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Radio Silence?

It’s been a while, I know.

There’s been a bit going on with me, not the least of which is the "Arab Spring" and the resultant nervousness of the local regimes, especially about bloggers and social media.

When the revolutions started breaking out all over the place, many of the less-affected countries responded by either cracking down on dissent or trying to bypass it by throwing money at people. The wisdom or effectiveness of these measures will be determined by analysts, historians, sociologist and a whole team of people that are not simple paramedics like me.

What I got from all of this was a fright. I shut down and stopped posting so much. When I did, I was so paranoid about revealing who I really am that I often opted to post nothing and simply write it to myself in a big A4-sized ledger I bought at a local bookstore. I went backwards in tech, you could say.

There is still a strong crackdown on dissent over here and what I’ve been observing makes me realize how much we take for granted in America regarding freedom of expression, information access and our ability to say what we want in the public forum that is the Internet. Though those freedoms are being insidiously eroded by things like the Patriot Act, we can still, generally, say what we want and breathe easy.

Over here, someone got a death sentence for a tweet. Yeah. A goddam tweet.

Granted, most of the folks getting screwed by the government are local minorities and other disenfranchised groups. I know many westerners over here who feel they are above the scrutiny and reprimand that falls so heavy on the locals and, in many ways, they are right. It’s the westerners who keep the money flowing that keeps this whole region afloat. Combine that with the natural hospitality and enthusiastic friendliness towards visitors that is inherent with the culture here and it becomes easy to think you’re above the rules.

I have to think about this, though. It’s easy to forget that I’m not in a free country. I live in a community that looks like a San Diego suburb, I get CNN, ESPN and all the US cable channels on my satellite TV. My house voltage is 110v while the rest of the nation is 240v. In fact, as I write this, I’m listening to a US radio station piped over the (company provided) Internet, typing on my US-bought MacBook Air at a desk I bought at IKEA down the street. Later, I might pop out to the local branch of Fuddruckers for a burger. It’s easy to forget that I’m a stranger in a strange land.

So, I’m nervous. I’m nervous about revealing where I am, who I work for and what my name really is. I’ve gotten emails from folks looking for information about ‘medic jobs overseas and I always answer in generalities as I really don’t want to reveal where I am and who my employer is. Granted, I’m not likely to be beheaded or swept up in some arbitrary roundup but I will certainly lose my job and be sent back home. I don’t want that to happen. I like my job here and I certainly like my pay!

What has changed? Why am I breaking "radio silence?"

It’s a combination of me having a lot to say, my loss of connection with my readers and a better understanding of the rules of how we’re monitored over here. I’m coming around to the idea that, if I follow some simple guidelines, I can post, discuss, tweet and blog about my life over here without getting dragged away by the local version of the Gestapo.

Expect more from me. I’ve set a personal goal of no less than 3-4 post a week. I’ve got some stories to tell, I plan on continuing my "Lack of Affect" series (I’m working on "Self Confidence" right now) and I’m going to start a series on pre-hospital pharmacology. The blog’s about to get lively again.

The other thing is EMSToday. In the past, I’ve gone to the conference, registered as my own real self. While I was at the FirstRespondersNetwork booth last year, I had my conference badge (with my name and company affiliation) hidden as I was manning the booth as "maddogmedic." This year will be different. I’m going to register as an EMS blogger. I’ll be "maddogmedic" and folks will see my face. I may still hide my badge from time to time but I think it’s time to come into my own as my online self.

With that notion in mind, I’m going to blog and write with less fear. I’ll still try to be circumspect about where I live, who I work for and, of course, identities of my coworkers and patients but I’m ready to start telling the stories of all the cool stuff that happens to me every day. I live a really interesting life (even to me) and I think it’s worth sharing.

I’m ready.