Saturday, May 27, 2006

Buddhism and Freedom Don't Always Mix

To any Buddhist readers of Tor's Rants, especially Americans or other westerners, I commend this story about free speech and technology in Cambodia. Basically, the next generation of cell phones won't be allowed, ostensibly because of their possible utility to pornographers.

In a petition addressed to Hun Sun and dated May 19, Bun Rany argued that obscene images have "gravely negative consequences for social morality" and could increase the "sexual exploitation of women and children and other vices that would cast our society as a very dark one."

On Friday, Hun Sen said he agrees with his wife and that while Cambodia is still unable to cope with pornography on the Internet, "how can we go for video phones?

"Hold it. Do not yet start the mobile phone services through which the callers can see each others' images," he said in a speech during a visit to a Buddhist pagoda in the capital, Phnom Penh.

And pay particular attention to the end of the article.

It was unclear if legislation is necessary for the ban to take effect. Hun Sen's orders are often carried out without challenge by Cambodia's government and lawmakers.

Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist and socially conservative. People normally do not talk openly about sex.

Hun Sen is, of course, a fellow who has much blood on his hands in recent Cambodian history. I have no doubt that he is much more worried about the ability of people to organize resistance to his power through multiple methods, including the new cell phone technologies. Even tho the new cell phones are currently unaffordable by most Cambodians, he knows that the prices will come down all too quickly for his taste.

His appeal to Buddhist conservatives to help him limit the freedom of flow of information by playing to their fears of pornography, and sex itself, should be an eye-opener to most western Buddhists. Don't believe that the entirety of the Buddhist tradition is compatible with your post-modern values.

I remain a Buddhist, mindful of the capacity of Buddhism to be used for political means.



Linking to: The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, Point Five, 7 Deadly Sins

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