Think encourages individuals to think

Think is a volunteer-led charity that makes engaging videos on history, science, and art. The charity is founded by Bonya Ahmed and Imtiaz Shams- human rights defenders who have been an integral part of annual HPP events over the past few years.

Think videos are made in several languages, including Bangla. The reason for creating multilingual content is to spread information and educate the audience in their native languages. The team members of Think include several Bangladeshi activists and professionals, residing both inside and outside the country, therefore creating a great example of the contribution made by diaspora writers and/or activists towards their countries of origin. Think Bangla is the first of its kind, with such content in Bengali being few and far between. It is a promising project that will motivate its audience to think critically, and aims at nurturing their curiosity and removing the linguistic barriers. 

Until now, Think has made some engaging videos on diverse issues such as ‘the history of high heels’, and ‘how ancient DNA is rewriting India’s history’ etc. Think has also made an informative video on the ongoing Covid-19 crisis:

About the founders:

Rafida Bonya Ahmed is a published author and moderator at the Mukto-mona blog; the first online platform for Bengali speaking freethinkers. Survivor of a deadly terrorist attack herself in 2015, she is advocating for raising awareness on fundamentalism and the protection of secular writers and activists. She received the Freedom From Religion Foundation Forward Award in 2016, and is currently a visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. Rafida worked in the IT industry for twenty years before she decided to be a full-time writer and activist. She was a Senior Director of New Product Innovation at Equifax, USA until 2015. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Science from Minnesota State University, Mankato, USA.

Imtiaz is a tech entrepreneur and human rights activist who has used his experience to help apostates who suffer when they leave conservative religions. In 2012, he began creating ‘underground railroad’ networks for former Muslims around the world. In 2015, he set-up Faith to Faithless, an organization working to reduce the stigma faced by ‘apostates’ of all religions. He has featured on the BBC, Vice, the Guardian, and the Times.

Links: 

We stand together against #COVID19

When we talk about Nicaragua we often talk about its totalitarian regime, of course we also mention its natural beauties and the warmth of its people. But this time, we are here to highlight their solidarity in the middle of harsh circumstances. To commemorate two years after the April 2018 civil uprising against their government, the Nica group came up with the idea of throwing up a virtual concert to raise donations for Nicaraguans battling the #COVID19 crisis in high-risk situations.

Together we created resources that will impact the daily circumstances of many Nicaraguans under vulnerability. We want to congratulate us but most importantly we must congratulate you, yes, you! We did this together. With your help, your time, your donations, and your solidarity we will be able to put together a large amount of #CoronaCareKit that will be sent to Orphanages, nursing homes, and community clinics in Nicaragua. We are also sending half of the kits to Nicaraguan people in exile, seeking asylum in Costa Rica, Panama, and The Netherlands.

Your collaboration confirms that in the midst of a crisis we are not alone. The elderly, the orphans, the refugees that left the country because of political persecution are not alone. We are in this together, we can count on each other. More specifically your help is going to be used on #CoronaCareKit that are equipped with: 

  • Face masks
  • Disposable gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dry goods such as rice and beans.
  • Analgesic and fever reducer medicines.

The total amount of kits will be distributed as follows:

  • 50% to Orphanages, nursing homes and community clinics in Nicaragua.
  • 25% asylum seekers and refugees in Costa Rica.
  • 15% asylum seekers and refugees in Panama.
  • 10% asylum seekers and refugees in The Netherlands.

You’ve done an amazing job, together we’ve managed to raise € 1,287.68 euros from donors in France, United States, Nicaragua, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Sweeden, Panama, Spain, and of course The Netherlands. Please spread the word as we are still open for donations. Together we are making a difference!

To read more about who we are and about our #CoronaCareKit please visit our profile page. And please feel free to contact us if you have any specific questions or if you want to volunteer for our cause, we would love to have you on board.

Hasta pronto!

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Interview with Peter Both – Project-leader New Metropolis Nieuw-West

For more than two years now The Hague Peace Projects has been working with New Metropolis Nieuw-West on the program Toerkoes in Nieuw-West. Project-leader Peter Both is the driving force behind that relationship. Who is Peter? What is he doing at New Metropolis? And what more can we expect from him in the coming period? A quick interview.

Peter Both

What is your function at New Metropolis Nieuw-West?

I am the project-leader at New Metropolis Nieuw-West, which is part of the debate center Pakhuis de Zwijger where I used to work as a program-maker. Every day is different, but in general I’m responsible for all of the programs and their orderly execution. So, depending on what our partners need, I help with the programming, communication and production. An all-rounder, so to say.

That’s a ‘bit difficult’ now, with the outbreak of the Corona-virus, isn’t it?

Yes! We had to cancel all of our events, but we’re adjusting to this step by step. One way is to go online with LIVECAST. We’ve already done that with the program ‘Stories from Nieuw-West’ which is normally performed at New Metropolis Nieuw-West. Soon, LIVECAST will be performed at New Metropolis Nieuw-West itself.

Why was New Metropolis founded?

At Pakhuis de Zwijger we are interested in everything that has to do with the dynamic city that we live in, Amsterdam. Creative people, culture, city-development and much more. When we focus on Nieuw-West, one can say it’s changing really fast. It’s growing and developing into a place with many newcomers. All of these things don’t just happen. It leads to a lot of questions within the communities who have lived here for many years, and it felt wrong to always have those discussions in the city-center at Pakhuis de Zwijger. These should really take place nearby the people who undergo those changes. Another thing: if you look at cultural life here, you only have one theatre in Nieuw-West. I think that’s offensive for a place with a population of 150.000.

What are your goals in Nieuw-West?

When we came here we didn’t have hard goals or a settled agenda. The most important thing was that there should be a quality venue for the people of the neighborhood to come together to work and create programs.

Is that working?

Well, I really can’t complain. If I look at the number of programs that we have in one week and the attendance figures, it looks like it’s working. For instance, in the weeks before the Coronavirus-outbreak we had three or four fully-booked days. What really pisses me off is the whole image of Nieuw-West as a slum, and that people shouldn’t go there. This really is bullshit. I’ve met the most capable people of my life in Nieuw-West. If you don’t show any interest, and don’t invest in a place, then you are, I think, part of the problem.

Have there been any learning moments in this period, things that can be improved?

Not so long ago, an MBO (vocational education) class visited New Metropolis. One student had some serious doubts about New Metropolis and Pakhuis de Zwijger as a ‘white organization’. I had a discussion with her and said that of course it can be much more diverse, but I also told her that all almost all of the things that we do here in New Metropolis come from the neighborhood and their own organizations.

Yes, during one of our Toerkoes in Nieuw-West events the documentary-maker Sunny Bergman welcomed this place, but also made a point about another white man being the project-leader of it. She was talking about you.

Yes, that was interesting. Also, because if you look at the population you see that none of the groups in Nieuw-West actually form a majority. But still, we have to diversify more. I also said that to the student and offered for her to become an intern here. But I couldn’t convince her.

Well, maybe if she’s older. We have already started to talk about our cooperation. How do you evaluate the partnership with The Hague Peace Projects. Be critical please!

We have made nine programs together, and it was diverse in all of them. There is also a growing trend in the attendance-level. The last event about Ahmed Aboutaleb was fully packed, so yes, I’m glad about our cooperation. The form with food also works fine. What more can I say? I like the flexibility, and content-wise it’s one of the few programs here that hooks up with the actual debates that we have nationwide.

So nothing wrong with it?

Well, sometimes I have the feeling that we have talked enough and now we should actually make something. But I immediately have second thoughts about that. For instance, we had a debate about city-development with professionals and residents. It’s good to bring the people who make houses together with the people who have to live in them. But there are limits to realizing what everybody wants. Not everyone can have a villa at Sloterplas. It doesn’t work like that.

How can we put human rights and dialogue more on the agenda?

These issues cannot be solved with one event. The problems regarding human rights issues really require long-term involvement. It’s very interesting to experience how conversations about the same issue can vary so much between speakers. They all have a right to voice their own analysis and opinions of course. So my answer is that we need to continue having these discussions on a long-term basis, especially here at New Metropolis Nieuw-West. On the other hand, the things that we discuss here shouldn’t just stay in Nieuw-West. The project ‘Women of Nieuw-West’ is a good example of this. The photographs of these women on pillars are not only shown here but are now on tour, connecting different parts of Amsterdam. That should happen more!

Interview by Tayfun Balçik

And the COVID Award go to..

The Coronavirus has introduced a new storyline to the world that is looking more and more like a third-rate apocalypse B-movie with bad ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. Whereas virus pandemic movies usually focus on the efforts of a small group of scientists, who against all odds struggle to convince the rest of the world of their brainy solution, the reality of our live movie seems to be lacking any such clarity of narrative.

How best to tackle the Coronavirus and the shape of our society afterwards is a discussion that tears at the strings of our core beliefs. It asks us to consider what life is all about, and how we should prioritize the ingredients that form our globalized society. Is safety more important than freedom despite the costs? Is economics more important than people’s lives or does it mean the same thing? Can we freeze the Monopoly board while we fix this shitty situation – and if not, why not? And who’s going to benefit from it all when things eventually settle and Corona is just another boring chapter in school textbooks?

In the movie plot we inevitably have a clear-cut solution. This would be ‘the cure’, and that’s obviously what reality wants as well. However, the more you look at the global impact of Corona, the more you realize that even if a cure for the virus was discovered tomorrow, the societal issues highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic won’t just go away, and that doesn’t make for a very satisfying movie-ending.

As the B-movie progresses we seek wisdom and leadership from some authority that can fix all these things. Usually the cure for the virus is enough, and the film typically ends with some ‘global disease center’ returning health and harmony back to the order of the day through scientific cooperation and a polyphony of voices all aimed in the same direction. A quick look at our real-life movie, and the voices are all over the place, there’s no coherent storyline and it has a plot that no one can follow.

So imagine, if we as a nation, could collect all of our greatest and kindest minds together and charge them with sorting everything out as fairly and cleverly as possible. Call them a ‘government’ or something. That would be great. Now imagine that these ‘governments’, in the interest of international mutual benefit, could also come together and collectively use their greatest minds and talents to sort things out as fairly and cleverly as possible for all those that live under them. We could call that ‘The European Union’ or something. In the B-movie, some such international organization of geniuses would become our protagonist’s ally, and after much convincing and needless misunderstandings, would eventually help deliver the much needed cure that saves the world.

While fighting the urge to launch into one long dis of the economic fetishes of neo-liberalism and their impact on a ‘fair’ society, for the sake of perspective it’s worth acknowledging that many countries don’t actually have functional governments. Take a look through the eyes of someone from a country that is failing to survive and you’ll see great potential in a well-organized and structured body that can represent you.

We have that structure in name at least. It’s the EU, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Unfortunately, the EU still lacks the unequivocal public trust that it must yet earn by fulfilling its mandate to properly deliver on security and equality for all of its members. We’re back to those neo-liberals again. But somehow, the clever people that arrange things for us must find better ways to care for the masses, above and beyond the Monopoly board that they play on. This needn’t involve dismantling everything that does work (sorry anarchists), but it certainly requires tweaking the rules of the game. The direction we end up tweaking things is the discussion of the day.

If you come from a failed state you might look at prosperous and well-organized European countries with envy, and endeavour to use your ‘people-power’ to structure your own country in the same way. Or you may blame this very structure for the shit you’re in in the first place. The problem is that there’s likely some truth in both of these positions. And truth, being the fickle thing that it is with its many versions, is still contending for existence. One thing that is for sure is that lies do exist, and the path to a better world, post-Corona or not, is not to follow the lies.

So, our protagonist has won the day, acquired a sex interest, defeated the lies, and life has reverted to its previous beautiful self. End movie. When the Corona crisis is behind us and we have survived what was for some a luxury apocalypse, and for others a life-challenging and debt-collecting hell, we will instead be left with some very poignant questions about security and equality.

Should we choose to focus on the humanity that this crisis has brought to light; the solidarity, the camaraderie, and the dependance and mutual interests that exist between people and nations, then we may actually be able to use our people-power to achieve some positive change. If we dismiss this hope as naivety and focus purely on the fear that we want to control, then we may just strengthen our mechanisms of discontentment even more.

I’ve heard it said that fear is our greatest enemy, though it’s unwise to have none at all. Just a little could qualify as caution, and too much is known as paranoia. Move to the left and you have hope which sounds much nicer, though too much of this and you’re in danger of being naive. A good disaster movie always has a healthy dose of hope, often naive hope, but luckily it all comes good in the end. So, how you choose to use your people-power to end the Corona movie is up to you. It all starts with your belief that shit can actually change. And one thing’s for sure, if you don’t hope for the best, you never get the best.

 By Steen Bentall - 6th April 2020
(Image adapted from photo by Obregonia D. Toretto from Pexels)

HELP BEAT CORONA BY FOLDING AT HOME

Coronavirus – What FoldingAtHome are doing and how you can help in simple terms

By Folding At Home (F@h)

Visit their website to join this great initiative!

Folding@home (FAH or F@h) is a distributed computing project for simulating protein dynamics, including the process of protein folding and the movements of proteins implicated in a variety of diseases. It brings together citizen scientists who volunteer to run simulations of protein dynamics on their personal computers. Insights from this data are helping scientists to better understand biology, and providing new opportunities for developing therapeutics.

By visiting Foldingathome.org you can install their program on your computer to run in the background when it’s idle. This runs mathematical equations for protein folding and sends your computed info back to MIT. Folding at Home has been around for a while now, doing research on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers, Cancer, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Right now though, they are working full time on the Coronavirus!

The Coronavirus

Update on Folding@home’s efforts to assist researchers around the world taking up the global fight against COVID-19:

After initial quality control and limited testing phases, Folding@home team has released an initial wave of projects simulating potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and the related SARS-CoV virus (for which more structural data is available) into full production on Folding@home. Many thanks to the large number of Folding@home donors who have assisted us thus far by running in beta or advanced modes.