12 March 2009
IT'S THE WORLD'S LARGEST CYBER COMMUNITY and yet most of us know almost nothing about it:
When I first discovered the internet I thought it would revolutionize people living under authoritarian regimes. Dictators would be exposed, people would educate each other at lightning speed, Muslim women would write for their rights and the world's oppressed would become free at last. (Yes I'm laughing too). Forgive me, it was the juice of youth.
I learned that, just as in the real world, there are ways of oppressing people in the cyber world. Algorithms that search and destroy all words, pictures, movies that are not 'suitable' 'appropriate' 'harmonious' and more of that crap. I remember loving this 'Sliders' episode where Quinn Mallory (The Hero) rescues the only existing copy of the US Bill of Rights, distributing it over the internet, so everybody knows about it. Not so long ago I saw the same episode again, only to find out that the magic realism of it all had been replaced by mere fantasy. (Some things are best left in the nineties)
But now there is new hope.
Today I read an article in the NY Times about a Chinese mythical creature called Cao Ni Ma, grass-mud horse. This horse is starting to get immensely popular in China. There are movies about him, a childrens song, pictures, and Chinese intellectuals are writing about the grass-mud horse's social importance.
Why is this so hopeful?
Because, like English words, Chinese words can also have a double meaning. And while 'grass-mud horse' can mean just that, it can also mean something insanely profane (well, in China that is). What, prey, can it mean as well then?
cao = "screw"
ni= "you, your
Now, the interesting thing is that the censoring algorithms searching for forbidden content, can't wipe out sites / blogs / pics etc that talk about this mythical mother loving horse that easily, because, as said, pronounced another way they're normal words.
And so, the mythical grass-mud horse is starting to be a way for people of opposing the authoritarian government, without it being able to do much about it. Like the small fish the early Christians drew in the sand, showing their true faith.
The freedom of the largest people on earth is in the making. Want to hear how that sounds? Check this out:
Song of the Gras-Mud Horse
Now please excuse me, I've got a Sliders episode to watch.