Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Imminent Nightmare of Dictatorships

Once upon a time when superior voices were the sole voices in the world it was essential to focus merely on objectivity. Facts were viewed as the foundation of speech as reality was constructed with the objective observations of the voices that had access to tribunes of sorts. While the reign of the superior voices in the world remains, the subaltern voices that were denied narration and expression of thoughts for as long as history recalls are to slowly discover small cracks in the tall walls built by the façade of those who exert power through their loud voices and emphasis on artificially designed facts that set the foundation for objectivity.

What is happening in this tragically fantastic era of information is beyond the imagination of all those who forcefully not only reigned territories but also ruthlessly constructed objectivity for their people; an objectivity deviation from which is considered an unforgettable sin. Thus, while on the surface the age of information might seem to help those hungry to oppress others and define the mindset and thinking of millions below them, it will prove to grow as oppression’s most vicious enemy of all times.

In the era of information, it will become increasingly difficult for any one human being to impose their definitions of objectivity and factual construction of History on others. Through the small horizons that this fantasy-like era of information and vigorous age of cyber communications have created, all those opinions, thoughts, stories and narrations of history that have been shut down for the sake of a divine objectiveness and the protection of the reign of superior voices will finally have a chance to flow beyond the minds of the forgotten humans. It is through the chaos of voices challenging one another’s versions of history and objective facts that the constructed reality will become more blurry than ever. It is in this grey and blurry sphere of reality that previously unheard and oppressed voices could begin to share their stories and facts.

Given my passion and involvement in the realm of politics, human rights and the struggle for freedom of speech , I see the indefinite possibility that the fast growing era of information overload could present to the citizens of the world who strive to speak their mind. I see this silent information revolution as a force that, if spreads sufficiently wide and used effectively, will alter not only the way information is conveyed, but also the nature of information. The information flow that has been historically top-down will be challenged by the streams of information that will enter the debate and even the strongest censorship engines could not ultimately block the escalation of voices that simultaneously narrate bits and pieces of their personal stories and opinions. It is these interconnected bits and pieces of fragmented voices that, in this era of information, will create an altered scenario of history and of current events. And, this phenomenon, is—and if not is, it should be—the most terrifying nightmare of dictatorial and oppressive authorities throughout the world.

While it is difficult to disregard the ways in which the current oppressive governments utilize the information technological advancements to strengthen their censorship and repressive engines, ultimately no one individual, authority or government could battle the unstoppable force of information in today’s world. Looking at the political upheavals and movements that took place in Iran in 2009(the Green Movement), the Revolution 2.0 of Egypt and the recent happenings in the rest of the Middle East the relentless wonders of internet technology and information sharing become cinematically clear. The era of information that facilitates ways of communication and mobilization that was beyond imagination even until a few years ago is now shaking the foundation of those political establishments that aim to forcefully rule over millions.

Furthermore, these information technological facilities are slowly reworking the ideals and nature of leadership and followership in political arenas. With the current dynamic information sharing and technologically advanced cyber spaces for communication, leadership will—and has to an extent—transcends its original definition of central authority and spreads to the bottom of the society where the voiceless are silenced. The trend of information technological advancements will ultimately reach those who deserve political and social change more than anybody else—those who have been innocently subjected to systematic violence and oppression—and they will collectively lead movements in search of justice. As such, slowly the idea of a single token leadership will dissolve and instead collective leadership trends will evolve.

In other words, the superior voice has historically constructed reality based on its very fears of falling and its desires to oppress the subaltern voices. Thus, I use the analogy of photography for the construction of nations’ collective history crafted by statesmen and stateswomen who have often successfully neglected the narratives of those who were denied the right to speech. As the semiologist, Ronald Barthes, famously introduced an innovative discourse on the meaning of photography by calling photography as medium that depicts reality, political history of peoples have been written as a way to portray a version of reality crafted, spread and praised by those on power.

Thinking carefully about the theory of Barthes on photography as a medium which portrays reality that once has been and his argument about photos not as once real experiences but as constructions, I conclude the following: Just as photographers are able to construct a reality through their camera lens, statesmen and politicians—in particular in dictatorial governments— have been able to construct a reality for their people deviation from which would have grand consequences. However, imagine if the number of photographers of one incident and one event multiplies by the second, soon there will be thousands of photographers capturing one scene. And, all these photographers will construct their version of reality and will instantly share it with millions throughout the world. It is then the multitude of realities taken from one scene that will evolve to become a story and ultimately history. This is simply how the era of information technology will victoriously defeat even the most sophisticated censorship empires such as China. No matter how much the fearful statesmen and stateswomen of oppressive governments try to construct reality and history on their own accounts, the number of cameras, citizen journalists and ordinary observes who have instantaneous access to millions throughout the world will increase even further thereby obstructing the imposition of one artificial reality upon millions.

This, I believe, will be the nightmare of dictatorial governments and my dream for the future of a world that is fast embracing the new possibilities of information technological advancements.

Note 1: This short essay indirectly relies on the ideas of postmodernism, post-colonialism, the literature of social movements and the theory of Roland Barthes on photography.

Note 2: I initially wrote this paper as part of an assignment for Nyenrode Business University IMBA program.

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