A Radical Self-Awareness in a Culture of Silence


Patrick Flanagan (USA)


This paper will offer an overview of the digital divide, presenting statistical evidence to substantiate the claim that the digital divide is real and not merely a theoretical construct purported by cyberlibertarians. Additionally, the paper makes the claim that without access to information technology, the notion of globalization will merely remain an ideal and its evolution controlled by a handful of the more wealthy powerful nations. After displaying the empirical data, the paper will identify and evaluate some ways that have attempted to bridge the gap of the digital divide. Appealing to the law for more equal distribution and greater access has rendered futile, at the very least unsatisfactory, results. Understandably so, as the law only sets the minimum conditions for communities to live in peace and civility with one another. Ethics, on the other hand, establishes the maximum for which can communities can strive towards to flourish. A consideration then of the metaethical concept of the common good, I believe, can serve the future of information technology well. Until such time as there is greater distribution and more equal access, the incredible achievements of information technology will always be billed as limited and parochial, the property of the “haves.” As a way to resolve this dissonance between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the paper proposes what Paulo Freire calls a “radical self-awareness in a culture of silence” to address the issue of the digital divide. The rest of the paper will then discuss Paulo Freire’s dynamic pedagogy and its import for resolving the digital divide dilemma by appealing to his particular understanding how a just and equal common good should be achieved.

The internet has had a revolutionary impact on the global community. A little over ten years ago it was only a handful of select government, university, and technical people who had access to the internet. Now, the internet and the world wide web, its user-friendly platform, are ubiquitous. People “cannot live without the internet.” The internet plays such a vital role in the economic, political, cultural, and social spheres of life. As a magnificent and powerful tool, the internet has been at the forefront of the transformation of societal cultures, the reconstruction of politics, and the renovation of economies.

Such growth has not come without certain costs and significant liabilities. Criminal acts such as scams, fraud, identity theft, trespass, and hacking have become more prevalent on the web, despite the fact that there have been global initiatives legislated to combat cybercrime, network security bolstered to prevent hacking, and code devised to protect critical infrastructures. Despite the laws “on the books” and the legal initiatives throughout the world, the law has not been able easily to prosecute criminals using the internet as their preferred platform.

The profound impact information technology has had on the global community and the regrettable, yet inherent, resultant ordeal of crime typically has been important focus for information technology. Unfortunately, the important and justice issue of the digital divide gets lost between the two extremes. Thus, it would be critical also not to forget the challenge of the digital divide. It is a live and well. Despite the celebrated exponential growth of information technology throughout the world, many people continue to live without access. Availability likewise is a significant problem. Additionally, where there is availability in some parts of the world, such as in China and Singapore, strict governmental regulation compounds the issue and adds another element to the digital divide problematic. Despite other positive and negative issues that have occupied peoples’ minds about technology, one cannot be distracted from the digital divide. It is still very much prevalent throughout the world and closure of the chasm does not seem to be in the foreseeable future at this time.

The Brazilian liberation philosopher Paulo Freire offers a particular perspective on the common good that can prove instrumental in the reconstruction of a common good for this age of information technology, a common good that promises both equality and justice. Freire’s key to renewal is education for as he believes education is liberation, but not education as it historically has been understood. No longer can education be based on banking procedures where people make deposits and withdrawals with necessarily and real significant reflection and where likewise interest is accrued or penalties assessed based on one’s behaviors. Freire resisted such a pedagogical method and sought to implement a comprehensive educational system whereby people are taught not only basic skills, but application through expression and activism in the political area so that real freedom and equality might be possible. His method consisted of two stages that were part of a continuing cyclical process of renewal and liberation: conscientization and praxis. People first needed to realize and become conscious of their oppression and the ways their freedom has been eclipsed through dehumanization. And secondly, action needed to be taken to reform the structures of the state so a more just and equitable society might exist.

Speaking as one who knows poverty, isolation, and forced estrangement from his own native land, he offers a simple concrete and yet profound “way out” for the “have-nots.” His educational method is a liberation or humanization for the marginalized classes of society from what he calls “cultures of silence.” Freire seeks to help women and men drained from the oppressive structures and consigned to a particular way of life to energetically rise above their powerlessness and take responsibility for their future. Passivity is fatal and only serves to “keep down” and limit the resources of the already marginalized. In the end, Freire offers a way out for the “have-nots” through cooperation, dialogue, unity and cultural synthesis.