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Big Brother is watching you

17 Feb. 2012 8:42 PM IST

The lines from Pink Floyd’s psychedelic song “Another Brick in the Wall”, ’We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control’ is a stark reminder of the rise of the cyber machine. The word ‘thought control’ is somewhat of an adaption from George Orwell’s fiction novel, ‘Nineteen eighty Four’. Here Orwell presents to the reader, a society where people are subjugated by a seemingly totalitarian regime. In the name of the greater good, the thought police and vigilantes keeps a constant track on the activities of its citizenry. In this fiction, free thought and socializing between opposite sexes is banned thus keeping the people under perpetual trepidation. This harrowing concept in modern times is borrowed by the fallacious reality show ‘Big Brother’ in the UK and ‘Big Boss’ in India. The participants, like in Orwell’s book, are monitored 24/7 by multi point CCTVs, all the same remaining docile to the supremo, ‘Big brother’. The point I am trying to drive at, is that, humans have been for centuries trying to constantly evolve the concept of freedom and liberty in adherence with changing times. But in today’s virtual era, third party computerized networks dictate the framework for the notion of Liberty, equality and fraternity. Machines have become an indispensible part of our daily lives. We have literally become slaves to these automated programs and machines. For instance, the internet which started off as a medium for disseminating free information between scientists has evolved in something completely new. Facebook inc. boasts more than 800 million active users worldwide and is expected to reach the 1 billion benchmark in a shortly. It proudly proclaims itself as the citadel of freedom, change and opportunity in new frontiers. Recent uprising in the Arab world and Libya has given full credence to Facebook and twitter for playing a role in the smashing success of the ‘revolution’. But underneath the quandary of catharsis in these movements lies the bitter aftermath. Countries like Egypt is being threatened of being ruled by fundamentalist zealots like the Muslim brotherhood which has long been striving to create an Islamic state in Egypt. In Libya, dark clouds loom over Tripoli, as the ‘victorious’ rebels refuse to give up arms indicating clear signs of transition to military dictatorship. It must be understood that myriad revolutions have been witnessed over the ages; The French, the Bolshevik revolution and the Algerian uprisings are some examples of the paragons of successive revolutions in history, which was sparked by people from the grassroots. With millions of active cyber citizens the world over, corporate firms and media houses have joined hands to ‘manufacture consent’ (a term coined by Naom Chomsky, American linguist, writer, intellectual and political activist), by constantly reproducing images of products which may seem absurdly unnecessary but are presented in such a way which ‘guarantees’ to bring zest into your banal life. This phenomenon has been clearly depicted by Plato in ‘The allegory of the cave’. In this parable, Plato sketches a picture where individuals are chained and shackled in a tiny cave. They are forced to focus only on a particular side of the cave. Behind them a fire burns brightly, where images of non living objects are animated in such a way that its shadows cast on the wall are focused by the chained individuals. Thus these people believed the shadows cast by the fire are in fact, the real images. This is exactly what is happening in the virtual network today. Pseudo individuals or leaders, self styled vigilante groups, conmen, pedophiles and alike lurk in the digital neighbourhood. These so called ‘cyber platforms’ if not used in the right manner may lead to humankind’s own downfall. In life most of us tend to find an escape from harsh realities or the mundane activities of life, which is provided by ‘the social network’ today. In becoming totally engrossed in our second life, we tend to ignore the benefits of real life; the joy of a simple stroll in the woods, the heart thumping excitement of a challenging sport, the joy of friendship and love in its real sense and not in a make believe world. In Plato’s cave, some individuals are finally able to break free of their chains and come out of their confined cave, leading to a realization there is a real world beyond the cave. We too must also try to come out of our virtual caves so that the real essence of the human spirit may be enjoyed to the fullest.

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Shanben Kithan
The power of education
7/23/2011 3:38:11 PM