04 January 2014

What next from the US Embassy, toilet training?

The US Embassy in Colombo has called for applications.  Applications are to be reviewed on a first-apply basis.  This is a program, so a missive from the Embassy says, ‘designed to promote greater understanding of social media.  It’s called ‘Social Media Lab’.  The Embassy clearly understands that there are different levels of ‘understanding’; there will be beginner, intermediate and advanced modules, therefore. Kind.

Christopher Teal, Director of the American Center brags: ‘We have done a number of social media trainings over the past few years, and want to formalize these trainings thorough a system of educating the public on social media best practices.’ Generous. 

He even has an ‘ultimate goal’: ‘to foster a greater understanding among Sri Lankans about social media and to inspire people to engage more effectively online.’ Wow!

The last time I heard, Sri Lankans didn’t have problems communicating with one another. They knew where to gather and how.  They knew how to speak their minds, share information and so on.  They were tweeting, texting, emailing and blogging for centuries, only they didn’t call it that and were using different templates.  Literacy came to them more than a millennium before Teal’s ancestors knew the concept. 

The USA knows about virtual communities but is essentially home to a culture that places little value on collectives and solidarities.  Indeed, it has used its clout in multilateral outfits such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization to arm-twist governments in countries like Sri Lanka to adopt policies and implement strategies that wreck these things.  If they haven’t really succeeded it is not for lack of effort or ingenuity.  It has something to do with resilience, civilizational length and depth, and foundational philosophies that are hard to destroy. 

So why this sudden need to educate Sri Lankans about communication?  Philanthrophy?  Nah! Perhaps it is the mistaken belief that social media had something to do with the so-called Arab Spring – misnamed of course, for what it produced in the end was an Arab Fall.  Is it then about putting in place mechanisms that could be ‘worked’ to advantage if regime-change need crops up at some point? 

Well, if Sri Lankans want regime change and if regime change is to result in system-change and not an occupant-change, they’ll find their own way and even use social media to get there.  It is however unlikely that social media will play any critical role and this is not for lack of ‘operational knowledge’.  Social media is a convenient displacer of rebellion. In short it takes the rebel out of the street and into cyber space. The power equation is not resolve in those ethereal territories.  Not right now and not in the near future, going by trends.  Perhaps it is about covering bases, to use a baseball metaphor that Teal probably is familiar with.   That’s ok.  Teal should know, however, that Sri Lankans know that Americans of the United States don’t believe there are free lunches.  There’s investment and return on the same.  Just saying.

But there’s another pertinent element here.  Has the US Government done the same for US citizens? Has it set up ‘Social Media Labs’ in every state, every county and every township?  Has it tried to ‘promote greater understanding of social media’ among its citizens?  Has it been determined ‘to foster a greater understanding among its citizen about social media and inspire people to engage more effectively online’?  If not, why not? 

There’s condescension here folks.  It’s an insult.  Next they’ll set up a ‘Defecating and Urinating Lab’ and implement a toilet-training program to ‘foster greater understanding among Sri Lankans about evacuating bodily waste! 

[For the record, just to show we are not as uncivilized or similarly condescending or more importantly, savvy enough about these things, this piece will be shared on fb, posted on multiple news websites and personal blogs, emailed and tweeted.] 




Bandu said...

Remember the old Calypso "Rich girl uses paper, my girl uses grass -to clean her bloody arse"
Which social habit are the Americans going to teach?

Dileeni said...

Well said Malinda.

Shaik Ahamath said...

In your paragraph about USA using its clout in multilateral outfits, you've omitted to mention the UN which they have used effectively since inception. It is understandable perhaps as the UN offices are based there and USA is the largest contributor of funds for its running.

h. said...

Superb. Agree.

Wondering why those check-boxes can't be checked?

gdesilva said...

If the bastards want to create 'Arab Spring' style coup d'etat in Sri Lanka, one would have thought a more useful and effective method would be to give incentives for the locals to connect to the Internet - give them a adsl modem, pay their monthly rental etc.

Once again they've got it wrong - they will only convince the Colombians to revolt not the grassroots level people. The Colombians are too scared to put their life on the line for political change anyway.

The CIA bastards will have to go back to the drawing boards if they want to create mayhem in Sri Lanka.

Anonymous said...

"Literacy came to them more than a millennium before Teal’s ancestors knew the concept."

Are you sure? because check your's with a gene test you might be surprised! at the answer, so don't go about casting aspersions about a person's heritage.

Keep to the point if you want to insult. Before cleaning other people's underwear clean yours first. You must have a chip on your shoulders about Americans, maybe be you were educated there, that's my best guess!

Time to call a spade a spade and not a fork

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Yes, sure, Mr/Ms Anonymous. :)

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Yes, sure, Mr/Ms Anonymous. :)

Sybil said...

Oh dear, Malinda has upset someone in the US Embassy...or one of their bootlickers. Watch out Malinda, you might end up in Guantanamo unless you keep the self appointed 'guardians of free speech' happy.