Part of my introduction to a conversation on June 22, 2012 at the Council on International Educational Exchange in Amman, during a program designed and lead by Professor Rula Quawas/Jordan University for visiting participants from various US universities.
Feel free to give this current period we're living whatever definition you feel works - spring, awakening, revolution, occupy, revolt, uprising, insurrection, dissent. It will be a few years down the line before we agree on an appropriate label.
Till then, I believe we are living and shaping an age of remarkable awakening of our consciousness. A new enlightenment of sorts. A shift in thought-style and action-style.For this thought-style to exist, to manifest, to be tried, experimented with, used and reflected upon, it needs a medium, a system, a structure, a social contract. A reinvention of the codes of life, existence and human interaction.I see these times as an exciting global awakening, happening to each of us individually through self awareness. A time when we are each discovering our consciousness, facing our fears, recognizing the control imposed on us, and listening to our hearts more than ever before. Today we are suffering the result of decades of accepting an imposed status quo - decades of mind control, and very little heart control. We are faced with it, we know we're not happy with it and that's why there's a voice in each of us questioning who we are, who the other is, what we want, and what we need to do about it.For the first time in the history of our humanity there are more people connected to each other, sharing knowledge, ideas, successes, failures, and are blowing the cover off the systems that don't work for us.Humanity is connecting and reconnecting, individually with our inner selves, our intuition, our creative power, and collectively with others where we learn from each other and with each other, and are able to collaborate towards exploring new solutions to age old problems as well as new ones. Our connectivity helps us imagine the better lives we ache for as we live one of the most innovative periods in human history. This is inspiring and empowering as we set out to solve some of our grandest challenges and our smallest discontent.It worries me when women and men speak in gender silos, blaming each other for the shortcomings of society as a whole, for oppression, and for the broken social system that plagues humanity. I believe the revolution and the awakening must be genderless if we are to achieve the heightened consciousness needed for the transformation we dream of. After all, we were made to co-create. The system is broken for men as much as it is broken for women.This period of insurrection and dissent is not a technology revolution, it's not a social media revolution, it's not a political revolution, it's not a socio-economic revolution - it's an awakening of hearts and souls. A quest for betterness. This awakening is amplified and propagated through the technologies at our finger tips and connectedness through wired and wireless boxes. And knowing what others are experiencing helps us push our fears out of the way.Let us find the courage and confidence to recognize it and embrace it. Believe in it. Work it.In a crowd sourced, crowd funded, crowd empowered world - let's tap into the wisdom and power of the crowd, but break away from the herd. Let us use the crowd to help us rise above our fears and biases, but find our inner hearts and voices to take action in our own lives, neighborhoods and the wider communities we each live in.Development as we've known it has us stuck in the rut of charity, dependence and entitlement. All of which are far from dignified to the human condition and existence. We must abolish the welfare system approach and replace it with a rights-based approach. The challenge is to create a socio-economic, socio-political, and social-cultural protection floor to build upon. And when the law doesn't make sense to us, let us become mediators who listen and imagine solutions where everyone can win.Possibility is a story away. A story in the form of culture and the arts. And biased to my trade, films of course. Processes and products of our imagination. If we cannot imagine the life we want, how else do we know what to work for?Stories allow us to persuade ourselves. And here's where I link the power of storytelling in transforming social and civic codes. Evolving them from their current broken structures into the organizations and systems needed for the challenges at hand.The broken social, political, economic and cultural organizations are precisely why we haven't yet been able to achieve what matters the day after a fallen president or a fired prime minister. Reinventing these structures, these mediums, requires that we pay attention to a whole slew of different things. It requires that we reframe the debate towards quilting new social structures. It requires that we stop the language of entitlement and expectation and the rentier mentality, and start looking within for strengths and abilities. And for me, most importantly it requires that we unleash our imagination.And as we do so, the conversations must be inclusive, even to those who threaten us, challenge us and with whom we disagree. Let us be driven by enlightenment in our heart, our thought-style and engagement.Specifically on the role of women, I believe Arab women's movements during my lifetime have fallen into and followed a patriarchal structure of dependency and broken dignity. Had this been otherwise, we wouldn't be having this conversation today. But in that same breath, the Arab man is also broken. The dysfunctional social system has placed unhealthy pressures on the Arab man, forcing him into an assumed position. Forbidding him to discover the essence of self and individualism, and distracting him from reflecting on creating a co-life with the other half of the population.We've been conditioned to using patriarchal metrics. The lens of judgement has been male. That's probably why there is this constant inquiry about the role of women. A role that is in fact age old and comes in many forms. Why have we been denying ourselves the oneness of humanity? After all, we do share a common destiny, don't we?Towards a new social contract, breaking down patriarchy, and rejecting patriarchal metrics:In our Jordanian Constitution, Article 6 says-(i) Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion.(ii) The Government shall ensure work and education within the limits of its possibilities, and it shall ensure a state of tranquility and equal opportunities to all Jordanians.To me, Jordanians are women and men. I vehemently oppose the argument for including the word 'gender' or 'sex' or Jordanian 'women and men' in Article 6.Back in 1952, when this constitution was written, the people in the room were imagining a great Jordan. They had the vision to think forward for everyone. Those were times of creation and dreams, and everyone had to win. They were times of inspired creation, rather than panic stricken fixes.Let us implement what makes sense and what has been sincerely thought through. Stop the hypocrisy and fearful excuses. We are all defeated if we accept to amend that article and replace it with Jordanian women and men, or as regards to gender or sex.The tribe. The true meaning and essence of the tribe is wonderful, is it not? We've allowed a narrow patriarchal interpretation of the tribe to take over, and now the tribal system is demonized. Why? A tribe is a system that creates a solid and inclusive foundation for the members. That's a beautiful system. Why do we accept to mar the essence of it and impose on it exclusive negative connotations?This is a huge opportunity for the Arab region to look at the power of creativity in the broadest of contexts. This is an age of imagination, creative ability, engagement and resourcefulness. All of which contribute to a heightened consciousness. It's about co-creation. And we are in dire need of artists and creative workers who are radicals. Who make us so uncomfortable that we have no choice but to get out of our slumber. Radicals who awaken the quiet centrists.This is about igniting magnificent power in people. This is the imagination age of consciousness.
Open discussion with the group on the Arab awakening, the global awakening, the role of Arab women, and the power of film.
All art references used can be found here on my tumblr.
Thank you Rula Quawas for inviting me, and thank you to all in the group for your curiosity and today's challenging and engaging conversation.