I only have to look back 12 years (same age as a decent bottle of Scotch) to remember that I used to send regular letters by “air mail” to my friends around the world. It took two to three weeks for a letter to travel from Syria to the US or Europe then. By the time I got a reply, a month would’ve elapsed. If I wrote more often to the same person, I and she would get confused and can’t quite figure out what the hell we’re talking about in any one particular letter. I used to wait for the damn 36 exp. film roll to finish before I could stick one or two pictures out of the bunch in the envelope. Sometimes a roll of film would linger in my camera for a couple of months if not more. There were people who even wrote on perfumed paper, although I didn’t do that for fear of being considered a fruitcake. It was romantic, so they say.
Then came the fax machine, and everyone thought WOW, how ingenious! This was what millions have been waiting for, in business particularly. I was never really impressed by this finicky device, although I still have the same one barely five feet to my left. It was such a relief for me when I learned that a rudimentary fax machine was invented just a couple of weeks before Bell patented his telephone. The German inventor didn’t bother apply for a patent, because he rightly thought that the telephone would render his gadget useless. If I had to pay for a couple of minutes of international fare to send a piece of paper, I’d rather talk for that brief time and listen to the voice of those far away. Of course, I was not a businessman and I would never be. Faxing documents across the globe never had a profit potential as far as I was concerned.
Then came the PC and the technology that eventually lead to the Internet. Now that was one hell of a breakthrough. I email my friends on a daily basis. I bombard you with posts on this blog every 3 to 4 days. Digital pictures leave and arrive at my desktop by the dozen. I haven’t gone into a photo lab for ages, except to buy a frame to display one particular digital shot that was worth printing on my photo printer and eventually was worth being framed. Was it really more romantic? Ah, I really don’t know. But, what I wouldn’t give to be young and foolish again in the age of the Internet. One of my best talents is bullshitting and people like me strive on the net. All the hot babes I could’ve eventually met through chat rooms after impressing on them that I was some special kind of guy. That opportunity lost forever.
As for the negative aspects of this (relatively speaking) new means of communications, I personally don’t think it’s worth the HTML code to write about it. Sure there are “hate” assholes, child molesters, terrorists, Bush morons and devil worshipers on the net but they’ve always been around. Now they have the same technology as everybody else and they’re taking advantage of it. I have not yet been forced to visit their sites or to read about them. “Legitimate” businesses are the ones getting on my nerves with their “legal” advertisement. I wonder if a twist of fate somewhere in our modern history would’ve not caused these businesses to be considered worse than terrorists. What if communism had prevailed! A sobering thought, isn’t it?
So we are netizens, whatever that may be. I don’t see our salvation in this new citizenship. The poor are still getting poorer and you all know about the rich. What concerns me most as an individual is that I have better access to information and more importantly to my friends. I have never considered the prevalent media as objective in its coverage of world news. Being able to access smaller news organizations, less privileged groups and less vocal mouths around the globe is very satisfying due to the somehow subdued balancing effect they are helping to create. When Fox News or CNN talk about a bad guy now and I feel that my intelligence is being insulted, I can check out what the bad guy himself has to say about it. No better place to do so than on al-Jazira. I can doubt them all, I can ignore them, or if I so choose, I can have my own presence on the net and fight them with words and images. Being a peace-loving person, I can only say that I’m very happy that “almost” everyone has a chance to speak out. There’s no guarantee that anyone would listen, mind you, but it is a step in the right direction. I strongly believe that one day, the less privileged people of the world will rejoice while those who invented this out of control spider web might regret the very day it was conceived. For better, for worse, there are millions of them.
The ants are coming, step out of the way.