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The Power of Us

This may sound silly, but we have seen it happen frequently that while helping a female friend, if a male friend refers to her as his wife and speaks for her, a difficult situation can often be turned around to her advantage. The same happens if we are in some way aligned with an organisation or group. The person we are trying to deal with relates to us quite differently than if we are a single person without affiliations.

Of course, some affiliations will put you at odds with the person or group you are dealing with, so this ‘power of us’ has to be used wisely. Maybe things would be better if they were not like that, but at the moment that is how things are. However, things are changing.

Collective power has always existed, but modern technology and greater personal awareness brings different forces into play. An article in Business Week explains this. Employees at Meiosys Incorporated, a software firm operating in California, started using the internet calling system Skype instead of the usual landline phone. The firm’s regular monthly $2000 long distance telephone bill instantly disappeared.

Fine, but not for big and often greedy corporations who have been overcharging for services for generations. In 2006 British Telecom hit 6 billion pounds profit. ($11 billion). And what Skype are dong to the world of communications, other innovations are doing to many of the things that are part of our daily life.

Business Week says of this, “Open-source software, blogs, song-sharing networks, free Internet telephony – they’re each disrupting multibillion-dollar industries and reshaping the landscape of business, politics, and culture. What’s the common thread behind them all? Us. All these new technologies — spawned by nearly ubiquitous cheap computers and Net connections — not only give individuals more power to get their own way but also allow people to join ad-hoc, mass global groups for the first time in human history.”

An interesting example of this was born in July 2004. Adverts for Halo 2 computer game appeared on cinema screens across the US. As the ad was running an internet address was briefly shown – ilovebees.com. When people logged on to the site it appeared to belong to a female beekeeper who had mysteriously disappeared. Instead of the usual honey recipes there were what seemed to be a random set of numbers. What developed was that 600,000 people got together, linked by online communication and websites, to solve the mystery. The numbers turned out to be 210 global positioning coordinates of telephone kiosks around the US. It was a game to test the resources of the players.

The Observer newspaper [i], commenting on this said that if a games design team could unite thousands of people to find the code hidden in a set of numbers, couldn’t similar online collective action work at dealing with global warming, help communities stay safe, muster support for the elderly, disaster victims, as well as the many other creative activities we can do better with the power of us?

Political activists are already using the Internet and mobile/cell phones to organise ‘flash mobs’. [ii] A new world order is emerging where power is not simply in the hands of the government and large corporations. China is moving toward becoming the largest Internet user in the world. Already they have 54,000 cyber police watching where the power of the people will flow.

The world is changing under this influence. Some of the most obvious examples are in the way Wikipedia works. Created by world wide individual action in 250 languages, it is now the largest and most up to date encyclopedia in the world. It is not perfect, but it is open to anyone without cost. Open source software such as Linux and many other free software programs, are changing the way business is done and genius flows into public use. Linux, if it had been done commercially rather than by voluntary action by uncounted people, would have cost $8 billion. The Japanese site Elephant Design allows consumers to advise companies how to make better products. It now claims that six out of 10 of a leading Japanese retailer’s top-selling products have been developed through the site.

In the UK the online School of Everything now gives teachers a chance to teach any subject to students for free. Also in the UK skool.com gives online education to children who for one reason or another do not fit into the usual school system of teaching. And MIT the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offer free courses anywhere in the world. The Open University offers free education in its very wide range of courses – again anywhere in the world.[iii] Free-ed.net allows the same thing, and you work at your own pace in your own way. Free education! An earthquake of change is happening, and you are part of it, either passively or actively.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, a bill has been presented in the UK Government’s draft legislation programme for 2008 that will give the Government total power to snoop on all electronic communications. Richard Thomas warned the database would be “a step too far for the British way of life”. He said: “Do we really want the police, security services and other organs of the state to have access to more and more aspects of our private lives?”

The US already have this ability, not only in America, but as an outreach elsewhere.

There are problems each of us face in being a power in the world. Whatever it is we aim for, whatever we want to create in the way of a better society and personal life, there are people who want the direct opposite. This creates a stalemate. But if you have a way of life that has brought you health and peace, then just living it is a force in the world.

We often hear people bemoaning that they haven’t achieved anything; that they have done nothing to alleviate the troubles of the world. This arises from a mistaken view of who we are and how we interact with each other.

Phyllis Atwater, describing a near death experience in which she relived her whole life says, “For me it was a total reliving of every thought I had ever thought, every word I had ever spoken, and every deed I had ever done; plus the effect of each thought, word and deed on everyone and anyone who had ever come within my environment or sphere of influence, whether I knew them or not – including unknown passers-by on the street.”

When this was first read it seemed inspirational but implausible that we interact with passers by. Gradually though it was easy to observe. Whether we are conscious of it or not, every house we pass by leaves an impression on us. The house is an expression of the person who lives in it. How many houses have you passed that have a yard full of rubbish and motor parts or other junk? How many houses have a colourful window box or garden. What are each of those people sharing with you?

Make the experiment. Walk along a road hunched over and not meeting anyone’s eyes. Then walk upright and with a smile, noticing the difference. Notice also how many people actually acknowledge you, even with a glance, and what is etched on their faces. What is it they are radiating into your world? What are you radiating into theirs?

If you can imagine a whole town radiant with colourful gardens, clean and orderly yards, and with people meeting your eye and acknowledging you exist, wouldn’t that be a different experience than what you usually meet?

We each make up the world, and the world is not made up of leaders. We are not all actors on the stage. Some of us are stage designers, movers of props, cleaners and supporters. Without ‘us’ the actors couldn’t perform. More goes on backstage than occurs on stage. Things only happen through cooperation and the intricate web of support.

Your body is an excellent example of this. Supposing all the blood cells suddenly felt suicidal because they were not in the forefront of what goes on in your life; because they were not famous or in the limelight. That would be a mess. But when we each live our best the whole world is transformed. And that is just single person power. When we add our energy to others, wonderful things can happen.


[i] The Observer, Sunday March 9 2008.

[ii] A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.

[iii] http://www.open.ac.uk/openlearn/home.php

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