Bad India!

My first day in India, Ajar one of my host, told me, the government has increase the level of online censorship. Websites that are deemed inflammatory or offensive are blocked. Websites critical of the government are taken down. In March 2011, the Government banned several websites, Typepad, Mobango, Clickatell, and Facebook for sometime without warning. How did the government get this power? Follow November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India pass the Information Technology Act (ITA), expanding the government power to monitor and censor online content in order to protect it’s citizen from terrorism.
India’s censorship is not limited to the Internet; it also extends to movies and TV shows. Ajar doesn’t go to the movies because the government censor material they deem inappropriate so he uses torrent to get the movies. In responds to people like him, the government block access to torrent sites, then Ajar start using VPN to bypass the restriction. It becomes an endless game of cat and mouse. Wasting so many resources!
On my second last night in India, I am watching a Hindi show in New Delhi with a professor who teaches Architect at the University. During the show an alert comes across the screen, informing viewers that if any part of the program offends them to call the government or visit the web site to file a formal complaint. The professor tells me that they have this on ever show, and that if people feel offended, they can file a formal complaint. She further went on to explain that the government takes the complaint, reviews it and put it in some kind of equation and then censor the content accordingly. She tells me that anyone can file a complaint so it’s fair. The oldest democracy making censorship democratic in order to legitimize it’s use; BAD INDIA!

“The Street” by Phnom Penh

 

While on the flight from Taipei to Phnom Penh I meet a stoutly Californian, owner of a dirt bike rental tour company in Cambodia. His clienteles consist mostly Austrians and Europeans; an average cost for a 5-7 day tour package is around $2,500. Over the past 5 years, he has flown to Cambodia numerous times and was will to offer kindly insights on Cambodian culture. Search for free international people search.

First insight – LIFE IS CHEAP IN CAMBODIA, be careful where you go! He explains that if a car hits a person and that person survives, the driver of the car is responsible for the medical bill, which can be in the upwards of 100k. But if a car hits a person and that person dies then the driver is only fine 2k. If drivers hit pedestrians, they have a financial interest to finish off the victim and that’s why life is cheap in Cambodia. A life is only worth $2k, a little less than one of his touring package.

Second insight – Cambodia has a beautiful culture but their priorities are backward. He said Cambodian would rather spend $700 on a cell phone rather than basic need items. He said that a person might not have a pair of shoes, but they have a cell phone. He doesn’t know why Cambodian priorities are backward, may it has something to do with the Khmer Rouge genocide. I really didn’t understand the logic of his argument but I was tired so I didn’t ask for an explanation.

Many years ago I read a novel called “The Street” by Ann Petry. In it, the main character, Lutie, tries to escape the poor streets of Harlem. She barely scraps, saving as much or little as she can, but always falling behind. In the novel she does something particular, she spends some money going to a club to have a drink. I think the author, Ann Petry, is trying to show that Luties’ need to escape the daily grind of poverty by going to the club is a basic human need.

The average Cambodian income is $100/month, military servants salary starts at $100/month, primary school teachers $150/month and college professor $200-$300/month. A girl working at the local Spa makes less than $70/month. Cambodia is poor! You can smell poverty the minute you get off the plane. For people living in poverty, especially when it’s almost a whole country, basic needs are not limited to food, shelter, and water. The need to escape the constant grind of poverty is also a basic need.

A cell phone is not just a phone for people living in poverty. It’s a vehicle to escape the daily grind of poverty; whether it’s 5 minutes talk time, 20 minutes watching videos or 1-hour playing games; they all provide distractions from the daily grind of poverty, and that’s why people in 3rd world county value cell phones as their basic needs. It’s the same reason Lutie visits the club, in “The Street.” And that’s what the man who owns the dirt bike touring company doesn’t understand, a poor society does not value life any less than a rich society, nor do they have their priorities backward, but they’re just poor, the poverty shape their being.   So the next time I see Cambodians by the streets of Phnom Penh, selling merchandise with phones costing 3 times as much as mine I’ll try to be more understanding and less judgmental.