It Wasn’t ‘Technology’

God, I hate this framing and it’s everywhere: 

Technology changed everything, of course. Magazines disappeared; editorial contracts shrunk; streaming meant that writing for film or television was no longer likely to make you rich. Writing books was just going to make you poor. Fashion, once the purview of art, became the property of Instagram. All of these profound reversals crashed up against the hard metrics of the city’s soaring housing market.

I can’t speak to Instagram fashion or streaming markets but here’s what happened in the world of words: everybody assumed the good times would last forever, despite the example of ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY saying that there would be lean years, lean decades, in which maybe we should save our profits instead of blowing it all on bitches and blow. Media companies loaded themselves up with debt and made stupid, short-sighted decisions because that’s what they could afford to do, while they had a license to print money.

When the gravy train turned over, most of them tried to cut their way to prosperity and blamed their customers for seeing through the genius strategy of giving people half and charging them double. The bosses kept paying themselves, of course, and their spouses and their buds for “consulting services” or “event planning” or whatever we’re shoving sexual harassment payoffs under these days.

Now, 20 years into this “technological revolution” that no one saw coming except for all the people who did, we’re just now going to talk about the financial reckoning? And we’re going to do it by talking about how Harvard Law grads can’t get rich writing books anymore?

Look, I’m a writer. I would never say it doesn’t suck to see the life you thought you were gonna live — and I’ve had three separate ones blow up in my face by now and it doesn’t get any easier — disappear into the pockets of some Silicon Valley assclowns. I remember when blogging lead to book deals you could actually live on. That changed. It blows.

And the things cited in this article about fallout from industry shifts aren’t all down to industry shifts.

The stressors now so palpably afflicting the creative class — how to pay for a child’s college education, or clarinet lessons, or a party without plastic cups — were nowhere in evidence. In the last decades of the 20th century, you were more likely to encounter a meerkat on West Broadway than a cash bar at a party for a hot first novel. It was easy to assume that real adulthood would take care of itself.


In her new book, “Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis,’’ the writer Ada Calhoun delves into the professional and financial anxieties of women in their 40s and 50s, beginning with an account of her own challenges. Faced with the high cost of her family’s third-tier health care plan, the untenable nature of freelance life and mounting credit-card debt, she goes out looking for a “job-job,’’ only to find a teaching position for a six-week class that pays $600.

Systemic disinvestment in higher education is squarely on the shoulders of Republicans who think book-learnin’ makes you liberal and have assfucked public universities in the states they run into the ground. The housing market has more to do with public policy run by NIMBYs and greedy speculators than it does technology, and you can come here sometime soon for my rant about building inspectors and zoning requirements doing what we think cops and courts do to make this country livable.

Refusal to tax the rich at the level they deserve to be taxed has destroyed every facet of middle class life in America but sure, we can put it down to technology. DAMN YOU INTERNET.

The fact of the matter is that the crash is always coming and what looked to us like stability was carefully engineered by human beings to be that way. Our grandparents looked like they’d lived in suburban bungalows with a good American-built car and a union job or two forever, but in their lifetimes they’d seen the world at war twice and the country’s economy implode to a degree we never have reckoned with. Why do you think they saved every scrap of tinfoil in case they could re-use it?

The children they passed these things onto put them into the hands of greedy little hucksters like Ronald Reagan and the Georges Bush. I’m not saying Republicans killed Conde Nast but they sure didn’t help any other industry out any, including, in the long run, the duct-tape-patchwork-ball-pit that is our healthcare.

It only looked like adulthood on autopilot because it wasn’t our adulthood. We were looking at their prosperity and assuming they wouldn’t piss it all away before we got to benefit. Now that we know they have and will continue to do so, and yeah, that’s scary as shit. Almost as scary as this: People built the system and destroyed it in living memory and it needs to be built again. It can be done but it’s going to require outlasting a lot of bastards who’ve been here a long time. It’s no wonder we can’t sleep.


2 thoughts on “It Wasn’t ‘Technology’

  1. Steamboats ruined everything

    The title of this blog comes from The Trippings of Tom Pepper, a novel by Charles Frederick Briggs first serialized in 1846. The hero, a boy named Tom Pepper, has stowed away on a schooner. The sailors hear him knocking things over and decide he’s a ghost. This puts them in a melancholy mood, and one evening in the forecastle they reminisce about the good old days, while the hidden Tom Pepper eavesdrops. One of them says, self-pityingly, “Steamboats are ruining everything.” What I love about the quote is that you get the sense that Briggs, who was himself a runaway sailor in his youth, like his friend Melville, thinks the same thing, but prudently puts the sentiment into the mouth of a superstitious, nostalgic old coot.

    When I first heard those words, well the words are “steamboats are ruining everything”, I imagined someone on the Mississippi river who actually said it. I am certain many someones there did.

    No matter what we think, Elon is going to send starships to Mars with all the trillions the banks are printing.

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