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You raise me up
Lord’s Prayer- Andrea Bocelli
And can it be
Brighton: 29 September. tides: high, 12.53pm(.68m)low, 6.59pm(.39m)
Tuesday’s Tide 09 – ‘falling over’
“This is for everyone”
Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the ‘World Wide Web’
Microsoft fell over today.
They say – whoever they are – that daily 75 million people rely on this one computer company for their business, social and communication life. So when emails, files and Teams meetings can’t be accessed, a silent rage of many millions of people rents the human universe.
One wonders how people sitting online exams, tending huge financial deals, or waiting for life changing medical news feel in these moments. Moments, that must seem like hours.
There is a special kind of fury that is enveloping us: the powerlessness of shaping our own destiny. And Internet power/powerlessness is at the heart of it.
Not that historically the mass of individuals could ‘shape their own destinies’ at will. Throughout most of human history – and indeed in many places still – a panoply of powers determined how a person’s life would play out. The die for each person is cast early on and never changes: gender, birth place in the family, geography, social status, religion and race – all long before luck, illness and unfolding family or social circumstances come into the equation –shapes how each individual life is to be wrought.
No doubt things are changing, and rapidly – and one of the biggest causes of millions and millions people ‘resetting their lives’ from an the old expectations of how they would live, comes from the unleashed power of the microchip – the tiny component that lead to computers and the Internet extending its world wide web, well, world-wide.
I recall the absurdity, years ago, being in poverty stricken rural Ethiopia – where death by famine was as much a risk factor in taking a child’s life as any pernicious virus or bacteria – sitting in a little bar with an earthen floor, sticks and mud for walls and an old corrugated iron roof held down by strategically placed rocks.
Flickering in the corner was a TV, hooked up to a satellite dish, paid for a global Christian network from Texas. A televangelist, yes, in white shoes, was speaking; beamed in from a studio in Houston, made to look like his own ostentatious US living room. The message was, ‘you too could be materially successful if you put your faith in Jesus’. (Faith was at least partially measured by a poor Ethiopian’s financial response to the call to support this ministry further.)
That was about 20 years ago. Since then the materialistic ‘prosperity gospel’ has inundated the world, no continent excluded. Believe enough and God’s blessing would come, and you too would be successful.
Of course none of this is news any more, and many people drawn into faith communities by this ‘bribe’ have broken free from its trick, and are now people of deep and abiding faith.
But many, I am told, have turned from religion with a rage, an anger, a fury. They have felt powerless in the face of the force of the Internet manipulation.
Now, messages, images, sounds via the Internet fill our world. And not all of them, not even most of them, are terrible or evil. They are just present in numbers so great as to render us powerless: they push us about.
It feels we cannot control our destines, although the great promise inherent in the World Wide Web world is that ‘you are in control’. The hope of the inventor of the www, Tim Burners Lee, was that it would lead to greater democratisation of humanity, bringing people together: ‘This is for everyone”, he has said.
And it is. But, has democratisation swung into ‘a theology’ of product choice? My Lord, I have ordered up packages online during this pandemic, expressing my democratic right to choose. Many of us have. A little dopamine hit with each purchase and another when a parcel arrives – even if via Sydney and weeks after the order. So much so that we cannot even remember exactly what we have ordered in the first place!
If I have ordered up, I have also been served up: a manipulated menu of falsity from some politicians, journalists, opinion makers, analysts, radio shock-jocks, so called influencers and outright liars on this same Internet. My choices are their plaything.
They have agendas they are not sharing: they are hiding their true hopes and supporters are paying them big money to tell me what I should think and how I should behave.
It was once thought that information was power. Now days, information is powerlessness: I have too much information, and I give up, sticking to only those who agree with me.
So, last Saturday night through to Monday morning I turned off all my devises. I realized in doing so how habitual tapping a button is. For a while my fingers tingled with nothing to swipe. But then my heart slowed down, my ears heard quite sounds, my eyes landed on art, my stomach filled with tasty food. There was a freedom and a different kind of ‘good powerlessness’.
I needed my own ‘Control, Alt, Delete’, reset moment. Ennui, acedia, torpor – the feeling that in the journey of life I was trailing behind all the powers before me; life was not so malleable. Electronic media had taken my power. I found trusting in my own devices – and not electronic ones – has me now not so much caring about Microsoft falling over. Or is that because I rely on Google chrome? 🙂
- Kim Cain