poor is not that the rich has more vices. The difference is that the rich can indulge in their vices without anything happening to them. They are above and beyond any law.

As I watched and admired the life of a new popular TV show about New York City corporate lawyers appreciating their suits, their tenacity of working long hours and their glitzy life, I realized the show implanted those ideas in my head. Stepping back to see the bigger picture, what I didn’t realize is that all of these rich and snazzy lawyers were working 15 + hours a day, didn’t have a social life or a family outside their work life. They are the definition of an “empty shell”, a body without any substance, in short, robots.

Don’t be what the movies persuade you to be. Don’t be an “empty shell”. Think before you act. How many of you live for work rather than work for a living? How many of you haven’t seen your family for days, months, or years for the sake of working? How many of you left your family or postponed having a family for work?

Find your equilibrium, work for what you love, gain money to spend it with your family. A healthy happy family should come above any work or any riches. Yes, being wealthy can make life easier and can lead to happiness. Then again, who wants to die rich and alone? Money will come and go. We all know that. The most important thing in life will always be the family in your life. Right here, right now.