I got myself a Twitter account

June 30, 2009

It is fashionable, and all the folks I knew had it. So I decided I too should have a Twitter account.

I picked up a large number of followers within a day. Most of them folks who are a phone call away, but never bother to call. Very politely, I decided to follow them as well.

And then silence, or a few inane messages. One of the folks I was following twittered that he was sad that Michael Jackson was dead. Another wrote that he was delighted with his new car, another twitted about his new house. Then again silence.

Have people forgotten how to converse, and seek recourse in the crypto-messages they can post on Twitter or social networking sites, from the safety of their computers or mobile phones ?

Does Internet communications provide a comfort zone that normal conversation does not ? Is it that you can release online just that little and self-serving information that you care to have others know about yourself, while all your trials, joys and limitations stay your own and private ?

Has counting the number of followers and followed become a substitute measure of social success ?

Curiously, my usual talkativeness had disappeared on Twitter. I didn’t want to broadcast my real thoughts, information on all my real activities, however banal, to the world at large. Anyways my thoughts can’t be confined to a few words or characters allowed on Twitter.

So I was silent.

The people I followed too were generally silent. There were no wise sayings, intense communications of needs and feeelings of joy, sorrow, and betrayal. Nobody twitted that he had a terrible day at work, got fired by his boss, or his girlfriend ditched him. Only silence.

Some guys twittered quite candidly that they didn’t know what to do once they were on Twitter.

Other folks followed the news channels, and the press releases agencies on Twitter. It turns out it works well as an RSS reader.

Twitter to be sure helped people communicate when in time of crisis, and helped take democracy online when regimes crushed popular movements as in Iran.

Is it that we talk freely online only for a functional purpose as in a crisis ? Is it that for the rest of the time we prefer the telephone, or the corner tea shop for a meeting with friends and a belly-full of conversation and laughter ?

Or is it silence all around, as when people have forgotten how to communicate; when most interactions are an act, a pose, an exhibition, and what we expose is an elaborate persona ?

I am still looking for an answer and to some decent Twits to and fro.

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US impotent before “buddy” Musharraf

November 3, 2007

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has gone ahead and declared a state of emergency on Saturday in Pakistan. Troops have surrounded the country’s Supreme Court building and physically removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who was earlier in the day expelled from the job. The other justices of the court are expected to be asked to take a new oath in favor of the President.

The proclamation of emergency rule, which according to some analysts is closer to martial law with the army in full control, should come as an embarrassment to the US which views Pakistan as a close ally in its war against terror.

The declaration also came in direct defiance of warnings by top American officials, reports the New York Times. The senior American military commander in the Middle East, Admiral William J. Fallon, told General Musharraf and his top generals in a meeting in Islamabad on Friday that emergency rule would jeopardize the extensive American financial support for the Pakistani military, according to the report

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally intervened twice in the past four months to try to keep General Musharraf from imposing emergency rule, including telephoning him at 2 a.m. Pakistani time in August. Today, while traveling to Turkey for an Iraq security conference, she reinforced the message, saying, “I think it would be quite obvious that the United States wouldn’t be supportive of extra-constitutional means,” New York Times reports.

Don’t expect Musharraf however to reverse martial law under US pressure. For one, US pressure matters little to the President who has the support of the Pakistani army which sees Musharraf as the best way to perpetuate its control. Apart from some few violent protests, the country will settle down to another long spell of martial law.

Which should suit the US well. Although it advocates democracy in its demagoguery, and will likely issue protests, as required by protocol, at the new turn of events in Pakistan, don’t expect US sanctions on Pakistan or its military.

The US at this point needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the US, and Musharraf factored that into his calculations. The epicenter of the war against terror is Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, where Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding. So the military in Pakistan will continue to demand more arms from the US and will get them, even if some of those arms are turned against the Pakistani people.

The US has also in the past been quite comfortable dealing with Pakistani military dictators, much to the chagrin of politicians in democratic India who believed that the two democracies should be naturally allied.

This time after a few protests for the galleries, Musharraf and the US will be back to business soon.

That however will be a big mistake for the US to make. The alienation of civil society in Pakistan under Musharraf’s rule, which is likely to get exacerbated under martial law, will only play into the hands of the Muslim fundamentalists who will now start actively recruiting among disaffected Pakistani youth. Martial law in Pakistan will only accelerate the “Talibanization” of Pakistan’s civil society.

At that point, Musharraf may once again need the US very badly. Like the Shah of Iran he will need some place to escape to. It is unfortunate that the US never learns from its past mistakes.

Related articles:

US impotent before “buddy” Musharraf”

US support to Pakistan unaffected after martial law


Mr. Bush, Cuba’s politics is none of your business !

October 24, 2007

US President George Bush’s commitment to promoting democracy worldwide has turned out to be no more than an opportunity for petty scoring of points with traditional foes.

Bush, with an eye to the Hispanic population of the US, is planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people, according to a report in the New York Times.

Bush will say that while much of the rest of Latin America has moved from dictatorship to democracy, Cuba continues to use repression and terror to control its people.

It is cynical that Bush is concerned about democracy and change in government in Cuba but not in Saudi Arabia, that he is concerned about suppression of democracy in Iran but not in Pakistan.

This selective concern about democracy makes a mockery of freedom and democracy, and attempts to manipulate it to serve the US’ pet peeves and geopolitical concerns.

It is embarrassing for us in the free world to find that the most vocal and often quoted advocate of democracy is a cheap trickster, who invokes people’s freedom only when it suits him, and his meddling in other countries’ affairs.

Bush is also violating principles of national sovereignty. What happens in Cuba is none of his business ! Cuba is a sovereign country, and the new government came to power in a revolution against the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista supported by the US.

Nor is the US record in promoting democracy in Latin America even-handed. The US used a variety of economic and political levers to replace the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile by that of the military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Bush should also put his own house in order, before positioning the US as a beacon and advocate of freedom and democracy. The torture of detainees by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the snooping on calls in the US, the growing impotence of Congress, and the emergence of an imperial presidency, do not speak well for US democracy. Probably the Castros and Bush have a lot in common after all.

Related articles:

US Congress a lame duck !
They torture prisoners in Myanmar, Iran, and yes the US


Can Musharraf ride the tigress ?

October 18, 2007

Benazir Bhutto is scheduled to return to Pakistan on Thursday, with a wink and a nod from President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and some say the Americans too.

Bhutto, a former prime minister of the country, will be received by hundreds of thousands of supporters who are gathering in the port city of Karachi to greet her, when she returns, after eight years of self-imposed exile, according to a report in The Times.

The former prime minister return to Pakistan is in sharp contrast to that of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, whose return to Pakistan last month was marked by arrests and lathi-charge of his supporters. Sharif was immediately deported to Saudi Arabia after the Pakistan government claimed that Sharif had signed an agreement to stay out of Pakistan for 10 years.

In contrast, the Government has deployed 3,500 soldiers and as many as 8,000 policemen are on duty to protect Benazir’s route from the airport to a rally near the tomb of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah tomorrow, according to The Times. A shipping container strengthened with bullet-proof glass was being prepared to take her through Karachi, it added.

Musharraf’s government has already passed an ordinance granting amnesty to her and other politicians on charges of corruption. That amnesty has been challenged in court. Musharraf’s own election as President earlier this month has not been declared officially, pending the disposal by the Supreme Court of petitions challenging the President standing for elections while in uniform. Musharraf has promised he will quit as army chief if he retains the post of President, and has already nominated his successor.

Into this chaos steps in Bhutto, attempting to claim the mantle of the democratic movement. Musharraf needs her to give his government legitimacy, and also to help him counter a tide of popular disaffection against his government. That will be particularly important when a new Parliament is elected.

Bhutto will in turn demand an amendment to rules prohibiting her from standing for a third term as prime minister. She will also demand more powers to the prime minister, including amendments to the constitution that prevent the President from dissolving Parliament.

On the face of it a superb deal, brokered by the US. The Americans get to keep Musharraf, an ally in the US war against terror, as President, while using Bhutto as a safety valve for democratic forces.

Benazir pledges to fight to restore democracy in Pakistan. In an interview to NDTV, an Indian TV channel, she however declined to commit herself on the return of Sharif to Pakistan, saying it involved a friendly country, Saudi Arabia. With Sharif out of the way, Bhutto evidently aims to fashion democracy in her own way in Pakistan.

Where will Musharraf figure in the new dispensation ? He suits Bhutto well to help remove the obstacles in her way, in return for his political legitimacy.

But Bhutto and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) can hardly afford to be seen to be too close to the President who is unpopular in Pakistan after years of his rule as head of the army and the government.

Bhutto is hence likely to push for an early election, reduction of the President’s power, and a third term for herself as Prime Minister. Her agenda will however be served only if she can keep the army in the barracks.

Related article:
In Pakistan, Bhutto gives in to Musharraf ?