Written by U Ne Oo on 1998-10-28

Recently, there has been an unprecedented decision by BurmaNet coordinators to screen the postings on its list. It is an understandable response by BurmaNet coordinators tot coordinators to save the list from becoming what appears to be a mud-slinging forum by the unruly Burmese mobs. On the other hand, it is not entirely good decision for all BurmaNet subscribers to be being limited, even as a form of screening, in expressing what they believe as important issues. After all, the special arrangement for a free and uncontrolled exchange of information among the subscribers is that making BurmaNet uniquely different from the other mailing lists.

Unfortunately, the problem of attacking person or attacking person or personality on a public forum seems to be uncontrollable, especially with the Burmese. I have often felt embarrassed by our compatriots' behaviour. Partly, this problem is arising from some Burmese activists' inability to distinguish between the political and personal issue. Also, there is problem in understanding one's own right and respecting the rights of others; striking the balance between exercising one's own right to freedom of speech and respecting the others peoples' right to live in dignity.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

I
n most western democracies, the public generally treat with cynicism about the "political correctness" of the politicians. Then again, the public will have total abhorrence of the politicians taking seriously of a "politically incorrect" view and promoting divisive and oppressive policies against the marginalized in the society. In other words, the politicians are not to exploit the vulnerable and marginalized within the society for their own political ends. This is primarily to s primarily to be considered as the understanding of political power and the responsibility on those who acquired power within a society. The correct politics is the one that can foster a cohesive and stable society. To put it simply, the "political correctness" is required in politics because it is correct politically.

Likewise on BurmaNet, each subscriber does have the power to communicate, without restraint, to all others on the list. With this power, there is the responsibility to respect the dignity of others on the list. For example, one person posting message with the foul and obscene language can immediately offend many readers on the list. The public internet forum is not the place for settling one's personal grudge against another person or an organization. It is in the interest of the public, and to the extent is allowable, to criticize the incompetence and expose corruptions. However, these things has to be done properly and in a civilized manner. In other words, those who advocate on the internet should exercise┬ their power in a way that is "politically correct". One must understand, at least, doing the public advocacy on internet is different from making personal gossip. Otherwise, undue personal attack will promote chaos within the list and we will no longer have a viable forum for our communication.

NO COWBOY POLITICS ON THE NET

In those western classic movies, a gun-fighter has to shoot and kill another to become a greater gun-fighter. However, there can be no such thing as "cowboy politics"┬ on the Net. Let's have no doubt about this: No one will receive the respect and admiration on this list by unduly attacking and defaming another activist or an organization.

Rather disconcerting, but forgivable to some extent, was someone making promotion of oneself on the Net. It is nothing wrong, of course, in sharing the successes, experiences, thoughts and values among the list subscribers. But it is rather childish to solicit the netters' support, sometimes by arranging fradulent email accounts on the Net (the HOTMAIL and YAHOO are instrumental to this purpose). This problem is the probable confusion of internet mailing list with traditional news media, such as a newspaper. Unlike a newspaper, a mailing list on the internet, by itself, does not carry any credibility, but the individual users do. In contrast to a normal newspapers, the message being communicated on a list, such as on BurmaNet-l, cannot automatically become credible and becoming trustworthy. The users will judge the credibility of the communications he communications based on the factual contents and originating sources. Therefore, someone conspiring of being popular on an internet mailing list, that is to say, probably means nothing.

TEN DUTIES

In ancient Buddhist scriptures, there has been the ten duties of king that could be applied to modern form of government. In a way, this "Ten Duties of King" can also be consider as a guideline for anyone who exercises his/her power. Advocating on Internet (i.e. sending an email message to a list), in fact, is ast), in fact, is a form of exercising power. One may be surprised to find in those guidelines about how to be "politically correct" in exercising power. Following some interpretation of the Ten Duties from ASSK's "Freedom from Fear":

"[K]indness(maddava) in a rule is in a sense the courage to feel concern for the people. It is undeniably easier to ignore the hardships of those who are too weak to demand their rights than to respond sensitively to their needs. To care is to s. To care is to accept responsibility, to dare to act in accordance with the dictum that the ruler is the strength of the helpless...."

For those who still cannot escape their minds from the personal grudges, their unfitness to exercise any form of power can be clearly seen in the following:

"[T]he seventh, eighth and ninth duties -- non-anger (akkodha), non-violence(avihamsa) and forbearance (khanti)--could be said to be related.....must not allot not allow personal feelings of enmity and ill will to erupt into destructive anger and violence. It is incumbent on a ruler to develop the true forbearance which moves him to deal wisely and generously with the shortcomings and provocations of even those whom he could crush with impunity...."

It is destructive for activists and politicians to have anger the real issues in politics. In the same manner,┬ forbearance is also needed for anyone who engaging in politics. These consideration are relevant, even in the most simplest case of exercising power for sending and replying an email message to an Internet mailing list.

As a long time contributor and subscriber of the BurmaNet-l, I must say that it takes long time and considerable efforts by many responsible people to build-up a viable and free-forum, such as BurmaNet-l. It is the responsibility for all, especially the contributors, to ensure the BurmaNet-l remains to operate in an open and free atmosphere.

With best regards, U Ne Oo.

BurmaNet -- Herding the Goats