How I Learned to Start Worrying and Detest the Status Quo

A story about the detriments of American capitalism

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is a black comedy about impending doom, how entire systems could crumble down with the slightest defects, and the absurdities of leaders who upkeep those systems — eerily relevant themes for 2020.

“Hey, do you know a guy named Michael Lofthouse from that startup you used to work for?” My friend asked me one day.

“Hmm, that last name does ring a bell. Maybe it was one of the salespeople? Not sure. What’s up?”

“Well, check this out.” She sent over a link to a local news article. I opened the link and saw the title, .

I continued reading.

The clip began with Chan asking the man to repeat what he had just said. He responded by staring at the camera and then giving it the middle finger. He then got up, took a couple steps forward as if wanting to storm towards the table, but paused and said, “Trump’s gonna f — you. You f — — need to leave! You f — — Asian piece of s — !”

That man was identified as Michael Lofthouse. The report showed a screenshot of an insult exchange between him and another person on LinkedIn. My old company was listed as one of his previous employers on his now deleted profile.

“Wow, it must be the same guy.” I said to my friend.

I shared the news with the my old coworkers. There was a company alumni group on Facebook where people occasionally shared job postings or reminisced about the good old days. Within minutes, reactions started to roll in. Initially there was disbelief and then there was anger. People were shocked and saddened.

You see, up to this point, my experience at this startup had been overwhelmingly positive. Between 2014 to 2016, I worked at this 100 people company based in downtown San Francisco. Despite the ups and downs of building something from nothing, I felt a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. I believed that our work was changing the world for the better. I really cared about the place, and so did many others there.

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The startup in 2014

In fact, many co-workers became friends and a few even co-created companies together. To me it was obvious that this place was inclusive and welcoming — two of the company cofounders were immigrants, and one of them was openly gay. The company hired from diverse backgrounds. There were employees of different ethnicities, with disabilities, and those who didn’t go through formal training. It was also trying to address the lack of gender representation in tech, at a time when many considered it a nonissue.

Perhaps it was my naïveté, but I didn’t expect that at a place like this, there would be deeply racist people. However, that fact didn’t really surprised me. Something else did. Something much deeper.

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Dave Chapelle’s surprise special regarding George Floyd

The interconnected web

For the few days after my posting, I kept thinking about what Dave Chappelle had said at the end of his special titled 8:46:

In a nutshell, that was the uncomfortable truth that I had been avoiding. I didn’t want to realize that the darkness of our past is still very much with us, within this modern, egalitarian workplace that I cared about. I couldn’t face the fact that it was connected with you, me, and with Dave Chappelle. All we have to do is gently scratch beneath the surface, and we will see it.

I didn’t want to confront the fact that the legacies of colonialism, imperialism, and racism are not old. In fact, they are the very foundation upon which everything we’ve built stands. Ask anyone from Africa, Asia, and South America, and if they like you enough, they will tell you that uncomfortable truth. But I didn’t want to confront all of that.

An indictment of our times

The last few months left me no choice but to face that reality. Hundreds of thousands have died, often in hospital wards alone, separated from loved ones. Millions are struggling. Families have been wreaked, economically, physically and emotionally. People have been protesting in the streets, demanding justice. Through all of this, I learned about the healthcare gap — Black Americans have been dying at three times the rate of white Americans. I learned about systemic racism, about redlining, about the criminalization of race, and about the prison-industrial complex.

I learned that this moment is an amplifier, of both the good and bad of humanity. It amplifies the bigotry, the hatred, and the scapegoating that enabled genocides to occur throughout the centuries. An Asian family was stabbed in a grocery store for being Asian. Abuse by those in positions of power is also being amplified. George Floyd was killed by an agent of the state, with three other agents aiding and abetting.

Despite these amplifications, our generosity, solidarity, and courage were also demonstrated. It was the selfless intervening of a store patron and an employee that saved the family. It was the millions of people who came out to demand justice and change that galvanized this moment.

However besides the good and bad amplifications, this moment also felt like an indictment to me. While the courage of essential workers is incredibly moving, there exists a hypocrisy between the label of “essential” and the reality that refutes it. These workers, who are often black, brown, and new immigrants, are simply not valued in economic terms. They make the lowest pay (even with the hazard stipends added). They have the least amount of protection and benefits. Yet they are asked, and in many cases, forced to risk their lives for the rest of society, because they have no other means to provide for their families. If this is not the textbook definition of exploitation, I don’t know what it is.

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Essential Workers / original illustration

A tale of two cities

This profound inequality has always been there. I just chose to ignore it, even when I encountered it everyday. For the last few years, I heard my fellow tech workers lament about their daily grievances, such as running away from homeless people or having to sidestep poop, as we strolled into our temperature-regulated, fridge-stocked offices. I saw the class difference among venture capitalists, founders, tech employees, and our mostly black, brown, immigrant, and on-demand contract servants, who drove us around, cleaned our homes and offices, served us food at work, and handed us delivery bags at the lobbies of posh buildings.

It was impossible not to see that there was something wrong, but somehow the belief that made it feel justifiable, for a little while at least. Remember that unwavering belief I had back in 2014? Well, by 2018, it began to falter as more and more people started to question the role of tech in shaping society.

The criticism and condemnation of an industry and culture that I not only participated in, but helped to promote, felt like a personal attack. Rather than seeking to understand it, I chose to tune it out. I did so through more work, more travel, more toys and gadgets, and more self-improvement schemes. In hindsight, my hubris in considering this escapism an act of trailblazing, was kind of ridiculous and sad.

YouTuber KRAZAM captured that escapism in a short film titled “the Hustle”.

The meaninglessness of frivolous work can be alienating. Perhaps this is why tech workers switch jobs often. Perhaps the high pay and the great perks are ways of rationalizing that meaninglessness and alienation.

There was one evening that left a strong impression with me. I attended a team happy hour at this highbrow rooftop bar. I took a couple steps away from the crowds to get a better view of the city. Glancing past the glass railing, and looking through the bottom of my empty whisky glass, I saw the homeless, the mentally disturbed, and the addicted gathered around a street corner nearby. If examined from top-down, it would appear that our two groups were quite proximate, but in reality, the height of an eight-story flatiron building kept us in parallel worlds, completely unaware of each other.

The interesting thing was that the group below was equally animated, bumbling, and inebriated as the one up here. Except their delirium was not the alcohol-induced exuberance of closing a new round of funding, or scoring a big promotion, but the numbing of and escaping from existence itself.

Sadness washed over me. So I did the only thing I knew how to do at the time — I turned away, only to find laughing, bantering faces, lost in conversation, unaware of my subtle change in expression. No film or novel could have portrayed that moment better than reality itself. Looking back, I realized that that moment was when I started to question things.

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Happy Hour in San Francisco / original illustration

The emperor has no clothes

I started to read books that are critical of the tech industry, and listen to people who are dissenters against the prevailing culture. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that the image above was not just a microcosm of San Francisco, but of America. Parallel realities of extreme opposites exist on the same street, in the same city, and in the same country. While tech might not have singlehandedly caused this , it certainly didn’t bring about the utopia that many have promised.

Every company at TechCrunch Disrupt is “making the world a better place.” Of course, there are technologies that end up doing that. However, history is littered with well-meaning people using great technology only to do horrible things.

This is not to say that humans should not dream big, but rather that blind conviction is often accompanied by hubris and recklessness, which lead to tragedies. For example, sounds great on paper — it’s almost heartwarming. A decade ago, few would have predicted that it would lead to the undermining of democracy. When critique of platforms such as Facebook did show up before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it was quickly dismissed by company insiders, overlooked by media, and ignored by policymakers.

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Mark Zuckerberg onstage at the F8 conference 2014 (Wiki Commons)

The dogged mindset of was championed by nearly all startups. This speaks volume about the priorities of the industry. Fast growth is not always good — they are very bad if found in tumors. Imagine if infants experienced in 5 years, the physical growth that would normally take 18 years, without going through commensurate mental and emotional developments.

That was what happened to a lot of companies. Take Zenefits for example, an online health insurance brokerage known for its meteoric rise in sales and valuation. In their pursuit of the fastest growth, it fostered a culture that promoted unsavory conduct and illegal business practices. The company was on its way to self-destruction before emergency changes were made.

A slow and methodical approach to building businesses is antithetical to how Silicon Valley works. Venture capitalists are looking for massive returns in a relatively short amount of time. It does not make sense to do things on a 50-year time horizon. Money needs to be made .

Wall Street is blatant about its greed. Tech luminaries however shun the mentioning of greed. Their preferred description of motivation is something along the lines of wanting to most efficiently allocate resources to foster innovations that benefit society.

Follow the money

The question here is not whether tech has benefited humans — most of us can now access the world’s information anytime and anywhere, communicate with family and friends instantaneously, and summon cars to our doorsteps with a tap. The question is how “benefit” and “society” are defined.

In a memoir titled Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener wrote about her experience working in tech and living in San Francisco between 2013 and 2018. She noted that she “had never seen such a shameful juxtaposition of blatant suffering and affluent idealism.” This observation echoes what I had experienced. There is a clear chasm between the society which we witnessed and the society of which tech spoke enthusiastically.

Some would say that this has always been the case, that the world is unfair and that people should just pull themselves up. I get it. You and I should strive to better our futures instead of letting lethargy consume us.

However, individual agency is no remedy for systemic issues. The extreme concentration of wealth, the inaction on climate change, the opioid crisis, the racial wealth gap, the broken healthcare and education systems, and the aforementioned prison-industrial complex… these are the issues that cannot be resolved unless the whole system is examined. The utilitarian benefits of technology and the call for personal agency are not the answers to deep-rooted systemic problems.

There are so many of these that John Oliver made a name for himself by deconstructing a new one each week. When fundamental pillars of a society are broken, the trope of tech becomes not only insensitive, it obfuscates the real driving forces, which are the same ones behind every other technological and industrial revolution in the four centuries before — wealth and power.

The money is here now because returns have been dizzying. The majority of those returns however, have been passed onto a small group of investors and founders. Employees make a decent salary, but they only receive a small fraction of a company’s stock. Contractors and gig workers who provide the human capital that power the seamless experiences, in most cases, get absolutely nothing from the acquisitions and initial public offerings.

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Assume America is a country of 100 people (grey dots) , and all of the wealth — the homes and land and financial assets — is represented by 100 slices of pie. This chart shows the actual distribution.
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Corporate profits eating the economy
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There’s rich, then there’s the 0.01%

Fundamentally speaking, tech problems are not new problems — the lack of equitable wealth distribution in tech is just another symptom the same trend since the 1970s. Large gains have been made in the economy, yet most of these gains went to the very wealthy. In particular, the recent four decades have been marked by a sharp increase in the income of the top 0.01%.

New York Magazine explained the phenomenon in blunt terms, “American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

This can be found in tech’s replacing of finance as the top industry for wealth generation. Trillions have been poured into tech for trillions more in expected returns. The explosion of acquisitions, IPOs, incubators, angel investors, and venture funds all point to this. VCs fear missing out on the next big thing, and major investors like Vision Fund have moved in.

At $100 billion, Vision Fund is the world’s largest technology investor. Its biggest contributor is the government of Saudi Arabia, having invested $45 billion in it. The Saudi Crown Prince even toured the U.S. in 2018, meeting up with big tech companies, promoting a new image for the Kingdom.

Yet six months later, it would be revealed that the Crown Prince likely ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Once again, wealth and power were used to maximum effects in the pursuit of more wealth and power. Some would lie in that pursuit. Some would subjugate. Some would even kill.

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Jamal Khashoggi walked into the consulate on October 2, 2018. He would never walk out.

Vision Fund took that money from the Saudi government and invested it in many well-known startups around the world — ones that spoke lofty language and championed progressive values. Murdering one’s critics was somehow not to be found on these companies’ about pages.

It felt like being punched in the gut to realize that the products I’ve grown to depend on, and even helped to build had been fueled by blood-stained oil money. I looked around for answers. Where was the outrage? Where was the soul-searching? What were we gonna do about it? Nothing. Most shrugged and said, “the money is already here, so might as well we don’t think about it.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the death of a foreign journalist in a distant country garnered little attention in tech. It had little bearing on the day to day. What did matter was the paycheck and the stock grants. The products might not have been real, but the money certainly was.

At a time when more decent paying jobs were in tech than any other field, asking the average employee to bear the moral burden of fossil-fuel extraction and authoritarian brutality seemed kind of cruel. These people were just trying to make a living after all. Many of them had student debt, mortgages, and dependents.

Luminaries and policymakers were the ones who should have taken a stand, but didn’t. In the end, cold hard business logic won out. Wealth generation needs tech, and tech needs investments. When it comes to the origin stories of money, willful ignorance is bliss — it helps to maintain the image of integrity.

Wrong priorities and distorted choices

That allure of wealth also caused a large influx of smart and ambitious people. They arrived with hopes of disrupting the analog world in order to get a cut of that enormous wealth redirection. More often than not though, they end up working on frivolous problems. Sometimes I find myself wondering:

The answers people give me are always the same, “if people are willing to pay for it, is it really frivolous? There must be a need. So why can’t it be me who’s getting rich off of it?” Or they might add, “I’m actually working on something not frivolous. I’m trying to fix healthcare, education, climate change …”

Well, that’s all true. Free enterprise means anyone can create something for sale. Healthcare, education, and climate change very important issues. However, if developments in the recent decades can reveal to us anything, it is that large pressing societal problems cannot be solved by corporations, by offering products created for the profit motive.

An example can better explain this. GoFundMe is a great platform for raising money for causes such as classroom projects in dilapidated schools, and paying off the medical debt of deserving families. However, a closer look at these popular campaigns reveals two questions:

  1. Why is it that schools struggle to raise the modest funds for field trips and classroom supplies?
  2. Why is that so many hardworking families are on the brink of bankruptcy from medical debt?
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Go Fund Yourself / illustration by Brian Stauffer

GoFundMe is neither responsible for, nor capable of answering these questions, because these questions point to the very conditions that afforded GoFundme’s popularity in the first place. They point to the bigger problem of wealth concentration and redirection. Just like the predicament of essential workers, public education and affordable healthcare are not prioritized in the current system. It’s great that GoFundMe genuinely helps those in need, but the fact that it has become this public subsidy fundraiser, points to the profound inadequacies of the underlying economic system.

If polled, the overwhelming majority of Americans would agree that teachers should not have to pay for supplies, and that hardworking families should not be financially ruined by illness. Yet in the prevailing political culture, policies that alleviate these conditions have been thwarted repeatedly. State intervention in the economy has been rebranded as by leading economists such as Milton Friedman, who championed the free-market ideology for much of the 20th century.

The reality is that government intervention already permeates every part of society. The buying and selling of human organs is not allowed, even though there is a demand. Take firefighting as another example, it is a valuable service provided for free (minus the small amount of tax that pays for it). But imagine if it was not free, and that firefighters only responded to the highest bidder. As a society, we deem the extinguishing of fires to be absolute paramount, because fires cause great damage. Similarly, poor education and healthcare also cause great harm, especially in the long run, but these institutions are somehow left to the market.

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Fire department (Wiki Commons)

I can choose to buy a Toyota or Volkswagen in a market, but I cannot choose to buy a subway system. For people who have visited cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong, there is no question that getting around in trains is much more convenient than in cars. Fast and efficient public transportation elevates a city’s economic viability and civic vibrancy.

In the name of improving transportation, hundreds of billions have been spent on highways, ride-sharing, self-driving, and even scooter-sharing by both policymakers and private investors, but very little has been spent on developing modern public transportation systems. This is one of the ways in which market systems can be very inefficient in creating collective benefits.

When individual consumption is hailed as the epitome of human existence, not only are our choices limited, our attempts at fostering social solidarity, communal utility, and environmental harmony are de-prioritized. In a system where individuals are atomized and communities are fractured, the collective force required to push for public initiatives such as subway systems, can almost never be mustered. The result is that the people who don’t already have wealth and power never get seats at the bargaining table.

Patent the sunlight

This individualist Americanism was not always there. Before the current deadly pandemic, there was a highly infectious communicable disease called polio. For much of the twentieth century, it ravaged the world, killing half a million people each year, especially during its height in the 1940s and 1950s. Even U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt couldn’t escape its wrath. He was paralyzed by polio at the age of 39.

The reason we don’t talk about polio today is because the disease was eradicated by a government initiated effort to develop a vaccine, and then to vaccinate the entire population. In 1955, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower honored the scientist, Dr. Jonas Salk who led the vaccine development research.

U.S. President Eisenhower honors Dr. Jonas Salk for his work on the polio vaccine

The vaccine was introduced by Dr. Salk’s team without any patents, making it available for everyone. When asked about who owned the patent, Salk answered, “the people I would say. There is no patent.” He smiled and added,

“Could you patent the sun?”

Today smart and compassionate people like Dr. Salk still exist, but with the profit motive dominating everything, chances are that they are working at elite companies in finance, tech, law, and big pharma. However, this is hardly the fault of those smart young graduates deciding to choose those paths. When university tuition costs a fortune, and culture celebrates prestigious careers that offer unparalleled income, forgoing the meager salaries of public institutions seems like a no-brainer.

Today’s legal and economic system also celebrates the exact opposites of values championed by Dr. Salk. Martin Shkreli, a self-made “pharma bro”, became infamous for price gouging a life-saving medicine. Shkreli reveled in the pure business logic of the price hike, defending it in public repeatedly and with glee. It wasn’t hard for him to spend that money — purchasing a single copy album from Wu-Tang Clan for a reported $2 million.

Perverse incentives

But Shkreli is not the real villain. The real villain is the system that made it legal for Shkreli and other companies like his to extort people by jacking up prices of medicine, by as much as 6,000%. This example underscores the perverse nature of the ideology championed by economists like the aforementioned Friedman and his contemporary Friedrich von Hayek.

“My personal preference,” Hayek said, when asked about Augusto Pinochet, a brutal dictator who overthrew a democratically elected president in Chile, “leans toward a dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of .” Of course, Pinochet was not liberal in the political sense of the word. The liberalism that Hayek referred to is what is now known as , or economic liberalism, which is characterized by cutting state spending, ending wage and price controls, privatizing public services and state industries, ending worker control of businesses, deregulating capital markets, and opening domestic markets to large multi-national corporations.

When the Brazilian military junta sought Milton Friedman for advice in 1973, this was exactly the advice they got. Not knowing anything better, they followed the advice diligently, only to find a severe recession and an increase in unemployment soon after. Despite these happenings however, such policies gained popularity, because they enriched large corporations, big bosses, and their shareholders.

As time progressed, money was pumped back into the political process through corporate lobbying and academia. Think tanks like American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, and prominent academic positions and departments at the universities of Chicago and Virginia provided ammunition for the assault on the legacy of New Deal and Great Society social programs and reining of corporate power.

Therefore, it should not be a surprise that after this approach was thoroughly implemented into policy by the likes of Carter, Reagan, and Thatcher, the income of the ultra-rich skyrocketed. Fast forward to today, free-market economics has long been the de facto way. Every administration since Reagan has followed suit, with only very minor variance.

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“The protectors of our industries” / 1883 / Cartoon showing Cyrus Field, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Russell Sage, seated on bags of “millions”, on a large heavy raft being carried by workers. (Wiki Commons)

Neoliberalism is neither “new” nor “liberal”. It is the same old economic philosophy that led to the rise of robber barons in the late 19th century. Unrestrained capitalism was typified by exploitation and speculation, which eventually led to the Great Depression, a period of great misery that arguably lasted into the Second World War, until arms spending skyrocketed.

At the end of the war, governments around the world reckoned with the carnage. U.S. federal government chose to sensibly raise the tax rate for the top bracket of income to 90 percent. It stayed so from 1944 to 1964. But since the 1980s, that rate had been lowered, and today it sits at 37%. While this rate is very low compared to before, the 15% capital gains tax on income from investments is even lower. This is why Warren Buffet has complained for years that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary.

What is freedom?

Today the U.S. government is free to spend $730 billion on defense each year, more than the next ten countries combined, but not free to provide universal healthcare or college education. It is free to allow the dismantling of trade unions and the thwarting of collective bargaining, but not free to reform corporate lobbying. It is free to allow the suppression of wages, but not free to raise the capital gains tax. It is free to deregulate industries, but not free to confront climate change. It is free to allow the gambling of grandma’s pension, but not free to consider universal basic income.

Looks like invoking has become a way to justify inequality, similar to how Social Darwinism was used to justify imperialism, racism, and fascism in the last century and half. On the other hand, history has shown us that anti-capitalist sentiments can alsobe exploited to foster totalitarianism and actual tyranny, as exemplified in the Gulag, and the Great Chinese Famine.

But equating challenging the status quo to facilitating tyranny is wrong , if not an argument in bad faith —for it is a false dichotomy. There are plenty of capitalist countries that are not remotely this vicious.

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OECD Study Confirms That U.S. Workers Are Getting Ripped Off

So allow me to add some nuance to the title. I am not for doing away with capitalism entirely. What I am for is to move away from the variant of capitalism currently being practiced in the United States, one that accentuates greed, exploitation, and injustice.

When presented with facts about American healthcare, education, and other facets of life, Europeans were shocked. One remarked: “What surprises me is that people are not rioting on the streets.” Well, people are on the streets in 2020. They can’t take this much longer. It is in the interest of everyone, especially the wealthy and powerful to seek drastic changes. Otherwise, like what Chapelle had said at the end of his special,

After this, it’s just “rat-a-tat-tat-tat-TAAAAT.”

If that does happen, it would not be the first time that gunfire was heard on American streets. Besides the mass shootings, the gangland warfare, and the police shootouts, gunfires of the civil war took away the lives of 620,000 to 750,000 people who fought for both the misdeeds and the ideals of America.

Perhaps I should not be surprised about “the juxtaposition of blatant suffering and affluent idealism” after all, for it seems to be a through-line of U.S. history. It’s easy to forget that the capitol building — a symbol of American democracy, was built by slaves, and that slavery was a legal economic institution for 246 years. Only after enough people deemed it immoral, did it become a major contention. At the end of the war, the institution of slavery was finally abolished.

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A slave labor commemorative marker for the capitol build was unveiled in 2012

The example of slavery shows that there is a role for each of us in determining what is fair and what is not, and collectively we create new rules. Progress towards a more perfect union will be difficult, but it is entirely within grasp if we put in the work.

New heroes

For years, these features of history eluded me. But once seen, they cannot be unseen. In the past decade, most of my time had been dedicated to improving my craft. Now I have realized that it does not matter how fast you are going, if you are going in the wrong direction. Better late than never.

Even in seemingly impossible situations, there are ways to strive for the right thing. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Soviet submarine commander by the name of Vasily Arkhipov, refused to authorize the captain’s use of nuclear weapons against the United States. Arkhipov’s actions saved the world by preventing a general nuclear war, according to the director of U.S. National Security Archive. Arkhipov was later reprimanded, despite having prevented the destruction of organized human existence as we know it.

These heroic actions require sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice was paid by Syrian archaeologist and museum director Khaled al-Asaad, who was tortured and killed by ISIS, for refusing to reveal the location of precious ancient artifacts that he had hidden. Those artifacts would have been destroyed if found. To him, the preservation of history and civilization was paramount, more important than his own time on this planet.

This is why people like commander Arkhipov, director Al-Asaad, and Dr. Salk have become my new heroes. They remind me of the greatness of humanity, to care for others, to spread knowledge, and to not give into selfishness and aggression. Instead of heeding the words of billionaires and industry titans, it is time I turned to the marginalized, to the volunteers, and to community organizers, so than I can listen, support, and participate.

In a 2004 Canadian poll in which 1.2 million votes were cast, Tommy Douglas was chosen as the Greatest Canadian. As a premier of Saskatchewan, Douglas led a democratic socialist cabinet to introduce North America’s first single-payer, universal healthcare program in the early 1960s, against staunch opposition. The program was later adopted by the Canadian federal government to create a national universal healthcare program. What I’ve realized now is that many Tommy Douglases exist today, in communities large and small. It is up to us contribute to their causes, and to amplify their voices.

Instead of defining myself and other people as consumers and users, I should never forget that we are first and foremost human beings and citizens.

Instead of looking for more disruption, I’ll be looking for more solidarity.

Additional References

My observations. Nothing more, nothing less.

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