Healing our Virtual Society
a Thresholds Editorial 1997
HEALING our VIRTUAL SOCIETY
At first thought, the topic of Internet "censorship" may seem incongruous to an issue on health and healing. However upon investigation and reflection, I have found the subject illuminates the quality of thinking that can produce a miraculous healing in ourselves as individuals, as a society, and as a planet.
The Internet is the information superhighway. It is the world's neighborhood library. Just like the pictures the commercials paint, whether you are a Buddhist monk in the Himalayas or a sailor on a boat in the Pacific, if you have a personal computer, telephone service, and a company that can access the Internet then you have the "vehicle" needed to travel on that "highway." Whether you are two, twenty, or one hundred and twenty you can access information on everything from religious doctrine to medical research, from the world's greatest art treasures to the latest sports scores. For anyone hungry for information, the Internet is a dream come true.
However, the Internet is becoming much more than the neighborhood library. It is the neighborhood school, basketball arena, movie theater, travel bureau, and even pornography shop. I have been told there are seamy establishments being constructed daily on this new highway, not only pornography, but cites illustrating all means and executions of man's inhumanity to his fellow man.
This creates a dilemma.
Where the written word requires education for comprehension and imagination for experience, the electronic nature of the Internet needs neither. Its user requirements are physical: equipment, prearranged access, and the ability to push buttons. Some Internet cites reportedly include scenes beyond the imagination of most of us; the kinds of horrors faced by war veterans or law enforcement agents or fire fighters; horrors they keep to themselves not wanting to disrupt the gentler, more peaceful consciousness of home.
The question being raised is: "Do we as a society need to ensure that the material available on the Internet is suitable for children?"
The answer became quite clear to me when I heard one man, a lawyer, disdainfully say, "The issue is do we want to reduce what adults can see to the level of a child? That would be a different world."
I thought a great deal about his statement.
And I had to agree, it would be a very different world. In fact, the more I contemplated it, the more I meditated on it, I realized that that is exactly the kind of world we could all embrace!
Idealistically, every parent wants the best for his or her children. We want smarter teachers, kinder neighbors, cleaner environments, safer streets; a better world for our children to live in. We want a bright future, filled with not just freedom from any pain we have known, but with opportunity for a fulfilling life. A future of hope and of promise. Such a future begins today in the minds of people like you and I.
The answer is simple. Instead of engaging in intellectual arguments, we can agree. Unanimously. To foster the genius within our children. To encourage their natural inclination for learning, and their love for the Truth. To serve as examples of good will and spiritual advancement by offering the best of who we are. For some there seems to be a time as they moved from childhood toward adulthood this sense of best was spoiled. They believe this happens to everyone. It's as if suddenly they became too jaded to be kind, too sophisticated to trust, too cynical to dream, to angry too understand, too greedy to be generous. If this is so therein lies the seed of illness in ourselves and our society. And the rest of us most do what we can to create a different world for us all.
In this country, there are those who claim the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech, will be violated if there are regulations and, yes restrictions, on what people can publically do. The key is publically. Plato once commented, "Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophers, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other one compelled to stand aside, cities will never rest from their evils." The greatest use of government is to encourage common standards of responsible conduct in the liberties we enjoy with our fellow man. Personal integrity, public accountability.
Currently the images, sounds, and increasingly the interaction available via the Internet are a manifestation of neither. This was not always the case. The Internet began with principles and ideals, a merging of government and higher education. However with the advent of availability reaching the masses, those principles and ideals are no longer commonly accepted. Now, the Internet has a virulent streak, reflecting the chaos that results when there is freedom without responsibility. The dilemma this proposes reminds me of the symbol of American jurisprudence, the blindfolded woman holding the scales of justice. If we insist on remaining blind as a society to the disease-producing elements within and among ourselves will we want to live in the world it creates?
Eyes are meant to be used. The Internet electronically disseminates information without consideration of the qualifications or intentions of the source. This is the true concern that must be addressed: do we want to live with the effects of a technological world void of human intelligence and wisdom. Standards are not a matter of censorship, they are a means of establishing guidelines, an attempt to insure personal integrity and public accountability for the common good. An expression of the desire for a better world.
Where the valiant qualities illustrated in every classical children's story -- indeed every Holy Scripture -- of the world are held in high esteem as ideals to strive for the world is a better place to live. As Lao Tze stated 2500 years ago, "To set the world right, we must set the country aright. To set the country right, we must set the family aright. To set the family right, we must set ourselves aright. We must set the heart aright." Personal integrity, public accountability.
Another master teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, encouraged spiritual seekers to "Come as little children". Curious. Open-minded. Truthful. Eager. Willing. I believe as we endeavor to make a world fit for children, we will create a world fit for all of us. A spiritually uplifting and morally sound world, free of disease.
As the man said, a different world.
I send you my Circle of Love,
Dr. Barbara Condron
©1997 Vol. 15 No. 2
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