Justice and the Arab Spring: A Guide to the Arab Street

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Students began signing on to Pioneer Academics’ Pioneer Open Dialogue Series (PODS) landing page a half-hour early, not to get a good seat, for no one had to leave their home to attend; but to make sure the technology was working.  “Microphone?” “Check!”  “Camera?” Check!” “You’re good to go,” from Pioneer Academics Program Director Matthew Jaskol meant you were registered, signed in and ready to participate in Pioneer Academic’s first Pioneer Open Discussion Series event of 2017: Justice and the Arab Spring: A Guide to Arab Street with Princeton University Professor Lawrence Rosen, PhD.

Pioneer Open Dialogue Series (PODS)

When 9:00 a.m. EDT arrived, 35 students from US, India, Canada, Qatar, South Africa, Turkey, Taiwan, and China were online and excited to join Dr. Rosen in a discussion of cultural components of the Arab Spring through the eyes of people on the street in the Middle East. 

First, the students met two men politely trying to determine who was responsible for a bird escaping from a shopkeeper’s cage.  Who’s responsible for the loss? The shopper or the shopkeeper?  In Arab culture, it’s the first sentient being involved who is responsible. In this case, the bird! It is man’s responsibility to use his reason to understand this, and to enhance his relationships with others. So the shopper and the shopkeeper agree they both are responsible, and parted friends, i.e., indebted to each other.

Next Dr. Rosen introduced the students to Hussein from Morocco, who inquires of Dr. Rosen whether there is corruption in America. “Yes,” responds Dr. Rosen, as he cites several examples.

“Bribing a politician,” posits Dr. Rosen? “No, that’s just politics,” says Hussein.” “Kickbacks,” says Dr. Rosen. “No, that’s just business,” says Hussein. Then Dr. Rosen cites nepotism; and Hussein says that’s just family solidarity, and concludes, “That’s why America is a great country, because there is no corruption there!”

Lastly the students met Ibanik, also from Morocco, who tells us about an individual whom he knows not, based on pictures he is shown of that person in social settings. He talks about the person without regard for chronology, as if the person’s past is his present.

Each of these examples, Dr. Rosen explains, are manifestations of Arab culture, in which reason and relationships are paramount, and which seem unintelligible to many Westerners.  By understanding these men on the street, Dr. Rosen went on, one can better understand the Arab Spring and what it meant to the countries of North Africa and the Middle East.

Dr. Rosen responded to student questions submitted in advance (so he could prepare better answers) and to some rising spontaneously during his talk.

Dr. Lawrence Rosen, Ph.D., is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. He is both a distinguished anthropologist and accomplished attorney at law.

Student reactions to the Pioneer Open Dialogue Series were enthusiastic, even though for some it was late night; while for others, early morning.  “It was a great presentation and it really invoked a lot of thoughts for me,” said one student. “The session was enlightening, and has helped me understand the situation of the Arab Spring from a different point of view,” explained another.

Pioneer Open Dialogue Series is free to persons of all ages and ethnicities from around the world. All that is required is a computer with a camera and microphone. “It’s Pioneer’s way of providing additional educational opportunities to a much wider audience than the Pioneer Research Program provides,” Pioneer Academics Program Director Matthew Jaskol states. “It’s a way of sharing great ideas,” Jaskol explained, “without regard for anything but the joy of learning.”

The next Pioneer Open Dialogue Series discussion is planned for Summer 2017.

Pioneer Academics provides 100% online educational opportunities for academically outstanding high school students around the world through it’s innovative Pioneer Research Program. Learn more at www.pioneeracademics.com.