Seems to be a lot of dead forums out there, some are just zombies pretending to hang on. Lot of dead blogs, too. Forums and blogs all start out with good intentions and enthusiasm, but it doesn’t take long for the death crawl to start. Forums seem to die when no one has posted anything for a month, at which point the thing only exists as a death trap for those who wander deep in google searches. Blogs die as soon as the blogger posts a promise to update more frequently, or to turn over a new leaf. Sometimes the blog dies with a little more dignity, an expanding logarithmic curve of time between posts, until they either end or you expect the next one is scheduled for the following millennium.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the WMA world was built from internet communities. There were two or three places were everyone got together to talk shop, and hash out the important things. You could have a sense that you knew what everyone in the world was doing, you were always up on the latest thing. The cutting edge was waiting for you in your morning inbox, or else you’d be part of creating it in afternoon chat sessions between work interruptions. Most of the early stars are gone now, at least gone in the sense that everyone seems to have settled for having a few superstars, and damn the rest. A new lineage of renown is being created, words and names that future students will claim as part of their own heritage.

Or, at least, that’s what some people want. Part of the reason so many things that built community have died or are dying is natural human defense against things that are wrong.  And what went wrong, early in the life of the online WMA community, was no less than a series of power grabs. People tried to shape the nascent movement into an image that they approved of, either through personal aggrandizement or insisting only a certain approach was right. A few people saw the coming growth and tried to make it over into what they thought was correct. We resisted, and now we are rebuilding a community over from scratch, starting with small clans and trying to scrabble together into a newer, better form.

Cicero tells us that we hunger for independence. He says that as a result of this we are unwilling to be subject to anyone, except for those who teach truth, or teach us how to conduct ourselves correctly (or rule justly, see IV, 13.) And this is an instinct in us we need to continuously hone. It’s right and natural for us to want to shelter with others of like mind, to share with our fellows when we have extra, and to ask for help when we are in need. We want to build a community that is strong, and makes us strong. We cannot let that community be weak from the beginning, it cannot serve just one master, or just a few elites. It has to serve all of us, and be served by all of us.

I believe it will happen naturally, but there will always be those who want to shape things to their own advantage. It’s not evil, or even intentional. It’s just in their nature to do that. It’s to our detriment if we let them succeed. When someone appears as a leader, we need to do more than just take them at face value. We need to look beyond our own feelings, and find the deeper truth. Don’t just follow the gaze of everyone else, look around you. All over the world, in every WMA school, class or community, there are those who should be known to more of us. There are voices out there that are not heard, stories that are not told because the wider community is already becoming rigid and set in it’s way, and dictating only a certain limited thing is of value. It will kill the art if we let it continue. One dead blog post, one fossilized forum after another.

Everyone has an aspect of the art they enjoy. Teaching, training, learning, competing, crafting or dissecting. Balance has to be found, equal weight put on every aspect. A living art hosts a community that welcomes and supports each of the castes. You have to always be on watch that you aren’t just listening to voices that are only saying the same things as you.

Speak your voice. Share your stories. Here, if nowhere else.