While you’re sipping beer and watching things blow up today, take a moment to appreciate what it’s all about. You have the freedom, as an American, to sip beer and blow things up. Unless of course you’re under 21 years of age or live in the state of Colorado with a fire ban.
I keep my mouth shut and seldom declare my stance on tabled issues in public. I avoid stirring the pot for the sake of it and do what I can to preserve my nonpartisan relationships. But when it comes to legislation or executive decisions that may invariably keep my mouth shut against my will, I speak up.
I learned a lot from Hollywood in the five years that I studied and worked in Los Angeles. I respect and support the industry’s need to fight piracy. To produce and spread content on a sustainable scale requires considerable revenue chains that dare not waver. Due largely to the size of teams necessary to complete them, films will always be expensive to produce. Losing control of your content – and thereby losing the ability to recoup costs on your production – is a huge issue and must be curtailed.
That said, I do not respect Hollywood’s conservative grapple-hold on content in an antiquated scarcity model. While the studios contend that they make more by staggering the release of a film across all mediums, these rigid exhibition windows from theater to home regularly deprive hungry consumers of content they want to consume. The Hollywood release model is effectively inspiring piracy – not because people want to maliciously destroy the industry, but because people want to consume content and cannot do so when and where they want. Street vendors in the third world do not sell ripped DVDs as an attack on studios or because tickets are too expensive; they do it because Hollywood failed to make the content available in their market. Contemporary piracy stems more from accessibility issues than anything else. Hollywood is utterly failing to provide. By holding product close to the chest, the entertainment industry is failing to reach customers, scale brands at the contemporary pace necessary to survive, and collect the money of eager and willing fans. The media industry is killing itself. They need no help from pirates.
Out of desperation and a lazy aversion to change, entertainment turned to lobbyists to craft a bill that would effectively give our government the power to censor or shut down websites. There are constitutional ways to fight piracy; the Stop Online Piracy and Protect Intellectual Property Acts are not it. To learn more about the bills, I encourage you to watch this video.
Tomorrow between 5am and 5pm MST, I will join many Internet companies – including Wikipedia and Google – in protesting these bills by shutting down my site. You will not be able to read my blog.
Under the First Amendment, we have the right to contest any act abridging the freedom of speech. We have the freedom to protest and stand up for our rights. Do not dismiss protests as mass whining or vanity noise. Without protest and public forums for opinion, women would not have the right to vote and many of us would still own slaves. Do not take the freedom of expression lightly. Celebrate your voice at every possible turn. Use it when you can.
To repatriate, rebuild, and rekindle our nation, we need to set aside partisanship and find common ground. To do that, I urge a small tweak to our political lexicon: replace “compromise” with “collaboration.” Compromise implies two sides with disparate interests; collaboration suggests multiple specialized parties on the same team. No one should ever surrender beliefs, but it is important to first discover a platform of common agreement to move forward together under the same banner. At the heart of every issue lies at least a sliver of mutual consent and values everyone can share. Identify that first, and we can move forward together. Easier said than done, but it’s worth a morning shout.
We can no longer blame it on Gen-Y pessimism alone: the American public has fallen out of favor with the United States Government. With the public approval rating of Congress down to 9%, there is an impending need for overhaul. Legislation is wrought with wasted time, private interests, and partisanship. More critically, the legislative process no longer moves as fast as the systems it governs. The business and technology landscapes are changing so fast that no bill can keep up. And they are changing due in a very large part to the same platform we need to embrace to optimize our nation: the Internet.
Albert Wenger inspires me with his thoughts on Wikipedia, Occupy Wall Street, and the Possibility of an Open Congress (I’ve been enjoying Albert’s blog – for tech lovers out there, I encourage you to keep up with it). I think the idea of an “open-sourced government” is very romantic and worth exploring. The thought of communities online authoring bills together through an iterative platform like Wikipedia or Google Docs sends shivers up my spine. Nothing could be more true to democracy than millions of people collaborating together on the laws that govern them. Online, everyone can have a voice. Money, class, race, and stature play negligible roles. Everyone can work together and focus on the job at hand. Everyone can work together for the common good. I want to see a community online like that. I want to be a part of it. I want to have input. A multiple choice ballet is not enough anymore. It’s time to migrate the future of our nation forward. It’s time to build a Webocracy.
Outside Congress and legislation, does anyone else have other ideas for open-sourcing different aspects of our government?
Can you imagine traveling six days by horse in a blizzard to hang out with peers and talk politics? Can you imagine waking up to a trumpet, grabbing your gun and running outside to join other armed neighbors to defend your cul-de-sac? Can you imagine hiding in your basement with friends for fear of your life and plotting a bloody revolution? These activities were commonplace 250 years ago at the birth of our nation. Early Americans went to great lengths to come together, stand as one, and protect our freedoms. The value of togetherness networked local communities, rallied the majority against common enemies, and united the colonies.
Somewhere between the Cold War and postdevelopment, Americans lost site of that camaraderie. We lost site of togetherness. Back then, the freedom to assemble was a huge deal – so important that it topped the list of our constitutional amendments. Today, I see a lot of ambition and very little group collaboration. Few people stand collectively behind anything except brands and religion (and even those groups are fading).
We need to come together again. We need to debate again. We need to start a cultural revolution again. And like all great movements in history, the era of neo-togetherness starts small: spend more time with friends. Spend time discussing how you think the world should look. Spend time making suggestions and outlining solutions. And if you are brave enough, spend time tackling those solutions together.
Our great country evolved through community. Only a strong community can keep it alive.