Do Black Lives really matter?
Social media has bombarded us with “Black Lives Matter” campaigns. But let’s face it, project yourself in the future. Think of 6 or 12 months down the line, and I’m pretty sure that the “Black Lives Matter” campaign will be a thing of the past. So do Black Lives really matter for you? And just because you changed your Facebook profile pic, does not count. It probably had a negligible effect and didn’t really change the world. They will only matter again when another person gets killed! For the rest of the days, it will be business as usual.
The truth is that I am sick and angry about the world we live in where the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. We are not living in the 17th century where people got kidnapped from their homeland, abused and thrown away like a sack of potatoes. It’s 2020, and we’re still debating whether the life of a person matters? How can this possibly be?
The answer is simple. The real change we need and which politicians promise us is just an illusion. Our politicians failed us. They created a bureaucratic system based on democratic principles which are ultimately flawed. Let me give you some examples of why I think this is the case.
In the Mediterranean sea, there’s a regular departure of migrants from North Africa to Europe. These humans, together with their little ones, risk their lives in the hope of a better future. They embark on a tiny boat (a few meters in length), crammed like sardines, to cover a stretch of around 350km. Many of them die, turning the Mediterranean sea into a massive graveyard. But this is only the last part of their journey. Many of them spent months going through the desert on foot, suffering countless abuses only to end their life at the bottom of the sea, just on the doorstep of the promised land.
What’s fascinating about this, or rather the sad part is that when the news channels do not report anything about these people, we simply continue with our happy little life. You know like everything is perfect around us. So I take it that the lives of these people don’t matter either!
But there are more. The war in Syria. Was that sorted because we don’t hear much about it any more? What about the generation of scarred Syrian children, are they fine now? Who knows, but maybe their lives don’t matter either.
What about closer to home. All those homeless people who live outside and cannot afford medical insurance. We don’t hear much about them. They are the invisible people of our society. But you know, maybe their lives don’t matter either.
The list can go on forever. Some of the issues are life-threatening, like the examples I gave. But others are more subtle and are probably affecting you or one of your loved ones. Just think of the equal-pay for equal-work movement. Whereas most European Countries enshrined it in their constitution, the US still needs to insert it in the constitution after around 100 years of endless discussions.
So why are we taking so long to make the changes that matter? I think the reason is twofold. First of all, we are not electing change makers. Politics has turned into a popularity contest. We don’t need a beauty King or Queen with his shiny set of teeth to run the show. We need someone capable of seeing through the bullshit and take the tough decisions which our countries need. Second, I think we need to fix democracy. When the Athenians, created democracy, an essential element was the Ekklesia or the Assembly. The people who took part in the democratic process met around 40 times per year in the Acropolis. They discussed issues at length and took decisions about foreign policies, laws, etc. These decisions then percolated to the Council, who was the executive responsible for the operations.
So here you can see the difference between the Athenians and how we ruined democracy. For the Athenians, decisions emerged from the grassroots almost every week. In our society, we have shed our power and gave this incredible authority to our politicians. And we are happy to exercise our “democratic rights” once every five years!
Is this progress? Or rather a degeneration of our democracy. Worse still, rather than informing people, have them discuss the pros & cons and guiding them towards making informed decisions, we allow our politicians to manipulate our thoughts. They do so through endless social media posts spreading half-truths and by retaining control over the “independent” media houses. We’ve already seen cases of elections and referenda manipulated all over the globe.
But there is hope. We can change our democracy and fix it. We have the technology to do so. But we need one thing. Well-meaning politicians who are ready to go the extra mile and bring forth change before another human life is lost!
A poem inspired by the deaths of thousands of people, crossing the Mediterranean sea
The gift of normality …
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Prof Alexiei Dingli is a Professor of AI at the University of Malta. He has been conducting research and working in the field of AI for more than two decades, assisting different companies to implement AI solutions. His work has been rated World Class by international experts and he won several local and international awards (such as those by the European Space Agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the United Nations to name a few). He has published several peer-reviewed publications and formed part of the Malta.AI task-force which was setup by the Maltese government, aimed at making Malta one of the top AI countries in the world.