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Making work in the Trump era

3 min read

Honestly, most days, I feel paralyzed. I feel like there's so much happening, that we're literally descending into fascism on a global scale, and that I don't know if anything I do can possibly be impactful enough. I also feel that while it would be easy to block it all out and carry on as normal, to put politics aside and live my life as if none of this was going on, to do so would be complicity.

I have the privilege to set everything aside, as a white male in Silicon Valley. But if I did that, I would feel the weight of my ancestors - people who fled pogroms in Ukraine, who fought for social justice in 1930s America, who fought the Nazis in Europe, who led the resistance against the Japanese in Indonesia - weighing down on me. And I would feel the weight of my friends of color, my LGBTQIA friends, my immigrant friends. It would be an entirely selfish act. And even selfishly, the result would be a world that I simply don't want to live in: a restrictive, brutal, theist society built around the supremacy of a narrow, arbitrary demographic.

If you are not vocally political in the current era, your inaction is tacit support for the current regime and its bigoted value system. End of story.

I know I'm not alone.

But I also know there's work to be done.

I'm vocal; I give a significant percentage of my income; I march. But I also need to pay my rent and cover these donations to begin with.

I've already made myself one pact: while I work in tech, an industry that has undeniably been part of the problem, I will only work on mission-driven problems at the intersection with democracy. I've turned down large salaries at companies you can name, because I want to be able to feel like I'm part of the solution and not the problem. It means I'll probably never be a millionaire. I can live with that.

The second, newer pact, is to work hard at the work I do, to the exclusion of distractions. This is not something I've been good at, but it's a skill I need to rebuild. Like many of us, I've been glued to social media, simultaneously addicted to and exhausted by every new development. And honestly, I have to break out of it.

Although raising and maintaining awareness is vital, sitting and typing outraged tweets on social media is masturbatory, and benefits the very platforms that were a large part of creating this current situation. Taking a step back and using my voice to amplify others who might not enjoy the same privileges, while also taking more calculated moves to have impact where it counts, is more important.