Here is my issue with some refugees’ self-victimization behaviours in one sentence: It is anti human rights.
When refugees engage themselves in self-victimising narratives they are acting counter human rights, counter their basic pure instinct, and thus allowing their lusts to take control over their rational and spiritual capacities.
Now those self-victimization narratives are -for the most of the time- suffocated by two big weeds:
From Homogeneity to Heterogeneity
Refugees are not a cohesive, hegemonic mass. They heterogenic. They are individuals with different social, economic, cultural, physical and psychological capacities. If we want to transform smoothly from that forcible narrative towards more diversified one, we can do this by showing at least five categories of refugees. Again this categorization is still not helpful and in fact -still narrow view and mind to the concept but it will help bridge towards a more diversified colourful picture. So here we have those refugees who:
- Fled their countries because their lives were under temporary or immediate threat.
- Fled their countries because their lives became under years to come threats. Something that is not just temporary but off course also not eternal.
- Fled their countries due to other implications of conflict such as bad economic situation.
- Fled their countries due to the implications of the corruption of a autocratic dictator political regimes there.
- Fled courtiers they were initially residents in due to any of the reasons above but they still can not go back to their orignal counties because their lives will be under threat there too.
Now, let us start widening our angle of perspective more. We can multiply any of the above possibilities by another one or more of the three variables bellow.
- The way they left their countries
- The chances they can go back
- Their demographics
A young Christian woman arriving to Germany does not fit in the same category as a religious senior age Christian male. Although both had arrived from the same city.
So obviously there are different shades, nuances in the term refugee itself. This is why adding the plural ‘s’ make it less colourful, and less humanly conscious.
It is of great importance to individuate refugees.
Ironically, even supporters of refugees may use heartrending discourses but fail to individuate them and thus fail to humanize the case.
What is so mutual between all categories and individuals though is that they all are new comers.
Now that we have realized the first weed let us look at the other one.
Locus of control
Humans in general, and not only refuges, usually see their control of life as more internal or external. Off course with different blends of both. We call this ‘locus of control’. Locus in Latin means location. Some people would have a more internal location of control of life where they see themselves in charge of things happening and ultimately responsible for their own successes and failures while others would see the location of control of life siting their somewhere in the outside world but definitely beyond their own capacity of control. It is a continuum, some people are highly on the ‘I’ side while other on the ‘E’ side.
Julian B. Rotter who is also known for developing the social learning theory and one of the most citied eminent psychologists of the 20th century worked hardly to develop the locus control. He published his famous I-E scale to assess internal and external locus of control. What is so beautiful about that scale is it adequate measurement of two interesting concepts: achievement motivation which is associated with internal locus of control & outer directedness (tendency to conform to others) which is associated with external locus of control.
Carol Dweck focuses on the ‘mindset’ : The new psychology of success as her book’s title suggests. She and her team created a continuum where people can be positioned according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Growth mindset vs fixed mindset. Those who believe abilities can be searched, obtained, learned etc. are positioned on the growth mindset side of the continuum, while those who believe that what we are born with or have can not change are poisoned on the opposite side.
So where does this lead us? How can locus of control be linked to the question of REFUGEEs?
Now that we have established the diversity of refugees we can understand there are those amongst them who would see the world and their position in it from a more internal or external locus of control. Those amongst them who perceive their capacities framed by the external locus of control would more likely choose the self-victimizing role. This need to be broken as it is less human rights conscious as it is less attentive to the concept of duties.
When someone is more into the external locus of control they usually believe they are toyed rather than active and influential players over the courses of their own lives. Chances then they will be sincerely contributive to the communities they live in are usually lower. Not because they are mean or uncapable, but because they are usually in the -give me- mindsets rather than -what can i give- ones. They are more into the fixed mindset rather than the growing one. And it follows then, that they are more influenced by their social peers than they are influencing their own courses of lives.
We need though to be aware that one of the main reasons people develop an internal locus of control way of living usually come after trauma events. When people have severe, unexpected external power imposed over their lives where they have no or very little control of the course of their own lives because of the effect of this external power they start to develop that mindset behaviour of focusing on the external rather than the internal. This need to be treated. Most of the budgets allocated to handling crisis in disasters zones (man-made or nature-made) usually focus on materialistic supplies and support but marginally on psychological support. And i am not talking about the traditional psychological visits. because this is history now. I am talking about continuous, continuous mentorship which is now more possible thanks to communication technologies and other socio-cultural developments.
But that explanatory power linking internal locus of control to trauma events should not be misused by some refugees.
Refugees, with internal locus still need to keep their actions within the fairness and no-harm actions-frame. They need to remind themselves that no matter what kind of brutalities they have been exposed to, they still should not allow themselves to project any kind of brutalities on others. We need to remind ourselves that we, as citizens of the world, need to balance our rights with our duties. They need to remind themselves that dignity (and life) stem from doing a chosen work that helps communities we live in. It is true that choice seems not to obvious concept in the mind set of internal locus of control people but this is where humanly conscious media, and particularly this media addressing citizens in conflict zones and times, can play a vital role to ring the bells and blow the whistles of reminders.
Self-victimizing implies a non human agent status because it provides untrue perspective to present realities based on the false argument of lack of resources to a point where self-victimized actor becomes truly incapable. With self-victimizing we engage ourselves with two types of conversations: Self monologues and closed-group influences. Maybe it is time to remind ourselves about the ‘disastrous’ implications of those two types of conversations.
It takes two to tango. The Mutual responsibility
That being said, heterogeneity of refugees in narratives and locus of control work hand in hand. While at one end we need to make sure our discourses are not seeing refuges as a solid one colour and one texture mass, we also need to ensure refugees are understanding their capacity to rule their own lives forward.
Most of the narratives about refugees tend to focus on ‘their’ vs. ‘our’ rights. The dominant discourses -academia and media alike- are about the ‘needed’, ‘default’, ‘proposed, ‘opposed’ and ‘violated’ rights. But that is too reductionist and simplistic and it also ignore the other half of the story. Because it is not they vs. us. Nor it is their vs. our. It is not about rights only.
It is about duties.
If we can manage the discourses about refugees at both sides, i.e. the internal conversations within internal locus of control refugees and the ‘conversations’ in mainstream media, then maybe we can close many misunderstanding gaps, avoid more conflicts, and better channel this enormous power of human energy crossing the seas and the oceans from one land to another.
I am a GOOD loser. I lost two countries, love relationships, a battle against cancer and a revolution. Here what i learned.
We are humans.
We are strong but we are also weak. We are healthy but also sick. Rich but also poor. Free but also detained. Youth but also elder. We win but we also lose. Change is inevitable, it is our DNA’s constitution. And loss is part of change. Trees lose their leaves. Hair lose its colour. Hearts lose their beats.
I lost a revolution.
I lost two love relationships.
A battle against cancer.
A couple of jobs
A country. In fact, i lost a country and i could not get back a previously lost one.
The art, but also the business, of motivational literature have plenty of examples about success. Examples on how to rock it ! How to Just Do it! How to never stop!
When there are examples of hardships encountered during those processes towards success then they are narrated only if the protagonist had manged to overcome the difficulties. Remember how many stories we heard about how this very successful -MAN- had made it all the way up the ladder after all the hard times he faced?
But when the losses stories did not yet show evidences of success we burry them. We hide them. No one wants to talk about them and no ones want to get near them. Those people are called losers and who wants to listen to the stories of losers! What can we learn from a loser! In fact, a lot.
Well, here what i learned by building a good relationship with my loses.
It is okay
It is okay to lose. In fact this give a sense of contentment. Losing means you are playing. Life is a play. Losing means you are alive. The fact that we have lost and we are still here is self-telling about persistence and destiny.
would you still go new battles? I would answer yes and yes! It is thrilling. The keyword here are : ‘Why’ and ‘How’
- ‘Why’ would you want to fight for something makes the difference. We know this already: Choose your battle. Yes choose your battle. It is a good and wise advice. In love, with your children, at work, with government, with any authority, choose your battle. You are going to invest resources so you’d better put them in the right place. Invest smartly.
- ‘How’? by linking your battle to your purpose in life. Why do you believe you are here in this life? What are you doing? This makes a whole difference in the battles you fight. Because between your purpose and your every moment choices you can continuously lay your objectives. Say you believe you are in this life to spread love, say one of your goals towards this is to be yourself in love relation. Now imagine you are encountering this conflict /small or big battle/ with your partner. As you can see, any choices you are going to make should reflect your purpose. Does it worth a fight? If yes? then about what? when? where? and for how long? more importantly who are your allies? Definitely your partner should be one of them!. Makes a difference no? It took me a while, a couple of decades to learn this.
When you lose. Admit the loss. Do not be too immature by joyfully celebrating in every possible way your success moments but burying your head like an ostrich in the sands of egoism or social norms when you lose. Be proud in admitting your loss. This saves you a lot of time and energy. It took me few seconds to admit losing the battle against cancer. The moment my beloved man passed away, i cried. Out. Peacefully. Before that i was crying only under the shower. I understood we lost the battle. But it also took me 8 years to admit we lost in our peaceful revolution against a brutal religious regime and a state of terror in Syria/Assad regime. I refused to admit that i lost a country, friends, and more importantly a dream. The biggest dream of my life: to live free and in peace in my own communities and amongst hundreds of people i love! It took me three months of fighting and denial but then a breathe, a long one, a 15 minutes one, in that park, near that tree, with Chopin music in my ears, to admit i lost a love relationship.
Playing victim is an easy, uninteresting & 2D role.
Your mind will trick you. It will give you no reason to believe you have lost. In the worst case scenario, it will give you all the reasons to blame others for this loss. Others can be sometimes the very close people in your life. Nature. God. Hell. Who knows. But your mind will trick you to believe you are not responsible. Fact is: You share responsibility. When you discover your partner had betrayed you the moment she left the country to continue her studies or she slept with three people during your two weeks break up then you can not balme them alone. You have your share of responsibility. You chose them and there were signs. In fact there were clear statements but you did not want to listen to. So wake up. STOP playing victim. The good thing is that i learned that early in my life. I learned not to play self-victimizing, I was born as a refugee, my parents had already lost their country and were deported as kids in their 12 and 13 years old. I hated the fact that many Palestinians play victims! Enjoy being victims! I hated this and i was raised up my loving and caring parents to disrespect such behaviours and condemn them. I was taught that i am in charge of my own dreams and i should be responsible for them.
Forget — Be Kind
Everyone is subject to such experiences. There will be times any one of us will go down. We fail. We lose, and we feel like shit about ourselves and the world. Ok so what? Do not hate. That’s it. DO. NOT. HATE. did you hear me? Do not hate the world. Do not hate people. Do not hate …? YOURSELF. Be kind to the universe and this includes yourself. I am not talking about being selfish. I am not talking about being egocentric, no no & no no. Those are the worst self-defence mechanism. They are sugar coated balls of chocolate! Yagh! They will only give a surge of good feeling and energy and then pffffffffffff, empty ballon. You fall down. You feel empty, cracking down and you burst in tears. Why? because you made the not so smart choice to solve your pain by stepping onto someone’s else. Not good. Do totally the opposite. Be kind. As a kid. Kids forget the source of hurt so easily. By innocent. Pure. Again: be kind. It is a beautiful word. Look at it. read slowly. Take a small distance and enjoy it as if you are looking at a beautiful painting in an exhibition hall. You are alone, or with someone you love. Look at the word. KIND. This is who you are. In the down times you will see the weakness of the human-KIND! Our initial creation. The crying baby. You will live it. Do that. Live your birth again. This re-enactment is rewarding. Do not be weak with bad feelings like anger at the world, revenge desires, or those thoughts: Once i will be stronger i will know how to make everything go per my will! That is the voice of hate, it does not belong to you. It is the voice of the pas tense. It’s intention is to pull you back. If you want to grow you need to think about your future. Your future you will be an elder person who is weak. Again just like that baby you. You are there a weak and kind human. Remain faithful to yourself. forget. Memory is a tricky construct and concept. Play with memory.
Remember — Be Grateful
Remember those bad times when you lost? Lost a love, a family member, a job. You were running for advices, for help, for support, for resources. You were panicking, you were in need and you were so weak. do NOT forget those days. Keep them in your memory. It is important. Think gratefulness. There were people for you. This will also help you develop more sensibility towards the others. My sense of empathy has way developed after my conscious appreciation to support i have received in my hard days. We need each others. Pride can be destructive. Self-confidence is not. Self-esteem is not. Self-respect is not. And those three come from appreciation. We can not appreciate if we forget the hard days. Remembering is an art. I worked extensively on the concept of ‘memory’ while i was studying identity politics. I will male sure to share my notes about memory in one or more articles within the series of articles about relationships. But for now all we need to remember is that remembering heals. And as an art we need to master it. It is soft and fluid and tasty.
Listen to the wake up call.
I learned that sometimes I am the one who is calling for this loss.
Well, you know, you have set your alarms. You know what are you after in this life. Sometimes you call for it. You call for your own failure because you are following Picasso’s advice: any constructive act starts with a destructive one. Many times this is the case for careers and jobs. You are spending almost the 1/3 of your life in your ‘career’ (what an artificial concept) but you are not satisfied? come on! really come on! seriously! after living 90 years you will realize you have lived only 60 ! Who stole your life!!? YOU. This is just an example. Couples, married or de facto, who stay together despite feeling not satisfied and fulfilled and despite all the efforts they had put to make their partners understand them more, pay attention more, and respect them more is just another example. So the key to differentiate this kid of losses from others is by remaining faithful to yourself. Keep listening to yourself. When the alarm rings, wake up.
Social Capital — Allies
Call it whatever you want but you need them. One or two. My experience had taught me that you need one person to believe in you and that will be enough. Belief is not easy. To believe in you means they will be with you. They will not let you down and if you failed they will cary you up! And after they carry you up they will forget they just did so. It is you who have to remember. With no allies life is unbearable. There is an art in making allies and there is an art in losing faked allies. Losing faked allies is sometimes a wake up call. Also have your own character. beware and beware of peers influence. It is the worst kind of influence we are exposed to. Because it is soft, smooth, natural, close, persistent and it knows about us more than enough to manipulate us intentionally or unintentionally.
Cry it out. You lost. You earned the cry. You earned it hard. So cry. I needed a sincere love to teach me to cry. To tell me it is okay to cry. Cry. Cry will let you see. You will be able to fix things sometimes. You will have the courage , an unbelievable power after you cry, to say i was wrong. I did wrong. I am sorry. You will be able to forgive yourself but also ask for forgiveness and be ready not to have it. Cry. Just, show how baby you are. Cry not because your tears flow easily, but because you are conscious and aware and because you realize how much your loss is hard.
Now it is time to win. Or do you want to stay in this status of losing forever? You see where lack of self-esteem comes from? It is not from losing, it is from calling yourself a loser. The only way around is to tell yourself you are a GOOD loser. Put GOOD in capital letters. Emphasise it but do not lie to yourself. We know when we lie to ourselves even when we pretend we do not, we lose self respect. So do not lie to yourself. align your actions to your words. Earn it. Earn the capitalized GOOD. How? By winning. It is time to win.
When i lose, i work hard to win. Win what you love to win not what society tells you: you should be wining. REMAIN FAITHFUL TO YOURSELF. Win . What. YOU. want to win. Chose your battle.
I learned to feed my dreams. To keep them and myself alive. Our capacity to generate dreams is overcome by our desire to generate fantasies especially in trauma times. Do not let that happen. resist the urge to replace your dreams with fantasies. Keep fantasises in their own box and unwrap it when you choose to do so. But feel your dreams, let them practice and train again, and take them out, support them and encourage them to jump up high. Your dreams are your best friends. The more you know them the better you can render them into realities.
You see? no matter what you lost. You do still have a lot to give. You are still capable of dreaming and NO POWER on this EARTH can take this from you. In fact, the more you are oppressed or forced the more you dream. What do prisoners of conscience and opinion in detention centers have? DREAMS. What do those worth broken hearts, cancer have? DREAMS. What do refugees waiting at the borders, or living in unwelcoming environments have? DREAMS. What does a forty years old ‘girl’ who were traumatized when she was a child have? DREAMS.
Now what i can tell you more? Yes I lost two countries but i won the refugee citizenship and my liberty. Yes i lost my battle with cancer but i won more sensibility towards human soul. Yes, i lost my battle for a peaceful revolution, but i won a revolutionist spirit. Yes i lost a lover but i won love. In brief, i won a sense of understanding that you we not need to talk about our losses only after we have become successful, because that is sweet and set examples to others, but it carries a lot of egoism in it too. What is more beautiful and human, i believe, is that we talk about our loses when we are amid them.
I do not want to stop here, but people get bored and fingers get fatigue when playing wounds. I can tell more, but maybe some other spring or winter. Until then, let us hope we will keep ….. making dreams!
Automne whispers. We follow. Our promenade this time was through time. Lonneke took this photo. Suggested the title « projections of love ». A painting of beauty and love by light. Those windows, doors and balcony were gently created the wall of silence. Time surprises.
It took both of us a while to enjoy ‘time’. If scared, your hands will shake and you can not build nor plant nor love. Seeding, growing, flourishing, and yes dying takes time.
Sharing, liberty, time
But then we manage to realize that sharing and initiating are beautiful manifestations of liberty in relation to time. As liberty is a taught capacity and not something the comes loaded with us by default, it takes some time to learn liberty and manifest it with the needed responsibility. When in couples, the boundaries of time, liberty and responsibility are not so clear. When communication is not enjoyed as a medium of transportation between two souls loving each others results are not the best. It will be more difficult to establish. Sharing and initiating can not come without trust and a profound sense of love.
Generosity comes only when we are secured and have the liberty to choose. If we are choosing our love partners with the sole objective of escaping our own troubles then the results are not at their best. I am not saying we should not expect and hope that our partner will be our refugee, our protector, our shelter, our warm chest and shoulder, but that should come only by realizing two things: 1) that we love this particular person to be around and we love to be around them. 2) we understand that we have our own weaknesses and we accept a)to be vulnerable and open for that person we have chosen and b)understand that a healthy relation will necessarily bring tension as it will show us more things about ourselves we did not necessarily see or knew. Bref, it took as a while to deal with this with love.
This photo brought us happiness. The moment that captured Lonneke and accordingly captured by Lonneke was extraordinary but it did not come from no where. It came as a result of consecutive events; sweet and bitter ones. Being initiative is an act of generosity. It conveys balance, self-respect and caring for others, and off course, love.
The “projections of hope” or the “windows of light” is just a beautiful manifestation of the human will guided through time. Playing with light and shadows metaphorically echo good and hard times in our lives. So we continue to play.
So this Wednesday the 18th, in our close-by miracle garden, at 10 am we will go for lights and shadows hunting. We do not know yet what we will do, we might go jogging, we might have our coffee with our friend J there, or we might just spread our legs and smile. Smiling is good, is not it? But what we will enjoy for sure is the presence of each others. We like to be around each others. Yes we do. :)
Together, we walked this morning to the laboratory for her blood tests. With her 86 years of life, my mother and myself left home at 7:30.
My days usually start at 6:55. I adopted this habit because Lonneke used to set her alarm at that time so we used to wake up together and i never stopped loving that. It is cute. So everyday, i wake up at 6:55 look at her beautiful sleepy eyes, say good morning and smile. I do the same every night at 23:00 and i say good night.
One needs to keep smiling. It is the best kind of meditation. The moment of smile is an empowering one but not only empowering its also modest and humble. It is merciful. We need to talk about those abandoned children one evening. Those beautiful words that were kicked out of our daily-lives dictionaries by other mainstreamed ones. So we walked and felt the bliss. Body deformation is part of this life. I can not judge bent branches of the tree. They provide the shadow.
That woman outside the library with her mini short and very tanned skin was an attraction spot. We sometime want any reason to take small revenges but that is counter human. Because when we do so we are betraying ourselves. Then as christ once suggested: what is the good in gaining the world and losing oneself! But we had a conversation, and she said once something goes wrong or someone misbehave it is going to continue like this and will never change. So she immediately stops the relation. She also said one goes ten come. And that was amazingly interesting for one reason. Her words matched the words i learned and loved long time ago through my father before his death. However, they were contextualized in a totally opposite way. My father was talking about persistence and civilized conscious fighting. This lady was talking about consumerism. I tend, we tend, to hear such statements frequently, oh why bother, leave it, next. We have developed and internalized this quitting, replacing and sense of availability way of living. For us, others, relations, jobs, and moments are all easily replaceable. My father words were about the opposite. About commitment, reliability, defending ones own beliefs and determination. An Edison like approach to life. I learned that early enough, i internalized it and i intend to share this with my children if i met them one day. I learned to quit only when becoming not a source of happiness or value. I learned to quit not when punched or kicked or tortured but when i am aware enough that by not moving the pain will transform into an outrage and sense of revenge. I learned to move and quit when the noise is too loud that i can not hear the shivering of the lake of my inner serenity and morals fineness.
My mother grew old. Older than i had imagined. And i realized this morning that any moment that distracts us from given conscious attention to the ones we love is not a fairly lived one. I learned to appreciate life gifts but like any of us humans i have my own memory deficiencies. Layers of trauma adds and memory fatigue grows. But as i was just saying we are responsibly-free humans and we we can create our realities. So deformation as an art of life made me smile. It reminds me of elder lovers. One of the beautiful scenes in life to fully immerse self into and enjoy.
latter in the morning, i walked down street to Paul for coffee and work. When your heart is full of joy or sorrow walk. I keep voice memos, and i share my thoughts and visual psychology in public others do not prefer to do so. Everyone has his/her own way of reflecting out. Artists paint. Singers sing. Football players kick. And carpenters cut wood, runners run. But everyone shares one thing in common: while expressing we are still growing. We are still transforming and deforming and reforming. In that sense, performing as part of how we are growing older. Shaping who we are. I gazed at that elder man at Paul! He bought half baguette and walked away slowly and very deformed. I smiled with a mix of contentment and sweet sadness. Sadness for seeing him alone, sweetness for seeing him independent, and yes contentment because i have always envisioned us, my partner and myself growing old together.
My mother and myself walked balk home happy. My conversations with her about our lost countries, my father and love make both of us happy. She loves to narrate gently and very slowly with a calm voice and i love to listen. I will talk more about this later but one thing keeps astonishing me and i love it. I really love it. Amongst everything else she says about what makes a true love and here it is: ” …. mmmm i can not tell you with words, i do not know how to explain to you, it is felt, it is unspoken, ……”.
Good morning :)
This post is dedicated only to presenting four main tables demonstrating the content used to write two exemplary reports/papers about ‘Identity Politics’ and ‘Militarizing Syria’ following discursive practices data-driven approach. If you are interested in the topic of using semiotic and lexical expressions to understand conflict feel ok to follow my blog as I will continue to post about my in-progress research. As i am following on grounded theory, you will keep reading interesting material I believe. The two studies constitute two chapters in my PhD thesis at EHESS, and they both were funded thankfully through a grant from LSE and SSRC. More on this project here.
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For the past 14 months I worked with London School of Economics (LSE) & Social Science Research Council (SSRC) on two research projects -to be published soon- as part of “Understanding Violent Conflict – Strengthening the evidence base to better understand the complexities of violent conflict” program studying conflict in five countries including Syria. The research constitute two chapters in my PhD thesis which focuses on understanding conflict through discursive practices. Now I believe 14 months can be reliable enough to formulate some notes as professional and sincere reflections on this experience. I am going to share those notes with you in the coming lines. I hope to hear from you in return, whether you are in the academia or not, it will be truly helpful to create a link and open a window.
My work focused on analysing conflict from a discursive practices perspective following a data drive approach. Now what does that mean? long story short, i realized the potential possibilities of going back in time and reading what Syrians had posted online in the past 8 years. How did they engage with published content and how did they generate content. How they reflected emotionally and lexically, when, and if possible, then why? As you can read this you may already realize the complexity of such task. Millions of comments and emojis were posted in the past years. hundreds of thousands of links for content online were shared. Reading all this material is an impossible human task. It goes beyond our limited main resource: Time. To achieve this we need to rely on our own invention, this machine we call computer. Now the good thing is about computer is that it does things faster. We have trained it to do so and it listened to us. well, relatively. Challenges arise when we talk about natural language processing. The computer is a machine, it can not understand the semantics of our language. the natural language. it can not process it efficiently enough. Researchers and scientists form linguistics, data, information technologies are working continuously as to better develop the machine understanding of our natural language. We in the Arab-language zone sill need more work. Not only the richness of the Arabic language is enormous and accordingly make the machine understanding harder, but we also have many variations of the Arabic language. Egyptians speak and write a different version than Syrians, Syrians speak and write different versions than the GCC countries, Tunisia and even ‘our’ very close neighbour Lebanon. In Syria, we have different variations, from Palmyra to costal area and from Aleppo to Dara’a through Damascus there are tens of variations. Not an easy task to process, understand, and predict. But this is achievable, it needs just more time and work. Meanwhile we can not wait. We need to understand, a heuristic approach is usually a helpful one in this case. But it is not reliable enough so I needed to design a better methodological approach as to read Syrians discussions and extract patterns and templates. I wanted to interview the data to know what was happening and how can we use those mini-stories to do the following:
- Understand the dynamics of the conflict as to help ourselves ‘Syrians’ but also hopefully to provide some possible theoratical frameworks and applied theorization to other conflict experiences. with the hope of preventing or mitigating that conflict.
- Identity potential peace-resolution intervention points. Now this is crucial. I will try to put it in a possibly more clear way. So, if we are capable of telling what kind of divisve messages inflamed and triggered conflict and how did they emerge and spread, then we may also be able to counter them or create their positive equivalent cohesive ones. Making more sense?
Now, I think it is time to aknowldgee that as this type of research goes under digital humanities, a field of knowledge still in infancy, the methodological approaches are still under continuous discussions. Let me give one example of a challenging question at stake. Say, in my research I wanted to provide empirical evidences on how ordinary citizens crafted messages allowed different interpretations of ‘god’ that were not normally communicated in mainstream media. What are the possibilities of providing such evidences? There are thousands of thousands of such examples which, let us say, I had narrowed down to a couple of hundreds using a certain criteria such as filtering them by the number of comments on them. Now how would it be possible to present the results to the end-reader? Absolutely I can not create in-text citation. Why? because here we have the dilemma of privacy vs transparency and validity. At one hand I am not supposed to provide personification evidences, but on the other hand I need to make my data and my methodology, including the sampling and the corpus, accessible by anyone who wishes to replicate the experience. Otherwise it is not a scientific research anymore. Personification form privacy perspective is any information that help identify a person. But then how are we going to solve this? if I do not provide evidences there is no research, while on the other hand, If I provide evidences then I am breaching privacy. Yes, APA, provides a suggestion, saying if there is any data out there that a resarcher has doubts it can not be accessible by readers then the citation should be as ‘personal communication’ but that is not the case with online data. Well, off course, I had finally, created my own solution and supported it with a sound argument.
Now what about the interdisciplinary question? Obviously the Syrian conflict is one of the most complicated questions in our contemporary history. Given that some implications were last witnessed only in WWII we needed a complex approach that can then be simplified as to arrive to neat theoratical framework. I do not claim this framework is completed yet. The two researches are part of an -in progress research-, and despite the fact I am following in-ground theory within each research I am still keen to emphasize that the whole process of the series of studies is itself an in-progress one. I finished two researches and I am still planning another three to be completed in the coming six months. The interdisciplinary work is important. I have stemmed here ingredients from both discourse analysis, historical discourse analysis, heuristics, conflict analysis, group dynamics in this study.
Now, there are the variables of the conflict itself. Well, you have guessed yourself. If you are an ordinary citizen, one of the thousands i have met in teh past years, then i assumed your ‘spontaneous and natural’ response to how much you know about the Syrian conflict would be ‘ not much’. If I tease you further by asking ‘how much is that much?’ then most probably you will smile and say well actually almost not that much of that much! almost nothing’. If you are in that status of awareness about a conflict that is still going on since 2011, then congratulations. You are not alone. Many Syrians -we not vs. anyone- may have the same reflection as yours. Not surprisingly, I conducted a methodological test back in 2014, whereby I tested a method of collecting information through auto-biography. I asked several Syrians to narrate down, their memories about the conflict taking place in their country. every one will start in a way or another, recalling this event or that, personal events or big massively recognizable ones, but then eventually almost everyone reach to appoint where they would start to lose words, lose that sense of logical consequence of events and accordingly of their sense of existence and capacity to interoperate realities and eventually fade out into that murmuring and start mingling words such as, I do not know, I do not understand, I .. then.. oh. and then the voice get lost. That is metaphorically so representable of the Syrian existence. people lose their understanding, lose their words, lose their sense of presence. I will not go further into this, I just wanted to share an example of this conscious black hole. Because it is replicable to many challenges and conflicts each of us face in their daily lives. This kind of black holes is what interests me and this is why I am after Einstein to better analyse conflicts. The number of variables in the Syrian conflict question is way beyond individual humans capacities to resolve. This is why computers, math, physics, linguistics and crowd sourcing work are needed to work together. And this is why a more holistic inter-disciplinary approach data-driven approach is crucial. Indeed, an ample quality time was needed and is still needed here to be allocated to thinking and incubation before execution and analysis. Designing a methodology that can hold valid with such number of variables, theoratical concepts, frames and foundations is not an easy work.
The two research subjects/reports i worked on were ‘identity politics’ and ‘militarizing Syria’. Both projects were concerned with the daily discursive practices of ordinary citizens and instituions on social network -Facebook- platform between 2011 and 2018. To our knowledge this is the first of its kind research. It has its pros and cons. I will not detail these now, but I can advocate for the pros by clarifying the importance of referring to naturally occurring materials instead of formally structured and unnaturally occurring materials obtained through traditional research methods such as questionnaires or one-on-one interviews, especially when it comes to traumatized people. Now, obviously i am not disgracing traditional methods, in contrast, I am advocating mixed methods approaches. The research on identity politics revealed ideological clusters, identity dimensions most discussed amongst Syrians and the several literary devices used in the identity politics practices. I traced back institutional messages and showed how divisive messages published by different instituions had influenced the language of Syrians and pushed towards chambers of echo and a hyper fragmented society. Played identity politics had deflected millions of Syrians from their rightful demands and channelled them into tunnels of politicized religion, ethnicity and more. The militarization of Syria, focus on how the Syrian rightful demands movement was militarized. A comprehensive narrative of 18 pages provide an overlook about the actors and the main events in the Syrian conflict from militarization perspective. We then move into identified and analysed three types of institutional and ordinary citizens discursive practices about militarization.
- Triggering themes: Here we focused on the main themes that helped moving towards vicious cycles of violence and how Syrians discussed them online.
- Recognized Themes: Here we focused on the discussions of critical themes within the militarization and the events around it.
- Militarization Language: Here we focused on specific vocabulary and terms related to militarization that either appeared after 2011 or signified new meanings within the armed the conflict.
My concern here was again as in identity politics to present empirical evidences which can help in truth realization, followed by identified points for accountability, litigation, reconciliation, and eventually peace building and peace.
Now from an ethnography point of view what I did is a netnographic work. digital ethnography and netnography are two terms that are used repeatedly interchangeably. I am not going to elaborate here on the differences between the tow, but what I can say briefly is that the difference are mainly attributed to historical technological developments and more consciousness about used terminology. In all cases, this is an ethnographic work where I was engaged in digital spaces and digital communities as participant and observer in different periods in the past eight years. My political and pro-democracy position had definitely influenced my perceptions, attitudes and behaviour. I tried my best to remain objective when interrogating, questioning and exploring the data. I also tried to remain as objective as possible when formulating my questions and hypothesis. Obviously, this does not mean abandoning my socio-political stand, which is not static anyway. In fact, the researches helped me better understand several realities and become more educated about historical happenings. This off course comes with a cost. A high one indeed. Digging into the corpus which is a manifestation through discourses of Syrians’ thoughts and emotions in the past eight years, was a very hard job. I would like to see it as a social psychological and linguistic work in criminology and anatomy. A criminology field because I was looking for evidences in war, evidences about the things that had caused all this killing, displacement, loses and pain. An anatomy field because it felt as if I was doing an explanation of the corpus of beloved ones to understand what caused their deaths or to diagnose others with the hope of bringing a timely proper cure. I defiantly was aware I am not in a position to come up with any cure, but getting that close to history while living in the now is a very tempting task. One can easily get drifted with the idea that things can be reversed. In fact, things are only reversible through art, and that is a construct we should rely upon and invest into heavily in the coming years. My psychological well-being was not the best. Reading loads of texts with hate speech, sexist, stigmatization, and angry language by all parties make it hard to contain, accept and analyse. Part of the interesting things about this kind of work in digital humanities is that it keeps providing us with challenging questions to be answered. I am referring here to the psychological dimension of doing Netnographic research about conflict.
Story short, the experience is good. I had a couple of last minute bursts of anger and disappointment but that was for clear reasons. Injustice should not be tolerated. there should be no excuse to injustice. No matter how horrible we feel, how agression we have been exposed to, injustice should never be justified or tolerated.
Finally, I would like to debrief the experience in three points:
- There are promising potentials in using online discursive practices during conflict to analyse conflict and possibly mitigate arising risks.
- At a sociological level, understanding big conflicts can be enriched by relating it to understanding conflict at smaller units size i.e., individualistic psychology.
- Argumentation is the resource at most scarcity in war times. Any peace building efforts need to channel efforts to mediate ‘sound argumentation’ amongst citizens. Without people fairly internalizing conflict reasons and implications themselves, and that is not possible without fair and sound argumentation, peace would remain a difficult to attain objective/place/time. Without developed argumentation skills, atrocities at both individualistic and collective levels will always find their own justifications. This scarcity of fair argumentation definitely keeps to contribute to the north-south gap and top-down imposed policies world.
If you are interested in checking the details of the analysed corpus, check here.
If you are interested in T-algorithm -The Syrian Corpus tool i conceptualized and used to retrieve and analyse the texts, please feel okay to follow my blog to keep updated.
People may need to start re-consider their love relations with chickens.
Chickens give eggs.
The socio-cultural-political future is about the « egg movement ».
The egg movement is a global political transformation movement.
From Instagram to New Zealand.
We have witnessed the “egg” concept under test and it did very well so far.
Transformative spaces are online & offline hybrids responding to challenges of shrinking spaces everywhere.
To learn more click both images above.
Facebook launched its reactions in 2016. Reactions such as anger, sadness, love, pride, laughter, etc. were mainly needed by Facebook to facilitate content analysis and accordingly better address users through different messages.
I investigated Syrians emotions in the past couple of years by looking at millions of comments and posts communicated by tens of Syrian prominent pages* on Facebook.
In the beginning, I was thinking I will find that anger and sadness would be naturally the most dominant emotions expressed during conflict and war times.
However, I was surprised by realizing that during the past years, Syrians depicted love as the most frequent emotion. It was then followed by another two combating emotions laughter and sadness. Were we really happy? Were we really sad? Was love a sincere depiction of our/Syrians/ willingness and commitment to genuine love, or was it a blend of determination and sadness at the same time?
Was love icon used as a medium of resistance, a tool to confirm individual self identity as a loving and caring and concerned creature against the continuous media injections of images of brutal, agressive, violent Syrians?
Fortunately the data laying underneath those emotions give us sound and reliable answers to those specific questions and other ones. In fact this was one of the main objectives for creating T-Algorithm / The Syrian Corps, i.e., to understand and analyse conflict form a semiotics and linguistics perspective.
Those semiotic expressions reveal interesting notes about conflict. If interrogated nicely and smartly, the data can show potential entry points for conflict resolution.
It is interesting that Syrians show less rage and anger than -normally- expected. That does not mean Syrians were not lexically agressive and angry, but when it comes to emoticons this what the results show.
What i find particularly interesting is that because of continuous shocks and “surprises” it seems they/we have developed a shock-resistance system, kind of an indifference towards what can be considered as shocking news or information. Syrians barely show to be surprised.
And well then maybe because their relentless calls for help against brutalities were not necessary answered as expected their emotions show to be not that much “grateful”.
And let us avoid discussing “pride” in this post, because apparently there is not much projection of such feeling. Despite the fact of the intensive identity struggles based on in-group vs. out-group the sense of pride seems to be very minimal in terms of exposed emotions. This also may be a cause de la presentation method of the “pride” icon by Facebook. A separated discussion by itself about digital methods, freedom of expression, and the regulation of expressions.
If you are still reading this post, this may be a sign that you are still interested in exploring the topic more. If you are a researcher, investigating journalist, a lawyer working on litigation, or a human rights defender please get in touch for more information on how you can use this database and the tools built on top of it. You may also want to check this post about T-Algorithm / The Syrian Corps.
* for more details on the methodology please contact the author.