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News is Dead. Long live Content.

News is Dead. Long live Content.

When news is published, it’s just the beginning of the conversation, not its end.

This is what “news” is today. It’s necessarily a live conversation that informs, educates and empowers people to make better decisions.

Whether you like it or not, printed newspapers, and magazines are dead. I believe that they’re uselessly clinging to life through rusty and leaky support machines. If publications want to get off their sick beds and actually thrive, they need to think of themselves more as very technology-centric content producers than restricted news curators. They need to produce relevant content and publish it across a plethora of platforms in a variety of formats to reach a fickle and sceptical audience. Failing to adopt this business model will ensure nothing but their slow and painful demise.

Currently, none of the newspapers in Bahrain operate under this necessary business model, which is quite surprising as well as it being disturbing, as the technology is readily available to allow them to move into the content business and away from the obsolete static news business models. I daresay that money isn’t the major detriment should they choose to strategically tread that path, the real hurdle might well be the required change in publishers’ mindsets, their management methodology and style in order to fully benefit from this new business model. There is no denying that there definitely is a long way for them to go, judging by their obtuse and difficult to use websites. Entities which are generally digitised copies of their printed publication at best, save for the ability to provide moderated reader comments.

I have to ask, though, is this situation due to general lethargy, a pragmatic response to the minuscule market they operate in, absence of vision or is it due to bureaucratic restrictions that prevent them from adopting the critical change in direction which is necessary to ensure their very survival?

I note that some monthly magazines’ websites do have some video content – very little of it mind you and in mediocre quality; however, I’m unsure whether this is has been officially sanctioned or is made available by taking the oft-used and successfully implemented concept of when caught, opting to ask for forgiveness rather than originally seeking the onerous permission required to provide such a service.

Video alone is not the answer, of course. For a modern publication to thrive, it really needs to change its business model from traditional print publishing to multimedia interactive content generation and curation, as stated previously. To make this happen, the chief requirement for success is for the organisation to intrinsically add leading edge technological capabilities – either through in-house or outsourced resources – to continuously inject innovation into their Internet assets, integrate new interactive technologies and ensure that their content management system is solid yet flexible enough to respond to the immediacy of news in all of its formats, including crowd-generated and -curated content. From my observation, there isn’t a single media entity that fits within this necessary framework so far in Bahrain.

According to the Local Media Outlets list in the Ministry of Information Affairs, there are currently 10 radio stations, 6 television channels, 7 daily newspapers, 15 weekly newspapers and magazines, 17 monthly magazines and 9 electronic newspapers and magazines (Last Modified: 28-09-2014 11:38:05). Apart from the fact that the quantity of media outlets is despicably low for a country with over 1.2 million people, I believe that they’re all doomed to failure. They’re all are stuck in the past.

Strategically, to attain sustainable success for this critical industry, basic changes must take place, changes which have proven to have positively contributed to the success of the industry elsewhere: the state needs to inculcate and protect freedoms of speech as defined by the UN Charter’s Article 19, remove or at least appreciably reduce restrictions on the ability to publish physical or virtual periodicals and allow them to fairly compete in an open market.

Should these conditions occur, I’m sure that the media industry in all its forms will thrive in Bahrain and create an industry that will be match and possibly exceed those already present in the region, and innovation in the media space will sore, bringing with it much needed economic benefits.

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Innovation and the Arab World

Innovation and the Arab World

Ever wonder how the minds of disruptive innovators tick? How their companies work and how they not only breed disruptive ideas but also find ways to bring those disruptive innovations to life with products that change the world?

I have. I confess that I do sometimes with envy, but more often with a lot of reverence and admiration. Celebrating those ideas and successes hold incredible amounts of inspiration for me which help me to continue to look for keys to unlock more of my own innovations and through them also contribute to changing the world too.

But how different are those world-changers are from “normal” people?

According to “The Innovator’s DNA”, a book whose authors spent more than eight years conducting interviews with disruptive innovators and researching the companies they created, found that

“Five primary discovery skills—skills that compose what we call the innovator’s DNA—surfaced from our conversations. We found that innovators “Think Different,” to use a well-known Apple slogan. Their minds excel at linking together ideas that aren’t obviously related to produce original ideas (we call this cognitive skill “associational thinking” or “associating”). But to think different, innovators had to “act different.” All were questioners, frequently asking questions that punctured the status quo. Some observed the world with intensity beyond the ordinary. Others networked with the most diverse people on the face of the earth. Still others placed experimentation at the center of their innovative activity.”

Excerpt From: Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen & Clayton M. Christensen. “The Innovator’s DNA.” iBooks.

Questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting are the important activities which trigger the necessary associative thinking to deliver that new product, business, service or process. Questioning, in particular, the authors observed, is a way of life for innovators and not just a trendy intellectual exercise. Further, innovative entrepreneurs dive deeper into the details to understand the “problem” more fully, and at the same time, they have the capacity to see how those details fit while flying high to look at the bigger picture. They have acute associative observational skills too. They see how others have approached problems and connect threads which are evidently unconnected. They create cross-discipline associations that help them resolve issues.

To be able to innovate, though, an environment conducive to innovation must be present whose chief facet are safe spaces allowing innovators to go against the status quo without fear, and one in which collaboration allows for everyone to thrive. The authors observed that some countries and cultures were more incubative to innovations than others. I found this discovery fascinating.

This is one reason that individuals who grow up in societies that promote community versus individualism and hierarchy over merit—such as Japan, China, Korea, and many Arab nations—are less likely to creatively challenge the status quo and turn out innovations (or win Nobel prizes). To be sure, many innovators in our study seemed genetically gifted. But more importantly, they often described how they acquired innovation skills from role models who made it “safe” as well as exciting to discover new ways of doing things.

From my own personal observations and experiences, I agree with their assessment. The environment in our countries simply does not provide the fertile grounds required for innovation, let alone one that would promote and engender disruptive innovation.

To survive – let alone thrive, the Middle East must inherently change its strategic objectives to allow innovation immediately. Urgently. Why the urgency? Well, without innovation there will be no industry, without industry there will be no economic growth, without economic growth there will be no jobs, without jobs there will be further political turmoil and chaos will rule the day. One that will make the mass migration the world is experiencing now minuscule in comparison.

Our economies are almost totally dependant on oil. There is no single Arab country that has a sufficiently diversified economy. Sure we have glitzy cities with tall buildings and shiny malls, but those are simple veneers to entrenched problems that will disintegrate when our main source of income is depleted. And that, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is not very long in coming:

There are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world’s major fields, which at present rates of consumption will be sufficient to last 40 years.

By 2040, production levels may be down to 15 million barrels per day – around 20% of what we currently consume. It is likely by then that the world’s population will be twice as large, and more of it industrialised (and therefore oil dependent).

Forty years to the Arab Armageddon. Hardly sufficient for the required U-turn in our political, cultural and educational systems to save us from chaotic situations that will, in hindsight, make what the Arab world is experiencing now in wars and enforced migrations mere bad dreams. Without this much required intrinsic change in strategic direction to one that is truly inclusive, democratic and one that respects human rights above all other considerations, we are truly doomed.

What I find quite sad and symptomatic of our dire situation, is that culturally, we have elevated the denigration of innovations to an art form. We superficially find causes to complain about what we perceive as deficiencies in innovative products rather than rise to the challenge and take the first step in innovative thinking by at least appreciating innovations and celebrating in their success and use those emotions as inspirations to create our own, or at least emulate those products and services and attempt to improve them and customise them to our own needs. The relationship of innovation and the Arab world must be fixed.

However, with this antagonistic attitude to innovation, one which I fervently believe to have been inculcated through the trifecta of despicably inadequate education which is hostile to innovation, a culture that rewards mediocrity for excellence and repressive regimes more enamoured with personal and tribal short-term gain than ones that far-sightedly invest in their communities, societies and ultimately nations to thrive together and become effective in making a dent in the universe.

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The Quran: The issue of the content and the container?

The Quran: The issue of the content and the container?

Once again, a riot breaks out by Muslims outraged at the tearing and disrespecting the Holy Quran. Not for the first time, and I daresay not the last either. I’m used to these outrageous riots in both Pakistan and Afghanistan especially, for some unknown reason. These riots don’t tend to happen in the Gulf or most of the other Arab countries. The most intense riots and demonstrations – other than those in Pakistan or Afghanistan – appear to occur in Muslim communities in western countries. Paradoxically, countries Muslims chose to escape to from the persecution and maltreatment they received at the hands of Muslim leaders and co-religionists and to partake of the economic and living opportunities those countries provide.

torn quran
At least 17 people were injured at an overcrowded German refugee shelter after one resident tore pages out of a Koran. Around 20 refugees chased the Afghan man who damaged the Muslim Holy Book and threw the discarded pages into the toilet. He was eventually saved by the shelter’s guards which prompted the mob – according to local media mainly Syrian men – to turn their anger on the camp’s security team. [ DailyMail ]

So, I wasn’t particularly shocked when I heard of riots having taken place earlier this week in a German refugee camp when a Syrian refugee found a torn copy of the Quran in a toilet. What did surprise me; however, was that the suspected perpetrator was an Afghan!

To complete this sad saga, the Syrians of course took it upon themselves “to protect the honour of Islam and its Holy Book” by instigating a riot when it appeared that the police were protecting the suspect, as the police should, but that’s another story. Human rights are completely foreign to the Arab populace, so it will take some time for the refugees to appreciate why the German police had to protect the suspected culprit. In time, I hope, they will realise why. But that’s again another story. The story here is why we automatically resort to violence to prove a point. It’s almost a required part of negotiation and a facet of our self-expression.

Given that the Quran of course is a Holy and revered book and should be respected, as should the Bible and the Torah, why should vandalising any of these Holy texts create such a violent response?

Why is a piece of paper, or a book for that matter, be held in so much reverence; while, what’s printed in it is completely ignored, misinterpreted and misrepresented, as evidenced by the very act of rioting and overheated emotions? Are the teachings of the Quran less valuable than the paper they’re printed on? It is quite apparent that the faithful put much more value on form than function.

One needs to ask, what does it matter if someone disrespects and vandalises the Quran in any way? Will it reduce or invalidate its teachings and the values it espouses in the eyes of the whole world, let alone Muslims? Would that respect or its messages for that matter change at all if someone tore the Quran up, perforated it with a shotgun, burnt it or destroyed it in any other way?

I remember my late grandmother, rest her soul in peace, who was illiterate – well, she could read the Quran and only the Quran, but couldn’t read a newspaper if you put a gun to her head. I know, weird. However, before any newspaper gets thrown out or otherwise repurposed, she used to go through them and cuts out any paragraph or passage that has verses of the Quran and saves those pieces of paper. Then and only then could the newspaper be re-used in whatever other purpose, or simply be thrown out. When asked why she did that, she would simply respond that we have to respect the words of Allah. Bless her. When I pressed her and pointed out that regardless of what is printed on that paper, its re-use will never change the value of Allah’s Holy words. She just brushed me off with a “yalla, don’t you talk rubbish at me now off you go and leave me alone” that admonition normally was appended with “ya aswad elwijh” which literally meant “oh you of a black face” which was the ultimate insult by her. Such a simple time! 😉

I believe that it all boils down to the fact the Muslims regard the Quran as the direct words of Allah. As such, it is held in very high reverence, and vandalising it, or improperly disposing of it is regarded as an affront to Allah Himself. I believe that this interpretation needs to be revised. Especially as the Quran is now available on various electronic media, probably sharing space with completely offensive content that arguably be much more of an issue than the act of vandalism and physical disrespect. It is time to shift the objective to valuing the Quran’s content, rather than just its physical form.

I believe that true value of the Quran is in its ideas, lessons, stories, and inspiration it brings forth. And no amount of vandalism, be that tearing, burning or abusing the pages of a book will ever detract from the essence of its contents.

My friends, regardless of what is done to the physical book, let’s not succumb to emotions, let’s instead value the Quran’s contents and live by them. Let us distinguish between the content and the container. The content of the Quran, after all, is much more important than the container.

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Pop Quiz: How Sectarian are You?

Pop Quiz: How Sectarian are You?

How sectarian are you, is a question that I’ve often thought of and produced a few traits that might indicate the level of sectarianism in a person. A recent article by Ghanim Alnajjar in Alwasat newspaper; however, has written a good comprehensive list which could be used to judge the level of a person’s sectarianism much better than my attempts.

Here’s my translation. Feel free to take the test and indicate your score in the comments. Object of the quiz? Recognise what you need to work on to become less sectarian:

How to measure sectarianism

by Ghanim Alnajjar – Alwasat Newspaper – 4 September 2015

The following questions equally apply for the discovery of racialism, tribalism and factionalism too.

  1. popquizWould you agree to marry your daughter, or a close relation, to a member of the opposite sect?
  2. Do you have any friends from the other sect?
  3. Do you visit with people from the other sect?
  4. In your conversations with people from your own sect, do you accept the denigration or swearing at those from the other sect or do you object to that behaviour?
  5. Do you regard members of the other sect true compatriots in your country, or do you regard them as heathens that you put up with while searching for the earliest opportunity to get rid of them?
  6. Do you support the hard-line sectarian arguments against the other sect?
  7. Do you condemn acts of violence against members of the other sect?
  8. Do you sympathise with the victims of the other sect when exposed to violence or murder, torture or suffering or even discrimination?
  9. In the event of an armed conflict between sects and nations, do you support the party that represents your sect regardless of the facts?
  10. Do you believe that what’s happening to your sect is the result of a major conspiracy orchestrated by the other sect?

If all your answers where all against the values of coexistence and the acceptance of the others, then you’re a full-fat sectarian, and a prime terrorist in the making and you need to go first to a psychiatric clinic to seek a cure before we find you in pieces here there after you had blown yourself up and murdered innocent people.

However, if you’re not, then you should seek to advance co-existence in your surroundings and balanced thoughts in order to convince others to be less sectarian and more welcoming. This will secure your country from the strife and destruction in which no one will be saved. There’s no strength except through Allah.

Thank you Mr Ghanim Alnajjar’s for this comprehensive and thought provoking list.

Hand on heart, my score is 100%. What’s yours?

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Martyrs

Martyrs

There’s nothing more sacred than giving one’s life up to serve one’s country, to protect it and repel its enemies. Those are the courageous heroes. The few amongst the many. Who sacrifice their lives such.

My condolences to the families and friends of the martyred soldiers and to Bahrain.

I remember that I proposed the creation of a National Edifice during the first National Dialogue to commemorate and remember our martyrs. Wether they be from the police, military establishments or indeed those who have died under torture and brutality as has been identified by the BICI commission, those and the many others since the political movements started in the early 1900 and probably before that too.

I’m not sure what has happened with that proposal. My understanding is as it was not opposed (or was it? I can’t clearly remember) then His Majesty must have approved it when the outcome of the Dialogue was presented for his ratification. Regardless of the status of this particular case, some edifice need to be created nonetheless. I feel that it will bring the whole of Bahrain together to commemorate our fallen, lest they be forgotten. And worse, the cause that has claimed them repeat itself without us learning from the painful experiences.

May God rest those who have given their lives in the service of their country and its people, and may He place them in the highest echelons of Heaven.

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The Death of Arab Consciousness 

The Death of Arab Consciousness 

So much unnecessary loss of life. At the root of it, one group believes they and only they are right. The others are worthless creatures who should be exterminated. Those people, who I believe fueled war and strife in Syria and elsewhese will not be moved by the horrible images and their conscience one single iota, that is, if their conscience existed in the first place.

In fact, they’ll find a way to justify the exodus, the strife, the desperation, the deaths and not only distance themselves from their inhuman pursuits in their own war mongering, but will celebrate peoples’ desperation and use that to prove – through their own thwarted logic – that they and only they are the chosen ones.

Have we heard one peep from them demanding that the Syrian and Yemeni refugees find temporary shelter in their countries? No. None. The overriding thought in their minds for that eventuality if it ever comes, and I believe that will be highly unlikely, is probably to find a way to filter those whom they will “allow” to enter their hallowed lands and receive their largesse based on purely on confessional beliefs. Humanity and morals be damned.

europeans-helping-refugees
Austrians coming out in droves, unbidden, to help arriving Syrian refugees

On the other hand, we see Europeans coming out unbidden in their droves to help the refugees whom they share no culture, language or religion with. The refugees being human beings is enough for those Europeans to extend any help they can afford, even if it’s simply a kind word or gesture.

Is it any wonder that even in their desperation, the refugees choose European destinations than any country in the Gulf?

Shame on us. This is official the death of our consciousness as a race, culture and people.

And here’s the picture to prove it.

This is the total sum of our efforts for humanity.

This is what we have become.

REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINEATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH OR INJURYA young migrant, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey, September 2, 2015. At least 11 migrants believed to be Syrians drowned as two boats sank after leaving southwest Turkey for the Greek island of Kos, Turkey's Dogan news agency reported on Wednesday. It said a boat carrying 16 Syrian migrants had sunk after leaving the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula, and seven people had died. Four people were rescued and the coastguard was continuing its search for five people still missing. Separately, a boat carrying six Syrians sank after leaving Akyarlar on the same route. Three children and one woman drowned and two people survived after reaching the shore in life jackets. REUTERS/Nilufer Demir/DHAATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TURKEY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN TURKEY. TEMPLATE OUT
A young migrant, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey, September 2, 2015. At least 11 migrants believed to be Syrians drowned as two boats sank after leaving southwest Turkey for the Greek island of Kos, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported on Wednesday. It said a boat carrying 16 Syrian migrants had sunk after leaving the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula, and seven people had died. Four people were rescued and the coastguard was continuing its search for five people still missing. Separately, a boat carrying six Syrians sank after leaving Akyarlar on the same route. Three children and one woman drowned and two people survived after reaching the shore in life jackets. 

May you rest in peace, Aylan Kurdi.

Your death won’t be avenged.

Our conscience, morals and humanity as Arabs have died much before your pure soul briefly existed on this earth.

May you find peace my son.

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Moral Bankruptcy of the Arab World

Moral Bankruptcy of the Arab World

After a recent visit, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, declared: “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.” – BBC

What started as hope for change for the better, hope for a better future, hope for democracy and human rights, soon descended into calculated chaos. None of the countries afflicted by that spark have faired well. None. Heavy handedness in dealing with popular demands, deep mistrust between the ruled and the ruling elite, the view of the demand for change as an existential threat and prioritising myopic tribal or familial aspirations mandated the crushing of that hope.

What’s happened and continues happening in the Middle East will be rich text-book case studies for a plethora of topics. Sociologists and other scientists will have ample fodder for their consideration in the not too distant future. They will most probably look back and reflect on the central issue of how the rejection of dialogue and compromise disintegrated nations and directly contributed to their demise.

Back to the present, I cannot help but feel completely helpless as an individual when I witness various conflicts, civil wars, and an almost complete absence of democracy and human rights in this dystopian Middle East. What irks me more, actually, is the complete disregard of the plight of our fellow human beings affected directly by these situations.

Let’s take just two places where fighting is at its peak; Syria, with over 220,000 fellow human beings killed and over 11 million people displaced; 4 million fled the country and 7.6 million have been internally displaced. Over 12 million including 5.4 million children currently require humanitarian aid. With a population of 22 million, those should be very sobering numbers. [BBC / Wikipedia]

syria-suffering

Yemen has an even scarier tally as far as the displaced is concerned. Out of a population of 26.7 million, 21 million require immediate humanitarian assistance, 20 million are without access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and 12.9 million have an insecure food supply. In a country were 90% of food is imported, the naval and air blockade has devastated human beings, let alone the country. [BBC]

malnourished-yemeni-child

I say all this from a humanitarian perspective, not a military or political one, and I fully realise that both Yemen and Syria – even before the conflicts – were failed states suffering from bad governance, instability, absence of the rule of law, cronyism and widespread poverty. War has amplified those ills by several factors.

Reading up on both the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts, it’s hard to decipher who’s fighting who. The gullible will side with one sectarian faction or another depending on their own confessionalism or political affiliation. The reality of the situations is much more complex. I don’t believe these are simple proxy wars in which regional powers are just duking it out. That’s partly the case to be sure, but you would be remiss if you didn’t factor in the dissatisfaction of the people with the current rule and social injustice. These alone have given the necessary fodder for ISIS, Alqaeda and various other non-state actors who readily promise the creation of a better, more just society where Sharia rules supreme to establish a just society. In theory this is all good, and this is one of the main reasons why these groups receive the sympathy and support they need from a desperate populace to propagate and sustain their rule. However, in practice we’ve seen that it doesn’t work. That cloak of religiosity simply hides and also justifies their avarice, throne grabbing and terrorism they revel in.

How are these conflicts going to be resolved? History has taught us that political differences cannot be resolved through the use of force. In fact, the use of force should be expedient to get those who can influence change to the table; however, here, it seems to be used in vengeance, purely and simply. Decision makers conveniently forget that the only victory they will realise ultimately is a Pyrrhic one.

How these conflicts must be resolved is through dialogue and incremental victories for all sides. War is not and never has been the answer. It just doesn’t work. At best, war distracts governments from the real challenges that if not addressed immediately will ensure that the whole Middle East will not be habitable in just 25 years. Wars will just accelerate that eventuality. The challenges we face include the acute dearth of water, despicably bad education, unemployment, over population, an undiversified income and bad investments, the finite availability of oil, cronyism, and of course political and human rights ills. With these critical shortcomings, why add war into the mix? Isn’t it just another energy depleting factor sidetracking us from what we actually need to take care of? Aren’t the challenges we face not existential enough? Is war really necessary in the first place?

Let me add one more thing to that despicable list. We are morally bankrupt.

How can our countries see all the suffering of the people of Syria and Yemen and not open their doors wide to receive the refugees and the destitute to lessen their suffering, even if temporarily?

Why are our governments appear to be sitting idle while our Arab brothers and sisters put themselves in peril crossing seas and walking vast distances to seek safety, just to be rejected at borders?

Isn’t it our moral obligation to receive them and ease their suffering? Why are we leaving it to European countries to offer them succour and help in the name of human rights and we shun them completely as if they don’t exist? Didn’t we play a role in their destitution in the first place? While the conflicts didn’t just start because of terrorist parasites, they definitely greatly contribute to the conflicts now. Where did those fighters in Iraq, Syria and Yemen come from in the first place? Did they descend from space? No, they were bred and raised in our own countries only to now wreak havoc all over the world. Yes, we need to defeat them. But we also need to accept those who need our help and open our borders to them while we mount operations to crush the terrorists. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Our countries are a mess, but solutions are staring us in the face!

How about starting with respecting human rights and apply fair and universally accepted laws across the board without favouritism? How about introducing real democracy in order for the rights of everyone be protected and establish a more just society in which the individual regardless of affiliation is respected and protected? It can’t be that difficult. All that is required is political will to allow these changes to be adopted over time.

Remember though, we just have 35 or so years to real peril. Now that a timeline has been set in stone, we need to work toward those sustainable goals. Goals of peace and democracy.

We really have to give peace and democracy a chance. For our children’s sake.

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A bit of nostalgia

A bit of nostalgia

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old Bahraini 100 Fils note
Did we have more taste then than we have now?

Life was more colourful then, as this beautifully simple currency shows. It harkens back to a time when things appeared easier. And as far as I can remember, even the weather was a much better! I still remember the smells of those balmy summer nights as we watched the stars in a dark, unpolluted sky as we dozed off to sleep on mats on the roof. Sans air conditioning other than an occasional breeze.

I’m not suggesting that it was all idillic. As in any age, challenges existed, but they didn’t seem that insurmountable. However, I’ll admit as I wasn’t expected to make my own at that time, I wouldn’t be the most reliable judge. Suffice it to say that my dad did work multiple jobs and my mother did her bit of entrepreneurship too to support the family and make ends meet. We got by.

I hope that the picture of the 100 Fils note brought a smile to your face; those of you who not only remember it, but actually used it.

How do you remember that bygone time? Does any particular image or sound come to your mind when you’re pulled back?

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Reflections on the Purpose of Life

Reflections on the Purpose of Life

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Over the last few months a change has descended on me. A restlessness that is not quenched just by going to work, making money and paying the bills. I most certainly came to the realisation a long time ago that I did not want such a life. That was, in fact, the primary reason why I left a secure and well paying career to embark on the much more difficult entrepreneurial journey. I believed that entrepreneurship would allow me the opportunity to gain control of my life and livelihood and open up the new horizons I was anxious to explore on my own terms.

I also know that it’s not an age thing, nor the fact that by May next year I would have fulfilled my self-imposed and welcomed obligation of seeing my children through their university education. My vision was to set them on their path of financial independence, and ultimately financial freedom. Arriving there; however, is completely up to them.

All I’m sure of is that this kind of restlessness isn’t new to me.

I decided not to go on summer holidays this year. I had too much going on and opted to stay and take care of things. A few days before Eid, I paused at a particularly difficult time I was going through and asked myself those question again: “is this it? is this what I got into business for? am I living to work, or working to live?” To be honest, I must confess that I’m most definitely living to work. I wasn’t an owner, I was owned. I refused to surrender to that. I had to get out even if for a few days. I reasoned that the business won’t collapse if I absented myself for a few days, and if it does, then it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place.

My wife did the smart thing and took Ramadhan off to visit her family in Scotland. I decided to surprise her by joining her. I called to ask her to pick me up from Edinburgh airport the next day. Needless to say she was surprised – pleasantly I might add – and that was the start of one of the best holidays I have ever had.

The spontaneity and the return to one of my cherished passions were what made this holiday so special. I took the time to ensure that I get some quality me time. I went jogging every day in beautiful surroundings, greenery all around, clouds in the sky, cool air, drizzle or rain sometimes, courteous people and drivers and the actual availability of continuous pavements! I also indulged in photography which was always my first love, and we both just decided on the spur of the moment to drive to a destination hundreds of miles away!

One of the long drive destinations was Inverness. I’ve always liked it and have fond memories of visiting the home of Nessie while at university in Scotland. I went jogging that morning and fell in love with the city again; its river and the breathtaking scenery it offered, the woods close to the city centre. In the evening we joined the throngs and discovered that Inverness has become the wild party town of the north. Such a happy atmosphere. We loved it.

From there we decided to go to Oban on the west coast. We still can’t remember why or how we thought of Oban and why we decided to visit. Nevertheless; while having dinner on arrival in Oban we noticed a nature walk in the close-by island of Kerrera in the local tourist map brochure and decided on the spot once again to go on that five mile walk the next day. That was one of the best decisions we have made on that trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was after four miles of walking in that beautiful wilderness that we encountered the first humans since leaving the ferry. Needless to say, we could have done the walk a lot faster, but we both decided to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and take some pictures. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you would have come across some them.

Memorial Bench, Kerrera Island, Scotland

To both Frances and I, we will never forget that trip. We really bonded and the walking and disconnecting from the world for a few days allowed us to re-connect and have long conversations without distractions.

All that forced me to reflect on what I require out of life now, at this particular stage in my life.

I realised that in Bahrain, I have been living to work with hardly any space left to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Yes, it was absolutely necessary to ensure that I meet the goals I have set for myself such a long time ago, but now that they are almost met, what next? Do I have to continue to toil at the same level? Or is it time to retire and relax? Although I’ve not yet decided what to do next, I can tell you that retirement isn’t in my consideration just yet. It’s not that kind of itch.

“What’s the ideal situation?” I keep asking myself. Obviously financial freedom continues to be an important goal, but so is actually living. Pragmatically, I’ve got a good thing going now, and its scary to let go. What is required, I feel, is actively pursuing a new way of life; one that prioritises working to live, rather than the opposite. This has become so important to me… and it’s threatening the old way of life. I don’t know where that will take me and I’m not going to allow a sudden shift to derail all the hard work that I have poured myself into. I will; however, find a way to detach myself gradually from the business and allow it to flourish without my constant availability and input. I need some time to think and need to put some plans into action.

New experiences, horizons, treks, open fields and skies are beckoning. I can’t wait for this new journey to continue.

I would really appreciate if you would be kind enough to share your own experiences with me if you went through the same journey. How did you manage the transition? How did you ensure success and sustainability? In hindsight, what would you have done differently?

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It’s been such a long time since I published anything here. I’ve lost interest, but kept the blog up for posterity’s sake. I believe it served a purpose, and still does. It holds inspiration for some, and a healthy archive for others. To me, I can’t just delete it as it’s a part of me and my identity. I still love the sweat, tears and anguish as well as a lot of laughter and best friendships developed through Mahmood’s Den. So it’s going to stay.

It’s clear; however, that due to the politics and the constraints currently experienced, I do consciously edit myself. I didn’t update the blog for so long because of this self-imposed censorship. I hate it. I absolutely detest it and feel like a coward every time I write a sentence only to delete or amend it to what I think would be acceptable. The easiest thing to do is to go with the flow and fawn. That, to me, would be more difficult than jumping off a building.

I do miss writing though. So very much.

Maybe one thing I could do in the interim is to concentrate my efforts on writing about my hobbies and my interests. Less dangerous than venturing an opinion, and certainly more cowardly – in my book – but you’ll forgive me for that I hope. I want to write and want to share and want to inspire and want to be inspired and want to converse and want to make new friendships and want to develop the ones already established and want to use the energies and passions I have to do good.

So here goes.

Photography. Gardening. Filmmaking. Health. Sports. Fantasies. And general opinions about whatever takes my fancy.

What do you think? Worth a go?

I’ll share with you a current passion: I’ve started conceptualising a short film. You know that my job is to make films, so how is this different? Well, for one thing, it’s going to be a narrative film. I’ve never done that before; well, if you would excuse this crude experiment that is, and I feel that I have a nice story.

At this moment in the story’s life, I’m complicating things because of trepidation, lethargy, priorities, laziness, whatever. I tend to get like that sometimes if I don’t want to do something. But I do want to tell this story! So it can’t be any of those things, surely. Maybe it’s just an incubation process? I also tend to do this. Get an idea to percolate for a few minutes to a few months or even years in my mind and when it‘s ready to pop out, it does. All in a flood!

Just like this post 😉

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