Why things have left you like this, I’m not sure,
But I still am mesmerized by it all.
Why things have left you like this, I’m not sure,
But I still am mesmerized by it all.
In an era where humankind seems hellbent on erecting walls between people to safeguard a mythical “past,” pushing back by bringing people together is all the more important than ever. Personally, I have been waffling a lot about talking publicly about starting up a zine (think a do-it-yourself version of your favorite print magazine) in Doha, a place that seems to prefer maintaining siloed communities over a shared sense of belonging. Popular among cultural outsiders globally, this medium allows contributors to put to paper their thoughts on all sorts of topics, including environmentalism, social issues, religion, and art, to name a few.
What am I envisioning for “Dispatches from the Dust?”
I would like this to be a space that allows for collaboration across the diverse ethno-cultural/religious communities present in this city and for individuals to share their creative works that is intentionally offline. As someone who works professionally in the social media field, I think we are losing a bit of perspective on our lives and getting lost in navel-gazing (yes, I am guilty of this, too). With that in mind, I want to create something together, have it be multi-lingual, multi-discipline (drawings, poetry, short stories, photography) – whatever speaks to you. One request would be to avoid the following topics as they are already talked about ad nauseam: shopping, malls, materialism.
The final product, which resembles a photocopied, bifold pamphlet spanning multiple pages, would be published quarterly (think this is realistic with people being busy elsewhere in their lives).
Interested? Let me know what you would like to contribute.
Send me a direct message here: email@example.com
Amid the craziness of this past week, particularly the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election and some personal stuff, I have been reflecting a lot on something heard on the Philosophize This! podcast. One specific episode, which I found timely to what is currently playing out back home, focused on French writer Albert Camus and his perspective on confronting the “Absurd.” Not to be confused with its colloquial use, this concept is something more: it is the premise that the universe is inherently meaningless, yet humans perpetually seek meaning in it.
Seems like a bummer, no? Yes, and according to Camus and other so-called existentialist, this presents all of us with a choice: suicide (physical or philosophical), a leap of faith (my personal choice), or recognition (Camus’ choice). To put it simply, Camus felt that the latter was the only defensible position, where an individual acknowledged the Absurd and sought meaning through living life unshackled by absolutes. Although I choose to embrace another path, that of adhering to a religious interpretation of the universe, I share in the writer’s pursuit of finding beauty amid a world seemingly cold towards humanity.
This feels especially relevant in the era of rising (insert term)-phobia, be it Islamophobia, generalized xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia. As a former history major, one of the sad truths of human’s existence is that fear, usually unfounded in actual facts, dictate individuals’ reactions to uncertain times. What is occurring in the wake of President Trump’s ascendency embodies familiar characteristics, namely the manipulation of popular discontentment and anxieties stemming from a world that appears ambivalent towards many. Unable to fully accept that the vision of a mythical America of the past has always been a fabrication and that an increasingly unregulated market economy has left them without work (and by extension, dignity IMO), many of those elated by current events choose to direct their energies towards individuals who are not to blame, i.e. minority groups. For a segment of society that claims to be making “America Great Again,” it is not addressing the real issues at hand, perpetuates the worst of human behavior, and plays nicely into the hands of someone who will probably sell everyone out in the end.
TL;DR: Dear Trump supporters, admit it; this guy you elected is not going to fix what is really hurting you and keeps you angry. Realize that the people you terrorize, curse on the street, and assault probably have more in common with you than you choose to believe.
It has only been a week since arriving in Doha but I am beginning to discern the spectrum of experiences present in this small peninsular country: between the almost surreal wealth and the absolute poverty. Tonight’s experience on my drive home, however, showed that amid these two extremes there does exist much grey area, where people come together for the sake of helping another human being and go against the grain of what is perceived as acceptable social interactions. The thing I am referencing is a refrigerator placed out of a Qatari family’s villa that is meant as a depository for food/drink donations that can be taken by whomever needs them.
The location, which is just north of the Chamber of Commerce along a slip road, is something that probably escaped many individuals passing by, which I believe adds to the sincerity of the action done by this family. After placing some food in the fridge, which has two little signs hanging inside (one in English; the other in Arabic), I left thinking about how this exhibited a Muslim virtue of giving charity without seeking praise. Moreover, the slightly obscure location, in my opinion, preserves the pride of those taking from the fridge as people can come and go whenever without it being a spectacle.
So why share this? Well, for one, if you are in Doha and have leftovers that can be packaged or the ability to purchase food/drinks, I would encourage you to drop off supplies. Feel free to message for a map of the location. If you are not currently in Doha, I hope that you might be inspired to do something similar wherever you are. Through small, sustained actions I firmly believe bigger changes and consciousness-raising can be achieved. Salaams.
For too long I have denied myself the ability to be at peace; I only know the state of code orange (not quite full collapse but ever near the edge of running myself into pulp and withering from boredom), but something feels like it is changing…the balmy, oft-silent, desert embrace comes and with it, the hard work of quieting my mind/welcoming the Divine.
Salaams and checking in from Doha, Qatar! Al-hamdulilah my move here has been a lived experience of Surah Ash-Sharh, namely in that I’ve been blessed with an easier transition than expected facilitated by the kindness of others. While life here is very unlike my Muslim experiences in DC, I am glad that I arrived during Ramadan and am able to find comfort in my fasts despite the hellish heat (123 degrees anyone?). The other day I had a brief moment of intense sadness wash over me while sitting with Adeela (my girlfriend for reference) that stemmed from a racing mind that was finally allowed the space to comprehend moving away from the familiar routines, a wonderful community, and my family. Thankfully it was fleeting and to be honest, I find myself with a lighter heart now. Sure, I may be unemployed at the moment, but I have never felt more awake and enthused than now. Throughout the six years I have been Muslim I have come to realize that my connection with God is strongest when involving lots of “WTF, FML, and HS” moments, the kind that leave your stomach in knots, the kind that make you want to breakdown in taraweeh because you realize how privileged you are, or the kind that arises when you acutely detect an absence of warm love and only loneliness among the people you meet. There is no denying there is a lot of messed up stuff going on here (just this week a bunch of Nepali laborers were evicted from their apartments in the middle of the day), but I do not believe in the nihilism and apathy that permeates Doha. Much credit is due unto you (the (non-) Mipsterz communities) for being an aspiring family on multiple levels, but above all, the way in which you do not give up on the world.
Thought provoking piece by a former classmate and fellow American University alumnus. Awesome work, Scott!
In a New York Times column from November 2011, Nicholas Kristof described how he rode along with Somaly Mam, an activist against the Cambodian sex trade, as she and several armed police officers raided a brothel. Kristof plays up the danger of the event, describing the officers’ assault weapons and his own trepidation, while playing up the bravery and nobility of Mam and her mission. Of course, the implicit message is that the humble scribe, Kristof, is also brave and noble, not only accompanying Mam in the raid but also using his international platform as a Times journalist to spread word of her deeds around the globe. Kristof, for those who do not know, has a reputation for traversing the globe and using the power of the pen to bring attention to crimes and injustices that the West, for whatever reason, chooses to ignore. He stokes the fires of…
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