Posts Tagged ‘burma’

War cry.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Sometimes it’s funny what speaks to you. Not funny, ha ha. Just…odd.

In late 1993 it was a bridge.

Not just any bridge. The 16th century bridge in Mostar, a concrete victim of the wars that ripped apart Yugoslavia in a bloody mess that struck horror through the hearts of people around the world.

Why the bridge and not the scores of people dying? Honestly, I can’t quite say for sure.

When I traveled to Yugoslavia for the first of many visits in 1981 it was still Tito’s land. Sure the “great” man had passed the year before, but the ugliness that would consume Marshal Tito’s Yugoslavia had yet to overwhelm the country. One of my fondest memories (keeping in mind I was all of 10 years old at the time) was sitting near the Mostar bridge after an adventure in a restaurant bathroom that ended with my mother’s wet shoe. She had slip-stepped into “the hole” during a desperate bid to outrun the water cascading down the walls. (If you don’t know what I mean? Two words: Turkish toilet.) That memory still makes me smile.

When the Bosnian War claimed the Mostar bridge over a decade later, I was incensed. I was also still young, passionate and naïve. So I took action.

I hand-wrote a petition to then U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton begging him to take action to stop the carnage. I begged (forced) friends and family to sign my letter (I think the final count was 33 signatories). And then I faxed it off to the White House from the office of a local congressman.

I haven’t thought about that youthful adventure with the White House in years.

But last night, as our current President Barack Obama invoked the memories of the Bosnian War and the human costs of delayed and, in some very memorable cases, ineffective action (think: Srebrenica)  I found myself nodding at the television screen.

Obama said:

As President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action

 

And I agree. All these years later I still believe that people of good conscience have a duty to their fellow man to intercede when possible to prevent atrocities or human rights abuses on a major scale.

At the same time, I find it galling that this standard of intervention is applied by the international community selectively. What about Iran? What about Burma? Or North Korea? If we look back over the 15-plus years since the end of the Bosnian War how many dozens of examples could we find of governments brutally repressing the aspirations of their people without really trying all that hard?

As it happened I wasn’t the only one thinking it. @TechSurgeons and I began a short conversation on Obama’s Libya defense and I almost fell over when he tweeted:

@jterzieff I think “international community” just means France & wonder why he didn’t have a stronger reaction when Iran crushed its revolt.

So I guess the question is what is our standard for intervention? Because we need one folks, we really do. Do we need to intervene militarily every time a government calls out its troops to crush the people? Does the international community have the chutzpah to stand behind that every.single.time?

Is Libya our new standard? If yes, and it’s applied equitably around the globe, then – and only then – Mr. President, you have my support.

It scares me to say that. Violence almost always results in more violence. The deaths of so many innocents. Blood on all of our hands. But what’s the alternative?

If anyone has any ideas, I’ll gladly listen ….

Social Media leads 21st Century Global Revolutions

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Hosni Mubarak should have given me a call on January 25. His mistake.

But if he had, I would have told him something Joss Whedon already made perfectly clear in Serenity: “you can’t stop the signal.”

Actually if Mubarak had called Beijing, Tehran or Rangoon he would have heard much the same message. Sure governments can still limit communications capabilities, but the measures are temporary stop gaps at best. Time and time again over the last two years, popular uprisings have found ways to sidestep official controls and use the Internet to get their messages out to the world.

The message hasn’t always achieved the desired results – think crackdown Iran, think crackdown Burma – but as we have seen in Egypt and across the Arab world over the last month, technology (and social media, in particular) is the revolution weapon of choice for the 21st century. There is real power there.

Truth be told all it takes to galvanize international support and drive a movement is a few enterprising individuals. In the case of Egypt the tweets and Facebook updates of a small group of Egyptians sparked a massive worldwide explosion of support with the #Jan25 and #Egypt hashtags that overwhelmed the social media airwaves virtually non-stop until Hosni Mubarak announced his departure on Feb. 11.

Bloggers picked up the call. Journalists covering the protests tweeted instant updates. Major media outlets continue to produce in-depth packages on the influence of social media and the Internet. And when the Egyptian government attempted to shut down those inside the country, Internet giant Google stepped in to lend a hand. Google teamed up with Twitter to run a voice-to-tweet service that allowed Egyptians to call into international numbers and leave voicemail messages that software then translated into tweets with the hashtag #egypt.

And while it is most certainly people – not technology – that drives the campaigns, social media has emerged as potent weapon.

“Egypt made a radical maneuver, ultimately counterproductive, trying to cut access …but when you are willing to dismantle your country’s entire communication network in an attempt to quiet people you are really scared,” says John Perry Barlow, political activist and fellow emeritus of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Barlow, like many observers, believes technology is causing a paradigm shift in traditional power structures.

“We’re witnessing revolutions that are self-organizing, without central leadership, and that is all a direct result of technology.”

Social media is now being used by protesters in Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Jordan and elsewhere to reach out across social and economic boundaries to build broad coalitions of diverse people united around a common cause.

In countries with mammoth ruling systems in place, like Libya or Syria, shutting down the Internet – at least partially or temporarily – can forestall large public movements. And while Chinese authorities have been able to fight off massive political unrest by pushing rapid economic development for millions of Chinese, activism and unrest are growing there too.

As we’re seeing in Libya not all ruling systems will be as mature about stepping down in the face of the flood as the Mubarak regime was. Leaders like Muammar Gaddafi will fight – unfairly and with little regard for the lives being destroyed – to cling to the old systems.

But for every individual that falls, dozens more around the world will pick up the call and blast the information across the Internet keeping the eyes of the world on any abuses perpetrated against people raising their voices for change ….and that is a power greater than any gun, goon or jail cell.

Hope Restored in Burma

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

 

The Lady is free!!

 

Who is The Lady, you ask? And why should you care?

 Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi – who spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest while the country’s ruling military junta systematically worked to break the spirit of not only Suu Kyi’s as an indivudual, but of the Burmese people collectively. Today the junta ended her isolation and The Lady emerged to greet supporters who have endured abuse and harassment for supporting her cause.

Suu Kyi was placed under arrest when her political party won elections in 1990. A powerful clique of military men seized power, tossed the election results, changed the country’s name, sealed the borders and began a standoff with Suu Kyi that appears to have ended today.

And the truth is she could have left. She could have walked away. The junta gave her the chance (though it would have resulted in her exile). But she refused. Refused because she believed in something bigger than herself.

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