24 June 2009
The Real Power to Save
Well, so much for the Twitter Revolution.
It was just a matter of time before the Regime in Iran employed something that our handy little devices can't overcome: murder, brutality and raw force. They may be totally illegitimate and their time may come but the electronic helpmates to the overthrow of a corrupt regime are powerless when the power gets shut down. It's fitting that one of the last enduring images is that of they dying and then dead Neda, a youthful and hopeful 26 years old and left on the ground beside her screaming father while the world watched in horror. For me, her death was eerily reminiscent of the early beheadings that made their way onto the internet after 9-11.
Tom Friedman makes a good point today, namely that the real change will come when Iran is deprived of the source of its power--oil income. Our willingness to change our habits is what actually has an effect on power--not tweets and twits, which gets the word out only so long as the power chord is connected. But when the regime decided to pull the plug, silence. And we all return to our usual order of business, gravitating in google-land to the next entertainment frontier.
The Digital Dead. It's on our faces, in our hands, the disconnected nothingness of our lonely walks down the street, distant gazes on subway cars, distracted navigations turning corners in our cars. The entertainment and media companies must be thrilled at what suckers we are, diving deeper into our pockets to fulfill our habits for surfing the surface of the latest this or that. There is something about the current revolution in Iran that brings into broad daylight the absurdity of our reliance on technology. Twitter informs us of rallies and demonstrations; of those shot down and those defying power; but ultimately, power itself will define the course of events--either an unabated power from the regime or the absolute willingness of thousands and thousands to die before an internal struggle among the ayatollahs changes the course of events. Will the electronic tools have advanced that cause any more than other modes of communication advanced the cause of justice in prior wars and struggles for national liberation? Humility in the face of history and humanity's incredibly profound propensity for causing harm to one's fellow human being demand the emphatic answer.
From the silent screams of the lonely walker, eyes locked in the glassy embrace of his hand-held tool, to the noisy nothings of blabbing cellphone talker-walkers, enthusiastically alienating their fellow "citizens" on the precious remaining space of neighborhood sidewalks, we all are touched by the Digital Dead, salving our existential uniqueness with the numbing heat of charged battery power.
But the real power to save is in our hands. Our free hands. And in our eyes, which despite their weakened state, may still be able to conjure a look into the eyes of a neighbor, asking, "What can I do to help you?"