I found myself marveling yesterday over some correspondence in which I am involved. An artist in Rome, having met a curmudgeon in Kansas via StumbleUpon, has entered into a conversation about religion and physics. All of this occurred in a very short time and has not required any stamps. I understand that there have been pen pals for a long time, but this is a little more spontaneous and it is endemic. People all over the world are talking to, well, people all over the world.
One has to believe that there is a chance yet for the world when things like that can happen. I understand that there is a certain amount of ugliness on the Web, as there is in the real world, but I also know that people the world over are transcending the language barrier and talking to each other in forums and on Facebook, as well as in private conversations. It is happening everywhere and often.
There may come a point, if we can keep the internet free from governmental control, when the greedy fools that lead countries will not be able to mobilize one population against another because too many people in both populations will know and like each other. The power-hungry leaders of our countries have, of course, noticed this. In places like China and Iran, access to the internet is not free and easy at all.
Many of the strategies of the current U.S. administration have been nearly as repressive as those in places that are more outwardly undemocratic. There is no doubt in my mind that people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (not to mention their boss) would like nothing better to control the internet, just as they are passing laws and executive orders on a regular basis to repeal as much of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights as they can.
Regardless of our politics, all of us here are citizens of the Web. We all need to think about this, and to do what we can to keep the internet free and open in our own country. Further, we need to help those countries that are even more repressive than this one is trying to be. To be a citizen of the internet is to be a citizen of the world, in a very real way. We may have the opportunity to hold our world together, and I would not want us to blow it.
A free internet may be the best chance we have for a free world!