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A Hardware Problem

Thomas Friedman commenting on the impact of internet on radicalisation of terrorists has wider warning and advice for everyone : 
So more people are more directly exposed to more raw information and opinion every day from everywhere. As such, it is more important than ever that we build the internal software, the internal filters, into every citizen to sift out fact from fiction in this electronic torrent, which offers so much information that has never been touched by an editor, a censor or a libel lawyer. That’s why, when the Internet first emerged and you had to connect via a modem, I used to urge that modems sold in America come with a warning label from the surgeon general, like cigarettes. It would read: “Attention: Judgment not included.”

And that’s why the faster, more accessible and ultramodern the Internet becomes, the more all the old-fashioned stuff matters: good judgment, respect for others who are different and basic values of right and wrong. Those you can’t download. They have to be uploaded, the old-fashioned way, by parents around the dinner table, by caring but demanding teachers at school and by responsible spiritual leaders in a church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Somewhere, somehow, that did not happen, or stopped happening, with the brothers Tsarnaev.
When I first read this piece I thought the "internal software" Friedman was talking about was something for our computers. But actually he means something in our hearts and minds. It is actually refreshing to read his recognition that we all need help. He is absolutely spot on that absorbing information around us can easily send us the wrong path unless we are able to make correct moral choices. And making those right decisions is a function of our world view which is heavily influenced by our family background and religious perspective. A society that therefore intentionally seeks to break the family unit and is bent on ensuring "faith" remains private is therefore on slippery slopes. It is like a dangerous ship sailing without a compass.

Unfortunately, Friedman underestimates the scale of the problem. Our challenge is not that our internal software needs an upgrade in order to filter out the negative information in our world which may push us to the wrong path. Our basic problem is that our hard drives no longer function as they were intended. It is the hardware problem not a software. And there's only one prescription for that. We need new computers! The Bible says that we are hardwired to sin. We are not born morally neutral as Friendman implies. Inbuilt in us is a propensity to sin. We need the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to made new again. Our deepest problem is not that we are sinners. It is that we are dead people. We need Jesus' new life in us in order to see more clearly and live lives that honouring to God. The answer is not merely each person to follow their own religions as Friedman suggests (each claiming exclusivity). The answer is to look to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Who has lived a perfect and sinless life on our behalf.

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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