20 April 2009
For all our talk about individual freedom, humans are very easily lured into following others. This has often hurt us more than it helped, but for many, following still beats thinking. Also, not following has frequently meant being beaten, or worse. (you're right, still does)
If I'd ask an Afghan woman how she can agree with a law that allows her to be raped by her own husband, she'll probably point to a text from some Great and Holy Imam, who has interpreted a text in the Holy Koran in such a way that it's saying raping is totally A-ok. (of course in reality she won't respond to me at all because I'm a man, and her husband is forbidden to talk to stinking infidels who do not want to rape their wives)
The problem has always been that we've allowed our world and beliefs to be shaped by a very small group of people, even until very recently. A couple of teachers, one or two clergymen, some journalists and government officials and that was about it. Really, until the internet arrived our world wasn't as big as we were sometimes led to believe.
The internet has made it far easier to tap into a world of collective knowledge. Consumer reviews about products, places and people, free news from sources around the world and millions of individuals publishing content about everything known to man.
But all of this is nothing compared to the potential of the new kid on the block, Twitter. A social networking site, but not like Facebook. A search engine, but not like Google. A news portal, but not like CNN. It's all these things, but in a new, very direct way, using a piece of cell phone technology -text messaging- that has been around for over a decade. (Goes to show that new things can sometimes be found in old warehouses)
Look beyond the cute little birdie and the inevitable daily wave of narcissistic messaging ('I've woken up and made myself some coffee') and what you have -what we have really- is the first town square able to house millions of people. And with that, we've regained the power to expose shenanigans of governments and companies.
Twitter allows for a very direct form of individual power, which closely resembles one of the world's first democracies, Athenian Democracy. The Athenians had a direct democracy, letting people vote on legislation themselves instead of electing representatives. During the past few decades many attempts -sincere or not- have been made to establish forms of direct decmocracy, but most of them failed. Is Twitter succeeding nonetheless? Who knows. In any case it looks like people can now wield real, direct power when answering that one question to rule them all: 'What are you doing?'
Last week Domino's pizza was also exposed, but it turned out that the (now ex-) employees who broadcasted a youtube vid of putting cheese up their noses before putting it on a pizza, where joking. In an official statement, Domnino's CEO -Pizza the Hud- said that trainees were in fact being taught not to put this particular brand of cheese up their noses.
Ok, so we the people aren't perfect either. At least we're part of them.