Random Thoughts

Technology’s Impact on Protests/Change

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As it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many around the world are reflecting on this great man’s accolades and achievements. Through MLK’s advancements in civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, he carried out his dream of equality for all. As I genuinely admire MLK and have discussed his career in many of my college papers, such as The Fight for Racial, Gender, and Religious Rights, I have always had one reoccurring vision, imagining what he could have done with the power of technology.

Technology and the lack thereof, have always been an essential aspect of debates, protests, and spreading one’s message to the masses. The printing press was the original technological marvel of the spread of ideas, giving us the power of mass publication. With the introduction of television, broadcasters had the role of providing the world’s population with the news of today. Vietnam, the first televised war, shed light into the darker side of human nature, forever changing the views (and consequences) of military action. With the power of music, performers could share their thoughts on current trends and speak their mind about the problems of the world. In 2009, CCTV (created in the 1940’s), was used to provide the world with footage of the London protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. In 2011, Sukey, an app invented by London students, was utilized to warn others about the protests against the conflicts in the Middle East. Recently, we have seen how the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Me Too’ movements have taken shape and have had fuel added to their fire through the power of social media. Throughout modern history, the rise of technology has paved the way for the information superhighway to connect the planet’s greatest minds in the goal of creating a better tomorrow.

With the always evolving methods of communication, never before have we had such a seamlessly-connected and shared collective mind. The internet allows those without a voice, to be heard; it enables those without power, to have the same impact as those with it. The world’s issues and rising problems are now seen, waiting to be solved. While there are many negative aspects of tech, technology at its core, is the greatest achievement of humankind. Martin Luther King Jr. influenced the masses, not with violence, but with peace; this nonviolent activism derived from inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, showed us all the true nature of the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

I believe, we as species, often forget the teachings of MLK. With social media, your words can create rising tides of change, rippling throughout history. Violent protests only create attention to an issue and have little to no effect on the root of the problem. I believe MLK would have been fascinated with the power of the hashtag, such as #MeToo. The ‘Me Too’ movement spread like wildfire, carried bravely by women all around the world, much like the running of the Olympic torch. With only a hashtag and five letters, the ‘Me Too’ movement uncovered a disturbing amount of sexual harassment and sexual assault around the planet; not only did this movement reveal the often-hidden wounds of women, but it also offered real change to holding the men involved accountable for their actions. I think we are all familiar with the cases against Harvey Weinstein, and now many similar cases are finally being brought out of the shadows for the world to see (and hopefully end).

For this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it is vital to remember how one man made a difference, using the power of words and not violence; through his spectacularly well-articulated speeches, MLK saw society’s downfalls and the oppression of his people, thus leading him to (peacefully) fight for what he believed in. Technology has the power to spread any kind of message, whether it is love or hate; however, if used correctly, technology can usher in a new generation of free thinkers, believers, and those who desire to help heal our damaged world.

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