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If music be the food of love, play on. There's only a few reasons that justify one's recollection of a line from a Shakespearean play.  Mine comes from the deep rooted connection portrayed between love and music in that statement. For me, love is music. A large portion of my adolescent life was spent listening to and performing music, which is why I connect to it so well. Although I appreciate all forms of music, my favourite genres are Rap/Hip-hop, R&B, and Jazz. 

For a lot of people (mainly the baby boomers and generation X) Rap/Hip-hop is both revolting and offensive. The content, nor the message is appealing to this group and this subjects the genre to stigmas revolving around violence, drugs and prostitution. I understand the concerns of these people and understand how their thought process developed, but to generalize about all of rap that way is not only unfair, but also extremely arrogant. Rap/Hip-Hop came from the slums of Bronx, and grew to become a force to be reckoned with internationally. Its intricate word play over a beat pattern has revolutionized the music industry and continues to affect music genres today. The hostility and the anger that resonates in Rap/Hip-Hop music simply projects the hardships and the struggles faced by its originators. Music is a reflection of life and your surroundings, and for African-Americans to have lived in a land filled with hostility, overcoming challenges of racism and prejudice and still affect the world on a global scale with their art and music is a testament of how powerful and deeply connected the message of Rap/Hip-Hop is with people all around the world.

But all of this isn't what makes Rap/Hip-Hop special to me. The link between me and the music, comes from the passion of poetry. In the words of the legendary Big Daddy Kane "If you can rhyme hat with cat, you can be considered a rapper" and thats exactly what I felt like when I first heard rap and connected my poems with the art itself. 

I never knew I could perform poetry in such a way until I heard Eminem's soundtrack from his movie "8 Mile." "Lose Yourself" became an anthem for me throughout my childhood and gave me inspiration to not only continue to write poetry, but also learn how to use syllables to my advantage to produce bars (lyrics) in a melodious way. I used these lessons and was able to write for spoken word events and even make myself a couple of songs (yeah, I try). 

This brings me to the main part of the post, which is one of my most memorable spoken word performances. In my second year of university  I was invited to perform at the WaTSA (Waterloo Tamil Students Association) "Maveerar Naal." "Maveerar Naal" is the Tamil tradition of Remembrance Day. The event is to mourn the lost soldiers of Tamil Eelam, a "rebel group" fighting for the freedoms of Sri Lankan Tamils from a perceived unfair Singhalese society. Not knowing the group, nor the events at hand, it was imperative for me to connect with the audience to some degree. Partnering up with one of my closest friends Sendu Bhakthakumaran (who is a part of the Tamil community), we joined poetic forces to write a spoken word relaying our thoughts on atrocities and display of inhumanity around the world. In the end, I ended up performing a piece that was titled "B.A.M.N." [By Any Means Necessary]. 

Here it is for your reading pleasure, please comment and subscribe!

B.A.M.N

B.A.M.N , B.A.M.N

By any means necessary

B.A.M.N , B.A.M.N

By any means necessary

Malcolm X’s thoughts became hereditary

To survive you needed it, it was necessary

They made revolutions out there in February 

Cold storms, wind blowing, it got very scary

Dusting the ground with bombs; our beliefs are contrary

Stemming from the need of the word clarity

Importance of courage is not to just stand alone

But to work your voice to promote some clones

Of a fight for freedom that softens its own definition

Soothes the fricative sense to erase aggression

Seek attention? No no, we seek repentance

Crimes against lives of those who leave mid sentence

Thoughts cut off, their dreams snatched away

Refugee camps and they ain’t even packed for days

The fight that we plight to, is it all for gains?

Mediocre lives, changing mediocre lanes

Rich get richer but the poor stay the same

Killing over our differences, is it my blood that’s to be blamed?

If I bleed and you bleed and we bleed a river

Will you see and differentiate whose blood is thicker?

Whose blood is richer? Whose blood is more worthy?

Your aims flying high, but your platform ain’t sturdy

In a court room being judged by sinners

Nobody’s perfect so nobody’s a winner

But inhumanity, is insanity

Agree with that argument and you support vanity

Because nobody recognizes the truth anymore

You aren’t respected if you aren’t in a suit anymore

Kids with potential, but can they be what they plan to be?

War torn, broken hearted, some of them have no feet

Mines put in the earth that we are free to walk in

Holding on to hope as if it were tied to lockets

Holding on to throats, these vultures dying for profits

Holding on to babies, mothers crying for doctors

Holding on to something, or else God will mock us

Turn the other cheek, that what Ghandi taught us

But oppression is blind, carried out by the will of monsters

Take examples by the death in Gaza

Almost a million people displaced with no food or water

Take examples by the deaths in Mullivaikal

40,000 deaths and they got nothing to account for

Lets bring change to rearrange the tides of the future

Where kids don’t have to tread the same side walks as shooters

Where mothers don’t have to put a fight up against looters

Where mother earth herself doesn’t have to bear the burdens of rulers

The older I get... my footprints, larger they seem

Let me die knowing that I have stitched the seams

of love..

So it does not meet greed and that my children will grow

In a society where seeds meet no inferno

Well nurtured given nothing but unconditional,

We'll turn dreams to reality, we determine fictional

Because Hope and dreams have strayed the collective,

Self-inspired gain was brought a new elective

 
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I'm a huge football fan. I don't watch Premier League or Serie A football, nor can I play the sport very well, yet I was able to develop a love for the game through FIFA games for Xbox 360 and Play Station 3. This is not something strange or extraordinary, because people around the world have fallen in love with the sport one way or another. It has a way of drawing crowds and connecting them, regardless of background, ethnicity or faith. And it is because of these qualities that football, or soccer as it is known in the Western world, has become a go to solution when dealing with development issues. 

The European Commission and FIFA created a partnership in 2006,  addressing development issues through football and its positive impact on developing countries. They hope to progress towards the Millennium Development Goals through this effort and educate the youth on development issues. 

Fambul Tok - "Family Talk" in Krio - uses football as an attraction in its program to help pacify relations between communities affected by the civil war in Sierra Leone. 

Kanouté Foundation in Mali, founded by Beijing Guoan forward and former player for the Mali international team Freddie Kanouté, who initiated the project to help orphaned and vulnerable children improve their welfare and education. In his efforts to improve lives and reduce poverty, Kanouté's foundation has founded Sakina Children's Village, a programme which shelters children by providing housing complexes, a health centre and a school. In the middle of the children's village, of course, sits a football field, which apart from being used for football, is also used as operating grounds for volunteer programs, foreign medics, teachers and psychologists to help and educate residents of Sakina and surrounding villages.

The Street Child World Cup campaign is a testament to why the sport is just more than a game. As the only street child organization in the world, the campaign connects NGO's from around the world to raise awareness about the issues that Street Children face, help these children get a voice and push for growth and development opportunities for the children as they are generally denied privileges that every kid should be entitled to. In 2010, the campaign was able to hold its first Street Child World Cup in South Africa, where the FIFA world cup was taking place. India came out on top after beating Tanzania in the final!

The examples mentioned above, are some of many opportunities that organizations have capitalized on to help bring communities together and empower them. With 100 million children living and working in the streets, football has emerged as an effective way to help this demographic. In other scenarios, the power of competition has helped change perceptions and bring together communities that once were at war amongst one another. 

The world of football itself is combating racism as we speak. When thousands flock to see world famous players play on the same ground, amidst the battle on the field, there is a battle amongst races on the bleachers. On many occasions, disrespectful slandering has reached points of forcing players to stop playing football matches and engage in shouting matches against crowds of people. This should not be taken as a discouraging series of events because based on other successful ventures, this provides opportunity for football to tackle another issue that has plagued the world for thousands of years. With initiatives such as Kick it Out and Football Against Racism in Europe the sky is the limit with what football can achieve while tackling racism. If its anything that can help cure us of this disease, its football. With a following of over a billion people, I hope the most beautiful sport in the world becomes a means to an end for a world that is much need of unity and solidarity.

 
Is this the future of money? The idea doesn't seem too far fetched as it employs internet, the number one medium for exchanging information in todays economy, to become the number medium for exchanging value. With low transaction fees and a following of freethinkers that want to revolutionize todays world, Bitcoin has found itself in the right surroundings. We have yet to see implications and repercussion of this type of thinking, as it will bring about many opportunities and opposition.

There is already opposition against Bitcoins simply because it has the potential to strike out big financial institutions that control currency and make money off of charging transaction fees. However there is also the argument that Bitcoins is helping advocate untraceable drug trade as sites over the internet have started openly selling drugs using Bitcoins.

Some of the questions that come to my mind are, how  can development organizations benefit from using Bitcoins? Will virtual currency eventually dominate paper currency? Will people try to monopolize the world of virtual currency as they have with paper currency through banking and government institutions? Is Bitcoin a step towards or a step against approaching a better world?

I would love to get some insight, so please comment with your thoughts below.
 
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Change. Something that the world recognizes it needs this very moment. Some may disagree with that statement, but the disagreement would come from a bunch that are living a life too sheltered.  With billions living below respectable conditions, to say the least, and thousands facing death under the regime of politics and civil unrest, one has to ask, when will change truly come?

For many, the answer was Obama. Not only was he an icon for the Americans, but he was also an inspiration and a ray of hope for many around the world. Not only did he promise to bring change, but he also defined it. The president of the strongest, or at least the most influential, country in the world, was finally looking like a good thing... for everyone. 

But just like George Bush's war on Iraq, Obama's campaign of change was based on artificial manifestos. Where thousands wanted an end to the Afghanistan war, Obama increased war efforts in Afghanistan, increasing money spent on the war and thus increasing America's debt. 

Drone attacks have increased since George Bush left, and one has to think at this point, if the prior president of the United States made a claim to shame, following in his footsteps would surely be a mistake. Not only is Obama surpassing his predecessor in his act, but he completely changed the mantra he had once preached to gain presidency. Transparency and the voice of the people is muffled behind secret prerogatives and war has spread from Afghanistan to Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The presence of special U.S. forces has expanded from 60 to 75 countries, and all this is behind the banner of fighting terrorist organizations that are a threat to the American freedom.  The continuous violence propagated in the name of protecting civilians, has resulted in countless innocent deaths outside the  U.S. border.

But all of this is not the reason for my rant.  My frustration with Obama being perceived as a doer of good has come from his recent visit to Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. With Israel advancing its efforts to set up illegal settlements in Palestinian land, which has been recognized as an independent state by the U.N., Obama continues to act as a mediator that has the best interest of both parties in mind, when this is clearly not the case. In a recent article on CNN, Obama came forth with a bold statement in support of Palestinian rights and freedom. He urged young Israeli's to demand change from their government so that peace between the two countries could be achieved. But then in the same visit, he advised Palestinians to drop the precondition of having the settlements stop completely before any peace talks could begin. He stated, "If the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there is no point for negotiations." 

Why not? If America can use 9/11 as the main reason for its campaign against terrorism and take extreme measures to ensure its safety, then why can't the Palestinians who have been oppressed for 40 years, demand that their land, or what's left of it, be left alone? What is acceptable for one country, is not acceptable for another? Why do we continue to live in a social paradigm that reflects the mistakes of the past? Continuing to appease a group at the expense of another.. sounds familiar? Without outright change and adherence to responsibility, the President of the U.S. will continue to face criticism from me and others who see beyond the facade. Without fulfilling the promise of change, none will come on its own. 

Please feel free to add your thoughts of what Obama is doing right or wrong. I would love to hear both sides. 



 
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As an individual with a very competitive nature, regardless of whether I’m on or off the basketball court, I understand the importance of competition and its role in pushing one to perform in their optimal mode, pushing for excellence in others or simply inspire thoughts that are creative and stray away from the norm. 

The Conquistadors of the 16th century, the industrial revolution, the atomic bomb, the nuclear bomb, democratic elections, almost every business model and even the evolutions of the human intelligence, is based on the need of learning how to master and gain a competitive advantage over other members of the species. 

But what has this mindset gotten us so far? Aside from positive innovation, we have been left with a world that is constantly in conflict, a world in which to trump another is to obtain success in any setting (academia, business etc.) and a world in which scarcity has resulted in nations hoarding resources and creating an unbalanced consumption. These resources, if equally distributed and efficiently used, could help build global sustainability and tend to the three billion in need of basic necessities, nourishing their longstanding stunted development.

At such point, we should realize that competition can have detrimental consequences and at such a point is where the act of collaboration finds its place. Thanks to the Internet, we have been able to see the power of collaborative effort and witnessed a brighter side of humanity, providing new opportunities and empowering individuals to develop communities dedicated towards solving real problems while being anywhere in the world. This is not to say that humanity did not exist before the Internet, but thanks to the influence of cyber-culture, there is certainly a shift in the way boundaries are perceived by today’s generation. Many more people are informed today, leaving little room for discrimination and injustice to go on without being noticed. People are realizing the socioeconomic differences that exist in today’s world and humanity is starting to see the plight of its fellow humans in a picture far clearer than ever before. And the best part about it, people are starting to get bothered. Bothered by the continuous marginalization and exploitation of the third world countries. Bothered by the west’s privileged living made possible at the expense of third world’s cheap labor and bendable governing system. Revolutions are happening with the help of social media and unity, for the first time, extending far beyond the ideals of patriotism and nationalism. 

If there was ever a time that it has become easier to collaborate than ever before, it is now. Hospitals should find ways to contribute to other hospitals rather than compete with each other. Non-profit organizations fighting for the same cause should not fight one another, but group together what each organization has to offer to tackle the issues at hand that are larger than the both of them. The strengths of humans must not be used in relevance to reward, rather they should be used and shared among a common species for equal prosperity.

    Zain

    As an avid listener of instincts and humanity, I strive to do things that put me out of my comfort zone. Cherishing the growth that comes along with this habit and all the beauty that life has to offer, I'd like to share my experiences with you. 

    All posts and opinions expressed are mine and completely independent of the University of Waterloo and the International Development program.

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