If you’ve gotten this far, you know that there is something going on across the webs today. People are suddenly afraid that WikiPedia is gone, or that the government shut down Reddit, or any number of other things.
The reality is much worse. The SOPA/PIPA act is supposedly going to stop piracy, but in reality gives the tools for unelected faceless powers to shut down entire sections of the internet, with no recourse. I’ve dealt with similar situations in smaller scale (such as having PayPal unilaterally shut down my account for a vague and never-actually-explained reason) and there is more than frustration and anger. There is some fear, when you feel your life being changed, affected, impeded by forces that you can’t see, can’t communicate with, and therefore can’t fight. You can’t negotiate with a form email; “no-reply” is a very effective way to take the “social” out of social media.
So I do encourage you to take a moment and make a phone call. Call your senator or representative and make your own vague power move. You see, there’s a leveraging effect that happens when you make the call: most people don’t, and therefore the politician figures that for every one person that actually bothers to pick up the phone, there are about ten who feel the same way but can’t be taken away from twittering about WikiPedia being shut down to bother calling in.
See? You have the voice of ten, because your heart is pure! Even better, be specific. As my housemate (the Sorbet Temptress, you may recall from a prior entry) said, you can imply threats: “I am a registered voter, living in your district, and if you vote in favor of SOPA I will not vote for you.” Every word is truth. There is the minor fact that she’s actually a registered voter in British Columbia, but the truth is that she will not vote for the politician.
It’s About the Freedom to Get Knowledge
There is the old saw: knowledge is power. And it’s very true. The immense storehouse of knowledge on the web makes people with access to it vastly more powerful than ever before. Your life has more power at your fingertips than any other period of history. I can say that with confidence because if you are reading this, you can just as easily be reading a lesson on programming computers. Researching medical treatment. Writing your own blog, making your voice heard across the world. It has never been this easy to learn or teach so much in so many ways.
So the question is: what are you going to do with it? There are many kinds of power. Knowledge is one; it gives us power over something. Knowing psychology can give you power over other people; knowing computers can give you power over tech; knowing medicine can give you power over your body.
Here’s the fun one: Knowing you are free to learn gives you power, too – but not over others, it gives you power over yourself. There’s a lot of talk about freedom requiring responsibility, the blood of patriots, or only being available at the cost of peace. I don’t want to argue that; what I want to say first is that freedom gives you the power to do something with your life. You decide whether you’ll spend the hour reading LoLCats or watching a TED Talk.
I’m not saying either one is better or worse, either – I’m just saying that you are making a choice, either way.
With that, I’m off to a plane to San Francisco for a few days! If you’re in the area and would like to meet up, drop me a line – I’m going to be traveling a lot all over the U.S. the next few weeks, and would love to meet some readers in person.