Family That Doesn’t Recognize One Another

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Family That Doesn’t Recognize One Another

220 BCIn the conclusion of our last major podcast of the Arab Artists Series on Radio Open Source, I told my podcasting partner Chris Lydon that throughout our experience in North Africa, including in Egypt, I felt like I was amongst family. That statement was no exaggeration or attempt to prove to the world that I was comfortable in a place that is now so notorious for its difficulties; that was a statement directly from my heart.  It is also a statement that historically makes sense, as my heritage – Portuguese – is part of the larger story of the Mediterranean, where people, goods and culture have been circulating for over 2,000 years.

It is amazing to me, to recognize so many commonalities: in language, expressions, traditions, food, work, and attitudes that Portugal shares with Tunisia, or that Egypt shares with Portugal.  Though any student of history would laugh knowing full well that the story of this region has, at different periods, tied these cultures together in one way or another.

That is until this present era. The era of intolerance, apathy, and the sadly misguided belief that people around the world, especially those originating from the Mediterranean, share nothing in common with the people in Egypt. Lets set aside the shared desire for democracy and justice that is almost universal on this planet.  (though that alone should be enough)  Consider that many people on the modern day Iberian peninsula, in southern France, and  Italy in general,  may actually look at the media and see the struggle taking place in Cairo and Tunis, and conclude that they have no connection to these people or their issues.  Then consider again the amount of Americans, Canadians, decedents of immigrants now living throughout the globe, who’s ancestors came from this very region, yet today look and claim see no reason to care and no connection to that place and its people.

Somewhere, somehow, a mix of time, poor education, cowardice, and perhaps affluence, led people who surely believe themselves to be honest and good to the conclusion that whats going on over there has nothing to do with them.  They replaced what are very real and incredible connections from perhaps not all that long ago, with the story that they are a different people, who don’t think the same way or want the same things.

Me, I know what I know and I know what I felt.  A feeling that grew stronger everyday based on big and small conversations, gestures, and actions I will tell stories of for the rest of my life. A feeling that when I open a book and read the rich history of this region, is confirmed: I felt like I was amongst family, because when it comes to culture, history, and -yes- basic life wishes, I was among family. And if you really look at the history of this planet, there’s a good chance you’d notice that same connection.

A Young and Watchful Eye on Changes

A Young and Watchful Eye on Changes
Tunis - November 2012

Tunis – November 2012

Youth has long been the buzz word connecting to the uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East in the spring of 2011. A demographic shift, we’ve been told, combined with economic and social conditions, resulted in a new resistence culture with new strategies and goals for their respective countries.  Tunisia was one such country, where the median age is 30, and multi-lingual, interconnected youth played an essential role in spearheading the pressure that would lead Ben Ali to flee the country.  Now they are also an important part of safeguarding and assessing the changes that are taking place.  On today’s podcast, we sit in a part in Tunis, together with 3 young people working in the field of non-profit watch dog organizations.  In our 40+ minute conversation you will hear from Amir Kamergi, Khaoula Mhatli, and Yosra Mkadem, regarding the work they are doing and their individual and collective experiences and opinions regarding what is up with Tunisia today, how far we’ve come, and what to make of the future.

“It’s like shock therapy. Something happened that we never expected…  it’s getting better each day, people are growing up… and that’s the great thing about our revolution… we know what we want.” – Yosra Mkadem

I Watch Organization

Infobescity and the Revolutionary Pregnancy of Tunisia

Infobescity and the Revolutionary Pregnancy of Tunisia

“There is an information war going on in Tunisia,” Adel explains to me one beautiful afternoon in a suburb of Tunis, “people are constantly consuming and waiting for that next message.”  In an unexpected podcast conversation my new friend began right away talking about the good news and the bad news when it comes to changes in Tunisia over the past 2 years. He also talks about the importance, now especially, to be an activist-cyclist in this nation in transition.  He guided us safely during our critical mass ride and in this conversation he guides us through how he lived the revolt of 2011.

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis”

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis”

I’ve learned that Tunisia has a fantastic tradition, especially since the Uprising* of 2011, of cartoons with attitude. Nadia Khiari’s “Willis from Tunis” was born from the new freedom to express yourself and criticise things in public and he has wasted no time in becoming a recognized symbol and fearless critic of politics, culture, and Tunisian society in general. But behind the crazy cat there is an even cooler person, a Nadia that knows what she wants out of life and for her country, and since waking up from being a self proclaimed “zombie under the dictatorship”, she is now determined to never stop living her dream – making cartoons.

(Audio features Chris Lydon asking the questions, and me behind the scenes)

* I have decided for myself, with the help of many wise friends, to stop calling it a revolution or a spring, and start calling it an upheaval or uprising.