Arianna Huffington recently appeared at a Yale Political Union debate centered around whether blogs are good for democracy. Several Yale students gave speeches at the debate, and we have highlighted some of them on the Huffington Post. Read all of the published speeches by clicking here.
A good friend of mine constantly mourns the death of community and blames the Enlightenment for many of the faults of the modern world. In particular, it is modern technology that can be blamed for the destruction of community. At some level, I identify with her sadness. I think modern society does not respect community in the traditional sense. Physical and geographic community is something many individuals seek to subvert to escape. The internet seems to be the embodiment of the death of community. A terminal and a phone line can give you escape from the physical world.
Enlightenment and modernity struck against the previous understanding of what communities were and who they benefited, which were the few. As a result, we were left in the opposite extreme: the goal is to empower the individual as the sole agent of the world. This has left to a lot of the avarice and greed that exists in the modern world, and the inability for groups of individuals to be respected as communities, but instead, as individuals that come together for a purpose. Communities exist regardless of purpose, but as the natural need for man as a social animal to come together and co-exist.
The ideal democracy is where individuals are able to take individual beliefs and opinions, and come together in mutual cooperation, to come to values and decisions in society. Democratic society functions when individuals are able to stand up and speak about one's opinions and beliefs. One cannot believe in democracy and seek to destroy community; the values of our nation, the actions we hold to be correct and the purpose of our government is to be of, by and for the people. Democracy and community must go hand in hand, and the development of the modern community, which has been stricken by the rise of modernity and the technological means that have removed individuals from one another, will come about through the means of a digital democracy.
Digital democracy is the real possibility that individuals that have been empowered now have the tools to break through the ignorance that is possible by physical separation, which is the premise of modern technology. My belief is that blogging and the internet, as its known today as Web 2.0., is the cornerstone for the formation of the modern community that will exist in the aftermath of the 20th century. Blogging, at its core, is an individual describing truth, expounding opinion and perpetrating belief. It is communal at its heart. The attempt of the blogger is to make one known through a community, to stand on a pulpit and have his voice heard. This is not possible in the current world, except as a small, atomized individual. The media, the separation and largesse of the modern nation-state, removes this potential. The internet is a medium where a quick search finds you many individuals speaking on a multitude of topics. The individual is an empowered being which is constantly trying to convince.
To blog is not merely to blowhard about belief, but to convince. It is to attempt to connect to individuals through our opinions and our search for truth. It allows us to hear all, not just those who have claimed special expertise or the ability to control the physical means. We can develop communities around common ideals or purpose in the promotion of hearing one another. We can disagree but we can understand.
At its finest, blogging is about individuals engaging in the polis in a direct way that is almost impossible in the physical world. It gives us the opportunity to not have to choose between the individual and the community; the community will exist through individuals empowering themselves and seeking to convince. The plurality of human experience is what it is at heart of the blogging community. The modern community will be built by the digital empowerment of the individual. The blog is at the heart of it.