Geographer Anne Knowles uses digital technologies to reimagine the past. In this fascinating talk, Knowles transports us to the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the Civil War. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and historical maps, she traces the footsteps of Robert E. Lee as he orders Pickett’s Charge — and makes an educated guess why he made this crucial mistake.
Technology used to explain battles is very important. It is necessary for our understanding of how people thought, processed their immediate information and reasoned outcomes. How the lack of technology predisposed results is also an interesting lesson. But this begs the questions: is technology all that is necessary to lead and to make decisions or does technology actually derail the ability to decide? Does technology create fearful outcomes and gives too many choices to persons inured to detrimental results?
The fortitude of a leader is shown not in what he knows, but in what he doesn’t know…the outcomes. The ability to make decisions without an absolute promised return is the principal expectation of a great individual. Faith in American exceptionalism has always given the leadership in the United States the needed ability to step outside the machinations of a decrepit European mindset bogged down by imperialist notions of superiority and produce a new world based upon the equality of all humankind. For exceptional leadership is not simply about always being on the right side of an issue, but having the ability to process your failures and turn them into experiences for the future.
The ability to take chances in order to reap the necessary rewards is the hallmark of America. The one thing we all have in common in the USA is that we understand that there are no guarantees in life, but that we are entitled to try for the outcome of our dreams. Society can view this as financial reward, but in reality it is about the right to fail without detrimental consequences. The right of the individual to proceed as they choose with their lives and to build within their world sphere a unique dream.
But we cannot do that when our leadership itself is inept. A leadership that takes from America what it actually means to be an American tears at the very fabric of our society. A leadership that uses technology to emasculate the body politic that is the United States destroys the very essence of who we are as a People. For technology used to exploit the citizenry expands the purview of government in contravention to the ideas behind the Bill of Rights.
Government is to be limited. It is to be controlled. It is our right as citizens to see that government does not become a hydra; ever-expanding, violent, many-headed viper. Technology today has forestalled the Bill of Rights. It has destroyed the individuality of the person. It has taken American exceptionalism and turned it on its head. We are now living in a world with a digital footprint coupled with government tentacles that can come crashing through your front door.
Technology-failure was the excuse at the latest Benghazi hearing. The failure to have substantive information about the facts on the ground during that fire-fight where those brave Americans lost their lives. But technology was not what failed American leadership that night. It was, in fact, the leadership that failed the American people.
Blaming technology for failure in fortitude shows an inherent lack of belief in American exceptionalism. A failure to believe in your own troops and our ability to stand up for our fellow Americans. A cowardice of spirit. A cowardice of resolve. A craven Machiavellian duplicitous failure of American leadership. Would Hannibal at Cannae have stopped his march against the Roman oppressor due to a lack of technology supplied substantive facts on the ground? Hannibal understood the price of freedom, as the oppressed throughout history have always understood the cost. No, they did not always win. Quite the opposite actually. But they had the ability to make the difficult choices and the fortitude to accept the outcomes of their failures. There is no voting “present” in real leadership.
Technology in our world is not everything. It can control a person, or it can set a person free. It is the choice that society has to make for the future. Do we want technology to guide us into a better future or are we willing to allow a cowardly government to use technology to forestall our own spiritual growth. Are we willing to allow government to use technology to destroy what was once the greatness of America. Do we allow the appendages of an all-encompassing, all-knowing government to take from us what makes us Americans, our liberty and the right to our own choices?
Technology is an important weapon in the war against terror. Undoubtedly it has saved an untold number of lives. It is a valued weapon in this clash of civilizations. The problem that needs to be addressed though is a simple one. When technology becomes all engrossing where does it end and where does our humanity begin? When do we remember that American exceptionalism that our ancestors fought to embrace? That absolute desire to further our posterity without a guaranteed outcome? Where are the leaders who are willing to take chances, to use that part of us that is human, sans technology, to take hold of the future and ensure our republic?