Tuesday, December 4, 2007

what will you think of me in 500 years?


"What does Saddam want? By all accounts, he is not interested in money ... Saddam himself isn't a hedonist; he lives a well-regulated, somewhat abstemious existence. He seems far more interested in fame than in money, desiring above all to be admired, remembered, and revered. A nineteen-volume official biography is mandatory reading for Iraqi government officials, and Saddam has also commissioned a six-hour film about his life, called The Long Days, which was edited by Terence Young, best known for directing three James Bond films. Saddam told his official biographer that he isn't interested in what people think of him today, only in what they will think of him in five hundred years. The root of Saddam's bloody, single-minded pursuit of power appears to be simple vanity.

But what extremes of vanity compel a man to jail or execute all who criticize or oppose him? To erect giant statues of himself to adorn the public spaces of his country? To commission romantic portraits, some of them twenty feet high, portraying the nation's Great Uncle as a desert horseman, a wheat-cutting peasant, or a construction worker carrying bags of cement? To have the nation's television, radio, film, and print devoted to celebrating his every word and deed? Can ego alone explain such displays? Might it be the opposite? What colossal insecurity and self-loathing would demand such compensation? "

- Mark Bowden, "Tales of the Tyrant" May 2002 Atlantic Monthly

x ould y

I first started believing the hype about e-democracy when, while talking to a student from Mauritania at Gaston Berger in Senegal, West Africa about blogging, he showed me hundreds of entries of the blog x ould y downloaded onto his computer. He explained that x ould y is a blog about mauritanian news, gossip, rants, and politics.

My friend had an ancient desktop, and no internet access, yet the blog was spread through burnt CDs and USB drives among Mauritanian youth, carrying this renegade news source, at times the only consistent free media about Mauritania. He explained to me that the anonymous blogger was considered a hero to his generation of Mauritanian youth and claimed his presence had significantly contributed to recent democratic movements within the country.

My friend may have exaggerated the impact of x ould y, but its hard not to admire that just the existence of free speech on the internet would carry such an impact onto Mauritanian youth’s political awareness, even when they themselves had limited internet access. Also, since this conversation my friend has began blogging himself and decided to open an internet café in Nouadhibou after college.

At GYAN, I remember our newsletter mentioned october's connect africa summit in Rwanda. This sounds like something to follow up on...

x ould y
Connect Africa Summit