Tell Us a Story, a Challenge from Mashable and the Third Renaissance of Mankind
As some of you know I am a dabble writer, a prose architect, who in my own mind is the next great author of our time, but in reality I am nothing more than a hacker sitting in front of my keyboard with spell check at the ready to correct my atrocious spelling and typing skills. My grammar, well for that there is no antidote.
As you can see from my first paragraph complete with run-on sentences and much too long for reading comprehension, I am no writer and much less an author. But here I go again, writing prose that the great authors of yesteryear regularly express their disapproval of by the rumblings from their graves. My English teachers, yes I had a few who tried very, very hard to get me to write for comprehension, would probably read this essay and recoil in horror if I dare mention their names.
So why am I writing this? Better yet why do I write? The first question is easier to answer than the second, I am writing this because Mashable challenged me to write an article that would take as much of the 63,206 characters that Facebook is now allowing. Although I may not be the writer that I think that I am, I do not shy away from a challenge. Don’t worry, there is no way I can create a 63,000 character essay, so hang in there for the answer to the second part of the question; why am I writing this?
Like all good stories, it all began in the early ages of my life. Like all little kids I was in search of data, information if you will, about what made the world tick. Back in those days, before the computers as we know them today, information was difficult to get. No, we aren’t talking about having to walk to school barefoot and through twenty-inches of snow; I’m not quite that old, yet, but it was before today’s keyboard searches for information.
Prior to the Internet, the information outside of our immediate circle of life was gleaned from our family, our neighborhood and the information imparted to us by teachers who at best provided the information dictated by government bureaucracy or what they themselves felt was important for our little brains to comprehend.
All those sources of information came from biased informants whose reality was based on notions dictated by their own limited access to information and, or as in most cases, dictated from religious dictatorial concepts of good and bad.
Children and adults, for that matter, are in a constant search for information fulfillment through nourishment from sensory inputs from the world around us. Unfortunately, our quest for data points is extinguished for most of us because to question authority or those in the know is usually quashed at an early stage of our lives. There are many reasons for this but it all boils down to parents too tired to answer the infamous question; “but why” and a society that frowns upon those that challenge their dictums. Mixed into this smorgasbord of limited access to data is our inability to easily access the information our souls demand.
Access to information was through news sources and books and sometimes pamphlets and the occasional oral story passed down from generation to generation. All of those sources have two issues against them that hamper our search for mental fulfillment; they are created by well-healed purveyors of information that they use to mold our thoughts with or is information that is filtered through a set of eyes glossed over by manipulated perceptions. Either way it is only one perception from many.
I know some of you are rolling your eyes right about now, at least those who experienced a meaningful search for information at a library prior to Google because in your minds it wasn’t exactly the dark ages, there were plenty of libraries, and still are, with plenty of books all for our reading pleasure. All you have to do was get to the library and fulfill your search for data.
For those of you who are post the Google era, the concept of trudging to the library is alien to you but know that information at your fingertips was more like information down isles of endless rows of bounded paper with gems hidden on the inside. To look up something, you actually had to find a row of drawers filled with index cards, manually indexing books which may or may not be related to what you were looking for. Oh, and the cool Boolean searches were nothing more than stacking books on top of each other and walking them over to a small desk where you opened each page by hand only to find out, hours later, that your search for an answer is not to be found in the stacks you just carried and you are now forced to start over again at the little drawers of index cards.
Eventually you found the answer, or maybe somewhat of an answer, but regardless, you had to pretend your search for data to fulfill your curiosity was fulfilled because that’s all there was, those books at your disposal, and the occasional newspaper.
I know some of you are like what, the…? What do you mean; there are millions upon millions of books out there! They’ve been around since the Bible. What do you mean you had limited access to information? There are so many books that even Google hasn’t indexed them all!
Let me share an often ignored fact with you. Every book, including the Bible, was produced to fulfill someone’s agenda. Producing a diatribe, whatever the format, requires money and thus those with money get to mold our minds. Even today, money is required. Let me explain as I can feel the quizzical looks in your eyes.
To get to the library you need the luxury of time to read the books, the money for transportation to and from and to be near a community with the economic resources to keep and maintain a library. None of this takes into account the nexus that is the information holders themselves, the published materials.
To get published you need, at the very basic level, the education to compose a set of words on paper and the education to analytically challenge a notion. That requires access to a school. Guess what, a school costs money. But most societies have a school system that at least gives you those tools, some of you are thinking. True, but societies are dictated by self-serving interests, both good and bad, that teach children that thinking outside of the box is frowned upon. Thus the cycle continues.
Teachers are too busy adhering to the rigors of bureaucracies, parents don’t have the time, or the inclination to bother nurturing inquisitive thoughts and governments don’t want to be challenged by rabble-rousers. Think about it, what is the first thought that most people have when they hear someone is an activist, it is a negative connotation. Society breeds us that way because it makes us easier to control.
The second problem is that it takes money to replicate your thoughts across the landscape, be it either Xerox copies or bounded books, they each cost money. And, as if that wasn’t enough of a hurdle, you still needed to deliver your musings across vast geographic expanses that cost more the further you reached out. This limited your audience, which limited your traction, which detrimentally limited your ability to get your message out. Coincidently it allowed those in power to silence dissention outright or limit the exposure of it while providing their perceptions of reality to you.
So the books, rather the thoughts I used to have access to were presented to me by those that had the wherewithal to expose me to them, those with money, directly or indirectly. Thus, my understanding of concepts was limited by the perceptions of those with the money to manipulate my understanding of the world. My reality was governed by the perceptions of those who could afford to mold my thoughts.
I once read a piece somewhere and I apologize to the author because I do not remember who it was, that answered the question many were asking at the time about the citizens of the Soviet Union not demanding Democracy soon after the Iron Curtain fell. The answer was; how could you want something you never knew existed?
Limited access to information limits your understanding of what it is you want.
I believe we are on man’s third renaissance. Most of you are familiar with the Renaissance but I believe that the 60’s and 70’s gave us the second renaissance of mankind. Geographically, our world shrunk through the lunar and space missions, the expansion of radio waves that gave us access to radio and television and the Cold War that showed us just how small the world truly is. Our destiny was no longer in our hands, not that it ever was, but it nonetheless exposed our vulnerability. This era taught us that there is more out there and forced us to question our preconceived notions.
The Internet ushered in the third and current renaissance of mankind because although it still costs money to publish and distribute our thoughts, the costs have dramatically diminished. Don’t get me wrong, it is still expensive for many, but much less than it was before. Just ask someone in Africa or in some Arab countries, not to mention some poor neighborhoods here in America what the Internet is. The response will be quizzical look in their eyes. It still costs money to get educated and to have access to computers and thus the Internet but, nonetheless the expanse is getting narrower each year.
Fortunately, once we have access to the Internet, the world opens up right before our eyes as never before. No longer, are our eyes masked by the perceptions of those that have the deep-pockets to manipulate us; nor do governments have the unbridled ability to limit what we can and cannot see, for the most part. Wikileaks and international and local occupy movements have shown us that information can and will flow regardless of who tries to manipulate it.
Is it easy? No, not by a long shot, conglomerates and government still control the flow of information. It still takes a lot of money to get the necessary traction to get your message across a vast audience, but for those who push society’s boundaries and are driven; their information will reach a greater audience.
But is it good? Knowledge is about understanding based on as many points of view as possible. Our history is replete with the mistaken notion that controlling the flow of information is better. Parents do it because they feel that a child seeing death is better left unseen because it avoids answering the questions that invariable arise. Sex, for that matter, is something to be consumed behind closed doors because children aren’t ready for it, or so parents think. A child is hungry for information and they will find it, so who better to guide them then their parents? We are in a transition between the analog and the digital way of thinking. Like it or not, our children are digital children and they will seek the answers they want, whether they are ready to process it, or not.
Some of us do not like our information filtered for our own good and some of us rebel against governments limiting access to the people’s data. So why do we still restrict what our children can see and cannot see? Death or evil, for that matter doesn’t ask itself if the child is ready or not before acting. Others, unfortunately the greater part of us, were molded by the notion that not challenging the status quo is the way to prosperity so they continue to perpetuate the myth that knowledge should be disseminated piecemeal, on as a needed basis.
Fortunately for those that advocate for the free flow of information, today’s child is a creature of the digital age. The need for information is fed from many viewpoints, some good and some bad. The underlining and important fact is that the information is there and access to it is only getting better each day. The question then becomes, how do we handle it? Better yet, the question is how can we make today’s generation the leaders of man’s third renaissance?
The dark ages manifested themselves because people were kept in the dark. The Renaissance unmasked the darkness through information dissemination. Some were afraid and began a culture of controlling the release of information lest many would become lost; at least that is what they thought. Invariably this led to the molding of realities through manufactured perceptions. Whether we want it or not, the latest renaissance is again being driven by the free flow of information.
Those that will succeed are those that are better equipped to gather and process all of the information for their benefit. Understanding information requires the ability to process all of it, the good and the bad and the ability to mold our own realities is based on our digestion of many, many different perceptions. Our inherent need to control continues to attempt to dominate the information but the reality is that the flow of information was never meant to be stifled, rather it is meant to be spread across the vastness for the betterment of all of us. We have the ability to perceive our world through our own unique perceptions of reality. As such we are better equipped to deal with it when we are willing to digest as many perceptions as possible and accept that others have their own ways of looking at life and that all perceptions are pieces to a puzzle that eventually creates our own realities.
So why do I write? Because I can.
There you have it, the third renaissance of mankind has given me the power to express myself, the reason for this prose is Mashable’s challenge and the vehicle for it is Facebook and my Blogs, all courtesy of the Internet, and it coincidently gave me the ability to share my perception of the world with you, and thus I write.