Lyricist, internet freedom fighter and former cattle rancher, John Perry Barlow, hadn’t written a blog post in nine months. As of a few days ago, he’s back. Here’s some of what he has to say:
I began numerous BarlowSpams and blog entries only to have them slam, half-written, into the next improbability, where, beached with awe upon the present, I no longer felt like reporting yesterday’s apocalypse. (Perhaps one day I will bundle up some of these half-vignettes and post them here.)
Certainly, pioneering the electronic frontier is no longer the riveting mission it once was. While there remains much to be done, and the liberty of our descendents still hangs in the balance, that world has become too complex for me to think I can change it, as I once could, with the help of a few smart friends. Now I leave it more to the professionals at EFF. They’re smarter than I am and a lot more diligent with the details. Of course, I will go on toiling in the vaporous vineyards of Cyberspace, but without the same grand sense of personal urgency. Like any old mountain man, I’ve become just another settler, filling in the margins and grumbling about the government.
Previous passages through these interstitial storms felt like my own lonely struggle. Now, everywhere I look, I see others in the same condition. Fundamental life confusion – generally endured invisibly with a toxic sense of private embarrassment – is pandemic. Your personal mileage may differ, but my guess is that you are presently more riven with doubts and questions than you’ve letting on.
Most of the people I know who are still conscious enough to back away from their televisions are in a kind of life-shock. Metanoia, anomie, paralysis, catatonia, existential dread – whatever you want to call it, it’s wide-spread. Everywhere I look, I see people white-eyed and still as though caught in the Headlights of God.
Serious stuff. And then he turns to politics, which for Barlow brings to mind William Butler Yeats’ famous poem, “The Second Coming,” written in 1919.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
It’s hard not to equate the end of the first stanza with today’s religious right, which is what Barlow does, and in that analysis he has many sympathizers, myself included. He does manage to conjure up some hope for the future, as well as some appreciation of the present, in his new post. Perhaps, the best do not lack all conviction, rather they lack convinction all the time