Happy New Year!
Reporting live from the left end of the universe... About two years ago, I got recruited by a global tech company to come onboard to lead their worldwide consumer marketing effort. Flattered beyond belief, stunned such an amazing opportunity would be offered to someone clearly careening towards his dotage and presenting yet another wardrobe change in a life that can be best characterized as chameleonic, I considered the offer for about 45 seconds and moved up to Silicon Valley.
For the record, I knew the company well and as a consultant/brand guy, had done ton of business in the Valley for decades. Yet despite the successes and high level accesses these projects produced, never quite felt that I was part of it. You know, that statement I always get backwards: "Being in it, not of it." Or is it, "Being of it, not in it?" I chalked it up to geography, being from the dreaded SoCal working in NorCal. Yes, there is a blood hatred for SoCal in the North, especially Hollywood. It's a fact. I never understood it and a few years ago, asked a veteran Silicon Valley CEO/VC to explain it to me. He said it like this (paraphrasing):
"Hollywood and Silicon Valley hate each other because ultimately, they're the same. In the Valley, two guys and Labrador work in garage, create some code, get financing, pound on a business to get to an IPO. They get to liquidity, divorce the wife, buy a boat. They'll wait a couple of years and do it again. In LA, two guys and Labrador write a script, recruit a director and a star, get financing, make the picture, make millions, divorce the wife and buy a boat. They wait a couple of years and do it again. One is academically sophisticated and covert. The other is culturally outlandish and overt. Problem is when they meet each other, they realize they're the same guys don't like what they see. The hyper-smart Valley guys think they're more pure because of the complexity of the work, but they really covet that Telsa and Panerai; the hip LA guys realize they're not cooler than the nerds in the Valley, just better dressed."
Interesting theory. Either way, the net is trillions of technology-shifting, culture-shaping dollars that flow like a torrent throughout the state of California, onto its bless-ed residents and into every nook and cranny of the civilized and soon-to-be-civilized world. With so much influence, raw capability and resources, one would expect that no problem on any scale would be insurmountable given proper focus. And you would be wrong. That because Californians for the most part, South and North, live in a cornucopia of complacency and choices without any need to sacrifice one scintilla of anything anyone has. In affluent CA, we firmly believe we have earned the right to be trivial.
Which is why at least in NorCal, it is almost impossible not to trip over someone's value system, no matter what you say or how benign your intent might be. For the record, you can find a lot of the same people in SoCal. Maybe it's geographic dispersal or people in LA have more of a sense of humor, it's just not the same. To wit:
Wear an Eddie Bauer jacket into a store in Los Gatos and you'll get the stink eye because 1) Eddie Bauer does not use environmentally pure materials and worse, 2) EB Corp. might have contributed to Trump's campaign. Up here it's Patagonia or nothing.
Ordering beef in a restaurant from a server who happens to be vegan can cause life-changing trauma--as my wife found out when she misread a caligraphied menu item The server almost went into convulsions when she heard the words, "I'll have the beef tartare" instead of the written "beet tartare." We weren't sure whether she was hospitalized or would return to our table.
It's doctrinaire that dogs are higher-level sentient beings sent from God to purify mankind. I love my dog, but I'm 100-percent certain she's not on a mission to save my soul.
Unlike every other city in the world where pedestrians are vigilant about traffic, pedestrians up here have no compunctions about creating multiple rear-end collisions by blithely stepping out into a crosswalk into active traffic. No, there aren't force fields that protect them or cars from banging into each other. When Kyle and Krissie step in front of moving traffic, they're complacent that because the law is on their side, nothing can happen to them, and because the laws of physics and the varied limitations of human reaction times are subservient to their God-given right to cross any street, any time..
It goes on and on, and it can be great fun to muse about interspecies issues like whether Pete the Duck in the Los Gatos antique store that posts the sign in the photo above has the right to discriminate against certain animals' access to retail, but the downside is deadly serious.
Our planet (and this state) is on fire and things are just beginning to literally heat up. We have emerging fascism in DC, and if not that, a concerted effort by the GOP to dismantle and delegitimize the rule of law and our Constitution. We are witnessing the biggest theft in human history in the transfer of public funds like Medicare and Social Security into an emerging US oligarchy. We have a president who is owned lock, stock and Pompador by a foreign enemy. This is not conspiracy theory, it's the leitmotif of the past three years. And yet the most socially aware, best educated, and most affluent people in the world are noisily engaged in smug purity tests. Depending upon who you talk to, depending on the location and context, "Go Pete" up here in the Valley could pertain as much to a duck as a potential presidential candidate. We need voices, coordinated, serious, unified and committed to overcome the inertia of the global holocaust that is potentially upon us. The days of worrying about where goose down comes from are a luxury we can't afford, especially when a good portion of the continent of Australia and 100s of million of animals and forested acres are perishing by the week in an out-of-control inferno. What happens when Silicon Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains have a month of +48C days and no rain for 9 months? Anyone worried now about Pete the Duck?