Reading the New York Times article about the history of the Time Warner/AOL merger, I was reminded of my own attempt to be a "player". How pitiful was it ,as I look back at the whole sordid mess, to think that I had a fighting chance to do something about it?
I have written before about my on-line book group, in a blog called Book Groups R Me. It was truly important to all of us in the group; we were thriving under the wing of AOL, and then, (mixed metaphor), they pulled the rug out from under us.
Jo in ABQ was the most technically capable of any of us, and she used all of her on-line smarts to tell AOL that they were making a horrible mistake. Of course, we had no idea of the magnitude of the contemplated changes, but even to the unsophisticated GGOBITS that we were, it looked like a stupid marriage.
I decided that I would just call them and alert them to the damage they were about to commit. I called my broker to get the corporate number, and I called it. Of course, I couldn't reach Steve Case or Gerald Levin. I ended up speaking to an underling of an underling in the advertising department, I think.
It is a funny story in retrospect, but it is a very unfunny fact in real life.
It is the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it ". TIME was once a wonderful newsmagazine, but it was beaten into a pulp of its former self by the twenty-four hour news cycle. WARNER; whatever did happen to that great movie studio? The AOL today is so much a tangled web that my old book friends are heading elsewhere. One of our members' daughter did try to set up a site for us; we would consistently lose our ability to access it.
Make it simple, stupid. That is all we were asking.
But that foolish story is just the lead-in to my real concern. In the cacophony and the dissonance, no one hears anything. Everyone says something. How can we speak to one another above and beyond the noise?
This is a subject of immense importance. In a democracy, who can hear a single voice ? Signing on line petitions does not seem to bear much weight with the receivers of our outcries, whether for or against. The phone lines to our Senators are always busy, yet many of us keep trying. What are the statistical odds that the vote tally is close to accurate?
The voices in the wilderness are not heard, even mobilized by Move On. The individual stockholders who show up at annual meetings don't have a chance against the block votes of the majority.
We watch NBC shoot itself in the foot. We believe Barry Bond's or we don't. We think airport security is getting better. We have no idea what our strategy is against AlQueda. I trust the government; many do not.
Being a mere person is a sad concept in this gigantic and complicated world. It knocks the naiveté right out of you. Am I not able to change with the times? I think it is more than that.
Each one of us is lost in the wilderness, and I am afraid.
Forgive me for pretending to be Camus.