In the beginning was the Word — the Bible, the Quran . . . then Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the cathedral door. Early fighters for a better world used the printing press to spread their righteous fervor in letters, books, manifestoes . . . in Russia underground samizdat played a critical and seditious role . . . . in the sixties, the Xerox machine was an essential democratizing tool . . . then a bit later come fax machines . . . videos . . . documentaries . . . in the eighties and nineties Adbusters became infamous for its thirty-second TV mindbombs . . . then come emails, listservs, visual memes . . .
each new technology a wave rolling in upon the last — the very definition of sea change — each provoking a transformation in human communication and consciousness. Look down — today the most revolutionary tool ever invented rests in the palm of your hand — hallelujah! — and we’re in the very earliest stages of learning how to use it.
The smartphone is the platform for a new kind of organizing principle. Never before has it been possible to get a million people around the world together in a matter of hours. And within a year? Ten million, easily, coordinating through sites like abillionpeople.org . . . poking our noses into every policy debate, monitoring every election, having a decisive impact . . .
most importantly, punishing the wicked. When a corporation misbehaves, we will launch massive boycotts to force the bad actors to their knees . . . and we can go even further. . . demanding a worldwide Robin Hood tax, banning flash trading and derivatives, and outlawing tax havens.
A bit later, when our global ranks have swelled to a hundred million, we will, with unified voice, tell world leaders that, from this day forward, they may no longer wage war without first securing the permission of we the people through a referendum.
How do we want democracy in the 21st century to look? Something like this: a dynamic, visceral, never-ending feedback loop between entrenched power structures and the streets. The broadsword of accountability, firmly in the grasp of a people unafraid to use it. Every government department, every venal president and prime minister, and the broader political establishment, right down to the think tanks, media pundits and CEOs — forced, daily, to observe and to yield to the galvanized will of the people.