Friday Slide: A Camera In Everybody’s Pocket

I’m not religious, but I dig the story of Adam and Eve screwing up their gig in the Garden of Eden. It’s got naked people and a talking snake, for starters. But it also relays the story of humankind’s “first” conundrum, and something we face every single day: Do we want to remain blissfully ignorant and chow down on figs all day, or do we want to eat the fruit marked “Forbidden” and have our eyes opened to the world’s wonders– and its horrors?

Last weekend, my hometown of Toronto held a tea party called the “G20 Summit.” Basically, the world’s leaders met in the middle of the city amidst roaring crowds of non-admirers and spoke in grave tones about what could be done about the poor state of the world. I’m going to assume none of their ideas involved not meeting up in the middle of a city of five million people and spending a billion dollars on security that could have gone to improving public transportation across North America, vaccinating third-world children against malaria, staunching AIDS in Africa, or just feeding some hungry dudes and dudettes.

Nobody amongst the protesters or police got seriously hurt or killed, which is admirable. But the weekend was still more or less volatile and full of not-so-fun times. The police force kind of lost its cool in the third day and started rounding up and detaining people indiscriminately– journalists, anarchists, protesters, tourists, minors, dogs, whomever. Most of them were released within 48 hours.

This isn’t meant to be a political piece, though. I’m just marveling at how much politics and society has changed thanks to radio, television, and now something that was abundant at the G20– cellphone videos, particularly iPhone videos that were recorded and uploaded on the spot. The Toronto-based blog Torontoist collected and posted 14 Essential Videos that define the nature of the protest and the city it was held in, both the good and the bad.

It was the cellphone videos that reported the G20 and the actions of its protesters, anarchists, and police more quickly and efficiently than the news. Maybe even from a more neutral standpoint, too. An amateur with a cellphone can slip into a crowd and record incidents far more easily than a news crew, whereas the presence full-on crew might startle protesters into acting a certain way.

In short, the age of the cellphone camera means a lot more than filling YouTube with videos of cats being adorable (though those are obviously vital, too). In political protests, marches, and rallies, we get a naked look at people shaping society, and simply being human. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s an extension of what our parents saw when the war in Vietnam hit the television for the first time. Suddenly, the lines between black and white blurred. People started to question what their elders actually knew about ideals like good versus evil.

The very idea of people running cameras all the time and recording the world as it happens tends to irritate members of the older generation. Why do we have to watch this stuff and question the world? Why can’t we take things as they are? Going back to the Adam and Eve metaphor, the further you venture outside the Gates, the uglier the world becomes.

To be fair, it is a scary business to look humanity full in the face. I don’t like what I see all the time, but I’m thankful someone cared enough to get it on video and let me see it. Shutting off our cameras and shutting our eyes goes against human nature to keep learning and growing.

Just make sure to give yourself a break and indulge in some cat videos sometimes.