The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, nor any other governmental or non-governmental organization.

Nor is anything written here necessarily drawn from my own views, opinions, and observations. Please consider all postings and pictures complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality. For legal purposes, please additionally regard the author as utterly imaginary.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A spelling bee & freedom of speech

It took only 10 months in Morocco but we finally pulled off an event. A spelling bee. It was a local competition and we'll send on the winners to the next level. It went off without a hitch and actually was pretty fun.

I expected either 150 kids to show up, or zero. It ended up being somewhere in-between (but definitely closer to the zero mark). This may have had something to do with the weather. The day started off abnormally with a violent sandstorm. Then the sand turned into rain. I think we probably lost a number of potential kids because of this. At least, I'll tell myself that. 30 total, 15 little kids, 15 big. The little kids alone were from 8 different schools, which is a great sign to us that we're reaching a wider group in the town than we could have hoped for months ago.  Some pictures are below:

The little kid competition
The boss. Great guy

On another matter entirely: Free Speech

We have started to make things a bit more interesting with some of the classes. We haven't started training a guerrilla militia just yet but things are getting a bit edgy- we've done two classes focused on free speech. One of them was based off a report from Voice Of America, which releases a number of potential ESL classes that are culturally significant. The second was a debate between absolute free speech, and restricting free speech when it is hurtful to others.

The arguments were not particularly well-articulated. But that's okay. However, one salient idea came through in both classes. Moroccans have a very different conception of personal freedom. At least, our students do. Perhaps our student Mohamed (one of many Mohameds), put it best when he said: my freedom ends where yours begins.

He's quoting somebody but I forget who. Regardless, this is not a new idea. But whether or not you concur has significant ramifications for how you view free speech. And all of our students agree with this statement.

When a Dutch cartoonist drew a comic of Mohamed with a bomb inside his turban people across the Muslim world were understandably upset. But they weren't just upset. They were really, really fucking angry. And a number of people died in violent street protests around the world. From the American perspective, this was a gross over-reaction. A similar thing happened when an idiot in Florida burned a Koran, and another idiot in California made a movie about the prophet Mohamed. Why were Muslims so mad?

Let me be clear, our students think freedom of speech is a great thing, they're all for it. But when we point out these examples they say, oh, well, of course not, you can't insult somebody's religion. You can't hurt somebody else, you can't do that. That's not freedom of speech, that's just mean.

Individual freedom means something different here. Freedom of speech is naturally restricted. Unfortunately, it's a little different where we come from. When the two worlds meet, there can be trouble. I told one class that you can't go on the internet as an American without seeing something disparaging of some religion or other. We think personal expression is so important we're willing to let a 'church' go around protesting funerals with signs that say "god hates fags". That same group even protested the childrens' shooting victims' funerals. Which brings me to the other side- ours.

Our student said that his freedom ends where mine begins. I do not agree with him totally. But there is something to what he says. Think about the 'freedom to bear arms'.

Where does one person's 'freedom to bear arms' end and another person's freedom to life begin? It seems obvious that they are competing freedoms. So perhaps we need to take another look, as Americans, at this perspective.

Rambling post.

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The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Nor is anything written here necessarily my own views, opinions, or observations. Please consider all pictures and texts here to be complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality, this one or any other. For legal purposes, please additionally consider the author to be utterly imaginary.