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“Fossils of a giant crocodile that lived more than eight million years ago were found on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Chairman of the Geological Research Authority in Dubai, Adnan Al Hamid, indicated that the discovery of these fossils was the outcome of continuous efforts that lasted for weeks. It is proof that life existed in the region in the past”. (IPUL)

Of course, you will not read this piece of news except in this column not because I have the scoop but because I made up the entire story. However, try to re-post this news on BlackBerry or a forum and a few days later it will bounce back as a real story that cannot be denied. You can tell them that the Palm Jumeirah was created only a few years ago and no one will listen to you. You can scream at the top of your voice that there is no department in Dubai called the Geological Research Authority and your voice will echo back in vain. You can point out that Adnan Al Hamid is the voice over of “Hanafi and Um Sayed” in a cartoon show and that “IPUL” is not a news agency but rather “I Pulled Your Leg”. But you will always find someone who will say the news is “everywhere”!

The motto of the new social media is “write whatever you want and there is always an audience”. A few days ago, I received an email about the danger of Indomie noodles made of “dead animal bones” and a warning from an anonymous doctor about the e641 substance that it contains along with a long listof the harms, which are not even caused by the Japan’s Fukushima reactor. Despite that, our young kids eat a lot of Indomie noodles and are still in the best of health.

We are facing a dangerous media dilemma. Many people like forwarding or re-posting news without bothering to do a simple research about the source or the truth and accuracy of the story. In most cases, it is usually a rumor, false compliant or fabricated news. This phenomenon has largely spread along with this media propaganda until I was really scared after the “Um Rashed” case in which my colleague Hassan Yacoub paid the price on behalf of us all.

The other point is that most forwarders or re-posters wish to appear as being concerned for the safety and health of the nation, hence, everything became the cause of cancer from cups and car seats to fast food meals, asthma sprays, shaving tools, apples, gum and snickers and of course Botox injections.

A Citizen

We are discussing here one category of people who may be few or many but unfortunately it certainly exists. Some people would attribute their adverse and negative attitude to a bright reason. Such peoplelanguish because they are citizens; they are negligent in their work because they are citizens; they are behind in their studies because they are citizens; they take many leaves off work because they are citizens; they hope for free promotion because they are citizens; they work in one place and hope to work for another because they are citizens; they regress rather than advance because they are citizens; they treat the public badly because they are citizens; they drive their cars irrationally because they are citizens and they do not stand in line because they are citizens.

We could cite endless examples in this same context, but we also have to cite the opposite model, i.e. a positive, excelling and distinguished model also exists. Citizens who are fully aware of the meaning of good citizenship also exist. They work more than others because they are citizens and exert their utmost efforts to improve performance in the public job. They learn more because they are citizens; the usual academic certificates do not suffice for them; they want to attain first place in each field they participate in. Because they are citizens, they continuously seek to advance and progress and believe in their right in appointment and promotion because they work hard. They do not believe that their citizenship is a sufficient reason for distinction.

Preference is for the citizen. Yes. This is a reasonable, acceptable and logical value but a citizen is also required to work studiously and sincerely with himself and with others.

To be a citizen is a beautiful, tempting, noble, and great reason to love your nation more and serve the UAE and its community with strength and love.

You are a citizen. This is a reason that necessarily leads you towards more giving and progress.


Let’s All Take the Pledge

SheikhHamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan took initiative by signing the pledge not to text while driving. It is a significant move on his side, setting him as an example to be followed by the different groups in society. His move was triggered by his concern over the rising number of traffic accidents claiming lives, most of which are lives young people lost by the country and missed by their parents  due to distracted driving and in particular due to using cellphones while driving.

Sheikh Hamdan’sinitiative no doubt sprang from his care and fear for UAE’s young people and his desire to raise awareness and educate about proper behavior on the road. It is no doubt a desire to set a role model and reserve the true natural resources of UAE which are the youth. The loss is for everyone and the damage is incurred by everyone. For all these reasons, Hamdan bin Mubarak took a private initiative to sign “I Pledge”. For the same reasons, Emarat Al Youm in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior launched this public campaign at the beginning of this week.

I Pledge is a public campaign based on a very simple idea; it addresses a person based on theirbelief to abandon a bad habit, hence, such person is self-committed, not driven by seeking a reward or fearing a fine; all s/he has to do is to sign a simple pledge containing only one sentence that reads “Beginning right now, I will not text while I am driving”. That’s it! However, the pledger has to be honest with themselves and be bound by the pledge that they voluntarily took. Such person has to be driven by their own awareness and get rid of that habit however long they lived.

As the campaign is public, as you might have noticed, the name Hamdan bin Mubarak was not preceded by a title or followed by a position during signature; it is a private initiative that targets any motorist on the streets of UAE, which is why it was met by great appreciationfrom the different social groups. Many of the public and private institutions, civil society organizations, sport clubs, and universities have also expressed their willingness to join the campaign and collect signatures. This is exactly the goal of the campaign. This is what Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s wishes us to do, this great man who always calls for implementing useful ideas and supports each step that aims at saving lives on the roads. He is truly concerned over the rising number of accidents resulting from using cellphones while driving; hence he is the biggest supporter of I Pledge campaign.

I Pledge campaign is the outcome of a collaboration between a governmental entity, the Ministry of Interior, a private one,Etisalat and a purposeful media institution, Emarat Al Youm. Therefore, the campaign is a concrete product of the joint efforts of such entities and the mutual impact of directing efforts towards a common goal. Let’s all make it our goal to join the campaign and sign the pledge; not to talk on the cellphone or text while driving. Let’s pledge to use the cellphone only according to the proper legal regulations that ensure our safety and the safety of others.


Ata’ahad(I Pledge) Campaign

I Pledge Campaign is launched by EmaratAl Youm as an extension to the unofficial campaign launched by activists on social networking sites with the aim of driving home a simple message: Do not use cellphones, and stop texting, while driving. The campaign hopestoenddeadly traffic accidents that are the direct consequence of the dangerous practice of using cellphones while driving, which has become an epidemic in our society, claiming lives and destroying families.

The campaign uses awareness as a direct means to reach goals instead of setting penalties only. For example, tickets and fines have not successfully prevented speed and reckless driving; yet, we still use and expand the application of this technique more than ever, even if such technique does not follow a mature and well-examined awareness-raising approach. A fine does not save a life; the damages of losing human resources exceed the fine amounts imposed on those committing the violations. I Pledge Campaign addresses to the dangerous practices on our streets and roads andapproach people from an awareness perspective rather than fear from penalties. What sets this campaign apart is its reliance on people’s awareness without any pressures, incentives, fines or rewards. It focuses mainly on self-convincing, through a very simple pledge, which when signed, the driver will agree not to use the cellphone while driving. The person may join the campaign by signing this pledge, and sending it to the Emarat Al Youm’s website, the website of the Ministry of Interior or Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) who sanction and sponsor the message of the campaign

A driver who is able to comply with the pledge they took will be part of the campaign; a person who is not able to do that will neither be forced to join nor deterred by any other campaigns or more severe penalties. Everyone needs to realize that they should play their part to end this deadly epidemic. If we can reach out to a large number of citizens and residents and convince them toget their signatures on the pledge, then, we will consider to have achieved an actual and true success. The biggest deterrent for a human being is his/her consciousness; no one can ask another person to do or not to do something unless they are strongly convinced of that. That is what the campaign seeks to achieve.

It is an integrated public campaign. We will try to reach out to young people in physical locations as well as on virtual sites, such as social networking sites and on other websites, in schools and universities; it is open to everyone. We urge organizations, ministries and the public and private sector to participate and contribute to the campaign by promoting it and collecting signatures to increase the numbers and categories of pledgers.

Although the campaign is sanctioned and sponsored by the Ministry of Interior, it is a national call to action for all other ministries. The issue is of concern to everyone; everyone is responsible; everyone’s task is to raise awareness and educate about how to make roads safer. After all, it is an issue that concerns the community as a whole and raising awareness about it benefits everyone as victims of traffic accidents can be our sons, daughters, brothers, mothers, friends, etc. Losing a young soul is a loss for the country. Let’s all work together to prevent the loss of lives claimed by preventable car accidents.

Social Capital and Identity Nationalization

Maintaining and enhancing national identity is a goal that we all aspire to reach, as we are all partners who share love for our nation and partners in building its renaissance and progress. There is no doubt that national identity gives this partnership its spirit and meaning. We can go as far as assuming that national identity provides us with the sense of belonging to this dear nation.

Maintenance and enhancement of this identity needs several methods. We have discussed, in previous articles, some methods that can guarantee maintaining our national identity. Today, we discuss together the role played by one of the major components: social capital. Social capital has been established as significantly important in the age of global culture and multiple identities and cultures among the resulting negative effects on the social texture and national culture for many societies and waning social connections and relations among members of a community.

What is social capital? What are its components and how does it form? What role does it play in identity nationalization? Although social capital lends itself to multiple definitions, and without entering the labyrinth of abstract and theoretical definitions, social capital refers to relations within and between social networks produced by individuals and groups with the purpose of achieving their goals in life. This network of relations is extremely organized and far from being random. It follows traditions and standards that govern the behavior of individuals and groups and direct their social behavior according to the social, cultural and ethical values, norms and systems of the society. These values aim at promoting the actions of individuals and groups and work on improving and supporting ways of interaction between them to attain the purposes they seek.According to the World Bank, social capital refers tothesum of the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions and social relationships that contribute to achieve sustainable development.

This definition reflects the importance of social capital not only in improving the quality and quantity of social relations and interactions among individuals but also its importance in achieving sustainable development. Social capital derives its power from the ability of individuals to participate in activities of public good. According to the UNDP, social capital is closely related to charity and volunteering; volunteerism and volunteers are at the heart of social capital. Volunteering can be defined broadly as the non-profit, non-wage andnon-career contributions of individuals for the well-being of their community or society at large. Some studies indicate that the number of institutions for public interest and the number of individual members of these institutions reflect the stock of social capital in society.

What are the sources of social capital?

There are multiple sources that contribute in forming the stock of individuals and groups in social capital. Foremost among these sources are family, school, public interest foundations and civil society organizations. These sources contribute to forming social capital through its ability to shape individuals and raise them on values and standards that increase their stock of social capital and enhance its positive role in society. Some of the major values that constitute the stock of social capital are the ability for mutual collective work, trust among individuals, and trust between individuals and the different governmental and non-governmental institutions, trust between the individual and the state, values of cooperation and solidarity, values that nurture a stronger sense of social responsibility, and values that promote cohesion of social texture. If the sum of these values constitute that stock of individuals in social capital, this stock represents a driving force that contributes to building the renaissance and development of the country in the different economic, social and cultural aspects of society. On the economic level, social capital contributes to the contribution of individuals in the different economic projects and their engagement in the job market, through the atmosphere it provides built on trust and transparency, and also contributes to the promotion of values of work and accomplishment. On the cultural level, social capital enhances the participation of individuals in the productivity and utilization of knowledge and the expansion of the awareness circle, through projects and activities that aim at eliminating illiteracy, whether reading and writing incapacity or lack of knowledge and incapability in using the information revolution products such as computers and the Internet. On the social level, social capital shapes the collective awareness of individuals and enhances the values and ethical criteria that push them towards solidarity and cooperation and enhance their values of belonging. These values together constitute the essence of national identity.

This all leads to creating an enabling environment that provides a healthy atmosphere that is necessary for identity nationalization and provides it with firm roots that derive their nutrients from the strategic stock of social capital, which contributes not only in the maintenance of national identity but contributes at the same time in achieving sustainable development.


Drivers’ Inattention

With all the traffic accidents occurring daily, many would think they are safe from being involved in an accident because they can have control over themselves, their vehicles, others and the road while talking on their cell phones and reading or sending text messages. However, it only takes a matter for second for an error to occur and cause grave consequences. Only then, the motorist realizes the enormity of the error committed. In many cases, regret is futile; what we deem a simple issue that is controllable is in fact an inevitable gravity.

Many of today’s cars are equipped with all sorts of entertainment. Even if these devices are not built in the car, one can still buy them at convenient prices. For example, at a price not more than 1000 dirhams, one can have an all in one device combining a GPS, video, music, digital TV and even picture viewers, mobile calls (hands free) and traffic cameras.

As a result, the drivers’ eyes are usually on these screens or their BlackBerries instead of the road which causes a major distraction. It is noticeable these days that many cars swerve between lanes showing the lack of focus of the drivers, who get into accidents or near-accidents.

Before we call for traffic campaigns and restrictive laws, we need to cooperate, think logically and use common sense to rectify our wrong behaviors. Indeed, no one of us wishes that his/her life ends because of sending or reading text messages or checking their BlackBerry.It most probably is a trivial message that can wait! The driver might crash into another vehicle and kill innocent people whose only mistake is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If laws dealt with all the different behaviors of people, they would be endless. It is better and easier to realize that thebehaviors that we would otherwise consider normal are in fact dangerous. They can cause a disaster for us, our families and those around us.

It is great to have the latest technology and state-of-the-art devices, but it is better to use them properly. Otherwise, such devices will pose a danger that threatens us each moment and becomes a source of aggravation for those around us.

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