#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.

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.

"Take that internet!"

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.

Righteous Indignation: the currency of ETAN

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.


§ 6 Responses to #4 ETAN Wars

  • Edward Rees says:

    I am very glad you have arrived.

  • John says:

    You missed the most exciting debate. I’m wary to even mention it for fear… This one that flares up at least once or twice year – going back to the 1990s: debates on language where defenders of Portuguese punch it out with Tetum advocates.

    Want to see for yourself and get other useful info subscribe here – http://etan.org/resource/etlist.htm

  • Audian says:

    I hope you realize that ETAN is not actually a mailing list but a solidarity organization, which among other things operates the most used (at least English language) mailing list about Timor-Leste. For several years this list was extremely valuable for those of us outside, to keep connected to what was happening back home that the Indonesian press would not tell us about. But ETAN has also done much more than just run this list!

  • molvenu says:

    This is just so unfair. Etan plays an essential role in filling the time between checking the morning web, checking facebook and your first coffee. Were it not able to fill this vital space in the morning folk would be forced to actually go and talk to some timorese – and the last thing we need is for any of these folk to do that!

  • […] Given all my polemics over the past 4 years I think the reason why international actors should engage with the local marketplace is now pretty obvious to the reader of this blog.  Despite the hilarious (and I think cogent) rantings of “StuffMalaiLike”. […]

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