cr> Virtual Poetry


Sender: John Whiting <•••@••.•••>

My rhetorical lament on the passing of the Internet seems to have
sparked off a serious discussion of alternatives. All of them
rely on a dedicated corps of technicians with a common ethical/
philosophical orientation. (In today's terminology, such a
paradigm is unequivocally "elitist", a useless and even harmful

Looked at from one perspective, the Cyber-Rights correspondence
has fallen into roughly two categories: the passionate, often
eloquent espousal of First-Amendment libertarianism, and the
pragmatic pursuit of tactics on its behalf. As the forces of
reaction win skirmish after skirmish in the legislative battle
for the soul of the Internet, we libertarians tend to become
frenetic or dispirited.

Those with a financial stake in the Net have their own unique
problems of survival, which are those of the occupants of any
open space which is being fenced off by monopolists. Others, who
have found it to be a forcing-bed for creativity, lament the
exploitation of this hitherto obscure community which, like
Montmartre or Greenwich Village, has served as an artists'
colony for the gifted and the impecunious. (Having grown up
in Provincetown more than half a century ago, I have vivid
memories of how such places function.)

The prospect which I see at this turning point in the Internet's
history is based on my observation of other colonies which have
been discovered and exploited. The symptoms are overcrowding,
creeping vulgarity, and escalating expense. Death is slow; in
little side streets away from the burger joints and the gift shops,
artists who bought their property when it was cheap continue to
work and to gather in each others homes for mutual support. Quality
of life, that ineffable substance without which the economic
structures are an empty framework, is somehow preserved.

In the brief time I've been reading the postings to the Internet,
I've encountered a handful of correspondents who have produced
prose of a quality which would distinguish the pages of any
journal. One wrote of his single-minded dedication to intellectual
integrity in a technological environment; another remembered the
cultural ambiguity of the Okinawans and their relationship to
occupying American forces. An old friend who was once managing
editor of a major New York magazine tells me that the best writing
he now sees is electronically transmitted. I'm thinking about
starting a modest periodical addressed to the un-wired and devoted
exclusively to Internet essays.

The point of all this is, don't lose heart even when you observe a
proliferation of shopping malls and an apparent contraction of
anarchist creativity. Early in nineteenth-century England there was a
small group of people who believed passionately in truth, beauty and
political justice. They had few resources. Most of them lived short
lives. Their voices were like murmers in a tempest. When they died,
they were soon forgotten. But they had the good fortune to be poets.
Their names were William Godwin, John Keats, and Percy and Mary

There are still poets among us. Even on the World Wide Web, it's
possible to turn off the graphics.

John Whiting
Diatribal Press

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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