#Occupy your own New Year's revolution

Timothy Leary on increasing your intelligence,
all the above points are met by uncensored internet use
I've previously echoed the point that the internet is alike to the printing press. It's an observation which is almost a cliché and it certainly wasn't new when I wrote this article here: The Global Awakening. However, the frustrating thing about the comparison is that it's hard not to be drawn towards the headline grabbing side of what happened next, the printing press was a vital step towards The French Revolution and huge political change throughout the world. This terrified the world's leaders at the time, caused a huge change in some of the power structures which towered above the peasants of the age and still causes concern for our modern day rulers.

For me though what's more important is the spread of radical ideas, known as "The Enlightenment", which preceded and underpinned these events. That process is less spectacular and blood thirsty but far more important and long lasting. The further away an event is in our universe the more our minds give it a false symmetry that it lacks when viewed close up, the moon looks like a perfect round sphere but get close to it and its rough edges and crater marked surface are revealed. This is true for events in our past and there's a danger the most positive consequences of the printing press upon the Western world could be forgotten by overly excited would be authoritarians keen to rouse "the masses" and #occupy positions currently held by "the elite". In my opinion such an exchange of power would not serve us as those who #occupy a seat of power in the future will encounter the same problem as those who currently claim to lead: the entire notion of a hierarchical dictatorship is coming apart

I try to explain why here: Why We're Not Living In 1984 Today: Orwell's Oversight. In short, leaders lead by controlling information and the information superhighway makes this impossible. No matter how hard they try, just like the war on drugs, it's beyond their control and our world's massive financial difficulties limit their ambitions and ability. The fact we've lived in a world where the common narrative implied it was their responsibility to sort things out means some people are focusing upon the likely indirect results which the internet may have upon a small few, the infamous 1%. 

I believe would be "revolutionaries" would do well to concentrate upon the less publicised but far more profound aspect of the internet, its an incredible learning tool! It represents the fact that we can now teach each other how to think.

I'm old enough to remember the pre-internet world. Back then people would often say, "ooh, he's even bought a book on how to do it" when they spoke of a friend or relative on a self improvement trip. This is an echo of the most important revolutionary aspect of the printed page. It allowed people to learn how to improve themselves and change the way they thought about the world. This is the driving force behind any meaningful long term social change ever experienced in any society. A violent revolution where the ruling elites have their heads cut off and they are replaced by equally excitable left wing or right wing  demagogues would mean nothing in the long term other than a depressing game of spot the difference.

I was very disappointed by the #Occupy protests I attended in London. I felt I was watching some of the dull Labour Party activist types who put me off politics during my time at University and ultimately led to a total disenfranchisement for me because Tony Blair. As I chatted to them they seemed hugely in favour of censorship, were quick to anger if I questioned their ideas and seemed wholly focused upon fixing other people rather than themselves. I have had similar encounters with people who adopt the Anonymous pose.

The dangers of censorship are key to my argument here. When one person censors someone else they deny you access to a perspective. Even if they've done this because they've decided it's for the collective good you've lost the chance to learn something. This is why censorship is one of the roots of limited intelligence within a society. I believe my generation, and the ones beneath it, have been badly let down by the education system. It's tempting to think this is because it's not in the immediate interests of our rulers to explain how the game is weighted in their favour but this is only an unfounded and perhaps unfair suspicion. Either way their keen appetite to control the information you're allowed to find should not be supported by anyone without serious consideration and a solid counter argument to this piece you're now reading.

Although I'm suggesting something that I'd like everyone to do I am aware of the fact that collectives tend towards fascism. Any idea that requires other people to do as you say can be a dangerous first step towards an authoritarian mindset. People usually know what's best for them in their life and if they don't it's always better they learn how to spot hazards rather than rely upon others to do it for them. That's partly why my call to action is so vague and subjective; improve yourself.

Any movement which requires you to move in a particular direction someone else has chosen will teach you how to follow. What our nations need now is a people who can think for themselves and choose their own path. An uncensored internet lets us do that and without question Western liberal democracy, for all its faults, has the potential to grow individuals who are capable of unique thought. This must be encouraged, not suppressed.

That's where you come in. The true path for a revolution in my opinion begins with self improvement and learning not what to think but how to think. As we approach the new year there will be a lot of people indulging our culture's practice of making a "New Year's Resolution" or two. I suggest that you use this opportunity to do precisely that, sort yourself out and improve who you are. If you're a political revolutionary do it with the same conviction which you'd use to challenge The Illuminati, or The evil Tories, or The Communist leftards, or The Racist Republicans or The Dozy Democrats, or whoever it is you oppose.

This meme is embedded in most of the decent movements that have sprung up recently, including #Occupy and Anonymous, but it often gets ignored. This blog entry is an attempt to remind you of it. The phrase "be the change you want to see" often comes up. This article is perhaps a bit of meat on that bone. I've made no secret of the fact that I think we may have some quite dicey times ahead of us in the next couple of years but it's not the most important aspect of what is happening to people right now, it's only a distracting headline.

If you look for it there appears to be a self-improvement revolution happening already, although it may just be the company I keep in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I've seen plenty of people who used to be fat but have now lost weight, I suspect they've used the net to learn about diet and exercise. More subtle though are those people who used to be total idiots at school but are now capable of occasionally admitting they were wrong or behaving more reasonably, I suspect they're on a similar trip. Digital communications technology such as mobile phones and the net force a form of self awareness by recording conversations and activities. Revisiting events at a later date can be incredibly powerful. re-reading a drunken or angry conversation in your Facebook chat box is a very profound change to the way you see yourself. Looking at a picture of the night out you went, on where your clothes were too tight, puts the issue of your weight into sharp relief.

It is these changes, which seem small but are magnified by the volume of people they impact upon, that will lead to a better society as a whole. The biggest most important changes that you can make to your world are the ones you can make right now to yourself and the way you think. The more people who take up this challenge of fixing themselves first the less unlikely the wider changes needed in our society will be. Joining those who are using the net as a tool for self development seems to me like the most useful thing you can do. If we all do that we might well all move in different directions but the definition of the word "revolution" might move away from something which has to involve violence and conflict with others.

Nick Margerrison.

Comments welcome...

Comments

eddy diaz said…
Thank you i will join you in awakening our fellow thinkers and doers
David said…
You see through the clouds very nicely, I wish the readers could get it by reading it as well but tend to find only the converted do already or not at all. Maybe constant repetition seems to do the job if anything.
James Flynn said…
There is a lot of talk about a kind of revolution lately, what with occupy and Russell Brand being very outspoken on the subject. And I am all for a fair utopian society, freedom is very important to me. However, I have never heard anybody mention how an alternative system would work. I have confidence that there are good people out there, but I am all too aware of the darker side of human nature, and I think there is a need for a certain level of authority, ie police. Perhaps one day, the royals and political elites will stand down, but wouldn't it leave us in a vulnerable position as a country? I love the idea of a leaderless society, but I struggle to imagine how it would work.
neiallswheel said…
''censorship is one of the roots of limited intelligence within a society.''
Excellent point Mr Nick.
We never manage to truly engage in a grey area of any 'argument' without engaging our empathy, our similaries of certain experiences and our emotions and our perspective at that time. Without a true balance, an open door of knowledge, we learn nothing.
We adapt with what we learn, and essentially point at ourselves to relearn answers to questions that tend to reoccur through our lives.


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