Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Affording Apathy

Written by on . Published in Defending the global village on , .

Just as the first inklings of sound come from utter silence, the first true appreciation of light comes only after complete darkness. The next logical inference in this sequence should dictate that only from violent and overwhelming chaos can order arise. Though the logical reasoning behind this might be debatable, the analogy is not. Given its analogous merit, if nothing else, chaos too should be given a chance in the face of oppression, because if we have chaos, we might even see ourselves served with just order.

This by no means implies that chaos should be encouraged and purposely introduced into society. It should rather be allowed to run its natural course. Once we do that, better things will eventually arise out of it. And this is precisely what has happened with Sony Corp over the past year. At one point, before Sony’s security flaws were exposed, the entire corporation had a total of four (!!) employees manning the whole of its Internet security system which resulted in customers’ credit card and personal information being stored on .txt files. The chaos that broke loose after Sony’s services were repeatedly hacked during the year meant that the company had to make corrective measures. Today, its customers’ personal and financial details are stored in encrypted files. And Sony has hired a former US Military Counter Intelligence officer and a McAfee Security Chief to set up a professional security framework to protect Sony’s digital databases.

We find similar evidence of good eventually emerging from what at first seems to be uncontrollable chaos capable of plunging entire nations down the spout. The French revolution and the subsequent introduction of democracy into the country came under similar auspices. The initial drafts of the United States constitution were made under duress. And while the Internet does not have governance schematics that need to be laid down (and neither should it considering the flak China receives despite its inability to truly implement its great firewall), it does indeed need security. The recent tangible threats to users’ security and private information have resulted in corporations and firms taking their users security issues seriously.

Yet, while the world sees new security policies implemented by private corporations – and in several cases by the government itself – that seek to create a safer, and sometimes a shuttered down, Internet, Pakistan always remains a step behind. After being targeted specifically by Anonymous, the United States announced a policy framework allowing it to declare cyber sabotage as an act of war that merited an appropriate military response. As such instances of the introduction of new governance schematics and security and anti-terror policies become more commonplace on the global stage, unaffected countries also benefit.

Given that Pakistan is a country that usually lags a step behind the digital curve – 3G will only be introduced in the country in the near future – there seem to be some interesting arguments in favor of dragging your feet. By and large Pakistan is unaffected by blatant cyber aggression. We’re very much on the global map as a nation relevant to the future path the world will take, but at best our digital footprint is negligible. An average Pakistani man has little or no idea about linking online accounts; his Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail, search engine and Twitter – if he even uses it – are almost always separate identities. Similarly, we have little inclination to put our credit card information on the Internet –  e-tailing is only just now taking off in the country. And relatively few people use credit cards anyway. Android phones, excellent backdoor data mining tools very similar in nature to spyware, are useless on this account too because Pakistanis have no concept of smartphone 3G or 4G Internet usage –  right now EDGE is the absolute cutting edge. And the Internet is still vegetating at the desktop and notebook PC stage where it initially started.

So Pakistan is still living in the distant past compared to many countries on the world map: we are backward and that’s that! But this has its advantages too. Because Pakistan is behind the curve, we do not face the problems the rest of the world is beset with now. No Anonymous or WikiLeaks harasses us; there are no youths in the country who can use BBM to orchestrate cross country riots; we have no corporations and no Sony Corps and Lockheed Martins who can get hacked, revealing sensitive user or state information.

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And the advantages don’t end here. After the rest of the world quells the chaos it’s plunged in, after countries, corporations and institutes like the USA, Britain, Lockheed Martin and NASA have implemented security frameworks and policies to ensure a safer Internet, and more secure information technology, Pakistan will enter the same digital world with the same technology penetration as theirs. We will have a safe world prepared for us through the unrest prevalent now – not so very different from new generations entering a peaceful world which their forebears fought and died for.

So for Pakistan, it doesn’t really matter, we are not affected. And for once in our history, we can afford to be as apathetic towards the rest of the world as it has always been towards us. Let the world plunge into mirthless pandemonium, let it burn and pass through its purgatory, we will have a new world order prepared for us, ripe and safe for the entering. In the meanwhile, let us watch and fiddle as the cyber world burns – much as Nero did for Rome. After all, what care do we have of what becomes of it?

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Hammad Twitter: WerentucklHammad

A perennial student, I'm always exploring, and though the journey isn't always pleasant, you come out a better person in the end - an outspoken writer by passion, an architectural design student by profession.