June 15, 2005

Karenissues Discussion Forum

Karenissues Discussion Forum: A Mere Communal Space or a Forum of Intellectual Exchange?

by -- Saw Kapi

It has been months since the moderator team has released the guidelines for Karenissues Discussion. No sooner have we introduced the guidelines, the whole forum has then come to almost a total halt and everyone stopped discussing everything. The moderator team is compelled to wonder what went wrong with their guidelines that people must completely cease to talk about issues of their concerns. But before we jump to any conclusion, whether the moderators put a stop to discussion by providing a set of guidelines or not, it might be worthwhile sharing you a few thoughts that I have in mind.

A close colleague of mine recently made some valuable yet critical remarks on how the people of Burma who are now in exile, wittingly and unwittingly, use internet to express their concerns, vent their emotions, and exchange their historical knowledge, both first-hand experiences and learned. He said many us use "Internet as a therapy where our individually felt concerns are communally shared, pains lessened, frustrations understood, experiences and grievances validated, moral support offered and visions altered or corrected - for the better generally - all by our fellow citizens from all walks of life." In fact, some of us even found the right moments to publicly register our displeasure and anger on Karenissues and the bulletin board of Karen website (BBS on Karen.org), although the benefit or effectiveness of such action I find hard to gauge.

Naturally, those of us who have suffered so tremendously under the repressive military regime can sometimes be very emotional in expressing our opinions. For those whose villages were forcefully relocated, houses burned, relatives jailed, sisters raped, brothers killed by the soldiers of ruthless military dictators, almost any kind of emotional expression seems justified, because the pains and grievances they suffer cannot be fully understood by others, who do not have the same experience, but only by themselves. With them, I share my utmost empathy.And yet we at the Karenissues discussion forum would like to set our aim above and beyond accommodating emotional venting. Sure, we do not just want, or cannot possibly create a community of like-minded people, nonetheless we want to rise above our own emotions and prove to ourselves that we are capable of engaging in public discussions on this pretty much unregulated space called Internet.

So, it is indeed appropriate to have some guidelines in place for this forum, and the guidelines are not meant to be regulatory; they are meant simply to guide us and give us some parameters so that we can have a free yet responsible discussion with a sense of directionality. In other words, we are responsible for what we say and the discussion must lead us somewhere, preferably to a positive end. On-line discussion forum, by its very nature, is a communal space, where we all can rightfully release our emotions and frustration, and yet the guidelines are there to push us one level up where we can have a responsible intellectual exchange.

Whether we would like to continue as a mere communal space or embrace a more productive forum is a decision we all have to make for ourselves. Some of you may choose to say nothing and be completely silent. I, however, encourage you all to make use of this forum and discuss issues of your concern with deep passion and responsibility, and I hope that you do so not only to satisfy your emotional thirst but also to open your mind and learn from others with different experience and knowledge.

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