Monday, June 15, 2009

A window into the Arab moment

Other people are better informed than I am, and have more arabic, and knowledge of the Middle East. I am writing this, then, as a window, having gone looking for what could be found in Second Life. It would be unwise, I think, to draw any conclusions from what I write that are more general, because SL is a very narrow audience, and selected.

But a few words about Arabic speaking people in Second Life. Many come from societies that make it very difficult to get pornography, or to even meet other people of the opposite sex away from layers of supervision. So many come to Second Life for fast cybersex (guys) and many, both young men and women, come to Second Life just be be with other young people of mixed genders. Playing dice is a favorite pass time, though not for money. They use voice much more than Americans do. The times I have watched or participated, there has been a general happy go lucky air to them. The boys are very marriage directed, the girls flirt a great deal, basking in the attention.

They don't represent a cross section of their world, overwhelmingly they come from internet based jobs, or from relatively wealthy families. So what you find out about anything is very much a window into a particular pair of segments. One is all new, forward, future, and very interested in everything in the West. They also tend to be ummmm, sex scrounges. The other is very directed inward, arabic using, not English using, conservative in morals. A good way of thinking of it is that for the first group, being from America makes them very interested in you, and "wanna have fun?" is a prelude to cybersex, while for the second "wanna have fun?" means talk and play dice, but they are looking for a nice arab girl.

This being said, the Iranian election has not rippled through the consciousness of the second group. The topics of the day are the same as every day. Meeting people, laughing, playing dice, the weather, the food, their own dreams. Iran, is not in their world. One young man even laughed about it. 

I am drawing no conclusions, this is not news, in a day when events are moving very swiftly in Iran, and Americans recognize a revolutionary moment, a discontent of the young, a search for change, it should be remembered that not all of the Islamic world, which is different from the Arabic world, looks at these things in the same way. For them today is not a symbol of coming change, or much of anything, but another day to flirt and play dice. The Iranian Election is something else, somewhere else. If anything there is a sort of attitude that Iran is a rival, and that the failure of Iran's Democracy weakens a rival. The Shi'a Sunni split, the Arabic Persian split, reveal a fault that runs deep. "Maybe they cause less trouble." 

For the young internet crowd, many come from Egypt, and getting msn to cam is a bigger priority than talking about Iran. After that came the Egypt-Brazil football match. 

This is a moment for Iran, and for young Americans, in that I think we see our own discontent in that which is going on in Iran. But it is not this way for everyone everywhere.


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