Some might argue that the giant tech companies are the Viking hordes of today. Today’s shopfronts might be likened to the walls of monasteries, masking a profound sense of loss after everything of value has been carried off, repurposed to the benefit of others.
Some have warned for decades that the tech giants need to be regulated otherwise they’ll recreate the monopolies like those of the American railways in the nineteenth century. The analogies for today’s supply chains include fibre as rail track and the servers as locomotives. Platform versus content. Utility versus consumable.
‘The history of American (rail) networks has always been the history of spooks, graft, questionable labor and supply chains, and territorial conquest, long before the Internet acquired its history rife with spooks, graft, questionable labor and supply chains, and territorial conquest.’ – How Railroad History Shaped Internet History by Ingrid Burrington The Atlantic, November 24, 2015.
Some would question the conflicts of interest in the economic motives of emerging monopolies. Some commentators argue that they threaten to deny equal access for all to the technologies now vital to every aspect of their lives. Some point out that the tech giants are systematically removing privacy, skewing politics, undermining the global economy and worse, enslaving their users. Some argue that free markets can’t be free if there are conflicts of interest along the supply chains. Some think that the ability to regulate is already compromised by the scale of the tech companies.
Is this capitalism or colonialism? Some opine that the shameful history in The Scramble for Africa is becoming or has already become an equally abusive scramble for the world.
If people had not fought and died for independence, I don’t think I could be writing here today. Yet I can’t abide the idea that people would need to fight and die for independence.
We live in an area once known as The Pale, a finite and bounded enclave of safety for the ruling classes in Ireland. The boundary essentially consisted of a ditch or rampart rather than the walls more generally favoured today. Today’s walls and such boundaries hide the untermenschen from sight, like imaginary White Walkers were hidden within the Game of Thrones TV series. Some might think this a vile or naive description. You might be right, depending on which side of the wall you see it from.
The Great Wall of China kept the hordes out or was it better to keep the Han in? The Berlin wall hid the malign influence of the Wessi from the Ossi Germans or did it?
Can you imagine living in Nicosia to see your old family home across the wall from your new residence?
The peace walls in Northern Ireland, or their predecessors, have been delaying integration for over fifty years. One justification is the choice between peace and terror.
Some people say the words ‘Turkey’ and ‘peace’ are words that may not remain in the one sentence as Turkey looks forward to the restoration of the Ottoman Empire after 2023, following the expiration of the treaty of Lausanne.
One country has studied walls. To all of their learnings, they have added methods of dehumanisation they once experienced to their great cost. That State has taken these walls and dehumanisations and refined them to levels of cruelty that ought to be unimaginable in the 21st century.
Colum McCann has not said these things in his amazing exposition Apeirogon. That’s the power of books. They make you think. Movies too.
Much of the world was horrified when Islamist rebels in Timbuktu burned thousands of the Timbuktu Manuscripts in 2013. Some were 800 years old. Almost none had been digitised.
If you destroy it, you can rebuild it in your own image.
Sadly, there’s a very pessimistic part of me that thinks destruction and domination are an integral part of today’s realpolitik. Morals and ethics appear to have become unfashionable at the voting booths. Pragmatism is espoused, then refined and finally, moulded to authoritarian ambition.
I don’t think the BLM (Black Lives Matter) campaign says otherwise. Some might say, sceptically not cynically, that the BLM campaigns are welcomed by many governments as displacement activities. Some governments are still taking the long view. And in the long view, there is still time for the career politicians and the despots to thrive until their passing. Climate change activists might understand this better than most.
Equivocation, prevarication, procrastination and stonewalling can work for generations. Just ask a woman, especially in the pandemic, about inequality now that the gains in equality have been exposed as frangible.
Perhaps the power in realpolitik is the problem. Maybe career politicians are part of the problem. Voter apathy may be the bigger problem.
Ignobility is the coming thing.