Index | Gail's own black homepage, from that dark day
and loud typing
Democracy demands a burning crucible of public debate, requires a
pulsing marketplace of dangerous
ideas. The democratic thread that flickers through our culture is the
impulse that grabbed the military technology of the early Internet and
wrenched it to the very human construct of Cyberspace, this great wrestling
field of hearts and minds, joined through furiously tapping fingers. And
while it insists on fierce grappling, this great meeting of the minds still
permits tender bumbling attempts at persuasion.
Dear beloved friend who hopes to eliminate indecency and preserve
So good to be here with you. Whee, nice, isn't it? What a glorious
and disturbing gift to have at our disposal. The freedom of the press, for
you, for me... And yes, sure we each
want to squander it exploring our fantasies, our relations to one another,
and hardly ever get around to our relations to our ideals... but still, how
Or perhaps it's not so uncommon to have the personal swing round to the
political. For me, each day slams the freedom of one of us down on that
of another. Boundaries, often honored in the breach, are the heart of our mutual
Oddly, my personal qualms about
online pornography were an agent of great change for me. Like others,
I found aspects of cyberculture to be considerably less fettered than
anything I'd seen before. And
viscerally male, before I ever saw the gender stats. I'd stumbled into
a realm dominated by boyish cultural values, and due to explode in many ways
as the cultural mix increased. But obviously about evolution and
group identity in a way we've never felt before. Of course I saw the seeds of my own
freedom, and I embraced the medium. A social being, my motivations were
probably pretty common... wanting to be
liked and influential and true to myself, I found I needed to explain exactly
why I couldn't see content I strongly disliked, and simply take-it-or-leave-it. It was an amazing test. I learned that simple lesson:
I do not need to be silenced, nor do I need to silence others.
I can roundly, even passionately criticize expression I don't like, and
not attempt to suppress its circulation, nor to allow myself to be bullied
This shift of awareness might seem obvious or namby-pamby, but I
learned it the hard way, fighting for the ability to impose my own values
every step of the way. I can choose to talk back, to look away, or to
say nothing, and I honor the rights of others to respond to me in these
three ways as well. This acceptance of the existence and circulation of
ideas I don't like changed
everything, metamorphosing every cell in my body like rock which deforms
under pressure and slowly becomes sparkling, crystalline, irrevocably
My newly tempered beliefs in freedom of the personal press and
of speech, in minds
unbound but never uncriticized,
might seem weird to you who would impose a decency. And I wonder about
you who would
arbitrate decency, I suspect that just as likely you still
don't see me, that you've missed my point entirely.
I invite you to look away, avert your attention, delete and filter
me from your universe when you don't wish to be bothered. I won't pursue
you past those barriers.
I put up no
unavoidable billboards up for your morning commute... why, you can get out
of this page with a simple click!
don't exclude me from the minds of other citizens, sisters, brothers,
fair-minded foes. Let each of us take up the true strands, to weave
the world of ideas we
need to explore.
Living out loud, to the degree we can, is what lets us be authentic, and
to aspire to authentic democracy.
And if I were to loudly type that When in the course of human events it is time
to get unruly...
Or were I to cry out "Ain't I a Woman?"
Or were I to tear down a jail or an international wall stone by stone
Or were I to sit down and sing "I ain't a marching..."
Would I not be indecent to an established order, true to the spirit
of democracy, and fully intending to offend?
The day I cannot challenge the use of a word, a thought, a political
initiative here in my own little text file brings me a day closer to the
time I can't make fun of stupidity by taking up a pen and drawing a
comic strip, or making a speech on stage,
or by waving a sign on the street or even by circulating a petition.
I feel the chill wind of that day, and I reach out to you not for warmth, not
for sympathy or consensus, but for the willingness to live in a plural
society, and yes, for the responsible and frightening freedom that
is the spark of democracy.
- Gail Ann Williams, February 22, 1996
Before you continue exploring the 24 hours essays, you might want to check
out this side trip to see
Steve's WELL Democracy
Gail's home page | For you, who treasure the wild and indecent...