The establishment

24 July 2006

In many ways, the Establishment is like an animal — if you leave it alone, it will not attack unless it wants something. If you corner it, it will most likely bite. This is doubly bad if you have cornered a stronger animal.

The Sri Lankan Internet community is an infant compared to its American counterpart. It’s unable to defend itself against censorship or witch hunts. This is why it’s often unwise of bloggers to attempt to take on specific elements of the Establishment.

Insults, name calling and personal attacks on public figures — especially those who hold high offices — is unwise and uncalled for. What applies in America should apply here too — if you can’t have respect for a particular president, at least have respect for the Office of the president.

Also notice that public support for many questionable regulations have been passed based on a single highly publicized occurrence (e.g. a single school shooting in America is enough to spark debates on wide-ranging gun controls). Do not give the government this one occurrence.

Often all it takes is general statements of principle. Assume the reader has intelligence. Allow him to apply the principles to specifics cases. Theory is the foundation, and foundations by themselves are rarely bombed.


Update on Indian blog censorship

21 July 2006

BBC: India bloggers angry at net ban

Indian government lifts ban on websites

Slashdot discussion on subject


Imminent loss of Internet free speech in Sri Lanka

20 July 2006

Sri Lankan political voices on the Internet are now running on borrowed time.

I believe that the present administration will start ordering ISPs to block “undesirable” web addresses within the next year, now that India has set a precedent for the same. Free blogging services will most likely be targets. Based on the present administration’s behavior toward the press, satellite TV companies and more recently regular TV channels, the Internet seems to be the next logical target.

I believe in non-violent change. The only tool for non-violent change is freedom of speech. Once that tool is lost, all is lost — the public has been both physically and intellectually disarmed and tranquilized. This is step #2 towards totalitarianism:

Step #1: Private property ownership becomes conditional (the state can take away private property at arbitrary whim)
Step #2: Loss of freedom of speech (the state decrees that you have all the freedom of speech you want, so long as you do not publicize certain state-decided “bad things”)

Priority

Preservation of free speech should be the Sri Lankan Internet community’s number one priority in the coming months, since the loss of the tool itself is a far greater loss than ANYTHING that the tool may produce. Blogging is a medium hardly known to the Sri Lankan public — any attack on it will most likely generate NO controversy. It is up to the blogging community to defend its own medium. It needs to anticipate the coming action and act preemptively.

I’ve been told that a number of young Sri Lankan bloggers met recently to discuss “what can be done” about the present situation in the country. I would tell them that the first order of business is to not lose the tool. Write to traditional print media about blogging and it’s importance as a tool of free speech compared to other mass media. When one medium comes under attack, use the remaining media to defend it. In this case, Sinhalese print media is best (question: is blogging called “Web Lekhana Kalaawa” in Sinhalese?).

Censoring blogs is suppression of INDIVIDUAL voices — it is worse than any action against large scale media institutions. A blog is one of the most effective ways an individual citizen can make himself heard.

Internet freedom is preserved in the United States because of a powerful pro-freedom/anti-censorship lobby that galvanizes into action at the tiniest sign that the U.S. government is planning anything even remotely related to Internet censorship. The Sri Lankan Internet community now needs to be on a similar hair-trigger alert.


The guardian angel complex

17 July 2006

The guardian-angel complex, as I call it, is a more pronounced version of the holier-than-thou complex. Many activists suffer from it — animal rights activists, anti-abortionists, environmentalists and recently in Sri Lanka, some of the self-proclaimed defenders of Sinhalese-Buddhism.

You can easily make the distinction between a legitimate activist and those suffering from the guardian-angel complex. The “guardian angel” is often more concerned with fighting the enemies than protecting the charge.

Animal rights activists are a good example. Whenever groups like ALF attack laboratories and “liberate” test animals, what is conspicuously absent from their well laid plans is the welfare of their liberated animals. They often break in, set fire to property, break open cages, spray paint walls and leave the animals to perish in an unfamiliar environment. Hardly the act of a guardian angel. Most “guardian angels” are so obsessed with playing a defender of something, that it’s often of little consequence what they’re a defender of.

This is also true of certain types of defenders of religion — following scripture is of little importance to them. What is more important is the exposure of “threats” and “conspiracies” against their religion and reprimanding those (other than themselves) who fail to follow their particular interpretation of scripture. When such types rear their heads in society, it is the job of legitimate activists to caution the public against them.


Web rings

14 July 2006

It is better to start a small thing in a big way than a big thing in a small way.

A few pro-liberty voices on the Internet cannot change the course of a country in a short time. What they CAN do is develop a stronger voice — so that anyone who does a web search will see that a pro-liberty/pro-capitalist author is more than a freak occurrence.

In the sphere of political ideas collaboration is very difficult. Even among those with the same basic principles, there will be conflicts in detail. Broad agreement is neither possible nor necessary, so long as one is willing to tolerate slightly different view points.

A simple step towards being better heard is a pro-liberty web-ring. A set of blogs/sites that simply link to each other requires no special effort. It simply requires that each linker find some pro-liberty common ground with the others. In view of common goals, it’s not difficult to set aside specific differences (for example, two authors who agree on political and economic reforms may disagree completely on solutions to the ethnic problem).


Updates/Feedback

7 July 2006

Country vs. Govt. vs. Administration: The need to distinguish between government and administration arises because of statements such as “the GoSL’s policies toward the LTTE”, especially when they appear in foreign media or long term publications. There have been several GoSLs with varying policies, but if not specifically mentioned it may not be clear at the time of reading, which particular government is meant. Expressing it as “the [government leader’s name] administration” seems to be the most convenient form (the word regime seems to have non-democratic connotations).

The internet for peace building: Neither the word ‘capitalism’ nor its Sinhalese equivalent carry any intrinsic negative meaning. They have their current negative connotations because of a century worth of smearing campaigns by marxists. Note that the very positive sounding “open economy” also came to mean something negative to the Sri Lankan on the street due to similar smearing campaigns. Instead of choosing new words, un-demonize the concepts that they stand for.


Capitalist apologism

6 July 2006

Don’t become an apologist for capitalism. Don’t defend it because of its economic benefits. Don’t defend it saying that it can achieve the goals of socialism more effectively. “Look at all the good it can do” is not a proper defense of capitalism. Instead it’s an unwarranted apology from socialism.

Defend capitalism on a MORAL basis. Capitalism is the social, economic and political system proper for man, NOT because it’s profitable, not because it brings progress and wealth, not because it’s easy, but because it is the only MORAL system of society.

If I were ever asked to condense the capitalist/individualist moral code to a single sentence, I’d say “Let a man keep what he earns”. Human rights and property rights are the same. The first things I own are my mind and my body. Therefore it follows that the fruits of the labor of my mind and my body are also mine.

Praising human rights while condemning property rights is an embarrassment. Freedom from bodily harm is a right that even some savage societies recognize. It takes civilized men to recognized higher order rights.

The most fundamental right is the right of OWNERSHIP, beginning with the ownership of thoughts, the body and then property.

To reiterate:
“Keep what you earn” – the right of property
“Earn what you keep” – the converse – One man’s right is another man’s obligation not to violate it.