FREEDOM AS VISIBILITY – THE GREEK CITY-STATE AND THE INTERNET

Paradoxically, whilst we start to become increasingly aware of how undemocratic the global, neo-liberal capitalist system is, and how insignificant are our voices in the vastness of the new global empire of the IMF and World Bank, at the same time we are finding platforms to stand on and express ourselves and our points of view. These platforms exist in the Internet.

In a sense the Internet is allowing us to discover Greek-style democracy for the first time. Within our own social-network cultures we enjoy a new space in which an extended group of friends and family interact with each other, sharing experiences and opinions. The group may consist of hundreds or thousands of members, a virtual village or town that may, and often does, extend widely with group members from different corners of the country or even the globe. There is a sense of belonging and freedom in the group, a flourishing visibility and meaningfulness outside of the global, corporate-empire world in which we are reduced to nothing more than insignificant particles. And this would have been how the Ancient Greeks would have felt in their city-state enclaves away from the engulfing, dehumanising, bureaucratic empires of Asia – and later Macedon and Rome.

In the blogging experience, or in the social network communities the herd and mass dissolve and the individual is able to express him or herself more creatively and communicate on a deeper level, both emotionally and rationally. The Internet experience is allowing people to self-publish stories or novels; post their poetry and deepest feelings and thoughts; express their personal philosophies; help one another; encourage one another… The atmosphere may at times be cynical or critical but it is usually positive, We are actually starting to sound like Greeks. There is debate, there is hope, there is a feeling that here, in cyberspace, there does exist real freedom.

It was from the sense of freedom within the social and cultural evolution of the Greek City-States that allowed lyric, epic and satirical styles to blossom, and that permitted the birth of tragedy, drama and comedy. From that spirit of freedom came its expression in a political form – Greek democracy. Freedom created democracy, not the other way around. Democracy did not and does not create freedom. Even without democracy the Greek City-State citizen felt freer than the subjects of the most benevolent Persian king. They were freer because they more visible in the City-State than in the Empire.

Milan Kundera was right in associating the tyranny of our times with the lightness of being that the traditional media-culture produces. Whether in the form of communist tyranny or capitalist democracy the deadening of the individual is the same. In either regime the opportunity of standing on the stage and expressing one’s deepest thoughts and feelings is minimal. In either system we are quite insignificant, suffering the tyranny of invisibility. Poems, stories, sketches, paintings, play scripts and film scores remained hidden in drawers and only now are we starting to see them seep out.

Here lies the importance of the Internet revolution.  

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