Monday, March 19, 2012

Access granted

Have you read the Cluetrain Manifesto?

It's one of those books/texts that really just tells you what you already know, in your heart of hearts, but never really got around to thinking about. And after you've been reminded of it, you start to wonder how you could ever not have been reminded of it.

Take, for instance, this passage:

One day, I met with a [Japanese] researcher in a coffee shop. Language was a problem, but he spoke more English than I did Japanese. I had just been to the bookstore and was lugging a stack of books on highly advanced computer-science topics. It was all Greek to me, but I figured something might rub off. Suddenly the guy asks me, "Who gives you permission to read those books?"

I was stunned. Bowled over. Did his puzzlement reflect some sort of cultural difference? I didn't think so. It struck me that this fellow was just being more honest and direct than an American might be. He was articulating what many people in today's world seem to assume: that official authorization is required to learn new things. I thought about this deeply, and I'm thinking about it still.

Who gives us permission to explore our world? The question implies that the world in fact belongs to someone else. Who gives us permission to communicate what we've experienced, what we believe, what we've discovered of that world for ourselves? The question betokens a history of voice suppressed, of whole cultures that have come to believe only power is sanctioned to speak. Because the ability to speak does involve power. It entails ownership and the control conferred by ownership.

Who gives you the permission to do stuff? And why do you care?

Don't care. Just go out and do things.  Go out and learn. Do, make, say, think. Not because I tell you to, but because it's what you like and want to do.

And don't, ever, ask permission to be awesome while doing it.

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