Over twelve years ago, chatter across the developed world hummed with the nervous idea that all computers were so intrinsically dependent on the ascending value of dates that Y2K would bring with it a crisis that could shake the whole global economy. Yet now, over a decade later, viruses so powerful that they can begin nuclear warfare metastasize through the synapses of each weak-link computer and yet receive less press than the latest celebrity haircut.
Having survived Y2K it seems as if the world, as it exists now, will not experience the same sense of collective anticipation for the future ever again. Instead, we inhabit a comfortable, collective, disbelief and cynicism which displays itself no more clearly than in the lack of commentary – or in fact bulk buying - in the lead up to our prophesied Mayan demise. Moreover, we are breeding a culture of narcissism, spectacle and consumerist values that deter the vast majority of the developed world from accepting or even acknowledging a shared axiom such as the imminent end of an ancient calendar or the longer term global warming. Instead, we walk through phases of interest as news and investigative journalism are forced to entwine themselves with pop culture in order to meet ratings and survive in a slowly dissipating industry.
Utopian ideals would pursue the thought that our connected age should bring with it the propagation of shared values on a global scale. Yet, much over a decade in, it seems as if we are at a turning point. Not yet facing an idyllic scenario of world peace and global citizenship, the internet age has created a forum for minority communities to flourish – closing the communication gap on people across the world with shared ideas. It is entirely possible that within one of these global-local communities, a collective of zealous Mayan followers across the world are reminiscing about their lives in anticipation of the end.
What develops now, in the place of a singular global unity, are multitudes of smaller, networked connections; brought together through social, economic, political or personal interests. From online philanthropic and learning communities such as Nerdfighters and Kiva, to sharing economy networks such as CouchSurfing, the connected world has provided the opportunity for people to define their social grouping outside of their race or nationality. In the UK, where we are experiencing what Colin Grant eloquently described as reverse colonisation at a rapid pace. More inhabitants than ever hold dual-country patronage or affiliation, whether through inheritance, lineage or personal ties – placing their interests not only at home, but overseas.
Whilst our global communities form and grow through ease of access to the internet – particularly as more less economically developed countries plug-in – the foreseeable difficulty comes in striking the balance of interest groups; something which we are perhaps seeing already in the Arab world. If we exist in a world where we may never hold the same values as our neighbours – in matters of religion or state – we must learn to coexist; to foster liberal tolerance and place vast importance on community elected, truly democratic governing bodies: irrespective of finance.
Two spectacular examples of the individuals driving democratic, inclusive and diverse sociopolitical communities in environments and cultures of extremism are Aung San Suu Kyi and Maajid Nawaz; watch their stories below.