I’ve been back in the United States for four days now, but I still feel like I’m stuck in first gear, always ready to take a nap but never able to fall asleep. The end of December is, in many ways, both exciting and challenging. I need to wrap up all the projects of 2009 and prepare for an exciting new project for the first half of 2010 (more on that soon). Then there is catching up with friends and family, and all that goes into Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Fortunately the weather gods have given me a warm welcome back to California. It has been between 70 and 80 degrees ever since I returned. While the snowpocalypse pounded the East Coast my friends and I were drinking beer and barbecuing carne asada on the patio.
While I desperately need to apply some kung fu to a massive to-do list, I find myself missing and reminiscing about all the amazing people I met during 2009. It is a blessing to have been able to meet them – and to stay in touch through the infinite dribbling streams of communication – but a curse to not be able to call them up on a Saturday morning and say ‘come by for a beer and taco this afternoon.’
I was hoping to write something of a comprehensive post about my time in Beirut at the second Arab Bloggers Meeting. Lately many of my friends have done a great job debunking the myth that internet tools and culture will inevitably bring about a more just and transparent society, but in doing so I feel that many of them have simplified the ways in which clever activists are adopting new tools to advocate for a progressive society. They have no illusions of ‘tweeting the revolution’, but they are fully committed to sticking around for the long haul that is required for social change to come about. Here is just one example, an interview I did with the ever impressive Rebecca Saab Saade from Meem and Social Media Exchange.You can learn more about street harassment at Stop Street Harassment!. In April The World’s Aaron Schachter aired a short piece on the Lebanese gay rights movement.
At the Arab Bloggers Meeting I also interviewed Manal Hassan, Jillian York, Abdelrahman Hassan, Ghaida’a Al-Absi, Noha Atef, Doreen Khoury, Ahmad Gharbeia, Jacob Appelbaum, Wissam, and Sudanese Thinker.
I stayed for roughly a week after the conference and it was especially nice to spend some quality time with Noha, Ayesha, Sami, and Antoun. Conferences are conferences, but two blown out tires on a dirt road outside of a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon is what really brings people together.
Finally, before I venture into my work-filled, caffeine-fueled hermitage over the next couple days let me sprinkle one last pinch of link-love on Rebecca MacKinnon’s latest post, “We are Global Voices. Five years on.” During the first two years of Global Voices Rebecca fully dedicated herself to get the project off the ground. She offered us useful journalist advice, supported us with encouraging feedback, and made sure that we all felt a sense of ownership. Without her early and active support, and the values she instilled in the community, I don’t know if I would have stayed involved. Today Rebecca is less involved in the day-to-day operations of Global Voices while she works on a book, tentatively titled “Internet Freedom and Control: Lessons from China for the World.” You can get a taste of her research over the past couple years on the topic by reading the transcript from her impressive address to the World Press Freedom Committee (slides and audio on her blog).