And I will build my empire of free under Vesuvius.. (An open letter to 2010)
2009, you were quite a year. I loved you, you frightened me. And no matter how many times you hit me with some new surprise, some new fear, some new reason to stay inside and avoid people, I kept coming back. It was an unhealthy relationship. But this post is not for you. Nothing personal, I’ve just moved on. Knowing you, the pain will pass quickly and you will move on. That seemed to be your M.O. anyway.
2010, I have some questions for you and some demands. I know it’s a little early for demands, we’ve only just met. I feel tentative but full of promise, not unlike the vibe I get from you. But I have real concerns. You know this Internet thing? Yeah, still here in spite of everyone wanting to turn it into a one-way medium like TV. That’s my biggest concern for you, really. You see, I know that a lot of the people who own your very backbones also own a big chunk of old media. And while they spout about bandwidth being limited and people being “hogs”, we all know the real truth. You just want to wring back some of that old, dusty control you used to have. And I can understand that to a point. But you will lose. Not you, 2010, I mean old media. But we’ll all need your help, 2010. We need to you be brave, bold and risky. We need to you be willing to risk real things, take real chances and put your neck out. Yes, your pink, pliable freshly born and supple neck. While the impending economic fears will have you grasping at every viable penny, we’ll be needing you to put integrity above all else. We’ll need you to be brave against instinct, giving in the face of self-preservation and unpredictable in spite of expectations. You have to see past “lost revenue” and realize it’s a lie. The only thing lost to avoiding sharing is exposure. The only thing gained from protectionism is obscurity. You must learn that the appropriate response to a crowded market is to build a larger market. I know you’ve been responding to a crowded market by turning people away and scolding them for trying to to attend. And I guess that’s to be expected. Well, perhaps that’s not really you. Maybe that’s more of a 2001 to 2009 problem. We hope. It’s been very chaotic with all these people at your fingertips, begging for you to give them some distractions and veering toward alternatives while you slowly make up your mind about whether or not to capitalize on our boredom. I guess it’s understandable that you would feel some stress knowing that everything you built upon, everything you believed in, all those broken models and their respective parts strewn at your feet like the ruins of a lost city just seeming like they are in your way… will all be gone soon. Instead of cursing the sky as the camera cranes to the heavens, take a moment to look back at what you lost. So many opportunities. So many missed chances. With radio alone, you made the Romans look like they saw it coming and were well prepared.
But be warned. If you continue to respond to opportunity with threats and ignore rather than capitalize on the millions of open hands and minds, we will face you down finally. And we will win. But only if you, 2010(and by 2010, I mean you reader)are brave, bold and willing to take some real risks. We need preparatory men and women to build our new future, willing to give a bit of themselves (or risk some small part) in order to set examples for the next generation so that they do not grow up in a world that forgets just how much freedom they can have.
(From Nietzsche’s 1882 “Joyful Wisdom”)
“Preparatory Men. I welcome all signs that a more manly, a warlike, age is about to begin. And age which, above all, will give honor to valor once again. For this age shall prepare the way for one yet higher, and it shall gather the strength which this higher age will need one day-this age which is to carry heroism into the pursuit of knowledge and wage wars for the sake of thoughts and their consequences. To this end we now need many preparatory, valorous men who cannot leap into being out of nothing–any more than out of the sand and slime of our present civilization and metropolitanism; men who are bent on seeking for that aspect in all things which must be overcome; men characterized by cheerfulness, patience,unpretentiousness, and contempt for all great vanities, as well as by magnanimity in victory and forbearance regarding the small vanities of the vanquished; men possessed of free and keen judgment concerning all victors and the share of chance in every victory and every fame; men who have their own festivals, their own weekdays, their own periods of mourning, who are accustomed to command with assurance and are no less ready to obey when necessary, in both cases equally proud and serving their own cause; men who are in greater danger, more fruitful and happier! For, believe me, the secret of the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to LIVE DANGEROUSLY. Build your cities under Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors, as long as you cannot be rulers and owners, you lovers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be satisfied to live like shy deer, hidden in the woods. At long last the pursuit of knowledge will reach out for it’s due: it will want to rule and own, and you with it.”
While Nietzsche both inspires and repels me most of the time, I believe these words ring as true today as they did back then, having been taken only partly to heart in their own time. And so we should build our cities under Vesuvius. Damn the risks. If they wish to call us robbers, let them and smile with a pridefulness. Even arrogance. Sooner than later they will run out of energy to keep the future at bay. And our prize will come. If they take everything, they run the biggest risk of all. Everyone being left with nothing whatsoever to LOSE. So listen up, 2010. We’re coming to get you, you mad beautiful, promising year. Do not let us down, or it will not be easy for 2011.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bilk/3041379171/