I come from a military family. My Dad graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and my older brother was ROTC at Penn State, eventually retiring as a Commander of a P-3 Squadron. I am deeply grateful that America supports a strong military, given a world infested with Somali Pirates, insane tinhorn dictators, and fragile democracies. Still, the old question of “guns or butter?” always stuck in my mind, fostering my personal military industrial complex. How could reasonable people ever aggressively wage peace in a violent, selfish world?
Finally, we might have some real tools. Ammunition and weapons never provided a lasting answer, but perhaps technology can. Maybe the keys to more universal justice will prove to be literacy, laptops and broadband. Think about it: a literate populace can not be isolated from an ever-tighter global community. A laptop allows anyone to express and share their unique thoughts, sounds and images. And broadband allows the one to instantly connect with the many all over the world. With literacy, laptops and broadband, the traditional barriers to communication fall away; genocide in Darfur can be brought to our desktops, starvation in North Korea can be felt in our homes, the world’s huddled masses can no longer be bottled up by the dictatorial few.
“Mass amateurization” as the sociologically-insightful Clay Shirky calls it, threatens many aspects of our marketing business with devaluation and commoditization. But if it also helps the oppressed, the abused or the marginalized gain their voices and have them magnified by the amplifying effect of a global social network, well, that mitigates my professional uncertainty somewhat. I can live with that.