15 Years

15 years ago, the idea was simple. April, 2001, and we would set up a blog. We were veterans of the BBS culture, gamers, students of the internet’s childhood through the 1990s. Our blog would be called Dirty Freaks and on it we would…talk about stupid shit. Or something.

We had a list of ideas. We had a plan. We had a mission statement. We were old friends and new, each of us trapped in that state of flux that has plagued our strange in-between generation. We were children of the conservative backlash, of the rise of the paranoid and entitled 80s, of a world in upheaval. The 90s had passed like a strange dream. The college years feeling wasted in a time when revolution and things to revolt against had been usurped by the media and converted into the strange, layered marketing that now so permeates our world. When we most needed something to fight, there was nothing there but PC America and a homogenized realignment of the world we thought we knew.

We took on pseudonyms that, for some of us, we’d been using online since high school. I was Nacho Sasha, the troubled and crazy firebrand writer. In real life, I was crippled by a nerve condition, trigeminal neuralgia, that erased my humanity and my hope. There was Leff, the web designer, who dreamed of escaping his miserable job and suburban lifestyle. He designed a blog software from the bottom up, convinced it would make him a millionaire. His mind and soul shattered after that fateful day in September of 2001 and he went crazy, vanishing into a troubled darkness that saw him crewing a tugboat and eventually living in a burned out building in Tennessee.

There was X10, an artist. She obsessively undermined me and Leff, preying on our hungry, lonely souls.

There was Jezebel, who, of all of us, perfectly captured the idea of an alter ego. A good woman by day, her writing explored a dark side that she would never consider in the real world. When she returned to write for our 10th anniversary, she captured the strange essence of this blog. We all grow up, we all change, and we were all, way back when, struggling with inner darkness and disappointment. But we’ve changed.

There was Rotting Corpse, who still occasionally writes for the front page.

But so much has changed. So much has happened. The webpage that was borne out of despair, confusion, pain, and anger has become something else. I don’t quite know what, but it lives on today as a sort of archive of who and what we were and as a continuing outlet of what we lost, and what we found, along the very short journey of life.

As the 15th Anniversary came up, I thought about doing a gala event like we did five years ago… But I’m a guy who likes to celebrate the 10s, not the 5th. For this, the 15th birthday of Greatsociety.org, I figured a little bit of introspection was in order. A look back on the power of words, on the hubris of dreams, and why nachos are important.