In ancient Greece, historically the birthplace of much of Western Civilization, the political structure was a loose confederation of cities that were states unto themselves. Each city was self sufficient and had its own culture and way of doing things and yet all of them were united as one confederacy because they were at the end of the day of the same stock.
Of the many fascinating attributes of this confederacy was something that was called the Agora. Not many are familiar with this or anything else in Greek culture as modern history on a general level is woefully inadequate a teaching meaningful history. Instead formal history instruction is focused on a ruthless timeline of victors and their spoils which supposedly magically formed the panoply of culture we have today.
In ancient Greece, the Agora was a central point in the city that was held in equal importance with the temple that was dedicated to the deity that was largely the main divine patron of the city. In this relationship geospatially the citizens were exposed to the importance of this construction.
Equally important was the function of this structure. It was the place where democracy was born. It was the place where all ideas were equal and that in order for any idea to have credence it had to withstand all critique and still have validity. In this way the ideas of the most common of people stood face to face with the ideas of the most powerful in absolute equality and vulnerability.
So what is the importance of the Agora to today’s Social Network conversation you may ask? I think it means a great big deal. In the days of the Agora, there was a courage that was born of everything being game. Not only from a political sense but from an economical and even domestic and religious sense. In this way, a very important element was injected into every single aspect of Greek life. It was reason. The idea that even religion was subject to the reason of the faculties of the human mind was not only revolutionary it was unique in all the world and eventually formed the basis of the modern Western mindset. In today’s world we have what we call “safe spaces” where ideas are encouraged to have validity just because they exist. There is no temerity to these ideas at all. All anyone has to do is come up with something, however banal, and it is automatically granted license. This leads to a particular kind of deafness that leaves humanity at a loss, not a gain.
Engagement is supposed to be the hallmark of human interaction, yet it seems that we are moving away from such things and instead are creating spaces in which we can conceive of entire realities that are completely disconnected with interaction. Progress is now relegated to the silence of extreme subjectivity and discourse is slowly dying to the point that we literally do not know how to relate to each other anymore and therefore choose not to and craft our tech to enable such retraction.
Being social is an organic process, as fundamental as breathing. We are supposed to be engaging with each other and achieving that surprise that the combination of thoughts produces. We are supposed to be strengthening each idea in the Agora of transparency. We are supposed to be audacious. But we are far from that. We are instead scared, withdrawn and living in our virtual white castles where only those who think exactly like we do live.
There is a reason for diversity. It produces strength when diverse elements are combined. We need look no further than our own DNA to realize this is true. When like DNA is combined it produces deformities that are detrimental to the success of the organism. When unlike DNA is combined it produces the strength of both without detriment to the success of the organism and instead to the benefit. The same applies to ideas. We need to engage more and retract less and let ourselves be open to the shaping of our ideas such that they can be strong and lead us to even greater interaction and evolution.
The Agora is our example and we need it now more than ever.