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Leadership comes from the grass roots, not institutions


May 9, 2008/11.37

[Cross-posted] Sometimes I surprise myself on what comes up in blog comments. In a thread about the Iraq war and the short memories of nations over on Vox, I wrote the following. And as I wrote, I believed this to be a possible truth.

To go forth in the future we need to discover our past, a hard thing in an age of short memories as you say. … Leadership might not come from size but from those nations that have steadfastly refused to give in to the prevailing decline in so many places. Switzerland, for all its refusal to join the EU, has managed to maintain one of the greatest gun ownership rates in the world yet not have a single gun-related murder attributable to its own in most years; Singapore, retaining its Confucian philosophies, manages a city-state with limited natural resources.
   Their example needs to be communicated to the world, as well as the positive aspects of certain parts of the US or China—they exist, but they are hidden.
   This is one reason to like blogs because they can cut through the shield of the MSM and government propaganda. I do not think that we have reached any critical mass among netizens, networking citizens together in a form of moral leadership. … [T]here are pockets of good people everywhere as you and I have witnessed, just that we are not necessarily visible.
   But that critical mass can come—and if warfare now is at a terrorist, guerrilla level in so many places, I suspect moral leadership itself will come from a grass-roots base.
   The system needs idealists like us, reminding people of their short memories, and maybe change will be effected not through top–down governmental, propagandist methods or the MSM, but through one-on-few communications from each of us.
   I would rather [expect] that the next superpower, therefore, is not a nation or even an ideology, but a collective of humankind cutting through the BS and revealing the truth. Who says the ’net cannot be a force for good once more? If it can propagate hate and porn, it can just as easily propagate hope and truth.

   I get reminded of this every now and then by others who feel the same way: Chris, at the Edutainment & Convergence blog, wrote to me privately and inspired me. And when I think back to books like Beyond Branding and Typography & Branding, I think there was a great deal of post-9-11 optimism and the desire to build a better, more understanding world. I ?nd passages of my Typography & Branding inspiring, if an author is allowed to be inspired by his own work, and I can’t have been this cynical back then.
   It’s a good zone to be in and I haven’t felt this hopeful about the potential of the ’net in about a year.
   Last year, I was bemoaning the decline of the as it began looking more and more like the darker parts of society, with gossipmongers and rude, anonymous commenters ?nding their way on to it. Where were, I asked, the globally minded of the 1990s?
   On the other hand, their entry into this world surely puts them closer to the hands of the idealists who can now shape agenda, creating more hopeful sites and messages.
   And maybe channelling or ?nding the above message from my subconscious helped me put things into perspective more. If indeed the state nation is less relevant and change is better effected by people helping people directly, because technology has now made that possible, then the moral vacuum caused by various changes in society can be ?lled.
   All it needs are willing participants prepared to get together to make the world a better place, regardless of their political, cultural or religious stripes.
   That’s really why I got into .
   If we agree on this target, then the rest must follow.

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