- This is a translation of an essay written in December 2008 by French Wikipedian Poulpy
I'm ten. Every week for French class we are required to select a book from the class library. I already can't stand the classics, so I reach for a gamebook. The searing glare from my teacher confirms that just because I'm allowed to take the book does not mean I can. I take it anyway.
I'm twelve. The RPG moral panic has reached France. We are expected to spend our weekends constructively, with wholesome activities appropriate for our pre-teen stage of development, not being autistically locked in fantasies. I'm starting a Stormbringer campaign with friends.
I'm fourteen. A colleague of my father spots me as I'm idly tapping keys on a demo synthesizer at the local department store. He takes his time to explain how this is worthless; such instruments warrant nothing but contempt and true music requires no amplifiers. I suddenly develop an interest for electronic music.
I'm fifteen. My French teacher would like to see us write reading reports. All subjects and genres are allowed but science fiction is specifically and categorically not. Good timing: I just happen to have a copy of Foundation on the corner of my desk.
I'm sixteen. My physics teacher makes a big fuss out of not teaching us how to use a calculator. He sums it up in a big rant mixing the decadent loss of mental arithmetic, innumerate youth and how physics ought to stand on its own without numbers anyway. He is completely helpless at forcing the sliderule on us and watches, disillusioned, as we punch out 100% accurate results. I can't bother to care and program an artillery game on my Casio.
I'm seventeen. I'm chatting with a few classmates when the teacher suddenly sneers with that condescending grin signaling the knowledge of Good from Evil: "So, talking about video games again?"
I'm twenty, and I committed the mistake of studying something not evidently connected to my actual interests. In this graduate school, the most popular club is the music club, overrun with Nirvana wannabes busy attempting to play Smells Like Teen Spirit on the axe. Annoyed by this seriousness, I spend my time listening to stuff that's anything but serious. I quickly discover that even amongst subcultures people keenly understand the difference between Good and Evil.
I'm twenty-two. The Japanese are little ants working tirelessly to destroy the Occident with sex and violence. I monopolise my friend's Laserdisc readers and actively accelerate my country's descent into ruin by exposing myself to Japanese animation.
I'm twenty-three. An aforementioned friend notices an Autechre CD of mine and can hardly hide his lack of respect for these mind-numbing rhythms that hardly warrant the term "music". I omit mentioning my love of youthful Japanese female singers in an attempt not to compromise our friendship.
I'm twenty-eight. I discover on Wikipedia that tons of people share my unusual knowledge. Some try to convince me that the method is flawed and you can't treat all topics as equal. By nature incapable of listening to such arguments, I ignore the bores. So does everybody else, anyway. The bores get annoyed at this fact and proceed to announce they are Right and everybody else is Wrong. I'm not sure I get that logic.
I am a barbarian. A well-educated barbarian, mind you, who has read and listened to all the right things, but a barbarian nonetheless. Left to my own devices I will always develop completely nonstandard interests, and experience taught me that, no matter what, people expect me to acknowledge what I like to be intrinsically inferior. Thanks to Wikipedia, I know that the world is full of people like me. I can't tell you about the rest of the universe, but to those here that expect me to give way again, I say this: go take a stroll in another encyclopedia.
Wikipedia's Rome wasn't invaded by barbarians. It was built by them. Oftentimes I go for a walk on the city's Forum and hear an orator trying to rally the crowd to his cause and explaining that the barbarians are at the city's doors. I'm still laughing.