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Monday, April 23, 2007

Are you Incapacitated?

Why do we form communities? In the last 20 years, we've seen our world transformed. Not just in technology, in the arts, in culture, in the way we live, and communicate with one another. The profound impact of the Internet is staggering, unheralded, and what we witness, right here, right now: this sprawling of myriad change affecting every facet of human endeavor on the planet is just the beginning. The Internet has taken a life of its own, and its hidden gifts, hidden secret is that we don't know what to expect from it next.

Beyond the technology--- the Internet is a philosophy of community. We can all agree that one of the gifts of the Internet is the ability of ordinary people of the same goals, and ideas to band together, form communities and focus to solve or answer a particular need.

The best example is one you've heard of the most: a community of hackers led by benevolent dictator Linus Torvalds started out in corridors of the Internet, but towards the end of the 1990s their Linux Kernel revolution had rapidly grown to challenge and surpass even the wealthiest of corporations. They've garnered support from individuals, from other organizations, from companies such as Intel and IBM. They've created a multi-billion dollar industry out of freely shared, open ideas, challenged the status quo and through their philosophy--- has changed the way software is being developed today.

Beyond software development, the methodology of the open source way is being embraced by other industries like Architecture and they've focused this on humanitarian issues. The Open Architecture Network's goal is to improve the living standards of five billion people with a hundred million solutions provided for through open standards, open communication, through an open source model.

The Open Architecture Network is the brain child of Cameron Sinclair. This is his TEDTalk presentation:

It is old news that people are fed up with how slow governments act. They're fed up with how "the system works". Take for example a simple tent technology that was developed by the United Nations, which according to Mr. Sinclair took 12 years to be finalized as opposed to the development cycle that took two years for people like him to deploy.

In Philippine society, MLQ3 wrote in his column about how the political party can be made obsolete. he asks: "how do you channel the desire of people - many people - to enter public life, with the goal of helping others, but without using it as a means of helping themselves to the detriment of others?" The answer he said: "One way might be to encourage the political involvement of NGOs, and the eventual extinction of political parties. Put another way, the political party, with its obsession with 'jobs for the boys,' the farming-out of contracts and dispensing the pork barrel; and with its penchant for ultimately gauging success or failure only by the number of officials it gets elected in each election, has to give way to something else."

IF NGOs become political, how then are they different from political parties?

There is a saying that all politics is local. Isn't it also true that everything is political?

The founder of Sustainable South Bronx is Macarthur-winning African-American named Majora Carter. Ms. Carter organized a community dedicated to a holistic community development. They sponsor job creating projects that protect the environment. They endeavor to create beautiful green spaces in the inner city of South Bronx. Their mission is very political, very emotional, and is very much into the community in which they live.

Majora Carter's very passionate TEDTalk presentation: Greening the Ghetto.

Bill Clinton in his TEDTalk acceptance speech articulated it properly: "people like us, who are not in public office have more power to do good than in anytime in history. because more than half of the world's people live under governments they vote in and can vote out, and even non-democratic governments are more sensitive to public opinion. because, primarily of the power of the Internet, people of modest means can band together, amass vast sums of money that can change the world for some public good, if they all agree."

Bill Clinton's speech is re-embedded here for your convenience

Now we get to my point, several in fact.

In Philippine society, I think two glorious truths that stand out is espoused by all people from every walk of life. To do anything of significance you need 1) the support of government, and/or 2) the support of the clergy (Catholic or otherwise).

Columnist MLQ3 argued and concluded in his column that as Non-Governmental Organizations succeed to gain access to those in power, they eventually fail.

This is why: a misguided Conservatism is prevalent across every facet of Philippine Society and it has become a Cancer. If there was a thing called bad charity or bad socialism or bad welfare, then it is best symbolized in the Philippines by the system and culture of hand-me-downs and favors the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office has created.

The poor in their plight would walk up to a politician for favors of all sorts: from health care to a coffin to bury their four year old child. Often, someone may approach someone they know, seeking for some sort of assistance. This person then looks at who he knows, whose influence is most likely needed to get the job than. Nothing wrong really, it is just how things go. What's wrong is that everyone who has got influence, whether in power, in connection, or wealth is what a titled earl or duke or count would be in the Middle Ages. The people, rich or underprivileged would always have someone higher than they, to kiss the ring of just as you would to The Godfather.

I started this post, writing about communities and how the power of the Internet has made communities even more significant than ever and this is why it started out as such: it is a big deal that communities have shared goals. Such goal is needed for whatever their advocacy, or enterprise to succeed. Communities create a sense of belonging. They are also ostracized for being different.

A lot of people believe Comic Books and Cartoons are for kids. Novelist Brad Meltzer, who penned Justice League of America Number 7 wrote: "The League (meaning the Justice League of America) isn't an idea--- it's an ideal".

Communities, Cults and Religions are very big on Symbols like as Black Lighting in Justice League of America Number 7 remarked to Superman when they talked about the League being an ideal, he said: "like wearing a blue costume and a blazing red cape". Now, if you prefer the democratic opposite, it can also be like wearing a frighteningly-stuff-of-nightmares-bat-suit.

When Communities, Cults, Religions, any organization: corporate, non-government or political parties distance themselves from their ideology, when they have defaced their Symbols, or loose such Symbols, when followers have no way to rally to them, or have lost their belief in them: they die.

But you know what's the very best part of what Meltzer wrote was? That's correlated in what affects Philippine society and that Filipinos everywhere don't get? For Cults, Communities, Religions, Organizations, non-government or political or whatnut that links this whole idea v. ideal thing? Meltzer let my favorite character Batman say it:
"What's the best part of the league? The very best part? The best part is--- it's bigger than us. And we should never let it be anything but that."
The biggest hurdle that Philippine society faces today is this. I want to put it in a simple manner, so it's clear. So let me borrow the words of Bill Clinton when he said: "incapacity is a far bigger problem in poor countries and it feeds corruption."

It all goes back to the Filipino mantra that you can't do anything without Government. It's all government this, government that. That politicians and government by extension is to be blamed for every problem. Blame doesn't really help except to incapacitate. People used to say the world was flat. It turned out, it wasn't. For example, if political triage is the right way to go and everyone seem to agree to know it to be the right road to follow, then we should: no matter how hard, or difficult it is.

It is a brave new world out there where we have at our fingertips the brain trust, the full resources of the world, if only we'd use it. We're at the Dawn of the Age of the Everyman, when ordinary people have the greatest capacity to do the most good. Anyone in the world has that capacity.

This Age of the Everyman, is the silent revolution that is shaping our world and the proof that such an idea works is all around us: from the technological marvels driven by Internet technologies to Organizations like The Open Architecture Network, spawns of this amazing age, to examples of the human capacity to do good from events like the Tsunami that hit South Asia. Organizations and people who are absolutely serious and sincere in the work they're doing, leverage the power this brave new world has to offer. So If you feel passionate about something that needs doing (in your neighborhood), and one person can't do it alone, do it yourself and form your community: it's time to save the world. Are you still incapacitated?


foxdared said...

I don't think I will ever stop reading comics...ever...I may slow down a bit...especially when big things in my life happen...but it is the only piece of childhood I have left...and it fires my imagination..ten-fold...So I bite my thumb to anyone who thinks I should stop. Peace out!