As 2019 draws to an end, popular uprisings are taking place all across the globe. People took to the streets in China and Spain, Iraq and Russia, Algeria and Sudan, Kazakhstan and India. Half of South America is on fire. The Ecuadorian indigenous résistance has nothing in common with the Chinese legislative crisis over extraditions. In Bolivia people are rioting because a military coup has just overthrown the democratic government, whereas in Chile the protesters are urging their democratic president to resign.
All generalizations are imprecise and flawed by nature, that much we can agree upon. However, if these protests are so fundamentally different in motive and origin, then why are they all taking place at the same time? Surely, they must have something in common. One may point out that all these protesters are fed up with something. Is it the elites? Is it capitalism? Not quite. The fact that the world order as we know it is imploding in unison demands a further, much more complex analysis. As for today, I’d like to point your attention to a different perspective.·
Critical thinking theorists of our time are harboring many doubts over the way technology is ruling our lives. Byung-Chul Han’s entire work is devoted to the sins and dangers of the digital society. Han has proven that, just like science, technology carries the imprint of capitalism. As things stand, technology exists primarily to promote consumerism and social control. But what about knowledge, development, progress? Don’t those come with technology too? Well, according to French philosopher Éric Sadin, those are ‘the friendly faces’ of the monster. Silicon Valley has been presented to the world as the economic development model par excellence. Every nation is set to build its very own Silicon Valley because, according to the Powers that Be, this is the way to go. In the meantime, the amount of decisions technology is making for us (e.g. Artificial Intelligence) grows at a horrifying pace.
According to the above-mentioned authors, in this current scheme, there is either little (Sadin) or no (Han) place for resistance. However, recent events suggest otherwise. Let’s go back to our global uprisings.The first hint comes from the streets of Hong Kong. The Chinese quickly understood the need to fool facial recognition devices, to avoid government surveillance. And so they marched, wearing masks, goggles, heavy-duty respirators and whatever face-altering item they can gather. Soon they find out that these tricks are flawed and insufficient, so they unlock a whole new level of ingenuity.
Hong Kong protestors are on another level. Here they’re using lasers to avoid facial recognition cameras. A cyber war against Chinese artificial intelligence. pic.twitter.com/t1hIczr5Go
— Alessandra (@alessabocchi) July 31, 2019
Meanwhile in Chile, it has been almost three months since people started protesting against inequality. 23 have been reported dead, more than 2,500 have been injured, and 180 have been shot in the eye. The situation is extremely dire: although there is strength in numbers, protesters are unarmed and helpless against the vicious Chilean military.
But the Chilean strike back with what they have: wit and courage. And laser pointers.This video shows how protesters manage to take a police drone down by pointing at it with multiple lasers.
— PIENSA.PRENSA (@PiensaPrensa) November 13, 2019
Moreover, since Chilean media is not really talking about police brutality, the resistance has to find other ways to break the wall. Protesters, and citizens who merely witnessed police brutality from their homes, have produced hours of footage showing this side of the story. Some of them became viral, but most were reported and taken down. Apparently, an army of social media trolls has been recruited to undermine protesters’ credibility. Casually, the same phenomenon was reported during the first and most violent days of the Bolivian coup d’etat.
Why are bots trying to convince people that there is no coup going on in Bolivia?
When you type in "Friends from everywhere, in Bolivia there was NO COUP" in the search bar, there are hundreds of fake accounts putting out the same message in English. #ElGolpeDeEstadoEnBolivia pic.twitter.com/UB1ObWyF5I
— redfish (@redfishstream) November 12, 2019
Nonetheless, social media remains the only way to find out what is really going on in the streets. The only ones that are reporting the violence, the rape and the torture are the victims themselves. During the early days of the military coup in Bolivia, Argentine press workers were declared persona non grata and forced to leave the country. One journalist even died under suspicious circumstances.
Desperate times demand desperate measures. When the official narrative is the only narrative at all, “unorthodox” methods arise. Mon Laferte, Chilean pop Singer and LGBT activist, chose to use her influence wisely. Laferte, most scrobbled Chilean artist on Spotify, also got nominated for a Latin Grammy (spoiler: she won). Under the motto “my free body for a free country”, she took the protest to the red carpet.
Laferte’s move ruffled a lot of feathers, but it got the message across. Although the hashtag #MonLaferte was banned by Instagram for some time after the awards, and maybe because of that, the whole world read the message across her bare chest: “in Chile they torture, rape and kill”.
There will come a day when people rebel against the current oppressive usages of technology. Maybe that day is today. In any case, it is starting to become clear that technology’s only master should be mankind and not capitalism.
All the forms of resistance we have just described sound very much like that old biblical parable, the clash between David and Goliath. David was a small boy who took down Goliath – a powerful giant – using a humble sling and five stones. But, according to the story, David had something else: his faith. I don’t know about faith, but activists today are equipped with creativity and determination.
For now, the battle is anything but equal. Will it ever be, though? Only time can tell. And also, there is strength in numbers.
Bueno, quien diría que esto podría pasar en Chile, no? pic.twitter.com/polT306Wud
— Fede Vázquez (@fedegvazquez) November 13, 2019