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  The "Internet Guru" - John Perry Barlow Meeting Point (2000)  

John Perry BarlowUnshackle yourself. Dump those throttling laws into the garbage bin. Shout aloud "Freedom is my birthright". It's the only chance you can "give peace a chance". Liberty, come alive. You've been static too long. The Internet needs that beacon of light to wade through muddy waters. There's a fight on our hands against draconian laws. Hey! Who gave them the right to enter my domain, anyway?

Any of these statements could have come from John Perry Barlow, the lonesome (not really, he's got us now) crusader whose mission in life is not to allow government laws to regulate and strangle the Internet. Right now, no one is in-charge of the Internet. So just "let it be" is John's prescription to good health for Cyberspace.

Simply put, John's war is against those who declared war against the Internet. And the "those" here means the various countries and their governments advocating their philosophy as to how the Internet should function. "What audacity these people think they have to govern a place that they've never been to, with tools they don't have and a populace that doesn't believe in them." That ought to make sense to those who wonder why there are over 20,000 websites hosting his strongly worded "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" (Click Here).

John Perry Barlow hails from Wyoming, which is a frontier state in the US. People from that culture are "fiercely devoted to their ability to be left alone, devoted to express themselves and be themselves". There's also another element in that culture. "All the road crew people were people from Oregon which was a cowboy kind of area, very much like the one where I came from," says John. " So the cowboy point of view, the code of the West, the frontier way of looking at governance was a big part in who we were."

A former songwriter for The Grateful Dead and other music groups, John spoke to www.koramangala.com in an exclusive interview at the Taj West End Hotel, during his visit to Bangalore, brought here by bplnet.com, the Internet Company

Koramangala.com: If there were no laws to regulate the Internet would it not result in chaos?
John Perry Barlow: "Well, there's no chaos yet. There are roughly 400 million people online in a very short period of time and it scaled dramatically without any kind of centralized guidance. And it's working. Now at that point of time when it quits working then I'll see what we do about regulating it, but until it quits working I'm not interested in regulating it. And I know that any of the efforts of the powers that have been to regulate it are going to be completely misguided because they do not understand it. There must be about five people in the US Congress that have ever spent any significant amount of time online."

Koramangala.com: If governments were to regulate it would it not amount to drawing national boundaries, territorial waters and things like that?
John Perry Barlow: "Yes. That's what they are trying to do. They're trying to put borders in Cyberspace when there are none. Cyberspace doesn't belong to anybody. It belongs to everybody. All governments are duplicating their powers in Cyberspace. I think we are gradually being confronted with problems that require governance. I mean the domain name issue is chief on that list."

Koramangala.com: This may be gathering momentum in the US, but in the Indian situation it could turn out different because in India, the large majority do not really understand the Internet?
John Perry Barlow: "I think it's possible that you understand it better than we do. Here's why I say that. Because you come from a culture that understands relationships better than we do. And relationship is incredibly important. In fact relationship is more important than money, which you don't have. You know for us, money is more important than relationship. I think you also have the ability to tolerate a very high degree of chaos and ambiguity, which we don't. I mean if you can't tolerate chaos and ambiguity in India you have a hard time. Well, Cyberspace is chaotic and ambiguous."

Koramangala.com: And likely to get more if the government takes control?
John Perry Barlow: "Oh yeah! Exactly. To the extent that they are actually effective in asserting themselves it'll get worse."

Koramangala.com: What we are trying to say is that India is barely networked. In the sense the connectivity is still poor and if your "Declaration of Cyberspace Independence" has to gain momentum in India how long you think it'll take to achieve that?
John Perry Barlow: "Everywhere I go in India I see a lots and lots of signs and advertising and various other kinds of signs that I feel they are implanting a message in the minds of people not to have access. That's what they want, to deny you access and I think its naturally going to follow that people are going to go out there and get it. I mean they'll find a way. Indian people are resourceful and they're very good at engineering the system to produce what they feel that they want. In the past I think there was a kind of sense of fatalism and fatigue."

Koramangala.com: In India it would seem that the government control would come in faster than in most other countries. We tend to generally accept the fact that the government being a monopoly we take things in our stride. Your message therefore could find acceptance here difficult? So how are you going to get your message across to us?
John Perry Barlow: "I hope that I can inspire some people who don't have to feel restrained by the habits of mine that have constrained them in the past. You two (meaning us at Koramangala.com) can be as powerful a voice regarding this important development in India as "The Times of India". And indeed more powerful, because people are more likely to believe you. At least they know who you are. They have a sense of what your point of view is.

Koramangala.com: When did you start to propagate this philosophy of freedom in cyberspace?
John Perry Barlow: "It was a gradual process. It probably started around 1986 and then there were a lot of things that came into it and lot of reasons why I did it. But the primary reason was that I care a lot about freedom. And I could see that what we were doing is creating the first free place where all of humanity could gather and nobody could shut them up. And I wanted to be as much part of that creation as I could be. I'm primarily motivated by my sense of responsibility as an ancestor and I have a huge opportunity right now to exercise some leverage on the future. And if I turn my back on that opportunity then I'm irresponsible in a profound way.

Koramangala.com: From 1986 till today, have you had significant success?
John Perry Barlow: "I think, for one guy I've done enough. One person who believes can do a lot.

 
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