The Reason for the Season, or the Real Melancholy for Me

Social Anxiety Disorder?

If I haven’t made my Christian leanings clear to you yet, well, I probably won’t in this post.

I’m here to give thanks, in a way, and show some appreciation for the various people and entities that made this blog, this network of blogs, and all its readers and contributers stick together as a loosely associated community that, believe it or not, has meaningfully affected my life this past year. Doubly so for those who bear the brunt of my run-on sentences. Thank you.

But just thanking thankless fansubbers is not what I’m good at. If I were to dwell on that I’d quickly give into friendly jeering and mockery at our mutual detriment. Instead, I’m going to do it, with help with (and thanks to) Henry Jenkins, with a short article published in Reason Magazine.

Sure, when you boil it down, Jenkins’ article says nothing we fans haven’t heard of. It’s a rehash of the same argument I vaguely nodded to every time I debate about copyright and piracy’s empirical effects. Yet, at the same time it’s a celebration; it paints a concise picture to the historical example how a bunch of crazy retard fans paved the way for the fact that half of the anime blogs are chasing the disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi and its reappearence. Just why did sos-dan.com sold out? Or ANN and Anime on DVD? I don’t know; but it’s only made possible through the road fansubbers have built.

Legal, illegal, ethical, unethical–that’s all besides the point. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to see eye to eye on the issue in all of its nitpickery details. I’m going to just say that copyright law is arcane and ambiguous to even lawyers; and unless you’ve given it a lot of thought and self-education it’s hard to make heads or tails out of it. In fact, that’s part of the problem–people don’t know what they’re doing, so we’re in this mess.

But as much as manufactured culture expands through the growth of industrial media and technology into the arena of everyday life, it’s only because people are living safer, healthier, wealthier, and more leisurely. The product of a society less bothered by the drudgery of the Nine-to-Five is a society freed from the chain of necessity as a bar to creativity. This society gives freer and appreciate more what they have been given (so I argue). We might think this newfound freedom disturbing, but America has had at least 40 years of experience in this culture revolution; Japan is still struggling seriously, along with much of East Asia, Middle East, and parts of South America. Places like China and India are only a decade or two behind. What’s troubling about this revolution is that it occurs in the meta–it isn’t what people do or say, but the framework, the mass-market behavior and trends, and how businesses conduct themselves to be profitable; and ultimately, how people think and react to certain stimulus 3 years ago just isn’t going to be the same 3 years in the future. It’s not just a new school of thought or a subject matter, but demolishing entire perspectives and challenging the fundamental ways we think. From Superstring Theory to understanding why YouTube is worth 1.6 billion dollars, all these things are revolutionary in varying degrees.

Copyright law is just one of the major battlefields in this changing society. For the first time ever fans can import foreign cultures through distributed subtitling efforts (well, save for those people who do all their fansubbing by themselves) and promote an information good to audiences wide and far. We’re no longer in the SVHS days, folks, even if that information model was first put together during that nostalgic period in my life. Cheap broadband, anime clubs and cons, and fun fun websites just made it so much more accessible and easy, arguably, for a little Palestinian girl.

I guess revolution and battlefield might be extreme and loaded words to use, but if you’ve got 10 minutes left after reading Jenkins’ article, spend it here and hear it from some Open Source folks worrying about just where our culture are going. It’s dated, and it’s for Open Source folks, but it characterizes what’s at stake very well.

Alternatively, you can chalk up my crying wolf to my own personal experience this past half year; I’ve read more on this topic than that is probably healthy. Lessig and his company of copyleftists make a variety of compelling arguments. But much like the internet, it’s hard to see how it all translates into our daily experience; yet likewise I’m sure whichever genius that does will profit greatly along with society generally. It is a source of melancholy.

Anime is here because it was made free. We are blessed; and it’s only natural to extend this blessing to those trapped still. Even if that means making a funny nod at the doujin culture in Japan, so be it. Thank you for partaking in this subconscious act of civil disobedience; no matter as a fan or a subber or just someone clamoring for attention. No matter if you’re ill-intended or well-intended, we’re all in this for the long haul.


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