May 312011
 
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This popped up on the very Spanish version of Twitter which I believe my dear old friend – that is to say, the newspaper El País – is responsible for.  It’s called Eskup, by the way (not a lot of English-speaking people will know this): the verb “escupir” means “to spit” – and though I’m sure it was a million miles away from its creators’ minds when they named it, it’s a mightily appropriate way of describing what meaningful tweeting should actually be.

I say very Spanish because it not only gives us twice the number of characters to play around with (Spanish is a beautifully verbose language), it also lets us add images as part of its original infrastructure (well, as you might imagine, the Spanish are very tactile, touchy-feely and full of the very real delights of multi-sensory perception).

Anyhow, the title of this post, loosely translated by yours truly, more or less runs as follows:

“The Internet allows us to think what the powerful don’t think they will allow.”

This is a wonderful way of looking at the power of cheap global interconnectedness.  And that power, that ability to communicate selflessly, to think of the wider interest before one’s own individual circumstances, is truly what should define a 21st century socialism – a socialism precisely on the lines of Web 2.0 if you like.

If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at this story today:

A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.

The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60.

They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.

Suicide bombers are one example – and the very darkest side – of a foolish submission to a greater cause.  But these elderly Japanese gentlemen and ladies are quite the other side of the coin: they know their lives will end before cancer can properly strike and are prepared to run the risks of contracting the disease in the interests of leaving a better world for the young.

As Tim O’Reilly pointed out today:

Clear, brave, public-spirited thinking: senior citizens offering to clean up Fukushima http://bit.ly/m8CX2N #chokesmeup #gov20

I don’t think there’s anything to add to that – except that those who criticise freedom of speech, as they often talk about how the oxygen of publicity provides the underbelly of society with the visibility we rightly despise, really should think twice when the latter kind of story whizzes so wonderfully around the world.

And this is why I firmly believe the Internet generation – this cheap and exemplary global connectedness I talk about – is where we should deposit our faith.  When the barriers to communication are as low as they have become is when ordinary people suddenly acquire the opportunity to express their innermost feelings to other ordinary people – quite despite the interests, spin, control and general agenda management the powerful have, to date, had within their grasp.

Our future lies, then, in that honesty expressed in a certain Reagan-esque way – Reagan-esque that is, but quite in reverse: over the heads of the powerful in much the same way, without passing through their matrix, but this time from the crowd to the crowd – from the bottom of the pile directly to the bottom of the pile.

In this way, ordinary people are beginning to find their own voices through technology, software, virtual communications, start-up entrepreneurs the world over and, why not admit it, the US military – in a way that traditional politicking has never managed to deliver.  And if such politicking isn’t very careful, it may become – sooner than we think – less than entirely relevant to the expression of our sociocultural desires.

So watch out famous politicos.  The value you used to add when you crystallised our unspoken thoughts is no longer so definitive, no longer so justifying, no longer so convincing – now those thoughts are finding a direct channel for their exchange.  We do not need you to mediate our communication in quite the same way as even a generation ago.  But you don’t seem to have realised it as yet.

Ignore this at your peril.
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Update to this post: this, from John Naughton’s Memex today, which came my way via Slugger O’Toole tonight, says similar things to the above, but far more succinctly and to the point.  Oh, and it’s actually about businesspeople and their crass approach to customer needs, as expressed by customers themselves – but then most of us would probably be comfortable with the idea that between modern business and modern politics the dividing line is managing to be about as fine as it can get. 

That is to say, it wouldn’t be the first time that consumer-voters like ourselves were in receipt of such a top-down and condescending double-whammy from both their business sectors and their elected representatives.

Meanwhile, this article comes to some rather unhappy conclusions – at least as far as my gut instincts in relation to this subject are concerned:

[…] we might do better to listen to the original biologist, Aristotle, who argued that human beings are nothing like ants, for the simple reason that human beings are political. They have an inbuilt tendency to create and debate political systems, and they do so deliberately, hierarchically and intelligently. In order to imagine a self-organising social group, we have to forget most of what we know to be true, namely, that organisers, leaders and visionaries inevitably arise, and start to exercise power over others.

And even with the kind of evidence wise words such as these provide, I find it impossible to give up on my pet hatred for hierarchy.  So what say you?


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