Monday, March 19, 2012

Two-way streets

One of the things on my mind lately is the militarization of the social. How we are constantly in a state of alertness, mobilization - ready to act at a moment's notice. Indeed, ready to take and receive notice in the first place.

This is, in part, due to the ever increasing connectedness of everyone to everyone else. Back in the days, you had to send a guy running to get the word out, so naturally it took some time for word to get out. Now, it takes some literacy and a charged battery. It lowers the barriers, so to speak.

But more precisely, it is those barriers that are not lowered that makes this militarization of the social both necessary and unavoidable.

A local example of this is the recent trend of mass transit commuters to tweet about where ticket inspections are occurring. Whenever they see those men in uniform - a tweet is sent, and everyone hoping not to be found in transit can instantly react to this sudden intel.

The interesting thing is that it's not just fare dodgers that participate in this. You'd imagine that it was a self serving thing, freerider to freerider, but many respectable commuters share what they see. Not because they necessarily agree with the ethos of fare dodging, but because they know that those caught are more likely than not to be roughed up if the uniforms have a bad day.

And in solidarity with this, they share what they know. Not due to the lowered barriers of communication, but because of those barriers that have yet to be lowered.

Solidarity, remixed to the streets.

A more global example is, of course, the Occupy movement, and every subsequent protest movement afterwards. What the Occupy movement did/does is that it removes barriers of communication - it doesn't matter if you're black, white, rich, poor, strange, pathologically normal or just around. You're angry and want change, and that's good enough - let's talk.

But the solidarity created is one under siege - literally, in some places. The constant threat of police action, and the even more literal/constant barriers the police presence gives rise to, makes a readiness to confront confrontation necessary. Where are they, what are they doing - what are we to do next?

The flipside to building community, libraries and a general sense of social acceptability - is this very preparedness to get moving. In defense of what should be by virtue of people talking to each other.

Conversations, remixed to the streets.

And as the internet makes it easier for the strange to find each other, for the lonely to become less lonely and for people to get together in general, an opposite reaction happens. The guardians of remaining barriers become increasingly worried, and tries to strengthen the what they fear might be lost otherwise. Monopolies of information are draconically enforced, the war on terror makes everyone a suspect, and even the defenders of traditional values turn violent when it turns out that people who are not afraid of each other don't see things their way.

As the barriers fall, the walls start to become fortified. And we, the people, are the Hannibals outside the gates. Whether we want to or not, we are mobilized into a confrontation with the militarization of the social.

War. Remixed to the streets.

Whose streets? Our streets.

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