If the eyes are the windows to the soul, as they say, then smartphone cameras are the windows to the soul of our society.
In ages past we knew hardly anything about what was going on in a given civilization. Mythology about a population’s history were handed down around campfires in the form of verbal tradition from generation to generation. When the written word came around we invented something called “history”, which was really just records of the ancient propaganda from whoever happened to have won the most recent war. Then later on we got very clever and invented something called “journalism”, which was really just whatever stories the people who controlled the media wanted told.
None of these presentations were particularly conducive to understanding what’s actually happening in our society; they were all subject to manipulation by the dominant storytellers of whatever era they appeared in.
This began to change when video cameras started appearing in the pockets of ordinary people around the world, and an online network appeared which allowed them to share their recordings. Now if an interesting thing happens in a public space and takes more than a few seconds to transpire, odds are there will be video footage of it. You don’t need to wait for a news crew to assemble and drive to the scene; the news crew is there already, in the form of rank-and-file members of the public.
This newfound ability to open windows of video record to our fellow citizens so they can see what’s happening in our world has been very instructive. It has taught us that ordinary human beings are capable of more skillful, hilarious and jaw-dropping behaviors than we’d have ever guessed in our wildest imaginings. It has taught us that Bigfoot probably doesn’t exist, and that close encounters of the third kind are probably not happening as people used to commonly claim. And it has taught us that police brutality is every bit as common as marginalized communities have been telling us for generations.
All in all, it has helped show us what we are.
And what are we? We are funny. We are brilliant. We are beautiful. We are amazing. We are talented. We are heart-meltingly cute. We are dazzlingly insightful. We are capable of anything we put our minds to.
We are also suffering. We are also capable of appalling cruelty. We are also pretty damn racist. We are also patrolled by a violent and insanely militarized police institution whose driving interests have nothing to do with protecting or serving.
This newfound ability to view mountains of video footage showing us what’s happening in our world is enabling us as a species to get more real with ourselves on a collective level, in exactly the same way resurfaced memories of childhood trauma and insights into our own mental habits enable us to get real with ourselves on an individual level. In both cases, the added factor is awareness. Bringing awareness to something of which we previously were not aware.
You can’t change something you can’t see. This is true of your own behavior patterns when their underlying motivators are still hiding in your subconscious mind, and it is true of collective societal disorders as well. For both, seeing is the cure.
We are all trying to wake up together. To move away from untruth and toward truth. That is our collective journey, and we can see that it is accelerating. I don’t know what it will look like on the other side of our collective vision impairment, but as long as we keep moving toward seeing and away from blindness, it can only be a good thing.
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