Search
Ideas | Images Live Here

 

 

Powered by Squarespace
"Like" Facebook status $16 1919 419 Advance Fee Fraud 72 virgins accuracy afterlife Aki Kaurismäki Alberta Alcatraz Alchemist Alchemy algorithm all-knowing Andrew Keeling Andrew Rawlinson apparatchik Arab Spring archive art art criticism art theory Assam Assiniboine River atheism ATLAS auction baby names Battle of Marengo BB shot Ben Gurion betrayal Beverly Rowbotham Bible bicephalic Bing blues Bollingen Bolsheviks Boxing Day Boxing Week Boxing Year brain Buddhism bullshit bureaucrat Cairo California Guitar Trio Canada Carl Matheson Carlos Fuentes centre of being CERN CG Jung Chagas Disease Charles Frederick Gray Charles Hartshorne Cheerios chimpanzee China Christmas Christopher Hitchens church CMS cocking a snook Conrad Black conscience Constancia core organic search creativity criminal code critical realism crowds and power crowdsourcing crucifixion cruelty Danielle Smith David Roberts death degrangement democracy dentist died Drama Centre driftwood Eden Eduard Munch eduskunta Egypt election Elemental Particles elias canetti eon Epistemology era essay essayist existentialism F-35 Facebook fake news fakhir falsehoods filter bubble finland First International Conference on Multiple Partonic Interactions at LHC Franz Kafka Free Press Freedom of Association Friends Friendship Frippertronics fun G.I. Gurdjieff gamma waves gangs drug violence gender equality general strike Gethsemane Global Sunday Globe Mail God Golgotha Google Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew government Guantanamo happiness Harry G Frankfurt Hartshorne Heritage Canada Higgs Boson hit hitting horse diaper Hosni Mubarak hunchback Huxingting Tea House hyper irony ideas immortality Income Tax innocence of muslims Ipsos Reid J.G. Bennett Jane Goodall Institute jean valjean Jesus Christ Jiffy journalism Judas Iscariot juice Justin Trudeau keisaku stick King Crimson Kingston kiss of peace La vie de Boheme Large Hadron Collider Lavengro left-handed leone vivante l'oiel de Gabes love Lucian Freud Machiavelli manger Manitoba Mark Stobbe market Matthieu Ricard maudlin Maxwell's Sorting Demon metaphor Mexico millisecond mindfulness mokhtar belmokhtar monk murder Myanmar Nanosecond narcissistic personality disorder nativity Natural Person neuroscience New York Times newspaper circulation nihilism no loitering objet trouve ontological argument ontology opinion Osama bin Laden ouagadougou P.D. Ouspensky pain painter painting paintings panpsychism Paolo Gabriele Pentonville Peter Higgs Peter Miller phenomenalism philosophy Picosecond Pierce Brosnan Planck Time Unit Plato PMO post-truth Post-Truth.News Prime Ministers Office Prismatic public execution Public Safety pudding palace qatar raccoon recipes Rasputin repeating names Robert Fripp Rodeo roses Saint Nick Samuel Beckett Santa Claus satori Savoy scream search engine optimization Second Law of Thermodynamics security SEO Sigma 5 sirhan sirhan skateboard sorrow sotheby Soundscapes space flight Spinoza Standard Model Physics Statistics Canada Stephen Cave stolen Svedberg Syria T.S. Elliot Tahrir Square television The Coon Hunters Handbook The God Particle The Simpsons The Wine of Silence The World's Happiest Man top secret trial trout Trump Trump.Rodeo Truth in Advertising tyranny University of Manitoba Via Dolorosa Vic Toews victims violence Viva Mi Fama voters wabi-sabi Whole Grains Wildrose William Klassen Winnipeg Wolseley women Wormwood Scrubs writer writing Yoctosecond Zen

 

     

tumblr visit counter
 

Entries in democracy (2)

Friday
Sep282012

Hunchback Of The Hour


Finnish citizens can go online to force their national parliament, the Eduskunta, to vote on any citizen-led proposal, providing the citizens can garner at least 50,000 digital voices.

 

The initiative is being hailed as a milestone, crowdsourced digital democracy in action.

 

This is our world: interconnected, social, mobile and – take note – driven by technology and by the crowd.

 

I stand in awe of the power of the crowd, which seems anxious to respond decisively to any of the incessant provocations that echo across the digital domain.


Atop the minaret

 

The digital tribe is a force for good when it responds, for example, to natural disaster in Haiti or Japan. The power of the crowd is evident in the squares of Tunis and Cairo as the old guard, if just briefly, is brought to heel. Mass action by the Occupy Movement, street demonstrations by thousands in Quebec - these too are mobilized with the aid of instant messaging. Not to diminish the dignity of the individual and his anger, but the Arab street, recently called to protest the film Innocence of Muslims is beckoned to the public square not just by the loudspeaker atop the minaret but also by text message. And, as I witness mass disruption in journalism and publishing - since everyone now is a writer and everyone, now, is a publisher - I see the traditional, legacy media caught in the public square and challenged there by the wisdom of the crowd.

 

This has me reflecting on the alacrity of technology, its' impact and mediated power to provoke us to acts of kindness or cruelty. The crowd holds the power to transform, to build, to rescue and repair. The crowd holds the power to incite, to maim, and to obliterate. The mediated, mass, digitized crowd can be herded down either path.


The Siege of Paris by Moonlight

 

In history, when mobs laid siege to Paris by moonlight, where they converged on the Bastille or took up their knitting before the guillotine, you could at least see the whites of their eyes as the crowd became puffed with power. The crowd can be swift, its' vengeance awesome. Today, the mediated crowd can be just as vengeful but also anonymous.

 

We can classify the crowd according to their prevailing emotion. As Nobel laureate Elias Canetti shows in his book Crowds and Power, crowds can be very irrational. These days you need simply look here.

 

So, what is the difference between the 1789 Lafarge storming the Bastille and the digitized Lafarge leading the crowd into the fray via a keyboard campaign on FB, Twitter or SMS? Both the 1789 crew and the modern one reach a moment of discharge, as Canetti calls it, where individual power is safely transferred into the mass anonymity of the many.

 

But consider for a moment the tyrannical power of the crowd.

 

Not long ago I was compelled to reach out to a lonesome outcast, a modern hunchback of sorts who had been pilloried and gutted by the social media cowards and, dammit, by the mainstream mass media too.

 

But it was the social media campaign organized against this contemporary Quasimodo that caught my attention, as the poor soul must have felt like the loneliest being on earth. The digital froth and frenzy against him had all the trappings of a Medieval public execution, the crowd lusting for blood.

 

Although we had never met, I extended my hand to Quasimodo: assuring him via email that while this dark moment had come to pass - it had not come to stay. He replied with great courtesy, obviously relieved to hear a lone whisper of support across the cold canyons of estrangement.

 

And though I assured him that things could not possibly get worse, things then got worse.

 

With each passing hour the crescendo of calls for his head became louder, more virulent, more persistent. Blog posts and thousands of voices on Twitter and Facebook, cackled with condemnation. A few days more and the swarming, frenzied, crowd reached its climax. “He is just a terrible human being,” one Facebook user said of our poor hombre, who was by now the loneliest man in Dodge, an absolute outsider, the hunchback of the hour.

 

I could only imagine how for our hunchback this would have been a moment of complete estrangement from society and humanity. I sent him another note. He seemed moved almost to tears.


It's cleaner now

 

Whether it's the bloodlust of the internet crowd or the rabble assembling in the square for the public execution, in either instance the swarm-crowd risks nothing. “There is no risk because the crowd have immense superiority on their side. The victim can do nothing to them. He is either bound or in flight, and cannot hit back; in his defenselessness he is victim only,” says Canetti.

 

Writing in 1960, Canetti noted that in the mid 20th C everyone was able to participate in the collective killing via the newspapers. Things were a little cleaner than in the old days, the crowd more distant from the actual event, but the psychology remained the same. No risk: “We are not responsible for the sentence, nor for the journalists who report the execution, nor for the papers which print them.”

 

Today, the print version of the newspaper is pretty much dead, but the crowd has reified. The digital crowd will form, do its business, only to vanish again into cyberspace - all the while calling for the victim's severed head. Since this crowd does not even have to assemble, it escapes disintegration and lives to find its next victim or villian, hero or hunchback of the hour.

 

Recommended: Elias Canetti Crowds and Power, 496 pp, Farrar ISBN-10 037451820

 

(Top Image: David Roberts The Siege of Paris by Moonlight 30 x 20 A/P Giclee | Inserted Image: David Roberts The Weight of Heaven 16 x 12  watercolours)

Friday
Jun082012

A Friend Indeed

 

I was having trouble becoming a Facebook friend with Hosni Mubarak. And then just as I sorted that out an email arrived from Facebook inviting me to become friends with myself.

 

These developments have left me shaken.

 

Yes, the act of reaching out to Hosni Mubarak in Facebook friendship would be a sympathy thing, motivated by the assumption he needs, just now, all the friends he can muster. After all, the 84-year-old former Egyptian president is one week into a life sentence in a Cairo prison for complicity in the deaths of 850 people. Though he survived six assassination attempts in his lifetime, he is apparently depressed, bed-ridden and in need of oxygen, so it appears any new friendships, not to mention the life sentence itself, may be short-lived.


Emergency friend

You maybe noticed I'm new to Facebook and have been "friending up" recently. So it was a shock to learn that I'm not allowed to befriend everyone. You don't have the option of befriending Hosni Mubarak on Facebook, for example, you can only “Like” him. You'd think, given the gravity of his situation, it would be more comforting to him if we could be a friend, especially now in his hour of need, incarcerated, stripped of some $35-billion in assets and not breathing well: gurney-man walking. If this isn't a classic case of someone needing a friend I don't know what is. Facebook should make an allowance here, to provide emergency friending in such eventualities. Because to be called “Friend” seems so superior to being merely "Liked" since, let's face it, people are always more inclined to say nice things about you when you're gone.

 

Besides, it's really nothing to "Like" someone, especially on Facebook. In Hosni Mubarak's case, more than 5,000 people already "Like" his Facebook page. Which, when you think about it, given that he presided for almost 30 years over a country of 85 million people, isn't absolutely stunning evidence of his overwhelming popularity.

 

Is it just me, or do you too find that Facebook stretches the boundaries of the traditional meaning of friendship? What is a friend, really? And what vulnerabilities do we disclose when we befriend another? Facebook, in a way, reveals a level of impermanence that underpins all our human interactions. They are fun for awhile. But then they are gone. Incidentally, when Facebook learns that a member has died, it puts that person’s account in a memorialized state, like Lucian Freud.

 

The Way Home (12 x 9 w/c)So, being new to Facebook and full of wonder, I'm curious: what happens if, after I "Like" Hosni Mubarak, things go South between us? Maybe because he stood by while peaceful agitators for a more 'democratic' Egypt were killed in Tahrir Square, I can't forgive him. And if I can't forgive him, surely then I'd have to reconsider how much I really "Like" him.

 

Here's where the Facebook fantasy world clashes with the real world. Consider how much, or little, is being asked of us when we "Like" someone on Facebook. Facebook even gives me the option to "Unlike" Hosni Mubarak if I change my mind about him - there is no consequence of my hitting the "Unlike" button, other than the link between myself and Hosni Mubarak is digitally severed. Given that there was no real link between us to start with, nothing is lost. The consequences of loss are so vastly different on Facebook than in real life. Hosni Mubarak is not affected by the loss of my "Like" for him, nor am I. This is where Facebook reveals a deep flaw. If there is nothing to be gained by our liking of someone, then why bother? And if nothing is lost by the removal of our "Like" for them, then our like means nothing. What if, theoretically, this transitory relationship between me and Hosni Mubarak truly devolved and I came to hate him? I've looked but cannot find a "Hate" button on Facebook. It seems we can have all the Facebook friends who are prepared to put up with us, but we can have no official Facebook foes. 


More discerning

We can report though, that like a Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4, our little Facebook account has gone from zero to 60 friends in no time. True, the "friending-up" process feels a bit like glad-handing around the room at cocktail hour. But my Facebook friends are you.

 

And here is what happened: very recently as an experiment I sent a Facebook friend request to everyone in my email contacts. This included everyone I'd ever had vicarious email contact with, some 850 friend requests went out. Facebook immediately disciplined me for asking people who barely know me to be my friend, suggesting I need to be more discerning about who I hang out with. So if you are among those who received a friend request from me and are wondering who the hell I am, all I can say is – don't worry about it, I am Your Friend even if I cannot be Hosni Mubarak's friend.

 

But then another strange thing happened. In the midst of sorting out whether I could, should, or would "Like" Hosni Mubarak I received an email from Facebook reminding me that I should become a Friend with myself. I guess my own email address was tangled up among the 850 in my contacts list.

 

This really got me going. What does it mean to be one's own friend? Does it mean simply that, despite all one's failings you can still cut yourself some slack? That I should, after a realistic self-appraisal, conclude I am worth getting to know better? Dare I risk dislocating my shoulder with self-congratulatory pats on the back? Once I have progressed to being a friend to myself, should I - dare I contemplate it - get to know myself more intimately? No doubt there are some among us who have no friends but ourselves, and for all of us, but especially for them, I found there is a 5-step Program to help us all be our own best friends.

 

Finally, it turns out that with all this Facebooking frenzy, angst, learning and self-doubt, that I have been blessed with the discovery of some new friends I didn't know I had. Thanks are due to all of you who have so far taken up the invitation to be my friend. As I survey the fertile territory of my Friendships I feel all the rich concreteness of your human company, even without Hosni. I hope you feel the same way too.

 

UPDATE June 19 - Hosni Mubarak reportedly unwell: Hosni Mubarak's 'health crisis'

 

UPDATE  March 2017 - Mubarak released: Egyptian prosecutor orders release NYT

 

(Top Image: First Light 20 x 24 acrylic)