When I was younger, I foolishly thought the internet would save us, because it allowed every human a voice, and made it possible for anyone interested to see the ground level truth of what was happening to everyone else.
This past year, with the arab spring, the occupy movement, and the SOPA blackout, brought that vision closer to reality than any year before it. The internet will never replace human action, but it amplifies it. It’s the ultimate method of broadcast, because it has the ability to respond and branch off into conversations baked in. Anyone reading this knows that I’m talking about.
But the biggest thing I’ve realized is that knowing about the present isn’t enough. We need reasons to care. And we need context.
What I love about the internet is that it is made of context. The hyperlink is the distillation of a generation of developed research behaviours, citations made relevant. But it isn’t enough.
What we need now is history. Not just a ‘one true history’, agreed upon and written by the victors, but a diaspora of academic and personal opinions, contextualizing the meaning of things with how they came to be.
As my grandmother told me once, probably as proud as she’d ever be of me, ‘we have to understand history to really see the present, and to build for the future’. We have an unprecedented ability to look at the present.
Understanding it requires more.
We need an ability to format history in perspectives. The ability to understand that there’s more value in having two dissenting opinions about what something means, than there is in having one imcomplete list of ‘truths’ about what happened.
I’m realizing that my goal, for the foreseeable future, is helping to ensure that we have that context for future generations to look back on, and building an understanding of how important it is to create that context for our understanding of the past.
When my children, and their children, look back on the atrocities of our time, I’d like them to be able to see the different ways we created and abetted and fought against them. When they look at our triumphs, I want them to know that we weren’t sure, that we made mistakes and took risks and argued about the justification. I’d like to know that the internet age managed to document itself in a way that breaks the central lie of history as it is taught - that there is one clear narrative, and that dissenting recollections are ‘wrong’.