“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedome to make mistakes.”– Mahatma Gandhi
The advent of the printing press in 1439 created tremendous social/cultural and economic changes. By the early 1500s, every major city in Europe had at least one printer’s workshop, this new business created an economic imperative to create and distribute content as rapidly and broadly as possible. Printer’s workshops, like all capitalist enterprises, were looking to grow and expand their businesses. Over time, the cost of publishing information became dramatically less expensive.
Prior to the printing press, only wealthy, large organizations like the State or the Church could afford to publish and therefore the variety of information was limited. When the expense of publishing was high, it also meant the cost of publishing dissenting opinions and perspectives was also very high. A consensus opinion was almost a foregone conclusion across communities, markets, and social and scientific domains. Not to mention the fact that literacy in the Middle Ages was relatively limited.
With a printing press in every city and a profit motive, the obvious market for this new technology is the dissemination of ideas and information on behalf of scholarly, religious, political, and scientific endeavors. What was once a relatively stable cultural agreement about the “truth” or “the facts” was turned upside down because differing and dissenting opinions were comparatively cheap and easy to publish. Within those domains, there were wide-ranging ideas and conflicting positions, beliefs, and perspectives… all very normal during human socioeconomic development. Over the next hundred years or so, there were radical changes in major institutional and societal constructs. The most cited example of this was the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther in 1517. However, there was also an explosion of information, knowledge, perspective, and invention that drove the Renaissance period and ultimately led us to today.
However; I imagine that if I were living in the late 1500s, I might think that everything was falling apart. Many of the societal structures, truths, and social contracts, that I had come to depend on were being broken and rewritten. While the pace of life might have been slower then, the relative scope and impact of the change would have felt rapid and out of control.
It probably feels a lot like today.
Our political, social, economic, spiritual, and cultural perspectives have fractured once again. However, instead of happening over the course of a couple of hundred years, or a better way to think about it is over several generations, it’s happened over the last couple of decades. Being one of the older members of the Tahzoo tribe, I remember when mobile phones came out, the internet was invented, and social media came to life. Wow, we are going through a lot of change right now. I am sure this is causing stress and concern for everyone, uncertainty about the future is unnerving for all of us.
In light of this, I want to make a couple of points for each of you to consider and I’ll grab a slot during one of our all-hands so we can talk about these ideas.
The Middle Ages, often called the Dark Ages, gave way to the renaissance because of information technology. Humanity has progressed in so many ways … less war, less crime, longer life spans, less poverty, and a better quality of life. Steven Pinker wrote a book titled The Better Angels of Our Nature, which I think does a great job of outlining our achievements from a historical perspective. I would encourage all of you to read his book and if you’d like a copy let me know.
Despite what you read in the news or on social media, our world is getting better- not worse. Have we done enough yet? No, and I do not mean to say in any way that we are even close to creating a perfect world, and I also agree that there are big problems to be solved, climate change, and equal rights are good examples; however, I am saying that we are making great progress. I am encouraging you not to buy into the narrative that our country is falling apart, that the end is near, and that the United States of America should give up on democracy.
Do we have a long way to go to ensure that everyone has freedom? Yes, we do. Our founding fathers summed it up brilliantly, in the opening of the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That is our North Star. We need to keep striving to achieve this noble ideal, however difficult and for as long as it takes. This brings me to my next point.
If you are a citizen of the United States, you are obligated to participate in our democracy. You need to vote. Do not read a political message into this DOB, I don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, I am simply saying, do your research, pick your candidates, and vote. Our democracy is precious, and I am certain that if we all participate, we will continue to make progress toward building a better world for ourselves, our families, and our country.
Let’s go be great!