These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: APRIL 2019

See ya later April! You were pretty awesome if I do say so myself! With some epic strings of public holidays, I was able to take my first even paid leave (wow the perks of job security) and have a little holiday. With work swinging into full force (and absolutely loving it) things are going really well. I’ve started back at yoga and taking some time to reflect and reset towards focusing on my health and wellbeing. With the weather cooling down, I’m determined to keep things active and interesting! Before we jump into May, let’s take a look back on the month that was!

ūüéąSoph’s Birthday

I love birthdays and I love it even more when I get to help celebrate other people’s birthdays. Especially when it’s your girlfriend’s birthday, well it kinda feels like Christmas. I seriously had THE BEST weekend with Soph! On Friday night we went to see Cub Sport at the Enmore in Sydney. We went with Jayno and CMO and boogied the night away. On Saturday, we went on an adventure down to Berry to hike the Drawing Room Rocks track. After a little smokey car incident, we decided to hike the track while we waited for the NRMA. On our run up the mountain, we stumbled across a snake, which completely highlighted my paranoia of snakes apparently. We got to the top, took it all in, then ran back down just in time to meet the NRMA. We topped it all off by enjoying a burger at the Hungry Monkey in Kiama. After a night of bar hopping all over Wollongong and ending up the Harp, even backing it up with a Sunday sesh at North Gong, I think you could call Soph’s birthday weekend a huge success! I love you Soph!

ūüŹĖÔłŹByron Bay

Just in case I didn’t get enough Summer, Mum, Elly and I headed to Byron Bay over the Easter break to soak up the last of the beautiful rays of sunshine. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Byron Bay several times before and absolutely loved it. Though I must admit, something felt a little different this time. It’s very busy with lots of tourists (us being some of them). A holiday to me is chillin, eating icecream, going for brunch and drinking all the coffee and beers you want. I didn’t exactly feel those relaxed vibes in Byron, but we had an amazing time around it. On the beach in the sun, relaxed. Swimming in a waterfall, relaxed. Sinking beers at Brunswick Heads, relaxed. Eating fish and chips in Lennox Heads, relaxed. Waiting 45 minutes in traffic driving down the main street of Byron, not relaxing. But thankyou to Mum and Elly for putting up with me and encouraging me to eat ice cream!

ūüŹėÔłŹHome for Easter

There’s no place like home. For the Easter long weekend I headed home to Port Stephens. Not only was the weather amazing, but my amazing girlfriend came with me and we got to enjoy some sunshine together. We went to the beach, went walking, grabbing coffee, caught up with my amazing cousin Mel and found some cute but embarrassing photos in old photo albums. It’s nice to smell the familiar scent of home and go to your favourite cafes, and waking up in your very own bed. I may not go home near enough, but I love every second of it when I do.

ūüé∂ Tunes

Slowly Slowly
Aw damn I have been loving these guys! Their Like A Version was incredible and I’ve since been digging deeper into their album! Damn it brings back all my teenage angst by rocking out to this grungy sound. Love love love!

Beyonce and Beychella
Ok so this one straddles music and film. Call it what you want but wow! Really, what a goddess! I seriously got emotional during parts of her performance. Especially during ‘Flawless.’ You don’t have to be the biggest Beyonce fan to recognise the immense impact she’s made on the music industry, in popular culture, and especially for young women of colour. I feel so strong and empowered listening to her music but I know that what she represents is not targeted at me. I can’t even begin to imagine the impact Beyonce has made on the lives of people of colour in Australia and across the world. I am in absolute awe and I think this is an incredible work of art.

ūüé•Flicks

Made In Dagenham
I absolutely loved this film! Based on a true story of the fight for equal pay during the 60s in England, this film is a great reminder of the fight for gender equality and the struggle to have women’s work recognised as skilled work deserving of equal pay. A part of the film that particularly stood out to me was when a woman who held a First Class Honours Degree from Cambridge in History and Political Science, was only respected by her husband when she was cooking and cleaning.

The Green Book (March)
So I forgot to add this to my March Favourite Things, but I actually went to the cinema to watch this film (yes cinemas actually exist). OMG I absolutely loved it! And it wasn’t because of the fact that I got the popcorn all to myself. It won the Oscar for best picture yet received a lot of criticism for ‘white saviourism.’ Whilst there’s no denying the complexities of race in this film, taking it at face value, it was brilliant. On a deeper, more critical level, I think the ‘Western white’ gaze is used to portray the South and Dr Shirley, but nonetheless, I would strongly recommend this flick.

ūüďö Books

No Friend But The Mountain, by Behrouz Boochani
Wow. This book is absolutely incredible and when you find out how it was written, curated and leaked from Manus, you will find it even more incredible. I am a passionate advocate for refugees and asylum seekers. It is not illegal to seek asylum. But it is illegal to detain these people indefinitely. Due to the secrecy of the offshore detention centres run by the Australian government, receiving information about what actually happens in these prisons has been very limited. Behrouz’s story is important. It is the story of many and it is a story that should never be allowed to happen again.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
This book is so powerful. Whilst it claims to be a fictional book, it is too close to reality for too many people. It tells the story of Starr who is the only witness to the murder of her friend by a white police officer. After being disgusted with the treatment of people of colour around the world by police, this book is aggravating, frustrating but reality. I smashed this one out in a few days because it’s very visual, easy to read and in the end, you just want the justice that the main character wants.

Any Ordinary Day, by Leigh Sales
I’m pretty skeptical when a book becomes ‘mainstream.’ Are we all just reading the same thing, forming the same opinions and becoming a herd of the same people? It took me a while to jump on board with Leigh Sales’ new book, but I am so grateful that I did. I smashed this one out in three days because I was absolutely hooked by the stories she was sharing and the message she had to convey. I really do believe the universe has our backs and has a plan for us, but at the end of the day, we are stupid to think we are special in being spared the pain, suffering and tragedy we see on the news every night. The one certainty we have in life is that we will die. My mission is to make sure it’s all for a reason.

ūüďł Bloggers, Vloggers and Podders

Sexism and the City
I absolutely love Jan Fran and am literally obsessed with everything she produces. When I found out she had this podcast, I absolutely binged it. WOW. I have the biggest crush on Jan Fran and it’s so inspiring to deep dive into the ways in which gender inequality affects women around the world. If you’re interested in travel, pop culture, politics and feminism, this is for you!

Roeqie
I absolutely love following this account! Her artwork is so bright, colourful and joyful. I love seeing when it pops up on my feed and I feel instantly brighter and lighter. I need more of this on my Insta feed and in my life!

Chessiekingg
Speaking of brighter and lighter, I am loving Chessie King’s Instagram account. I just stumbled across it and love the positive body vibes! Her videos are fantastic and I know it may sound superficial but it’s so nice seeing a real body with rolls, flabby bits, curves and cellulite. We put so much pressure on ourselves based on the ‘perfect’ bodies we see on Instagram, but they’re not so real afterall. Chessie is sweet, fun, sexy and a great addition to my Insta feed ‘sparking joy’ all over my life!

ūüďĚ Quote

Given the book I just finished I guess this quote has just really resonated with me. Like I said, there’s no guarantee for tomorrow. And life is one big crazy rollercoaster. My main mission in life is to firstly enjoy it, and secondly, make it matter. Be grateful for what I have and continue to grow to be the person I want to be. Whether that’s meeting new people, trying new things, pushing my boundaries, travelling or simply taking in a sunrise, I want to keep growing and enjoying the ride.

April, wow. What a whirlwind. I am so grateful for the amazing times I’ve had with some amazing people. May, bring it on!

What Does Blogging Mean To You?

Blogging…¬†one word that can encompass enormous¬†diversity. People blog to share thoughts and opinions, others to create and inspire, some blog about social events or political change and policies, whilst others blog about corruption in politics. Whether you blog about coffee or communism,¬†blogging can influence ‘democratization, transparency and autonomy’ (Maynor, 2009). Blogging allows every day citizens to engage in an online community, allowing their voices to be heard. However it is apparent that blogging in different countries crosses various political, cultural and social values¬†and the impacts of freedom of speech and cultural idealism vary significantly.

Blogging according to Pinterest. Source https://www.pinterest.com/pin/68117013089566893/
Blogging according to Pinterest. Source https://www.pinterest.com/pin/68117013089566893/

Blogging in a Western nation

I get up in the morning to the sound of my iPhone chiming away. I put on a cute outfit, not complete without a statement hat, lipstick or pants. I make some brekie, smashed avo on sourdough bread with a wedge of lemon and cracked pepper. My toast is getting cold but I need to instagram it first. I sling my MacBook Air under my arm and head off down the street. I drop by a local cafe and pick up a skinny cap. I instagram my coffee and tag the name of the cafe so I’ll remember to come back. I find a space to sit and whip open my laptop. Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and various other tabs open as I search for inspiration. I tap away at my laptop until a post is done and I publish it into the wide world of the blogosphere. In the back of my mind I hear a voice saying¬†“no one will read it,”¬†but I remain hopeful that it’ll go viral.

Welcome to the life of a 21st Century blogger. Or should I say, a Western blogger. These bloggers are generally associated with travel, lifestyle, fashion or beauty (or in my case, a little bit of everything) and are unnafected by political or social intimidation or fear. Bloggers are crucially ‘young, photogenic and well,’ (The Guardian, 2015) and sell a desirable lifestyle. And when success hits, so do sponsors and the commoditization of their ‘lifestyle.’

Source https://www.google.com.au/search?q=stereotypical+bloggers&espv=2&biw=1440&bih=805&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMIjp6Rvq3IyAIVIVumCh0OZgA3#imgrc=ciZ75RE7qAex_M%3A
The stereotypical Western blogger. Source 

Being a successful blogger is generally measured by having 100’s of thousands of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook followers, along with making money. Monetization is a significant aspect¬†of¬†modern blogging in Western nations. It’s one thing to have a blog that you treat as a public journal, but it’s another to generate money. There are countless ‘how to make money from your blog,’ pages¬†out there. There’s even blogs dedicated to blogging.¬†However, once your blog turns into a company and your company is sponsered by brands through product placement, advertisements, eBooks and Instagram shout outs… who are you blogging for? Why are you blogging? Would you still blog if you weren’t earning money?¬†Whilst it’s obvious that¬†people rely on blogging as a career, it’s somewhat worrisome¬†that people are willing to commodify, curate and sell their lifestyle (ah hem… Kardashians). This illustrates that in Western nations, bloggers are permitted to write freely with the intent of monetizing their blog and way of life. Thank you, socialism.

A screenshot of
A screenshot of “Secret Bloggers Business” recent Facebook post showing how she has earnt over $1million from blogging. Source

Snap of me blogging
Snap of me blogging

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – S.G Tallentyre

It’s evident that blogging in Western nations has provided freedom of expression and countless creative opportunities for millions of people, allowing people to shape a career from blogging. However, in many other nations across the world, where freedom of expression is not valued, being a blogger can land you in jail, or¬†even get you killed.

Blogging in Bangladesh: On the Hit List

[Watch the first two minutes of the following video to set the scene] 

Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim, ‘secular’ country with a focus on the separation of religion and state and has been ‘a long tradition of freedom of speech’ (BBC, 2015). However in practice, with the death of 9 from 84 athiest bloggers mentioned on a ‘hit list,’ freedom of speech is not looking promising in the near future¬†(Kadam, n.d).

Avajit Roy was an American-Bangladeshi man on this hit list who was¬†portrayed as an athiest blogger. He returned from America to Dhaka with his wife to visit his family. Horrifically, he was brutally murdered in one of the main streets of Dhaka with his wife also being attacked. He had received death threats for a significant amount of time for his writing against Islam (Roy, 2015). Bangladesh is supposed to have freedom of speech, however many Muslims in power believe that ‘criticising and speaking out against Mohammed is wrong, and should be punished by Sharia law.’ (BBC, 2015)

“Nobody is allowed to speak against the Prophet of God” (BBC, 2015).

However, are these bloggers purely being targeted for being athiest? Some believe that this is because they are focusing attention twards the extremist Jamaat-e-Islami group and attempting to hold them accountable for war crimes. The bloggers feel that instead of it being a religious differences, it is the opposition to political power and interest (Bidhan, 2015). Instead, free thinkers are considered dangerous to how the political leaders view Bangladesh.

The hit list that was accidentally leaked to the media, has sparked fear among bloggers. Some have fled the country, fearing for their lives. Others remain, lying low and concealing the online identity. Fear forces silence and silence perpetuates violations and inequality. Therefore, the role of the blogger in a country like Bangladesh is paramount.

Bangladeshi activists protesting against the vicious murders of bloggers. Source
Bangladeshi activists protesting against the vicious murders of bloggers. Source

Blogging in Ethiopia: Blogger or Terrorist?

Ethiopia is under an ‘authoritarian regime’ (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2013) with atrocious Human Rights violations¬†and abuse of power. Due to dictators governing the country, there has been imense suppression of freedom of expression and a decreased belief that voting in elections will contribute towards change (Nnamdi, 2014). A group of bloggers called Zone 9, blog about social injustice, corruption, education, politics and human rights,¬†attempting to bring it to the attention of Ethiopians and the global news. Generally, blogging about these issues in developed nations (in Australia, like I am right now) is acceptable and even encouraged.

However, in 2014 the Zone 9 Bloggers were arrested for ‘inciting violence through social media to create instability in the country’ (Greenslade, 2014), eventually the 9 bloggers were¬†charged with acts of terrorism (Human Rights Watch, 2015). Ethiopia’s new anti-terrorism laws make it that even “doing an interview with the media or talking to Amnesty International can be considered terrorism” (Nnamdi, 2014), let alone talking to actual terrorist groups.

Bringing justice to bloggers across Ethiopia. Source
Bringing justice to bloggers across Ethiopia. Source

Freedom of expression = Freedom (Free Zone 9 Bloggers Ethiopia, 2015)

The imprisonment of journalists generally creates a public outcry (like the case of the imprisonment of Australian journalist Peter Greste). Most journalists ‘self censor’ their writing due to¬†magazines and newspapers having strong ties with government officials. Bloggers on the other hand have the ‘freedom’ from government supervision to publish openly and freely. Consequently,¬†bloggers do not have the same protections as journalists and therefore find themselves susceptible to severe consequences the government decide to impose on them. This furthermore highlights the important role that bloggers play in influencing democracy, however this can obviously not be achieved if they are behind bars.

Comedy skits in the UAE aren’t funny

Whilst not strictly along the lines of blogging, comedy videos on youtube still come under freedom of expression and can land people in some countries in jail. In 2013, Shezanne Cassim published a parody video of Dubai youth cultures on Youtube. It was not political nor was it critical of the government. Cassim, grew up in Dubai and was aware of local customs and laws, so imagine his shock when he was ‘charged under vague new Cyber Crimes Laws, accusing him of endangering national security by presenting a fictional image of Dubai’ (Cassim, 2014). These harsh and unjustified actions against Cassim contradict the revolutionary and promising images that Western people have come to associate Dubai with.

In a recent email exchange with Cassim, he stated that whilst he is concerned with freedom of expression in Dubai and the UAE, he is more concerned with the modern legal systerm (or lack thereof). In nations like the UAE, violations of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, article 9 which prohibits member states from engaging in arbitrary arrest, detention and exile, were violated. Cassim was not notified of his charges until he had been detained for 5 months (Bolduan & Forrest, 2014) and spent time in a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi. He was also not permitted to have legal representation and experienced difficulty being informed of why he was detained, what was happening and how he could do something about it.

Global Voices picked up on Cassim’s story¬†and eventually made mainstream media news headlines. However as the following Young Turks video explains… what would’ve happened if he wasn’t an American citizen?

gvo-logo-lg2

Global Voices

Global Voices gives a platform and a voice to those who are silenced. It¬†offers contributors the opportunity to publish anonymously and in their mother tongue. Their mission is to ‘find the most compelling and important stories from marginalized and misrepresented communities’ (Global Voices, 2015). It also bridges communities around the world by offering people to translate articles into different languages. By translating Amharic, Bengali or Arabic, this helps reach a wider audience and encourage¬†global engagement on the issue. Global Voices encourages more people to share their stories of concern around the world, to stand up for social and political issues they deal with, create awareness and generate change. It turns global voices into citizen journalists and in turn creates global citizens (Mohamed, 2011).

‘Bloggers have forced the traditional media to increase freedom of expression and to adopt issues that were taboo for the traditional media in the past. Bloggers are setting the agenda and are imposing most of the heated issues that have been raised recently in the newspapers.’ (Mohamed, 2011)

Bloggers and citizen journalists who contribute towards Global Voices, are also contributing towards a more democratic and just world.

The problem?

Had you ever heard about Global Voices before this? And if by a chance you had, how often do you actively seek out news from this site? Being a global citizen and using our global voices require energy and effort to add value to freedom of speech throughout certain countries.

The future

One thing is for certain, people will continue to write. If human rights violations, abuse of power, unjustified detainment, corruption and extremism continues, so will bloggers. Whilst the monetization of blogging in Western nations is a primary focus, there are still bloggers who do commentate social and political issues within the Western world. The difference is that they have the protection to do so. By highlighting the disparities between reasons, effects and consequences of blogging throughout the world, hopefully this allows you to appreciate people’s voices around the world and value the gift of our voices.

***

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Shezanne Cassim for corresponding with me and sharing his story. I respect the fact that you speak openly about what you experienced, in the hope that you can generate awareness and change in an injust society. 

Further Information

The following radio programe, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, hosts three democracy bloggers, where they discuss the importance of freedom of speech and protection for people who speak up against Human Rights violations http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2014-01-28/ethiopian-voices-blogging-democracy

I would also recommend watching the full BBC documentary regarding the murders of bloggers in Bangladesh as it explores the history and culture of Bangladesh, and how this tension has arisen.

And finally, one of co-founders of Global Voices, Ethan Zuckerman, talking about the role of global voices in expanding our knowledge and perspectives.

References

BBC, 2015, The Bangladesh Blogger Murders, 28 September, accessed 26 October 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9go3Nfi8ZM

Bidhan, P 2015, Bangladesh Activists have little faith in blogger murder investigations, Global Voices, 10 July,  accessed 24 October 2014, https://globalvoices.org/2015/07/10/bangladesh-activists-have-little-faith-in-blogger-murder-investigations

Boulduan, K & Forrest, S 2014, Shezanne Cassim, American detained in UAE over parody video speaks out, CNN, 15 January, accessed 24 October, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/15/us/shezanne-cassim-parody-video/

Cassim, S 2014, I went to jail for posting a comedy skit on youtube. Is this the modern UAE?, The Guardian, 9 February, accessed 24 October, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/09/shezanne-cassim-jail-uae-youtube-video

Free Zone 9 Bloggers Ethiopia, 2015, Free Zone 9 Bloggers Ethiopia, 17 February, accessed 24 October, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D28bU3-nieY

Global Voices, 2015, Global Voices, https://globalvoices.org

Greenslade, R 2014, 9 journalists and bloggers arrested in Ethiopia ahead of Kerry visit, The Guardian, 1 May, http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/apr/30/press-freedom-ethiopia

Human Rights Watch, 2015, Ethiopia, Free Zone 9 Bloggers, Journalists, Human Rights Watch, 23 April, accessed 23 October 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/23/ethiopia-free-zone-9-bloggers-journalists

Kadam, V n.d, 9 from the 84 Athiest blogger hitlist in Bangladesh are dead, Ananya Azad is next, The Bayside Journal, accessed 26 October 2015, http://baysidejournal.com/wp/9-from-the-84-atheist-blogger-hitlist-in-bangladesh-are-dead-ananya-azad-is-next/

Maynor, J.W 2009, Blogging for democracy: deliberation, autonomy, and reasonableness in the blogosphere, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 12:3, 443-468, DOI: 10.1080/13698230903127937

Mohamed, AS 2011, ‘On the Road to Democracy: Egyptian Bloggers and the Internet 2010’, Journal Of Arab & Muslim Media Research, 4, 2&3, pp. 253-272, Communication & Mass Media Complete, viewed 28 October 2015

Nnamdi, K 2014, Ethiopian Voices: Blogging for Democracy, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, 28 January, accessed 18 October, http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2014-01-28/ethiopian-voices-blogging-democracy

Roy, N 2015, The hit list: endangered bloggers of Bangladesh, Al Jazeera, 14 August, accessed 25 October 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/08/hit-list-endangered-bloggers-bangladesh-150813132059771.html

The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2013, Democracy index 2013: democracy in limbo, The Economist, http://www.eiu.com/Handlers/WhitepaperHandler.ashx?fi=Democracy_Index_2013_WEB-2.pdf&mode=wp&campaignid=Democracy0814

The Guardian, 2015¬†‘Green is the new black: the unstoppable rise of the healthy eating guru’¬†The Guardian,¬†http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/27/new-wellness-bloggers-food-drink-hadley-freeman