Back in the saddle again

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it wherever it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.
Ernest Benn

Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Is it really necessary to continue this crazy walk? I have never been one for an uncritical approach to life. I have always questioned my motives and goals as much as I have those of others. I also believe that one shouldn’t be too proud to make a turn if past decisions should turn out to be wrong or unsatisfying. Being confronted with my life in the Netherlands, with everything that I miss out on while I am on my way, my family and friends, it is only natural that these questions come to me now with more force than ever.

Part of me wishes nothing more than to be home with the ones I love. To be around them is pleasant, trusted, safe, rewarding, fun, comfortable, in other words: easy. The list of positive adjectives that I could sum up to describe my feelings towards them is endless. But then, I have always known that I am blessed with great friends and family. And if I feel melancholic now it is because of that knowledge and because the last two months have been nothing but a confirmation of this fact. So why keep on walking?

Das Leben der Anderen
I can be very outspoken about a lot of things. Because of that, the idea of any power - governmental or other - actively monitoring what I say and having the right to prevent me from doing so, is unthinkable. I cannot imagine a bigger hell to live in than a world where you dare not speak your mind to anyone, because you don’t know who may be listening - the Stasi kind of world, in short. Likewise, I do not care much for people telling others how to live their life, people that point their finger and in the worst case, force them to adjust. 

Someone who defends the rights of the gay community is not automatically promoting homosexuality and he or she most certainly does not have to be gay. In that sense I am not a social media ambassador. I use social media, I like to stay informed on my friends’ lives and activities and I like to find new music, interesting websites and inspiring quotes through them, but to me ‘in real life’ interactions will always be more rewarding and worthwhile. Social media are a means, not an end. Yet at the same time I believe that the internet and social media are more than mere entertainment.
 
The internet allows us to communicate freely with anyone around the world and share ideas. Most of the time it will be friends and family we chat with and often this won’t go beyond the daily chitchat, but the world has already witnessed more than once what kind of influence websites like Twitter and Facebook can have during political protests and revolt. This is a very important quality.

I “Like”
Another reason to cheer the growing influence of the internet is that it necessitates us to become more critical. An often heard argument against online news forums and blogs - mostly from so called ‘old’ media - is that the source of the information cannot be trusted: too much and too diverse information coming from too many sides; anyone can shout anything online. But the truth is that no journalist can ever be fully objective and that ‘old’ media are not immune to corruption. If the number of media seeking our attention increases that only means that we have to arm ourselves with better tools to discern the bullshit from the truth.

Social media can be very useful in filtering on quality. Most people are familiar with what it means when something ‘goes viral’ on the internet: “through the sharing actions of people content spreads to other viewers. An image, blog article, photo, product, song, video, text message, quote, joke, website, and even an idea can all go viral. Almost anything can go viral if it’s of high quality, is naturally sharable, and has relevancy to a large sector of people.” There is no cause to believe that politically relevant content cannot spread in the same manner. However, in order for this to be possible, it is crucial that the independence of the internet is secured.

Means and ends
I have been called a social media pilgrim, or a pilgrim 2.0, and this is surely true for the way in which I find my places to sleep and eat. And for the reasons I have stated above I truly believe that the internet is a great invention. But there are easier ways to attest to that than a pilgrimage, writing an article or joining an interest group for instance.

The thing that disturbed me most in the Queen’s speech was the lack of trust in people. The quote at the beginning of this blog may be overly cynical, but she was definitely seeking problems where they do not exist and diagnosing them incorrectly. I believe that any remedy applied here could bring us closer to the unthinkable world I described above. Therefore, proving that she is wrong in saying that people don’t help each other anymore, that we only think of ourselves, is much more important than merely showing the power of social media.

I use social media because they help me to connect with people. But sending out a positive message about people in modern day society, to show that helpfulness can be found everywhere, regardless of nationality, religious views, colour, age or sexual orientation, is the main goal. As long as this is reported in the papers and on radio and television, in other words, as long as this is news, my project is not finished. And although this means I have to miss my loved ones at home, I am meeting wonderful people along the way because of it.

So let’s twalk!

Wijnand Boon