Banana Republic

Yazan Halwani - The Banana Republic

A politician, obviously by definition, is a person who is involved in politics. Looking back at history, anyone would notice the change in the morals that come with politics because back then politicians actually had an agenda of bettering a certain sector or country, disregarding any personal benefit. However, recently a politician is anyone who practices politics only for personal gain in life or society, examples: To achieve more money, to become or to have a higher power, to be influential upon a large quantity of people or assets and the list goes on. We, as the people who are witnessing this dramatic change, have tried to open each other’s eyes to the reality behind these “political movements” and what their real agenda is. People like Yazan Halwani are doing exactly that. Yazan, who is just 20 years old, is a graffiti God to anyone who knows his art. Ever since a young age, approximately 16 years old, Yazan developed the skill of calligraphy, which was taught to him by his uncle.

“Joumhouriyat Al Mouz” is Yazan’s most famous and controversial graffiti piece that can be found in the heart of Beirut, Lebanon. If I were to describe this piece it would go something like this: A monkey wearing a suit and tie surrounded by Arabic calligraphy language. Now, it’s not the monkey in the suit that catches your eye, but it is the sentences that are intensified, drawn and highlighted to stand out. One of those sentences is the piece’s title which when translated means “Banana Republic” (Most people would associate that title with the clothing line. However, it has a completely different meaning) and the other is a quote. The Arabic calligraphy language surrounding the monkey is a clear indicator that Yazan is focusing on the Arab culture. Moving on to the quote, which was from the golden age of Lebanon, belongs to a famous writer named Jibran Khalil Jibran who said, “If Lebanon wasn’t my country, I would choose Lebanon to be my country.” Now the interesting part is that Yazan did not quote him exactly, his version goes like this, “If Lebanon wasn’t my country, I would choose Canada to be my country.” After studying this artwork, the only question that lingered in my head was “Why?”

Now in my opinion, these are the answers to my question: The monkey, often associated as a primitive animal, is a symbol, let’s say, for any politician around the world, but mostly in Lebanon, who has the intellectual capacity of zero when it comes to politics. Hence why the monkey is formally dressed and perceived as a “politician”. What Yazan is trying to show his fans is that authors like Jibran, along with the majority of the Lebanese people, love their country but dislike “the monkeys in the suits.” Because at the end of the day, monkeys in their simplest forms are wild animals that don’t have a sense of laws or rules; only a sense of personal gain and survival. That is something that is commonly found between both the monkeys and the politicians.

To end this observation, I think that Yazan is a part of an important movement. A movement that is willing to go above and beyond in order for their voices to be heard or in his case: to be seen. Before my research about this, I had no clue about the background of this graffiti piece although I probably walked past it a thousand times. This leads me to the fact that we, as humans, are curious creatures. However, we tend to get too comfortable in where we are to feed our inner curiosity. Therefore, it is important to ask “Why?” to certain things in order to open not only our eyes but also our perception of what things really mean and how influential they are.

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“Bait”

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Bait is an Arabic word which means home or house. Many people over the years have adapted to some specific sayings, which might be a little bit cliché and over used but are actually true. Examples of those saying are: “Home is where the heart is.” or “When I’m with you, it feel like home.” A lot of people, like myself, have always rolled their eyes when a fellow acquaintance proudly announces them. However, I never really understood their meaning up until a while ago. Bait or home (I prefer ‘home’ because it has more of a sentimental meaning to it than ‘house’) is a place where you most feel at ease or comfortable. It’s a place where whenever you are outside and you feel tired or upset, you subconsciously think to yourself “I want to go home.” To some of those people home is either the tangible aspect, which is the concrete block, the nostalgic aspect, which is the memories that they’ve built and shared, or the sentimental aspect, which is where their family and friends are. Everyone, in one way or another, has gone through either one or all of those aspects during a challenging period of their life. So my advise to anyone who is finding trouble with their bait is to make it your home for now; make memories, get accustomed to the building, and stay in touch with your family members. In the end, you will be surprised at how many “homes” a person can have.

The Psychological Effects of Social Media

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If we take a trip down memory lane, we would definitely notice that social media has gained quite a vast amount of power. It has the ability to shape every human being on earth, from our grandparents to our grandchildren. Back when technology was still gaining its popularity, social media outlets weren’t yet created and if they were, were found as something unusual. I mean if you would go back in time and tell any person in the 1700s to take a “selfie” and post it on Instagram for the sole purpose of everyone to see it, they would probably laugh at such a thought. However, social media outlets have gained popularity and went from being a luxury to a part of our lives. There are arguments that are trying to debunk myths about how social media affects us on a daily basis but the truth is, social media, whether we like it our not, is found all around us, our children, parents and friends. Hence why it is called the 21st century of technology. So while some people believe that social media has many benefits, there are others who believe that the bad outweighs the good. Therefore, it is highly recommended that we understand the psychological effect of social media, to explore how social media affects us on a daily basis and which type of users are most affected.

Changes in technology have brought a major change in the way we go about our days. An example: children used to go to malls, school and each other’s houses to visit one another. But nowadays, they can simply “catch up” by a click of a button via Skype or any other outlet. But who is to say that this affects them badly? If you think of it, it actually just facilitates life. Other benefits are: 1) A growing number of children are documenting personal experiences, and expressing their ideas and opinions on social media websites such as Facebook (Storm, p. 50). And Paris Storm added that: “Having someone pay attention to your opinions and give honest feedback can support growth.” This means that children no longer need to suppress their feelings and can find somewhat of a comfortable place behind their screen. 2) The Millennials Report Blogs (Storm, p. 50.) At this website, students are given the freedom to discuss frequently changed topics. “The users are expected to read and provide background information about the topics before expressing their views on the blog.” (Paris Storm, p. 51) This just goes to show that some social media outlets such as this blog can be used as a tool to benefit and progress a child’s ability to research and discuss topics in a safe environment.

Unfortunately to every good there must be a bad. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the bad outweighs the good and this is because it is easy to find fault in anything that is new and not yet fully understood. However, the reasons to why some people believe social media affects us negatively are: 1) Public display of unhealthy behaviours (Fernandez, p. 31). Lewis Fernandez and his colleagues have analyzed the top 100 self-injury YouTube videos during their research on this issue. And the results showed that these videos have been viewed more than two million times combined recently. With the popularity of gadgets, comes the freedom of children to search and look up anything on the Internet, so when children see videos such as these ones (and as frequent) they might in the near future attempt to copy it. This does not only affects the person’s psychological train of thought but also their well-being. 2) Selling drugs over Instagram (BBC, p. 1). Many journalists have uncovered pictures and videos on instagram that displayed drug-dealers advertising their sale. “[…] A picture showed a variety of pills, adding: “$2 a pop for xans, $10 a pop for roxys.”” (Refer to image below). Says a journalist in an interview with the BBC. Xanax is a psychoactive anxiety treatment and Roxicodone is used as a relief for pain. Clearly this shows that something as simple as Instagram can be used as a gateway to bad influence.

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Adults are obviously more aware of the amount of time they spend using these social media outlets and whether or not what they are displaying is inappropriate to other viewers or not. However, children may not have that privilege, to them it’s a game of “Simon says” but in this case it’s “Instagram/Facebook/Twitter says.” Which means whatever they see, hear, and do is acceptable. Though, this is not only limited to age but also to gender. According to a study done by Andrew Schwartz and his colleagues, their complete dataset was consisting of approximately 19 million Facebook status updates that were written by 136,000 participants. The participants generously agreed to share their status updates as a part of the “My personality test” that the researchers were conducting. The results showed that there was indeed a difference in the types of vocabulary used among the genders and they concluded the existence of the language of age and language of personality. Which means that people of different ages, genders, and backgrounds responded differently to their Facebook statuses. Females used more affectionate words like “my love, I like, shopping, baby etc…” while males used words like “fight, battle, himself, football etc…” Again this draws our attention back to how an outlet like Facebook affects each and every individual differently. Some in a positive way and some in a negative way depending on what can attract them as consumers.

At the end of the day, we are responsible to what we let affect us and in whichever way (good or bad). In the case of children and upcoming generations, we need to monitor their daily social media intake and limit their usage to websites that will only help progress their state of mind. Also, many social media outlets have been aware of these negative impacts and have implemented options such as “report abuse, block, delete, spam etc…” to help the viewers enjoy their websites in a safer environment. Therefore, I suggest to anyone who thinks anything on the internet is harmful to report it, to limit the amount spent on such websites and most importantly, not to be the person spreading such things around because he/she will not only be affecting themselves but innocent people around them as well.

 

 

 

Work Cited

 

Lau, Annie Y. S., et al. “Social Media In Health — What Are The Safety Concerns For Health Consumers?.”Health Information Management Journal 41.2 (2012): 30-35. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.

 

Unknown reporter. “Instagram blocks some drugs advert tags after BBC probe.” BBC News. 7 november (2013). 15 march 2014.

 

Schwartz, H. Andrew, et al. “Personality, Gender, And Age In The Language Of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach.” Plos ONE 8.9 (2013): 1-16. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.

 

STROM, PARIS, and ROBERT STROM. “Growing Up With Social Networks And Online Communities.”Education Digest 78.1 (2012): 48-51. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.