#4 ETAN Wars
March 25, 2011 § 6 Comments
The internet is the cornerstone of a wealth of development communication opportunities and greater facilitation of knowledge to those who were once marginalized through, geographical, economic or cultural barriers. Great hope is placed on the possibilities the internet can bring if access is delivered accordingly to the average Timorese citizen.
For the development worker the internet is actually largely a playground for uploading a thousand photos on Facebook from a night at a GNR party and watching people fight on ETAN. ETAN is an email user group that was used to facilitate political opposition to the unjustness of Indonesian occupation and human rights abuses in pre-independence times. Post independence it is largely used as an arena for petty squabbles and ideological or political snookie punches.
Although this is by no means the sole use of ETAN, (and admirably it strives to continue to circulate important information regarding fresh rounds of corruption accusations or sunset fairs), it is by far the most entertaining. With quiet glee group members check in daily to watch flame wars between PDT and AusAID, Charles Scheinder and the government or Jose Texria and anyone. Such user group arguments make excellent talking points and many expats will, when the conversation is lagging, drop reference to a current argument being fought in ETAN, and possibly only read by 10 other people.
Favourite topics for ETAN bitch slapping include highly over paid consultants, UN ineffectiveness (see future post: Bitching About the UN), media featuring a passing reference to Timor that contain insignificant date errors, incoherently hilarious Tempo Semanal polemics addressing corruption and vague call-to-arms asking for greater focus on Timorese produced goods (there aren’t any), to better build the economy.
ETAN also helps give the expat an illusion of email contact with the outside world that can be critical to their mental wellbeing. The very act of seeing non-work emails in an expat’s inbox helps reduce the psychological damage of having no real new emails awaiting to be read, even if the expat is simply going to delete them after a quick glance over the topics that amounts to no more than 15 seconds of disappointment.