There is something that frustrates me about the Saudi blogosphere. I don’t like the ignorance, hatred and racism that continuously appear in some of the blogs. Not that there is much I can do about that: in the end of the day, everyone has the freedom to fill her blog with whatever she likes, and if she was into that kind of things then who am I to try to stop her? I never did, and never will. Hence, this post is not about the things that I don’t like, but rather about those that I do like.
One of the things I like about Saudi blogs is that they are encouraging people to work together in order to reach goals. Unfortunately, we lack the concept of “collective action” in our country, but I hope that blogging will help to change that. The social networking aspect of blogging can play a big role in building recognition of such concept, through groups of bloggers who work together in what can be called “online activism.”
I’m actually amazed by how Hadeel’s post “The 15%.. They have eaten it!” (Arabic) on the greediness of some business owners, who have raised the prices of some products in the market based on the fact that the government have increased the salaries of civil servants by 15%, has evolved into an online campaign to demand acknowledgment of consumers’ rights.
The campaign is now called “Ween Al-Bagi?!” loosely translated as “Where is the Change?!” The title is supposed to encourage consumers to insist on getting the change after they pay for their purchased goods, because many stores here ignore giving the consumer his few halala’s or make him buy something stupid like a chewing gum using the lame pathetic excuse: we don’t have coins. They run a multibillion business but they can’t provide these little coins? Hmm, why would they when they can make millions of riyals by keeping the change? Well, no more. We, the consumers want the change. It is one of our lawful rights, and we won’t let you take advantage of us and then get away with it.
I have to say that I’m impressed by Hadeel’s enthusiasm for online activism. You can only imagine what kind of effect and difference she can make if she had the chance to extend such activity on the ground. However, I think people interested in launching campaigns online should study what can (and can’t) be achieved through such campaigns before they start. Online campaigning is appealing to many people because most of the time it doesn’t take much resources. But such thing should not make the campaigners overlook setting objectives prior to the beginning, as well as how far they can go and what do they want to reach.
Many of the problems with our society is related to the fact that people don’t care. As long as they can get what they want, many of them don’t care about anybody and anything else. If everyone only looked after his own interest, ignoring the greater good, what kind of society are we going to live in? I would die a happy man if blogs could increase awareness on the importance of values such as collective action, freedoms, plurality, etc. We have the potential and we have the tools. We just need to get started, and hopefully someday in the near future we will get there.