On Online Activism

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.

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15 thoughts on “On Online Activism

  1. an outstanding insight, wish there more and more of your kind among the saudi community..my best regards.
    an egyptian doctor working in KSA

  2. Sometimes its the small things that make you realize how alien another country is. Keeping the change? Try that one in europe…

  3. The power of standing together has to realised and it will come by collective efforts. The whole community needs to stand for the common cause and that is freedom of speech..btw i am learning lot of things about SA from your blog…previously for me SA was just Mecca and Madina

  4. Collective thinking & support is required to strengthen a country’s progress. look at most of the revolutions around the world which changed country’s identity,it was all idea of nobel citizens & their efforts.
    Hope that SA citizens realize this aspect.

    reader in UAE

  5. Excellent post Ahmed. I believe that the shortage of “collective action” in our country is due to lack of civil society institutions where people work together to achieve a desired goal. It is changing alright, hopefully, though, the change will happen faster and without interruptions from groups who view the change as unacceptable or evil.

    • From what I understand, this inability to work together for a common goal stems from how the culture is set up to not put others before yourself to help them first. It’s this giving to others and worrying about other’s situations in Christianity that is one of the major differences theologically between Islam and Christianity. We recognize our success by helping others to reach success and mirror this.

  6. first of all.. thanks for talking about (ween albagee?).. and im sure that this post will do alot..

    we are so happy about the bloggers’ reaction, that we really did not expect it when we started the campaign.. although we know how much the idea means for our community.. but the problem always was :the negative public opinion in general .. which we are trying to change before any thing else..

    HOPE THE BEST ALWAYS :)

  7. first of all.. thanks for talking about (ween albagee?).. and im sure that this post will do alot..

    we are so happy about the bloggers’ reaction, that we really did not expect it when we started the campaign.. although we know how much the idea means for our community.. but the problem always was :the negative public opinion in general .. which we are trying to change before any thing else..

    HOPE THE BEST ALWAYS :)

  8. Great job Ahmad, that’s what we are always calling for.

    Keep writing Ahmad about such issues, as you said oneday we’ll reach our goals definitely.

    May God bless you

  9. Oh yeah “Reader in UAE”,
    you’re right there’s so much to learn from the middle-age! Been where i’ve been, seen what i’ve seen in KSA… Been so amazed how women have no existence in bedouin society, and been amazed with so many other things, no need to explain in details.
    From what i can remember, revolutions around the world have always been planned and directed by influencing bourgeoisie, not by popular leaders or the people itself!
    I usually blame blind terror, but sometimes i think some people don’t understand words, only kicks!
    Whatever, fortunately i came to meet nice Saudis, young people, much more openminded that i could imagine, much more interesting and hope teinted than other GCC cows.
    The youth is the only good thing i can remember from this country, but had to leave not to become mad.

    Yalla, see ya, and good luck for your pseudo never ending intellectual online masturbation. Hope that with a large majority of the population under 25, things will finally explode.
    Angry Noura
    (another cow)

  10. I love the way you used the feminine pronoun as in “her blog”!

    My sense (one which I came to have while I lived in Riyadh) is that there are a lot of young people who hold your views. And would like to express themselves as you do…you are making it possible for them to do so, hopefully in the not so distant future.

    At any rate, I am in awe of your intelligence and courage. You are setting a fine example for young people all around the world, not just in KSA.

  11. I just want you to know that I read your blog fairly often, and today is the second time I’ve quoted you in my own blog. I’m an American who lived for three years in Morocco and is committed to helping my friends there move their society forward through frank discussion and collective action, as you say here. I’m very much of the “change comes from within” school. Each culture has to find its own way at its own pace, and I wish you luck. I’m impressed at what you’re doing, and though you probably choose your words carefully sometimes, you’re already saying a lot.

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