Posted this on FB not long ago, and now I’m cross-posting here.
Things are moving fast on this planet. If we intend to get smarter about where we want to go, it’s important not to forget where we’ve been. I started writing this several days ago for a group I’m a member of, The Open Source Party. After last night, it needed some updating. Now that it’s finally finished, I’ve decided to share it with everybody.
See that crooked sky? A few steps away, a black man was shot dead in his car.
The World Wide Web has been raining with images like this. That particular one exposed another day of horror and injustice in America. It’s a portrait of our brutal history, and of our chronic failure to overcome it.
The deluge doesn’t stop. Suddenly, a page is turned, presenting a new chapter of gore, with its own festering puzzle.
Ironically, these images are artifacts of a great technological revolution, instantly broadcast and globally shared. The Internet is awash with reminders of how primitive we are.
If we can see raw injustice in real time, can we see our way out of it? What would it take to get to a world where such horrors are rarely repeated, rather than just rarely shown?
It would take dedication to getting smarter faster about what pictures we need our electric clouds to drop. That would be a true revolution.
Maybe this machine is doing us a favor. By grabbing our attention this way, it’s making us witness our reflection so often, we might finally learn to face it.
It’s easy to say that the world seems crazier. But what makes our new reality so different is that the crazy is always on. We’ve gotten really good at equipping ourselves with instant feeds of hateful programming via globally-interconnected devices. We’ve gotten really good at saturating our minds with crazy-making stories.
Rather than just go bonkers by bingeing on out-of-control feedback, I suggest getting better at putting smarterfaster-making stories into heavy rotation.
Run-amok malevolence doesn’t deserve the last word. As humans, we still come endowed with capacities for collaborative problem-solving. Let’s leverage those.
It’s not a matter of shutting down the crazy channel. That dam has already broken. It’s a matter of tapping our reservoirs of sanity.
The wider Open Source community generally organizes around free speech commitments rather than social justice priorities. This group’s attention has been more narrowly focused on election reform. But broader kinds of conversations like this need to be put in bounds from time to time. Right now especially. There’s too much at stake to ignore it.
Fixing this election law or that ballot technology are always good things to do, but they aren’t the key to organizing a properly functioning government. And open source democracy certainly isn’t the sine qua non for a culture of well-being.
That doesn’t mean the values and programs we talk about here are simply irrelevant. Who wouldn’t agree that our governments and systems of justice need platforms that bake in transparent, accountable processes?
If we keep asking ourselves why we want that, we’ll find more in common with why other people in other change-driven groups want what they want… In every case we’ll encounter a constitutional desire to bend the universe toward fairness.
These nasty civilizational selfies we’ve been taking remind us how sharp that bend needs to be.
Last week’s tragedies across America demand we look for overarching values. This week’s abomination in France demand we never give up.