Archive | February 2014

Streets and Pedestrians

It is no question by now, that so many people know that there is in fact a problem in the transportation system through which Amman (and Jordan as a whole) functions. Now I won’t be discussing any politics per se, rather I will describe how the societal politics have played a part in getting us to where we are now.

Just a glimpse outside for a now-trained eye of an Architect can easily tell you that there is a force that is pushing things out of order. That force, I believe, is the culture itself that we have unwillingly nurtured; just as many parents mistakenly cultivated a culture of following rather than experimentation and leadership.

Now culture itself is nothing but an outcome of the surroundings and societal fabric made by the hands that be (users and investors primarily) and vice versa. Our streets are shaped by who we are, and what we use; the more people walk and use buses, the more their problems would be visible, and that in turn creates a cycle of reporting and repairing. The same logic goes for personal vehicles; the streets are shaped by reports and repairs of people who use their own cars.

Our streets are clearly catering to cars, our sweet little spoilt babies. While we do all preach “humanity and peace”, our streets scream: “hide from your fellow countrymen”. The pedestrian waits at the side of the street, like a cornered kitten, waiting to cross the road, when a car boasts its horn in rage as the person stutters a step back to a wobbly stone on the sidewalk’s edge (if it had one). The car gets catered to by inferior beings and gets parked, while the pedestrian is forced to squeeze between a tree’s leaves and trunk and a shiny car with an alarm (which god forbid should cry to its owner). A human should make way for a car and adapt to it, and the car can take the human’s public space.

The car is even a place of comfort for people to let off some steam when they’re angry. The car is a place for young lovers to make out. The car is the place where you hang out with your friends because there’s nowhere else to go but to to another cage. The car is the place people pre-drink in. The car is the place where we have cozy discussions with people rather than an appropriately proportional room. The car is the only thing in the youth’s life that is appropriate. The car is a person’s room because their room at home is too dependent on their “naggy” parents who wish them to merely follow in their footsteps and their understanding of growing up. The car is a celebratory space when it expresses joy with its open windows, flashing lights, and beeping horns. The car has become deeply rooted in traditions and cultures for some reason and is so deeply rooted that most people can not bear the thought of being without their own car.

The car has shaped our culture in many different ways, even our economy (I would not be surprised if 20% of Jordan’s cash flow is based around damaged cars due to roads and car repairmen). I think it has allowed for an easy way out of arguments and compromises which create a leveled society and way of thinking. Instead of people arguing on the streets, they yell slurs at each other from behind a window and (at best) step out of their car to express anger – and I’m sure everyone feels that things are becoming serious when someone gets out of their car. People who have problems with how women dress yell at them and are never seen again, and nobody would ever understand what the problem is, and truth is, if any of those “men” stood in front of a woman dressed “inappropriately”, they would stand there in silence and not do anything except maybe talk to his friend.

And on that note I think this is where the car has damaged our culture and introduced unhealthy habits such as car-dependence rather than being forced to go out in the streets where -god forbid- you would talk to people and be polite to them, and learn to respect them. Due to different classes not mixing, there is no benefit spread to the “less fortunate”, and the “more fortunate” don’t learn about the other side of Amman’s culture, thus avoiding the healthy mixing of both sides of our culture.

Isn’t that what a public space should be? A leveled field where everyone can enjoy themselves without judgement? We lack public spaces, and that is a fact. No, you can’t call a restaurant a public space, and yes, putting a bouncer outside a “Souk” does ruin its point and stature as a public space (although you can’t blame them for deciding to do so). Streets are the major public space of any city, and our “public spaces” put the drivers and their cages on top of their list of priorities, not the pedestrians and should-be-users of the public space who are further pushed out of the streets by the “invincible” name callers, and poor sidewalks. Rather than making the streets less welcoming to pedestrians, make the driver lose some of its perks to show the pedestrian that she/he is cared for in at least one aspect. 

A place where you truly see the car priority over humans (even on sidewalks) is that spot near the 2nd circle, when you’re driving from Rainbow Street’s end back to the circle. That spot right before you reach the circle is a vibrant area where people could actually walk around and go to restaurants and even do a bit of shopping. Do you see those people moving around? Somewhere within the sea of cars, yes, or when you’re driving by and you see them pop out because a car is blocking the sidewalk.

What can the poor pedestrian do other than avoid the parked car? Nothing but sigh and work around it. What does a car do when a person is crossing the street and happens to block their path? Car horn ear-penetration, road rage, and the poor pedestrian’s shaken day; “Oh, me, get out of the way, so annoying…”. Truth is, they should be the priority, and not you and your cage. Yes, some people are horrible at crossing streets and end up running across the street out of nowhere and giving you a scare, but would the be forced to do that if they were at least respected? Nope. Pedestrians even have to run across pedestrian walkways, and no car would stop for them. Why? I have absolutely no idea.While this is a bit of a generalization, but it is quite a prevalent type of driver.

That is exactly why “Rainbow street” is successful as a public space:
People whine about the street being “bad for the car”: the street paving is what helps make it more pedestrian friendly;
People whine about vulgar comments by people: the openness of the public space is doing its job already! People are mixing and disagreeing, then reaching a compromise.
People whine about the lack of parking spaces: the street pulls people out of their cars to walk even if for a little while, and be part of the experience of being meshed around with other people, rather than merely throwing words at them from behind a glass and steel cage and wishing for change.

In fact, valet parking should not be a must, but rather a privilege. In a place like Rainbow Street, it should not even exist; in a place as public as that, people should not be safe in their cars, but rather safe within the confines of the new-forming culture of the only functional and not torn away from everything else in Amman public space. That would however, cause less people to go there, but I can’t think of how you could at least create a small push for pedestrians. Oddly, people feel safer alone in their homes or cars, rather than in a public space surrounded by people, because that is where they are actually sure of what the prevalent culture is.

So next time the gas prices go up, and you see people getting pissed about it, know that somewhere in the government’s plan, someone realized that making the car less viable would push for a better public transportation system. However, why they do not fix the buses and make sure they are improved and viable as well is beyond me…

Seriously, no idea how hard it is to print a paper with bus routes and running time of buses, even if it is not accurate, let people know when they stop or start. Just until the car use starts to decrease.

…..

Cheers,

Saed

Realism and Pessimism

Well, my friend,
I hear of all the things you could be,
A replacement of a void, a new place to grow into,

Well, my friend,
I know only of what I know you are
A truth discovered, a new beginning.

…..

Dreams and wishes of the future,
Remember how it was, first when we began,
Nothing but innocent mouthful listening and ears humming.

Now look at us,
at the crossroads of following the dreams that you introduced,
that kept me alive.
Even more alive now that I understand all the things that I learned.

Now where do we go…?

Is your voice nothing but a mistress?
Are my words nothing but good night stories for both of us?

Well, my friend,
I am a dreamer,
I love both of us, and the future of it all.

Well, old friend,
I’m an optimistic realist,
I believe in both of us, and the future-you to come.

Hope is, for them,
Thrown into their unknown words of future,
trying to add a meaning to their own uncontrolled life.

You, old friend,
are but truth with which I have grown,
such that it shapes my future.

…..

Luck becomes skill,
Inspiration becomes curiosity,
Talent becomes determination,
Love becomes a fiery passion.

…..

Alas, old friend,
We remain, as meaningless as their hope;
A meaningless future in their eyes and programmed responses.

For them, old friend,
feeling is nothing but a readied reaction,
prepared at birth through a long time of shoving.

Alas, old friend,
I remain, as stubborn as my hope;
a dream to be nurtured, as we were.

For them, old friend,
We are nothing but dreamers in their pessimistic eyes,
While we are optimists in a real world.

…..

Alas, old friend,
they do not understand.

Alas, old friend,
we mean nothing in their ears.

Still…
not in mine.

…..

Not in mine.

Smoking in Amman

First of all I would like to say that I have quit smoking for well over 3 months (with a celebratory one after I finished my bachelors degree, but I digress…). Now I don’t know if I was this much of an inconsiderate horrible human being, but that seems to be the way of smokers in Amman now that I quit.

“Well Saed that’s hypocritical, you probably used to be the same, too! Ma ma3ak gaddaa7a?”

Well, my good, curious, smoking friend, I proudly say: No. I would actually make a conscious act to exhale vertically or diagonally so that it does not shroud some poor unfortunate soul’s face.

…..

Even smoking has manners; I mean I would seriously always be aware where I’m blowing smoke (even careful not to blow smoke up people’s bum, go figure). I don’t understand how some smokers can be so inconsiderate such that they automatically assume that everyone loves air with a nicotine content of like 70% (not 80% because that’s too much). I mean it’s fine when you’re at a cafe or a bar, you expect that. But when you’re smoking in an improvised, cubicle-sized, poorly designed “buffer room”, I would say it might be nicer of you if you would make use of your twig-legs to move 3/4 steps to go outside, and pull your cigarette out of every passer-by’s throat.

But of course why take my word for it, I’m just a friendly [aka weak] fellow citizen, why would it matter what I say, given that you own every single thing in this country, and that you’re always right. Why you actually think you’re always right is beyond me. Maybe because your parents dominated your life so god damn hard that it made your judgement so blind and hazed, just so that you could salvage whatever bit of control over your life you can manage.

…..

I guess,

Saed

Technology

I don’t mean to be a hippie, (but I really do, because I am, kinda) but I have to say, that the impact that technology has on our lives can not be denied; you can take it positively or negatively, but there are somethings that you just can’t deny.

Sure it’s positive, sure you can reach whoever you want whenever, sure you can keep relationships alive. But doesn’t that rid us of all the excitement that being apart brings? How can you appreciate something if you never lose it or taste the thought of its loss?

Doesn’t that make separation so bearable, such that people who are far away end up experiencing a part of each other that is born out of nothing but consequences (which are meant to disappear when reunited)?

Does technology and the comfort of communicating without a need of physical work not make us too lazy to talk to humans?

The lack of direct human communication, does it not make us weaker and more easily broken?

Does that technology not allow for people to take knowledge for granted?

Wouldn’t it be better if the knowledge we wanted was earned, such that we would be careful where our energies were wasted?
We would never waste our energy somewhere where it would not give us a benefit, but now we do because it “entertains” us.

When was entertainment a primary human emotion?

When did we all become so self-centered, such that we expect to earn without giving and interacting?

When did we become so pathetic, such that we fear for our children’s health when we let them play outside, but we do not worry about their future when we lock them up in a cement cage?

When did getting beat up by the local bully become a horrible thing? When did it become a standard, that we should have an unbalanced eco-system where it is all good, and life would be nothing but a pulse-less, dead, pig in the lawn rather than a raging bull in the heart of every child, wishing to explore and play outside?

When did ugly, bad environments become a disadvantage rather than a place where kids would play and experience their own strengths and weaknesses, and the advantages and disadvantages of having friends? Such that it even allowed them to understand what it is to have people you care about and people who care about you?

When did walking become a sin, and facing bad people become the threat we need to face for going through our lives, rather than a daily battle that never stopped us from doing anything and merely proved our determination and understanding?

When did a 20-something year-old know this, while parents cowered in their bedrooms?

When did people write their thought out in public, hoping for praises rather than a discussion?

When did people hope to change the world by not doing anything?

When did we lose respect to older people?

When did older people lose respect to our instincts and the process of growth, which they had and lost?

When did we become slaves to everything around us, and lose control of our own lives?

When did a community with the same ideas signify life, rather than a society that has its many different faces and curses which end up complementing its personality?

When did we lose our balance?

…..

Cheers

Saed

No quarter

Under the laws of war, “….it is especially forbidden….to declare that no quarter will be given”.

Well so much for that; as if they could control such things, if anything happens, it’s just collateral damage. But hey, aren’t we all oh-so human?

…..

Peace,

Saed

“Leave you speechless” Videos

In light of the many videos you see being passed around, as one would comics or everything which else taken lightly in our time, I thought I would rant a little bit about it.

Why? Because I think that knowledge in our time is so easy to come by, that it loses its impact. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful that you could discover so much in our time, such that you could even raise yourself if you have a moral compass and a bit of social ethics. But it’s just like how the Palestine-israel conflict; after a long time of battles and losses, it ended up being another homeless person you see on the street but don’t help.

It’s either that or we’re just desensitized to everything that happens because we don’t deal with each other directly as much as previous generations. When if you saw someone get beat up they would be getting beat up in front of you rather than on a screen where you could easily shield yourself from it and have no pressure of a reaction, back when protests were when they had enough of something not something to do as soon as something started and they haven’t even had time to so much as think about how to cope with it.

Earlier today I saw a video about how the chickens are taken to be slaughtered and how it’s all just a mass produced thing for us to feed ourselves, and how inhumane corporations are when it comes to making money. And the thing is: These corporations aren’t running on their own, you know. Chances are if you live in a city, all the meat you get is treated just like that. If you share a video like this, and you still don’t buy “free-range” products, you’re pretty much contradicting yourself. It’s understandable when people share it because it’s so sad, but your sharing means nothing if it is not followed by action. My point is, if you are against how these corporations treat your food, don’t support them. If you don’t believe that the “free range” products are in fact “free-range”, then you’re just feeding yourself some “chicken alla lies” to avoid doing what you think is right. Even if the corporation making mass-meat is the same one making the free-range meat, you eating the free-range meat would support the idea more, and well it says something more than just shutting up and not even trying to make a right choice. There are groups who try to ensure that “free-range” meat is actually “free-range”, but “free-range” meat is not available everywhere in the first place.

Then there you are, sharing a video going “wow” or “oh my god poor cows”, but truth is, your words are useless unless your sharing actually inspires one person to do something. And if you don’t do something yourself, you’re just a hypocrite. It’s like sharing a link to donate money, but not donating money yourself. It’s that typical “do as I say, not as I do” syndrome our generation seems to have. So we just copy and paste the link with a “what is this world coming to” look in our eyes, and we click that share button while exhuming our dead breath out of our dead souls, and automatically feel better as if we contributed to something, never having the feeling of urgency to fix something.

No matter what happens, actions do speak louder than words. If you want to provoke thoughts and make an impact in a certain field, do it right. Sharing is good because it spreads the idea, and that’s a huge advantage for our generation, but if everyone shares and likes, and nobody takes action, what’s the point?

Because truth is, that effort is what makes a huge difference, even if it is an effort to fake your way through it.

Make your words count, right?

…..

I guess,

Saed

Of Sandseas and Iced deserts

So I just wrote this and thought it was interesting, and I figured why not, right? Right! Take it any way you want, I just thought it was an interesting idea to play around with using words. Actually maybe I’ll look through some old stuff of mine and see if I find anything worth posting sometime later.

I would start this 365 days of poetry but I thought to myself: “no”.
So no! ^-^

Cheers!

Saed

_________________________

I am the sand that burns
… the air that breathes
… the earth that builds
… the death that lives

I am the ocean that swells
… the heart that breeds
… the waves that float
… the life that gives

I am the eye and beholder
… the rolling boulder
… the tree that breaks
… the earth below her

I am the birds, the leaves
… the dawn, the eve
… the drought, the flood
… the eyes that believe

I am the frozen desert
… the heartless effort
… the dying passion
… of days without worth

I am the wind when it’s breezy
… the arch when it groans
… the gold when you’re freezing
… the words when you’re alone

I am the dry trees
… and their wet heavenly beads
I am the wavy mud
… and the stains of its blood

I am the earth’s veins
… the cure for pain
I am the mother’s skin
… the cleansing of sin

I am the oppression of pain
… the rage against the river
I am the quenching sustain
… the calming of anger

I am the wetlands
… the dust’s might

I am the tundra’s sands
… a snow of blight

Hegemony

For the sake of not being too dull, I came by this term while looking up some architectural theories. Simply put, I would define “Hegemony” as rule via implied power, rather than direct force. Sadly, there was no Wikipedia page in Arabic for Hegemony.

Wiktionary defined Hegemony in a more cultural scope (wiktionary source):

Dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group or “hegemon” acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force

And another sociological definition of hegemony I found was this (source):

“‘Hegemony’ in this case [cultural hegemony] means the success of the dominant classes in presenting their definition of reality, their view of the world, in such a way that it is accepted by other classes as ‘common sense’. The general ‘consensus’ is that it is the only sensible way of seeing the world. Any groups who present an alternative view are therefore marginalized.”

Interesting idea, no? Anyway, this is such a defining idea of how our lives are being run right now, and probably quite easily so. It kind of makes you reconsider everything you know and what created it, especially the current state in which Amman’s culture stands. In Amman (the way I see it), we have two very strong contestants for the title of “hegemon”. The very conservative, and the very liberal, and then there are those swept by the flow who are just everything in between. Thus, there is no king and slave, there are just contenders; two sides who have a different agenda for what the “culture/common sense/right path/truth” should be. Discipline vs. , security vs. risk, coffee vs. beer. It is like the mess before everything settles down, and a common culture is finally born.

And if you read the second part of the last quote, you can find that it can be applied Amman’s society that is marginalizing the other part. The “nawar” who are uneducated and prevent our growth are marginalized by their fellow countrymen, and the “fafi” who are ruining our culture as Arabs are also marginalized by their fellow countrymen.

If you think about that even more, you realize that each of these groups are led by some other “hegemon”:

The “fafi” who are led by western brain-numbing media and blindly follow the newly developing trends within the constantly growing globalized culture, via the internet and other media.
The “nawar” who are led by brain-numbing extremist preaches and blindly follow the laws within the rigid constant, time-proven framework of a long-surviving dogma.

[Disclaimer, I am not trying to say I am with or against any side, I am merely trying to organize them such that it’s easy to understand the perceived extremes]

“According to Gramsci’s view there are on the one hand the dominant classes who seek to contain and incorporate all thought and behaviour within the terms and limits they set in accordance with their interests. On the other hand there are the dominated or subordinate classes who attempt to maintain and to further the validity and effectiveness of their own definitions of reality.” (source)

Thinking about the subject actually, the divide and conquer strategy could also be easily defined via reference to Hegemony. A place/country without a hegemon is more easily controlled (just like that straws-banding-together story from when we were kids) due to the lack of stability in culture. That, in turn, allows those who struggle to become the hegemon in that country’s scale, and those who await the resulting culture are the subordinates; i.e the struggle itself is the hegemon, and the subordinate is peace. This then creates a confused society, in which the struggle to survive is the norm that the culture is defined by, since no side wins and gets to create a solid ground for a consistent culture. Selfish thinking hoping only to survive, and greed when it comes to wealth and materials due to the inconsistency. Sound familiar?

It’s the war economy that dominates such a place. The fact that it is an economy pretty much points to a designed system. And that’s how you divide and conquer; give them weapons, allow the culture of struggle to sustain, and prevent the growth of peaceful thoughts. Then give a facade to the rest of the world to assure them that they are doing their best and that they should not worry about such “god-forsaken” lands, and that it’s out of their control as petty, money-less pawns.

I think that is exactly what confuses/bothers people and prevents any small itch of rebellion to rise. The countless facades that exist, the many that are revealed, and those that are not. People do not know what to believe anymore, further breeding apathy and helplessness.

Well anyway, that was just a small rant that came to mind after reading a bit about “Hegemony”. You could choose to believe that the world is run by people or that it is just a free-flowing system just like everything in nature. But whatever you end up thinking it is, I disrespectfully agree.

…..

I guess,

Saed

Introduction

I won’t stuff an idea into this, but it’s just the first milestone, right?

While I don’t quite like to be one to flaunt his personality, but I guess I will just go on and use it add some content for the first post.

I am not someone who writes just to go like “oh hey guys, look at me and how original I am”, truth is I am just trying to have a place to add any idea of mine that I think is worth a… thought. And if I share it, that’s because I am curious to see where people stand when it comes to certain ideas.

I am an Arab, architecture major, fresh grad (at this time at least); I have dreams, ideas, and hopes.

I hope that this blog will grow up to be the place where I don’t try too hard to get people to understand me, and the place where my brain can just do/say whatever it wants without needing to say something to explain itself. It really just is an outlet for me.

This is where I can be as selfish as I want.

I do hope that this will be the home for my art, when I start doing my own personal musical projects or sketches, so we’ll just see what the future holds.

…..

Salam and cheers,

Saed