In a matter of hours on Friday, Typhoon Haiyan completely devastated parts of the central Philippines. It was one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The death toll is estimated up to 10,000 with hundreds of thousands more displaced. The country has declared a “state of calamity.”
I’m about to do some upper middle class, white person whining right now. Nevermind I don’t neatly fall into those categories.
Last night there was a shooting a block away from my apartment. No, no one died. Yes, someone was hurt. No, it was not someone I know. But that won’t stop me from making this all about me and my life in some way. More to the point, it’s forced me to accept something about myself that I would have liked to ignored.
When a senseless event occurs in an area, it’s not uncommon for nearby residents to somehow tie themselves to the event so the intensity of their feelings become more aligned with their role in the story. In other words, everyone feels like they literally dodged a bullet.
I will say for myself, I was at that exact spot an hour before and then with the Girl two hours after the incident. So, what I’m really saying is DUDE! I ALMOST DIED! No, not really.
Actually, a woman around my age walking down the closest perpendicular street through the intersection did get hit with a bullet in the back. Is it enough to say my neighbors and I owe her a degree of reverence for being the one of us who was at the wrong place at the wrong time?
So, all those things we surburban refugees tell ourselves about how violence tends to affect only those who perpetuate it is revealed to be utter bullshit. Even if you keep your nose clean and live your life without pissing off violent people, you can’t protect yourself from a bad shot or an apathetic aim.
And in a city where I can hear my neighbors sobbing, fucking and washing their dishes, we all occupy space in each other’s worlds. I know our neighbor is a devout Christian because I hear the sermons in her television set. Also, I know our other neighbor has cancer because he’s begged us not to walk so loudly down our own hallway. It makes his migraines swell. Ergo, I also know exactly where along our living room wall he keeps his bed.
I tell myself I’m willing to trade negotiations like these in order to live in a city where humanity is in such concentrate, where people cannot help but influence each other and cause each other to change. But, as last night illustrated, living so close to each other has darker consequences. Since I am a volunteered transplant, I can only blame myself for what our environment conjures up.
It was my idea to move here. At the time, the Girl told me she could have lived her whole life in the sleepy bedroom community where she grew up. When I met her, shortly after moving to the town for work, I knew would hate myself if we stayed there. I deeply resented the people for valuing peace over vibrancy. Plus, I was younger and even more of an entitled asshole.
So after a layoff then a new job, here we are in this city, and it turns out the Girl loves it — her being a people person and all. Hardened old schoolers, who don’t care to look me in the eye, treat her with the kindest regard.
But my ever-present fear is that one day it will be her struck in the back by a passing bullet meant for someone else. Or that she’ll lose her soul after being dragged into a dark alley…
How would I live with myself knowing I brought us here?
On this day, I can’t really believe I’ve allowed this person on whose happiness and well being I’ve supposedly based everything to come so close to her demise. I feel this way despite the fact that at that moment, we were not in the neighborhood.
And yet, I still don’t want to move somewhere safer. What would this other place be like? I guess that’s something else I’ve based everything on.
I’m probably a selfish, ignorant twat for thinking I can have my urban cake and the safety of my loved ones, too. Maybe one day, the city will find a way to tell me that I, in no way, deserve this much happiness.
You should care because the unexotic underclass can help address one of the biggest inefficiencies plaguing the startup scene right now: the flood of (ostensibly) smart, ambitious young people desperate to be entrepreneurs; and the embarrassingly idea-starved landscape where too many smart people are chasing too many dumb ideas, because they have none of their own (or, because they suspect no one will invest in what they really want to do). The unexotic underclass has big problems, maybe not the Big Problems – capital B, capital P – that get ‘discussed’ at Davos. But they have problems nonetheless, and where there are problems, there are markets.
There are only so many suit customisation, makeup sampling, music streaming, social eating, discount shopping, experience curating companies that the market can bear. If you’re itching to start something new, why chase the n-th iteration of a company already serving the young, privileged, liberal jetsetter? If you’re an investor, why revisit the same space as everyone else? There is life, believe me, outside of NY, Cambridge, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, L.A. and San Fran.
”—Despite its questionable parenthetical insinuation that STEM funding goes mainly towards the development of inane apps and its use of the word “wantrepreneur,” this article by MIT’s C.Z. Nnaemeka on “the unexotic underclass” makes some good points about innovating in the middle. (via explore-blog)
“Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it.”—Adam Gopnik, author and writer for the New Yorker.
Viral Media Means You Don’t Always Get To Choose Your Spokesman
The hashtag #HORNY2012 has been trending Twitter for the last few days. And if you know what that’s about then you know San Diego police found a bare-assed Jason Russell, the narrator and co-creator of the above video, prancing and gesturing in the street late last week. (And possibly doing something else, hence the very unofficial change to the campaign’s hashtag.)
KONY2012 made history this month by becoming the most viral video in history. In less than two weeks, it has been viewed more than 100 million times. Many of these viewers shared the video to their social network. And maybe many of them feel a tinge of embarrassment after Russell’s breakdown; reportedly because of criticism since the video’s meteoric rise. But who should really be embarrassed here?
I can’t speak for the intentions of the KONY2012 campaign or whether it’s the best use of Uganda’s new found public attention. Nor can I criticize the work of building schools in and creating an emergency alert system for rural villages. But the campaign, coordinated by the organization Invisible Children that Russell helps run, was probably destined for a bit of a fall anyway. Amidst perhaps good intentions, they made a vital mistake.
They believed too much in the simplicity of their own message.
We all know that simpler messages travel farther and trend longer than complicated, gray-area concepts. Though almost half an hour long the video’s success lies partly in the simplicity of its message, which goes something like this:
There’s this guy Kony. He kidnaps children and forces them to do horrendous things. If America stops paying attention, he’ll keep doing it.
But here’s of that gray area:
Most authoritative accounts state that Kony has been out of Uganda for several years. Factions of Lord’s Resistance Army likely remain, but without much contact with Kony.
Only 2 percent of Ugandans have Internet access, so they don’t even get much of a chance to speak in a conversation even when they are the subject.
A number of the few media voices coming out of Uganda have expressed an opinion that the video does not paint an accurate portrait of the country as it is today.
The Ugandan government the U.S. is currently assisting has been flagged by Amnesty International for several human rights issues.
Consider this video below from Al Jazeera:
If we’re to reduce a hypothetical response from the people of Uganda it might go something more like this:
There’s this guy Kony. He kidnaped our children and forced them to do horrendous things in Uganda six years ago. He’s probably somewhere else now and maybe he’s still kidnapping children and committing atrocities. But, Uganda’s not exactly like the video portrays anymore. So your foreign investment and aid is safe here and your pity feels patronizing. And by the way, this is kind of a touchy subject for us and a lot of us would rather you not bring it up. But, then again, some of us agree with the premise of the video so keep it coming!
Something like that probably wouldn’t trend well. And writing off Russell and the Invisible Children organization because of message framing and a naked tantrum might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
But, since now anyone can now start a movement, we have to respect the details of a cause to truly do justice to a message of action.
Note: Whatever the outcome of the KONY2012 campaign, Invisible Children has implemented an important peace of technology that might actually be the most important contribution to rural Africa. Next week, we’ll highlight the inter-village warning system that may start to dismantle the power of many of the region’s warlords.
“But the thing that most disturbs me about Junior is that I don’t know what the hell he’s laughing at. Is it because he sucked me into this Corporation? This is not the kind of face that inspires confidence in a nervous and jittery stockholder.”—Groucho Marx, giving some constructive criticism regarding a piece of investor marketing.
“An exciting moment is upon us, where some of the assumptions that have long governed our economy are beginning to unravel. There is the possibility that we could come out of this recession with a new concept of what the economy is, who it serves, and how it works.”—Check out this article from Fast Company with 5 Big Ideas For A New Economy.
No Madonna half-time show talk here. Only a shoutout to my new favorite sports bar in San Francisco.
Caught last night’s Patriots vs. Giants game at The Mad Dog in the Fog in Lower Haight with a recent Jersey transplant. Truth be told, I’m not a sports fan by nature, but I love pub and stadium food. Mad dog has possibly the best damn bar food I’ve ever had. New friend said she’s never had better Buffalo wings, not even in Buffalo. I had the tacos…so good.
Anyway, more to love: flatscreens high and at every angle, tables where you can serve yourself a beer. True to SF form, they have an Android and iPhone app. I hear they have a pretty popular Trivia Night on Thursday nights. Gonna have to check that out.