Are you worried about the European elections?

Jul 13, 2014 by

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The recent European Union elections have given a legitimate seat to quite a few far right parties, prompting questions around where this level of extremism is coming from, and to what end it is leading?

The Huffpost reports on some of the most extreme, including the Dutch party which wants to rid the country of Moroccans (who were ironically brought in by the Dutch themselves to bolster their workforce), a group in Hungary who want all Jews to sign a register (sound familiar?) and a number of strongly anti-immigration and anti-European parties across the continent.

It is extremely disappointing to see such strong levels of hatred, downright racism and homophobic rhetoric coming out of so called ‘civilised’ nations.  We have been frustrated in Australia with the level of anti-asylum seeker language, but it hasn’t reached the levels of mainland Europe and the Tea Party across the pond.  Where is this all coming from, why is it so and how can we tackle it?

***

I’ve been fortunate to travel to Europe a number of times and cannot categorically say that I have personally experienced strong levels of racism, but that is obviously not completely indicative of the situation.  Firstly, visiting a European nation as an Australian is novel enough that people tend to overlook the colour of my skin and religion and focus on the novelty of being from a land so far away. Furthermore, by not being a migrant and simply a visitor, I do not pose a ‘risk’ in the same way that people fear immigrants are.  

It could be those reasons…or it could be that I am simply blind to the racism around me and chose not to see or be affected by it.  If people are choosing to believe their prejudices with force, what is there to do but continue living one’s life?

Anecdotally, discrimination in Australia happens on slightly different grounds.  Barring attitudes to the Indigenous Australians (which is a whole other discussion), prejudice is largely based on ignorance rather than true, steeped hatred of the ‘other’.  There are few exceptions, and there are pockets of population where research shows social cohesion to be at troublingly low levels (Western Sydney and Logan being areas of note).   However by and large (and making a huge generalisation), Australians tend to feel that if someone is trying hard and giving ‘being Australian’ a fair go, then they’re alright.  So if they’re trying to speak English, working hard and don’t take things too damn seriously, they’re alright mate.  We are too young a country to have the sorts of issues Europe is dealing with. 

What creates an environment that enhances social cohesion is well known.  Those who are well educated and well off are more likely to be tolerant and accepting than those from lower socio economic backgrounds, regardless of background.  A fascinating comment recently made me aware that even the Sudanese and other African migrants were irritated with boat arrivals in Australia.  

Why? One would imagine they would be willing to welcome people from similarly difficult circumstances.  

It was a case of survival: the perception was that these newcomers would be fighting for the same types of jobs and were seen to be coming in a manner that was cheating the system everyone else used (i.e. those who went through the UN refugee camp process). Fascinating right?  

So why are people moving further and further right in Europe?

They say in tough times people tend to close in and  fear the unknown significantly more.  It is a step down Mazlow’s hierarchy: people are no longer in the space of self actualisation and are more focused on the survival and work levels.  They are focused on providing for their family and any obstacles are just barriers to be able to protect what they love…

Regardless of whether there are legitimate reasons or not though, extremism is not acceptable in any shape or form.  The extremism seen in Europe is reflective of the extremism the West is so frightened of in the Middle East and North Africa, they are just based on different lines.  Extremism based on nationality is no less dangerous than extremism based on religion.  Both exhibit cult-like mentalities, and encourage behaviour that is downright barbaric.  Reason and logic doesn’t seem to work…

So the challenge is for the young, educated and informed young people who have grown up in a globalised society to ensure that extremism remains fringe and ridiculously laughable.  This is where a new generation can really leave a mark and share in a meaningful legacy.  By and large, I have seen this happen but the trick is to have it spread beyond just the educated upper and middle classes and move into the lower socio economic groups.  

Some young Europeans have said the fact that extreme groups have a legitimate seat at the table is good as it means they can argue their point and be shut down in a formal manner.

I am undecided.  I appreciate that this may be the case, but by allowing these types of ideologies to blossom in mainstream media, what else are we then accepting as a society?

It isn’t always easy being tolerant and accepting of what is different and unusual, but multiculturalism and globalisation don’t happen by accident. It takes well designed policy, implementation and maintenance to ensure it remains successful. 

Australia is doing okay, but we cannot be complacent. If we are to avoid an EU-like situation, let’s keep our eye on the ball and hope the Europeans can sort themselves out before things get too nasty.  

What do you think? Why are people moving to the far right, and is it something we should worry about?

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A Eulogy

Jul 9, 2014 by

sadbrazil

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, was it.

The worst day in their football history, and for a nation that lives, eats and breathes football…

The World Cup has been a joy to watch this year, it really has. Games like Algeria versus South Korea, which on first glance didn’t look like it would be a firecracker ended up in an amazing battle.

But this?

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Seven goals conceded? One goal in the final minute to Brazil?

It was an actual mauling. A massacre on the pitch, a bloodletting.

The Germans, in their standard form, showed no mercy.

Klose cemented his place in history as the greatest world cup goal scorer.

The Brazilians faced the most painful few minutes when 4 goals were scored in less than 7 minutes.

How does a team come back from this?

The last Brazilian team to lose on this scale (to Uruguay in 1950) said they were treated like they committed the worst kind of crime.

This is literally unbelievable.

Well, we can say with certainly – Neymar was missed…

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Repost: Fever for Football

Jul 4, 2014 by

This is a piece contributed to a wonderful website Sajjeling – check it out! It’s a great collection of Australian-Arab narratives and I am honoured to be a part of it…

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“The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.” – Terry Pratchett

My friend shook his head after listening to me wail about the crushing, humiliating defeat of La Furia Roja, the Spaniards, at the hands of ‘Clockwork Orange’, the Dutch.“I don’t understand! How can you care so much when you’re not even Spanish?”

“Explain to me why it means so much? How can it matter so much to you when there is no link between you and the country at all?”

I sighed. How to explain the love of football, especially that of the World Cup?

I can’t pinpoint exactly where my love of the World Game begun. My earliest memory is that of the 1994 games. Although I don’t remember the details, I do recall being left in front of the TV with instructions to call my dad over whenever a goal was scored. Given that I was only three, I wasn’t sure what a goal was exactly but I made a deduction that it had something to do with the reactions of people in the stand. So, anytime the stadium cheered I would rush to get my father, guessing something important had happened. Looking back, I am not sure my father thought the strategy was as impressive as I thought it was.

The following world cup – France 1998 – was celebrated with the purchase of a new set of pyjamas that was blue with soccer balls all over it. Unfortunately, there were no sets of soccer pyjamas for girls; my mother bought me a boys’ set. This was fine, except no one wanted to explain to me why there was an extra hole in the front of the pants…

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My obsession after that only grew, despite the fact that everyone else in my family only cared slightly. I stuck posters with match timetable and draw on the lounge room walls. I made scrapbooks for the tournament, writing little notes about each match and cutting out all the pictures from the paper, decimating my father’s newspaper-reading ritual in the process.

In 2006, I watched every single game until my mother banned me for a night and demanded that I go to bed. Apparently a straight week without sleep was enough to make my mood positively dangerous, particularly when my team was floundering. 2010 brought the World Game to my screen right in the middle of my most difficult university exam period, and perhaps may explain the grades I received that semester. 2014, even with a full time job and despicable game times in Australia, has been no different.

The question, however, remains. Why, as my friend asked, do I care so much when Australia always does poorly and my land of birth, Sudan, has never made an appearance? Why do I feel so impassioned about the fate of a team when, ultimately, it has no bearing on me?

I am no footballer – anyone who has seen me with a ball at my feet will confirm that – so it has nothing to do with being inspired to play better. And in the weeks of the World Cup, it is much more than ‘just a sport’ for billions of people around the world including me. Football, it seems, has its own type of magic.

It is the most popular game in the world, played on streets in every nation. It requires no gear apart from an object that is roughly round (in Sudan we used balls made out of old socks) and markings in the ground to delineate a goal. Money, pedigree and social standing have no bearing on your ability to be a great player and perhaps even make a name for yourself. It is simple to understand, and its barrier to entry is extremely low. Anyone can play and be a part of the beauty of this game.

This game is so much more than statistics. Football is ultimately about humanity.

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The World Cup is a tournament that brings grown men to tears, changes the lives of rookie players and inspires generations of children to do something great. Some countries grind to a halt to watch the games. The green is a battlefield where literally anything can happen – great teams kicked out at the group stages, underdogs (like Greece and Costa Rica this year) making it further than anyone thought they could goalies and strikers alike making the impossible real. Goals can be scored right up until the last second, changing fates and creating heroes. Infamous moments are revisited for decades; Madonna’s hand of God, Zidane’s headbutt, that-one-English-win-in-1966.

Football is the great equaliser.

Yet, the World Cup is also a tournament that unites in defeat. 31 of the 32 teams that travel to Brazil this year will experience it in some form, whether it is crushing, like that of Spain, or hopeful, like Australia’s defeat against the Dutch. If there is one emotion we can all share, it is the commonality of World Cup heartbreak.

That’s what it’s about, right? At the end of the day, football and the World Cup are about collective emotion and teams that are vessels for the hopes and dreams of nations. The beauty of this game beyond the field is that it expresses an emotion shared right around the world. It allows us, no matter our heritage, to feel part of something huge, and taps into the reptilian part of our brain that wants to belong, to have a tribe. The World Cup makes us all one people

Scottish footballer and former manager of English club Liverpool, Bill Shankly, said it all for me.

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

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TBS: Well-behaved children – Use the stick or (discounted) carrot approach?

Jul 3, 2014 by

Check out my ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ piece at The Big Smoke! A little bit snarky and cynical, but hey… ;)

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Have we lost the ability as a society to do good without being incentivised for it?

Or is that me being a little too cynical?

Hearing of a “well-behaved kids’” discount at a cafe (GET A DISCOUNT OFF YOUR FOOD BILL FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR? IN CALGARY AND NICE, YOU CAN! originally published on Lost @ EMinormade me cringe and roll my eyes simultaneously (a strange sight on a train, let me tell you).

Why?

Well apparently there are now cafes in Calgary where you get a $5.00 discount for having “well-behaved kids.”

Nice…

At first glance, I can see why this is a catchy idea. It can be argued this will encourage people to keep their kids in check. After all, what motivates people more than a discount? The recipients of the discount expressed their joy at being rewarded for their well-behaved daughter, which is delightful.

Yet, it seems slightly judgemental, slightly misplaced.

Why?

To answer that question, another must be asked. What does a financial incentive for good behaviour say about us as a society – particularly when it comes to the behaviour of children?

Granted, we live in a capitalist society where behavioural change is swift if it affects the hip pocket. Still, is this the best way to deal with a perceived “problem,” particularly in the case of well-behaved children? What is the problem that we are trying to solve with this type of incentive? Is targeting the parents the best way?

These café owners clearly think so.

Perhaps it is a little old fashioned to want society to encourage and espouse good values and behaviour for the sake of it, rather than for financial gain. To be fair, this seems like a well-intentioned move by the café – a “thank you” to parents for controlling their children.

However, not everyone will be fortunate enough to have well-behaved children, and it may be more effective to have “family friendly” hours.

I could be completely off the mark. It might be argued that I am hating for the sake of hating.

I do know, by all reports, that was a discount my parents never would have had the pleasure of receiving…

***

Check out the original piece here, and spend some time on the site, it has some awesome reading!

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Ramadan Kareem!

Jun 30, 2014 by

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There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us.

Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up.

Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty.

Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower.

Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone.

Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies.

Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us.

Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions.

Let us fast from desiring what we do not have.

Let us fast from obsession.

Let us fast from despair.

Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart.

Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior.

Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important.

Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view.

Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah.

Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self.

Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.

Fariha Fatima

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Bounce: For the Love of Football

Jun 30, 2014 by

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My mornings have been drenched with the muted cheers of stadiums and my own shrieks at near misses or triumphs.  Football (spectating) is something that is in my blood, along with millions of others around the world, and this month provides the ultimate in that pleasure.

The morning’s defeat – Mexico at the hands of the Dutch – was heart wrenching: the Mexicans scoring early in the second half and then falling back, providing Clockwork Orange with the chance to push and keep pushing until a very late equaliser and extra time penalty.  Like every match going forward, the looks of utter defeat on the faces of the Mexicans hearts the hurt…

In the spirit of the universality of football though, here is a wicked video for your morning :)

BOUNCE – This is not a freestyle movie from Guillaume Blanchet I Filmmaker on Vimeo.

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IN THE BLACK: Thank you!

Jun 28, 2014 by

A great big thanks to Catherine Fox and “In the Black” for including me as part of the 2014 Young Business Leader’s list.

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It’s an absolute honour, and an interesting branch into a world I had never really considered myself a part of before: Business.

Check out the write up here.  While you’re there, read up on the other leaders! Everyone is doing something absolutely amazing and inspiring…

[While I'm here, shout out to my folks and the mentors who have helped me along the way!  Honestly if it wasn't for their encouragement and support, I wouldn't be at full, I'd be at no throttle at all].

An excerpt:

Still in her early 20s, Abdel-Magied says the best advice she’s been given is to be adaptable, and to use the leverage you have. A young Muslim girl interested in working in the community and with an engineering background is an unusual combination, she admits, but it means people listen.

“I’ve always looked at the opportunities that have come my way and had a goal – but don’t let that blind you to other avenues. The job that I’m in now, it was almost a whim that led me to apply to work on a rig and led me onto a new path. And you need to ask all the silly questions when you are in the early part of your career before you are seen as ‘the expert’.’’

 

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