With the advent of the internet, we all got a little bit more connected. fast forward a couple of decades with the public using the damn thing, and you see that we are all the more connected, with my mothe keeping track of my Facebook status, and texting “lol” at some of my funny tweets. Another big wave we are seeing is the “Internet Awakening” that is taking place, right now, all over the world. what we are seeing is a crazy push for the equalization of many delicate eco-systems within our society that have stood the test of time, but I’m afraid may not last the test of the internet. The Arab spring has shown us directly that if you oppress the poor for too long, and the can communicate with one another about how much it sucks, eventually they will rise up against their oppressors and eventually topple the regime.
Before the internet, the people that aren’t fortunate enough to be posted up in a palatial estate, surrounded by armed guards donning colorful berets, we’re pretty much forced to bear the brunt of whatever their leader decided. Take Syria for example. This is the one conflict that I have watched unfold in it’s entirety- mainly because of the easy accesibiliy of knowledge from the internet, as well as major media outlets, like CNN taking footage and reports from the frontlines of the conflict straight from YouTube and blogging sites. Here is a quick breakdown, from my memory of what happened.
Al Bashar is the president there, and has been since his daddy was president, and he pretty much runs shit like a honey badger. Not caring about anyone else besides the people in his country that support him, without question. Life is good for those people, so they don’t complain. Most of them live in the capital city, where all his military goons are, so it would be impossible to protest his actions anyway. Hundreds of miles away, in another small city, the goons aren’t quite as populous, but they all have a sense of entitlement, due to running shit there for so long. Well one guy was getting a ticket on his shop by one of the government’s henchman, and during the disagreement, got beat up. This was just business as usual in these parts, and before wifi wouldn’t have made the papers- but this guy, and his facebook friends, twitter followers, hell, Linked-in contacts got fired up. They took to the streets, protesting the unfair bashing of some simple shopkeep, getting attention from the media.
Fast forward to Homs, the most famous place on the list, and some 15 year old kids, must’ve seen a YouTube video write some grafitti on a wall that says “Down With The Regime.” Now let’s break for a moment from the story to remind everyone that people in an extreme place of power are generally pretty comfortable there, and feel safe doing whatever it is they’ve been doing for years. This silly graffitti by a high school kid could’ve been punished with some community service or some after school detention, but that would not send a message to the people. The message instead, was a kidnapping of the children and days of torture. Not “nice guy american water-boarding torture,” no, this was real “Vietnam-tiger box torture,” intense flogging, and ripping the kids fingernails out.
Homs went into a flurry of e-mails, status updates and text messages and Homs boiled over. People took to the streets with giant protests, flag waving, drum beating, song singing, all with the call, “DOWN WITH BASHAR!” A famous singer made a catchy song that everyone would sing, the regime cut his throat out. The mother of one protest organizer said she didn’t know where her son was, the regime grabbed her younger son and cut off his genitals and left him in the street to die. In between these events, murderous “Death Squads” would roll into neighborhoods and break up protests with tear gas. When that wasn’t enough, it was live gunfire. When that wasn’t enough, they rolled tanks into neighborhoods, and shelled areas with mortar rounds. Death from above, for anyone that speaks out against the regime.
Many died. Many more were wounded, but you can’t go to the hospital when you are at war with your own government, when you get there, you are snatched buy armed guards and whisked away to never be seen again. But something happens to you that is much more significant, particularly in Syrian culture. You have now become a martyr. A symbol of “the cause”- a symbol of something, something much greater than yourself.
Here in America, we do not particularly relish in the thought of martyrdom. We take our freedoms for granted, because for as long as we have known, we live relatively free. Certainly we live much more free than many countries in the world, and I really am quite thankful that I was lucky enough to end up living here rather than Syria or under an oppressive regime that tries to squash out rebellion the moment it pops up. We all have the right to protest peacefully and demonstrate without violent retaliation- or at least so it seems. At the Occupy Protests, we are getting a taste of what happens when you challenge the status quo- tear gas, flashbangs, and riot shields are all making appearances on the nightly news.
When the economy is good and life is easy for us, we are content to go on about our lives, uncomplaining. But what we are seeing now is an unprecedented unrest in our country. Our middle class is shrinking as the wealth gap in the country widens. The kings at the top of the heap are posting record profits, while the rest of us shoulder the burden. The 99% has risen through this Internet Awakening, and although I think we are in for turbulent times ahead, I believe the country will make some major changes, and be a much better place for it. The political system is owned by those that can buy it, with major corporations spending as much or more on lobbyists as they do on taxes. Mitt Romney pays a 13% tax rate, “As much as I’m legally obligated to pay!” but most people who don’t watch the news don’t realize, HE is one of the guys who makes the laws, even opposing a tax hike back in 2008 that would’ve seen him pay a bit more tax on his vast fortune. The game is much more fun to play, when you write the rules.
I wish I could just turn my brain off and not care about these things. I could just go to the gym, do my fights, do my television shows and not worry about the rest of the world, but I can’t. It would be a responsible thing to do as a US citizen, as a human being or a citizen of the world. I urge you to do the same thing. You have to remember, that as humans, we are all cousins. We are related somewhere down millions of years on our family tree by a common ancestor, and we have the responsibility to take care of our fellow man. As an American, we have all been granted certain “unalienable rights” by the men that started this country. Among those is the right to free speech. A big part of the reason that I opposed SOPA and PIPA, despite doing business with one of the major supporters of the bills, the UFC, is that the way they were written, they would most certainly allow the coorporations to crush out many forms of free speech without the due process of the law. Thanks to the founding fathers, I have the right to say this, and you have the right to disagree with me.So now that I have reminded you of your rights, please feel free to exercise them. Do all that you can to make a difference in the world. It’s getting much easier with the internet.