Back from Santiago: What I missed out

Back from the southern hemisphere, namely Santiago in Chile where I had the privilege to attend the Global Voices 2010 Citizen Media Summit. It took me a week to settle and finally find the mental and physical ability to sit down and write some notes. Apart from the long jet lagging travel itself, it takes often an awful amount of time to process the large quantity of information one gets showered with. It was by all means a unique experience, meeting such an overwhelming number of interesting people and learning from such an overwhelming number of elegant minds.

As an author for Global Voices, “representing” my country in this event (although admittedly non of my Moroccan blogging peers have mandated me as such) I somehow feel the duty to share my experience and some of my notes, memories, what I heard or learned hoping to transmit if only shreds of what I’ve been privileged to receive from the numerous panels, geeks, activist bloggers… etc.

But I also have vivid memories I’d love to share, of life, joy, passion, misery, richness, beauty… from a country as far as Chile but as close to my experience of humanity as I would never have imagined.

So with so much to say and so little space/time to do it, and most importantly because “Thou Shall Not Write Agonizingly Long Blog Posts,” I would like to divide this account into three parts: (1) what I missed out in the last three weeks, (2) my human experience with the GV community in Chile and (3) what I learned and think is worth sharing, starting (with the first part) here:

During my absence I missed out on two high points in the news coming from Morocco:

Mohammed Abed al-Jabri

Throughout that journey, Morocco was constantly in mind, not least because I heard the passing away of Mohamed Abed al-Jabri, only two days after my arrival in Santiago. Al-Jabri was probably one of the greatest Arabic scholars of all time. To get a sense of the importance of al-Jabri’s work, one can (reasonably) compare him to influential thinkers like Immanuel Kant or René Descartes, because he never lacked the moral integrity to speak to the ills of his society and contemporaries and spent most of his life trying to reconcile modernity and tradition, reflecting on the reasons of the failure of the enlightenment movement in a crushingly conservative society, advocating rationalism over religious orthodoxy and preconceived cultural norms. He also notoriously refused many awards accorded to him by some Arab dictators including the king of Morocco. Why is the work of al Jabri important for a Western audience in particular? Solon Simmons, professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, sums it up quite well in his excellent website Confrontations:

From my vantage at Confrontations, I see this as a great moment to think about how the imagery of the “West against the Rest” can be set aside for support for the engagement with indigenous developments of alternative modernities around the world. […] we should use the occasion of Al-Jabri’s passing to explore his answers to questions that we all face.

Al-Jabri’s work is available in some rare bookshelves in Europe and north America in Arabic, French, English and German, and I would recommend the quintessential four-volume “Critique of the Arabic Mind”,certainly not an easy read but it is worth the effort. Presently the English version of the book DOESN’T seem to be available for ordering online (unless I missed it.)

Zahra Boudkour is free:

She was the youngest political prisoner in Morocco. Her arrest on May 15, 2008 in Marrakesh after a march organized by students of the local university, and the harassment and intimidations inflicted upon her family during the long days of her detention reminded many that the dark years of repression in this country were not completely over yet. Many were expecting a royal pardon that never came. The Moroccan civil society as usual played a crucial role in making Zahra’s case known. In France a young organization, CapDema, helped keep the spotlight on Zahra’s case and succeeded in attracting some forms of solidarity. Zahra’s comrades are still languishing in prison though, and for no reason other than their political opinions. For more follow [French] and my friend Anas Alaoui’s blog who’s been closely monitoring the case and for which insights I am very grateful.

I’ll be back with some personal memories from my last trip.

1 thought on “Back from Santiago: What I missed out

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