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Do you believe in the power of the individual?(4 posts)

Do you believe in the power of the individual?dr hoo
Aug 20, 2003 7:42 AM
Take, for eample, the tragic events of September 11, 2001. A central fact that's been overlooked ever since, by nearly every fashionable pundit, is this: every truly effective action that was taken on that awful day -- to palliate the harm and thwart our enemies -- was performed by private individuals. Citizens who proved themselves to be far more agile, imaginative and resourceful than any of society's elites picture them to be!

Most of the useful video footage was taken by private parties, armed with the new equalizers -- cameras -- a potentially crucial element in future emergencies.

Private cell phones spread word quicker than official media, including crucial calls for evacuation and rebellion. So did email and instant messaging, when the phone system got swamped.

Potentially harmful rumors were swiftly debunked by independent "urban legend" or hoax-busting web sites, taking on a role that government can never be trusted with. A role unsuitable for any highly-vested class.

Swarms of volunteers descended on the disaster sites, as local officials quickly dropped their everyday concerns about liability or professional status in order to use all willing hands.

Finally, the sole immediate action that effectively thwarted terrorist plans was taken aboard United Flight 93, by individuals armed with intelligence and communication tools -- and a mandate -- completely outside official channels.

Let me emphasize this point. That day, when the professionals' powers of anticipation broke down, nearly every truly effective measure of resiliency was taken by a society of tenacious private citizens, reacting with uncanny alacrity and initiative, armed and empowered by the very same technologies that the pundits keep saying will enslave us!


David Brin's keynote for the Libertarian Party National Convention, July 5, 2002

An excellent read, with plenty of points to debate, if you are so inclined.
An army of one?128
Aug 20, 2003 12:35 PM
Maybe when entities and individuals are subject to such intense, extraordinary circumstances, it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish any longer the circumstance, entities, and individuals.

Maybe the 'uncanny brisk initiative' results not from the triumph of individuals over institutions, but from dissolution of the separation between institution and individual, the realization that the institution is the individual, and when it isn't, (you know Republicans are in the White House. ;o) it must be destroyed.

Maybe disaster only seemingly heightens and alerts the senses, when actually that heightened euphoria results from the dissolution of that which separates God and State, and which eurphoria would be the natural equalibrium between event and action in any circumstance, if not dulled by partisan advertising and social status.

da da da....
I think his point goes beyond emergency situations.dr hoo
Aug 21, 2003 4:40 AM
It is in emergencies when we see certain aspects of our system highlighted. Brin is arguing that the founding fathers had it right, that the power of the state COMES FROM the individuals within it. When we look to the government to do things, we forget that the government is individual human beings. When we wait for the government to DO something, we do exactly that.... wait.

Brin is basically making a distributed power vs. centralized power argument. Like the internet, when things are distributed, damage can quickly be dealt with. When power is centralized, more damage can be done.

I also like his stuff on transparency in government, where he argues that what we need now is MORE openness in government, not more secrecy.
Nice articleSpoiler
Aug 20, 2003 2:28 PM
I was getting bored with the web. This flared my interest.