I was up in the middle of the night, three-in-the-morningish, with insomnia. And so I lay there on the sofa in the dark, websurfing on my laptop. Cruising among various sites, discussion forums, reading the usual, often angry, often less than insightful back-and-forth that is ubiquitous online.
A window directly into the heart and soul of nameless grass-roots Joe Sixpacks out there. A window which can be accessed instantly, even lying on my living room sofa in the dark, bleary eyed at 3 AM. A window (it suddenly occurred to me) which could scarcely have been opened at all, even with concerted effort in broad daylight, only a generation ago.
I think back 25 and 30 years ago. The only voices in the culture at that time were those which made it past various gatekeepers: editors, publishers, mass-media broadcasters. If you weren't part of that vetted and modulated mainstream, you had little way of making your viewpoint heard at all. Truly fringe voices, if they could be found at all, were found only after concerted searching, and then likely either in mimeograph format, or in pamphlets handed out on an urban street corner.
Voices which today can be easily accessed even at three in the morning by someone lying there half awake in the dark.
What a revolution has been wrought over this past generation... It probably comes too late to make much difference: open window or no, our culture has entered its endgame. That too is a development which has become more and more obvious over the past generation. But to the degree that anything can yet be done at all, Joe Sixpack is in the mix, unfiltered; and there's nothing any gatekeepers can do about it any more. Joe Sixpack: often angry, often ignorant, but once in a while astonishingly autodidactically learned and thoughtful. Let a thousand flowers bloom!