It’s just not funny anymore.
I started writing an email today to everyone I know.
Then I scrapped it and started writing a tweet to all those foolish enough to follow me. Neither seemed appropriate for what I wanted to say. 140 characters wasn’t enough.
Why? Trump. That’s why. I wanted to mention something urgent to everyone I’d spoken to over the past few months — in passing, over the phone, via Skype, over dinner or in a meeting.
I am deeply sorry for anything I might have said that was out of turn. I’m sorry for being optimistic and short-sighted. I wanted to apologise for my naïvety, ignorance and indifference. I felt compelled to apologise for telling people not to worry.
You should worry. A lot.
What stimulated this?
As a Brit, I voted against the madness of Brexit and was, post-vote, considering changing my nationality. I’d recently moved my family to Los Angeles and was feeling embarrassed by my nation across the Atlantic. After five months in LA, being in my honeymoon period, I started believing ‘things couldn’t be that bad’.
Here I was in the land of opportunity. But world events influence this sunny landscape just as they do the rainy streets of London. I witnessed the tail end of a presidential race that devolved into one of the most tragic of all time. I could vote against Brexit. I couldn’t vote against Trump.
I had believed that Trump was making statements and using social media sensationalism to gain coverage and favour. When I spoke to friends and colleagues, I told them I didn’t believe this tactic was so bad. It’s fake.
How wrong could I have been? (below he re-tweets an image of serial killer Fred West, pranked by comedian Philip Bradbury. Fact checking?)
A quote from CNN on election night stated:
- FDR understood how to use radio to appeal to the masses.
2. Obama understood the power of crowd funding.
3. Trump understood social media.
I was under the illusion that once in power Trump couldn’t possibly be as extreme as he was in the campaign. There was no way he could possibly build a wall. He understood reality TV, sensationalist social media and fake news and how to use it. But once in power he would reveal a different, more professional, persona. His support team would prevent extremism.
How could I have been so wrong? Is this happening? Who let this happen? What the actual fuck? What did I move my family to?
Wake up Damian
One of the best business books I have ever read is Zero to One, which is written by one of the Paypal mafia, Peter Thiel. I devoured the book in hours, sharing many of its lessons in real time with my partner @nalden. I still refer to it as a well-written and insightful book about what it takes to grow a business in Silicon Valley.
On October 31st, Peter Thiel announced he was supporting Trump. I was devastated. What did he know that I didn’t? Was this a pure capital gains tax play? Did he see something that the rest of us were missing? Thiel is no fool. Or is he? Why would he do this?
- Is Trump a decent person? No
- Is he a good business man? No
- Does he have high moral values? No
- Is he well educated / academic? No
- Is he attractive? No
- Is he technological / does he play well for Silicon Valley? No
- Is he funny? No
- Is he a libertarian? No
Then why the fuck would a gay, libertarian immigrant support this misogynist?
So many people across the world are lost at this moment, looking for hope in some shape or form. It’s obvious. They’re willing to take drastic actions to try to remedy the situation, but with very little thought and little interest in checking the facts.
A large part of the issue here is that people simply do not know who to trust.
Are politicians telling you the truth? Is the media manipulated? Is this news fake or not? Is Facebook showing me what it wants me to see? Did Dropbox really delete my files? Where do you go to get the real facts?
Like most, I finally came to understand it Trump was not just voted into office by a few crazies in the mid-west. Some of the intelligentsia followed this lunatic. As in Britain, The Netherlands and France people felt unheard and wanted change.
But then I read another news story:
Peter Thiel went and purchased 477 acres of land in New Zealand and obtained citizenship. Why? Perhaps to protect himself from the potential apocalypse he had helped create? Did he trump Trump?
We’re witnessing a shift of power. For years we have been obsessing about politicians and their behaviour.
Of course we’re critical of people like Anthony Weiner who supposedly ‘represent us’. But the people in control of the massive systems and programs and sites that we turn to all day go unchecked. Are Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin accountable?
Did we just witness the start of a modern day first world political coup?
Isn’t this sort of thing supposed to happen in the third world? Or is that the point? Did I just move to a third world country? Is Trump the US version of Idi Amin or Augusto Pinochet?
This is what we know. What can we do?
This is a question being asked by most thinking people these days? How do we divide our time and come up with a plan? Where do we put our energy when each new day the president opens a new front — against science, against the environment, against immigration, against refugees.
The first hundred days of a presidency have been crucial ever since 1933, when Roosevelt used this time to lay out the foundations of the New Deal.
Hit em fast, hit em hard is the usual summation of political thinking for a new president. It’s just rare to see such dedication to tear things down.
For me, it’s increasingly important to choose fights and use our energy wisely. Because WeTransfer is so entwined with the arts, because our aim is to publicise and help creators create, because our interface is a constantly changing palette of artwork that speaks to diversity, internationalism, the joys of the free movement of ideas and creativity around the world — because of all those issues, it’s important for us to focus on the arts.
Like science, the arts will be battered by an administration such as this one.
Why should we care about the arts? Why should we care about the NEA here in the US?
Here’s a quote that’s started to be passed around, from an article by Marc Hogan at Pitchfork:
Historically, the agency has awarded thousands of grants for orchestras, jazz, operas, chamber music, and beyond. And just looking back through the past year or so, the array of specific programs affected by the endowment is dizzying. If you saw a video last year of David Bowie talking about working with Lou Reed, that was part of an NEA-funded digital archive.
An Esperanza Spalding performance at Manhattan’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, a Steve Reich 80th-birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, and a Quincy Jones tribute at the Monterey Jazz Festival are among endowment-boosted events from 2016.
OK, some might say, but I’m not much of an Esperanza Spalding fan. This is always the argument conservatives have used.
Why do I have to fund art that doesn’t appeal to me? A more pertinent question might be: why do the rich and conservatives of Holland, Sweden, Canada, the UK, and many other countries refrain from making that sort of complaint?
Some cultures, some countries, understand the importance of art.
There’s an apocryphal quote attributed to Winston Churchill.
During World War 2, it is said, Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ was his alleged response. Some take pleasure pointing out Churchill never said the repeatable line. But look further.
He did say: ‘The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.’
Over at Huffington Post, Dr. Brian C. Mitchell wrote that these cuts ‘should alarm every American who has ever used a library, visited a museum, attended a college or university, watched public television, or listened to a public radio station.’
That’s what’s at stake here. The NEA is one such fight in a much broader war against a part of life the current president has always seen as expendable.
My concern is that there isn’t one great, democratic, global leader currently in place to help eradicate this ‘issue.’ We are going to have to do it.
We will need to put all our global, creative efforts into fighting this cancer that is creeping into our society. Its obvious the ‘money men’ are already running for the hills. Its down to you and me.