I'd like you to follow this story for a moment, if you will: a young man, who at the tender age of 31 has become a cultural icon as the co-founder of one of the most successful enterprises (technological or otherwise) in history visits Washington, DC. And is virtually ignored except by the geeks and the tech press that follow him wherever he goes. I mean, PC Mag and C-Net follow this guy like People Mag follows Brad and Angie.
His name is Sergey Brin, and he is, of course, co-founder of Google. Ted Stevens and others among the Congressional ignorati chose to overlook his visit, or announce that they were simply too busy (with the gay marriage ban? repealing the so-called death tax? or just some new pork-laden appropriations bill?) to meet with the man who is to the Internet what Harry Potter is to children's literature or Michael Jordan to basketball. He reinvented the game and put a name to it that has become not merely a ubiquitous trademark, but a new English verb. Christ on a bicycle, this guy should have a red carpet flowing under his feet on Capitol Hill. And it had better be flying.
Now wait, it gets better. Not only is he ignored by the fat cats on the Hill, he apologizes for visiting them at such short notice. Then he apologizes again, admitting blame for having gone into China, perhaps at the compromising of his company's core value, "do no evil."
So I have a message for young Mr. Brin, because I'm betting that a bunch of assholes there in DC (and their media mouthpieces) are going to swell their waistcoats, shake a bloated finger or two, and tell you that you have a lot to learn about how to behave in business and polite society, young man.
My message for you, Mr. Brin, is this: you don't.
First of all, you have nothing to apologize for in going to Washington. You did what every citizen of this nation should be able to do—was once able to do. Go to the center of your government and meet with the representatives that your taxes help to pay. You simply showed us how imperially distant and parochially isolated our Congressional leadership has become. You revealed how insular, engorged, and repulsive a government can be when it is allowed to get fat on money and rich in corruption.
As to China, not only is the apology accepted, but the lesson you've given our nation's leaders is also to be noted. You showed Bush, Cheney, and roughly 99% of the so-called leaders of the free world how a real man deals with his errors. First, he admits them, even as he explains his motivation:
“We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference,” Brin said.
Then, he acknowledges the criticism he has received, and offers his receptivity to a discussion of alternatives:
"I can sort of see how people came to different conclusions about doing the right thing...Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense,” Brin said.
So let's review, Mr. Brin: you have done more, in the past two years or so, to advance this nation's economy, to further the cause of technological progress, to transform the practice of marketing, and to promote diversity, creativity, and choice in our culture than every single one of the five-hundred-odd lumps of fleshy jowls currently sucking the nipple of K Street combined—and you're apologizing?
You know what, Mr. Brin? I trust you when you say that you're going to do the right thing vis-a-vis China, because you've shown me that you're open to learning from criticism and applying its lessons. And if there are more than half a dozen Senators or Congressmen that I can say the same thing about, I'll cancel all my Gmail accounts, uninstall Picasa, wipe the Google Toolbar off my browser, get rid of my Pages sites, stop using Google Earth and those excellent maps, delete my Analytics and AdSense accounts, stop selling my books over your Book Search, drop your calendar, your web accelerator, take my IM business elsewhere, give up on writely.com, and return the invitation you sent me yesterday to try out your spreadsheet.
That is, I think it's safe to say that today the apology shoe is quite on the other foot. You just keep trying to do the right thing, and the rest of us will demand that those obese obfuscators in Washington finally get around to it, too.
Click the link below to find out why Mr. Brin went to Washington in the first place, and what you can do to help.