Media Induced Sea Change

Modern mass media is by its very nature ubiquitous. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, 24 hour news outlets, mobile worldwide news, Google, Yahoo, and even Internet Shopping sites such as e-bay have disintegrated borders and shortened the distance between peoples and cultures all over the globe. I can now easily purchase coffee from Turkey, musical instruments from Japan, and prayer books from Tibet with just the move of my mouse and a few short key strokes. In fact I’m boiling bosanska kahva in my cezve while playing Buddhist prayers on my Shamisen as I type this blog. (OK, not really, but I could be.)

This very day Egypt had its very first democratic election in history. Arguably this sea change in the political structure of the Egyptian government would not have happened without the aid of media “weapons” such as Facebook and Twitter. The resistance movement in Egypt literally mobilized through the use of these social networking sites. The Egyptian Government was certainly aware of this threat when, according to Britain’s Daily Mail, the government allegedly shut down Facebook, Twitter and Youtube feeds in a bid to disrupt the protestors organizational power in the midst of the January 2011 coup d’état. (Daily Mail, 2011). Thankfully their disruptions didn’t work. It’s amazing that a handful of angry but determined Egyptians with cellphones can achieve in a matter of days what the US military might hasn’t yet achieved in over 10 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. (But that’s a whole other blog.)

In these modern times the influence of media penetrates almost every culture. This shift is changing the societal structure of most, if not all, of these cultures. I have mixed emotions about this change. On one hand I think it’s wonderful that oppressed peoples are able to take their lives into their own hands, immobilize and change their government with relatively little bloodshed. On the other hand it breaks my heart to see Starbucks and McDonalds popping up on Afghan streets and putting local tradesmen out of business. I have to stop and wonder exactly who is this change good for?

Perhaps that barista in Kabul will sell my new Shamizen solo cd from his Starbucks counter?

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