Saturday, 31 August 2013

Civil rights, #war and global #learning for all

The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King jr. speech "I have a dream" was on my mind all through last week for obvious reasons. But no matter how I twisted and turned it, the celebrations caught me between a rock and a hard place. For what are we still doing do others?

Martin Luther King is one of my big examples of humanity. A man, a human, who moves forward, gets his ideas out, connects with people over vast region, gets into their homes, fights inhumanity by means of argument, gathers interest against all odds, knows that he puts his life in the balance with every action he takes, while never knowing if it will lead to anything. Although the dangers must have been evident on a daily basis (police brutality, KKK still active), in his heart and soul he felt he had to be a spokesman, be a leader, be at the foreground of civil rights, of human rights, of the right to be an equal citizen. He walked the earth to get people behind the cause he believed was right and is right. But who is alive now, walking the earth for peace, prepared to fight verbally for lifting citizens up and create a better world for all? 

So here I stand. I want to celebrate his momentous speech, his inner-strength, his strong vision, but my mind keeps telling me that in this day and age we, the citizens, are lost in global inertia. How strange it is, to see that Obama celebrates with talking in the same location as MLK did, with strong arguments that a long road is still ahead to reach the dream uttered 50 years ago. But that same man is running the oval office, is preparing for war ... against citizens that are also deprived from rights because war is upon them. Don't get me wrong, I like Obama, I like people in the US, I like people in all countries, but the sheer contrast was too confusion for me not to stop and think at this strange discrepant mimicry. The UN is doing the same thing, supporting human right activists, yet pushing those same citizens into oblivion with all the best intentions. Every citizen in Syria is now put into a situation that none of us would ever want to be in. As a citizen of any country, you just want to live your life. You want to talk, love, eat, drink, debate, cook, work, learn... the only thing none of us want is a bullet. No matter where the bullet comes from, power always has multiple faces. Wars, bullets, warfare in all its variety kills innocent citizens. Those who have a right to live. The propaganda machine is up and running on all sides at the moment. For the west the propaganda moved on from: Arab spring (west in favor), Nobel Peace prize for igniting change (expliciting west in favor), looking away once civil-war broke out (west turning blind eye, media calm), and now (west with new interest, media in full swing) strikes are planned based on new ideas coming to mind of the powerful, having to think that shooting people will free them. Every war has the same propaganda joining it. Power seems to think citizens are idiots. Which makes me wonder whether the powerful give a damn about civil rights or human rights anywhere in the world, even if they celebrate some remarkable, undeniable facts and activists. 

We, the citizens are lost in many parts of the world. And war always hits ordinary people the hardest. I remember a friend of mine who was part of the Women in Black movement in former Yugoslavia when the war was on in that part of the world only twenty years ago. She was protesting for peace. She never choose sides, just like the others of Women in Black. They gathered mid war, demanding peace, in protest against all types of violence. Their group got smaller and smaller as their families were forced to choose. They were forced to choose each time a relative died (sometimes died, sometimes murdered to facilitate choosing). She refused to choose although her kin died, and therefor she was isolated yet strong in belief. War is never just and there is never a right side as long as people die. Only peace and equal living options is just. 

So where will the Syrian citizens, and all those citizens roughed up by wars that do not even make it into the news anymore stand? Which basic human living rights do they retain? And for me I wonder whether education can be guaranteed in those times of utmost distress. Disrupted society means disrupted education. All the soft benefits of life are the first to be taken away in times of war. Even though education is always an investment in the future, in the future of citizens, in the true resilience of a nation or let me say region (avoiding nationalism). But investment in humans is hard to put into short term cash it seems, and therefor education does not seem to have a real high priority for any engineering power. Yet education is the basis for civil and human rights understanding. 

So at regular intervals I ask myself, what should we do? Distribute educational content? How? Can we see any type of technology supported learning as an option? Could MOOCs or more general mobile and online learning really be an option that can provide war struck regions with some education? Can the format be used to lift people out of their moments of most intense collaborative misery? Some sort of Do It Yourself MOOCs or self-help educational packages that can be dispersed easily. But even if such a pack can be provided the main problem remains that if it is technology based then which citizens in their darkest war time hours can afford it, or even have access to it?