Anja Merret
Anja Merret

People are taking back their power

This is the world we live in. Personal freedoms are squashed whether by governments or religious fervour. Remember those ubiquitous CCTV cameras in the UK. The work place is structured and controlled to ensure that individual creative thinking is reduced to a minimum.

Education produces drones and is focused on ensuring that the drones find mindless employment. Advertising is designed to inform us what we need to buy in order to fit our demographic profile. The banks rule our financial freedom and air travel encroaches on almost every aspect of our physical privacy. There are many more examples.

How does the internet fit into this scenario? Here is a web of connections that works best when it is allowed to find its own way. And users of the internet have embraced the freedom to voice an opinion, contribute creatively whether writing a blog, editing content on Wikipedia or making a vote count by joining a protest group.

Whether it’s been about sharing music, or congregating in social networking spaces or even becoming restaurant and hotel critics users are enjoying new found spaces where they have some say and where their voices are heard and their opinions count.

Some businesses have not taken to their customer’s new found independence very lightly. The music industry has spent a large amount of money in prosecuting companies such as Napster or persecuting individuals for sharing songs.

And before we focus on intellectual property theft let’s just remember that customers are happy to buy tracks from iTunes. Maybe the public was voting against the heavy prices the music industry was charging for an entire CD where only one track was worth listening to. Big business was dictating rather than listening to customer preferences.

Governments such as China have censorships imposed on their citizens and are trying to prevent unlimited access to the web. And the advertising industry is still pondering on ways to invade the space with their traditional interruptive messages.

Anybody wondering about the contradiction of people’s controlled lives and what they are up to on the internet and the consequences of that, might want to read an excellent book by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom called ‘The Starfish and the Spider’.

It could be said that the internet might be providing the citizens of the world a sniff at freedom that has been missing from their lives ever since the start of the industrial revolution. That’s when people started becoming drones, not worthy of being permitted independent thought nor given a decent living wage. After all a drone doesn’t deserve more.

The fact that the blue collar worker has evolved into white collar drone-state has not changed the situation at all. In fact, overall, it has gotten worse. More and more companies are firing their drones and re-employing them on contract whenever they need additional drones This means that people who had been prepared to forgo all independence for the security of that pay check and pension, now have neither independence nor security.

The internet, a prime example of a leaderless organisation, is showing people what powers they have as individuals and what they can achieve with it if left to their own devices. This may be a group that gets together online to rebuke a big bank because it has reneged on a promise. Or it may be the Facebook members rejecting an intrusive advertising format inflicted on them by the Facebook company.

What is noteworthy and exciting to see is that some of this individual power is spilling over into the real world. One excellent example is Kiva an organisation that allows one to lend a small amount of money directly to an individual to support a business effort thus empowering him or her to make a living for themselves.

What will this new found power mean to the world? What will governments, businesses, religious institutions and society do to adapt to this groundswell of independence? Fight it like the music industry is doing?

Maybe they haven’t spotted it as yet. After all the movement is still mostly swishing around on the internet and it could be seen as being a small anomaly found in cyberspace only. But it is surely just a matter of time before people realise that if they can use their numbers to address issues on the internet, the possibilities in real life could be limitless as well.