Gorrindo- ESSAYS

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  • PASSWORD: Access to the Psyche

    John Michael Gorrindo

    Password: INSTANT ACCESS to the PSYCHE

    In an age where more voices can be heard above the din than ever before, the sheer magnitude of contending free speech can suggest an ambitus of communication values from that of a cacophonous Tower of Babel on one extreme to another where a neatly spaced array of polyphonic voices which flow inexorably in point-counterpoint on the other; each line occupying a discernable range of its own.  It depends on one’s vantage point, ability to juggle multiple-sources of information, and if one is not a human antennae- quality of internet access.

    The internet has fostered some startling new ways of raising one’s voice. But this is already old news.  Even the blog is casually thought of as having been around for ages.  But is hasn’t.  It may be old news, but its advent is very recent.  And so is the internet’s.

    The blog has given rise to voices whose internet access gives instant forum.  In their broadest sense, blogs reflect human interest in its broadest sense and the need to commune with kindred spirits.  When blogs first broke on the scene, the general press gravitated towards covering those who offer opinions and hold enough sway as to influence the course of politics.  But statistically, most bloggers are not interested in using the medium to change the world through politics. 

    In fact, most blogs could care less about changing or saving the world. No- most blogs are simple expressions of people’s personal interests.  The fascinating aspect of blogs is that the anonymity they provide allows people the safety to reach out for a like-minded community without fear of blowing one’s cover. 

    It’s a little like standing up in Yankee stadium’s center field bleachers and calling out what’s on your mind and in your heart without the supreme embarrassment of thirty thousand faces turning your way in abject annoyance.

    Blogging is a dynamic, new social phenomenon.  What people will express not only in writing but in the safety of electronic anonymity is anybody’s guess.  This offers the world’s first chance to be witness to the unfettered raw tumble of the human psyche.

    Now we can say that just maybe we really know what happens to be on people’s minds. Bloggers can come together under the guise of any interest- dog owners, expatriates, radio-controlled airplane enthusiasts, amateur French cooks, sex addicts, or those who simply want to profile their everyday lives.  It doesn’t matter the subject.  If there’s the interest, it only takes one person to establish a forum where everyone can join in for better or for worse.

    Is it really all that wonderful?  Like any other human expression, its value will come down to individual opinion.

    Obsession is part of the blogging psychology. Between the lines one reads the blogger’s overriding need to reach out and be heard. Have the misbegotten, overlooked and socially isolated finally been given their tool for ultimate communication?  It sure feels that way. But there are as many motivations to blog as there are blogs.  If anything, blogs mirror the vast complexity of human desires and cannot be buttoned-down in service, function, or definition. 

    What of blogs social redeeming qualities?  Is that a rubric that should even apply?  There are plenty of blogs that are self-serving, and even predatory.  But many more are occasioned by contributors who actually are interested in helping out their fellow man- not just solicit or flame them. 

    Whether for ill, nil, or in all good will, blogging has helped put the preoccupations of the human psyche on full display.  All over the planet the great watersheds filled with deep, dark waters hitherto held back by the constraints of those with the power to publish have now punctured holes in the great cement dams and rushed through unabated.

    Since the days of Guttenberg the history of written communication has been controlled by those so positioned to select what they see fit to print.  Newspaper editors, book publishers, the church and the government- these have been some of only a handful of arbiters who decide what shall or shall not be put into print and distributed to readership.  The more intrepid souls who published on their own- like the pamphleteers- are notable exceptions, and have historically suffered reprisals as often their town cryings espoused revolt against the authorities.  There was a huge price to be paid for publishing on one’s own.

    Things have drastically changed. Like Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods of Olympus and gave it to mankind, the internet has stolen away the coveted power of heat and light from the arbiters of printed knowledge and given it away to everyone- everyone who has access to a computer that is.

    The amazing fact is that the metaphor stops there.  Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where an eagle gnawed at his liver until rescued by Hercules. 

    However watered-down this modern day adaptation of a Greek myth, the truth is that in this case and in most of the world- Prometheus got off Scott-free.  Imagine a page in the history of free speech that does not involve a dramatic confrontation.  A new myth seems to be in the making. 

    But nothing is for free in this world.  It must be agreed that each and every national government of the world retains the right to filter or censor websites, and almost all do censor at least a few.  There is always the possibility of the flow being turned off.   That cannot be denied. 

    Yes, in each country, government authorities have their hand on the spigot.  As of this writing there exists little or nominal internet censorship in approximately 90% of the world’s nations.  Internet Censorship Explorer- an internet watchdog group- cites China, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Vietnam, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan as pervasive filterers of internet sites.  There may well be others.  North Korea comes to mind.

    Otherwise, there is to date little drama to the story-  just a lot of water flowing through a gaping hole in the dam flowing through channels of fiber optics or transduced into radio transmissions and bounced off of satellites world-wide.

    And so we are flooded by these waters.  Voices streaming and tumbling over each other without cease.  We now hear more than just advertisers telling us what to buy or the drone of the mavens of government and the establishment press telling us what’s important to know and what we should think. The multitudes that make up humanity are now excitedly telling the world what makes them laugh and cry; what is their joy and sorrow; what gets them out of bed in the morning.

    Both literature and journalism are being swept along in the flood.  The collective force of this unleashed tidal wave has given birth to a new age of communication.  Its tidal force will be sure to change the established world of print media.  Numbers count and the demographics are growing. And that is just for starters.

    Sure, there is plenty of misinformation, disinformation, and the like.  But that is par for the course.  Everyone has to thresh out information for themselves.  That’s just life. Self-promotion, misleading come-ons, and outright lying is the nature of human interaction.  Read some Mark Twain if you aren’t convinced!

    Ultimately, many look for the devil in this internet bargain, as it all appears too good to be true. One often hears the bemoaning fear and alarm that warns government control or commercialization of the internet will be its death. 

    At this juncture, that doesn’t appear to be the trend.  True, more and more advertisers are underwriting the internet.  And true, the content of many websites is proprietary. But the advertising dollar spent on one website helps indirectly support every other website. Websites are virtually free if not extraordinarily inexpensive.  Internet space is virtually boundless.  Outside of buying and selling domain names, one can’t speculate on the internet landscape, because it does not materially exist.  It’s a better deal than forty acres and a mule. The only limitation is bandwidth, and there seems to be no end of that in sight.

    The internet has had the temerity to co-opt capitalism’s self-justification that declares profit to be more than a zero sum phenomenon- but with an ironic twist.  One man’s profit will inevitably lead to another man’s profit says the true capitalist.  But the greedy capitalist feels reassured that there will still be a select few who will control the profit machine from on high, and it will be they who benefit the most. One man’s profiting in cyber space inevitably leads to another’s profit as well.   But there is no vertical, top-down control in the internet environment.

    The capitalist version is one of the Pharaoh and his pyramids.  That image does not presently apply to cyberspace. The internet’s functioning doesn’t subscribe to such hierarchical values. It exists in a universe which follows a different set of physical laws.   Virtual space adheres to laws found in the intergalactic universe.  Like a black hole that disarms every attempt of external control, it feeds off the force of will brought to bear against it.  It takes on all comers, subsuming them in the process. It is a force of nature in the league of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or tsunamis.  Its characteristic nature is to defy outside control.


    There is a simple secret here that brings it all back to earth.  Everyone’s interests are catered to by the internet.  Therein lays immense satisfaction that is equal opportunity.  Everyone is getting their jollies out of it.  It’s win-win all the way around.  The people making money off the internet are experiencing grow returns on their investment.  And everyone else is busy expressing themselves freely, and it doesn’t get in the money-makers’ way.  Even most politicians aren’t bothered by stinging criticism because most of it doesn’t get read.  It doesn’t seem to get in their way either.

    In so doing, it is everyone’s to use and abuse- but it can’t be taken away from someone like the bank foreclosing on a person’s car or home.

    So the door has been opened to the citizens of the world to say what they will to anyone who might be listening.  Limitations to this form of free speech is diminishing exponentially every day.  Is it good that everyone with access to a computer and a modem can now be heard?  Does it make for a better world?  The answer to the first question is at best yes, and at worse, it doesn’t matter.  As for the answer to the second, I think the jury is out.

    But these two questions may be superfluous.  A more incisive and prescient question would be: There may be virtual limitlessness in communication now, but what if you are a have not and don’t have computer access?

    Certainly the downtrodden of Darfor don’t have the internet.  Imagine if they did.

    Actually, a joyous report is too good to be true.  Not everyone has internet access- not in Darfor; not in Mogadishu, not in Lagos.  Not in the ghettos of New York City, either. And specifically for the world’s truly dispossessed- for those who don’t have enough to eat- well, they almost certainly live where there is no access. Would access help feed them?  Maybe by proxy.  A NGO’s plea for contributions will help to raise funds to feed them.  Indirectly, even the downtrodden sometimes benefit.

    But that is stretching the point. There exists a digital divide- just as there is gross disparity in the distribution of the world’s wealth; just as worldwide there is unequal access.  The digital divide is part and parcel of the world’s inequities.

    For the internet haves, the thought of having no ready access has become unthinkable.  Try and imagine it.  It feels like being left out in the cold.  No convenient, instant access to email and bank accounts.  No ability to research information from one’s finger tips.  The internet has become a basic human need- almost a human right.

    Human rights are considered basic.  Modern civilization has made internet access a basic need like that of water, food, shelter, and electricity, freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.  Human psychology has absorbed and elevated it to such an important status.

    Such an embrace is rather frightening. Need used to be simply based on physical necessities.  Now they are more rooted in desires. The more we have, the more we desire.  The more we have, the more we feel it to be necessary.  And the more we have, the more we have to lose. We redefine our lives accordingly. The psychology of internet access serves that dynamic. It is a dynamic fueled in past by fear. The change in us becomes automatic and feels irrevocable.  There is this uncanny sense of the before and after. Our need for access becomes a permanent part of our human drive that has instant access to our modus operandi.

    But human civilization seems to thrive on such things.  Individuals simply become swept up in the process.

    One of the best ways of testing one’s internet need quotient is to go without.  What would it take? Maybe traveling in far flung places can provide that situation.  Or at least imagine it. Walk the streets of a third world village where internet access doesn’t exist let alone twenty four hour a day access to electricity.  Extend it a bit further.  Imagine there is no access to a phone as well. What you see is what you get.  What is real is completely local. What you behold directly in front of you is reality.

    Suddenly, without connection to the greater world, the human psyche is forced into a mode of deconstruction.  The layers peel back. One hears the internal dialog loud and clear.  Maybe things aren’t that clear- but there’s no doubt lack of distraction draws back the veils.  Faced with one’s core condition, the underpinnings of self are exposed in the raw.  Access is now direct to the psyche.

    Can it be withstood?

    It’s time to stop.  Let’s deconstruct this article. What is the more valuable- access to the voices of the world or access to one’s inner voice?  Can both exist simultaneously?  Are they mutually inclusive or exclusive?

    I will bow out and say the answers to these and related questions are phenomenological.  The answers lie within each individual. An experiment can be applied, though.  Try a fast.  Deny yourself access to internet. Turn off the cell phone for that matter. See what happens.  Now instant access is to the core of self. 

    If the fast is continued for an extended period of time, there will be some profound and often disquieting discoveries.  There is a good reason to fast.  Food fasting is basic to the Muslim religion for instance.  One reason for the fasting that takes places during Ramadan is to put the individual in touch with the conditions of the less-fortunate who are often forced to go to bed hungry.  It makes one grateful for what one has.

    When we deny ourselves, we just might find ourselves out.  As the glass onion peels away the fundamentals appear. 

    The need to reach out and communicate.  The need for free speech.  The need to have equal and instant access to the greater world of goods and services as would your neighbor.  Are these the all-consuming objects of life? 

    They have become so.  But much of fundamental truth and value of what is perennially human is left buried in the din of streamed voices and endless trail of web pages we file through with lightening speed.  The suggested experiment of an internet fast should be on everyone’s yearly calendar, just like Ramadan.



      * NOTE- As of 31 March 2007, the Internet Censorship Explorer cites:


    China, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Vietnam, Tunisia, Uzbekistan


    Saudi Arabia, Yemen


    France, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, India (amongst others)