12.7.12 | Transblog
My first semester of TransD is coming to end and it has been quite a journey… I could not possibly write a list of what I’ve academically learned throughout this semester (because it was all such complex information that I don’t think I fully absorbed, yet) but I completely could elaborate on my experience as a whole, from coping with everything(!) to, and most importantly, how this whole experience has improved my mind-set.
Coming from a country where freedom of speech is not an option, unless you vent via hashtags on twitter through an anonymous account from fear of being exposed, caught and arrested/threatened by religious police. You just have to be very careful what you say or do most of the time, which results in two things: either people saying nothing at all (like me) or people that bottled their fury up for so many years they explode (which ends up in an ugly mess!)
I can’t speak for all of Saudi Arabia, since every region has a completely different culture, but I can list a few problems that I have noticed throughout my 24 years of life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (western region of Saudi Arabia).
Ezio Manzini said “People don’t just cause problems, rather they have a lot to offer. They have capabilities.” Unfortunately, there are parts of the government view the youth as problem makers. And by part I mean the religious police (that I’m very much against!) They do not give the young generation in Jeddah that are so talented space to express their capabilities. As I mentioned in an older blog post, that the youth of Jeddah are the ones that organized to help the victims of Jeddah’s 2009 flood. Sadly, the religious police could not congratulate or acknowledge their heroism, rather they gave them a lot of trouble because it was not segregated (girls and boys were, if I may add respectfully, working together.)
Another example, is when women tried to fight for their right of driving and just got into cars and drove, they were arrested by the police that were ordered to arrest them by the religious police. If only they would listen, majority of women do not want to be able to drive, we love having drivers. But, if one day your driver runs away, your father is out of town, your neighbor is at work, and your brother is at the hospital, it is important to know how to drive and not fear that you’ll be arrested because you got behind the wheel and drove yourself to the hospital to be there for your dying brother! Yes, the Women to Drive movement is all about women empowerment, and yes I don’t totally agree with the way Manal AlShareef (the woman that started the somewhat silent movement) articulates the problem and turns to the west for help by going to conferences and speaks about the Saudi issues. But, I do think we should not be afraid to act freely in our own country.
Emily Pilloton quoted Ivan Illich in the article Are Humanitarian Designers Imperialists? Project H Responds:“If you have any sense of responsibility at all, stay with your riots here at home… You will know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how to communicate with those to whom you speak. And you will know when you fail…” And that I totally agree with, but what do you do when your home does not allow you to speak or help? What do you do when your own country don’t see you as a contributor to the solution rather the problem they are trying to find a solution for?
I end this blog post with the question: can I really design for my complex world, when they don’t even recognize my capabilities?