MONEY, HUMANITY, FRIENDS & THE INTERNET
AT THE HEART OF THE INTERNET, THERE'S STILL A HEART
If You Listen, You Can Hear It
The Internet is a strange place, isn't it? I mean, it isn't really a place at all, except in our minds. I'm on my computer, you're on yours, and there's nothing in between us but miles and miles of wires, cables, switches, routers, servers and all that junk. Most of us never meet each other "In Real Life." Not even sure we'd want to. Yet, it's possible to develop a feeling of community even under these peculiar circumstances.
Like our ape-like ancestors, we're social animals. That means we will construct a sort of society amongst ourselves, even if there's only two of us, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. Even if we're thousands of miles apart, joined only by computers and communications equipment. It's hard-wired into us. More than that, it's in our hearts.
From the earliest days of human civilization, one of the most terrible punishments has always been shunning, or outright banishment. Sure, the shunnee goes on living. But his or her basic need for community and companionship are cut off, even amputated for life. Maybe it's just a monkey thing, the terrible feelings of loneliness and isolation that result. But I think it's proof of a human soul. Maybe even an All-Soul, that we're all plugged into.
You could call this a weakness. Whatever it is, it's intrinsically human: We couldn't remove it if we tried. If we do try, or if it breaks down somehow, we end up with Ted Koscinski's and Ted Bundy's (Don't name yer kid Ted.): Sociopaths who have no human feelings, and who reveal us to be the most dangerous animals on the planet, Homo sapiens: Capable of wilfull, planned, intelligent, incredibly elaborate evil.
But we're also capable of building a society that at least attempts to fight and to banish evil. We've built a society across the globe now that consists of families and friends and neighbours and classmates and co-workers and complete strangers, who mostly try to stay out of each other's way, and even do a good deed, once in awhile.
Anywhere in the world, some kind soul will help a lost child, pick up someone who has fallen, feed a hungry man, comfort a grieving woman. Without a second thought. It's just what we do. The "social safety net" was in place long before we ever had any governments, or charitable organizations, or NGOs or churches even. It's what holds us all together. Those institutions exist only to do it more effectively.
The world is becoming a strange place. Even as we build our ever-more-elaborate societies, and governments, and technologies, we are becoming more isolated, and alienated from each other. I think it's like a pendulum, though, and it's swinging back the other way, now.
Lost in their little technological caves, lone individuals are reaching out via the Internet, and other technologies. We're attempting to re-establish contact, to rebuild the social safety net, to enjoy that sense of community we had begun to lose, though we needed it more than ever; to be human, even in this strange new world
It actually is possible to build friendships, and even love, over this World Wide Web thingy. I've experienced it myself. I've seen it in others. It's real; even if the world it exists in is not real. Even in the dark, frozen vacuum of cyberspace, there is a human heart, beating. It would be a terrible place, if there weren't.
I know this because I've become rather isolated myself, over the last few years. I spend way too much time on the computer. Like most time spent anywhere, much of it is wasted. But I have discovered that I do have a few actual friends, in this unreal world. That's kind of important to me right now.
I've recently suffered some setbacks that are proving difficult to overcome. But when I asked for help here on the 'Net, I actually did get a response. More than any mere financial assistance, that meant a lot to me, the fact that people cared. The worst thing about having your world collapse is how it makes you feel. Pretty much devoid of hope. Paralysed and unable to act. Isolated and powerless.
Although my circumstances haven't changed much (if anything, they're worse), I do feel a little better. A little better able to cope with whatever comes next. It's an unfortunate truism that good people never have any money, and people with lots of money tend not to be very good people.
Something wrong with the whole system, I think. That's why this whole "Thousand Points of Light" nonsense will never work: We tried it before, for many years, and it just didn't do the job. Many people starved, while a few selfish people went on stuffing themselves.
So we made some changes: We went beyond mere charity, and we built an official social safety net, using our own governments to take collective action to do the things we would do ourselves if we were able, and knew how and where and when to take action. It worked pretty good. Nobody starved, in this country, for a pretty long time. Even though I have never, and will never use it myself, it's good to know it's there. It makes us a better country.
For some reason, some selfish, and foolish people want to stop that. They don't seem to care if kids go hungry or sick people die for lack of medical treatment. But this is a basic function of human society: To take care of its' own. Why else put up with all the bullshit? If we can't share the good things about people in the functioning of our government, what good is it? Our government, our society, our technology either represent the best of us, or we have to fix them. Otherwise, they represent the worst of us.
You can see some of that, on my blog, right now: The worst of us. Certain anonymous cowards are taking advantage of my situation, and misusing this wonderful technology, to be just as small and as petty and as evil as any sociopath in the real world.
I've left some of their many ill-intended comments up, so you can see the other side of the Internet. There are some really sick people out there, like Geoffrey, and Gordon. We can only hope that all their worst actions are taking place here in cyberspace, and not out there in the real world.
The Internet is still dominated by good people, like Sandy and Maria and Cul and others who shall remain nameless. While none of us is rich, in terms of money, all of us are very rich in terms of friends, and human decency. For me, they have made the World Wide Web a nice little neighbourhood. And I thank them for that, no matter what happens.
Good people always outnumber bad people. And one good person is more powerful than all the bad ones put together, because he is connected to all the other good people, by having a good heart. Even on the Internet.
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