Many to Many Communications – A Balm on the Burmese Oppression?

February 18, 2009

The plight of the Burmese people has gone relatively unheard for the entirety of my life.  A few months after I was born, the Burmese people staged an unsuccessful series of demonstrations against the military junta that serves as the “governing” body of the country.  I strain to call them governors of any sort, due to their catastrophically poor management of even the most basic social services and infrastructure.  In more ways than one the Burmese government is stuck in the two dimensional mindset while the rest of their country are now operating in three.  I must emphasize that the Burmese government only operates in the two dimensional mindset of direct suppression.  If they see someone speaking out against the government, they suppress the dissent; similarly if a group speaks out then they take out the group leaders.  Even though the government regularly monitors and takes action on internet-based dissent, they still approach these three-dimensional venues of political dissention in the same two-dimensional manner, taking out the dissenters. 


As Packer makes clear in his New Yorker piece “Drowning” trends and ideas come to Burma later than the rest of the world.  The digital communications revolution holds worlds of promise for the disenfranchised Burmese political opposition.  The possibilities that would result from twitter, or digg could allow protesters to organize enough demonstrations quickly enough to overwhelm the Burmese junta and their slow-to-change nature.  The cold war-era espionage and infiltration of groups flagged as potential political dissidents practiced by the government can only function effectively with physical groups.  The power of many-to-many communications’ word of mouth-like secrecy and mass distribution ability could mobilize enough of the Burmese population to overwhelm the junta.


Countercultural agents such as Myat Min and Hnin Se could use the many p2p capabilities of web 2.0 to gain access to otherwise prohibited texts and ideas, while also enabling them to distribute the materials as soon as they received them.  In addition, the monks of the sangha could gain recognition and possibly assistance from the many humanitarian and religious organizations throughout the Net.  Their protests could be coordinated through the Internet, complete with guidelines for appropriate civilian participation.  The most important change that web 2.0 would user in to the lives of the Burmese people would be a legitimate education through the Net’s educational services.


Myat Min may very well be correct about Myanmar’s position as a modern day Dickensian environment; much like Victorian England, they are on the veritable cusp of a revolution in technology that will shift the balance of power away from the Ebenezer Than Shwe.  So if Tiny Tim were a child in Myanmar today he be saying “God bless digital communications everyone!”


…and then he would be eaten by a 30 lb. rat.



–Patrick Farley


One Response to “Many to Many Communications – A Balm on the Burmese Oppression?”

  1. mmim Says:

    What do you mean by that “Myat Min” can use web 2.0? He may wish to know it.

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