Extracts from a Work in Progress

(occasioned by the bad news about Blogger)

"Everything is against them, everyone and everything that does not like their life. All the voices from without, condemning and rejecting their life! And what is wrong with their life? What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?" (Philip Roth, American Pastoral)

I wonder if someday American historical mythology will see the laid-off dot-commers as it now sees Vietnam veterans: brave and inexperienced youths doing draining and hopeless work in a questionable lost cause, who emerged from their trauma to face a hostile public spitting in their faces and blaming them for all the evils of their commanders.

Who, in the end, really deserves to be brought low? Look closely at the cheering from the peanut gallery every time a big name domain name tanks, and you will find something oddly circular about the rhetoric. Why are dot-coms loathsome? Because they're get-rich-quick schemes, because they work their employees to the bone, because they're losing money for the hopeful investors who bought stock, because their business models were unsustainable. All true, grant, but where is the offense in any of this, which of these crimes is so especially heinous, in this day and age of widespread heinousness, that the dot-coms are the number-one candidates for a little humble pie?

There was a magical moment when investors could be persuaded to part with their money in order to fund Humane Workplaces with a scheme for changing the world. The disillusionment has been twofold. In the first place, it was discovered that even the Humane Workplaces whose schemes did change the world didn't seem to be making very much money at it. And in the second place, those investors proved to be much less interested in changing the world or in the quality of the workplace than in making a great deal of money very quickly. Go ahead, take that risk, society had said, in that curious way society has of saying things, with a wink and a nod giving you to know that there was no risk at all. And now, you were finding out exactly what it was like to take that risk and lose everything you had staked. It is true, that you did not stake your life or your health or all prospect of happiness ever, but this is small consolation when you realize that the bully's surprise offer of friendship was meant merely to distract you while his underling snuck up behind you.