Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Block

As if we're not already overwhelmed by mediocrity and suffocating from stagnation, the censors' scissors in Syria "apparently" slashed in an indiscriminate manner all over the Internet's landscape. After Youtube and Blogspot came Facebook's turn and then, amazingly, Amazon's. What is it, may we ask, they don't want us to buy? We have almost everything available on the local market, except books and dildos. My educated guess is that they have already stocked well on their supply of vibrators to stimulate their intellect. At the same time, I'm certain that they loath reading. It must be books then they want to eradicate from our shopping list.

Fewer resident Syrians are reading blogs because it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. My normal browsing day starts in my own private office from 9:00 to 10:00 before I move to another location and work till mid-afternoon. This personal time, enjoyed with my second cup of coffee is one of the highlights of my day. I read my favorite "updated" blogs one after the other. I absorb, reflect and sometimes comment. No matter what their content is, they have become a part of my reading conscience. I don't have to agree with everything I read. There are certain blogs I have been frequenting for over a year without ever commenting. Yet I follow them regularly because I appreciate their underlying message. I used to sail effortlessly between them and in the process find new harbors to add to my calling list. Then came the blocking of Blogspot and my "surfing" agility was hit hard. I have to carefully tread my way through proxies and anonymizers now and instead of this wonderful morning hour being a source of serenity and pleasure it's increasingly becoming a source of irritation and frustration. But wait a minute, isn't it exactly what the censors want? To get "us" bored so that eventually we eliminate blogging (reading, writing and commenting) from our surfing habits. The same line of thought applies to Youtube, Facebook and ultimately to Amazon. Thus the purpose behind this draconian type of censorship becomes all too clear: to sever, to slash, to disconnect and to exterminate the exchange of opinions, ideas, jokes and photos between resident and expatriate Syrians.

We can still access any site on the Internet albeit much slower than before. Is it a coincidence that the growth rate of resident Syrians accessing the Internet is one of the fastest in the world and that their speed of access is among the slowest? If you follow the local IT news you'll find out that the number one issue over the last five years has been the matter of "speed", or more accurately the lack of it. I am having my own serious doubts now and am developing my own hypothesis. It seems that official policy is to extend Internet access to all and at the same time to keep it ridiculously slow. Quantity versus quality. Keep the Internet static so that it loses its interactive role and merely simulate the television experience. Let resident Syrians read and only read whatever they want on ephemeral screens without their input and more importantly without feedback from their expatriates. Official policy doesn't give a damn about what the rest of the world is saying or has to say about us. It's beyond control anyway. Let expatriates express whatever come to their minds (it's beyond control anyway) BUT let there be a divide, a buffer, a no-man's-land, intellectually at least, between expatriates and residents.

Let us not oversimplify reality. Not all expatriates belong to what is vaguely termed the "opposition". By the same token, not all residents are the "sheep" many expatriates believe us to be. Yet it is safe to assume that a large proportion of the Syrian Middle-Class I once lamented live abroad. Apparently, this dispersed class on the outside and its remnants on the inside present the only clear and present danger to the censors. Together they make the Bourgeoisie, that's what they have been pejoratively called by both the more and less fortunate. These are ordinary people whose status was acquired often by hard work, high education and specialized employment. Although they are the majority in any normal society they are not well-liked by the upper echelon and by the lower stratum. Historically, it might be argued that censorship in third world countries has been implemented by those who climbed to power from the ghettos and/or fields of poverty. I don't believe this supposition holds a grain of truth today. All over the third world, in the Arab world in general (both freaky republics and caricature monarchies) and in Syria in particular the established orders have lost their ancient roots of paucity when they bedded the parasitic industrial and feudal overlords. They will always fall short on reaching the Aristocratic status they aspire to due to the fact they have no class at all to start with. Regrettably though, they hold the strings by which the censors are moving in a seemingly random pattern.

Art, literature and science grow in the fertile soil of the middle class. Change, advancement and even rebellion are also conceived in the womb of the Bourgeoisie. Therefore this social group is potentially dangerous no matter which road its members choose to follow, right, left or in the damn middle.

Let dispersed Syrians abroad follow their own dreams of riches or sink deep in shit holes. Let them give up their heritage in exchange of being accepted as equals in their new-found homes or let them forever remain second class citizens. The most important thing is to let them stay out, as the less of them in, the better.

For any real change to happen it must start from within. If we're ever to achieve authentic democratic reform, the Syrian Middle Class is the only hope. To prevent that, block the free exchange of ideas between individuals belonging to this group. Isolate them, break them apart, bore them to death… Block the bastards!

19 comments:

The Syrian Brit said...

Abu Fares,
They can try and sever us from our roots.. they can try and force us to give up our heritage.. they can try to keep us out..
They will not succeed.. They will not prevail.. We, and you.. all of YOU.. will remain a thorn in their sides..
Living abroad, as far as I am concerned, only strengthens my desire to see my Country thrive and prosper, and see my Countrymen enjoying all the privileges that I have been so lucky to experience..
Freedom of thought and expression is an immensely precious commodity, and, I for one, would not give it up, even if the price is to stay away from my beloved home.. (and, frankly, it is not the search for riches that keeps me away.. I would be much better off financially in Damascus, I assure you..)
I think you are right in saying that the reason for the blockade is simply fear.. After all, it seems the Regime is not the all-powerful indestructible force.. Perhaps it is a lot more vulnerable than it would have us believe...

http://syrianbrit.blogspot.com/2007/08/unstoppable-juggernaut-or-frightened.html

KJ said...

Oh man! LoL..

Well look at it in another way: If you spend one hour on the internet a day, it means you "waste" 5 hours a week doing nothing when you could have been working. Assuming 5 million people in Syria work (just as a number) it means 5 million working hours a week are gone.

Imagine what businesses could do in 5 million working hours a week!

abufares said...

@ Syrian Brit
Welcome back. I missed your presence around.
Of course you are already aware that this post was written from 2 perspectives, mine and that of the censors. "the search for riches" is one side of the simple two-dimensional dichotomy they can cope with on the intellectual level. I mean they can only think in Black & White, in With Us or Against Us sort of way.
The reason behind the block in my opinion is fear of "small rivulets turning into a cascading river".
Thank you for your return.

abufares said...

@ KJ
Although you were joking, I don't consider my morning Internet hour as a waste of time. Life is not only about work. As far as I'm concerned, reading is far more valuable. We have to work, however, in order to afford quiet moments for reading.
Business can kiss more asses in 5 million working hours for all I care. Between government actions and business practices, we "humans" are the only losers.

Omar said...

Censorship always confused me. When I was 6 or so I remember my older cousins coming in with magazines, with a page or two ripped violently from their insides. I remember asking my self why someone would do that.
Growing up, I remember someone coming in to my dad's office telling the people present about the page that was ripped from Al Hayat. I was 11 at the time and the act confused me just as much.

With the recent blocks of facebook, and Amazon, the idea of censorship is still beyond me.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
Isaac Asimov

This is, by far, the best piece I’ve read about the blockade phenomenon in Syria. Thank you Abu Fares!
I used to think that blocking in Syria is rather arbitrary. You see, there is no clear pattern. Apart from the websites with ‘hostile’ content toward Syria. The You tube, blogspot (and to some extent facebook’s) blockade is unjustifiable. Okay, maybe blogspot is serving as a pasture for some ‘rogue’ elements amongst the Syrian expats. Maybe facebook is helping people to cluster around ‘abhorrent’ causes. But why YouTube? I mean seriously, how many out of the little number of DSL users in syria are likely to get an ideological shift after watching a video segment?
Here in the UAE the banning of websites has a more of ‘moral’ background, and it is slightly more accurate. It is mostly directed toward sites with adult content, dating websites, anti-Islam forums, VoIP sites. … and of course, everything that opposes the monarchies of the Gulf will be black-flagged as well.
However, with popular websites like blogspot and you tube, they didn’t block the website entirely, they’ve only done so to the malicious pages seprately, I mean I can almost watch 90% of the videos on youtube, everything else has either been flagged as inappropriate, or thought to be offensive to the 'Gulf sensitivities'. But all so on case-to-case basis. No sweeping block like in Syria. (Except for flckr of course, which falls under the ‘go figure’ and ‘WTF?’ category!)
Actually, I am now reminded that VoIP websites like Skype are not only blocked, but using them is also against the law. If people got caught using them, they might face legal action.
Which brings up the question ya Abu Fares, is getting around the proxy to surf the blocked websites in Syria illegal?(I know, a dumb question after all)
Ah, and when you call for a banned site here, you’d get a banner stating that the site is blocked for such and such reasons, and that if you think it shouldn’t be, you can fill a form and email it to someone who will then review it…etc.. (some blokcages have actually been lifted after patient protest and lobbying with the ISP company)

KJ said...

DJ - Funny thing about skype, people are using it and I know people who are working in BOTH telecoms in the UAE who use it inside and outside the office LOL

Abu Fares - Of course I was joking hence the quotations; I was simply trying to make it sound like what it seems to them people, being a waste of time. Akeed life is not about work only - I am the first one to go run naked and hold up banners saying that. That is why I didn't go to KSA...

To let your mind at ease, I go every day after work to the beach nearby, roll down the windows, and read a good book. When the sun light is gone, I turn on the car lights from the inside, and from afar I look like a lantern amidst the sea.

Which is true metaphorically as well if you got the drift ;)

DUBAI JAZZ said...

lol KJ, I am sure that a roll of weed would go down pretty well with your drift!

saint said...

The concrete over the block in your picture has no chance to keep standing for long; it is primitive and structurally unsound, so do the blocking.

I completely agree with you Abu Fares, you know much and I always wished for ideas to flow around in your side of the neck, so all get to know more. But blockers want to keep the good writers in the blogspot less than the count of the fingers on one hand, and so far they are successful. It seems that they are on a mission and want to protect you from you.

Rodney Dangerfield in one of his jocks once said: With my dog I never get respect. He keeps barking at the front door. He does not want to go out. He wants me to go out :)

The counter punch for the trick of disbursement is to never stop re-assembling.

Paige said...

It is times like these that make me happy that I live where I do. Although part of me belongs there, I rejoice in my liberty here. I can watch Little Mosque on the Prairie on YouTube anytime I want. Great show, by the way. If you can, watch it! They need to show it on the south side of the Canadian border as well!!

Abu Kareem said...

Abu Fares,

Great post. I never thought of you as a sheep but if anything as a wolf in sheep's clothing. In this post, we got a glimmer of your fangs and Oh how razor-sharp they can be :)

abufares said...

@ Omar
I totally agree with you. Censorship is beyond any comprehension whether on political or moral backgrounds. It implies that someone, somewhere, knows better than the rest. This can never be true.

@ Dubai Jazz
If I have to choose which is worse, political or moral censorship (although both of them are equally evil) I personally believe that morality should be left entirely out of the circle of debate. The motif behind political censorship, although twisted, is understandable. But to adapt certain predefined ideas about what is morally right or wrong outside the immediate family is ridiculous.

@ KJ
Right on my man... You seem to have your priorities right.

@ Saint
Rodney Dangerfield is my one of my all-time-heroes. I have nothing but respect for the guy (rest his soul). His eternal phrase: "I don't get no respect" will live forever.

@ Paige
I love your words: "I rejoice in my liberty here". Certainly, nothing is as precious.

@ abu kareem
Thank you for the great compliment: "I never thought of you as a sheep but if anything as a wolf in sheep's clothing." In this context, it's an honor.

Angel said...

Under Siege!!

Preventing the “free and easy exchange of ideas”..... nothing more HEALTHY or USEFUL!!!

When \\\"Freedom\\\" is no longer focused on rights.. but focused on power!!!.... When it no longer exists as a vocabulary word, concept, or even a reality.....

Better to keep my mouth shut & keep kicking the hell of me as to insist coming back into this heaven!!! What achievements and awards!!

Chet said...

With the censorship Syria has is discouraging to me. I can't help but see the day when the same will happen here in the states. It seems to me that fear is starting to rule the world. It has been a few months since I have gotten around to other blogs. It is good to see that yours is still refreshing to me. You never fail to have a way of saying what you actually want to say. Hope to get around more. I know that there has to be brighter days ahead.

abufares said...

@ Angel
Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I've been out of town.
It ought to get better don't worry.
Take it easy. I miss you around here.

abufares said...

@ Chet
Hello my friend. It's been a while since we got in touch.
I agree with you, there are brighter days ahead.
Meanwhile, we'll play along this game and try not to get ourselves dirty in the process.

Rime said...

Dear Abufares, for the life of me I can't understand how I missed this fantastic entry on the pathetic censorship of miscellaneous websites. I thought the last thing you had written was the beautiful ode to autumn (to which I had written a comment which doesn't seem to have made it online, probably through my own fault, telling you it was my own favorite time of year). I came to check your season's greetings and was taken by this great piece.

Bravo! This should be required reading, every single word. For us, and for them.

I am this close to starting a petition demanding that you dedicate your full time to writing, but then we would lose the pleasure of the eager anticipation of your work.

abufares said...

Hey Rime
I really thought this kind of post is more in the line of your interests and I missed your comment.
Here you are at last with compliments and only nice things to say. You know what, and this is a personal opinion, you have a piercing eye to details and as thus your articles are usually very accurate in their disection of political/social issues. My writings, on the other hand, lack the indepth analysis and betray the fact that my knowledge/interest is more superficial. The only strength my words could ever carry is that they voice a universal truth.
Thing is, in a way, we compliment each other. If you ever consider eloping, give me a call ;-)

Rime said...

Hum ... now where did I put your number again?

:)