MAVAW, an acronym to suggest Men Against Violence Against Women, came to me in one of those half-awake flashes in the middle of the night that make you feel you are onto something big. I had been troubled by the news of Eddy Coello, the former Bronx police officer indicted for murder in the disappearance of his wife and mother of their 5-year-old daughter.
Men must stand up against men in this, I thought. Otherwise it will never change. And by the way, if guilty and convicted, this former cop should be sentenced to death - in my opinion.
MAVAW needs to be created, I thought in my moment of midnight clarity, and mobilized to stand up for capital punishment in this arena. Perhaps where emotions run so amok - police are never more at risk than when intervening in domestic disputes - the certainty and finality of capital punishment might accomplish what law and reason cannot. (Do I want to pay taxes to keep Eddy Coello in prison for the rest of his life? No. But I would happily contribute to his daughter's therapy.)
According to reports, the woman had told friends that if anything happened to her, Coello should be the prime suspect, as he had reportedly abused her in the past. He had resigned from the police force after four years amid domestic violence charges involving another wife. There was at least one order of protection against Coello from 2007, and his current (now dead) wife had been seeking to separate from him and had prepared another restraining order against him.
The dynamics of abuse are complex and often involve victims who for various reasons cannot get away from the source of their suffering. How and why this situation persisted to its fatal outcome is something for friends and family of the woman - and her violent husband - to contemplate. It is tragic to consider how the five-year-old daughter will absorb and find ways to live with this horrifying family event. And it remains society's problem.
I happened to be raised by a father who would not tolerate any physical violence toward the one girl in the family, my sister. This rule was strictly enforced against our older brother and me. God help us if we were caught punching, slapping, biting, pinching or doing anything to her of that kind. (My brother once did throw a small stone over a lilac hedge and hit her in the forehead and paid her a dime to keep quiet, the only incident of its kind I was ever aware of.)
It was completely hands off and the message was, real men don't ever abuse women in any way. (In the emotional and psychological realm, my father did not always follow that rule himself, but that is another story.) Women never got hit in our house.
Of course my nocturnal insight was not ahead of reality. MAVAW exists already as an official auxiliary organization of Hubbard House, one of the leading Domestic Violence Shelters in the state of Florida. If you search it online, it and related sites give you statistics and political issues to consider:
- A woman is abused every nine seconds in the United States - imagine how many times it has happened since you began reading this.
- In February, federal lawmakers revealed they do not agree on the severity of this problem or how to approach it. President Obama's budget in fiscal 2012 would increase efforts to stop violence against women and to help victims. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution for 2011 that would cut funding for health and safety net programs to help to victims of violence.
Through MAVAW online, I found the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a program that refurbishes and sells donated cellphones to underwrite their efforts.
Two of my old phones are on their way - the least I could do in the wake of Mrs. Coello. I also put myself on MAVAW'S mailing list and resolved to speak up more.
Meanwhile, I will note that jailhouse criminals generally hate former cops and additionally have contempt for men who hurt women. So Coello is in a pickle. At least I am glad that he is not comforted, and a justice worthy of his violence may await him behind bars.
In perusing old notes for a new book, I came upon observations made in an interview with Robert Oxnam, former President of the Asia Society. Oxnam was describing what to him was the need for a true ideology for China, one that could reach beyond "to be rich is glorious" to give the emerging world power a moral and political identity to be proud of, and one that might hold it together more than break it apart. The real message of Tianenmen Square, Oxnam said, was that students demonstrating for openness, tolerance, and democracy were exercising their right to be students, and to be the conscience of the nation. (My emphasis added). The phrase stopped me. Where, I wondered, are US students today acting as "the conscience of the nation?" Or did this fade after Vietnam, or go underground after the draft expired? President Obama, without conferring with Congress, has just put the nation into a third war front in Libya. This is part of a multi-national effort apparently entered into hastily, and without a broad US Mideast military policy to address fomented rebellions there. This Presidential act, one could argue, overreaches the power of the presidency despite alleged authority to fight terrorism on any front for almost any reason. Obama went on TV to the nation March 28 to explain his rationale for US involvement. I personally support efforts to block Qaddafi's intent to kill his own citizens (whom he may define as 'terrorists,' if it suits him), in the same way I favor intervening if the man upstairs is beating his wife. Boundaries are not the issue, and time is of the essence. I favor intervention when morally and practically required - but not without Congressional due process, and that does not have to take a lot of time. (In the case of the man upstairs, there is no due process and he does not deserve a warning.) On another front, we learn this week that Obama no longer believes that suspected terrorists should get the Miranda warning afforded them constitutionally, depending on the circumstances and the perceptions of the FBI agent at the time. An FBI internal memo revealed this week advises its agents:
1. If applicable, agents should ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public or the arresting agents without advising the arrestee of his Miranda rights. 2. After all applicable public safety questions have been exhausted, agents should advise the arrestee of his Miranda rights and seek a waiver of those rights before any further interrogation occurs, absent exceptional circumstances described below. 3. There may be exceptional cases in which, although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government's interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation.
I find it hard to believe that someone who has conspired to commit acts of terrorism will talk if he has not been apprised of his Miranda rights but will clam up once informed that he can be represented by an attorney under US law. Really? If the students I have in mind were to act conscientiously, they would object to the abuse of presidential power, or even the appearance of it, whether or not it is taking the US into war. They would also object to the selective application of Constitutional rights for "terrorists" because it would occur to them that anyone can be considered a terrorist, and treated accordingly. Surely the farmers in the American Revolution were terrorists in the eyes of the British, who probably had no trouble burning the soles of their feet to coax their plans out of them. That was long before the Geneva Convention or the evolution of US Constitutional law that made us a model for the world. I would like to see our students defending that.
A joke my father once brought home on a little poster from his office said:
"Keep your eye on the ball, your shoulder to the wheel and your ear to the ground - now try to work in that position!"
It comes to mind amid further news of the Japan quake and nuclear aftermath, Libyan fly-overs and Yemeni revolution. Oh, and the US Congress is struggling to address entitlement reform as our fiscal balance spins further out of control, and...
As much news as there is in the world demanding our attention, our lives are still immediately in front of us - children to raise (my 12-yer-old son needs a guitar teacher), relationships to tend (tend them, keep them happy; get over that one, find another), and the logistics of daily life (someone just hit the car!).
And just yesterday a potential Florida client who owns newspaper properties pointed out that all the information on the Internet, as alluring as it may be, doesn't necessarily contain the answer or insight you need, if you can find it. Along the way you will spend time you probably don't have being distracted by things that don't matter - or are simply wrong.
All of this served to remind me of a principle that sailing in rough conditions taught me: when things get ugly, slow down and do the right next thing right.
It is simple enough to say, and not as hard to do as one might think. It means bringing the far horizon near, and focusing the mind, eye, hand and attention on the thing at hand that must be done next, and right, before the next right thing can be addressed.
This has the effect of slowing down a turbulent situation and clearing away distractions that at a distance may loom as threatening or out of control - or both.
The good news is that there is always a "next thing" that has to be done right, and doing it right is worth all of one's attention, particularly if errors will be costly (even dangerous).
I was asked to be on a 6 a.m. call this week to London that was cancelled because the European corporate client suddenly had to deal with Japan, its understandable workplace instability amid spreading fears of meltdown and contagion. I had not expected either the call or a related major meeting in Europe to be cancelled, but I was not surprised, given current volatilities around the world.
How prepared are people for the bigger reverberations of major events, and how to deal with them intelligently, of which the first step might be anticipation and planning?
I confess I have not yet read Kenneth Posner’s book, Stalking the Black Swan: Research and Decision Making in a World of Extreme Volatility, although I think it advisable for anyone who applies scenario thinking and other basic risk-management techniques to the rising uncertainties of our time. Posner's attempt, according to reviews, is to mix quantifiable and computer calculation with human instinct, experience and intuition. A worthy goal worth thinking about, and actually trying to do.
(Number me among those readers who attempted Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan and put it down before the end, partly because at a certain point before page 300 I thought I grasped the thesis well enough and because, frankly, Taleb is a writer who does not know why he would use one word if he could use 20. Of those, more than half will be about Taleb's superior view of uncertainty, about which he appears to be uncertain not at all.)
As a longtime scenario practitioner, I have an aversion to certainties of all kinds, partly because it is always the unexpected that changes the way we think and subsequently must behave. Humans must live and work in a constant tension between confidence about what they think they know and flexibility in the face of incomplete information, and sheer ignorance. But how to identify what you do not know well enough and should consider?
Enter Japan's earthquake and unfolding disaster. Were quakes of this kind uncertain? No, they were inevitable (and still are.) Were those plants "safe?" No, they never were, located on the geological "Ring of Fire" that promises serious quakes from here to eternity.
The quake's timing, however, was uncertain, and also the extremity of its effects. We must now all reconsider whether:
- A nuclear cloud will get into the atmosphere and increase cancer risks everywhere
- Anti-nuclear movements will extend globally as the world comprehends that it potentially shares in every other country's nuclear risks
- Nuclear plants should continue to answer the world's energy appetite, given what we now know, and know that we know
- Recalculation of insurance liabilities will render nuclear energy just too costly
- Makers of potassium iodide pills are suddenly a valuable stock investment (Or are you too late?)
I mean this last only partly facetiously. It says something about positive pricing effects in negative macro conditions.
Vital lessons may be taken from Japan's experience - which, pray, does not continue to multiple meltdowns and swathes of dead areas of Japan from nuclear contamination. One lesson might be in the approach that executives and managers take to major "uncertainties" that are likely to unfold at some level and at some point reasonably soon. Don't we know what some of them are?
As much as a U.S. Treasury-market collapse, Middle East (Libya, Saudi-Bahrain) disruptions, oil prices above $120/bbl, rapid global inflation, European financial meltdown and China disruptions are known to be real and proximate possibilities, many corporate and public policy leaders have not really taken the time to think these through.
Scenario thinking continues to be an invaluable tool in the risk-manager's toolbox because it allows for the unthinkable to be more easily thought and for the unspeakable to be spoken in ways that may be heard and acted upon in time. Examples are many of risks that were contemplated with scenarios and where subsequent actions saved millions or produced strategic options that were acted on profitably. Lives might well be saved as well.
Maybe Japan's quake has shaken the rest of the world enough to reconsider how prepared we are, and are not, on some of these fronts. "What if?" remains a powerful question for managing future risk, but only if you really ask it - the right way with the right people around you - and think it through.
It is gratifying to wing opinionated and potentially provocative words into the blogosphere and have words come back, whether affirming or not. The words (and website) below reverberated from my previous question about whether people know the rationale for our waging war in Afghanistan (and a corollary, Iraq), and whether they support it.
This inquiry caused me to discover and be shocked by the estimated number of nearly ONE MILLION DEAD in combined military and civilian casualties between the two conflicts in the last near decade. Most are civilian. Many of those had nothing to do with terrorism and will not have been drawn closer to the US as a result of the deaths of loved ones, I would suspect.
From a New York City mother of two teenage girls and a younger son:
This will tell you, among other things, that a veterans' protest is scheduled in Washington, DC for March 19, next Saturday, on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion. The argument and its passion may surprise you. You may even be moved to think/feel differently, and possibly to act, on the strength of it. Also, the demonstrations the following day want to bring awareness to the situation of Bradley Manning, the US Army intelligence analyst currently imprisoned in Quantico and awaiting court marshal, whose allegedly inhumane treatment in custody has been brought to Obama's attention.
From a former Navy pilot, who came of military age in the Vietnam era:
How about immoral and irrational? The war in Iraq is immoral and the war in Afghanistan is irrational. Iraq sustained the predilection of the US to engage in wars of aggression. Can anyone reasonably doubt that either Vietnam or Iraq was such a war? Both were a departure from our nation's traditional values. Afghanistan was presumably directed to thwarting Al Quaeda, which in the interim has sprung up like mercury under the thumb in places like Somalia. Nonetheless, we continue to pretend that we are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. Your "energy lawyer" is spot on, to wit: this is merely a political action initiated by Bush and perpetuated by Obama for political purposes. Can any action possibly be more cynical? On a related note, the volunteer force disassociates the rest of America, other than the friends and families of those who serve so honorably, from those political conflicts. The detachment permits us to remain disengaged from the conflict. It doesn't touch us so we do not object. Universal service requires everyone to give something back to the country, and requires each individual in the country (or someone with whom they are related or acquainted) to be "at risk" of serving in each conflict. In addition, it gives those with a VALID moral objection to conflict the mechanism to channel their obligation into an area devoid of the prospect of armed conflict.
As it happens I agree with this reader and feel vindicated that someone of military commitment and bearing sees it this way.
From an author of historical books and former national political reporter:
I of course disagree with your thesis. I don't have much to contribute to the canon on Vietnam - wretched costly mistake steeped in the stupidity of the best and brightest ... but I still think there was a case for invading Iraq and unseating Saddam. The fatal blunders there were:
1. You simply cannot lie about the casus belli for war in a democracy; hanging onto the convenient "Tonkin Gulf" justification of weapons of mass destruction, when at best we had no proof of them and at worst knew they did not exist, laid a flawed foundation for our being there that could not be cured;
2. We did not sustain the wobbly security forces there or replace them with anything else, and did not send enough men - our (Phillips Academy graduate) Andover man Paul "Jerry" Bremer deserves the blame for this, with others; and,
3. We did not respond even remotely adequately to Abu Ghraib. I remember being stuck in a hotel room at Gatwick during Senate hearings when Evan Bayh asked Rumsfeld if he should have resigned over Abu Ghraib, and after a long pause Rumsfeld said, "Yes." He says so again in his new book. Then why, oh why, didn't he?
As to Afghanistan, I have only a layman's sense that no one can "win" a war there. But it is very hard for me to think that President Obama has some ulterior motive such as re-election driving his support for the surge there - and I do have some qualifications as an expert on presidential elections, so I will say with confidence that I do not see how he picks up a single vote by supporting the surge, but I think he loses some potential support in the primaries for doing so.
I agree that drafting everyone was a vastly fairer and more sensible way of prosecuting wars than the mercenary military we have today. But the reason we do not have universal two-year public service is not the right...it is organized labor.
I cannot anticipate the expressed view of "organized labor" in the universal national service debate. I doubt that "labor" would think and act on this as a monolith. It makes more sense to me that labor in general would favor wars of various kinds, because they are stimulative of basic industries that we have not yet farmed out to other countries. Now that might be considered cynical.
Please do write.
This is not a neutral topic worthy of indifference or inaction.
Do you know why the US has troops fighting in Afghanistan? Do you support it?
At a recent weekend ski reunion in Nevada I asked this of some high school era classmates, (Phillips Academy, 1966), a relatively well informed and learned professional group, mixing law, public policy and private enterprise in almost equal measure. I have found that many people, however well educated and apparently informed, do not know the official rationale for our being in Afghanistan. But polls suggest that opposition to the war hit 63% in December, 2010, as US (and other) soldiers continue to sacrifice themselves there and civilian casualties mount. With at least 919,967 people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates, the war should rightfully loom as a major campaign issue in 2012.
About 10 of us had gathered in our former classmate's house and soon became engaged, if not enraged, by the topic, which recalled for us another conflict. Some of us had brothers who fought in Vietnam. Some of us did not have to serve because of the lottery then, or served because of it.
Most of us had come to see Vietnam as unjustified, as well as unsuccessful. (One of our classmates had written "Loon," a recent first-person account of a high-loss battle in Vietnam and its grim legacy.)
Some of us now fervently believe the US should bring back the draft (perhaps as universal 2-year national service) so that our wars are not fought only by those who volunteer. One advocated the idea on the grounds that if everyone in the country had equal skin in the war game, the country might be more fairly and fully engaged in determining what wars we fight.
Everyone seemed to agree that this would be good for the country. No one in the room seemed to believe that current leadership would be willing to broach the topic of the draft, or even of withdrawing, before the elections.
One of my classmates served in Congress and now, as an energy attorney, frequents the corridors of Washington and travels the world. He is the member of our group who predictably will have read the most relevant recent book on a topic and have the most informed and thoughtful view. He cited the recent "Our Vietnam," by AJ Langguth, and reported some disturbing history compiled from original sources. According to Langguth, Kennedy never believed that the war against the North Vietnamese could be won. And he did not believe the "domino theory" that the fall of Vietnam would mean the loss of Asia to communism. He believed he simply could not afford politically to get the US out before the 1964 election because the Republicans would roast him. By then, Lyndon Johnson, who as Vice President had tried to convince Kennedy to exit the war as un-winnable, found himself similarly trapped by a war that had escalated beyond the point of practical or political withdrawal. (Kissinger would later be instrumental in negotiating a pause in which the US finally could come out.) This renewed sense of Vietnam history, where domestic politics interfered with common sense, provoked a number of reactions to the current situation.
One former classmate active on Capitol Hill characterized many Democrats as believing "Afghanistan is an outrage." He wondered aloud if Obama, who promised withdrawal by July 2011, can survive in 2012. "When you read how the Mideast revolutions are happening, how accelerated everything is, I find it hard to believe that Obama is going to skate through," he said. As a few of us wondered aloud at the apparent lack of anti-war activism compared to Vietnam's protests, our energy lawyer quoted a recent conversation with author James Fallows on the topic, who said:
"You never know on a given day whether you should be living a normal life or doing something about the most important issue of our time." Perhaps our war in Afghanistan is not "the most important issue of our time," but it must rank pretty high. How many have US soldiers have died there? The quoted statistics are: 4,683 in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, since "Operation Enduring Freedom" began on Oct. 7, 2001, and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" began on March 20, 2003. Of the total US deaths, 3,708 were reportedly due to hostile fire, and the remainder due to non-hostile actions (such as accident, suicide, or illness). Perhaps the military deaths are the most important thing, though they do not embrace the thousands severely wounded or mentally affected for life. Officially, 30,490 U.S. service members have been wounded due to combat actions in Iraq and 2,309 in Afghanistan (32,799 total). (Source: Rod Powers, About.com) The civilian death statistics already mentioned are highly disturbing. If you want the official rationale, you will find it here: US President Barack Obama, declared on Dec. 1, 2009: “I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11....It is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3000 people.” In his press conference on military action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama called the region a base for "Al Qaeda and its extremist allies" from which they train terrorists and launch attacks, now "the most dangerous place in the world for the American people" and "an international terrorist challenge of the highest order." An additional 17,000 US troops would be committed immediately, and training of Afghanis would be increased.
Addressing Al Qaeda, Obama said flatly: "We will defeat you."
One might question if the US is suppressing or defeating terrorism as much as it is stimulating it, as some have suggested, by causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in countries with which we are not at war. And can Al Qaeda and the Taliban be defeated militarily on their home turf? Our discussion was inconclusive, although the sense of the room was that this issue may be bigger than current debate and lack of open protest suggests. Is Afghanistan an echo of Vietnam, misguided and un-winnable, and now a tool of US domestic politics?
Will Obama sustain the hostilities until after the election in 2012, as much as it is supported on the right and opposed on the left?
Perusing old notes for a new book project, I find signals in the past that seemed like noise to many people then, but were in fact the signal. Bran Ferren, now the co-founder of Applied Minds, who had become the head of Imagineering for Disney along the way, was speaking to a CIA audience in the winter of 1998. He was observing that the number of Web users had hit 100 million in four years and trying to get the audience of official government intelligence workers to think what this might mean. Imagine, he said (he was then and would become more widely recognized and sought as an expert on imagining), trying to convince the Wright Brothers that in 85 years the industry would be kept alive by mileage incentives.(Newspapers, he said matter-of-factly, would eventually be banned, because too many trees would have to be cut down.) The "computer revolution" had not even begun, he scoffed, and "the notion of information overload is ludicrous and absurd because humans are made for it." Our evolution was now happening in terms of sensibility and consciousness and you could choose to join actively in the process. (We since have evidence that our intake of information now through all current media is changing the way our brains are developing, and the way we seek meaning.) If you were not on the Internet at this point, Ferren said, you were on the road to becoming an illiterate. You were missing a crucial opportunity to connect to something fluid and evolving where connectivity would be everything. You needed to start doing R&D in the kind of story-telling you do. "Right now everyone is doing small r and big D," he went on, "You need to find the smart people and fund them, because it's the best idea we have for inventing the future." The Internet would be the "single greatest enabling technology for you and your enemies," he said. "There has never been a great teacher or a great leader who wasn't a great story-teller. Merge story-telling skills with technologists and the disseminators and you have a powerful tool - and an educational system - and if you can touch their hearts, you can open their minds." His words at that time have a special resonance for me now in light of events in the Middle East. Some of us had done scenarios on that part of the world in the early 90s and at least one future saw the impact of youth and information in new, anti-authoritarian forms. Did our Central Intelligence Agency not foresee the revolution coming there? Did they lack intelligence, or imagination? What were the chances that cultures living under autocratic or dictatorial rule, with large populations of unemployed youth, could come into the Internet-rich 21st century without unrest? Would it take inflation and food shortages to light their fuses, or would it be something else? Maybe their inevitable connections to the network that was springing up? It was during the same period (early 1998) that James Barksdale, then CEO of Netscape, was trying to communicate the impacts of Moore's and Metcalfe's Laws on the communication society, as the price of computing power was collapsing by half every 18 months (Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel) and the power of networks was growing "by the square of the endpoints" (Robert Metcalfe, who invented the ethernet). The Internet as understood then was growing point-to-point and end-to-end at twice the speed of any other network in history, Barksdale was saying. He predicted Internet commerce of $10 billion in the US by 2000 (actual number $152B online sales in US in 2010, up 12% year-on-year). And commerce was only one index of impact and influence. "You never know where the endpoints will take you," Barksdale said then. "No one can understand the complexity." It was a cautionary note not to underestimate what you had not yet imagined coming out of this technology. Just as Gutenberg did not know that newspaper would bring down presidents, we did not think - did we? - that the Internet would bring down regimes in the Middle East. Didn't we? What would be the impacts of the technology and all the stories that would be told, or could be told, or could be made up and told by friend or foe, to friend or to foe, and propagated on the Internet as it exploded? If the Wright Brothers could not imagine mileage incentives, could the CIA not imagine Muslim minds opening up to a real democratic urge? Had they or we (I mean, they are our Central Intelligence Agency, after all) grasped the power of story-telling online, and how to tell it? Just imagine.
The magic of Facebook - network connections across time and space - brings back a woman friend from long ago who has decided to retire from journalism. She has been among the better columnists in the US press for more than three decades, writing on everything from sports to Catholicism, politics and social change, emanating first from Sports Illustrated and then the San Francisco Examiner and finally from a small paper in Indiana, where ailing parents led her to finish out her career in the town where she grew up.
Hers has been a voice of staunch feminism and independence, mixing sharp wit with a passion for what she believes is right. She has never been afraid to raise her lone voice or express outrage where others had been pressured into silence or rendered too indifferent to speak up.
Her pronouncement is disturbing.
"I have decided that words are now worth what Deutschmarks were in the Wiemar Republic," she says. "Nothing."
"Nothing. And no one really wants to read, or follow an argument, or listen to reason that does not agree with what they already believe. It's pointless. I think I am really ready to retire, hang it up." She says this with an air of finality I recognize. (And I know that research suggests the blogosphere is making it easier for people only to follow those they already agree with, polarizing camps of opinion and closing more minds than are opened. So maybe she has a point.)
Perhaps, I think, this is like the rationale of someone who has been forced to relinquish a lover and who suddenly discovers faults that were previously obscure. It is much easier to let go of what we no longer value, or devalue what we wish to leave behind.
I brood on this for about 24 hours, thinking: few if any I knew in the business revered words more than she did, or used them better. And why would she now abandon them - for what in their place? Golf? Party planning? Consuming the words of others but generating none of her own?
Words did not (in my humble view) evolve greater subtlety and richer meaning over time to be demeaned now on a pure volume argument.
Certainly it is true that blogs and Facebook and Linked In and other networks have allowed almost any Yahoo (including this one) to write and publish with few constraints. Gone are many of the talented editors and the publications that housed them as the Internet erodes traditional publishing across the land. Coupled with that has been the corporatization of the press, which has reduced the range of available news, homogenized opinion and sapped conviction from public dialogue.
Still, voices can and are being raised across a range previously unthinkable, if you can just figure out how to be found and heard. The one can reach more of the many than ever before in human history, and outside the bounds of traditional publishing authority.
E-book sales increased 176 percent in 2009, romance continued to dominate book sales, but the number of overall titles increased 11.4 percent year to date through June of 2010, from which the book industry took some heart. As Borders goes into bankruptcy and consolidation of book sellers increases, one has to wonder whether a new model may be emerging in which individual writers will reach enormous worldwide audiences without the income being shaved by the middlemen (and women).
And here the demand equation comes into play - can you say things in a way that will attract? Can you (the blogger or writer of any kind) mix substance and style to be a powerful enough signal in all the noise to strike a note that others want and need to hear?
I attempt a rebuttal.
Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come. (Words)
I have a dream. (Words)
Ask not what your country can do. (Words)
I love you. (Words)
I am sorry. (Words)
What is grass? said the child, fetching it to me with full hands. (Words)
What light from yonder window breaks? Tis the East, and... (Words)
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor... (Words) So I wonder aloud, what is wrong? Do you need a rationale to come to terms with falling silent?
Some might say that speech and words distinguish humans from other creatures, although we have reason to believe that many of them manage to communicate at a high level.
But falling silent because language no longer matters? "Pointless?"