From the balcony where I sit to write I can see the wave patterns on the sea and the bend and sway of the palms along the shore. Until yesterday the drift was left to right, then the wind changed, moving from right to left, telling us the northeast monsoons have arrived bringing morning rain and higher tides.
You don’t have to live on the Gulf of Thailand to see that anymore than you need to live in New York to see how the wind has shifted there. Most of us don’t need to visit the polar caps to know the planet is warming, or Africa to learn of the misery one group of human beings is heaping on another. The Internet gives us all that. It gives us that and very much more because, unlike traditional news services, it is irrepressible. Every time an attempt is made to suppress valid information pervading the Internet a counter move succeeds. People having their houses repossessed by banks that have no need of them know that these same banks are handing out huge bonuses to their executive management. There’s no hiding their anger: they’re lining streets of the capital centres of the world. The police might be asked to move them out of a park, or a street, but they will pop up again somewhere else: Not just in New York. They’ll be popping up like summer daisies from London to Athens to Beijing because they, too, are irrepressible.
Never mind the transparency; feel the weight of opinion.
During his election campaign Barack Obama touted change as his goal, and transparency as his mantra. He brought some change, but it wasn’t long before a backlash was whipped up to stop him in his tracks. Julian Assange brought us transparency and is still under investigation, possibly persecution, for his efforts. Change and transparency are here though; they cannot be put back in the tube because the Internet is here along with Facebook and Twitter and cloud computing. So open honesty is the wind of the day because nothing else will do.
Just as the Arab Spring runs through the Middle East, so Occupy Wall Street is running through the financial capitals. Before the proliferation of the Internet to have control of communications was to have control of the people. From palaces to temples to senate houses, people have been at the mercy of orators and their managers. Now anyone can be heard, and is being heard, so the majority is no longer silent. Administrators are now answerable, not just in the long run when evidence of incompetence finally surfaces, but now, when we can see the failing policies and misguided initiatives. Now they will have to obey their electorate. There is a risk of course: that babies will be thrown out with the bathwater; that we will lose some good people and sound institutions, but that might have to be part of the lesson.
Imagine that. Imagine a living phenomenon, such as Facebook, continually monitoring majority opinion so as to reflect the support for the administrators to the point where elections are no longer necessary: we will already know who is to be retained, and who has lost support. Imagine a dynamic government supported in real time. Imagine party leaders who don’t just have to convince those around them of the wisdom of their policies, but the whole nation, and ultimately, the whole world.
Eventually no one will care whether leaders be Muslim, Jew, or Mormon. People will care only if policies ring true, and if their leader’s actions are appropriate.
Imagine that. Well don’t: it’s here. It’s here, now, all around us. We just haven’t recognized it yet. The GOP still offers up flat earth candidates while eastern potentates, military juntas, and communist autocrats struggle to suppress communications, but the people know better. Gaddafi and Mubarak are gone, so is Glenn Beck, and Rupert Murdock is on the ropes: Soon to go the foot-draggers of the European Union, and the silly schoolboys running the United Kingdom. In their place will be the mammoth machine of public opinion running in real time.
It’ll be while yet before communications pick up speed in Africa, and up through the Indus Valley, where we all began – was it only 150,000 year ago – but it will, for certain sure, and the world will be a peace once more.