One day in June 2006
I had a sudden realization: I am beyond borders and regulations on the Internet. Certainly, the regulations and norms of the “real world” no longer applied to the virtual interactions of hundreds of millions of people.
From chatting to creating social networking communities like Orkut and Facebook; from writing emails to sussing out the real from the fraudulent on MySpace, and taking citizen action through blogs, using our networked computers as our media centers – we are semi-consciously creating a new space with its own rules and codes of conducts.
It struck me that the Internet had indeed become my de facto
It was then that I proposed this at the NEXT> blog:
June 2, 2006:
If “government” means the “act of exercising authority,” then I must report that I believe my official government may not be my official government.
In its broadest sense, ‘govern’ means the power to administrate, whether over an area of land, a set group of people, or an association.”
If this is really what government is – a body of influence, whose rules and laws I form, obey and own – my government is The Internet.
The Internet is the government of the commons, which has leveled social, and class and racial and other barriers.
I think for the first time in history, humans across the globe have created a government that is truly a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
A reader at the blog questioned: “You’re sure? Internet is only the mediumâ€¦it is neither the message nor the messenger. What thrives here is the open and accessible communication between far-flung human beings.”
My response: Exactly. What is government but a facilitator of the activities of human [societies]â€¦ a servant that administrates the complex function? That is why we say, “like people, like government.” By itself, the government is nothing.
Governments do not represent the people – rather they shape the minds of the people.
The Internet does not exist to rule. It does not exist to create absurd laws. It is a collaborative space. It is inclusive, responsive, self-organizing, and evolving. It is a powerful source towards which the modern human is turning to share and to listen.
In fact, in my opinion, never before in the history of humankind has the democratic, human-centric definition of government been seen in practice. The Internet is not just any people’s government; it is the first truly human government.
The Power of Conversations
Here is the reason why the details of this exchange are shared. If we step back and look at the content of conversation and how it develops, we notice that:
- One person, using their territory (the blog) declared allegiance to a new kind of government. This declaration draws authority from another virtual territory – Wikipedia – which has a self-governing system. That territory is able to overcome differences of race, class, geography, language, sexual orientation, faith, etc. to create a thriving system;
- This declaration is willful;
- Another person challenges;
- And the first responds – demarcating their “law”;
- If the challenger agrees, this law is established between at least two people. There are also silent readers to count.
Within this conversation, an evolution of governance has taken place that is hard to emulate in the physical world in speed and authority. The power of such conversations in creating change is not to be underestimated, especially where the virtual community is strong and led ably. Conver-sations change people. People change spaces.
The Formation of a Government
One of the most powerful constitutions in the world is that of the United States of America. It was the result of the conversations between the founding fathers of that nation. The outcomes of their thoughts were published in The Federalist Papers – 85 essays outlining how the new government would operate and why that type of government was the best choice for the USA. Back in the days of print, the Federalist Papers meant to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution.
Internet: How It’s Changing the Territory
The process of writing a constitution is germinated in conversations and willingness. Internet is changing the way conversations take place. Humans are in a free space communicating with each other. The once slow and costly services have been replaced with fast, agile, free, and universal services.
Let’s step back in history and examine how countries came to be marked. In the most primitive times, it was oceans, rivers, mountains, forests, walls, wild animals, and other natural phenomenon that marked distances and differences. Soon enough, humans began marking fields, building walls, setting up colonies, and creating tribes.
Over time, ideological boundaries led to the birth of countries. What separates the two sides of a no man’s land but the differences in political constitutions and social contracts? Passports, visas, restrictions, treaties are the products of very recent times with respect to the human history.
This development has run parallel to an evolution in human knowledge.
November 2008: Generation-O has Chosen a Government
There are many people who still believe that Internet has no reach, it is a waste of time, and above all – it’s an elite medium. Media are relevant. Let’s make it simple: which of the following seems the most inclusive?
- Print: Few write, many read.
- Radio/TV: Literate and groomed produce, many are audience.
- Internet: Many produce, many engage.
As a Pakistani, which of these media can I use to send a message to an official in Barack Obama’s transition team? To the world via CNN (iReport)?
More than 2 years after I first postulated the idea, a relatively unknown, young, multi-ethnic black man has been elected the President of the United States. Barack Obama’s campaign machine made unprecedented use of the Internet by forming community organizations, linked through their leaders who networked online.
Not everybody has to be online, only their community leaders. The argument about the Internet being elitist and non-effective has little merit. At any rate, Internet is growing to become more inclusive, not less. Obama’s victory is an affirmation to all believers in the power of Internet to create a true people’s government.
Making Sense of the Global Governance Breakdown
Governance, in its widest sense, is not just a political-national institution. From households to corporations, even down to the Self, the rules of governance apply.
What we are witnessing in this world as “breakdowns” – from financial meltdowns of USA, Europe and Asia to people’s resistance movements in Pakistan, Burma, Thailand – are often the signs of territories changing.
Obama’s victory is the first but not the last time in human history when the networked structure of the Internet became a map for real-life organization – and change of government. It is a benevolent change – one that is brought about by acceptance, inclusion, and the will of the peaceful citizens working together to create a more positive world. (That is the intent.)
A Matter of Choice
Internet is not just a tool for passing time. It is at once the product of and the herald of a new era in human consciousness, and therefore systems of governance that are inclusive, self-reflective, transparent and swift.
The choice is up to humanity to accept the power of this enabler, and use it now to create benevolent governance from corporations to communities to nations. Or, as it happens at times of all evolutionary shifts, be left behind and perish.