Why Should We Care?
2006 Video on the Net conference in Boston.
Brian Conley, creator of the videoblog Alive in Baghdad and a tireless campaigner for human rights, was reportedly detained in China after filming (and webcasting) a street protest for Free Tibet.
This comes just days after internationally famed artist James Powderly was arrested and detained for a similar display of pro-Tibet dissent during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
As of this blog post, I don't believe either man has been heard from since his detention.
And yet, if you read the comments from either link above, you'll notice that the majority of the commenters make the same case: these guys are either too dumb to realize they'd be jailed for protesting in China, or they simply got what they deserved.
Funny, I always thought the ideals of the West were built on the concept of freedom of speech and sticking up for the oppressed.
So, in a cultural climate of zero support... why bother?
And, more importantly, why should we care?
Technology Trumps Humanity Every Time
The world has always had its fair share of corruption, violence, war, famine, human rights atrocities and general self-destruction. But now, thanks to the internet, news of these disasters and tragedies can travel around the globe instantaneously.
Instead of making us all give a damn, however, this overwhelming surge of negative news is simply making us all more jaded.
Now, instead of caring about how one person (or government) is destroying the lives of innocents, we lament that this negativity is ruining our day. Harshing our mellow. Making us aware that the world is not always a bright, shiny (and stark white) iPhone commercial.
We resent that.
We're now so much more aware of just how shitty a place the world can be, I think we're all subconsciously tuning out anything that doesn't provide us with an escape from that reality.
We also have to earn so much more money during this troubled economy just to keep up with our comfortable level of consumption, we don't have the time, energy or resources to care all that much about anything that isn't adding to our coffers or providing us with relief and amusement.
And, even if we did develop the urge to care about something, we still have to cultivate the strength and awareness to take action -- and to know HOW to take action. That requires research, which is time intensive, and often requires sacrifice -- none of which really fits into our modern schedule.
This explains the proliferation of impassioned blogs and tweets about every meaningless technological ripple under the sun -- every new iPhone model, WordPress plugin, or beta test invitation -- and the comparably deafening silence whenever the subject changes to sociological issues. (Except politics. Every LOVES to let the world know what they believe, even if that belief doesn't necessarily translate into action.)
So where do we go from here?
Web 3.0 as Lightning Rod or Escape Clause
As the web gets more intelligent (both the services and their users), we have a choice: we can use this worldwide connectivity and instantaneous data transfer to accomplish more progress faster than any other generation has previously...
... or we can use it to distract ourselves from the horrors of reality, which seem to be ever-growing in number and degree.
I don't blame people for not caring. I don't even blame them for thinking that we should string up the people who DO care. After all, the people who care make the rest of us look bad.
When we hear about the actions taken by people who care, we run the risk of realizing that we probably could have done something more productive with our day than whatever it was we actually did do -- populating databases, animating spinning logos or selling goods to be purchased solely with discretionary income.
If only everyone would just settle down and stop caring, we could all get on with our lives.
... would we need to distract ourselves from the terrors of the world if there weren't quite so many?
And would there be so many if those of us who did care actually... took action?