The progress of ‘Progress’

The Apotheosis of George Washington

Who will pay to have stuff like this created? Who, I ask you? WHO?!

So East Bay Express published this very long op-ed to the effect, more or less, of complaining that the inequality and personal idiosyncrasies of the wealth (and its holders) created by the tech sector was causing adverse selections in the practice and culture of philanthropy. The symphony giving way to…something or other that isn’t as good or permanent. I saw the article via Facebook, and here is my ad-hoc commentary, only very lightly edited:

I’m going to say this as politely as possible. There are other metropolitan hubs, other industries, and other affluent subcultures. You’d think the NorCal media would get tired of venerating software (and for the last decade or so, social apps) and its artisans…it’s almost Marxist except for all the money (which in turn doesn’t mean it’s not Marxist). Number of hardware, firmware, semiconductor, design, or (GASP) pure science-oriented companies referenced in this article: 0.

I recognized the NorCal denial of wealth while I was still [in prep school]. It was a stupid affectation then and will always be. If the classical model of arts and patronage disappears from the Bay, it will just be one more reason not to visit ‘home’. The portability of labor and the trickle-down economics of design/engineering mean you can actually live somewhere that doesn’t vex you, instead of reading absurdly long op-eds and wringing your hands. (I personally enjoy deep-red, prayed-up Colorado Springs, CO.) And I think the premise that metrics-driven social projects is somehow eating the lunch of arts philanthropy is flawed even in the Bay. In this article I’d go so far as to say it comes across as a veiled plea for less accountability. (There’s the tie-in to business cycles based on how much of tech, and by proxy the region, is a ‘real’ economy.)

But the simple fact is: create enough wealth and people will still have houses and buildings to dedicate and adorn. Over the years some frankly crappy artists and weird looking pieces have gotten commissioned, displayed, and bought. Pearls were clutched re: the new movements and new money, but the sky didn’t fall. It is very strange that a champion of ‘independence and nonconformity’ would react this way to organic cultural change by its best and brightest. Because, like, inequality and gentrification and fairness and stuff. I’ll spare you the grand unified polemic, but it’s not hard to infer where I would go.

It’s a little disquieting that the above was “as politely as possible”. But I meant what I wrote. The article isn’t much more than a clutching of pearls for a problem that doesn’t exist.  There is very little difference between disliking where we are going and disliking how we are traveling. No one is immune from engaging in this criticism born of fear. It’s just that this examply seems egregious in its lack of perspective.


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