Oppression is Not a Competition

Screenshot, 12th Aug 2015. I have blurred the child's face because I think it was very irresponsible of the parent not to do so in such a post; the boy is a minor who may not wish to be associated with these views as an adult and is too young to give consent here.
Screenshot, 12th Aug 2015. I have blurred the child’s face because I think it was very irresponsible of the parent not to do so in the first place; the boy is a minor who cannot give consent to be featured in a public post of a controversial nature.

This post was written by the father of a double amputee child. While I support the child, it’s unfortunate his father feels the need to begin this post by knocking down “Bruce Jenner”.

It’s a simple concept, people: there is no single definition of courage, because there is no single definition of a struggle. And there doesn’t need to be. I can acknowledge that this child and Jenner are both courageous, as are the children that manage to grow and even thrive in the conflict zones this man’s country bombs; the countless trans children and adults all around the world who don’t have access to a fraction of the resources Jenner does and still persist in living authentic lives, knowing they may very well die in the process at the hands of transphobes.

Courage is also what the abused children everywhere have, what the families in Kasur have in facing this system and trying to get justice for their children. Courage is what every honest worker has, going to work every day in a system that he knows is biased against him, knowing he has no support base to fall back upon and no advantage to leverage. Courage looks like a woman stepping on to a bus, heading off to work or to school, not letting the fear of groping hands and worse stop her. Sometimes courage is getting out of bed when you are in the deepest pit of depression. And courage can also be as simple as living life, not knowing what the next moment will be like, but silently vowing to yourself you would rather leave the world a more peaceful, happier place than you found it. These are all examples of courage.

We all know a “real” Arthur Ashe award winner–they are our friends, our family, our neighbors, and so on. Does that mean the one in my house is or should be the only one? Is my friend’s mother who beat cancer and manages a primary school for middle-to-lower income kids less deserving? Deserving of what?

Awards are just awards. If we believed awards could fully describe the extent of human achievement (and struggle), we might also have to believe that most of the people who have done anything worthy or have struggled in any way are cis, white Western men. Perhaps that is one reason why I already understand the superficiality of public acknowledgement: if it happens sincerely, it happens too late. So I don’t sit down and squabble over the merit of these awards, just like I don’t go to a school’s sports day and claim rigging/media bias/political correctness if every child is handed a prize for participation. Because these are all ultimately meaningless.

What is real is real, award or no award. Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t need an award from ESPN to validate her life has been a personal struggle, any more than Malala needed a Nobel to realize she had risked her life to stand up against the Taliban. Meanwhile, Iqbal Masih was murdered at the age of 12 and he helped over 3000 children escape from the bonded child labor that still powers a sizable chunk of Pakistan’s capitalist economy–and he got no award. It would be an afterthought even if he did.

But you know what ISN’T courageous? A grown, cis man using his child’s struggle to punch down and attack a trans woman and her struggle as somehow less worthy of attention. Do not turn your child’s pain into an excuse to invalidate someone else’s. Oppression is NOT a competition.

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Mythbusting the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2015

If you’re an Internet user in Pakistan (We have so much in common! We should totes do coffee sometime!) or if you have access to a newspaper, chances are you’ve heard about the Cybercrime Bill of the Apocalpyse that will eat your lunch, take all your money, smash your petunias, and destroy everything you have ever loved. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Or maybe go on vacation, perhaps to La La land (tickets 50% off) because your loving and nurturing Government will protect you from all the bad things in the world. Maybe even yourself—you do get so naughty sometimes, you know, maybe it would be best if you just let someone else take charge of all your thinking.

Feeling dazed?

Have no fear, The Barefooted Bookworm is here. Here to tell you I feel ya, bro. Because I was starting to get pretty dazed ourselves, I decided to trust my own senses and get to the bottom of this mystery.

Mystery solving kit:

  1. A copy of The One True Bill
  2. Social media research (Facebook pages, Facebook posts, cat memes…)
  3. A brain
  4. Some more social media research
  5. Might need a new brain after this

Now to boldly go where no media circus has gone before. Presenting: The Truth or Something Like It.

“The Cybercrimes bill has already been passed, there’s no use protesting about it now!”

No, that was a draft. But thanks for playing.

Status: False

“The Cybercrimes act will make it illegal to post Facebook comments!”

No, unless you routinely post death threats to religious minorities and/or make unwanted sexual suggestions towards women you come across on Facebook. In which case: yes–but I doubt you’ll be missed.

Status: False.

“The proposed spam law is so broad, I could go to jail for Facebook messaging a friend about today’s college assignment!”

Yes. That is exactly what the government wants: prevent you from doing your homework. Try telling that to your professor. Keep in mind the clause requires “illegal marketing” and the expressed wish of the receiver to “unsubscribe” in order to count something as spam. So make sure you also offer to sell your friend smuggled AK-47s, but only after they tell you to quit asking them how many columns the prof wanted all the info sorted into because they already told you, like, three times during college.

Note “intelligence”. Breathe sigh of relief.
Note “intelligence”. Breathe sigh of relief.

Status: False.

“My hobby is street photography. Under this bill, I could be charged for posting photos of people without their permission!”

Rest assured, your Diane Arbus and Humans of New York inspired dreams are safe. If you intend to harass and/or blackmail the people photographed in your streetscapes, however, then we might have a problem.

Doesn’t get any clearer than “INTENT TO COERCE OR INTIMIDATE OR HARASS ANY PERSON”, does it?
Doesn’t get any clearer than “INTENT TO COERCE OR INTIMIDATE OR HARASS ANY PERSON”, does it?

Status: False.

“All I want to do is read some news, maybe blog something while having a nice lunch and this Bill orders my favorite restaurant to keep tabs on my browsing activity!”

The PEC expands the definition of “service provider” to include anyone who owns and operates a publicly accessible wifi network. It also orders them, under penalty of law, to keep records of all traffic data for up to one year. In case you were wondering, it defines “traffic data” as absolutely any data your restaurant can keep related to your Internet usage. But hey, look on the bright side—this could be the start of a long and beautiful friendship…with whoever is assigned to monitor you all. It’s like the NSA but so much closer to your home. Maybe with tastier cookies. You like cookies, don’t you?

You might want to put a stronger password on your home wifi now. FYI: the whole neighborhood knows your cat’s name.
You might want to put a stronger password on your home wifi now. FYI: the whole neighborhood knows your cat’s name.

Status: True.

“This Bill steps all over my constitutional rights and allows the government to block whatever it wants, whenever it wants, without being accountable to anyone but itself!”

What, you mean you didn’t want to live in an Orwellian nightmare nanny state where your every move online is watched and the government decides it’s better suited to being your moral conscience than your actual moral conscience, especially when its own interests are at stake? Then you shouldn’t have signed up to be born in Pakistan.

Censorship_BoloBhi
Govt: “Lolz.”

 

Status: True.

“Hey wait! There are NO such clauses about harassment or spamming or even censorship in the draft approved by the National Assembly!”

Well who would’ve thought that? You’re right. There are multiple versions of the “final” draft in circulation on the Internet. The version on the NA website, that Minister of IT Anusha Rehman insists she has and that she can confirm was tabled in front of the National Assembly, contains no clauses whatsoever regarding spam or harassment. (Yay? Boo?) On the other hand, noted industry representatives such as P@SHA have access to another “final” version of the draft that includes all these clauses and more. Which witch is which?

Click for Dramatic Evil Twin version.
Click for Dramatic Evil Twin version.

Status: True-ish.

So…there are different versions of the draft being used by each side of the debate, there’s an “official” version on the National Assembly’s website and a different “official” version on the websites of the organizations protesting this, and there many competing interests and conflicting sources, and there are potentially some VERY important rights hanging in the balance. This article is by no means an exhaustive analysis of the bill(s) and I will keep following this issue, including reaching out to all parties concerned for comment as the story develops , but at this point it’s anyone’s guess what the best way forward is. I don’t know where this will end up or whether we’ll be better off or not. But one thing is for sure: no number of sleazy social media teams or scumbag politicians can take away from the fact that this issue has managed to get more of the public actively interested in digital rights and the future of the Internet than we’ve seen in a long time.

Hey, it’s called a silver lining, you ingrates.

Notes:-