The popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt over the past month have made clear that we can all feel close to events far away. Technology has allowed us to almost be in the midst of any event where someone has at least a mobile phone. It was fascinating to read that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, rather than get real-time commentary from one of the organization’s paid reporters, last night asked that people just hear the sounds of what was going on in Cairo as Egyptians celebrated the departure of President Mubarak. Our involvement in such far-off events can be as constant as someone is prepared to feed us a stream of videos or textual messages. But, that is not the same as being part of the events, and really there driving them along. We can stop for popcorn and drinks, and take bathroom breaks, or go to work and put children to bed, and then come back and see where things have reached. Maybe, we can tape the events and replay them at our convenience, fast-forwarding through the duller moments.
This constant contact has developed a huge audience for ‘momentous’ world events that appear to have large political, economic, or environmental consequences. It stretched to human interest events, such as the men trapped in a Chilean mine. But, it does not appear that our interest in such streams of information are even. Would the interest be there if someone were streaming videos and texts from a refugee camp in Darfur or a squalid urban shanty town in any of too many poverty-stricken locations around the world? The question is worth pondering if the answer reflects our willingness to deal with some issues rather than others, and to want to associate with the ‘feel good’ elements and not the ‘feel bad’ ones.
If we think that getting the constant visual, sound and text feed that modern technology offers helps us understand better some of the real motivation that is shaping events, then surely we should push for this more in all areas where human distress exists.