Sunday, June 15, 2008


In my last post, I made some comparisons between my experience with my Internet Service Provider (a typical low-end capitalist enterprise) and my politicians, national, municipal, and neighborhood.

I would like to add that I just got off the phone from a long survey by my ISP. As I sat through this survey -- with a person whose English was appalling -- I asked myself how they can honestly expect people to sit through these surveys. But I did. And I think the reason is, in a sense, democratic: I want my voice to be heard. Honestly, I'm a little bit flattered to be asked my opinion. I gleefully give lots of 2's on a scale of 1 to 7 ("seven indicating I strongly agree, one indicating strongly disagree"). I am also glad to give 6's for things I think they're doing right. I want my voice to be heard. And I am glad that my ISP wants to hear it. Despite the low-end phone worker, I know that they do want my business, and do want me to recommend them to my friends, because that's where their bread is buttered.

By comparison, I wrote to my Councilman late last week, had a couple exchanges, and then asked a series of questions in the middle of this past week. I think he got tired of me: he certainly hasn't responded.

This morning, getting into the car on the way to church, I ran into my Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, our lowest-level politician. When we first moved to this neighborhood a year ago, I sent her lots of long emails, trying to make my voice heard, trying to help influence decisions that directly impact me. In every response, she politely (sometimes less politely) put me off, saying she doesn't have time to think seriously about these things and giving me amazingly pat answers. I left our last exchange up in the air about eight months ago: I decided that talking to my neighborhood politician is a total waste of time and energy, and I hoped my abrupt breaking-off of the conversation would signal that to her.

Well, I saw her this morning. A pleasant smile. She handed me her little flier that she's started distributing (100% anti-development, but also 70% anti-long-term residents). With her smile, she made some cryptic remark like, "you're stuck with me." And that was all.

Only an anecdote. But in my experience, today as every day, business cares about me a heck of a lot more than politicians do. I may be only a dollar sign to my ISP -- but I'm much less than that to the politicians who "represent me," and who have far greater, monopolistic power over me and the place where I live.

More later on how I think businesses could manage urban neighborhoods. . . .