Years ending in 7 have not been my friend, traditionally. 1977 saw me start five-day-a-week education for the first time. Playschool until noon on Mondays and Tuesdays was fine because it didn’t cut into my diet of gameshows, Sesame Street and Gilligan’s Island, but going every day kind of took the fun out of it. 1987 saw me with my first girlfriend…and saw me get dumped five months later, in the midst of an ongoing struggle of a type I would become well familiar with. 1997? Flunk out of grad school, break up with the most toxic girlfriend of all, find myself four months later living in DC as an IT professional with no clue how I got to that point. 2007? Leave Apple – second-biggest bad call of my life – in the midst of health issues which it turned out included chronic depression bad enough to rate taking meds for the first time.
It’s not going well, for obvious reasons. Looking at the world around me, realizing that our fates are in the grasp of the willfully stupid. Seeing damage being done that maybe can be repaired and maybe can’t, and certainly can’t for years to come and possibly not ever if the willfully stupid are still let to participate. Realizing that all I want to do is escape, which isn’t going to happen – not without a lot of money and effort and luck of a type that seems to have run out long ago. At this point, the prospect of retirement looks shaky in a world where you’re going to need to maintain employer-provided care through age 69 even assuming Medicare doesn’t get nuked for Gen-X and later in favor of “premium support” or some other horseshit.
It’s easy as hell to put this down to the mental defective in the White House and his amen corner in the idiot press. I don’t know what’s worse: stupid, bigoted people or the ones who thought they could keep steering those stupid bigots to their own benefit and won’t let go no matter how bad it gets. Because they’ve already rejected logic, reason, cause and effect, and increasingly the world in front of their fucking faces. It’s a cult belief system now, and you can’t repair that sort of thing. But then, it isn’t just Trumpshakers that are part of a cult belief system, as anyone who lives in area code 650 can tell you.
I think part of today’s rage comes from the latest crop of Y Combinator bullshit announcements this week, most of which (to paraphrase Twitter) seem to have changed from “Uber for X” to “X but for Africa”. One pair of chuckleheads, in fact, have solved housing! With shipping containers! Setting aside the notion that I was contemplating where to site a one-TEU container as a retirement cabin back in the dark days of 2014, this is the DNA of this valley in a nutshell: rich kids who think no one could ever have conceived of their BRILLIANT IDEA before. And I spend far too many days a week being constantly exposed to “LOOK HOW SMART WE ARE, WE ARE BRILLIANT, WE ARE THE FUTURE” as if they’re being paid to deliberately take the piss out of everything I was told to strive for growing up. If the opposite end of the process was “Stanford asshole,” it’s just as well I wasted four years in a nothing school in Alabama.
Because there’s two ways we go with things here. One is to say that if you’re somehow smart about one thing, you are smart about EVERYTHING. It’s why people used to say with a straight face that Lee Iacocca or Bill Gates should be President. It’s why an emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynecology feels somehow empowered to lecture you on what constitutes adequate computer security in a world of HIPPA law and network hacking (spoiler alert: using BitTorrent to steal a copy of “50 Shades of Gray” on an encrypted system with patient data does not constitute adequate security). The other way to go is to say that everything has to be dumbed down to the level of a sports talk radio caller, and that such people are the salt of the earth and it is somehow bigoted to demand a higher level of intellect in public life than can be found in the comment section of AL.com.
And the thing is, we’ve spent years and years and years shitting on expertise. On knowledge. On taking the time to think things through, on anything that goes against gut instinct and salt-of-the-earth “common sense.” We’ve reclassified being able to function in the modern world as “adulting” and made it optional for anyone with enough of their folks’ money to get by. Some people piss and moan endlessly about “personal responsibility” and then want to know why the Oompa-Loompa they elected President is taking a cut at their health insurance. Then again, some people mock the notion of paying fast food workers $15 an hour, and then piss and moan about what a shitshow Burger King is…all the while ignoring that In N Out across the road is already paying $15 to people who smile, ask how you are, get the order right the first time, and oh by the way make the best damn fast food burger on the planet.
Don’t shit on expertise. Don’t shit on experience. Don’t shit on knowledge and research and knowing what you’re talking about. And don’t assume you know what that knowledge and expertise looks like. Don’t even let me get started about how this fucking Valley is the Big Rock Candy Mountain if you’re male, under 35, have the correct school hoodie and are either white or the select sort of Asian. Because there are a hell of a lot of other people here with a hell of a lot more experience than you probably have who know your “distruptive” solution to “solve housing” or “solve payroll” or “solve health” is a crock of feces.
It all boils down to people in this country that don’t know – and don’t want to know – that there are other people. That their experience is not universal. Here I am, miserable old white dude from Alabama. I know damn well that my experience is not universal, because I was a freak when I was born and a freak when I left, and I’m a different caliber but no less freakish in this place and time now. So forget what I have to say, and do this instead: try listening to some women. Try listening to some black people. Try listening to some twenty-somethings who went to an actual college instead of Uncle Leland’s Buck-E-Cheese and have to pay off a hundred thousand dollars on your $7.75 minimum wage because a diploma is the new golden ticket. Try listening to someone looking for a new job at age 53 who isn’t going to be grandfathered into BoomerCare and is staring at the prospect of their savings and retirement being vacated so Racist Uncle Earl can say we beat Obummercare.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here counting the days to 2018.