Concerned that several dams were on the verge of bursting, Craig started scrolling through the hashtag #HopeMills, looking for anyone with information on the current water level affecting the area. He came across Hart’s aerial photo of several totally flooded houses, and sent it to his brother, joking that at least it wasn’t this bad.
“Apparently it was his house,” Craig told me. “I honestly thought he was fucking with me. I mean, what are the chances.”
Craig then tweeted at Hart, asking for help.
“Holy shit that’s my brothers house..the one with one shutter. Any chance you can boat him out of there? He’s trapped upstairs..,” he wrote.
More than a billion people around the world rely on smartphones and their ubiquitous messaging and social media apps, but none more so than the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing war, hunger, and famine in the Middle East and Africa.
The massive crowds of refugees and migrants from Syria and elsewhere who have flooded Europe this year, and continue to arrive en masse, are relying heavily on smartphone apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook Messenger, along with other tools like Google Maps, as they risk perilous sea crossings, skirt unfriendly border crossings, and try to keep in touch with their loved ones.
“Our phones and power banks are more important for our journey than anything, even more important than food,” a Syrian named Wael told Agence France Presse on the Greek island of Kos.
Clothes and food can be purchased relatively cheaply, and even cash can be electronically transferred, but a smartphone is crucial. Smugglers who take the refugees across the Mediterranean drastically limit what people can take on board, but the phones are too precious to give up, they say.
The engine of the overcrowded dinghy he was on had died after half an hour of sailing. “We were exactly between Turkey and Greece. I know because I checked the GPS on my phone,” he said. Then the weather started getting worse:
Quickly the boat became full of water and started to sink. I rang the Greek coastguard and started shouting ‘help us, help us’ but they couldn’t really hear me because my phone was wrapped in a plastic bag to protect it from the water. So I sent a Whatsapp message giving my GPS and asking them to help us. I also sent my family a message with my GPS and explained the situation but said ‘don’t worry, even though the weather is bad, we’ll make it across.’
Amulets have been worn for protection for thousands of years. Early peoples lived in a world where strange and frightening things occurred that defied explanation. Consequently, amulets were used to protect homes, families, and livestock.
Amulets were also used to protect people from the “evil eye.” The belief that a person or animal could harm another by staring at them with an evil eye dates back at least five thousand years, and ancient clay tablets have been found that describe the damage that the evil eye can inflict. The Sumerian god Ea spent most of his time fighting the evil eye. Even today, in many parts of the world, the evil eye is considered a major threat, and various kinds of amulets are used to avert it.
Amulets were originally natural items, such as an animal’s tooth or a semi-precious stone. However, you can choose anything you like. Medals, bells, keys, and photographs can all be used as amulets. Many police officers in early twentieth-century New York carried St. Jude medals with them for protection. St. Jude is the patron saint of policemen.
Knots make effective amulets because they are believed to catch evil spirits. My grandmother tied knots on all her kitchen aprons to protect both her and the food she was preparing.
Take your time when choosing an amulet. Think about your purpose in wanting one, and how you will wear or carry it. On several occasions, amulets seem to have found me when I needed them. On one occasion, a man I met at an airport gave me a small piece of hematite. I was on my way to see someone to discuss a business proposition. The hematite protected me from his overpowering manner. “
Alone and homeless on the streets of Chicago, AnnMarie Walsh found comfort in Twitter.
“It feels so good to know there is someone out there,” she said. “I could Tweet and there was always someone there listening.”
Walsh was homeless for six years before she met a case worker at a Tweetupevent who helped her find temporary housing. Her Twitter profile says she’s been off the streets since April 7, 2011.
Walsh uses the Twitter handle @PadsChicago. The 41-year-old tweets to her more than 4,800 followers about what it was like to be homeless and also advocates for homeless people. When she was homeless, Walsh would tweet from her cell phone or use computers at her local library.
She has slowly amassed more followers as her story of documenting her homelessness on Twitter has gained traction with the media.
She joined Twitter more than two years ago. Initially, she said, Twitter appealed to her because she thought it could help her deal with mental health issues by making her more comfortable talking to people, at least in a digital sense.
“It has really helped me come out and be better functioning in social settings,” she said. “I used it to get my feelings out.”
The response she received from her Twitter followers made her feel more comfortable sharing her story.
Using Twitter “made me realize how many good people are out there,” she said.
Tweets came pouring in from people who wanted to help her. She received two free laptops from people she met through Twitter. People offered to pay her cell phone bill and others sent her bus passes. A documentary filmmaker also reached out to her via Twitter and asked her to be part of his project documenting homelessness. Through that filmmaker, she was invited to speak at Twitter’s 140 Characters Conference, being held in Los Angeles in 2009.
Walsh would also attend Tweetup events in Chicago. At one such Tweetup, she met a case worker who helped her find temporary housing.
“I’m still in a homeless frame of mind because I don’t have any income,” she said. “I would certainly love a job where I can help people in some way.” Walsh says she would particularly love a job working in social media.
The Pitt Rivers Museum has almost 6,000 amulets and charms in its collections; though not all of them are on display. They have been collected from all over the world, including England, and demonstrate the wide array of methods for using magic employed by different cultures.
An amulet is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: ‘Anything worn about the person as a charm preventative against evil, mischief, disease, witchcraft, etc.’ The definition of charm is very similar: ‘Anything worn about the person to avert evil or ensure prosperity’, though a charm may also be a spell or incantation believed to have a magical power.
Some of the objects on display are technically not amulets or charms but objects that were used in a ritual or instilled with a supernatural power. Some have been taken directly from the natural environment, and assigned a magical function by a single person, while others have been carved or painted to create an object with a meaning that would be recognised by most members of the culture.
The underlying theme that unites all amulets and charms is that the people who created and used them believed in them; almost any object may become a charm or an amulet, so long as someone believes it has the power to affect or alter the world around them.
Some amulets and charms are examples of ‘sympathetic magic’, which generally means that the appearance of an object resembles, in some way, the cure or protection it is believed to offer.
Unlike some of the objects on display in this Museum, amulets and charms are still widely used in many cultures today. You may have an object yourself that you trust will bring you luck! The amulets and charms on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum are material evidence of the hopes and beliefs that are shared by all of humankind.