Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Saudi Debate Society is Newsworthy

Monday, July 7, 2008 at 10:39am | Edit Note | Delete

Mobilizing opinion through Facebook
Laura Bashraheel | Arab News

LET’S TALK IT OVER: The Saudi Debate Society group was created by Yamen Al-Hajjar, a 24-year-old Boston University graduate who works for Saudi Aramco.

Facebook has grown very rapidly and has become more than just a social networking website. It is also a site for the unrestricted discussion of a range of social issues. Through creating social groups in Facebook, Saudi youth are free to express different opinions, attitudes and points of view in a more open and informal way. In addition, communication through an entity such as Facebook is important for doing away with misconceptions.

Yamen Al-Hajjar, a 24-year-old Boston University graduate who works for Saudi Aramco as a financial analyst, has created a group called the Saudi Debate Society on Facebook. “I created the group to serve as a catalyst for Saudi youth to discuss important issues which impact upon their lives and for them to take an active stance in improving society for the better,” said Al-Hajjar.

When he was in college, he used to meet weekly with a group of friends to discuss what could be done to improve Saudi Arabia after they graduated and returned to the Kingdom.

“Other than discussions, I wanted to go a step further and work with a group of like-minded Saudis in order to serve the community and raise funds for the less fortunate members of our society,” he said.

Addressing negative thinking and negative behavior was a common theme for Al-Hajjar. “Our goal wasn’t to complain and blame certain individuals or offices but rather to try to work with them in order to benefit society,” he explained.

The main question, however, is would the groups have an impact and would their voices be heard. “Group discussions make a difference even if the changes sought will take time and are slow,” he said. He believes that group discussions stimulate the mind because one is constantly trying to prove a certain point in the presence of other talented individuals.

“We have many areas needing improvement in our society,” said Al-Hajjar. “Many young Saudis would like to dispel the negative myths about their country. That will only happen if youth joins together and proves to the world that we are not all destructive extremists. Rather that we are smart, talented, and accepting individuals and our religious beliefs teach us to live in peace,” he said.

The group’s current project is a youth-based blood donation drive that will not only raise awareness about the benefits of blood donation but also gather a large number of volunteers to support hospitals and medical centers.

With the number of users at more than 63 million, Facebook is believed to be as active a tool as any in the media. “I believe it is critical to capitalize on such an important tool and try to benefit from the features it offers instead of using it only for fun or in negative ways,” said Al-Hajjar. “We have to start somewhere to create change; if our generation doesn’t take a strong leadership position now, we will not progress and compete with the world’s nations,” said Al-Hajjar.

Mohammed Al-Khereiji, a 24-year-old Jeddah-based student, is behind the creation of Saudi Mentality Group. He wants to bring to people’s notice how society is changing rapidly and how values are being lost. “Corruption and the loss of morals have always been around everywhere, but in the past six years, Saudi society has changed in much more rapid and alarming ways,” said Al-Khereiji. He believes that people can benefit greatly from learning about other people’s perspectives and points of view instead of sticking to the mind-set they were raised to believe in. He also said that one of the group’s goals is to show young people how they can have a happy active and fun-filled life and still maintain their Islamic and Arab identity.

Facebook is not tied to a certain social group, age or sex. Having both a mixture and a wide exposure, many believe that it is a positive step in the direction of change. “I think that exposing narrow-minded people to other ideas and opinions can change and improve them,” said Al-Khereiji.

He agrees with Al-Hajjar about the changes Facebook can bring about. “I can’t honestly say what the effect of Facebook is on our society because of the sheer number of people who use it. But I know for a fact that it can have a wonderful positive effect if it is used correctly,” he added.


I've always loved Malcolm Gladwell, ever since I read Blink.. this one is from the tipping point.. I highly recommend outliers which i'm halfway thru at this point and it's fantabulous..


Are you a connector?
In Chapter Two, I talk about the central role that three personality types--that I call Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen-- play in social epidemics. In this excerpt, I describe a simple test that anyone can take to tell whether they fall into the first of those categories, the Connector.

What makes someone a Connector? The first--and most obvious--criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don't think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I'm not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do. There is a simple way to show this. In the paragraph below is a list of around 250 surnames, all taken at random from the Manhattan phone book. Go down the list and give yourself a point every time you see a surname that is shared by someone you know. (The definition of "know" here is very broad. It is if you sat down next to that person on a train, you would know their name if they introduced themselves to you, and they would know your name.) Multiple names count. If the name is Johnson, in other words, and you know three Johnsons, you get three points. The idea is that your score on this test should roughly represent how social you are. It's a simple way of estimating how many friends and acquaintances you have.

Algazi, Alvarez, Alpern, Ametrano, Andrews, Aran, Arnstein, Ashford, Bailey Ballout, Bamberger, Baptista, Barr, Barrows, Baskerville, Bassiri, Bell, Bokgese, Brandao, Bravo, Brooke, Brightman, Billy, Blau, Bohen, Bohn, Borsuk, Brendle, Butler, Calle, Cantwell, Carrell, Chinlund, Cirker, Cohen, Collas, Couch, Callegher, Calcaterra, Cook, Carey, Cassell, Chen, Chung, Clarke, Cohn, Carton, Crowley, Curbelo, Dellamanna, Diaz, Dirar, Duncan, Dagostino, Delakas, Dillon, Donaghey, Daly, Dawson, Edery, Ellis, Elliott, Eastman, Easton, Famous, Fermin, Fialco, Finklestein, Farber, Falkin, Feinman, Friedman, Gardner, Gelpi, Glascock, Grandfield, Greenbaum Greenwood, Gruber, Garil, Goff, Gladwell, Greenup, Gannon, Ganshaw, Garcia, Gennis, Gerard, Gericke, Gilbert, Glassman, Glazer, Gomendio, Gonzalez, Greenstein, Guglielmo, Gurman, Haberkorn, Hoskins, Hussein, Hamm, Hardwick, Harrell, Hauptman, Hawkins, Henderson, Hayman, Hibara, Hehmann, Herbst, Hedges, Hogan, Hoffman, Horowitz, Hsu, Huber, Ikiz, Jaroschy, Johann, Jacobs, Jara, Johnson, Kassel, Keegan, Kuroda, Kavanau, Keller, Kevill, Kiew, Kimbrough, Kline, Kossoff, Kotzitzky, Kahn, Kiesler, Kosser, Korte, Leibowitz, Lin, Liu, Lowrance, Lundh, Laux, Leifer, Leung, Levine, Leiw, Lockwood, Logrono, Lohnes, Lowet, Laber, Leonardi, Marten, McLean, Michaels, Miranda, Moy, Marin, Muir, Murphy, Marodon, Matos, Mendoza, Muraki, Neck, Needham, Noboa, Null, O'Flynn, O'Neill, Orlowski, Perkins, Pieper, Pierre, Pons, Pruska, Paulino, Popper, Potter, Purpura, Palma, Perez, Portocarrero, Punwasi, Rader, Rankin, Ray, Reyes, Richardson, Ritter, Roos, Rose, Rosenfeld, Roth, Rutherford, Rustin, Ramos, Regan, Reisman, Renkert, Roberts, Rowan, Rene, Rosario, Rothbart, Saperstein, Schoenbrod, Schwed, Sears, Statosky, Sutphen, Sheehy, Silverton, Silverman, Silverstein, Sklar, Slotkin, Speros, Stollman, Sadowski, Schles, Shapiro, Sigdel, Snow, Spencer, Steinkol, Stewart, Stires, Stopnik, Stonehill, Tayss, Tilney, Temple, Torfield, Townsend, Trimpin, Turchin, Villa, Vasillov, Voda, Waring, Weber, Weinstein, Wang, Wegimont, Weed, Weishaus.

I have given this test to at least a dozen groups of people. One was a freshman World Civilizations class at City College in Manhattan. The students were all in their late teens or early twenties, many of them recent immigrants to American, of middle and lower income. The average score in that class was 20.96, meaning that the average person in the class knew 21 people with the same last names as the people on my list. I also gave the test to a group of health educators and academics at a conference in Princeton New Jersey. This group was mostly in their 40's and 50's, largely white, highly educated--many had PhD's--and predominatly upper income. Their average score was 39. Then I gave the test to a relatively random sample of my friends and acquaintances, mostly journalists and professionals in their late 20's and 30's. The average score was 41. These results shouldn't be all that surprising. College students don't have as wide a circle of acquaintances as people in their 40's. It makes sense that between the age of 20 and 40 the number of people you know should roughly double, and that upper-income professionals should know more people than lower-income immigrants. In every group there was also quite a range between the highest and the lowest-scorers. That makes sense too, I think. Real estate salesmen know more people than computer hackers. What was surprising, though, was how enormous that range was. In the college class, the low score was 2 and the high score was 95. In my random sample, the low score was 9 and the high score was 118. Even at the conference in Princeton, which was a highly homogenous group of people of similar age, education and income--who were all, with a few exceptions, in the same profession--the range was enormous. The lowest score was 16. The highest score was 108. All told, I have given the test to about 400 people. Of those, there were two dozen or so scores under 20, and eight over 90, and four more over 100. The other surprising thing is that I found high scorers in every social group I looked at. The scores of the students at City College were less, on average, than adult scores. But even in that group there are people whose social circle is four or five times the size of other people's. Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors.

What are you thoughts?

Raven's Resurrection Post: "Myopia"

My thoughts have been revolving around myopia, i.e. gu9r nather i.e. near-sightedness, in layman terms not seeing what is available around you because your paradigm is fixated on a very negative outlook on the world.

Now this can apply to anything and everything quite literally, be it religion, job opportunities, charity/community work, and even family/spousal relationships.

In many philosophies, the mere act of being "open" and "effectively listening" to something opens doors to things you could never think possible had you confined yourself to the mentality of life as usual, or even worse negativity, thus shunning all and every possible exits to the status quo.

On a personal note, this has happened to me a lot in the work context. I have a tendency to shoot myself in the foot and play victim when i'm disgruntled with something. Especially if I feel like I don't have control over the situation.

The important take-away is that who EVER has control of a situation? Having complete control is quite rare, and in any case you don't really step out of your comfort zone as you are probably just following routine, and it's not a special situation. I have the tendency to be very moody with bosses and professors. If the individual doesn't do enough to command my respect, I find my time in that context useless. Now this isn't a stance of arrogance, rather it is one in which I am not happy with how the person manages the team, or deals in the classroom. This would also be the case in which attempts have been made from myself and others to try to remedy the matter with no success and the dreaded cycle keeps turning.

I recall an economics course in college in which I got the lowest grade in college, a C-. Now I am definitely to blame, since such a low grade is largely attributed to my resentment of the professor, who by and large did not lack qualification. He was an advisor to Clinton and was overqualified with 2-3 ivy leagues sprinkled into his life work.

What really pissed me off was the fact that he was teaching introductory macroeconomics using 2nd/3rd degree calculus to an audience that didn't have a math background, and/or NEVER took any calculus. Now I had done calculus, but applying to economics is slightly different from the applications we were used to, so it was a stretch even for a "math-inclined" guy like me.

NOt to bore you further with this story, but my "Myopic" outlook on the situation was that this guy was useless, thus deserved no time to his course, so I just allocated time to the rest of my workload. It hit me in the end, and that semester was probably my worst.

Other examples include working for incompetent bosses who gain their positions by "being around" and are fortunate enough to be somewhat qualified when the next old-timer retires. I'm afriad of the escalation in this trend as we hit the mega-retirement boom by 2013. I don't even know what to expect.. but many people are getting ready for some promotions.. whether or not they actually deserve them.

In the end, I realized that my outlook on both situations, though still strongly ingrained in my belief system, could have been a bit more optimistic and positive like my usual nature had I tried to shift my paradigm (as per my 7 habits training) to a more positive outlook and being proactive and making the most of the situation while dealing with other priorities..

My last example is of friends I have that told me how this myopia occurred in their love lives. It kind of relates to maturity and/or choosing your future husband/wife, in my case it would be with male friends, thus in the selection of a wife.

Now stereotypically everyone likes attractive people, the media and society do a good job of planting it in our heads, and reactions to coming into contact with "beautiful" people are contagious even though some might not think that X person was "attractive" to start with, but wanting to conform to the group norm, he shrugs and says "yeah she's pretty hot".

Dragging this into the marriage context, optimally every guy wants to marry a model-like trophy wife princess that also cooks, is educated and meets his values and is great with kids etc.

Sadly all of these together rarely exist, rather it is a stereotype that more attractive girls are higher maintenance as they have been pampered their entire lives which at some point hits their value system in many cases and takes them away from decency to a toy for the public eye, or to anyone that can afford to keep pleasing them. This would be the "princess" category, category 1.

Now, as young crazy men mature, and they might actually care more about their future, a more mature and stable woman tends to make more sense. Especially when the intention is to raise a family, or have someone help you live thru a decent budget and build a future with, not drain your bank account or your dad's for that matter (to the less affluent ones) to keep her smothered in Vuitton, Gucci, and Manolo Blahniks. So this more mature and stable woman, would probably be a bit more conservative, possibly less attractive than category 1 but not necessarily, and probably less superficial, thus providing peace of mind and a better fit to many. This would qualify as category 2.

During the college years, when relationships and commitment were more in the short-term and few young men are looking at settling down just yet, as investing for the long-term be it in people or money is a foreign concept to those that want to "live the moment." Thus young Tim/Mohammad would focus all his energy on "Category 1" and trying to score big time for social pressures as well and to prove to his brethren that he is a "player," "good with girls," and a "smooth-talker."

This same Tim/Mohammad may have 20 "Category 2" girls in his bubble, but he wouldn't notice them, as they aren't as superficial and or self-consumed as "Category 1", thus Tim/Mohammad would be MYOPIC and only look at the short term and near-sighted span of vision.

Now as this young fellow approaches his junior year and looks at the real world and ascending the corporate ladder and the future, probably having gone through 1-5 "Category 1" relationships since they typically don't last long as they haven't been established on any real values, just a random interaction and/or "hook-up", "fling", or quick arranged marriage that hasn't been given time to be tested thru a long engagement/milkah period that allows for a real-life simulation of the relationship before committing long-term (sometimes due to a family's rush to have their poor son hitched ASAP to save him from the evils of the world by marrying him to the first cousin they can think of, whether or not they are compatible and not taking into mind that mixing family and marriage, is like mixing family and business, can go really well, or ruin relationships for life!)

Back to our young disciple Timmy/Mohammad, during his interaction with "C1" he also had several "C2" counterparts in different contexts that offered him advice on his C1 relationships. Often with the C2 being very fond of Tim/Mo but not fitting his outlook b/c he's only nearsighted and not looking at the true quality of woman he is encountering. In many cases it takes a failure or two with C1s to realize that what he is really looking for is a C2 (a mother/wife type and not a trophy bimbo type), and that this person was right under his bloody nose!

This realization might take a long time to happen, but once it occurs, then a true relationship can be built, assuming of course that the C2 woman will live up to her reputation of being a more motherly and stable candidate. This description isn't meant to undermine C2's as many are just as attractive if not more attractive and fashion-sensitive as C1s, the difference is she wouldn't flaunt it, she would be a tad more conservative and expose natural beauty thru her reservation and femininity thru her aversion to men. Not a push-up and g-string kind of person, rather a person you would be comfortable with mothering your children, and holding down the fort when you're out providing for them.

Back to Myopia. To put it simple, BEWARE. Only when you exit full circle do you realize how Myopic or even blind you were. So be very aware of your surroundings, especially the C2s in the midst as many of them could be a potential soul mate. And in the work and college context, don't miss out on experiences that will change your life because you're too caught up on what professor X gave you on a test or Boss Y's stupid assignment that won't add value to the organization, but you have to do anyway..

Because in the end it's your outlook, perspective, and paradigm that will shape your future situation, not X, Y, or Z for that matter.

@ 1:56 AM, Saturday, June 27th, 2009

* In relationships I also mean marriages that don't last long since they are built on shallow values and not the pure intention to build the future. I am not condoning extra-marital affairs, i'm taking the concept back to the original interaction between any male and female regardless of gender, background, religion and race.

** I'm actually Myopic in eyesight terms and have been using contact lenses for a long time, thus whether I like it or not, a certain vision paradigm is forced upon me. I have learned to resist it, but every now and then things get foggy :)
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