I’ll ramble a bit but will get there. There have been many times in history when great men (and women) have appeared, led, and achieved great things. I am sure many of us think we are overdue for the next one, particularly in the light that more people are alive today than have ever died. The world recently seems somehow rather lost, directionless. In many countries in every continent, people are unhappy with their leaders. Everywhere, people are crying out for change, but no-one inspirational comes forward to lead. Where are today’s great men and women hiding? Sadly, I don’t know either.
More people globally are connecting to the web, learning how it works. Social networking tools are developing fast, and more people everywhere are starting to realise their political potential. Many people feel let down by their leaders, who often don’t do as they promise once they get elected. Many feel powerless when faced with oppression elsewhere but want to do something about it, and are sick of seeing world leaders do nothing. Many yearn for change. People want change, not just here or there, but all over the world. There seem few countries where people are happy with their leaders.
But people don’t just want changes in their local conditions. Many of us feel we are part of a global community. When there is trouble in the Middle East, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, or Africa, we feel for the locals much more than decades ago before today’s communications systems made them feel like they are next door. When a government anywhere tries to clamp down on protesters, we all feel sympathy for them. Meanwhile, our leaders talk but usually little happens, and always too late. But people live now in a world of instant communication. They don’t accept any more when it takes weeks to react instead of minutes.
When it is so clear to people that they are winning the power to do something themselves in spite of their leaders, and yet their current leaders flap around ineffectively, then a political vacuum builds.
So far, the use of the web for politics has been confined to individual countries, albeit the effect has then spread to others. What hasn’t happened yet is the uniting of people across the borders. But we should expect it. Just like strikes used to be more effective before other workforces were allowed to come out ‘in sympathy’, so international protests will become much more effective when the people involved are spread across the world.
I am no historian and don’t even have any expertise in politics, so this may be nonsensical, but to me this is starting to look like fertile ground for a global change. I’m not thinking violent change, some kind of global civil war or anything. No, I think what is likely is grass-roots pressure for a new form of governance, where people worldwide link together to use their combined muscle to force leaders to behave and do as their people want. It could be used to help stamp out corruption, rogue states, dictatorships, or force through issues that people care about – environment, human rights, equality, access to clean water and food. I think that is all feasible from what starts off as fairly straightforward social networking.
Perhaps we will see a major but largely leaderless movement, lots of like minds pushing in the same direction, self-organised and emergent. Or it would be very open to leadership by a new generation of web-skilled political types. Or a highly charismatic individual even. One person leading a global movement to make the world a better place in spite of generations of failure by conventional politics.
It feels now that the time is ripe. The technology, the networks, the frustration and the desire for change are all here, we just need the great man or woman to bring us all together now. Surely it must happen, and soon.