I think I may be starting to understand the new Flat World. Lord knows I’ve read a boat-load of books lately on the way the world is changing, from the Emerging Church tomes to Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. I had begun to suspect that reading so many books on the subject would only confuse me. But yesterday it hit me upside the head and became crystal clear.
To start with, we had rain, sleet, snow and, finally, sub freezing temperatures. There was nothing to do outdoors and the house was about as clean as I was going to get it. I barely left my easy chair and spent time sitting in front of the television and reading one or another of the books I have bought on the subject of the latest re-formation of the Christian Church.
Their theory is that every 500 years or so the Christian Church re-forms itself. Our last reformation was around 1500 so we’re due for another re-arranging of the way we do things. The term for this one is “Emerging” and I found myself thinking in hushed , almost embarrassed whispers, “Oh, my, I think I’m emerging!” The old way the church operates may be on the way out.
So here I was: homebound and emerging all at the same time. I started surfing the internet. And since I had an abundance of time I decided to try out some of the new stuff on the internet I had not had the opportunity to explore, including Twitter.
While I surfed, CNN sifted through the situation in Egypt. They’ve been looking for one solitary leader they could focus on. It makes things so much easier, dontcha know, if they can just interview one person and get the whole story instead of sprinting around and crouching between parked cars or around corners to whisper what’s happening in the streets.
Yesterday they seemed to have found a leader and I think everyone was relieved. One guy who could explain what was happening, who would admit the demonstrations were planned and who was willing to speak plainly and in English. Who claimed he was willing to die for this cause even though he has a wife and family he loves.
That guy was Wael Ghonim. He is a 31 year old executive at Google who was arrested briefly and let go. Young but not wild-eyed. My interest perked. This might make it easy to give a damn. I could relate to this guy. He wasn’t one of those religious fanatics. He spoke not only in English but even sprinkled around few americanisms, using the term: “gonna” a couple of times. He was easy on the eyes and ears. I could listen to this guy.
The way he described it, their desires were pure, simple and shared by all humanity. They just wanted a voice in how their lives were organized. They just wanted what all of us want: food on the table, decent schools and regular trash pickup.
I wanted to know more about this guy. So I Googled him. Then I discovered he was on facebook. Well, you might just as well have told me he lived on my street. I spend a lot of time on facebook. I looked the guy up and found him. Then my fingers sat poised over the enter button. Should I friend him?
Could the world have actually become that small and that efficient that I could gain access to someone in Egypt with the press of a key on my laptop? Was it that easy to gain access with someone in the dead middle of a revolution? It was a little like crossing the Delaware with Washington but wearing a warmer coat.
But did I really want to enter this relationship? This would put me on record as connected to a guy living in a dangerous part of the world, who the bad people wanted to get rid of. Theoretically, dangerous people could find me if I connected with this guy. I knew this was a really far-fetched idea. I’m certainly not an international person of any interest to anyone. But I knew it was technically possible to find me if anyone wanted to badly enough. What exactly was the risk to my safety or reputation if I claimed any kind of relationship with Wael Ghonim?
Curiosity beat out fear and I finally hit the enter button. The computer told me he already had too many friends and didn’t have room for another. I was a little relieved, to be honest.
At that moment it all came together for me.
Now I knew for sure that this was the guy the TV was talking about. And I realized how close I had come to having access to his message in a very personal way. I could even imagine him sitting in his living room setting up his facebook himself while his wife cooked dinner in the kitchen and his kids played at his feet. Not really so different from me sitting here in my own living room. The only thing limiting my relationship with Wael Ghonim was the limit of technology, the number of friends facebook can handle. And we all know those limits can be worked out. The middle man of television reporters was eliminated. I could now get my news directly from the source.
The world got much flatter for me and everyone else.
So I started watching the live stream from Al Jazeera TV in the middle-East. Talk about getting your news from the source. At this point I’m sure some of my conservative friends are upset with me for maybe being a tool of brainwashing. I doubt they have watched the reports by Al Jazeera. In the interest of fairness, I tuned into Fox briefly and found it to be more than a bit alarmistic. The word “Alert!” kept scrolling across the screen like there were hoards of swarthy militia clenching knives between their teeth and crawling on their bellies across the White House lawn. They warned me of an Islamic terrorist state even though CNN has shown people live on camera saying very calmly that this is not a religion-based movement. This is a movement toward Democracy.
You know what I’m starting to think? I’m starting to think people are just getting tired of religion. I think the more involved folks get in their religious beliefs the more they gussie it up to prove how important it is to them. They come up with lots of rules and regulations then find words in their scripture to back up their positions, even while there are just as many scripture words that say the opposite. God is clever that way. We have to pick what we believe. And I think people are getting tired of using religion to stir the pot. In the words of that great American philosopher, Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
The world changes quickly now. And the rate at which it changes is getting faster. In just the last 15 minutes, as I was writing these words, Mubarak resigned and the whole country of Egypt started celebrating. CNN was able to find my friend Wael and talk to him. And Wael said he credits facebook with the successful resolution of this whole scenario. I rest my case.
Everyone on earth can have the same information at the same time. The world is flat. And a new way to live is emerging. Someday Wael Ghonim will be my friend.