On Monday 22nd March, as a hundred bloggers from around the globe converged in Brussels to kick off the latest round of "Th!nkabout It competitions", the Times of Malta carried a short article entitled "Man lives in Cave and goes to Caritas to shower". I had been struggling to get into the loop of what the whole development business is all about until I discovered that it is not only a tangible and real set of goals but also that it could have an effect on issues that are close to home.
What might seem to be a coincidence of cosmic proportions is actually another causal effect of the life (and world) we live in. Like the Matrix's Merovingian, I do not believe in coincidence - it's more a question of causality - cause and effect. Everything is explicable once we get down to examine and investigate the reasons why - sometimes it would just take trying three hundred theories until one fits (Monk) and that is where our job comes in. We are here to propagate (the information) to question (the facts) and to investigate (the issues) - most times by thinking local.
Please, ma cherie. I have told you. We are all victims of causality. I drank too much wine, I must take a piss. Cause and effect. (Merovingian, Matrix reloaded)
Air on a W String
The world wide web could not be world wide if there were not different points to connect the strands together. It is only world wide because of the zillions of places where it is sited. If we take this allegory of the world wide web into our competition then we could give a sense of purpose to our role in the big wheel of a system. Each and every one of the hundred bloggers is in a position to use his blog locally in order to create a global effect. It is not necessarily a concerted action but one that exists only as a sum total of the many parts. Whether you are investigating a farmer's story in Antananarivo or whether someone else is using his blog to promote information on the Millenium Goals the point is that each one is a different angle on this multifaceted web that Th!nk has created.
New information and communications technologies can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, but only if such technologies are designed from the beginning so that everyone can use them. Given the explosive growth in the use of the World Wide Web for publishing, electronic commerce, lifelong learning and the delivery of government services, it is vital that the Web be accessible to everyone. (Bill Clinton)
Stretching the Allegory to the Limit
Then there was the cave. The story about Malta's very own unwilling troglodite came up during a discussion on poverty at the University of Malta. Malta is one of the 27 EU member states - while not being prosperous, the last thing that you would expect is the story of a cave-dweller at the dawn of the 21st century. I will have plenty of time to discuss the perceptions of poverty on the island of Malta in future blog posts but I would like to take the opportunity of the cave-dweller's story to throw in our last allegory for reflection. The "cave" reminded me of the Greek philosopher Plato who creates an allegory about some cave dwelling prisoners:
Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners. (source: Wikipedia)
Just think about it. Our blogs are a useful tool to bring the outside world into the cave. The new media - with all their frills and shining implements - are still only a tool. Just like the pen and paper years ago, and the printing press only too recently, they are there to be used - and their usefulness depends on the skillfulness of those who take them up. There is an immense amount of noise out there leading people to believe that the shadows on the wall are the actual reality. We may be bold and think we are the philosophers who will bring the information to our local network - it can then have the combined effect of a global ripple on the world wide web. Cause and effect. Think about it.
I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world … without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you. (Neo, the Matrix)
*Image Note: Illustration image is of "Ghar Dalam" (lit. The Cave of Darkness) a cave in the south of Malta that was found to be full of remains and fossils of prehistoric animals - held to be evidence of a land link between the continents of Europe and Africa. Photo taken by cauchisavona available on flickr under CC licence.