I was starting to think about the stuff of the moment here and thinking of using, as a title, the term “intermediation”, borrowing from some recent writing in one of John Michael Greer’s excellent online essays. As Greer said very well, the phenomenon is a common, no, ubiquitous thing. The word itself is just a slightly fancier way of addressing the subject of middlemen, being middlemen, inserting themselves in the middle of things, and, usually, demanding you to pay them for getting in the way.
So many people are so fond of being simplistic, these days, as a response to complex things, that it’s important to be clear that there are certainly positions in the works of various processes that actually are useful, even essential, but that isn’t what I’m talking about, obviously.
Greer did quite a nice essay on the problems with this sort of thing, and the way huge knotted masses of intermediation have become so normal and established that malfunction and waste take precedence over necessity and importance and actual value. More to the point, he examined the way that this sort of thing is going to change in the future, possibly near future, one way or another. The idea of getting through is important to anybody finding themselves struggling through some bog or another to get things done or sorted out, or even get a straight answer about some bit of important information. Thinking about that leads to the problem of even trying to get through to people to make them aware of many things and get them to understand them, and that latter part is often not because people are too dim to understand, but because of some other problems.
There can be different reasons for this. One that comes to mind was expressed well by Upton Sinclair, saying “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.“. In many cases, I’m convinced, it’s more a case of people finding things clashing with what they’ve been told repeatedly they are supposed to think, even when it contradicts their own observations and experience. That’s baffling, but becomes less so when you consider the kind of added complication people might call the ever popular “peer pressure”, as in, am I thinking what my friends, colleagues, family, neighbors, and whomever think you’re supposed to think?
For that matter, just referring to Greer and his regular (most Thursdays) online essays in the blog called The Archdruid Report could be problematic, but not that there’s something wrong there. Greer is a bright and insightful fellow, he is, and I think people would be foolish to ignore and dismiss what he writes, but, certainly many people will. “The What?… the Archdruid?… what the hell kinda weirdo is this guy?“.
Talking about Greer a second loops us back to his thoughts about intermediation, and the topic of, well, intermediaries. Middlemen has such an unflattering sound to it, doesn’t it. But, then, how hard might it be to get any of that across to anybody who might be an intermediary as an occupation, and even making quite a nice income at it? What was that, again? It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.
I’ve been finding myself encountering a strange kind of intermediation that consists of supposed “improvements” that interject some kind of new obstacles, that will be familiar to just about everybody. Sometimes this consists of directing everyone, whether they need information about something that matters to them, or to actually take some step to get something done, to some hellishly dysfunctional labyrinth of a website, that might malfunction at seemingly every turn, and even when supposedly working properly, ends up being some ridiculous puzzle devised by idiots (or by committee, which often is effectively the same), that can end up doing things like leading you on a chase through link and page after link and page that never seem to produce what you’re looking for, and claims to have that if you just click this next link, and eventually take you back to the page where you first started. Along the way, chances are good, in this kind of monument to bad design, that every page will waste network bandwidth and system memory to load piles of completely useless and superfluous graphic images (very probably consisting of some stock photography featuring smiley happy people models, for no apparent reason).
Already, I suspect, as you read that last bit, you also thought “don’t forget trying to get somebody on the telephone!”.
There’s something extra grotesque about all that happening as you’re having to deal with these obstacle courses, just to get to the middlemen who will then proceed to be some sort of obstacle and extra layer of problems.
In thinking about a title here, I thought about “intermediation”, but others that crossed by mind were-
“the gauntlet of the middlemen”
“death by bullshit”.
By coincidence, I found myself wasting a stupid amount of time coming to the rescue (so to speak) in a petty crisis involving somebody who had to stop everything and have somebody come to sort out some malfunction of cable television service, resulting from “improvements” by their cable TV company, that recently changed their system so that everything now comes through the wire as a digital data stream, processed by a little interface box that is now required (with a new monthly extra rental fee if you want to keep watching extra televisions around your house), which, surprise, turns out to be shit, with the new improved service apparently almost always malfunctioning in one way or another.
I resume this little note here after dealing with problems involving actually connecting to the internet, which involves another story of dysfunctional corporate organuzations. That involved over an hour on the telephone what should have taken less than five minutes, royally pissing me off, and that was just the part that began the hours until somebody was evidently to find the “ON” switch.
All that about literally getting through in communications is one thing. Beyond that, the question is, what is actually getting through to people, even when it manages to get right in front of their faces?