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Before I knew of Blogger [d.o.b 1999] or WordPress, I was already blogging ... without knowing the word.
I began writing to the web in 2000, when my late wife Margaret was dealing with a brain tumour. Margaret did not want the secrecy often surrounding such illness. Maintaining information on the web was of great value to friends and that site became a resource in the brain tumour 'community' where the learning curve is so steep. During that year our daughter Liz (now here) had begun serious writing and assembled her work in 'a place of stories'.
In 2002, some time after Margaret's death, I put to Liz that we take Margaret's story from the web and onto a CD. Liz said no you can't: so we discussed the name for a domain and were able to register 'aplaceof.info' — a name deriving from her 'place of stories'..
From 2003-08 my partner was Ev Pettigrew. Our relationship came to an end but we remain friends. I recorded life and travels with some pleasing results in web page design too, for example in this travel to the west.
During the the mid 2000s I sought initially to present sensible thoughts contrary to the war in Iraq, assembled in a page and attachments here.
However, it became evident that individuals outside the system could have little influence on state policy, so I began via the UN Online Volunteers web site to seek opportunities for people-to-people contact, given that states seemed to be making such a muck of the world.
Some of my thinking is in this page I unearthed in 2012.
I used the hosting space of 'aplaceof' at ipower.com (which has continued to grow in capacity) to launch ideas and host information about developing country communities, giving them opportunities to be seen in the world and find support. I had great hopes for nabuur.com but Nabuur seemed never to get the point that it was there to empower others, not itself. Nabuur was a good place to meet people, though the claim on their home page to have over 40,000 participants is essentially fraudulent, like so many thus numbered I have been counted twice and not been involved for years. You can find recommendations for reform of Nabuur which I led in 2007 here and here ... bits accepted but not adopted.
In bringing African projects online my concern was to get communities to have confidence in their own plans rather than await charitable dumpings of projects or goods. To express the ideas, to have them acknowledged in the world, has its own value too. There is a page linked to that last link which I was pressed to put to the web. Click this link if you are prepared to see distressing images. I had that page password protected but that system seems not to work. To tell stories related to community horror, having been a boy soldier, has healing virtue, read Beatrice Lamwaka on that subject [link to document I placved at Nabuur].
It is difficult to maintain web presences in Africa or elsewhere. ARDI's pages (northern Uganda youth organisation) are a long way out of date but ARDI have now the support of a small focused Dutch NGO. And Fred Obala, who had my help through university, has transformed himself from an ex-boy soldier of the Joseph Kony's LRA, regarding which see this, in 2012, from my blog.
A project at Bukavu, in the eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) for a women's trauma healing and training centre, for rape victims, which I brought online, I later pulled from the web when it became evident that there was financial malfeasance by the couple who were running it. But in the meantime (and this is what visibility on the web is all about) the web site had attracted Victoria Bentley who has gone on to her own wonderful efforts (please support). What Victoria has done eclipses the previous problems... any unusual endeavour risks problems, count the good.
A very interesting community project at Nyalebbe DRC (arrow) on this web page (at July 2012 we really are about to update it!). There are big things going on with Crystal Waddell seeking to guide them to build a community training centre, another visit coming, following this in 2010.
Again... the general idea. Give a community access to the web, enable it to be visible, encourage its development of its own plans, not those brought by outside governments or NGO.
It's all about empowerment, not intervention.
When people live in such a place as Nyalebbe, seeking to survive on the edge of the world's worst 'civil' wars EVER [link 1] [link 2], after years of scattering and refugee return – and without anything that those of us in developed places would call infrastructure – things do not happen easily. But the skills and human resources can be seen in the people, above and right and below. This to the right is Bedijo Ukungo Deo, a government agricultural field extension worker and the 'mobiliser' of the Nyalebbe Community Development Association ... who sadly became sick and died in four hours in June 2012. A few weeks later, Janet, second from the eight in the photo above and co-author of this essay for an American feminist magazine on 'what is peace' also died suddenly. These photos honour these lost heroes.
When I made a small donation, enabling the Nyalebbe Community Development Association to buy their first sewing machine for their vocational college, years ago, they wanted to call it the Argall Machine. No please, I said, call it the Agwara machine (after a local dance). See the tailoring curriculum here... I have much enjoyed placing such information on the web.
Some projects in some places are not realised, for different reasons. as here and here. Visionaries, activists, planners, implementers: a heady mix in any part of the world, not easy to get from thought to action. The desire to do complex things from a start point can be a problem.
I also used the web in support of a local government candidacy in 2008. Achieved change in leadership, did not get into office myself (to my retrospective relief, for health among other reasons). I was thanked by many ("We didn't believe we could do anything") and remain in awe and appreciation that thousands of unknown people voted for me though I was before the campaign locally unknown.
My shift to blogger in 2009 came with a period of new and different creative activity, launching into fiction as well as drawing, painting and other art forms, with particular impetus of encouragement and appreciation from my partner since 2009, Helen Backhouse (in photo, blending nicely into the Italian world, 2011). I could not have gone down either path — the new partnership or the creativity — had I been tied to duties in local government. And with Helen active in the region's affairs and needing support from all quarters it was not appropriate for me to be prominent or controversial locally... enjoyable instead to support her in thinking through some of her many initiatives.
I recall French President Hollande's statement that (before the election) he did most of the shopping and cooking. Nice role.
I wrote above about the difficulty of individuals influencing state policy. but I think that is changing now (July 2012) as the web changes, see my blog entries of recent times on China and other strategic issues.
There is a lot of discussion now on the web, at some serious sites not just tweets. We will all have to participate to lift debate in a period where it is evident that so many state policies don't work, in so many fields and in a period of at times traumatic change in the nature of politics and the shape of political parties, struggle as they might against change.
I get pulled back to non-fiction perhaps too easily, commenting on issues of the day, see current blog. The fiction, the novel that is, and painting and drawing are important new things. I have always tended to begin writing anything not knowing where the piece of writing will go, argument directs itself. It is more than that, though, to stand back from fiction writing or drawing and say "who did that?"
An earlier career in public service inhibited open expression for quite some time, as did chronic illness. My work history comes through in a persistent greater ease for writing (or drawing, etc) very quickly and to the point. The novel, at 50000+ words, is a challenge. I say to myself "you don't have to do it" at times, but remain impelled. There is much to discover about oneself in writing too. I don't write poetry as such but there seems to be a poetic quality to some of the work. Also play with difficult or unusual forms, as here. So in part I write because I must write, in part there are stories I would tell and which will not be heard if I do not tell them. And that really covers non-fiction too... in many ways, most often, the idea of non-fiction is a fiction.
Here are some other items of mine, parked at 'aplaceof':
So what becomes of one's record of activity on the web, for the long term?
Use a search engine for 'dennis argall' and find lots more. Does this scribbling vanish? Well, my own 'aplaceof' content depends on my keeping it in place (in cyberspace or hard disks, equally uncertain management locations), but the fates and policies of great corporations decide what becomes of writing and other creative work elsewhere. (Blogger is ruthless: you think you are just going to hide a blog and the content simply vanishes, no re-thinking possible) Most people seem to want to use pseudonyms on the web to avoid being tied to past utterances 'forever in the ether' but I think that such a perspective (and people's comments) will mature.
We made Blurb books from those two trips to Italy. I am in July 2012 assembling (must be something about turning 69) my current blog and other writing into another book. Takes time but worthwhile for another generation
Also, re-reading my work of recent years reassures me that in spite of aches and adversities, it is possible to do lots at my age and – above all - it is possible to keep changing!