Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nice Articles: What’s a girl to do when the Net goes down and the rain keeps pouring?

I stumbled upon this nice articles written by Marina Mahathir in recently published The Star Newspaper regarding the down of the internet connectivity in South East Asia and its impact and personal account. Read it!

WHAT a singularly annoying way to end the Old Year, by being cut off from everyone. To be precise, cut off from the cyberworld, which these days, IS everyone.

For one so dependent on the Internet to communicate with, such as me, this disruption of the Internet has proven to be a major irritation, though perhaps not quite a catastrophe.

It just goes to show even more how vast the digital divide is. While I complain endlessly about not being able to access the Net, Doddy, who drives me around in Jakarta, doesn’t care at all.

He cares more about whether the rains are going to make going home even more arduous than it already is. Which also affects me. This means therefore that abundant rain is the bigger problem since it affects more people than disruption of the Internet.

Admittedly, I did cheer briefly when the Net went down. It meant that I might have had an excuse not to email in my column. Then I remembered that my computer still works, I can still write it, print it out and (ohmigosh, how quaint) fax it over!

The bit of me still resisting envisioned my editors being unable to read the fax clearly and then mistyping my column, leading me into all sorts of trouble. Not that I haven’t gotten into trouble before even with clearly transmitted soft copy.

I could however always wiggle out of trouble by saying that they misread my article and I never said whatever scandalous thing I did. There might yet be a silver lining to this!

Then it transpired that if I reverted to my old non-web-based, spam-choked email programme, I could still send my column in. Drat, and double drat! Can’t a girl take a holiday from criticizing people?

It must be a conspiracy. I am spending the holidays abroad and the only way to get material to get annoyed about is to read the papers online, which I can’t do for the moment. Blissfully unaware of any politician-inspired inaneness or scandal, it makes for a successful vacation but uninspired column-writing. All my usual targets must be gleeful.

There is still the mobile phone however, through which, as we saw last year, communications can be rightly or wrongly exceedingly fast. This was the way that appeals for help in the floods got broadcast fastest.

What was wondrous is that because people keep their mobiles on wherever they are. We managed to reach the consciences of people who were far from home and who then mobilised help by calling back. Hail the mighty handphone!

Which leads me to some musings about communication. It would be nice to end 2006, not the best of years for most of us, on a humble note and to begin 2007 the same way. Thus, when faced with offers of help in an emergency situation, refusing them because of pride may be misplaced at best, arrogant at worst.

What do we communicate by such ungraciousness? That when people reach their hands out in friendship, we are ungrateful?

We have been lucky in being able to extend our help to less fortunate neighbours and friends for a long time. In such a fortunate position, it behoves us to be humble because we never know when tables will be turned.

Help offered sincerely should always be accepted sincerely as well. In any case, it is only those in comfortable positions who can afford to refuse help. To those on the ground feeling wet and miserable, anything that would alleviate the discomfort is welcome, no matter where it comes from.

Imagine if, in the wake of the tsunami, the Acehnese were particular about where help came from, that it had to come only from Muslim countries or whatever other conditions.

So many more people might have died if they had put such conditions on offers of help. As it is, while so much still needs to be done in Aceh two years after the tsunami, they are also now suffering from floods. Misery on top of misery. I doubt if they are going to examine too closely where the next bag of food and dry clothes come from.

Disasters, natural or otherwise, are levelling factors. They reveal what any community or country is prepared for and capable of.

In 1992, when the Highland Towers collapsed, we received help from the Japanese and the French. Without us having to ask, they mobilised their disaster recovery experts almost as soon as they heard about the tragedy. If nothing else, it helped to know that somebody else cared.

Let us therefore wish each other very humbly a very happy new year, one that is peaceful, calm and harmonious, spared the grandiosity and grandstanding of 2006.

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