What did you do in the Cyberwar?

It was a dreich day along the Clyde this morning, and the headline news wasn’t about to cheer anyone up. Over the weekend the cyber attack on the NHS and other major organisations had escalated and there were questions to be asked. So, Thought for the Day offered an opportunity to think about why anyone would choose to wreck havoc on such a well-loved institution. Here’s a couple of minutes of reflection. As always, you can listen again at 1:22:44, or read the text below.

In a recent interview Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet, spoke of how he imagined the web as “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

He went on to remind readers that while he may have invented it, all of us have helped to create the web as it is today. The online community has grown with each word, image or piece of code that human beings have contributed to it. This morning, in the middle of this unprecedented and escalating cyber attack, perhaps it’s helpful to reflect on our role in creating the web.

In recent months we have grown accustomed to stories about the role of the internet in manipulating political opinion, exploiting our privacy and challenging truth, but the ransomware attack on the NHS seems to sink to new depths. Who would do this? Why would they choose to perform an action that puts ordinary people in danger? And what can we do to stop it?

There is a level of complexity to this story that leaves most of us feeling out of our depth, so it’s tempting to dismiss the perpetrators as deliberately evil, or blame the technology that allows them to act with such selfish disregard for the lives of others.

But to do so lets us off the hook. No technology is innately good or evil, it is only ever a vehicle for our ideas and imagination. So, the printing press enables us to read the Bible, Shakespeare and today’s newspaper, but it also gave us Mein Kampf, and the phone-hacking scandal. The invention of bronze gave us tools to cultivate and weapons to destroy. The internet offers collaboration and opportunity, but is also a vehicle for hate speech, pornography and cyber crime.

Who would do this? Human beings, whose hearts are, according to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, the most deceitful of all things. Perhaps we begin by acknowledging the truth of that statement, recognising the capacity for good and evil, light and dark that dwells in each of our hearts. Let’s not be deceived that the internet is to blame for the state the world, or even that a small band of evildoers intent on causing chaos is all that is wrong here. We each play our part in creating this web of lies, half-truths and finger-pointing, and perhaps by choosing today to live with truth, goodness and grace towards others, we counter the darkness with light, and confront the evil with good.

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Just One Day Out Of Life

 

It’s the 1st of May and lots people were enjoying a long lie, but the Creative Fool was up early and off to work, presenting Thought for the Day on Good Morning Scotland. As always you can listen again here by scrolling forward to the 22:50 mark. Otherwise, have a read and take a moment to consider how you are going to rest well today:

Bank Holiday Mondays occupy a funny place in our psyche. While some of us look forward to a lie-in and a day of unstructured leisure, others feel frustrated when the bank’s closed, the motorway’s clogged and rain puts a dampener on our barbecue plans. And that’s without taking into consideration those who don’t have a job, those whose work involves caring for children or dependent relatives, or people who simply have no option to take the day off work.

Of course everybody needs a break, a chance to take a breath. And if the only way for that to happen is for the wheels of commerce to stop turning for a day, then perhaps it’s not just a quaint hangover from our Victorian past. The idea behind statutory bank holidays was to protect the rights of workers to enjoy days of celebration such as May Day. How does that play out in the days of zero hour contracts and 24-hour retail?

The principle of resting is rooted in the Bible. The creation story takes place over six days, and finishes with a seventh that God declares to be holy, a day of rest from the work of creation. Whatever your perspective on creation, there is an interesting discussion to be had about the value of rest. The concept is important enough to be woven into the fabric of existence. We are more able to work hard and accomplish all we have to do when we have rested well. And I’m not just talking about collapsing in an exhausted heap at the end of a stressful day, week or decade. The view of rest that’s presented in the Bible is of breathing deeply, being re-created, recovering our sense of who we are.

We pride ourselves on our 24 hour culture, particularly in urban areas, and technology makes switching off difficult. Levels of stress and anxiety are on the increase. A few statutory bank holidays might help some of us to switch off, but I think we also need to find ways of encouraging one another to rest well and find room to breathe whatever our work or non-work situation.

I don’t often quote 80’s Madonna songs, but maybe she was onto something when she sang that:

If we took a holiday…

Just one day out of life

It would be, it would be so nice