Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Yahoo is for Yahoos

5 December 07

Or, Something Infuriating.

Censorship sucks. Plain and simple. Yahoo promotes censorship, of this I’m sure.

Yahoo Betrays Free Speech

New York Times Editorial – 02 December 2007

For a company that ostensibly believes in the Internet’s liberating power, Yahoo has a gallingly backward understanding of the value of free expression.

The company helped Beijing’s state police uncover the Internet identities of two Chinese journalists, who were handed 10 years in prison for disseminating pro-democracy writings. Testifying before Congress last year about one case, Yahoo’s legal counsel said the company was unaware of the nature of the investigation. Did he miss the language about providing “state secrets to foreign entities” — a red flag for a political prosecution?

Last month, Yahoo settled a suit by the families of the jailed journalists but it did not admit doing wrong and is refusing to change its procedures to avoid becoming a stool pigeon for China’s police state again.

Yahoo’s collaboration is appalling, and Yahoo is not the only American company helping the Chinese government repress its people. Microsoft shut down a blogger at Beijing’s request. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft censor searches in China. Cisco Systems provided hardware used by Beijing to censor and monitor the Internet.

These companies argue that it is better for the Chinese people to have a censored Internet than no Internet. They say that they must abide by the laws of the countries they operate in. But the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the press, association and assembly. Those guarantees may be purely symbolic, but these companies — which loudly protest Chinese piracy of their intellectual property — have not tried to resist. What they are resisting are efforts in Congress that could help them stand against repressive governments.

Last January, Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey reintroduced the Global Online Freedom Act in the House. It would fine American companies that hand over information about their customers to foreign governments that suppress online dissent. The bill would at least give American companies a solid reason to decline requests for data, but the big Internet companies do not support it. That shows how much they care about the power of information to liberate the world.

Because I use Yahoo’s photo service, Flickr, and I visit Yahoo Groups, I feel like I am supporting Yahoo’s position. I’ve said it before, and I continue to stand by my decision. Over the next month I will be removing my photos from Flickr and I will close my account. I have decided that I will find another way to host my photos, one that feels more comfortable. Will Yahoo care? Of course not. But I cannot consciously continue to do business with them. Not when they have placed profit over the values that I cherish above all.

Yeah, I’m a Redhead

13 September 07

“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” ~Mark Twain

So it’s not the orangutan after all.

Burning Books is Not the Answer

1 June 07

Is burning books ever a good idea? I’m not sure how I feel about this. A bookstore owner in Kansas City had a warehouse full of books he was unable to sell – close to 20,000 books. After libraries and thrift shops refused the books, he decided to hold a monthly book bonfire. He views the burnings as a protest against society’s declining support of books.

I am actually cringing as I write these words. When I think of book burnings, I imagine that scene in Indiana Jones, when the nazis are burning all the books and Indy “runs into” Hitler. Book burnings = fascism, fear, totalitarianism, prison state, loss of freedom, censorship, closed-mindedness. In the nazi concentration camps, the motto work makes you free hung over the gates. I think a more appropriate motto for our day and age would be information makes you free.

The bookstore owner fears that most people are getting their reading in through newspapers and the Internet, that people don’t care about books anymore. I can think of nothing more sad. I spend countless hours on the Internet, reading as much as I can, but at the end of the day, I need books. There is nothing quite like the feel of the pages, the heft of the words. I seek information in as many forms as I can get – audiobooks, ebooks, Internet web pages, the old fashioned book. For me, information is my most valuable tool for surviving in this world. Maybe that is why I have chosen to spend the next year studying information science. A librarian’s world is filled with information.

When I read the article about the book burning, I immediately thought of a photo slide show (#1 on the search list) I had seen on the New York Times website a few weeks ago. The pictures were of university campuses in Africa. They showed the students living in cramped and dilapidated dormitories, as many as can fit in one room. They showed science classes using broken beakers and test tubes to perform lab experiments. They showed classrooms literally falling apart. They showed long lines of students desperate to get into the library to study. In America, one man burns books because no one seems to want them. In Africa, young people yearn for any kind of access to the information that could give them a better life.

The New York Times has excellent multimedia reports available on their site. This is by no means a recommendation to spend all your time surfing the Internet. Embrace a real live book if you have the chance!

I am new and I am trying

1 August 05

This morning I stopped in to McDonalds to get some breakfast. I don’t normally eat at McDonald’s, but every once in a while I do get a craving for a sausage’n egg McMuffin, especially after a long 12 hour night shift. Well, a very scared looking Chinese-Canadian girl (Ahem, the China connection…) greeted me and asked in a timid manner if she could take my order. She was wearing a button that said, “I am new and I am trying.” I couldn’t help but smile. She was so cute. Completely incapable of making any sort of McDonald’s related decisions, but cute. (She kept turning to her trainer every time she had to answer a question.) And she was trying. I couldn’t help but think, “Is this how I am going to be on my first day as an English teacher?” Oh I hope my drama skills kick in. Please tell me that all those years of corny high school plays (Sir Sprout ring any bells?) and overly-dramatic college musicals will finally count for more than just GPA boosters. (Those were fun times, though.)

My new mantra will have to be: I am new and I am trying.

More on Going Native

1 August 05

So it seems that going native is a registered trademark belonging to a company that sells “world foods” like soups and wraps. Their “Ethos” (philosophy) is along the same lines as mine, I just didn’t get the domain name first. I guess this means that I won’t be moving my blog to goingnative dot com.

Why Going Native?

25 July 05

What exactly is Going Native all about? It is a philosophy that I have come to know through my many travels. Mainly it means that I am abandoning any preconceived notions that I may have about my new country. That I am travelling with an open-mind. That I am ready to accept what may come. That I aim to live as the locals do. That I will eat the local food and reject the Westernized Fast-Food establishments that seem to be spreading like a tumour across the world… That I will learn the language, culture and customs of the new country. (As much as I can.) I have a very big interest in folk practices of cultures different from my own, so one of my goals will be to explore that aspect of Chinese culture.

I’m not heading out to the Far East wearing rose-colored glasses, I recognize that there are always two sides to everything – good & bad, yin & yang. I choose to see both. I want to observe China and the Chinese as they are, as they deal with the new world they are now in.

Today at I Deal coffeeshop, a Canadian guy who lived in Turkey was talking about how the North American media is really creating a wall between North America and the rest of the world, dealing in stereotypes & fear. That in reality, the people of the world are really not scary terrorists, just people living and getting by like everyone else. It is so true. My aim in going native is to get to know the world out there beyond North America’s borders, with no agenda. No politics, no religion, no dogma, just genuine interest.