Starting a long post with a long quote, bad form Andy, bad form. It’s one of those “Andy’s been thinking again” posts anyway, so you’ve been warned. It’s a great quote though.
In those day’s, Pilade’s was a free port, a galactic tavern where alien invaders from the Ophiulco could rub elbows peaceably with the soldiers of the Empire patrolling the Van Allen belt. It was an old bar near one of the navigli, the Milan canals, with a zinc counter and a billiard table. Local tram drivers and artisans would drop in first thing in the morning for a glass of wine. In ’68 and in the years that followed, Pilade’s became a kind of Rick’s Café, where Movement activists could play cards with a reporter from the bosses’ newspaper who had come in for a whiskey after putting the papers to bed, while the first trucks were already out distributing the Establishment’s lies to the newstands. But at Pilade’s the reporter also felt like an exploited proletarian, a producer of surplus value chained to an ideological assembly line, and the students forgave him.
Between eleven at night and two in the morning you might see a young publisher, an architect, a crime reporter trying to work his way up to the arts page, some Brera Academy painters, a few semisuccessful writes, and students like me.
A minimum of alcoholic stimulation was the rule, and old Pilade, while he still stocked his big bottles of white for the tram drivers and the most aristocratic customers, replaced root beer and cream soda with pétillant wines with the right labels for the intellectuals and Johnnie Walker for the revolutionaries. I could write the political history of those years based on how Red Label gradually gave way to twelve-year-old Ballantine and then to single malt.p46-47, Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
For many years now — okay about 5, but that’s damn near a quarter of my life — I have felt a deep sense of activism. Immature, naive activism surely, but an overwhelming sense that there is right to be done nonetheless. Over the time that I have felt this way, I have gradually chipped away at the ambiguity of the feeling, seeking the movements of my time to identify with.
I am at the age of dissatisfaction. It is no secret why so many college students seek out or generate political movements with which to align themselves, we are in a world that we have just begun to see and the moral overload is incredible. We are looking for a way to make sense of the information that up until now seemed hidden, for a way to deal with finding out that everything we’ve known has only been a fragment of the truth, if in fact it held any truth at all.
A few years ago, I went through the spiritual death that was the realization of my own naiveté in a world where everything I’d known seemed completely inadequate. That’s a bit of a dramatic way to say it, but liken the feeling to that of looking at your uncle one day and suddenly seeing, instead of the character described to you through your childhood as the character of “The Uncle,” a man with strengths, weaknesses, a past and 100% predictability, a not-particularly-unique subset of that greater definition of human, then realizing, with overwhelming weight, that you are just another not-particularly-unique subset.
I dealt with it in a surely typical way, and eventually came to rest on the feelings of angst-ridden activism that I described above.
The movements of my time are those of open source software and communication, movements centered around the ideas of community. We may all be not-particularly-unique, but the age of the electron and the switch has given us a new tool, a tool that humanity has never before had, and it can bring people together in ways that will transform everything that has come before it.
I have not yet found my Pilade’s, but I’m pretty sure our revolution will be written over espresso.