Friday, May 14, 2010

Round the blogging traps

Waiting for the Aliens, a Canberra blog, carried a story - Falling Out of Love With Facebook - on the progressive changes in Facebook's privacy policies. I had noticed the changes, I had found them confusing, but hadn't focused on them. After reading the story I feel that was a mistake.

Those of us active in the on-line world willy nilly create ever growing electronic footprints. The management of those footprints becomes a real challenge.

Kanani Fong has decided to put Get Lost With Easy-Writer, focusing instead on The Kitchen Dispatch. I have watched the switch in Kanani's interests since Hub (a doctor) joined the US military. The sheer size of the US military plus assorted partners, family and friends makes for a very large community. The same thing happens in the Australian Defence Forces, but here the scale is just so much smaller.

I find Kanani's writing on the US military community interesting, but will miss her broader writing focus.

One of her recent posts, Irreverence Requires A Bit Of Knowledge, Or Stupidity Abounds, dealt with an episode where students were kicked off campus for wearing t-shirts with US flags. Apparently Mexican students objected because it was some form of Mexican national day.

After reading Kanani's post and the follow through story, there are obviously things here that I simply do not understand, it raised a broader issue in my mind. What do you do when some of the iconic events in your history actually conflict with the perceptions of others? This is relevant in part because we have all become so very "sensitive".

To avoid getting caught up in Australian issues, let me stick to the US.

As a kid, I was exposed to a range of stories about the foundation of Texas (the Alamo and all that), as well as a range of other US stories such as the defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans (1814). 

Well, in eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Now on the first I simply accepted what we might call the official line, a fight for liberation and all that, while on the second I actually cheered for the British! With time, I found that the establishment of Texas represented a successful land grab from Mexico, while the second was part of the War of 1812, a war that the US lost in terms of its initial objectives.

In many ways, history is about winners and losers. The US celebrates Texas for without that the US as we know it today would not exist. There is also enough drama and all that to make a very good story. The US also celebrates the Battle of New Orleans because it was a victory in what was otherwise a failed campaign during which the British burnt Washington to the ground.

To Mexicans, Santa Anna's 1836 defeat at Alamo could be construed as a national tragedy, while to Canadians the War of 1812 has become an iconic event in the evolution of their nation. But what from a US perspective do you when you acquire a huge Hispanic population, the majority from Mexico? Do you expect them to join in a celebration of Mexico's defeat?

This is really a matter for a longer post. For the moment, I simply note that it's complicated!

Staying with Kanani, she introduced me to another blog, Free range International, a blog written by contractors in Afghanistan. I have mentioned this blog before, but I don't know how many people have clicked through.

This is a close and personal story of the war in Afghanistan written by people who are there. It goes to the locality and detail of things covered in the mainstream media at high levels of generality.  Look at Happy al-Faath Day , the detailed story of a Taliban attack. You simply won't get this stuff in the general media.

I find the blog fascinating if sometimes depressing because of its local focus. Without necessarily accepting all the blog's viewpoints, It helps me interpret broader reporting.

Aviation and the Spread of Diseases marks a return to blogging by our Indonesian blogging friend Niar after a gap. I have kept in touch with  Niar because we are also Facebook friends. I found this post interesting because it deals with transmission of disease by plane.

Staying with Indonesia, Tikno had two interesting posts recently.

The first, Long journey for alcoholic beverage in Indonesia, dealt (as the name says) with the dispute in Indonesia over alcohol. Here I was reminded of a very old joke. There have always be problems in getting alcoholic beverages into Muslim countries. The story goes that the British ambassador in Saudi Arabia received an urgent call form the customs' people: Excellency, could you please collect your piano. It's leaking!  

Tikno's story deals in part with the role played by provincial authorities in Indonesia. Now here I have a real gap in my knowledge because I simply don't know how the Indonesian provincial system is evolving.

Tikno's My congratulations to Sri Mulyani Indrawati deals with the appointment of the Indonesian Finance minister to a senior position (Managing Director) in the World Bank. Accepting that I do not know the details of the Bank Century matter, my gut judgement is that the appointment is a gain to the Bank, a loss to Indonesia. I see that Harry Nizam has similar views - here and here.

One story of Harry's over gender confusion,  A Man detained at a Women's Prison, made me feel sad. A second, Wives fighting for Husband's Office, made me laugh.

At a personal level, I have no conceptual objection to the idea of more than one husband or wife. This includes South African president Jacob Zuma. I suppose that I was influenced here by reading Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress many years ago. Yet at a purely personal level, the idea of trying to deal with multiple spouses boggles the mind!

The Indonesian political campaign is a practical example of the problems that can arise.

In concluding this post, I feel a bit of an Indonesian phase coming on. I have often argued on this blog about the importance of the Indonesian-Australian relationship to both countries. Yet, while I think that I am probably better informed about Indonesia than many Australians, the gaps in my knowledge are substantial.

I thought of this as I listened to and thoroughly enjoyed the coverage of the British elections. I have so much familiarity here that understanding is automatic. This is less true of Indonesia. Just a warning!

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