2001 September 13
To All Who Would Defend Liberty and Freedom:
Yesterday I wrote an open letter to all my fellow citizens. Today I write to all those who would defend liberty, on-line and everywhere else, from the looming threat of demagoguery that now hangs over us all. This morning I arose from my sleep with two realizations. First, that I would have changed the title of my letter had I thought about it. This has been pointed out by others. Second, that yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the first cypherpunks meeting; I had not realized this in the moment.
When I began to write yesterday's letter, I had in mind to write a different letter than the one that thence I wrote. I had first intended a message to you my comrades, but in the moment I started typing I began to cry, because I had been struck as if by an external blow with the realization of whom I wanted to address. It was difficult for me to touch the well of my sincerity, because I have been and yet remain deeply cynical about my country, my government, and the particularly resilient propaganda of our media in the image of democracy. I had written only the title before I was overcome.
For now the next phase of the work has commenced for which cypherpunks was preparation. The goal to affix into our society a bodiless ability to hide has greatly been achieved, yet the nascent robustness of these systems is as yet fragile. Our institutions do not yet breathe the ethos of individual liberty without supplemental air. The threat is not unique, however, and the task at hand is wider than our own concerns. As personal ability is bound up in technology, the technologies of which my friends and I have been so fond are but a section a larger movement, the movement to a democracy more about the "demos" than the "kratein", more about the people than the ruling.
I shall not enumerate these trends into which cypherpunks so neatly fits. We are at a juncture in the road of our culture, whether to pursue the path of safety by limiting the individual and ignoring their desires or to pursue the path of safety by strengthening the individual and working out a new commons of desire. We cannot choose both; they are mutually hostile to each other in spirit and in practice. Our response to this week's terrorism will mark the proclivities of our future course.
I have been challenged to write a narrow essay on privacy particularly. I regret to say that I cannot. My heart is elsewhere, and I have moved from privacy alone as a tool for my aspirations. I could not be as eloquent about privacy in isolation, because in truth I see no longer the isolation in which I was previously so comfortable.
And thus I call for a chorus of voices to ring out and to proclaim the welter of specific consequences of walking down the path of individual liberty. My heart has been full in reading the spontaneous upwelling of sentiment from Perry Metzger, Sean Hastings, Matt Blaze, and Blanc Weber. Add to these your own voice, your own words, your own concerns. I seek the vision of a harmonious chorus without director, a single message rising in many throats, the motive wheel without a center.
Speak about whatever you will, but speak true and speak from the heart. There are enough whose hearts are privacy and anonymity that I have nothing but faith that chorus shall contain enough of those voices. My heart is with you all, even though I shall not lead the charge. To touch one's own true voice may need the passage through ordeal, yet persevere, for everyone can find it.
May peace arise from you all, and may the power of your souls become manifest in your deeds.
[Please feel free to post this at will.]