It’s the time of year to be contemplative. Colin James’ piece in the Press yesterday invoked us to remember the conundrum of Christmas, the darkness and the beauty of humankind, and invited us to promote the good of humans and not to trade in the bad.
Optimism, I hope, is my nature. In that spirit, here’s two other pieces to contemplate. I hope you’ll read them.
They are each about the emerging power of social media and how it is being used (and could be used) as a force for change by groups of people who feel oppressed. Disturbingly, how it can also be (and already is) used as a means to oppress and restrain.
Both pieces are about the balance of power between citizens and the state and how technology is fueling social movements. Both are published in Prospect Magazine.
1. How dictators watch us on the web by Evgeny Morozov. A disturbing account which argues that while the internet is meant to help activists, enable democratic protest and weaken the grip of authoritarian regimes, it doesn’t—in fact, the web is a boon for bullies.
2. The net advantage: Media guru Clay Shirky responds to criticisms in Evgeny Morozov’s piece on why dictators benefit from the web. Despite pitfalls, he says, the internet remains a positive force for democracy.
The points I’d like to make are: I believe that people who work together will inevitably find a way to make change. Even if they are at the vanguard of a movement that takes a long time to be effective. That those with power will try to fight back and use any means to do so. But ultimately change cannot be held back when enough people want it.
That direct engagement between governments and people are crucial. That people want to know they are listened to and that making government (the state) too distanced from the population results in fracture and disharmony.
And that we, in New Zealand, are very fortunate to live in such a stable democracy. But we too have a lot to learn. We can learn from these struggles and choose to promote the good.