The “Atomic Age”, brought us a mixed harvest of both promise and plague. We were provided with the possibility for clean, inexhaustible sources of energy that could power our nation for the far foreseeable future. For all its promise, the age also opened a Pandora’s Box of sorts. By far, the most frightening specter of the “Atomic Age” was an intercontinental ballistic missile bristling with multiple warheads. These hellish devices became the boogeyman for an entire generation. Peaceniks, science fiction authors and even Bill Moyer managed to keep the threats posed by these awesome devices in the forefront of our collective consciences. Hollywood too, did its best to scare us stupid with movies like “Failsafe” and “The Day After”. Though many before me have stopped to ponder the Atomic Age, I wonder just how much similar thought has been directed towards our present “Information Age”.
Where the atomic age provided nations the wherewithal to level cities, denude continents and evaporate entire populations, the information age has provided individuals with the ability to shred individuals, destroy relationships and erase reputations… all from the relative comfort of one’s den or local WiFi Hotspot. This information age has demonstrated time and again that the keyboard and mouse are every as devastating as the sword (or the Sig Sauer for that matter).
I pointed towards the words of St. James’ Epistle in part II, in speaking about the awesome power of the tongue and the words it produces. It would be convenient to take the purely wooden stand that Jesus’ kid stepbrother Jim was limiting his line of logic to speech. I’m confident that we can reasonably apply this line of logic to other forms of human communication, both verbal and nonverbal. I mean think about it; if it’s unlawful to rob another using a gun or knife, you won’t receive a pass if you rob someone using a ball peen hammer. Destructive and demeaning communication is just that, irrespective of its mode of delivery, be it verbal or not. I would even propose that destructive written or electronic communication is even more insidious than caustic verbal communications.
Slamming or flaming another via e-mail is akin to shooting someone in the back. The sender need only to build up a toxic level of bitterness, vomit up their spleen onto the desktop, and click the send icon. Like the lieutenant in the missile silo, the devastating dispatch is sent without breaking a bead of sweat or shedding a drop of blood. For their recipient however, it’s another matter altogether. The victim of this electronic salvo is often left with a gaping gash across their spirit.
Again, we hear the worlds of St. James ring clearly: "Brothers, this should not be".
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