“Good” and “Evil” are context dependent. What is good and orderly for one age is destructive for another. One of the major themes I’ve received from reading Thompson’s Pacific Shift (an out of print book from the 80’s) is that evil often announces the next world order. What appears to be outright horrid for an established social structure is actually going to be good for the emerging culture. The Vikings were an earlier form of what the Europeans would eventually become (expansion, and Atlantic exploration). For one culture, obeying authority (Moses and the commandments) was good. In the emerging literate and print culture, adhering to authority was no longer looked upon in the same favor. One must have understood the law and found it just.
In our age, if we apply the same idea that “evil announces the next world order,” we can understand what’s going on with the internet from a larger perspective. If we focus primarily on the legal issues that are coming with the internet, it’s the problem of authority once again. Do we have the authority to “steal” software, music and movies and make as many copies of them as we like?
The conventional notions of property legality and economics are all being challenged by the very structure of the internet, which is decentralized and thriving off of peer network sharing. The internet, therefore, is more like an ecosystem where ideas and information are passed freely through permeable membranes, rather than the rigid and linear legislation of a corporate bureaucracy. The internet is wild. It does not adhere to the logical forms that hold the established culture together. So we label folks who share media freely and without consent as “pirates” and make examples of those who do “illegal file sharing.”
But if what is evil for one order of being is good for another, for the emerging planetary culture where all is decentralized, open and free, file sharing is good. Does it harm the traditional ways of making money and the media industry? Yes, it certainly does. And it will continue to do so, as internet rights are slowly being seen as essential as freedom of the press.
It’s not the internet that is going to have to change, it’s the society at large that is being transformed from the inside out by a whole new order of social and cultural organization. Rather than organic weeds growing through the cracks of the bureaucratic empires, we have technological ecosystems that have found a way to crack the cement. And for future generations, this is great. For the old order, it’s nothing short of a catastrophe.
How will new collaborative social structures transform society not just economically but politically? Will government and corporate bureaucracies be able to survive this evolution of human society? Or will they go the way of the dinosaurs in the face of rapid change? They may simply no longer be needed in the same way that monarchs are figureheads of a much larger super-structure that has grown around them. As the 21st century might be called a century of ecology (which our consciousness has only really woken up to), society itself begins to resemble the ecosystems it has unconsciously destroyed. Might this be a good sign?
The larger tale we might infer from putting these images of social organization next to each other is one of increasing complexity and decentralization. Multi-national corporations and industrial nation-states are the Empires and corporate Kings of our day and age, and once again the children of Gaia step up to free themselves from the changeless and oppressive order of Ouranos. Since there is more similarity between a King, an Emperor and a CEO than a rhizome, we can at least say the newly emerging social order is something unlike civilization. It is new. Whatever it is, it will resemble nature more than culture, but perhaps that is the hyper-text or meta pattern we are arriving at by looking at the evolution of human consciousness, a play of history as we depart from nature to erect towers and city walls, but inevitably, we learn that we are not separate from nature. We come of age and begin to resound with the song of nature in something that is not a reversion back to our primordial state, but a novel emergence of individuated beings that have made their peace with Gaia. Beings of both unique and universal. Partners and lovers, not undifferentiated children. Can we imagine such a future, presently?
So to an orderly and bureaucratic society, internet “pirates” and the internet at large registers as nothing but another ecology to be harvested, controlled and contained. Let’s hope that this new cultural ecology has the ability to run circles around the rigid giants of hierarchy, and help push humanity into a cultural evolution that has never occurred on this level of scale or complexity before.