Two kids, different childhoods

opinions

Let’s move inbetween parallel universes and imagine two kids and two childhoods. Let’s call them Mateo and Hala. Both have been reported about in the media in the last two weeks – for different reasons. Mateo strikes more search results, Hala isn’t that good in getting noticed on the world wide web.

Linda honey

Google search results for Mateo

This is Mateo. He is 3 years old, lives with his parents. He is terribly sweet and he likes terribly sweet things – cupcakes to be exact. He has run out of cupcakes to eat. Here he is trying to persuade his mommy, I’m sorry, Linda to make him happy again. Over 5 million people watch him begging for happiness and food security. Ellen Degeneres is one of them. Ellen is ultimately Mateo’s angel and gives him a happy ending. One month later, at The Ellen Show, Ellen wheels out a superhero-festooned trolley loaded with the longed-for cupcakes. For mommy, uhm Linda, there was a well-deserved spa voucher and a cheque for $10,000 for the family. 2 million people are witnessing this. Mateo’s cupcake quest is told in 9 minutes and 26 seconds on the internet.

This is Hala. She is a bit older than Mateo, lives with her 5 siblings in a tent in Lebanon. She is incredibly cute and incredibly strong. Her pHalaarents died, not too long ago. A famous Hollywood actress visits her. Hala tells her that the house fell down on her mom as bombs dropped from the sky into her hometown in Syria. She talks about their big, beautiful green garden where they would play and wait for Mommy to prepare food. Her brother talks about pyjamas. Her older brother doesn’t talk much anymore. He is busy trying to forget about his mom’s death. Hala takes care of all of them. Fortunately, her brothers help her. They collect and sell trash. They say, “it is not fair that we have to live like this.” Hala’s story is told in 7 minutes and 9 seconds on the internet. Not many witness her story.

Both are kids. Both have childhoods.

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How HellyLuv Risked It All

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HellyLuv and her music video ‘Risk it all’ went viral in the Middle East. Ranja Faraj takes a closer look at it and explains what it means to be a female risktaker.

Before I start this article, I would like to address that I am for the happiness and freedom of all. This video I am using is perfect to bring a very interesting discourse forward. I believe music is subjective and I am not criticizing this particular song sonically or attacking the singer, HellyLuv. I am merely using the reaction this video caused as well as what this video represents in terms of the apparent progression of the Kurdish population.

Let’s Start

It is not a huge surprise that this song was musically designed to be commercially successful and contemporary. It does sound nice and it’s current exposure shows that there are likers and dislikers out there. Firstly, I want to magnify the issue of why some like it and some do not.

The Good, The Bad And The Passionate

Those who like the song, support what it represents and see it as a great platform to push Kurdistan forward have genuine reasons, though to what extent? On the other side you have people who dislike the song, see it as regressive for Kurds or even tarnishing and those who see it as a mere copycat of Western culture and the loss of our own. Both are right.

The reason why is because, here, we see a cross section of society, the immigrant in another country. A society living within someone living in a different society. The one who can feel at home in two places but is not perceived to be. The natural instinct would be to bring the two together because that is what one knows, what is embellished in their identity. So when HellyLuv, and many others, use a passion as a platform for their heritage you get a huge array of consequences, both good and bad.

I love culture and it is the differing cultures that makes one appreciate and distinguish one another. So, with the large generation of multi-culture kids, you face a fusion of culture already. Is this progression for society or is the preservation of each culture progression? Do we form a culture together and follow the dominating popular West in order to progress? Does it matter what culture we have as long as we do have culture?

The Wild Wild West

Another perspective is how the elite in South Kurdistan are encouraging foreign investment and with this you get foreign influence evidently and foreign products and demand for foreign goods increase with it and so on. Now, you would expect the younger generation in Kurdistan to desire Western culture when it is their investment which has seen the prosperity rise. So, what is wrong with HellyLuv playing to a strength she has and using it to unify an untapped generation that listen to the music that she makes? The elders in Kurdistan want money and with it came the culture. It seems that their hypocrisy denies their right to complain.

I am trying to figure out whether being three steps behind the West is better or worse. South Kurdistan are outsourcing resources and the West are outsourcing their culture. Who is winning and who is losing?

Are You Ready For This Jelly?

What about the Beyoncé Effect? There has been an increase of using women as empowering figures in the realm of the music industry. Your assumption may be why would that be relevant, let alone detrimental.

Look at it like this, the emphasis on independent women and fierceness and such for women exists and is marketed well and proven commercially successful. Now, when have you heard a song about an independent man who has to sing about issues to empower himself? It is a double standard. The reason why is because it’s marketable and you can create fandom. If a female wants to become successful right now, it has to target a following. So, when a female artist wants to achieve commercial success, they will target areas they can create a strong affinity with: females and issues of equality. It sounds very callous but it has become that and it is being recycled.

HellyLuv of Arabia

“A woman poses with two lions and a tight dress in a music video and suddenly women are equal.” No.

That is not the case and what is unfair to HellyLuv is how much responsibility has been put on her shoulders. She is doing what she loves yet there are people turning it into an international forum for the progression of the Kurdish population. Then there are people with vulgar comments from small villages consisting of 9 men to 1 women to 13 donkeys. Then there are death threats from self-righteous religious extremists. Then there are remarks from the ever so kind and thoughtful Kurdish women. There is a huge array of perspectives and arguments but let’s flip it on its head:

It’s a White Woman’s World

If an ordinary white woman sung this song, would there be this much outroar? If a white woman is free from any restrictions and implications when she wants to make music, why is HellyLuv different?

You can look at HellyLuv and see Arabification or you can snicker and gossip about HellyLuv trying to mimic MIA, Beyoncé, Shakira or Nicole Scherzinger. The parade of Kurdish flags in the video may show nationalism and pride, good or bad however you want to view it. Essentially, she is a bad person because she did what she did. That is the general view I have come across and it sickens me. HellyLuv will inspire a generation because she is a first.

Who Run The World? Girls?

What if a Kurdish man sung this song?

There would be no remarks that breach the wall of either “oh, he is trying to innovate Kurdish pop” or “he has sold his soul to the west”. Look at Darin, Swedish Pop Idol star, who was the first mediocre Western singer who had a Kurdish background. Darin was praised and idolised publicly. In similar circumstances, HellyLuv is in the crossfire of all kinds of judgement. Now, it simply cannot be because she is a woman… well no, maybe it is. All I can be certain of is that HellyLuv brought this up, unknowingly I assume, and now that it is recognised in a medium we can all see and discuss, there will be a push forward in this discourse.

Please, I want to hear your thoughts.

Why memoirs are no autobiographies

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Studying politics ruins reading books for you because just about anything has to be interpreted in the light of the social and political circumstances of the surroundings.

One of the deficits of research on interwar Iraq, for example, is that most studies rely on records in Western, mainly British and American, and also a few German and Italian archives. Why? Not because Iraqis didn’t know or didn’t have the time to write, it is because Middle Eastern memoir literature is doubted to have the same interpretative character as autobiographies in the West. (Thanks to Edward Said for this ugly orientalism.)

It is self-evident that the information from personal memories cannot be taken at face value, which holds true for both Western and Middle Eastern memories. Literary studies teach readers to distinguish clearly between the author, the narrator, and the subject of narration. The author and the reader enter a pact, a ‘let’s pretend’, in order to provide the illusion of confidence in the information given. Hence, autobiographies and, less obviously, memoirs remain a construct.

They are essentially narratives with no direct claim to “truth”. Every statement by an autobiographer is made in a framework of contemporary discourse and has to be interpreted, as I said, in the light of the social and political circumstances of the surroundings. Many factors such as age, new experiences, and the confrontation with new socio-political demands make the individual filter, reassemble, and adapt remembered images according to “modern” requirements. Memoirs serve to explain the course of events up to the “now”-time, in an apologetic and affirmative manner. Shared memories create identities, and vice versa, adopted identities shape, if not even create, memories. As far as individual memories of incidents are concerned, they tell more about the quality of experience rather than about facts. The emphasis on specific topics, the narrative structure, as well as the occurrence of allusions and associations give hints at the perceived importance of the impression left by a certain experience at a certain time. Memoirs are written in the light of what happened afterward rather than of what happened before. Hence, the single account mirrors the whole. Furthermore, autobiographers can follow a didactical intention which is implicit in the process of singling out one’s own life to be worthwhile for public inspection: to set any sort of example. In the light of these assessments, it is hard to classify which of the texts treated in any kind of study on a subject, or even for yourself, would be a memoir and which would be a full-fledged autobiography with a high self-reflective value.

This classification is extremely important as it sometimes decides on a nation’s image to people not reading its own national literature but rely on international authors and reporters to give them a full view on things and positions.

There have been some grave decisions made on nation’s images throughout human history. Because there are not enough English books written by different perspectives. I call that ‘bad marketing’ for each nation. Let’s continue with our example:

Iraq has forever been linked with totalitarianism throughout the Nazi period in Germany. And this grave, very very bad image was very hard to rebut since ‘all’ research alluded to its truth. With Western media to draw conclusions only from Western authors, it is particularly difficult for anyone interested to find out about the ‘truth’, or the other sides of the story, as I call it.

What is fact though, is that Arabs, here: Iraqis were pro-fascist. In the Iraqi debate, images of leadership, references to a mythical past and subordination of the individual sounded quite fascist to British and US beholders in the wider framework of suspicions about a spread of fascism. For instance, the US Ambassador Knabenshue back then described a youth rally in January 1939 and reported home that the new Minister of Education, Salih Jabr, had given a speech ‘from a platform surrounded by microphones and with ‘other trappings familar to similar meetings in Germany and Italy.'” This quote in itself has no information value about Jabr’s intentions in the use of these signs or about the meaning that the audience attributed to the scenery. The quote only indicates that the event reminded Knabenshue of fascist practices. Nevertheless, quotes like this were used to prove that Iraqi Arab nationalism of the time was close to Nazism – when in fact, Germany was only one point of reference among many, many others in the nationalists’ discourse.

Also, what was their nationalist discourse for? They were pro-fascist to gain anti-imperialist support from their enemy'(Britain had occupied Iraq in that time)’s enemy (Germany & Italy). For them, being pro-fascist was a fashion, and their ideological commitment was superficial. But you don’t hear about these things, usually. Not if you don’t dig deep enough, that is.

If you study politics, history, sociology, it is imperative to take a look at the second narrative, always. The way knowledge is ordered and put into a hierarchy is ridiculous business, and I shall write about that in my next post.

But know this:

There is always another side to everything.