On April 11 in Fog City, a young reporter was assaulted for wearing Google Glass. A woman ran up to him, grabbed the wearable computing device, shouted some slogans, and then smashed the gadget to the ground. The attack was the latest in a slew of Glass-triggered incidents, the device having come to represent the struggle between the Bay Area have-nots and the young, savvy, and affluent techies who, so goes the public outcry, have priced them out of the city.
From targeting a Google executive’s home and demanding $3 billion to “create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California” to staging rowdy protests against the designated buses that ferry employees from downtown San Francisco to the various Silicon Valley campuses where many of the newly gilded gentlefolk work, an anti-technology backlash is making the city’s streets unsafe for the young, the affluent, and the digitally savvy.
What’s behind these outbursts of malice? The glass-smashers and yard-invaders cry income inequality, arguing, like so many on the left these days, that America’s economic and moral woes can both be boiled down to the single fact that the gap between the nation’s wealthiest and the rest of us has increased dramatically in recent years.
There are many reasons why this cri de coeur is, at best, misguided. March into too many hallowed halls these days, from newsrooms to college classrooms, and you’ll hear little but chatter about the 1 percent. No wonder: Ideas — the real stuff that helps fix lives and create opportunities — are hard to come by and demanding to execute. Indignation is cheap and easy.
Imagine, for a moment, a different scenario. Imagine the Indignati approaching Google not with clenched fists but with useful suggestions, like offsetting the footprint of all those no-longer-affordable two-bedroom apartments in the Mission District by setting up local centers where normal folks can learn a bit of coding and improve their chances of survival in a rapidly shifting economy. To anyone interested in the actual lives of real people on planet Earth, this is a win-win situation.
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Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet Magazine. This article is reprinted with permission from Tablet, www.tabletmag.com, the online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture.