The MIT Media Lab presents itself as an embodiment of light and transparency. Glass curtain construction, open floor plans and internal glass walls offer visibility into its workings. But closed and locked doors sit at the perimeter of the labs, and there are secrets in the construction of the technologies themselves, concealed by patents and I.P. laws. I was there a few days ago for a conference on the topic of forbidden research. Ed Snowden was a headliner, and Stewart Brand, and a researcher who created a pirate site for free access to academic journals. The event was an argument for the necessity of disobedience.
By coincidence that week I was reading about the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, and the threshold of disobedience that led the Jews to fight back. Interestingly, in Warsaw there wasn’t a single heroic act of resistance, but competing priorities within factions, a gradual acceptance that resistance was necessary, a strategy for obtaining weapons from the Polish underground, and a halting, coordinated response. To your point, some time ago, about the human urge to conform and be part of a group: even disobedience benefits from the support of cultural norms.
Disobedience is a tactic, like disruption, innovation and other buzzwords of the entrepreneurial class. It is not in itself a value but rather a path or process. I mention it here because this might offer us a way to see history as something other than an endless series of calamities. How do we resist the feeling that our time has become one of escalating violence, that we are helpless to intervene, and that intervention might simply add another layer to the multiplicity of causes of violence? And what to do with the urge to tear the images before me? As with your last, small act of photography, an accidental flash that disrupted a dream, that broke one thing to make another.