The Fun Theory

Most of us want to make a difference in some observable way to this world, but the best of our intentions give way to the day’s demands, fatigue and inertia. For instance, just like any other decent, environmentally-conscious organization, my workplace too hopes to encourage its employees to go at least a little bit green and make a difference. One of the more obvious initiatives is taking the staircase instead of the elevator so that we reduce electricity usage and stay fit. As part of the plan, there are big posters outside and inside elevators that advice us in green, friendly alphabets: TAKE THE STAIRS FOR ONE UP AND DOWN TWO. Yet till date, the few times I’ve taken the stairs, I’ve never encountered even a trace of a human being except for a lingering, stale smell of cigarettes.

The problem lies, however, not with the people, but with the staircase. The entire experience of taking the staircase is not a very pleasurable one. At best, it is boring and at its worst, claustrophobic and depressing. Something that is good for you and the environment, ought not to be so uninviting. This is where the Fun Theory comes in. The Fun Theory believes that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better”. Perhaps more people would take the stairs if taking them was made more fun, like this:

Culture Choc

Arabic Chocolate Letter

Having spent most of the last three months in South Africa, a minor culture shock was to be expected when I arrived back in the Netherlands last week. As beautiful a country as South Africa is, it is still dealing with the aftermath of apartheid; while racial segregation has legally been abolished, it persists in socio-economic terms. This in turn feeds into continuing socio-spatial segregation, as the ability to make use of certain amenities is inextricably linked to income. Moreover, having spoken to a bunch of white and black South Africans myself, it is clear that divisive attitudes are still in place, as a large portion of the black population lament their unrelenting marginalization, whereas many whites are fearing a Mugabe-like policy of land and income redistribution that will ‘rob’ them of opportunities. Thus, in de facto terms, South Africa is still by and large an apartheid-state.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, is internationally renowned for its tolerance towards pretty much everything. From hash to hookers to homosexuality, the Dutch condone seemingly everything and anything. While this is something that I am proud of, it has to be said that this widely held image is often a gross exaggeration. The Netherlands itself has been grappling for decades with issues of immigration and integration, and a growing xenophobia has been reflected my the make-up of the Second Chamber (the Dutch version of the House of Commons). Nonetheless, generally speaking, the Dutch remain relatively tolerant and are dedicated towards multi- or even polyculturalism.

This contrast between South Africa and The Netherlands became particularly clear to me when I was doing some groceries in a quintessentially Dutch store, the HEMA. There I noticed that the store was already full of chocolate and candy for Sinterklaas, a Christian holiday that is held every year on December 5. While the name itself, which is derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas, already indicates that this holiday has its roots in Christianity, religious elements have over time been eroded and has become much akin to Christmas in spirit and materialism. Despite this, it is not very common for Dutch Muslims to celebrate Sinterklaas. That is to say, they don’t watch the arrival of Sinterklaas with his steam ship; they don’t put their shoes near the window sill and fill it with sugar and carrots for the saint’s horse; they don’t get presents from a dirty brown bag; and they don’t get candy from the white saint’s helpers, who are called Black Peters (oh, the irony of this if you just spent some months in South Africa).

“I loved him…once the World Trade Center came down, I changed my mind”


This week two stories related to racist discrimination caught my eye. The first of these is from Dresden, not too far from a our beloved Leipzig, within a region that has been host to a spate of racist attacks.

It was while Marwa el-Sherbini was in the dock recalling how the accused had insulted her for wearing the hijab after she asked him to let her son sit on a swing last summer, that the very same man strode across the Dresden courtroom and plunged a knife into her 18 times.

Her three-year-old son Mustafa was forced to watch as his mother slumped to the courtroom floor.

Even her husband Elvi Ali Okaz could do nothing as the 28-year-old Russian stock controller who was being sued for insult and abuse took the life of his pregnant wife. As Okaz ran to save her, he too was brought down, shot by a police officer who mistook him for the attacker. He is now in intensive care in a Dresden hospital…

…Unemployed Alex W. from Perm in Russia was found guilty last November of insulting and abusing Sherbini, screaming “terrorist” and “Islamist whore” at her, during the Dresden park encounter. He was fined ¤780 but had appealed the verdict, which is why he and Sherbini appeared face to face in court again.


This story has led to widespread protests within immigrants in Germany, as well as in Egypt, the homeland of the deceased. What surprises me here is the fact that the assailant, with known anti-islamic sentiments, was able to bring a knife into the courtroom? Would it be the same if the case was against a Jewish person in Germany? And even more surprising is that the police mistook the husband for the assailant? Especially after the guy had stabbed her 18 times?


The other story was carried in the New York Times, which investigated the of Tanveer Ahmed, a 43 year old immigrant who died in detention, and whose death went unreported for 3 years.

A World Beyond Stereotypes: A life in Leipzig, Germany

By Mikhaila Alana Cupido

This essay won the first prize in the ‘World Beyond Stereotypes’ essay competition organized by Uni Leipzig

Pocahontas has always been one of my favourite stories as a kid, and at the ripe old age of twenty-three I realized how she must have felt when her ship boarded in England. When I arrived at the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof weary, very tired and already homesick I could’ve sworn that a million eyes watched me as I struggled to get my very heavy bag labeled with the South African flag out of the train. Then trying to guess which one of the millions of German woman standing around could be the one that I was looking for. To this day I am glad that a Coloured female South African along with an Afrikaner male South African conveniently sticks out in a crowd and we were found in no time.

I wish that I could say after having been here for so long that my daily dose of humour concerning where I come from has ended, but alas no. And on the upside it almost always makes my day, so I won’t complain. Here in Leipzig people often take the time to ask me completely random questions … but then again … as a student I have learnt that if you never ask, you might just never know. So I guess being asked random questions are a must, to keep in check what it is that German citizens or even Europeans think and know about Coloured South Africans.

In 2006 I very enthusiastically left my comfort zone to tackle a new continent and a new life. I come from Cape Town, and where I grew up everyone is Coloured and almost everyone talks like me, has my skin colour, and more importantly hair like mine. And then I arrived in Leipzig and not everyone knew this, much to my dismay.

‘This Isn’t Us’

Check out this video produced by a number of Pakistani pop-musicians that is all the rave in Pakistan. ‘Yeh Hum nahin’ which means ‘This is not us’ in Urdu is a song aimed at condemning terrorism. What fascinates me about this is the attempt at redefinition of identity that goes in procliaming ‘this is not us’.

This song became a sensation in Pakistan giving rise to the a campaign against terrorism by major artists and TV personalities. The YHN campaign has currently got 62.8 million signatures for a petition condemning terrorism, surely making it one of the biggest petitions in history.

It also represents an positive in the debate on terrorism in Pakistan. The website of the foundation that is behind the YHN campaign asks ‘Are we the ones depriving mothers of their children? Are we the ones destroying our own future?’.  This tacit admission of terrorism being a very much a home-grown problem is refreshingly distant from the past attitudes of Pakistanis who, following the state, would blame India, America or Israel.

Delhi out of the Closet


A Globalistani cheer for Gay Rights activists in India who prevailed on the Delhi High Court to overturn a ban on gay sex.

Homosexuality became illegal in 1861 when, under British rule, Section 377 of the Indian penal court was passed that prohibited “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”.

The Delhi HC scrapped down the law:

“We declare that Section 377 of IPC in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private is violative of Articles 14, 21 and 15 of the Constitution”.

This is big, considering that the ruling beyond decriminalizing,  also offers legal protection to homosexuals in anti-discrimination laws.

This does not mean discrimination will go away. Some people are already calling it doomsday for Indian culture and civilization which, by the way, has been happily celebrating homosexuality in sculptures and poems for thousands of years. The Church says that this would lead to an increase in pedophilia, which is bit rich coming from an institution accused of shifting pedophiles from parish to parish to protect them.

Reader Puneet Gera writes this on the rediff message board:

first time in life,I despite being Indian,accept Pakistan is a better country than India,atleast gay sex is not legalised there.They have maintained their cultural values.I salute you Pakistan for your good values.

The One Line Project

The one line project is a stab at providing a different avenue of expression for global themes and individual experiences. The aim is to link people through the
contribution of one line to an ongoing story. Read what’s been written, and add your line, so that we can create something cohesive out of many separate pieces.

Every line needs to relate to what’s already been written, but should provide context or direction of its own.

The first line is…

People invest too much time and energy in pretending they aren’t animals.

Land of the Free

800px-flag_of_united_states_and_germanysvg_by Lisa Sturm

Land of the free, home of the brave, in a plane I landed in California. The sun shines and the people have open minds. Long blond hair, beaches, surfers, free thinkers, California of the mind.
You are from Germany? Yes.
Where is your blond hair and blue eyes? What?
I thought Germans had blond hair and blue eyes? Some, I guess.
Well, you are on time, so that makes sense.
And then a Hitler joke here and there and a Nazi reference or two and California begins to look less like I thought. Shopping malls, fast food restaurants, chain stores and more chain stores, the California of my mind looks more like fantasy. The mall people begin to outnumber the rest, cardboard cutouts, walking hollow forms, this is California? I check my mind, my brain for what I know…I search and see on occasion, but most look like the way I imagine the rest of the USA.

Ok, ya, um, like. That sounds right. Hello, I am from Germany. An over-the-top Nein is the response. Or sometimes an ugly Ja. Some more Nazi jokes and questions of the past, it’s not easy being German. Expected efficient, reparations for the past, lederhosen, dirndls, beer drinking and pretzels, these are expected.

Ja, ok, nein, ach. That sounds right. Hey, I am from California. An over-the-top Dude is the response. Or sometimes a stoner Bro. Some more surfer jokes and questions of the beach, it’s not easy being Californian. Expected coolness, recollections of the 60s, swim shorts, surfboards, pot smoking and sushi, these are expected.

Bro. Ja. Smoke? Nein. Bier? Nah. Surf? Nein. Bretzel? Nah. Sushi? Nein?

Election day. George Bush will be gone but California never had him. Bush and California do not go together. The right does not exist here (in the back of my mind I forget that Schwarzenegger is a Republican). Proposition 8. The fight against gay-marriage, that cannot stand a chance in California. California is too open-minded, San Francisco gay-friendly, L.A. as well; this does not stand a chance. California would never take someone’s rights away. It can’t happen here, maybe in Texas, but not here.

Obama wins, gay-marriage loses. How can this happen in California?

Welcome to Globalistan

Dear reader,

Welcome to Globalistan. Globalistan is a forum in which people are encouraged to share the way they see the world. It’s about connecting people through their thoughts and experiences, and encouraging people to think creatively and critically about the issues that unite and divide them.

Often we tend to understand the world in terms of boundaries-of nations, races, religions etc. We think that there is much to be gained by looking beyond the boundaries. Our humble aim is to connect people by sharing our experiences of living in a globalized world with each other.

But what is Globalistan without its people? That’s why we need you. If you have thoughts about global issues or want to share something that is important to you, send it our way.

So please contribute: Send an email to if you wish to be part of the team and we will add you as a contributor.