Reading these words in the light of the events unfolding in the Arab world I am more and more convinced that the generation that will carry on the transformation from certainty to hope has arrived and is already changing history. As I have argued through various posts in this blog, a generation that has grown up overexposed to a decentralized multiplicity of ways of living life has completed a mutation that not even radical minds like Nietzsche could have dreamed of. Today, twenty six years after the first .com webpage was published, a peculiar breed of human beings has emerged. What makes this particular type of human beings radically different is the fact that, after growing up in a globalized, digitally-wired and rapidly evolving society, we have become incapable of taking seriously any type of fundamental projects. This instinctive revulsion towards overriding projects developed by our generation is what I have called the “postmodern perspective” and the aim of this blog is and will be to extract the consequences of this new viewpoint.
As I have insisted previously, fundamental projects either in politics, social organization, scientific discovery or moral progress look violent and anachronistic when contrasted with our digitally-wired experience. To me, it is precisely this revulsion towards overriding projects and the hunger for hope – the hunger to be in a society that keeps the channels of communication open— that is at the core of our generation’s revolt. The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were not movements to replace the certainty of authoritarian regimes with the certainty of democracy. What Arabs are fighting for is for the right to keep the communication channels open allowing everyone to participate in shaping their political horizon. The freedom our generation asks for does not always has to be manifested in Western-type of democracies; the political organization can take whatever shape is better suited for the circumstances, but it always has to be susceptible of being changed, susceptible of being falsified by the people when needed. From a pragmatic point of view, our generation can accept the military to be in power just as long as the proper channels for us to replace them when needed remain intact. As long as the communication channels remain open and civilian participation is secured, the political organization that better suits us will take care of itself.
Many have emphasized the powerful role that social networks have played in the Arab uprising. There is no doubt that Facebook and Twitter are incredibly effective tools for mobilizing ideas, spreading dissatisfaction, organizing protesters and integrating isolated voices into a common cause. But, besides the social networks’ role as communication tools, they, together with Wikipedia and other collaborative efforts, are above all key examples of the power of free social collaboration. As I have argued before, social collaboration efforts on the web have shown our generation that the more we expand and open the participation in the conversation, the better results we get in adapting our collective experience and the better we become at dealing with shared preoccupations. Wikipedia, for instance, is a dynamic organism that exposes how changes in historical conditions coupled with ample participation can give rise to new interpretations on what is and what is not regarded as true. The internet opens the doors to realize a fully dialogical community and “the truth” exposes as never before its conversational, community-driven and adaptive nature.
As such, what keeps Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter alive and makes them so valuable and innovative is their “editability”. The “edit button”, paradigmatic of the whole internet experience was the most precious feature lacking in Mubarak’s and other authoritarian regimes in the Arab world. It is the fight to install and secure our right to edit that is behind the rage of our generation. We are the edit generation; we want the channels of communication to remain open, always. We might be unsure about what to replace certainty with (and that is indeed the case in Egypt right now), but we are convinced that social hope is a better option. The goal of the Egyptian revolution was not to impose a certain view on how things should be; the goal was to reinsert everyone into the conversation. The goal of the revolution was to ensure that no matter what path the country decides to take, this path will always remain susceptible of being changed, of being edited as we go along.