I am lucky, your are not

We are all struggling with something, but some do more than others.

This is a repost (with some Grammarly-supported edits) of a text I published in the summer of 2019 on dev.to. With everything going on right now, we humans tend to forget that there were problems in the world even before Corona and the Russian war of aggression. This text was written after it became known that Github blocked developers from Iran, Syria, Crimea, and other sanctioned nations from accessing their platform because of the American trade restrictions. The restrictions have been partially lifted by now, but I believe the text to be still relevant.

Hi, my name is Jérôme! I am comfortable sharing my name, that I‘m living in Germany and that I am not always happy with my government.

I am lucky that I can say this publicly without the fear of repercussions, and I have the luxury of not having to even think about having to think about how lucky I am (the duplication is intended).

This was made aware to me through a conversation that I recently had in the Discord community[1] for the Firebase Admin SDK for PHP.

One of the members was trying to access the Firebase API with the SDK, which triggered an exception without detailed information on what went wrong. As it turned out, they were located in China and forgot to enable a proxy on the code's environment. A fixable issue.

While I was working on the SDK to implement the handling of connection errors (something I didn‘t even think of doing before because I‘m in the lucky position of having ubiquitous internet access in a non-restricted country), another community member chimed in:

@jeromegamez: Look what a pleasure I'm having: Due to U.S. trade controls law restrictions, your GitHub account has been restricted. For individual accounts, you may have limited access to free GitHub public repository services for personal communications only. Please read about GitHub and Trade Controls for more information. If you believe your account has been flagged in error, please file an appeal.

They had accessed GitHub once without using a VPN/Proxy from their home country, got flagged immediately, and now aren’t able to access their own private repositories.

That sucks [...] are you going to appeal the decision?

was my naive reply to the news, not realizing that they wouldn‘t have success with an appeal.

@jeromegamez: Unfortunately you don't choose where to born! among almost 200 country I'm in one of the crazy ones. I usually use vpn as of having sanctions plus internal censorships, whatsapp for example, sometimes I can't upload picture and I have to use a proxy/VPN. Normally you can use international services like Nvidia.com/Android.developers.com and so on using a VPN but this time it is way different as they block you once you access their services using specific IP addresses. At least I still can use public repositories, and hopefully will be able to backup my private ones!
About appealing a decision, as being a citizen of these countries I can not do that.

We continued our conversation in a private channel, where they told me about their country of origin (something they often don’t feel comfortable telling), their struggles, and that they shared this in the public channel to raise awareness.

People like me (especially like me: white, male, European, with a well-paying job and access to anything I need and most I want) look at the world and are dissatisfied with or afraid of what‘s happening in it while being in a rather comfortable place.

But there are far more uncomfortable, hostile and dangerous places to be, and people like you and me are living in them.

While I‘m struggling with the current heatwave, someone else is struggling to make a living.

While I‘m angry that I can‘t use my preferred username on an internet platform, someone else has to ensure that their username doesn‘t reveal too much information about them.

While Government A is putting sanctions on Country B, the individual people in that country have to struggle with the consequences, not their leaders.

While I am trying to get a raise, someone else is trying to stay alive.

This doesn‘t mean that our personal problems are irrelevant, but I think it’s important to be aware that many of us are lucky to have been born in a good place and also that many of us aren't as lucky.

The least we can do is to treat others with respect, decency, and compassion, no matter where they come from or their background.

  1. I deleted the Discord just recently because it wasn't the community I hoped it to be: instead of being a group of people discussing and helpin each other, it was just a place where people dropped by once or twice to get direct one-on-one support and then were never to be seen again. ↩︎