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By Xavier Kataquapit
When I was growing up as a teen back in a remote First Nation, my biggest source of information was the other people around me. I relied on others in order to know about how to repair a snow machine, a four wheeler or to deal with a simple truck problem.
I learned from people how to build with lumber, use construction materials and how to follow basic building practices. My uncles showed me how to do basic plumbing, electrical work, building cabinetry and finishing work. My brothers taught me how to operate and maintain machinery, drive a truck, ride a snow machine and how to use a variety of other vehicles. I learned a bit about computers from my brother-in-law Brian who was the only one around with knowledge about new technology.
If I wanted to really expand my knowledge on any interest I had to find some literature to read up on subjects on my own. My parents bought an encyclopedia set in the early 1990s and whenever I needed more academic information for school I often consulted these books.
If I wanted to study a certain area or gain skills in a trade I was faced with having to leave my home community of Attawapiskat and head out for post-secondary education in the south.
All of a sudden in the late 1990s and the start of the millennium I had access to computers, cell phones and other devices that could all be connected to the internet. The internet more or less started as a little wave and then became a tsunami. The next thing you know I was wrapped up with Facebook, YouTube, Google and a variety of social media sites. I could turn to the internet and with a simple Google enquiry find out just about anything in the world I wanted to know. It was like having that encyclopedia collection at my fingertips.
Whenever I have a problem or question of any kind now, I will go to search engines to seek out a solution. Much of the time, if it is mechanical, technological or computer related problem, I will look for a solution through YouTube. I’ve searched through YouTube so often to answer questions about how to build, how to renovate, how to do research for my writing, how to fix my truck, my car, or my bike and for information on health.
My addiction to YouTube has to do with the fact that no matter what I want to know I can find someone willing to instruct me in a hands-on video. That has made my life much easier in many ways.
When I have a problem with computing, I enter in a search term with the error message and more often than not, there is someone out there in the world who has posted a solution. According to recent estimates, there are more than 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube each minute, and one billion hours of content are watched on YouTube every day.
I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about new subjects by watching documentaries made by thousands of creative people who want their voices and messages heard. Some of them are reputable with specialized training and knowledge to share through such channels as Khan Academy, Yale Courses or MIT OpenCourseWare. Even official news has joined the YouTube world with services, such as CBC, Associated Press, PBS and Reuters.
However, there is a large community of people that want to share unusual, unconventional and even weird world views on subjects like flat earth, aliens, ghosts, monsters, other dimensions and cults. Still others want to promote extreme political views through talk shows or questionable documentaries that have hidden agendas.
A lot of what I see on YouTube and over the internet is downright crazy, right wing and fantasy being sold as reality. Perhaps this phenomenon is one reason politics has gotten so bizarre and scary in many countries over the past few years.
Hitler’s propaganda machine was built on telling the big lie and repeating it often with domination of media so that the general population would end up believing it. Much of what I am being bombarded with these days on the internet and even in traditional media seems to be intent on moving our society away from democracy and towards a fascist-like environment. That scares me and it should frighten you too.