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Saying No, Saying Yes
Coen van Wyk

Sep 22, 2023

Shutdown. Strike. Refusal. The news is replete with examples of people exercising the power of saying no, but one aspect of the post-pandemic society is the power of saying yes.

The pre-milennials may well remember the crisis caused by the introduction of those dastardly, newfangled things called cell phones. The very idea! All of a sudden the order of the universe was upset. No longer was a client channeled, as nature wanted, through the switchboard to the correct office. No, someone could leak the number of the CEO and the next moment, all hell broke loose. 

Martin Luther is symbolic of the wave that swept Europe at the time of the Black Death, because he and others captured the power of the Gutenberg press and could spread their ideas beyond the power of the Catholic Church and the established political system to control it. The result was the Renaissance. Wars and destruction followed, drastic lowering of the lifespan of average Europeans, but in time it brought in new ideas, then unknown growth, wealth generation and welfare. The ringing in of modern democracy and modern economics. 

We stand again at the moment where new technology is again upsetting established order and interests. In some sciences, the basic principles are being challenged by new discoveries that affect the basics of the universe as we know it, or thought we knew it. Technology allows ideas to flow, not in orderly fashion past trusted gatekeepers who decided what we may hear, but through an increasing number of channels and media. Not only those who misunderstand and wish to demonstrate their ignorance, but also deliberate targeted propaganda assail us daily. 

Pre-reformation communication was clear: all publication was regulated through the Catholic Church who controlled the majority of people who could read and write. The interests served were those of the aristocracy that did not oppose the Church. The Gutenberg press disturbed this comfortable arrangement and the result was mayhem and disorder. From the ashes rose modern democracy, economics and communication systems. 

Social media exposes us, without proper preparation, to communication from a myriad sources, with no clear way of determining the identity, the intent of the communicator or the veracity or the effect of the message. No newspaper editor, publisher or priest guards the right to publish. I, and many others, publish privately with no controls except for the acceptance by the market. Accusations, slander and misinformed claims are slung across various social media channels with nary a protest or a lawyer's letter. 

Where the power lay with those who could say 'no' to communication and decisions, now the power is with those who can say 'yes' to proposals, ideas and technology.

There is no closing the Pandora's box of communication. But remember the legend: after Pandora had released all the imprisoned devils, there was left only one spirit—hope. 

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