Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eight Years on the Beach

I sat down at my computer at 9 am this morning. By 10, I'd hit 109 different websites in a quest for bits of information about my world. Today that first hour of internet exploring included: the weather in Switzerland, the possible location of a touring post-rock band, the definition of post-rock, the linkedin page for a former colleague who requested a recommendation, the facebook page of a great kid I know celebrating his 19th birthday, the number of Weight Watchers points in a cup of granola... Multiply the list by 20. It's ridiculous, really, how much I stuffed into my brain in one hour. Ridiculous, but awesome. We're moving across the world at speeds I can't even comprehend. It's described in hundreds of thousands of bits per second - and whatever that means, it's fast. I'm accessing information in one hour that I'd have spent a full year trying (and sometimes failing) to find in a library as recently as 20 years ago. And so I forgive my grandparents for not knowing what was happening to the Jews in Hitler's pre-war Germany. Even after they knew of the persecutions, there was rarely access to photos like these:
Lager Nordhausen, concentration camp where 20,000 are believed to have died.
And I understand that my parents had to settle for Chet Huntley's and David Brinkley's and Walter Cronkite's views of what was happening in Vietnam. There was no way for average, busy Americans to find out about things like the March, 1968 massacre of 350 unarmed South Vietnamese people in My Lai. It was a year before this photo became news in 1969:
Son My village in South Vietnam, March 16, 1968
We people of the digital age have a different level of accountability, I think. With our laptops and desktops and PDAs and 3G networks, we don't have to let Brian Williams or Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann deliver the real world. If we want to know what's happening in, say, Afghanistan after 8 years of a US war - we just log on and, boom! Afghanistan, war dead Afghanistan, daily life Afghanistan, women Afghanistan, children Afghanistan, US To quote John Prine - and I often do - "It's a Big Ol' Goofy World." But it's at our fingertips, my fellow internerds...there for our edification. It's time we got our heads out of the sand and flexed our surfer muscles.
The US and allies invaded our country under fine slogans of “democracy”, “women’s rights”, “liberation” and so on, but today they are supporting and helping the dirtiest enemies of such values in Afghanistan.
Knowledge is power. If we have computers with internet access, we have the power. Shall we use it? Peace.

3 comments:

Mama de la Paz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mama de la Paz said...

PS...what happens when you begin to flex your "need to know" muscle:

http://justsixjournal.blogspot.com/2009/10/six-words-day_08.html

gay said...

So right, today we have in moments what used to take years, months, days or hours to discover, your insight as always is a pleasure to read.