I realize that my posts the past few days have been rambling and somewhat incoherent — certainly not my best work. (See previous post on things I am thankful for: hydrocodone.) Writing does give me something other than watching television and sleeping to do: I can’t drive anywhere, partly because of the hydrocodone but also because I need help getting into and out of the van.
Right this second, in spite of my ribs hurting, I feel content. I feel as though there is, oddly, hope in the world. Washington is dysfunctional, there is war in pockets all over the globe, the Middle East is imploding…
And people go about their lives. I am blessed — or fortunate, depending upon your theological point of view: I have a roof over my head, I have food, or at least the means to get food, I have a family who loves me, when I get better I have work. There are a lot of people in this world who have to make do with a lot less.
Maybe that is the secret to happiness: not to ruminate on the ways in which your life has fallen short of your expectations, but marveling at the ways in which your life works. None of us get out of this world alive; unless you are Albert Einstein or Albert Schweitzer your name will be a footnote soon enough. For most of us, the lives we live will have only a short impact on history, if that.
And that is okay. It has to be okay. We live in a society which almost inculcates envy and dissatisfaction in its members. What have you done lately? You create a “killer app,” you start a company which goes public… you are someone. You work as a clerk in a grocery store, you don’t matter.
The someones forget about how much they owe to just plain folks. Balaji S. Srinivasan, a biotech guru, has called for Silicon Valley to secede from the rest of the country. Larry Page, head of Google, has, according to a story in The Australian about Srinivasan’s proposal, “has called for “part of the world” to be set aside, free from regulations that might outlaw certain technological experiments.”
So, Mr. Srinivasan, how are you going to take care of all the people who have to commute for an hour just to get into the Valley, because they have been priced out of housing here? Are you going to want a living wage for these people, or are you going to trot out a justification based on “market forces” for treating them like dirt under your feet? I have a son who wants to move back east, because he cannot make enough money to afford to leave home if he stays in this area. You only have to follow what has happened in the real estate market from San Francisco to San Jose to see neighborhoods being gentrified into homogeneity.
During the most recent BART strike, you heard people who in many cases make a lot of money whining because people who make less than them wanted more. Workers who had made concessions when times were bad were vilified when they asked to be compensated accordingly when times got better.
Those regulations that Mr. Page wants to do away with protect people. Regulations arise for a reason: if anything, the urge to deregulate in this country (either directly or by underfunding regulatory agencies so that they cannot perform their functions well) do more harm to most people than good. Not to Page, of course, or Srinivasan, or any of the other one per centers — or even ten per centers — that run the Valley.
The mother of two who has to work three jobs to make ends meet is as deserving of respect as Balaji Srinivisan. The McDonald’s fry cook, who struggles to pay rent for a bed in the living room in a two-bedroom apartment he shares with four other people in Mountain View has needs as worthy as those faced by Google or its CEO.
During the downturn, Wall Street and Main Street were seen as enemies. Silicon Valley is not Main Street’s friend either.