Can the Internet Foster Intelligent Conversation?
Can the Internet foster intelligent conversation and help to form new ideas and moral beliefs?
A weird thing happened yesterday as I walked through my university campus. A young man approached me from a political organization that obviously was canvassing for new members. This is nothing new as there are always people attacking me for one cause or another. I am very interested in the ways in which life and human society works especially in the realm of spirituality and morality. However, I have to admit that I’ve never really gotten much out of politics, or economics which politics seems to be mainly focused on. For some reason I got into a conversation with this fellow and the resulting experience affected me profoundly.
I don’t know if his political group is relevant to this article but I will mention it is based around a U.S. Democrat named Lyndon Larouche. The guy was telling me in detail about how the present world economy based around George Bush’s American system is destined for failure and causing much trouble in the world. This I agreed with wholeheartedly as I can’t condone or imagine spending huge amounts of energy on killing people in a war as being a positive act.
He also mentioned one of my favorite human rights activists: Martin Luther King Jr. The guy was saying that under current conditions the ruling fascist ‘Empire’ is suppressing individual thought and creativity and that the masses of the world had become mindless cattle. He said that the key to evolving a new morally upstanding world society we will need individuals to once again think for themselves and change the current economic structures that control life on earth. He used a lot of big economic-type terminology so some of what he said went over my head, but I generally took the guy to be a nice, intelligent person who believed passionately about what he did. He gave the impression that people like King are the great transformers of beliefs in society, and that only truly awakened souls will be happy when they die.
I try not to take myself or life on Earth too seriously as this has caused many problems for me in the past. However, I do think that life and love are very important ideas to focus on when one is growing spiritually. I decided to sign the group’s list and get a little bit more information so as to really make up my opinion about these matters that I know so little about (economics and politics). Here is where the story goes strange. I wrote down my name and my email address and the fellow asked if I’d put down my phone number as well. I said that as I am a writer I don’t like being interrupted by the phone ringing and that I’d rather communicate via the Internet. This is when the trouble began.
The man was visibly upset and said that the Internet was not a good place for people to exchange ideas and have conversations. I laughed and replied that the Internet is very young and how could he judge it so harshly in such a black and white manner? He ironically sounded a little like the fascists that he disliked so much when he retorted that no great ideas had ever come from people on the Internet, and for that matter, a ‘real’ conversation between people had to be conducted face to face. Well, I could have mentioned that on the telephone you cannot ‘see’ anyone’s face, but I thought I’d try to explain my position on the matter a bit more positively.
I told him that the Internet was just a simple tool of communication that was bringing individuals closer together. You can see someone across the world with a web cam whilst hearing his or her voice perfectly. I then mentioned that the Internet was doing exactly what he felt was necessary for society to flourish in the future; it is giving voice to individuals’ ideas like never before in human history. The guy was then really starting to lose his cool and was getting quite upset. I then thought I’d mention the idea that the Web was dissolving the concept of national borders as anyone could talk to anybody else freely with the simple realization that all people are the same. People are no longer forced to think of other nationalities as separate ‘types’ of people that one should steer away from.
By this time the guy had become very irate and said vehemently that there is nothing wrong with having separate nations. He then contradicted himself and agreed with me by saying that the ‘Empire’ only wanted to ‘divide and conquer’ and split countries into even smaller entities that could then be taken over. I replied softly that that process inevitably produced more unnecessary borders between fellow humans.
The main point that stuck with me after the conversation ended was the fact that it was the mentioning of the Internet as a positive medium for communication and enlightenment that so severely upset the guy. I guess no matter how knowledgeable about the world and sure of yourself that you are, if there are things that you are still unaware of, or in this case close-minded to because of some irrational fear; like a link that snaps in a chain, so will your peace and calm will be shattered by ignorance and anger.
Spirituality and morality can be discussed on many different mediums…Politics and economics must be the same.