Saturday, February 12, 2011

Watching TV (My Yellow Rose)

I keep thinking about this song as I think about the events that have unfolded in Tunsia and Egypt and how humanity has become more and more connected through technology.

We are such complex creatures. At our most animalistic level, we are driven to fight and kill one another on ever increasing scales. But even as we invent newer and more efficient ways to kill our fellow human beings, we are also inventing newer and more efficient ways of connecting with them.

I suppose art came first; cave drawings. Even hundreds of thousands of years later, we are able to connect with people we can never meet. We share the bond of knowing that those people were in so many ways just like us. We know this because they left behind messages that we can understand.

Writing was the next big leap in technology. Like every new technology, it had its skeptics and detractors. Socrates thought writing was a terrible idea. When you send your thoughts out into the world where people you will never meet can read them, there's just no telling what those strangers will make of your words. They could interpret something completely different than what you meant, and you won't be there to correct them. Of course, the only reason we have any idea who Socrates was and what he thought is because Plato, his student, wrote it all down. And although Socrates was absolutely right about the dangers of writing, he missed the point of writing entirely.

Human communication is not the process by which we transfer information accurately and completely, but the process by which we connect on the most basic of levels and understand that we are all the same.

There is no ideal more important than the understanding that we are all the same, because there is no idea more destructive and more exploited by those in power than the sentiment that those people are different than us.

You see, every cell in your body has a marker on it that identifies it as you. When a cell enters your body that is not you, it is immediately destroyed. We are programmed, all the way down to every cell in our body, to survive by destroying what is alien or "other."

But we are more than collections of cells. We are more than animals. We are not driven by survival alone. We are driven by love and hope and fear. We crave touch. We need to be connected to one another. We are forever inventing new ways to communicate, not just with the people next to us at the moment, but with people we will never meet on the other side of the planet and the other side of the next century.

Art, music, writing, the printing press, radio, television, the internet, Facebook and Twitter. Every new connection brings us closer to each other until one day, we will be as ready to kill a stranger in another country for the benefit of those in power as we would to kill our cousin or neighbor. This is why governments, religions, and dictators have always sought to control our means of expression, and why we must always fight for the freedom to speak, draw, write, blog and even tweet.

We must fight for the ability to love our brothers and sisters on every continent because the more we connect and work together for the benefit of mankind, the more we will prosper and flourish together; rather than allowing a select few to prosper at the expense of everyone else.

("Watching TV" is by Roger Waters on the album "Amused to Death." It's performed by Roger Waters and Don Henly)


Jerry Lavey said...

Excellent piece. Having spent a career in corporate communications, I applauded as I read it. One thing, though, I don't understand this sentence: "Every new connection brings us closer to each other until one day, we will be as ready to kill a stranger in another country for the benefit of those in power as we would to kill our cousin or neighbor."

Heather said...

Yes, I see that I could have worded that sentence more clearly.

Basically, what I mean is that as we connect with people in other countries, we will be more likely to view them as friends and neighbors, and less likely to want to kill them.

My mistake was to complicate the sentence with the point that it is the people in power who manipulate us into fighting with one another, and always for their own benefit.

The larger point being that we will be less open to that manipulation as we become more connected with people around the world.

Sorry, I should have taken more time with that thought. Thanks for the comment! :)