Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 10th, 2017

Remembering Hans Rosling

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February 7, 2017

Is the world getting worse every day in every way, as some news media would have you believe? No.

In fact, the most reliable data shows that in meaningful ways — such as child mortality rate, literacy rate, human lifespan — the world is actually, slowly and measurably, getting better.

Hans Rosling dedicated the latter part of his distinguished career to making sure the world knew that.

And in his 10 TED Talks — the most TED Talks by a single person ever posted — he hammered the point home again and again. As he told us once: “You see, it is very easy to be an evidence-based professor lecturing about global theory, because many people get stuck in wrong ideas.”

Using custom software (or sometimes, just using a few rocks), he and his team ingested data from sources like the World Bank (fun story: their data was once locked away until Hans’ efforts helped open it to the world) and turned it into bright, compelling movable graphs that showed the complex story of global progress over time, while tweaking everyone’s expectations and challenging us to think and to learn.

Photo: Asa Mathat

Bounding up on stage with the energy of 1,000 suns and his special extra-long pointer, Swedish professor Hans Rosling became a data rock star, dedicated to giving his audience a truer picture of the world. Photo: Asa Mathat

We’re devastated to announce that Hans passed away this morning, surrounded by family.

As his children announced on their shared website, Gapminder: “Across the world, millions of people use our tools and share our vision of a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand.

We know that many will be saddened by this message. Hans is no longer alive, but he will always be with us and his dream of a fact-based worldview, we will never let die!”

Global Issues

Watch Hans Rosling’s shortest TEDTalk ever

on May 22, 2012


Working for free (but working for yourself)

Freelancers, writers, designers, photographers–there’s always an opportunity to work for free.

There are countless websites and causes and clients that will happily take your work in exchange for exposure.

And in some settings, this makes perfect sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about, or, more likely, honing your craft at the same time that you get credibility and attention for your work.

But just because you’re working for free doesn’t mean you should give away all your upsides.

Consider the major publishing platforms that are happy to host your work, but you need to sign away your copyright.

Or get no credit.

Or give the publisher the right to change your work in any way they see fit, or to use your image (in perpetuity) and your reputation for commercial gain without your oversight or participation…

Now, more than ever, you have the power to say “no” to that.

Because they can’t publish you better than you can publish yourself.

It doesn’t matter if these are their standard clauses.

They might be standard for them, but they don’t have to be standard for you and for your career.

Here’s the thing: you’re going to be doing this for a long time.

The clients you get in the future will be the direct result of the clients you take today. The legacy of your work down the road will be related to the quality of the work you do today.

It’s your destiny and you should own it.

Freelancers of all kinds need to be in a hurry. Not a hurry to give in to one-sided deals and lousy clients.

Instead, we need to be in a hurry to share our bravest work, in a hurry to lean into the opportunity, in a hurry to make work that people would miss if it were gone.

Fled from Reqqa of Daesh?

After fleeing from Daesh-controlled Raqqa, several groups of Syrians speak about the ways in which Daesh distorts the minds of children living under its control and restricts civilians’ access to the outside world. (Daesh is bribing to get in fresh refugee kids)

In late October, the Global Coalition managed to speak to 6 men and 6 women who had just escaped to Turkey. This was an opportunity to gain important information about the way the civilian population is treated in the city, but also to hear the inhabitants’ hopes.

Having lived through the atrocities of living under Daesh, these civilians yearn for a better future for Raqqa. Above all else, these men and women expressed their desire for justice, freedom of information and a normal education for their children.

The thirst for good governance

Raqqa was taken by Daesh in January 2014. Despite almost three years of the terrorists’ brutal version of Sharia law, the civilians who managed to flee the area are already reflecting on what is necessary to bring their city back to its feet.

This begins with the liberation of the city. “Whoever comes to liberate Raqqa needs to respect all of its population, Sunnis and Kurds,” said Hashem, a young Raqqawi who recently fled the area.

The people of Raqqa are particularly eager to discuss what should come after liberation itself. “The people should rule the city, rulers should be elected by the people,” said Ali, another man from the area. (Don’t  you think that the current inhabitants of Raqqa will elect Daesh representatives if fair election is held?)

The inhabitants also have clear ideas of what they need. “We already have water and agriculture,” said Umm Hasan, a mother from Raqqa. “What we need now are schools and hospitals with qualified physicians.” she added.

What is also clear is that the people of Raqqa will need a lot of outside help to bring things back to normal. “We will need help to restore the city’s services,” said Hashem. “The Red Crescent could help with restoring medical services and international organisations can assist with rebuilding schools.” Umm Hasan added that the city would need a lot of competent people to return: qualified cadres, business people, medical staff and teachers.

The importance of free, reliable media

Three years of Daesh rule have severely curtailed access to reliable information from outside the city. Daesh’s Bayan Radio is more or less the only source of information and merely broadcasts the organisation’s propaganda.

As Ali commented, internet is very closely controlled: “When you go to an internet cafe, you are constantly monitored. The hibsa [The Daesh morality police] checks what you are doing and reports you if you browse anything you are not supposed to read under their law.”

Daesh also applies double standards. Umm Hasan’s husband was caught in possession of a TV and was condemned to pay 50,000 SYP (around $100) and to receive 32 lashes. “They say it’s illegal, but we know the members of Daesh have TVs in their homes,” Umm Hasan commented. (It is all about generating more money, under any excuse)

But the people of Raqqa say the media will be crucial to change public opinion after the liberation of their city. “People need free access to Social Media and the press,” said Hashem. “We need the media to help with reconciliation and the people who used to report the news on the ground during the war are the best placed to do that,” he added.

Help the children have a normal childhood

As in all conflicts, children are the most vulnerable. “Our children have seen bombings. They’ve had to listen to the adults talking about punishment, about beheadings and have been forced to watch public executions,” said Maha, another mother from Raqqa.

“They imitate the adults by carrying toy-weapons and by shouting things like “I will slaughter you!” when they play together,” she added.

According to the people of Raqqa, education is what will help their children forget the brainwashing they had endure in Daesh’s schools – and also the horrors of war.

“Our children need to be taught useful subjects again, like maths, physics and foreign languages like English and French,” said Maha. “But they also need parks and to enjoy their childhoods by playing together and spending time in nature,” she added. All agree that children will need time to feel normal again and to feel safe and secure.

The desire to move on and rebuild their city is indeed the central theme for the people who have fled Raqqa or any other region affected by Daesh’s brutal rule. These accounts show that even after three years of horror, the civilian population still retains the capacity to imagine a better future for their children and themselves –  and to think creatively about the necessary steps to achieve it.

Rebuilding Syria and the parts of Iraq which suffered under Daesh’s control will require listening to these voices.

Main image credit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images




February 2017

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