Lawrence Lessig shifts gears for the next decade of activism

I noticed a post by Dennis McDonald who wrote about Lawrence Lessig’s decision to refocus his energies on a different topic for the next 10 years or so: corruption. Lessig has become known as an advocate for, among other things, more flexible content licensing systems like Creative Commons. His new path incorporates some of the lessons learned from the last 10 years and, at the same time, steps his activism up a couple notches. His definition of “corruption” appeals to me:

That our government can’t understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding.

So what he is talking about is more a corruption of political processes by strong commercial interests that blind lawmakers. They become incapable of tackling the important issues out of fear of losing elections or power which those same commercial interests can secure. From my reading of Lessig’s post it is clear this is not some fanciful shift. He is moving almost wholeheartedly across to this new pursuit for a solution to this form of corruption. His new fight is for a more fundamental change:

Finally, I am not (as one friend wrote) “leaving the movement.” “The movement” has my loyalty as much today as ever. But I have come to believe that until a more fundamental problem is fixed, “the movement” can’t succeed either. Compare: Imagine someone devoted to free culture coming to believe that until free software supports free culture, free culture can’t succeed. So he devotes himself to building software. I am someone who believes that a free society — free of the “corruption” that defines our current society — is necessary for free culture, and much more. For that reason, I turn my energy elsewhere for now.

Perhaps we should join him in this fight. There is much to be done with a political process here in South Africa that is perverted by commercial interests. We see it all around us, just barely hidden beneath an apparently more noble motive in the form of the ongoing public service strike, the government’s laughable communications policy and more. Our leaders are enriching themselves at the expense of the population. Had our government focussed its energies on the resolution of the barriers to greater prosperity and competition in the world market we wouldn’t still be talking about the absurdly high prices of communications or the political infighting to replace President Mbeki that taints virtually every political or social issue involving trade unions and the ANC.

Let’s face it, our government, our trade unions and our leaders are corrupt. They have forgotten their purpose and instead pursue greater wealth at our expense. The few become wealthier and the majority who put these people in positions of power in the hope that they would effect real and lasting change have been let down, hard.

I believe strongly in the free culture movement. I also believe that unless we speak with our vote and exercise our freedom of expression, we will continue to be undermined by the government and leaders who serve us. Let’s start the fight against this corruption. Someone has to. It may as well be us.

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