Modern Samurai and old broad shoulders – March 18, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

Thinking more on Musashi and his impact on society, when I came across “Samurai on Wall Street: Miyamoto Musashi and the Search for Success” by Cameron Hurst in EJMAS

Written in the early ’80s at the height of Japan’s economic power it is a very good analysis of the cult of “secrets”, that search for simple answers. Check it out in light of an aging society and a higher yen that has affected Japan for the last decade or so.

I think it could also be read in light of the martial arts tendency to revere “secret teaching” and look for the “unbeatable technique” or art.

It’s also a perfect example of my own aging, I published the article and certainly read it at the time but was completely surprised to find it through a search of the net. “I’ve forgotten much more than I now know” is not bragging, it’s an admission of a brain too full of useless stuff from reality TV. My students and friends are amused by my refusal to keep up with the latest social tropes but I swear I’m just afraid of what will drop out of the back of my head when the newest grumpycat photo goes in the front.

I suppose I could say that all my old knowledge is getting distilled into a new, more efficient form, but in an age of companies whose whole busness model consists of buying patents and copyright and suing anyone who can’t afford to fight back, I’m afraid that old synthesis model of human advancement could lose you your house and get you thrown in jail.

Hurst’s article certainly stayed with me, I read things there that I could have written, yet I don’t remember the article itself. I could be accused of plagiarism or sued for copyright infringement if I were to get too close to his language without attribution. The result is that anyone who wishes to write must spend time checking sources. This checking can take more time than the work produced, even in a computerized world… the same world that makes it so much easier to find copyright violations.

How much of our limited lifespan needs to go into making sure our ideas haven’t been already fenced off by lawyers? Back in the day theft of a musical theme, a turn of phrase was a good thing. You stood on the shoulders of giants (go ahead Newton, sue me) but now we have to start and stay in the mud for fear someone has trod the path before us and put up a toll gate.

Who does benefit from copyright? I just put out 6 new books and hope to make a little bit of money on them since I spent three or four months away from the shop to produce them. What’s my recourse should I find them floating around on the net in one of the various torrent or book source sites? None at all, I can’t afford a lawyer to go after anybody, only the big publishing houses have that option, or someone with an independent source of cash to throw around. I put copyright notices on there to prevent those same publishing houses from stealing my book and making a bazillion dollars on the sales, for the rest of you folks I rely much more on the polite request on my website that says please don’t steal it whole.

But by all means, read it, absorb it, use the information to advance the arts and you’ll never ever hear a peep out of me. I stole the stuff from those who came before me, now you steal it from me. Just don’t let on we’re doing it.

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