Friday, October 14, 2011

BlackBerry Crumble (This is not a recipe)

The world we live in is such that you either own a BlackBerry smartphone, or you know at least one person who does. This being the case, it cannot have escaped your notice that BlackBerries have been experiencing some technical difficulties over the past few days, due to a glitch in the network. Millions of users (who shall be referred to as Blackberrians for simplicity’s sake) across the world have been left stranded as their phones stopped receiving emails and instant messages, and Internet browsing broke down. Several reports are coming in of Blackberrian businessmen shaking their phones in frustration and yelling, ‘Not so smart anymore, are you, you good-for-nothing smartphone?! You might as well actually be a blackberry, then at least I could eat you!’ Hospitals have been inundated with patients suffering from LED-withdrawal symptoms and hallucinations, where they imagine the LED light on their phone to be teasing them with its alluring flashing light.

The outage lasted for three days, and Blackberrians were not impressed. On the first day, there was bewilderment. It was inconceivable that this key to existence, this divine device of unlimited potential, was not performing its usual wonders. On the second day, there was frustration. ‘The joke is over,’ thought Blackberrians forlornly as they woke to another day of cyber-loneliness. ‘If I have to have an actual conversation with someone today, then I’m going to sue RIM for torture.’ And on the third day, there was anger. ‘BlackBerry is rubbish!’ cried Blackberrians in the Twitosphere. ‘It’s time to take a bite out of the forbidden fruit! #AppleEatsBlackberry’.

The timing of this disruption is particularly unfortunate for Research In Motion, who are the manufacturers of BlackBerry smartphones, since it coincides with the death of Steve Jobs. Cue jokes about what Jobs’ first request was when he got to heaven, and how respectful it is of RIM to be honouring his demise with a three-day silence. What is more unfortunate, however, is the fuss that Blackberrians have managed to kick up about the service interruption. One angry customer tweeted, 'Dear Blackberry, u remind me of my EX. Unreliable, a big disappointment & good for nothing.’ Not only is this statement grammatically incorrect, but it is also a wholly unreasonable comparison. Let’s put things in perspective. For one, your BlackBerry has failed you for three days. What about the last 362 days where it has performed flawlessly for you, your every wish being its command? Sadly, it is human nature to forget the good and exaggerate the bad, to the point where we feel justified in extreme measures for trivial situations – the extreme measure here being to switch phones.

Now, stretch your minds back, if you will, to just ten years ago when mobile phones were the size and weight of a shoe, and were still thought to cause cancer. They were held at arms’ length when in use, which was only in emergencies. Gradually, however, we warmed to these odd, unattractive lumps of plastic and metal and realised the advantages of calling and texting. Even our older generations quietly accepted these hi-tech gadgets and the world was at peace (if you can ignore that annoying Nokia ringtone in the background). And then came smartphones and our slow progress in phone technology became an alien invasion of frightening force. Phones became an extension of our hands, their apps replacing several lobes in our brains and their instant messaging services rendering our mouths useless, except for eating and drinking. We became dependent on these contraptions and it’s therefore no surprise that Blackberrians were handicapped by the system crash. To put it bluntly, in five short years, intelligent human beings were reduced to dithering idiots clutching black, plastic rectangles. In true Pavlovian style, they were conditioned to react immediately to the red, flashing light that demanded instant attention whilst all else faded into insignificance.

During the three days that BlackBerries supposedly became useless, the phones could in fact still be used for calling and texting. Really and seriously, this is all you need from a phone. We don’t need to check Facebook and Twitter every five seconds, we don’t need to constantly ask our ‘friends’ what they’re up to, and then proceed to tell them our day’s events in excruciatingly minute detail. To be able to do all that from the palm of your hand is not a luxury, it’s an impediment. We are inhibiting ourselves, relying on technology to do what our brains are capable of and designed for. And before you begin to shake your head at the poor simpleton who wrote this article for not being aware of the delights that a smartphone can bring you, I should mention that said simpleton owns a BlackBerry, and she survived the outage. Perhaps that deserves a t-shirt, or at the very least a Facebook ‘like’ page. But now, if you’ll excuse me, the red light is blinking at me accusingly and you are no longer worthy of my attention.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Think before you speak…

There are many phrases in the English language which people regurgitate without pausing to consider what they actually mean. In fact, I often wonder at the general garbage that spews out of peoples’ mouths sometimes (perhaps if I didn’t eavesdrop so much I would hear much less of it). But I digress. The definition of a cliché is an expression which has been so overused that it has lost its original meaning. Why, then, do people still insist on using it, and other such quotes?

Take, for example, the phrase ‘no one said it would be easy, they only said it would be worth it.’ This is complete tripe. Actually, I take that back because half of the quote is true. No one did say it would be easy - but no one said it would be worth it either. In fact, no one said anything at all. If anything, it was the tiny voice in your head that you most probably ignored when making a decision, which is now being shouted down with this phrase to justify that ultimately wrong decision.

Let’s take this quote literally, for argument’s sake. If you were about to make a monumental choice, but were somewhat weak of heart and were told that the path you had chosen was not easy, you would most likely back out. That’s nothing to be ashamed of – we’re human, and we like to make things as effortless as possible for ourselves. Alternatively, if you were a strong-minded individual, then you wouldn’t really be seeking advice in the first place, and even if someone did dare to voice this quote as their opinion, you probably wouldn’t listen. Furthermore, the definition of something being ‘worth it’ is entirely subjective. L’Oreal claims that we should use their beauty products because we’re worth it, but if a human’s worth is based on their shampoo, then I’m afraid I disagree.

There are a thousand other phrases which irk me, but I shall spare you the rant. I chose this particular one because people hide behind it all too often. It comes back to being decisive in the end. If you’ve made a choice, stick with it. The path it leads you on might be easy, or it might be hard; you might regret it, or it might benefit you in ways you never imagined. But for God’s sake, don’t cliché your way to justification of your choice – it simply isn’t worth it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In my defence...

It is said that our choices define us, and reveal our characteristics and personality. We all make different decisions and this variety is what makes life interesting. If everyone was the same we would all get bored of each other pretty quickly…or would we? In a society dictated by trends of ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ everyone is encouraged to look the same, eat the same, be the same. And if you’re not the same yet, you soon will be.

Different is not cool, and it’s not accepted. In some cases, it’s not even understood. We don’t like different. We treat it with suspicion, as we might treat a strange fungus festering at the back of the fridge. It will be subjected to much prodding and poking and attempts at removal, and eventually left alone once it has been ascertained that there is no threat or danger of invasion. As long as it sits quietly in the corner, we will treat it as some dysfunctional anomaly and ignore it.

Being different means standing out from the crowd. In most cases though, people who are different don’t want to stand out; they just want to be themselves. But to be unique is to risk social exclusion. Society does not understand why you would want to make your own choices when you could just follow the crowd and never have to think for yourself again. Life could be so easy!

As soon as you make a choice, you have to be prepared to defend it. From the car you drive, to the food you eat, right down to your decision to wear blue and orange stripy socks today, you will be questioned. And if your answers aren’t satisfactory then you will be put in the stocks of social status and humiliated until you conform. But conform to what? No matter what you do, you will never please everyone. If you have a Blackberry like half of the population, then the other half will tell you to get an iPhone. And if you have neither you’ll probably be sent to the doctors’ to check that you’re human.

Everything I’ve said so far has obviously been something of a generalisation but the fact still stands: we have to defend ourselves constantly in order to survive day-to-day life. We live in a tough, cynical society where the concept of accepting things at face value is inconceivable. I have never felt the need to justify my choices as some people do, and have always interpreted their self-absorbed wittering as a sign of insecurity. But increasingly I find myself engaging in this attack-and-defend tussle almost as a form of conversation and it is exhausting. It is sad really, that we feel the need to confront others just to make ourselves feel a little more confident about our own choices. So from now on, I refuse to defend my decisions – not because they can’t be defended but because they shouldn’t need to be.

British Muslim? It's an oxymoron

Earlier in February, British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that multiculturalism in the west had failed, particularly with regards to attempts to integrate Islam into the western way of life. I'm a Muslim who has lived in England all her life and I agree with Mr Cameron.

Islam is a strict religion by anyone's standards and has a set of rules which must be followed. England is a Christian country, at least by name, and whilst the religion of the state does not necessarily dictate what citizens can and can't do, culture almost certainly does. Certain traditions have become so ingrained in western society that they are followed religiously and any attempt to overturn them would have catastrophic effects, probably on a revolutionary scale.

Islamic rules and western traditions mix as well as oil and water. As much as you shake them up, they will always separate out and it is naïve to think, believe or try to prove otherwise. I'm being stubborn and closed-minded you say? Then let's take the example of drinking. Muslims don't drink (the good ones anyway). So no, I won't be coming to the pub after work, drinking a glass of wine to relax, popping open some bubbly to celebrate the business's latest success or doing shots at a nightclub to drown my sorrows in a chemically-induced state of calm. To most people who live in the west, this sounds like a nightmare. I'm not saying that anyone who's not a Muslim is an alcoholic, but you don't realise how much alcohol has become integral to existence in the west unless it’s forbidden to you.

But the question here is not why integration is not working. It’s why we want it to work. England is a Christian country and yet it is bending over backwards to accommodate its growing Muslim population. Huge, supposedly secular companies like Deloitte have developed Muslim support networks to give Muslims in the company a sense of community. They claim that it increases diversity and encourages acceptance of different faiths, not to mention that it is also economically beneficial for them. Heathrow airport has a prayer room and facilities for ablution. Funny, I don't see a temple anywhere...or a church for that matter. This is not a ridiculous proposal – I recently visited an airport in Canada which had a ‘multi-faith chapel’. It was a prayer facility for people of all faiths but was predominantly for Christians, in accordance with the country’s religion.

I don't want to sound ungrateful for what are clearly attempts to help Muslims fit in, but I can't help but wonder why. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state and I cannot see it bending any of its rules to accommodate another faith, no matter how dominant it is in the population. You might want to bear in mind that corporal punishment is still legal in Saudi before you suggest that Riyadh open a chain of bars to make the expats feel at home. Even Dubai, which is perhaps the most liberal Islamic state to ever exist, has an Islamic prayer room at the airport but no facilities for anyone of another faith.

Perhaps this is the government's attempt to absolve itself of any responsibility when things go wrong. If and when, God forbid, 9/11 occurs on English soil, the government will be able to say, 'We tried. It is you Muslims who failed. We wash our hands of you'. And to their credit, they have tried. But it’s the typical case of give a finger and they take a hand. Britain relaxed its rules, allowing ridiculous levels of immigration and then took this one step further by trying to fit these immigrants into society. If they hadn't tried, people wouldn't have taken advantage.

The government has now realised its mistake, but it’s too late. They find themselves in a catch-22 situation - there's no way forward and certainly no way back. When the tyrannical dictator Idi Amin came to power in Uganda in 1971, he realised that his country was being run by Asian outsiders rather than the natives. So he ordered the expulsion of 80,000 Asians, which in hindsight probably wasn’t his wisest decision. The economy crumbled and the country is now far behind where it would have been had Idi Amin let things be.

Alcohol is just a minor example of why Muslims cannot fully integrate into Western society. If they wish to live in a non-Islamic state then they will have to compromise and come to terms with a non-Islamic way of life. They don’t have to adopt it, but nor do they have the right to impose their way of life on others. It is not impossible to be a good Muslim and live in England. It is difficult, yes, but at the end of the day it’s a choice. You can’t have the cake and eat it, even if it is halal.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

World at War

The sun rises

A new day

The birds sing


The skies lighten

Another day

The planes drone


Children play

See their smiles


Babies scream

Taste their tears


The silence shatters

The blood, it flows

But none of it matters

Because no one knows

Ignorance is bliss

An illusion of justice

Reality is an undreamt


Our world

Their world

One world.