Posts

Showing posts with the label public space

In-built democracy in the Middle East

Image
Writing about the Middle East uprisings is intimidating as words barely do justice to the phenomenal spirit that has captured people in this region and beyond. How can one not be awestruck and humbled by these moments in time? If it were a movie, it would win the Oscars undoubtedly. It guarantees a lump in your throat each time it gains media limelight. We live vicariously through these times, getting a taste of what it’s like to be passionate for an ideal. Our palette is being honed for more exotic flavors of democracy. This media coverage has become our new high.

Frontpage coverage gives frontline feelings; it’s a battle and we, the reader, march along. To sustain this momentum, questions surface: are the people in the Middle East fighting for democracy or are they fighting against authoritarianism? Will this region create their own style of democracy, much like the Chinese, who have managed to defy the conventional coupling of capitalism and Western style democracy? And besides, a…

The Dutch government WANTS YOU to party!

Image
The residential street of Gashouderstraat seems like any other in the Netherlands. There is a play space at the corner; houses have large windows and cycles lean precariously against anything resembling a post. A few potted plants scatter the footpath. And then it starts to unravel. A herb garden emerges on the sidewalk and we are told that we can access sage to thyme for our evening meals. This community garden effort has government backing. Nothing transforms a space as public gardening – an innovative strategy to create ownership of public property. Although seemingly an oxymoron, the idea of keeping things “public” requires certain privatization or belief in appropriating spaces as ones own. It’s been working across cultures, especially as a means of urban renewal in areas from the Bronx in New York to out here. After all, a sense of ownership comes with responsibility. You live a little longer here and the stories start to emerge of how a boy of 11 collected signatures from this …