Poison Penmanship and Politics: Twitter and The Armchair Activist


The ever growing number of online freedom fighters has been an issue since the advent of the notorious Kony campaign by Invisible Children. At first impression, you must be wondering why it would even be an issue. Why would the increase in conscious citizens using Twitter to tackle real world issues be an issue? Romance.

Freedom fighting has often been romanticised as something heroic and courageous, filled with grit and bloodshed, something noble. The camaraderie, the union of men and women bound by oppression and fighting for a single ideal, freedom. Now this may be a cinematic description of what the Syrian rebels or PKK soldiers may be doing but nonetheless it paints a picture that does not exist. Now I do not doubt nor am I talking ill of those around the world in these political positions – however the fusion of the Internet and the romance of anti-establishment has created a new battleground for these online Guevara-influenced guerillas.

Social media was at the forefront of the Arab Spring and the ones I speak of bear no resemblance to them. I am talking about those who tweet excerpts of The 48 Laws of Power, nationalistic views and the odd picture of Karl Marx or Fidel Castro smoking a cigar with an abstract comment like “the ashes fall like my comrades in battle”. For the readers who get the impression I am a right wing nut with a disdain for anything red or left – no, I am quite the opposite. I was born and bred in London to Kurdish refugee parents. I’ve been submerged in politics, completely out of my control, since I can remember. Now rather than parade what I believe in and what I have learnt, the point I am making is that these armchair activists take themselves too seriously and honestly believe they are waging a necessary war via the Internet.

One click of a hashtag on Twitter and you are sent into a warzone of regurgitated facts and angry polemicists seemingly trying to build a nation with 140 characters. The romance of it attracts the superficial ones. Some do like being oppressed, most may not know it but they are driven by it, they like fighting for a cause and without it, feel redundant. So what do they do? They fight fire with fire. An endless war that they initially tried to end by taking up arms online and as a result they unknowingly become a victim of their own circumstance. The oppressed and oppressors are no different in this case, just two sides of the same coin. For people who are supposed to believe in the welfare of mankind and basic human rights, they are very quick to incite violence on their oppressors or those who disagree with them.

Now I get the same response over and over: “They’re raising awareness, it counts for something”. Yes it does but where does awareness end and action begin? The internet is a great tool and a great tool must be utilised, it is not intended to just add ease. It is easy to tweet a 140 character war cry from your armchair. However, I am not suggesting you get the next flight to Tibet and spearhead an independence movement. My intention is for you to be critical of superficial tendencies that get in the way of something so integral as peace and safety for your neighbour.

There is an undeniable romantic appeal towards freedom fighters and anti-establishment. As a result, people become so concerned with the supposed flashy and glamourous life of a guerilla. They do not act like thinkers and builders on Twitter. They act like the very same soldiers they “fight” against. Thus the internet is another battlefield and everyone is equipped with weapons ranging from Twitter to Facebook. People need to understand that the revolution will not be Youtube-d. Actually, it already has.


Oh, Miss Woolf!


ImageIf you could only see what has become of us, of me, of your readers. I remember you told me that your books, books in general, are the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy. I remember I’ve always had you in mind when reading. My joy came from knowing that I’ve met Victor Hugo, Marquis de Sade, Simone de Beauvoir, Adam Smith, Amin Maalouf, Albert Camus, and even my most admired man of all-time, Jean-Paul Sartre. You taught me how to get to know them, in full consciousness that this meeting will only take place once in a lifetime – in mine and in theirs. For how I perceived them, and how they influenced me is one unit, as indistinguishable as it can get.

But Miss Woolf, I have something to tell you: The world has changed.

I confess. I have gotten intimate with many, many people and I confess – they have not always been writers of books, screenplays or articles. They wrote about their lives. Virginia, if I may, I’ve always wanted to ask you this: why did Victor and Marquis get intimate with me? Never had they seen my face, nor my silhouette, nor my Facebook profile – but they did have an interest in sharing their thoughts with me. I never understood this, until I grew up finally. For now, not just them, but ordinary people whom I’ve never met in my entire life were even more ardently motivated to share their lives with a stranger. For in my curiosity, I lend them an ear or two, my heart and my mind to listen and to appreciate, to guide and to advice, or even just to share the dailiest things in life, such as the sound of me brushing my teeth.

I just remembered, you might not know what I meant by ‘Facebook profile’, considering you have long said goodbye to this part of the world. It can be very well replaced with analog names such as ‘Twitter’ or ‘Instagram’ or ‘blog address’ – for they all are the same means of communication to the crowded group of people who have never met each other before. And oh, how they communicate. Be it to talk about today’s politicians, or to share artists’ yet-to-be-found masterpieces, or even to fall in love. I have tried all of what they could offer me. I almost fell in love, too. For all those people I’ve never met were crowds by themselves, with layers of personalities that were so enticing and revealing. Some these days object and they argue that those layers are imagined, and falsely constructed. They say to me that they lie. And I say, ‘Then let them.’ As much as reading is a form of liberation, so is talking to a stranger that has never seen you and your patterns – the ones that everyone fears so tremendously, the ones that everyone falls victim to. The illusion of this precise sham – that they could talk about whatever and however to someone they would never see in their lives – is not minded, not in the least.

Virginia, you see, with the world changing, the concept and boundaries of intimacy is, too.