The Netizen: The Ronin

A look at history or any branch of knowledge often gives us some new way to look at the present. The similarities are startling and interesting. Would you say that there is a similarity between the Internet Community and Medievel Japan? Just before and shortly after the Tokugawa Shogunate? If you were to describe the different Internet Community members – digital natives or those born into Digital Technology and digital immigrants or those who adapted to digital technology – based on the different Japanese warriors in Medieval japan how would it come out? Would all Netizans be Ronin or Masterless Samurai or Bushi wandering the Internet?

Ronin, literally translated as wave man or someone who is socially adrift in society, was a warrior who because of circumstances, faith and/or choice has no master and answered only to himself. Often these warriors, who had no source of income, would find work as mercenaries or bodyguards called Yojimbo. And this was in fact one of the films of Akira Kurosawa that told a tale of how a ronin out-thinked two warring groups – the film was called the Bodyguard or Yojimbo. Kurosawa also created the film Shichinin no Samurai or Seven Samurai about seven ronin hired to protect the village from bandits. In both films Kurosawa portrayed both the ideal and the-not-so-ideal-side of the ronin. Masterless invidual living through a personal code of conduct and also a Masterless Individual who had to earn money by putting his skill for hire. Why bring this up?

I do not want to fall into the trap of presenting the Ronin as a Romantic Figure. It would be easy enough to do that two of the more popular examples of Ronin in Japanese culture whose legend grew from their actions and reputation had become romantic figures.The first is the famed swordsman and author of the Book of Five Rings Miyamoto Mushashi and the second is a group of ronin, the Shi-ju Shichi-shi or the Forty-Seven Ronin, who swore a secret oath to revenge the death of their lord. It took them two years and a road of humiliation before they were able to carry out and fulfill their oath. In the end they presented the head of their lord’s enemy before his grave and committed ritual suicide. Why did these masterless samurai become romantic and even noble epitome of being a ronin? Strict adherance to bushido or to any specific code and an independent spirit.

This holding fast to a code and self-determination seem to be the hooks that make being a Ronin attractive. But does it hold true that all Netizens are ronins? Or are there others?

The Samurai or Bushi. are warriors who also try to practice steadfastness to the code but at the same time also has to be loyal to their master. Essentially, they differ from the ronin because of their loyalty to their lord and his house. Right or wrong they will be steadfast to the clan and their leader. In the case of Netizens fealty to their company or organization.

Sohei or Monk Warriors who were loyal to their community and their code. In this set of people you would see loyalty or affinity to an idea that brings them together to forum a community. In the case of Netizens fealty to the common ideal of the group.

Yamabushi these ascetic warrior hermmits. The name itsalf means “One who lies or hides in the mountains” and these warrior hermits have strong beliefs and ideals yet do not form a community or a network. In a sense even if they seem to have more in common with the Ronin thab with the Sohei save for the fact that they do not engage or interact directly with rest of the people. Well not often anyway. In the case of Netizens fealty to the code snd ideal of the individual.

Perhaps it is all about loyalty.

Loyalty to a person; a group; a business; a way of life; a belief; or an ideal that defines you on the Net.

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