As cynical as I may have become of politics, they still fascinate me and I thoroughly enjoy studying them. Of course, one of my main hopes in London had been to watch a session of Parliament and compare it to what I’ve experienced at US Congressional hearings. Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to watch. However, one of my London buddies did lead me to an equally interesting alternative.
At the northwest corner of Hyde Park is the “Speakers’ Corner”. It’s not obscure, and many people probably already know about it. However, I still feel it’s necessary to highlight it because of what it represents: a place to open up face-to-face discussion about anything.
In some ways, it’s like a computer-less blogosphere. A lot of people shouted extreme views and hecklers retorted with equal polarity. However, through the noise there were also true conversations that anybody could participate in, or even start, if they so desired.
A concept like this excited me exactly because it starts conversation. More importantly, it does so in person. It strips away the anonymity, giving a face to ideas. If somebody has something to say, it requires direct engagement with humanity, a quality that I feel is disappearing at an alarming rate.
I’d like to clarify that this isn’t to chide the Internet, which is very useful for expressing ourselves. Instead it comes from the sense that many people rely on electronics for everything. I’ll avoid going on too long about it, as I could dedicate an entire separate blog to it, but we need some more face time to make our Internet-ing more fulfilling.
Many of my most meaningful experiences have come from direct conversation with people of different views, mindsets and beliefs. Indeed, the confluence of such factors in a space that encourages their expression is what encourages progress and development. Without such interactions – disagreements, opposition, even some bickering – we would fall into disrepair due to paralyzing yes-mannerisms.
Of course, forums such as this allow trolls to take the conversation. However, even extremist views are valuable, because they are still human, and can create productive side-discussions in response. It just requires respect and acknowledging the worth of other humans’ ideas, no matter how offensive they may be.
This spot had a large impact on me because it’s a physical manifestation of a range of ideas surrounding conversation. From the political, regarding freedom of speech, to the social, exploring how we interact, the Speakers’ Corner is a fascinating and thought-provoking display of our humanity.
|He’s an evangelist. Get the metaphor?|
|Civilized groups look like this|