Liberty is freedom from control. Liberty Plaza in NYC is one of the platforms for the expression of liberty. There are many more. As of today, the Occupation is morphing into a greater gathering of citizens. Something is not right in America, and people are taking to the streets to talk about it.

Once upon a time some people explored a tool called the World Wide Web and saw that it had great potential to liberate humankind. Other people saw the Web and saw they could use it to make money. They realized that people hunger for connections, and would willingly expose big chunks of their private lives. Now a few people are making billions by selling the private lives and thoughts and creative output of others. The distinction between public and private liberty has been erased – our private lives are made available to government and private enterprise at a level never before imagined.

I use Facebook, I use Google. I use the internet and know that I have ceded some part of my liberty to Google and Facebook; I have ceded part of my liberty to my ISP, and to my local law enforcement agencies – if they so choose to exercise their rights.

Is it time to push back? I think it is. Like the protesters occupying Wall Street, we who use the internet can start to expose what’s wrong. We can declare that our private lives are ours alone, and refuse to let others profit from them. We can declare the right to own our “content.” The internet is the most powerful tool ever invented for the furtherance of liberty. It does not belong to the corporations that own the pipes; it does not belong to the advertisers; it does not belong to the social media moguls; it does not belong to any government; it belongs to us.

Photo cc by david shankbone


Fur traders and woodsmen

“Yes, and you will follow fur traders and woodsmen as your presidents, and they will be as barbarians at the head of armies, ignorant of geography and science, the leaders of a mob daily educated by a perfidious press which will make them so confident and ignorant that the only books on their shelves will be instruction manuals, the only theater gaudy spectacles, the paintings made to please that vulgar class of bankers, men of no moral character, half-bourgeois and half-criminal, who will affect the tastes of an aristocracy but will compete with each other like wrestlers at a fair, wishing only to pay the highest price for the most fashionable artist. Do not laugh, sir. Listen. I have traveled widely. I have seen this country in its infancy. I tell you what it will become. The public square will be occupied by an uneducated class who will not be able to quote a single line of Shakespeare.”

From Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey. A fine and entertaining novel loosely based on Alexis de Tocqueville‘s journey to America in 1831.