It’s a lazy Saturday morning in my childhood city, somewhere in the middle of Romania, close to the mountains. I’m just a teenager, going to meet my buddies for our regular soccer game at the end of the week. As I prepare to cross the street, I suddenly spot Emil, coming from my left, and I gently let him pass.
Emil is a 20-ish year old guy, always dressed the same, in a blue overall, strangely matching the colors of his starry eyes. I never saw him without his windshields, one in each arm. He keeps them firmly, straight in front of his face, slowly balancing them left and right, as he quickly advances on the right lane of the street. When he’s close to us, he courteously honks, by making a strange noise with his mouth half opened. Like I said, I let him pass, knowing that it’s just Emil. He keeps walking away from us, very fast, because behind him there are some real cars, and he doesn’t want to be bumped, you know.
In the town where I grew up, Emil, a very skilled wood worker, was identifying himself with a car. He was walking always on the car lane, never on the sidewalk, and he was always keeping his windshields firmly, straight in front of his face. Pretty much everybody in my home town knew him, and they knew him because of this thing, and they somehow made peace with it. Some of them were obviously mocking him badly. Others, like some of the kids in my group, were riding along with him for a while, imitating the sound of a car engine, impersonating different car makes. “I’m a Dacia, I’m faster than you, you poor Trabant”, they were sometimes screaming, leveling up to his game for a few meters, and then gently walking away, minding their own business. Other than this strange approach to life, Emil was harmless. And nobody really took him seriously.
A few years later, I left my home town to go to college in Bucharest, the capital. I lived for about 5 years in a student compound, known as Grozavesti. It was like a mini-neighborhood, with 5-6 big dorm buildings and a even a few terraces. One of the most common presence at these terraces was a lady that would be today described as “homeless”. We were calling her Madame Pogany. Her teeth left her mouth long ago, her hair was always tangled and unctuous, she was wearing a long, dirty trench, and she was always scooping for half smoked cigarettes and unfinished cups of coffee. When she was founding both, she was just relaxing in the chair, gently putting one leg on top of the other, in a move made famous years later by Sharon Stone, and started to stare into the horizon, waiting for an elusive chevalier to save her from a miserable life. That’s why we were calling her Madame Pogany, but we never really knew with who, or as what, she was identifying herself. But we knew she was living in a very different world from the one that she was actually living in. Just like Emil, she was minding her own business, and apart a few random people mocking her, nobody really took her seriously.
Fast Forward 20 Years
20 years after the events described above, something changed in the fabric of the world we live in. Something deep, fundamental, and affecting us irreversibly. In fancy words, I would say that the way we create and distribute information shifted dramatically, democratizing access and eliminating space and time constraints.
In simpler words, I would just call this “the Internet”.
There is a new order in the world, although not necessarily one created and maintained by the elites. On the contrary. It’s an order in each every one has a saying about everything. Everybody can state their opinion on everything and this opinion is broadcasted instantly, virtually all over the planet. If someone farts right now on the other side of the Earth, not only would I know that instantly – should the person who farted would share the event, that is – but I would also know how many of my social friends agree with the fart, how many hate the fart, and, probably, how many identifies themselves as farts too. 20 years ago, I wouldn’t know if Emil was driving on a nearby street, if he wasn’t honking.
You see, 20 years ago I wouldn’t know of every Emil in every city, or of every Madame Pogany in every student compound. I would know only of those who came under my radar. But, obviously, there were countless Emil and Madame Pogany in other corners of the world. What made me unaware of their presence was a simple thing called “priorities”. For me, and for all the people living back then, there were certain priorities: we strived to generate predictability by learning and testing various approaches to life, we strived to maintain a certain level of physical and mental health, we strived to form and maintain healthy social relationships. We didn’t always succeed, but we strived for that. We didn’t make it a priority to ride along with the Emils of our times on the streets, cracking jokes and fooling around, we did that only once in a while, as a pause, as a joke, as a pastime. We didn’t scoop for half-smoked cigarettes and unfinished cups of coffee all day long. Well, I do remember a couple of ferocious hangovers in which I actually did this, but that’s my point, there were just a couple of instances, for the rest of the time I behaved in a very different way.
The Internet rebooted the world, so that every one counts just as much as the other one. Truth, as uncomfortable as it may be, is that, in different contexts, we count differently. Each life is equal with another life, no question about that. But when it comes to driving a car, I don’t know about you, but I would drive a real one, not Emil’s “car”, by running along him on the streets, trying to get cover under his windshields, if it rains. If I would want a relationship, I wouldn’t pursue it by scooping for half-smoked cigarettes and… you get my point, right?
Sometimes, somewhere, in this process of democratization of access to information, we extended equality way beyond its actual limits. We may all be equally entitled to enjoy life, by believing we are a car, if that makes us happy, but the skills of making a car, of driving a car, of repairing a real car, all these are very, very different things. We can’t just run on a street with windshields firmly grasped in front of our face, pretending not only that we are a car, but to be treated like we are a car, just because we have this opinion about ourselves.
Facts and opinions are very different.
The “big reset” arduously preached (and feared) by the conspiracy theorists is already happening. Humanity have been brought to its lowest common denominator. We made sure that every opinion is taken into account, but, if you study history, you’ll learn that we didn’t evolve because we followed each and every one’s opinion, but because we followed informed, educated, balanced and visionary people. We evolved because we accumulated knowledge and tested it times and again. We evolved because we followed leaders and forward thinkers.