Death to Dictatorships!


“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny.
When the government fear the people, there is liberty.”
Thomas Jefferson

Blood Year

A year has passed since the death of a fruit vendor changed dynamics in the Arab world,  awakening it to social injustices and finally fighting back decades of dictatorships.

Dozens of seasons under totalitarian rule would be destroyed by the new Arab Spring, but it would be a long and bloody fight that climaxed only a few weeks ago with Gaddhafi’s beaten and bloody body haunting our TV screens.


SELF-SACRIFICE: Mohamed Boauzizi doused himself in petrol almost a year ago, spiraling the Arab world into revolution. PIC: online

“Freedom! Freedom!” the men shout in the background in Arabic. Thousands of angry men march across streets in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria chanting “ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam” (People bring down the regime!) over and over again. It was finally time for a REVOLUTION!

Flaming torch of hope

In mid-December, Mohamed Bouazizi, only 26 years old from Tunisia, doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire in the market square. He had just been detained by police for selling fruit on the streets of Sidi Bouzid without a permit. They then humiliated and beat him.

His burning body went viral on Facebook, in protest of police corruption and ill treatment by Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife, in power for 23 years and responsible for high unemployment, censored press, rising food prices and corruption. People took to the streets, baguettes in hand, chanting: “Bring him down! Bring her down!” It was very reminiscent of Bastille Day during the French Revolution. Bouazizi died a few weeks later from his burns, spiraling demonstrations by young people all over the country.


RIGHTFUL CAUSE: Bouazizi's death led to demonstrations all over the world fighting for Arab rights. PIC: Online

Wikileaks unleashes fury

The extreme act of self-sacrifice sent shockwaves throughout the Arab world, which culminated with Wikileaks disclosing information on how corrupt the government really was, under the document labelled “Diplomatic Cables.” The ousting of Ben Ali gave hope to millions of other Arabs to gather enough courage to demonstrate and take part in a Coup d’Etat and finally get rid of their own dictators.

The Arab Spring marked the beginning of the end for dictatorships all over North Africa. The governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were overthrown, with all family members fearing for their lives. Only last week, the last surviving son of Gaddhafi (Saif) was captured. All his brothers and most of their children were tortured then killed.

lara logan

VICTIM: Beautiful Lara Logan was an innocent victim in the Arab spring riots in Egypt. She was sexually assaulted and left to die. PIC: Online

Arabs around the world united for a common cause: FREEDOM from fear, oppression and censorship. The protests in Egypt started 25 January 2011 and lasted for weeks. But, they were given proper international attention when South African CBS reporter Lara Logan was sexually harassed while covering the protests. A pretty petite blonde, she describes the event as:

“They were like a pack of hounds hungry for change, possessed by a common cause. I unfortunately got dragged in the crowd, my clothes torn to shreds and my body molested by fingers and sticks. I was convinced I was going to die, until I fell into the arms of a group of Arabic women sitting alongside the crowd. They screamed for the men to get away from me. That’s when they realized they had to get back to their main aim of protesting for freedom.”

Her interview can be viewed on:

Reporters described such behaviour as: “When men lose everything and have nothing left to lose, they lose it!”

Common cause

Arabs were also fighting for their “brothers and sisters” oppressed by other governments, such as Palestine. On 23 September 2011, a bid was sent to United Nations demanding Palestinian independence and statehood. Schools and government offices all over Israel shut down as demonstrations began.


DEADLY STATS: The Arab Spring culminated into months of bloodshed, violence and war. PIC: Online

It is also believed the Occupy Wall Street movement later this year was influenced by the Arab Spring. Millions of strangers were fighting for the end of corporate and elite power and demanding global social justice, placards reading: “Are you ready for a Tahrir movement?”

The crowd, eyes filled with hatred, scream:

“It does not matter whether you are Christian, Muslim or Atheist, you shall demand your G*d-damn rights! We will never be silenced!”

The future of the Arab world will be determined by the main idea: “Live for something or die for nothing!”

Arab Spring caricatures

ANARCHY: Will the Arabic Revolution have enough momentum to stir the rest of the world to social injustices? PIC: Online

Will oppressive governments in the rest of Africa and even the rest of the world, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, North Korea and China, be as easily toppled?  Only if such a new level of consciousness is achieved. Citizens must gather as much force and determination as those who fought hard to free themselves from human rights’ violations. As the Islamic crescent sets on fields of blood and sweat, a new dawn for the rest of the world is on the horizon…

A daunting question is left to be answered: will the world itself ever be able to…

Interesting cartoon by South African cartoonist Jerm:

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Accents Weekly – the first Erasmus Mundus Radio Show


Until last week, the closest I had ever been to a radio production was listening to it. I´m not a big fan of radio but I don’t dislike it either. So, when the opportunity came along to work on a radio show with my fellow students, I signed up for it.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but at least I wasn´t alone: About half of my class joined the radio-group. Some had practical experience. Most didn’t. We opened a Facebook-group for organizational matters and even came up with a witty name: “Accents weekly” – as our very diverse backgrounds would become very obvious once our voices were on air. So far: so good. I forgot all about the project for the next weeks until, suddenly, I was told that I had been appointed to do a piece for the first broadcast – the pieces were due roughly a week from then. That was not what I had planned.

Convenient Freudian slip

My task was the “country-section”, which is done in pairs and is supposed to introduce the listeners to one aspect of any country. I looked up my partner and task. Then, my interest for topics from Latin America created a classical Freudian slip: Instead of reading “Dorothee” (my German fellow student who has just as little radio-experience as I do), I read “Débora”. Débora not only happens to be from Brazil, she also worked in radio for several years… Quite a convenient slip, I must say. I got all excited about doing a piece about the “pacification” of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro with her and never bothered to look at the document again. I had wanted to do something about this story since I was in Rio, in November 2010. Back then, this topic became very prominent, even making international news for a couple of days.

Foggy Rio de Janerio

It´s not always sunny in Rio: Clouds lie over the "cidade maravilhosa". (Photo: Virginia Kirst)

Getting started

Luckily, both Dorothee and Débora bore with my moment of dyslexia. And Débora even agreed to the topic. We wrote the script and Débroa´s experience in radio was very useful: She quickly produced a dynamic, interesting and colorful script, making it easy for me to contribute some information and formulations. She also found many interviews on the Internet that we could use for our show and even conducted one herself via Skype with a renowned University Professor.

Later on, we collected the material and met up to record the feature and edit it. Débora used the free program Audacity for the production. Then, what I dreaded the most about this whole radio-project happened immediately: I had to record my voice and listen to it. It was not very pleasant, but I eventually got over the sound of my own voice and my terribly strong German accent. As Débora put it: “Our accents are what makes us special, unique and interesting.” we used at first try.

Producing the feature

Débora´s proficiency with Audacity became obvious as one quick glance at the confusing wavy lines on the screen told her exactly what had to be cut out and what was fit to stay. The editing-process was very interesting for me. After being given a short introduction and watching Débora cut for some time, I also tried and it wasn´t that difficult after all. Had the software not been in Portuguese, I would have said that it´s basic use was easy. My favorite part of the editing was the inclusion of music: We added Brazilian tunes, mostly from Rio, in order to give some atmosphere to the program.

I love the result and the experience I got from it. I especially enjoy that the radio-group came as a student initiative, independent from the course. I was much more motivated because I did this exercise for myself and not for a mark. It was a great experience to learn from a fellow student that had experience in the field.

You can listen to the feature by clicking here.

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Amandla Ubuntu vs Black Tuesday

Amandla Ubuntu! means “Power to Togetherness!” Ubuntu also stands for interconnectedness, as defined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an important role-player in South Africa’s fight for truth and reconciliation with the key phrase: “I am who I am because of who we all are.” It became an important term during South Africa’s long walk to reconciliation.
Vanessa Smeets examines how ubuntu works today in South Africa…

22 November 2011 will be marked forever as “Black Tuesday” in South Africa. This is the day its government (the ANC) voted in favour of an Information Bill aka Secrecy Bill, a bill which may allow government officials to censor anything before being broadcasted or printed in the future.

black tuesday

END OF THE RAINBOW: Filled with ink, but unable to write freely again...

My Facebook status update was a little overly dramatic, but true:

“Our long walk to freedom starts again… Crippled by our own government. Tata Madiba, they have stolen our eyes and ears under guise of your party. *tears*

One has to recall South Africa’s past to make sense of why this is such an issue in its present and why it holds chained consequences on its future:

“If the people of South Africa elect us to office, we firmly undertake that an ANC government will strive for an open society in which vigorous debate is encouraged through a free press and other media.” Nelson Mandela, 14 February 1994.

The year 1994 marked not only the collapse of the Apartheid regime, but also our first democratic elections, which aimed to bring together eleven very different tribes. The Afrikaner tribe, the minority, had been in power since 1948, aiming to keep the poorer majority submissive by giving them unequal rights, especially in education. They were trained for hard manual labour, instead of skills that would benefit them.

South africa voting

EYE TO EYE: Our first democratic elections meant hours of standing in the hot sun to cast our votes. Millions of people voted for the first time.

For decades, the black majority itself was at war, preventing them from fighting for freedom sooner. Zulu and Xhosa ethnic hatred became increasingly worse through acts of extreme violence like necklacing (pouring petrol into a tyre, placing it around the neck of your enemy and setting it on fire). Such acts were finally given international attention after “the Bang Bang Club,” made up of four white photo-journalists who integrated themselves within black townships, sent their photographs to international news agencies in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

One man held the words and ideas to change such hatred into communication: Nelson Mandela, imprisoned 27 years for treason. He is known for his beautiful speeches:

“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”

Mandela, fondly known as “Tata” meaning father of the nation, became an international icon for peace and solidarity. Whites, blacks, Indians and coloureds stood hours in line on the 27th of April 1994 to cast their votes. That day is commemorated today as Freedom Day. It was no surprise when the ANC (African National Congress), Nelson Mandela’s party, which stood for democratic socialism, liberalism, social democracy and left-wing populism came to power.

censorship anc

JOKE'S ON YOU: ANC's Wikipedia page was hacked yesterday, showing the detrimental effects censorship could have on the press.

In 1995, South Africa won the Rugby World Cup, thanks to Mandela promoting rugby in poorer townships through rugby clinics, which captivated young children by the sport. Rugby was once considered a racist sport of Afrikaners. Black South Africans were known for supporting any team that did not support South Africa.

Today, the values of freedom, equality and solidarity are highly important to South Africans who acknowledge the historical difficulty millions went through to see freedom and ubuntu achieved. Black Tuesday to many will be a day of mourning; where we start to grieve our loss over freedom of speech and expression.

We worked so hard for Heritage Day or Braai Day (Barbeque Day), celebrated on the 24th of September as a day which celebrates our 11 heritages – which have now become one. This day is often celebrated by watching our favourite sports like rugby, cricket or football while standing around a “braai.” Also, the 16th of December, which once celebrated the Afrikaner/ Boer victory over the Zulus, is now called Reconciliation Day, promoting national unity.

heritage south africa

VIVA AFRIKA! Known fondly as the "Rainbow Nation" for being an interesting blend of 11 tribes (excluding minority tribes), South Africa's bright future may now be compromised with censorship laws. PIC: Online

As much as lecturers try to convince me here, globalization does not seem to threaten these holidays or South Africa’s identity, as we are only in the second decade of our democracy. National identity’s importance is constantly reminded by such holidays that aim to keep this ubuntu intact! Viva Afrika! Viva! But will Black Tuesday taint this ubuntu completely? And, will our democracy survive without the full watchdog role of the media?

>> News article on the Info Bill:

>> Nelson Mandela’s full speech:


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What are the rules?

A good friend advised me to identify the rules of the system and play by them. When you’re in a grumpy mood, like me, you don’t see any rules. Everything appears to be arbitrary. Since I’ve been grumpy for days now and playing by my own rules has only caused distress and trouble so far, I decided it’s about time to figure out these rules of the system. So here’s my personal list and how I plan (or at least in very nerdy fashion, will attempt) to play by them.

Globalization, Culture and the Role of the Media (GCRM)

You get a list of literature – read it. Read it thoroughly. Yes, the lecture will only repeat the main points of the text. But if you read it, you’ll have time to read the news with free Wi-Fi during the lecture and may catch up on aspects you’ve missed doing the readings. Also, you might stumble upon something worth remembering for the future.

You get a writing assignment – write it. It’s a portfolio exam and although I’m still not exactly sure what that means, it’s a chance to get some kind of feedback on your written work. Note: British English is preferred. At this point, it’s time to write part 2/3 of the exam, and I guess that means it would be smart to already go through 1/3 to find out what your teacher thought about it. In order not to drown in mainstream, try to find a way to get your own angle on the rigid set of questions.

You have to do a presentation – do it properly. This comes a little late since most of us, including me, already did all their presentations. But we could have done better: Start on time, finish on time, and be creative in between. Remember to keep your calm when that criticism rolls in.

You have to write an academic critique – draw a wild card. I think only the fewest of us knew what an academic critique was in the first place. Or how to do it. And on what. But it also turned out that there was not much paying attention to it either way. Write down a few flaws of the presentation’s content and wrap it with an intro and concluding sentence. Be courteous.

Generally spoken – pull through. The course it almost over, and still I’m failing to see the red thread that was supposed to guide us through the different lectures/presentations/discussions. But it’s only part 2/3 of the exam and there’s a lot of literature I haven’t (yet) read. So maybe the thread will show by the end of 3/3. Moreover: try to ignore moody lecturers as well as you can.

Transformation of the State

Good news: There’s a red thread. It’s called the Transformation of the State and was written by witty Georg Sörensen (the man who gave us a hand out and a lecture). Now that’s inspiring! And the book has many good reviews, too!

Bad news: The teachers can’t really get discussions started. In most likelihood, lectures are boring in most places most of the time. In fact, today I was told that we had a very interesting lecture – I just failed to notice it because it was presented in a rather dull way. There’s not much anyone can do about it, except drinking more coffee and be prepared. Which brings us to the next point:

The literature is good news: much of it actually sounds quite interesting, and I still feel (similar to GCRM), reading is more useful here than listening.

The AULÄ assignments: …are in fact a really good idea (the format not so much). Even if I haven’t read all the literature, writing something about the topic of the next class at least gets your brain attentive to the topic and prepared for some wild future-speculating on a Tuesday morning. And: writing usually comes hand in hand with understanding. Don’t be afraid to have fun – feedback is rare so you’re free (to ignore 80% of the questions they want you to answer)

Presentations: See GCRM. And yes, one of the two positions make sense, the other usually not. We should have played with that more.

The test exam: …is a part of this course that I failed to play by the rules (other than actually handing it in) and I refure to talk about it.

The final exam: 4000 words, one week, make it ‘political science’ and also answer the question. Don’t doubt, just do. I don’t know what the question will be, but I’m sure some of those AULÄ assignment could come in handy here. Remember: Christmas break starts right after.

Generally spoken – breath deep: This course is actually pretty interesting, the order of lectures makes sense and we get to involve ourselves with the topics in one way or the other.

I understand that we all feel differently about our courses, and that’s fine. It’s great, actually. That’s what we’re here for, as Virginia would say. Either way, writing this list (although maybe obvious) felt really good at this point in time. Along with it came the recognition that the Christmas break is coming up very soon!

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Blogger Generation


Shakespeare blog

On the Twelfth Night, he dared blog... PIC: Online

Tonight, half the class embarked on their first Blogging & Tweeting workshop.
Five ideas for new blogs were presented:

  • Campus Puzzle “The missing piece”: where we would discuss campus life, hot gossip and cool places to hang out.
  • Snooze “Sleep in public”: where we would upload pictures of people sleeping in public areas.
  • Smell it and tell it “Blogging where it smells funny”: where we would describe interesting smells (bad or good) and even ones that reminded us of childhood memories.
  • Tipsy: where we would discuss a great night out and various hang overs.
  • Under Construction: where four writers (The Economist/ The Investigator/ The Gossip/ The Blogger) would contribute under four main themes.

Five students already have active blogs:
Emiliano (from Mexico), who blogs regularly for a Spanish magazine:
Claudia (from Germany), who writes about her interesting meetings with paper clips and student-life:
Vanessa (from South Africa), who writes regularly on any topic from Africa to relationships:
Linnea (from Denmark), who writes about her ideals, dreams and days as a journalist:
Thomas. M (from the Netherlands), who writes about how politics can be sexy:

blog life

The world is your oyster? Cyber-world, that is... PIC: Online

How to blog using WordPress:

  1. Write a final draft of your chosen topic on Microsoft Word. Avoid using Enter to separate paragraphs (it creates big page breaks when you copy paste into WordPress). Rather use Shift+Enter to separate paragraphs.
  2. Copy paste your article into WordPress (under New Post).
  3. Add the title of your article. WordPress will automatically create a link online when you press publish. Make sure you are satisfied with the headline as it cannot be changed as a URL.
  4. Place your name above the article’s text, as we are a big group contributing.
  5. Upload pics using the icon below the title. Decide on the size and where you want it placed (left/ middle/ right). NB: Always attribute your photos! Try to use as many of your own as possible.
  6. Make the post interesting by including quotes (using ” icon), or using bold font or different sized headings to divide ideas.
  7. Categorize your blog: Entertainment/ Travel/ Gossip/ Lifestyle/ Journalism/ Photo/ Video/ Food/ Arts etc.
  8. Add tags relevant to your blog, including your name (to find it easily) e.g. Erasmus Mundus/ relationships (these can even repeat the categories).
  9. Include links activated by WordPress (they often link to Wikipedia or Google Maps automatically) or choose some of your own.
  10. Link your blog to other similar blogs, increasing your stats and giving attention to your blog.
  11. Press Preview to see what your blog looks like.
  12. Press Publish if you are satisfied.
  13. Promote your blog on Facebook and Twitter (using # tag for the relevant topic or RT/ Retweeting it to various news agencies who might find it interesting).
  14. Blog regularly and consistently.
blog history

Was there life before Twitter? PIC: Online

Two main formulae for successful blogging:
Stay > Succeed > Seduce.
Proactive + Reactive = Seductive

Be proactive by blogging regularly as your real self.
Be reactive by linking yours to other blogs and replying to comments made on your posts. You have to converse with your readers.

Some tips:

  • Be sure of your niche market.
  • Content has to be varied, useful and interesting.
  • Avoid only writing in first person.
  • Write about topics that add to humanity and community.
  • When uploading pics, use relevant names to title them (under Alternate Text and description) as this will show up in Google Images. E.g. If I use a picture from James Nachtwey, I should write Nachtwey Sudan, so it will show up both in the search for Nachtwey and Sudan.
  • Add clever captions to your blog post. It makes it far more interesting.

Fascinating blogs:

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