It's already been two and a half years since I started reading Ethan Zuckerman, but the Global Voices co-founder remains my favorite blogger. (He was in Manila in 2006: a big bear of a man, but open and friendly.) His blog posts, even the more technical ones, always strike me as deeply humanistic. To mis-appropriate famous jurist Felix Frankfurter's categories for measuring Franklin Delano Roosevelt: I sense through Ethan's writing a first-class intelligence in a first-class temperament.
He reminds me of one afternoon I spent in the British Council's library, in its old digs in New Manila, when I stumbled on Michael Holroyd's introduction to the last volume of his exhaustive (exhausting?) life of George Bernard Shaw. This, I remember thinking, responding to Holroyd's massive, deeply appealing intelligence, is what the humanities are about. (And that is why I collect Holroyd's reminiscences. I have Works on Paper and Mosaic; I'm looking for Basil Street Blues. But that, as biographers and bloggers alike would say, is another story.)
Last month, Ethan wrote a moving meditation on the bridging of cross-cultural divides, with the now-famous Arnel Pineda, the new lead singer of Journey, in the role of makeshift bridge.
I’ve been researching stories that help demonstrate how the Internet has helped people make connections across cultural boundaries… and the ways in which it’s fallen short of its potential to do so. One of the stories that’s fascinated me is the story of how Filipino singer Arnel Pineda became the new lead singer of US rock band, Journey.
He explained what he saw in the story.
I’m interested in the story because it seems like a realization of the highest aspirations some of us had for the internet when it entered the public consciousness in 1994. Here was a space that promised a common ground, a level playing field for people around the world to share their ideas and talents. (Needless to say, it’s never been truly level, as barriers of language, education and access make it likely that many geniuses living in rural Africa will go undiscovered.) The internet hints at a truly globalized world, one where the best person for the job has a chance at it, no matter what her accident of birth; a world where the best idea, invention or performance might win out despite the origins of its author.
Of course, that quasi-verb "seems" tells us there is more to Arnel Pineda's story than the clear triumph an Internet pioneer would have liked to see. As we say in Tagalog, abangan!
(Stick around for the comments, too; a Filipino, apparently — and unfortunately — using a handle instead of a real name, affectingly translates an evocative phrase.)