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Martial Law or Cocooning?

A deserted Harvard Square

Twitter pic of Harvard Square

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” — John Philpot Curran

I came across an interesting blog post via my Facebook feed today. It’s a personal account of one man’s experiences and some of his thoughts during the Boston bombing and manhunt. The author, Phil Johnson, discusses a few interesting issues, the first of which is the contradictory feelings one has when simultaneously feeling relief you or your friends weren’t affecting by a tragic event, while knowing full-well others have been devastated. He concludes “You can’t really call that luck”, and I agree. It is the dialectic of life, the yin yang of our existence, karma. Poorly understood, I think it leads some to conclude life is a zero-sum game.

He goes on to explain his mental journey from envisioning the perpetrators (especially after seeing a picture of the younger brother, Dzhokhar) as “pure evil” to reading an innocuous tweet of his and thinking “What could be more human that that?” As one who generally believes people are complex and capable of both great good and despicable evil, I found this revelation interesting and somewhat instructive, but hardly new or particularly revealing.

There is one thing he writes about that got my attention, though. Keep in mind I’ve read a lot of personal accounts of the bombing and subsequent activities (you probably have too), so it’s not that I’m dismissive of the personal tragedies experienced. It’s just that this particular issue that kind of lept out at me is something many thoughtful people are discussing, though usually in a slightly different direction than I gleaned from this tidbit. Here’s his paragraph:

“Throughout the day I jumped between Twitter, Reddit, the Boston Globe, and local TV for news. Jeremiah, a PJA developer, wrote a blog post about how social media gave us all our own private situation rooms from which to monitor events, something totally absent during the events of 9/11, when we were still dependent on the mainstream media.”

There are, it seems to me, a whole bunch of important issues contained in this paragraph. One of them is the way our consumption and processing of news and information is being transformed by social media (further encouraged by the alternate realities of the incompetence and disingenuousness of the MSM). In case you didn’t click on the link in the quote of his I’ve provided, consider this other blog post written by a colleague who discusses the communication differences between 9/11 and the five days between April 15 and 19, which I think are truly profound.

However, what I find of greatest interest is sussing out the implications (if any) of the entire City “sheltering-in-place” during the manhunt. I’m not entirely certain how I feel about it. On the one hand, for the period of time everyone was confined to their homes a heavily militarized police force had complete control of the City streets. On the other hand, the people of Boston, Watertown, etc. seemed quite willing to forego a little bit of freedom to expedite the search for a perpetrator they wanted to be caught. So, is their willingness a product of a situation in which most everyone was on the same page regarding the desired outcome, or is it an indication our citizenry is slowly giving control of the streets to law enforcement? Furthermore, is this a good thing or is it something more sinister and less-than-benign?

Some may argue it’s “unpatriotic”, perhaps cynical, of me to question what seems to have been a salutary outcome. However, I’ve never been one to believe the end justifies the means. This is one reason due process of  law is so important in this country. It provides, theoretically, a means to ensure all are treated fairly. As well, it’s hard to be sanguine in the face of the possibility we are slowly giving way to the transformation of our nation into a police state. At the pace I’m envisioning, most would not notice and, once in place, would be difficult to convince it had happened. I don’t have a good answer to these questions. Neither do I wish to be paranoid. I do, however, want to explore the implications further. I would like to see others do the same.

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About Rick Ladd

Born in 1947, I was an officially retired pensioner, but in January of 2015 I returned to work as a contractor at Aerojet Rocketdyne. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowd sourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. While "retired" I did a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0) View all posts by Rick Ladd

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