noun, plural -ties.1. the state of being one; oneness.2. a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.3. the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.4. absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.5. oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number ofpersons; concord, harmony, or agreement.
In society today, we have unity in many ways. We have politics, corporations, cliques, rebels, and all kinds of groups that share unity. But, a kind of unity that we haven’t experienced as a society before is found in the internet. It’s a new generation of unity, a new way of feeling with someone or a group of people. As we’ve experienced in the past year, the internet gives way to easy unity between activists, rebels, hackers – people that are fighting for a bigger cause. The internet makes it easy for individuals to feel included, wanted, loved even.
I think I was about eight years old when my family got our first computer. In honesty, I don’t remember not having one. It was mid 90’s, and we were one of the first out of my friends to get one. It was very easy for me to grasp how it worked. I ended up doing all the repairs, getting rid of viruses, teaching my parents what to do when, etc. From then on I had accounts on the social networks, blogs, MSN Groups, etc. I saw Youtube emerge, Facebook, Twitter, Nexopia, Neopets, etc. I was always connected to other people through the internet. I made friends that way (some of them I still keep in contact with on a regular basis). I always felt more comfortable talking to people through the computer than face to face as it gave me time to process what they were saying and word my response properly. If I got talking to someone I didn’t like or couldn’t handle it was easy to just log off, or block them. When you’re face to face with people, it’s more complicated and awkward. I was part of the generation that didn’t learn proper social skills. Obviously, I still work, go to school, join book clubs, attend events, go for coffee – all the things that involve face-to-face social interactions. I’m not stunted socially, but many people my age, and younger, are.
Not to get into statistics, or deviate from the topic, but I find it interesting how people are complaining that the APA is changing their definition for autism. Maybe it’s because many of these children aren’t autistic, they just haven’t had ample social opportunity. I remember playing on the streets with all the other kids in the neighbourhood for hours on end every day. Now, you don’t see kids outside. Chances are likely that they are at home, playing video games, on Facebook, etc. They aren’t interacting with other children face-to-face.
But, I digress. Point being, people of the younger generation have different ways to find unity. We find it in virtual places (some of my best friends are online, I’ve never met them face-to-face). Most of us are more comfortable online. What this means for the future, I’m not sure. But it changes the direction of everything from politics and economics, to publishing, visiting grandparents, rebelling. It’s a different dynamic completely. Personally, I wouldn’t even know where to go to join a political group other than online. I do online banking, publish my writing online, hold events online, talk to my family online (rarely ever on the phone, and even less in person). If I want to know the news, I don’t buy a newspaper, I go online. If I’m feeling lonely, on goes Second Life. I work for a company online. I volunteer for things online (that includes signing up and doing the work). I keep in touch with friends online. I attended University online. Not a day goes by that I’m not online for some reason or other (unless I’m vacationing, but I’m sure if I had an iPhone or something it wouldn’t make a difference). I don’t like always being online, I think it probably does bad things to me physically and mentally. I love the outdoors: hiking, biking, walking, fishing, swimming, skating, travelling, etc. The mountains are about three hours away, and I visit them often. I read books on a daily basis (but even these are available online).
So, unity is changing. It’s not about physical togetherness anymore. It takes on a more virtual meaning now. It’s less about “standing up for the cause” than about rallying and protesting virtually. Look at the protests against SOPA and PIPA, and now ACTA. All opinions are voiced online. Websites went black to protest. I am shocked every day to hear that Occupy is still going. It’s the old fashioned kind of unity (even though it was brought about online). The Middle East protestors are still rallying, dying, suffering, fighting, which is the old sense of unity (even though it, too, was brought about online). Things like this are fading. People don’t stand outside of political buildings and protest as much as they once did. Why? Because they blog about it instead.
On one hand unity seems to be something that people invent as a convention by which they do politics and overcome antagonism, but on the other hand the imposing of unity on people seems to produce a new antagonism between those that are united (citizens) and those who don’t fit in the unity (criminals/discontents). So on one hand the idea of unity seems like a communist idea, radically inclusive and caring for everyone according to their needs, but on the other hand the idea of unity seems like an authoritarian idea, radically totalizing and granting exception to the ruling class.
“There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, the one in fear of intuition, the other with scorn for abstraction. The latter is just as irrational as the former is inartistic.”
In this time of human history the older generation are compelled to fight radical change. Even though our technological advances are moving so rapidly. The younger generation has left the older generation behind and taken things into their own hands – utilizing, all the while, the internet. The young people of today fight through a different kind of unity that takes the older generations by surprise. The governments are frightened by the power of this, which is why SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA are around. It’s the same reason China monitors all online activity. The same reason powers in the Middle East shut down the internet as soon as the protests started happening. The older generation can’t keep up with the speed of the young, and therefore wish nothing more than to slow them down. I strongly disagree with piracy. I think artists, musicians, journalists, actors, companies, and everyone else should get paid for what they do. But that does not change the fact that the internet is a very useful tool in the sense of unity, and that should not be compromised. It is a growing, changing entity every moment, but this should be embraced, not locked down.
As Caitlin R. Kiernan put it, “…[Y]ou do not burn down a house to kill a termite. You don’t risk wrecking the entire internet to stop internet crime. You move slowly and with great care. You address the actual problems. You don’t allow the megacorps to crush “fair use” and the like and pervert copyright law (the US was doing this well before the internet). You create the least inclusive legislation possible, not the most.”
Unity is found in different places now than before. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Evolution happens, embrace it.