Take the journey without the trip if you see knowledge as preserver from drowning in a sea of ignorance, if you think that a click can be more powerful than the boom. Digital-Diplomacy is the new age dawning for global citizen empowerment with the capacity to counter conflict, indict intolerance, cull cruelty, and highlight human rights. Like the the Atlantis of lore, the digital-diplomat is not tethered to any hemisphere but rather links to the superiority of knowledge and empathy over geography and ideology.
By now, some doubt whether we're overstating the case for digital-diplomacy and the rise of the impact of the global citizen. Whether real or a fiction of history, the mythology of Atlantis has the power to alter the vision of the future even if it meets entrenched political, economic, and/or cultural interests and dogmas. While technology has been often stereotyped as the purview of the young, it also overcomes the age barrier. The divide of nation, religion, economic class and culture also is crumbling (although language remains an obstacle.)
This openness of the Internet is perceived as a threat by some and an opportunity for abuse by others. More authoritarian regimes have blocked access to many brands of social media. The Beijing Government at the World Internet Conference has proposed that "more control" is necessary to insure stability while offering that the web is a tremendous economic tool. I don't know about you, but the Internet as mainly a vehicle for purchase or advertisements not only misses the promise of greater communication but ultimately undermines e-commerce itself. One of the more effective tools for marketing products and ideas is "native content" which serves to inform among social media acquaintances as well as market.
The web has been employed as incitement by racists and hate groups in the US and Europe. In developing democracies it has been used for disinformation against minorities, from religious -- Myanmar, to LGBT -- Uganda. (See: The Decadence of Persecuting Deviance) ISIS has sought it as a propaganda and recruiting tool. Rather than simply silence though, such viruses of ideas tend to be best remedied by even more sunlight on the sources and fallacy of such politics and ideology. The light of knowledge wielded by the informed tends to be the best sanitizer for "bad ideas" and "evil motives."
Some have sought to transform the Net into a tool for mass surveillance, including the recently exposed NSA programs. The untethered use of state power to be a constant presence in our conversations though has probably done more to undermine US influence rather than enhance security. Suspicion is a sidecar for any journey on the Internet, but such healthy awareness is directed toward snooping state agencies as well as those seeking to employ the net for economic crime or promotion of fear and hate. The power of free societies is also what may project them as vulnerable -- the freedom and openness for communication, innovation and ideas.Diplomacy and government are coming late to new age of the Web, but as Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey observes:
See: Re-tweeted by the UN Secretary General? Educating the New Citizen Diplomat from DiplomatArtist.com
The staleness of protocol is giving way to the ease of communication with constituencies and desire to influence as well as garner feedback. Most government agencies as well as politicians, multilateral institutions, and NGO's have at least in practice employed social media, some more open and others awkward.
While Plato is credited with the first mention of Atlantis, it is perhaps less known that he referenced it as a threat to one of the first city-nation states of the old world, Athens, some 12,000 years ago or so. The web and social media are also seen by some nation states as threats to otherwise territorial, cultural and ideological borders. Mistrust and fear of the other has been exploited, even cultivated, since politics began to rationalize perpetuated rule and less accountability. The Internet, particularly social media and the role of the global citizen in digital diplomacy, tear down old barriers and stereotypes while opening up national as well as international institutions to greater scrutiny. Some governments have thus sought to erect their own intra-border alternatives in lieu of cross-border social media.
Did Atlantis Actually Exist?Many say no, but it became a part of the vision of Enlightened philosophers of a Europe opening up after the Darker Ages. Old worlds from China to the Muslim peoples were seen as more contributors than threats while the New World via the discovery of the Americas was seen as opportunity, and more than just in terms of plunder or commerce. Edgar Cayce, also known as the "American Prophet" and amazing visionary who had capacity to see into past and future events, was a believer in the historical existence of Atlantis. As Ambassador Sacirbey notes:
America's 'Founding Fathers' were as much products of European Enlightenment and the global view of mankind as they were influenced by specific considerations of the American colonies. Their ideology had no borders, and the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights saw a time when such would extend to women as well as men, to persons of all colors and religious/non-religious beliefs.
The new Atlantis in the form of a Continent where the global citizen comes together without visa, beyond borders in a virtual realm governed by many and ruled by none, may be seen as a threat by some established authority even as it is exploited by some. Shock and awe is now in the form of knowledge to inform as much as bombs to kill and destroy. Utopia is an illusion, but a better world is within our fingertips, one click at a time. Diplomacy is now as much an art, communicated by more than words, and among citizens directly. See: Synesthesia - Do You See or Taste Music?
Growing up, I was drawn to the 1969 song "Atlantis" by Donovan. At a time when the world was in turmoil and rapid change was upon us, I saw more opportunity than threat. Much of the idealism of that period has faded, perhaps eroded by the tides of old authority reasserting itself. It is possible though that the new dawn is still on the horizon, from Plato to the Enlightenment, to the Founding Fathers, to the Global Citizen. -- Come take a Compelling Journey, opt-in without tripping out to Atlantis.
With credit to Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey
PHOTO: Courtesy of Huffington Post