In Letters from the Earth written in 1909, rather late in his life, Mark Twain took the voice of the archangel Satan (before the fall) writing home to his peers Gabriel and Michael about a visit to earth to observe the human condition. Satan’s greatest finding and source of consternation was that humans imagined a heaven devoid of sex. There were plenty of white robes, harps, singing, and what not, but it represented an eternity without sex. Twain’s Satan thought this odd.
Twain died in 1910 and the book was only published in 1962, long after relatives, who strongly objected that the book would do nothing to embellish Twain’s reputation, were gone from the scene. I stumbled upon Letters as a young man, a halfhearted student of American literature, and have kept it in my mind for all these years. It’s not the heaven and sex that makes the book memorable but the apparent ability of the novelist to, as Scott Fitzgerald once noted, keep two distinct ideas in mind and still be able to think that impressed me.
Letters and CRM were in my mind over the weekend as a demonstration and counter-demonstration in Charlottesville disintegrated into murder and mayhem. You might think there’s no connection between CRM and the bigotry most Americans denounced whole heartedly the day of the incident (okay, there was one holdout in a high office) but I think there is and not only that but the modern CRM orientation dooms the bigots.
CRM is all about enhancing the free market and removing barriers so that it can do what it does best, matching buyers and sellers. It’s an unwritten rule in CRM that there should be no barriers and that transparency is king. Vendors who forget this inevitably suffer the slings and arrows of fickle customers. But as long as a vendor keeps in mind that the business serves the customer all can be well. Imagine the opposite, that the vendor controlled the customer. It wasn’t that long ago that such was the case, that information was tightly controlled and doled out by the vendor and its agents on an as needed basis. In some ways, it’s a world that the haters in Charlottesville would like us to return, but we won’t. We can’t.
The internet changed all that by democratizing information which caused vendors to compete on things other than information control. At first it was ugly as vendors increasingly competed on price, which ultimately drove more than a few out of business. But it also caused many to rethink their business models and how they compete and that directly drove greater adoption and further evolution of CRM.
In the wake of Charlottesville we’re beginning to see headlines like, “Ridgeville man out of a job following photo next to Charlottesville murder suspect” in The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC) and from the New York Post, “Family disowns racist outed at Charlottesville rally.”
The torchlight procession of hate on Friday night made smartphone filming and later identifying the marchers trivial and many similar headlines are circulating. So the tools of the internet, social media and mobile computing, that CRM has made integral have also become integral to the blowback to hate.
One thing the haters didn’t figure on is that hate requires a great deal of infrastructure and organization as well as labor to support it. Who would build and pay for the infrastructure of their demented dreams and who would man the barricades? Most importantly, who would be left to do the things that make our society strong?
The history of America is one of occasional flirtations with authoritarianism that fall of their own weight. As time races ahead the romances become briefer as they are more easily consumed by the lightness of democracy (and our increasingly powerful ability to communicate). There might be little we can do to disabuse haters of their hate and in our democracy it’s their right to hold whatever opinions they choose. Satan was here on Saturday but he left early with little to report. As our experience with CRM and recent headlines show, there’s no need to tolerate the vendors of hate and the marketplace of human ideals continues to advance.