Friday, October 15, 2010

Social Networks

The conviviality and comradeship expressed in a human get-together cannot be simulated nor synthesized. It is a product of the multivariate social interaction of people with so many different points of view and experiences, that whatever commonality brings them together, the end result is a Brownian soup of interplay. Whatever we may be, as humans, we are a social species, starting with the act of parenthood, all the way up to the formation of nation-states. It is our interaction and interlocking that built the greatest works of humanity... and, occasionally, wrought our worst upheavals.

The world we live in now, a world our ancestors would no doubt find exhilarating and confounding, is a global village, where the barriers between continents are breached as easily as between localities. Our planet is girded by highways of earth, air, and sea; the rarest and most precious things, the greatest sites, the most palatable foods, are now close at hand, rather than longed for at titanic distances. Where we cannot go physically, we are not barred, flinging ourselves across wires and into the depths of space, to reach across the breadth of our home, touching others with words, and pictures, and sounds.

Even so, great gulfs remain, made not of stone or sand or tectonic stress, but human gall and greed.

The lowering of the barriers of time and distance has only now begun to erode those of rhetoric, obfuscation, and dogma. The dead hand of the past still maintains an infernal grip on humanity, still clinging to us as the last leaf of Autumn desperately clings to the branch. The surface of our planet is still etched with the invisible lines that seek to keep us divided, lines that exist on maps, or in the minds of men, artificial fences used to contain and corral true freedom and individuality.

We see it now, everywhere, a profusion of conflict between groups, regions, and religions based on nothing more than past indiscretions and ignominy, coupled with modern communication. Disputes that might have been contained, now flare across all the hemispheres, sides drawn not in contiguous areas, but dotting and speckling the world, kept alive by enclaves of true believers and sycophants. Divisions, long since shown to be the work of ignorance, cowardice, misunderstanding, or mistrust, rather than being worked out and smoothed over, are stoked into new bonfires. Old prejudices are given new life. Intolerance, formerly driven to ground, slinks out from under its rock to dim the light of reason.

With the sheer bulk of human knowledge almost completely available at stroke of a few keys, why must these contentions and conflicts continue? What is it about humanity, that we cannot simply wrench ourselves away from the past, and take the road less traveled? After centuries, nay millennia, of war, disease, pestilence, and hatred, are we not weary enough? Can we thrive only through a milieu of constant and unremitting anger and fear?

No human need suffer or want or languish, save that we allow it. It is within us, within our grasp, to change the course of humanity forever, to break free of the cyclical existence imposed by our long evolutionary road. It is no longer a question of survival of the most adaptable, for we can adapt to our environment through the sheer force of will and knowledge. We can stem the tide of destruction that we so callously and ignorantly began, correcting our errors, rewriting our society. We no longer need live in the shadow of our primitive past, but can burst forth into the bright sunshine of a united humanity. The question still remains: will we?

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