We now live in a world where information travels across the globe with the speed of light. People connect instantly across borders. The Arab Spring was live-streamed and tweeted while it was unfolding. The Internet was a revolutionary tool. The net-generation discovered what it can do. Now, global networking and instant communication have completely transformed the social and media landscape.
Some worry that this rapid expansion of technology can deprive people of real social interaction, creating overexposure to screen-based sensory stimulation. I share that concern and I believe no amount of Internet communication and connection will be able to replace face-to-face human interaction and doing work out in the community. I am also aware that control through surveillance and censorship is increasing in cyberspace. But something new is emerging in the digital space that signals a significant change in human consciousness.
After a long darkness of failing civic power and deadening apathy, something has shifted. In late 2010, John Perry Barlow @JPBarlow, political activist and essayist tweeted: “The first serious info-war is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.”
In the last two years, a new strain of activism arose from cyberspace. WikiLeaks’ guerrilla journalism blazed onto the world stage, exposing illegitimate government secrecy, corruption and war crimes. Bound by an allegiance to the free flow of information, the loosely tied online collective Anonymous formed a new legion engaged in hacktivism. People around the world came forward to stand up for freedom of information and speech.
By 2011, the dark cloud of apathy was lifting. Newly empowered global citizens emerged from network 2.0. Once the genie was out of the bottle, nothing could stop it. From the Arab Spring to the Spanish revolution and the insurgency of Occupy, the world was in the midst of a global awakening. No one can deny how the structures of the past are being shaken by an urgent call for deep change in society.
The stage was set by a new generation of youth, arising in the digital age. Throughout the Western countries, dot.com bubble yuppy children and computer geeks have shown that they are not what the media portrays them to be, selfish spoiled kids indifferent and apathetic. They care. The network of online individuals saw injustice and were outraged. Anonymous called them, “the Children of the Internet”; This new generation rose out of linear structure itself, transcending it digitally.
I believe that the power of this generation is not just the effect of social media, with unprecedented information sharing and networking, but something internalized that enables them to counteract the dominant world order outside of cyberspace.
Social scientists and journalists tend to look at problems from an economical and political perspective. But here I would like to move discourse into the psychological realm. What effect does the current type of capitalism, which is based on global corporate dominance have on how we relate to one another and define ourselves?
Social systems operate under a set of values which in large part govern the actions of those who are in it. Capitalism is like software, an idea installed in social frame of Western society. For decades, it ran like an operating system that is now being corrupted by a backlog of unnecessary and decadent old forms and is in a spiral of self-obsolescence.
Imagine the ‘Eye of Providence‘ that appears on every dollar bill. This Eye is now a metaphor for a mechanism of centralized force that is commercially driven, attempting to control all that moves in its sight. Within this system we are seen and defined by the Eye of capital control. This single-eyed perception has the effect of mesmerizing those in its gaze to unknowingly become a part of that system of control through monetizing and commodifying human labor and earthly resources.
Welcome to the land of estranged capital. We live in an out of control debt economy created by a shadow private monetary government called the Federal Reserve. We are born seemingly enslaved to this system. All become subject to the machinery of the Eye which sees all life as a resource for profits. Schools teach children to conform and adjust their actions accordingly -to be rewarded or condemned in its line of sight. Under this objectifying power, dominant western culture first begin to lose connection to outer nature and then to our own human nature. Both are disdained as exploitable or something to be conquered. We become subordinate to an outer valuation that ranks humanity based on our differences.
The lines drawn on the map and world are divided territory to help maintain the controlling artificial construct of the nation-state and now that of the transnational corporation. Countries outside of one’s own become foreign lands to be feared. Those that have not been ‘Westernized’ become third world, ‘undeveloped’ countries maintained for resource and labor plunder.
The perception created through the Eye of power dehumanizes and commodifies people to become passive and obedient consumers and products. Divided by race and class, we began to see each other as not brothers and sisters, but as someone to compete with in an economical Darwinism or survival of the most heartless.
The Eye is watching. In its sight everyone is placed on the ladder of hierarchy. Anyone who refuses to be identified with it and challenges its power is punished. Virtues that do not fit with the patriarchy are excluded. Yet those virtues pushed away by a corporate hierarchy never actually disappear. They are intrinsic to the nature of humanity: compassion, creativity, caring for and sharing with others. They were suppressed by the mainstream culture, waiting for a chance to resurface. Many feel they don’t have a place and that there was no alternative. The Eye seduces us, presents this capitalistic corporate world as real and necessary and that its survival requires that we sell our core humanity to market value. The force of economic domination increases. This Eye pierces into every aspect of life, expanding its occupation globally.
Some resisted its force or have been running away from it. Those who had no place left to go might have found a path to alternative reality. Beneath the hardened concrete soullessness of Western civilization, there was a hidden stream of resistance and flowing life. It was an underground cyberspace. With tools of anonymity and encryption, some found a way to break free from the Eye that scrutinizes. Familiar ground fell away. One begins to ‘see’, ‘feel’ and ‘sense’ the other anew.
In connections made online, you are not alone; someone on the other side of the world is there with you. Unhindered by corporate filtering, people are now sharing thoughts, frustrations, ideas and passions. Many young people experience a connection on the Internet that feels quite real and is now weaving a global web culture. This newly formed network confirms something that had been intrinsically felt; that we are one big family living on this planet. Children of the Internet remember; we are not only defined by race or nation; we are all children of the earth and all life is equally precious and sacred.
This culture of the web is experienced differently than all that came before it. Piotr Czerski opens the manifesto for residents of this new culture:
“We, the Web kids; we, who have grown up with the Internet and on the Internet, are a generation who meet the criteria for the term in a somewhat subversive way. We did not experience an impulse from reality, but rather a metamorphosis of the reality itself. What unites us is not a common, limited cultural context, but the belief that the context is self-defined and an effect of free choice”.
In the Web culture, information flows freely and diverse points of views can emerge and dialogue with one another. It is not the authority of the Eye that filters and imposes one-sided views, but those who examine and select ideas. Their identity is not defined by a nation-state and one particular culture. Global connections and those shaped by interaction with others take precedence over all traditions, language, social status and history. The web culture values sharing and cooperation rather than monopoly and domination. For the most part this is translated into freedom of speech, free access to information and the ability to share without filters or ownership.
In time, the force of fear penetrated into cyberspace. Big brother surveillance tries to track every click, every keystroke. Now this generation no longer cares to escape, no longer turns away from the Eye that tries to steal the power to see each other truthfully and replace it with desperate attempts to maintain the deception.
“We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for”. (Loyd Blankenship, a.k.a.The Mentor, Jan 8, 1986)
The resistance has begun. For Internet children, reality is subversive and surreal while the line between fiction and reality blurs. They have seen themselves in films like The Matrix, with Neo’s fight against the system, to the battle against the Evil Empire in Star Wars, or wearing a Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta.
In a most recent episode, Rap News posed a burning question for this generation:
“Though it might at times have seemed a bit like science fiction, where it’s always been much easier to espy the division between good and evil, and who is on which side of the schism. But can’t a touch of fantasy also help us perceive that our own story has indeed often been about challenging the monopolies and dynasties which have shaped our views for centuries”?
This generation’s battle is unfolding before our eyes with Julian Assange’s saga. His extradition case and the US prosecution is revealing to the world what’s really behind this fear-based power. Media has become the Eye that squashes truth and excuses violence and exploitation. Hypocrisy of leadership inverts the law to play a double standard of justice with corporations bowing to government in the financial blockade of WikiLeaks, and government serving corporations with thieving bankers controling the economy.
Young people are now seeing and participating in a global battle for freedom as if this was something that they have been waiting for their whole life. Around the world people are confirming each other’s power and raising hands to say: I am here. Count me in. I refuse to be defined without my say. I can define and write my own story. I am here to see the world, to see you.
“We are the ghosts you have created. Message to the people: You will find liberation. You will find ‘awesomeness’. You will find magic. You will find the way to break your own limits. But, who are the guise with the key to get all of that? It’s not the government. It’s not the military. It’s not a big corporation. No. It’s you”.
We have felt freedom, remembered our connection to one another. This generation has opened its eyes. In the outer world, perception governed by the central Eye still permeates. What we encounter is a gap, how we are seen and defined in the Eye of hierarchy and truth about who we really are.
Freedom found in cyberspace gives the strength to awaken in the activity of perception and counteract the forces outside that try to maintain monopoly and illegitimate governance. This is the power of the Internet generation. It is not just information shared through social media, nor Instant Message technology, but this inherent, mutually awakened consciousness that cannot be objectified.
“We are becoming the agents of perspective. This generation is burning the mass media to the ground. We are reclaiming our rights to world history. We are ripping open secret archives from Washington to Cairo. We are reclaiming the rights to share ourselves and our times with each other — to be the writers and agents of our own history”. (Julian Assange, July 29, 2011)
Viral revolutions and Occupy brewing around the world are the eyes of humanity meeting the machinery of hypnosis that has lulled previous generations to sleep. No single Eye can put the world under its control. The whole world is watching. Citizen journalists, bloggers, crowd-sourcers and activists; ordinary people are now empowered too bring in diverse views to create their own world.
Look at what happened with the recent shooting of young African American Trayvon Martin. The Eye that sees blacks as inferior embodied by George Zimmerman was met with massive public outrage. Here people were saying we care, we remember our humanity and we will not bear lies of perception that try to separate us. It was a moment when we saw the truth of our common humanity in the face of rank injustice in the streets.
What set social media in motion is this awakening. The Internet has become a tool to mobilize a passion for truth. One by one people blaze online with the torch of our heart’s seeing. The courage to open eyes and confront forces that oppress is contagious. A network of individuals who commit to stay awake can bring new vision and free the world once captured by the hateful locked gaze of power.
The Children of the Internet are watching. Their eyes penetrate deception and corruption of power. They see a future beyond monolithic control, a world conceived through their unlimited imagination. This is a new generation of hope. They are here growing up to become the world they wish to see.