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The Yin and Yang of Individual Rights.

~atp~

TRIBE Member
When I read serious literature, be it fiction, history, science or mainstream media[1], I tend to contextualize the information around various inter-related themes that are constantly rotating through my consciousness. Lately I have been concerned with ideas on the extensiveness of individual freedoms in an increasingly connected global community.

Our ability to understand the world around us, communicate with high efficiency, mobilize information, physical materials, resources and economic activities has created a multi-layered and highly complex global system of interdependent activities that define most humans' welfare. This high degree of interconnectivity suggests that systems of thought and action are inevitably imposed on other cultures in a significant way; the proximity of our actions to distant cultures -- and even our own (culture), given the empowerment brought to us by information technologies, the most significant, of course, being the Internet -- inevitably raises difficult questions with respect to human rights and personal freedoms.

Personal freedoms that did not appear to be detrimental to society at large are now being reevaluated by both the state and local communities because of the interconnectivity I described above. Some obvious examples include resource usage and the freedoms given to individuals in terms of its usage. A local community, for example, may now fear that unrestricted usage of a certain local resource will be detrimental to the entire community, so the community might impose restrictions on its use. Another obvious example is our ability to own guns in a city; living in such close proximity to each other in an urban environment like Toronto presents a much different set of problems if gun ownership (and possession in public places) were permitted. You will note that both of these examples are based on perceived threats -- it is not the case that gun possession will necessarily be detrimental to a community, however our ability to perceive that threat and measure its risk often determines whether or not a restriction is imposed.

Fear amplifies these risks and the state will often use this quite effectively to impose self-serving laws on its citizens. The recent debacle surrounding personal information and privacy in the United States is a perfect example. The state uses socialist arguments in order to serve its own purpose ("we're here to protect you from threats!") and yet promotes individualism in an effort to make you dependent on (and serve) the state and its machinations.

The flipside of this is that such interconnectivity obviates the need for individuals to reconsider the emphasis we place on communities, cooperation and mutual sacrifice. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it antiquates individualism (and certain Libertarian ideals) in favour of social constructs that are severely under-discussed in our current era of governance. So I think the Yin of this argument is summarized by demonstrating how the state has a negative impact on our way of life by stripping individual rights according to self-serving interests, while the Yang is represented by an increasing demand for social constructs to enter the language of every day life, hopefully encouraging community and cross-cultural groups to begin a dialogue of cooperation in recognition of the interdependence we have on each other.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
~atp~ said:
So I think the Yin of this argument is summarized by demonstrating how the state has a negative impact on our way of life by stripping individual rights according to self-serving interests, while the Yang is represented by an increasing demand for social constructs to enter the language of every day life, hopefully encouraging community and cross-cultural groups to begin a dialogue of cooperation in recognition of the interdependence we have on each other.

Often, it is not even the state who uses fear, but the communities themselves can become so fearful and they begin to rely on the state for some type of resolution. The "increase of social contructs" is viewed alot of times (I would argue too much) as something to be doled out, organized and run by the state. That being said it is a hope that, as you said the communities will engage in dialogue and cooperation to depend on one another and in doing so will look to the state less and less for social construct ideas.

I also like to think that as we do so, our personal freedoms will increasingly be either fought for or discarded -yes discarded- as necessary; not so much in the context of individuals, but as communities and in light of community needs and values.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts ~atp~.
 

atbell

TRIBE Member
I'm starting to question the nature of community.

In a very traditional sense a community would be something like a small town. The community proper was defined as a set of people who clearly shared an interest in the local school, waste management, policing, environmental health etc.

In the past 100 years or so that definition no longer stands as the only form of community. The advent of trains, planes, and automobiles (;)) has made physical transportation much easier so that community lines begin to blur. No longer is the provision of police service in the interest of every town member as the bourgeoisie are able to buy cars and move to suburbs that are removed from the desperate classes who might be tempted to break a window and grab a stereo.

Not to mention the development of phones and the Internet. Communication allows communities to survive across the country and the world. tribe.ca is a good example (as I write from Vancouver to a large body of Torontonians), so is livejournal.com or myspace.com. (come to think of it from people I know who have been hooked on on-line games, those seem to be virtual communities too)

Communication has also spead the erosion of individualism in unexpected ways. Just do a goggle search for your name to see exactly how individual you are.

You can also see the erosion of community as financial gains no longer depend on the people around you. Currently my work is done on-line and with the exception of keeping up contacts, I could be anywhere with Internet access to do my work. So, from a utilitarian stand point, I am much less dependent on my community because I know if things go sour I up and move, across the country if needed.

So it looks like there are opposing pressures on individualism. The mass media has given people the opportunity to see exactly how similar they are to everyone else, antiquating individualism as ~atp~ pointed out. Yet the ability to have connections to unique on-line communities has a reverse effect as it becomes possible that you may be the only member of your community to post on board x, y, or z, to read news source a, b, or c, etc. This makes for a much stronger sense of individualism.

These developments are going to make the idea of "state" much more difficult to understand. How are state's going to react to the in ability to understand culture as it flows in to a country in electronic forms from all over the world? Are we going to watch the formation of a global culture? I am beginning to see divisions between Internet users and non-users and I think these differences are getting more pronounced. There may even be a difference between passive and active users of the technology (readers vs writers/creators)

Another question is if these new communities will act in a similar fashion as what Genesius proposed. Will new communities "engage in dialog and cooperation to depend on one another"?

I think they will. Myspace.com is a great example. I've been using it to mobilize a crew for a music video from across the country. Who needs state assistance when you can turn to the "community" and ask people about what you need to get done.

The key to these formations is people though. The state will be needed to provide "social construct ideas" until people in the community see the opportunities and the power at their finger tips and then use it to do something constructive.
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
atbell said:
These developments are going to make the idea of "state" much more difficult to understand. How are state's going to react to the in ability to understand culture as it flows in to a country in electronic forms from all over the world?
With the emergence of radio, some people thought it would make nationstates obsolete
The authorities treated it very seriously indeed,
Britain’s Committee for Imperial Defence was not the only group to recognise its “incalculable significance for political stability.” Out of concern over this significance, the committee strongly opposed its being used by any private individual

There may even be a difference between passive and active users of the technology (readers vs writers/creators)
isn't mass media in general obviously extremely asymetrical in this respect?

The key to these formations is people though. The state will be needed to provide "social construct ideas" until people in the community see the opportunities and the power at their finger tips and then use it to do something constructive.
it might also be that the state is needed to destroy community and particularly to discourage "see[ing] the opportunities and the power at their finger tips"
...
maybe
 
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Vincent Vega

TRIBE Member
deafplayer said:
it might also be that the state is needed to destroy community and particularly to discourage "see[ing] the opportunities and the power at their finger tips"
...
maybe

Now this is an interesting point and one I hadn't considered. Especially as I was of the mindset that "the state" is an antiquated, dying concept anyway. Deafplayer has just re-legitimized the state !


maybe ;)
 
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