Vice and Virtue in the Virtual

There are times when you must extol the virtues of the Internet. It can be a Pandora’s Box upon which politicians and the unseen mulitnational forces that conspiracy theorists believe run the world’s affairs, would like to sit. At other times it can be a Medusa’s Head of writhing snakes, whose tongues flicker at the innocent user, invariably making him or her an unwilling prey.

The dramatic tension is increased because monitors and key boards have become prostheses, biotechnically grafted on to our persons. We suffer viruses, freezing, unhealthy intakes of spam, Altzheimic lacunae, senior moments and the like. If everything slows down to the pace of a zimmer frame, we invoke the second law of thermodynamics because we are reminded of our own mortality.

I was sent, the other day, one of those execrable pyramid diatribes about how white people in America were suffering because the US legislature had passed laws over the years which gave minorities rights, thus demeaning the supremacists’ sense of the order of things. It is bad enough when such communication comes unannounced and anonymous past the filters but this was personal. Someone from my past, from school days in fact, had included me in their roll of honour. Maybe it was an assumption of ties forged by going to Blaydon Grammar School, as though all who had survived that piecemeal, lethargic, educational process, like the children of Jesuits, must have been conditioned to see the world through the eyeholes of a peaked white hood. The person who had forwarded this email of racist rancour had seemingly succumbed to its post-script stating that only 5% of those receiving it would be brave enough to send it on. I dealt with it as well as I was able, feeling that my role in the affair was to attack the virulence and let everyone on the aforesaid roll know how despicable I felt it all to be.

But, of course it is a lesson.

Something significant that the Internet is beginning to do which seems, so far, to have escaped the theorists and the pundits, is make us all players in the way we manage human affairs. We may no longer be able to repeat those dishonourable crimes of the past and claim to have no knowledge of holocausts or genocides. Today, there can be no excuse. You are in the thick of events and you can contribute to them, one way or another. No newspaper editor can block your letter of protest. No TV producer can discount your wish to repudiate a character assassination or perceived slight to your ideals. Everything that is known to be happening in the world is there at the end of a Google click. There is no excuse now just to allow things to escalate, to wash over you like a tide of sewage.

In the old days, the Christians among us would talk of bumping into Peter at the Pearly Gates and having our sins weighed against our virtuous acts but, even for Christians, there must be a realisation that God has gone techno. The meeting with Peter will have him a PDA button away from a spreadsheet which will give the statistics of how much you contributed to the fight for good over evil in your Internet behaviour. No doubt the same scenario holds for the followers of every one of Earth’s religions. And for agnostics like myself.

So, if you’ve never done it, try it. Take part. Save your soul or validate your sense of justice. Send an email supporting something you truly believe in, or attacking something you find unpalatable. Otherwise, those with extremist agendas will increasingly corrode and corrupt our social life.

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