4:13 pm Jun. 8, 2011
There are days, even weeks, when you will hate the internet. Your inbox will be overflowing. Twitter will be a garbage dump. Google will fail you. You’ll reach your nytimes.com article limit. Let’s not even talk about Facebook.
And for those of us who have jobs on the internet, and can’t throw our laptops into the East River or hole up in a mountain cabin, I recommend that, on those days and weeks, you watch this video. Restore your faith, not so much in the internet—this strange platform that we’re all on that didn’t exist four decades ago—but people connected through the internet.
Yesterday, Jim Gilliam, a new media activist and movie producer with Robert Greenwald, spoke at the Personal Democracy Forum, a conference about how technology is changing politics and activism. He delivered one of the most moving, inspiring speeches I have ever seen, not just about the internet but about life, people and ideas. He received two standing ovations during the talk, from nearly 900 of the attendees, which included tech wonks, coders, web activists and White House staffers. You should watch it. Watch the whole thing.
Gilliam recounts a story about struggling with cancer, being denied surgeries by U.C.L.A. doctors, and eventually having his activist friends and family members come to his rescue, on the internet.
I won’t quote much from his talk, which is titled, “The internet is my religion" (really, take the time to hear the story from the man himself, you won’t regret it).
But I will type out part of his thesis statement, which has stayed with me: “We all owe every moment of our lives to countless people we will never meet,” he said, whether they're soldiers who fight to keep you safe or doctors who find cures that save our lives. “We are all connected. We are all in debt to each other. The internet gives us the opportunity to repay a small part of that debt.”
Gilliam said that has a child he was raised very religiously; he was a believer in Creationism.
“What the people in this room do is spiritual, it is profound,” Gilliam said. “We are the leaders of this new religion, we have faith that people connected can create a new world. Each one of us is a creator. But together, we are the Creator.”
Beyond the bits and the noise and the blinking I.M. boxes and this glowing screen, are people. Some of them are self-promoting jerks or skeezy businessmen or politicians trying to show off their pecs to young women. And then, Gilliam reminds us, there is everyone else, a click away, who care; who want change; who want to help you and learn from you and share with you.
More by this author:
- At the Tribeca Film Festival: Filmmaker Mira Nair on our 'world of misunderstanding'
- The Brooklyn Islanders: what's left to lose?