Get the F**king Money

Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder and CEO Social Capital, on Money as an Instrument of Change

Since he was getting so much attention about his statements about letting hedge funds and other organizations fail, I decided to check out Chamath Palihapitya, and what he has said in the past.

Billionaire and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitya spoke at Stanford in 2017. The moderator asked him what advice he had for those in the audience. His advice was to get the F**king Money, but don’t be a sell-out. Sorry Chamath, but this impossible and everyone who has accumulated vast sums of money, is, by definition, a sell-out.

Money does not appear out of thin air. There is always a payer and a payee. Which means, if you’re collecting (hoarding) resources in this world, someone else is parting with theirs. You cannot be a billionaire and have a moral compass at the same time. People are being exploited all around the world and this is well-known. Any sort of production almost always results in exploitation. These huge margins are only made by shorting those that create value.

Once you get the money, that’s when you start being charitable? Fat chance. The charity is the means by which you exert your power on the world, where you become relevant and important.

Here’s an idea, as you build your business, you pay people living wages, you pay your fair share of taxes, you only pay yourself what you need to live comfortably. How about you never get the f**cking money in the first place, because you’re spreading it as you go so that other people, working for you or with you, can raise their standard of living as your enterprise grows.

It seems obvious that Chamath is fully invested in his individual worldview and is opposing it onto others. In fact, this is his stated goal – to push his worldview out into the world using his power.

A charitable billionaire is the illusion itself. There is no such thing.

Even our “The Black Swan” author “Nassim Nicholas Taleb” states, “I remember in my early trading days, …when money was starting to become easy. I would take taxis, and if the driver spoke skeletal English and looked particularly depressed, I’d give him a $100 bill as a tip,… I eventually stopped; we all become stingy and calculating when our wealth grows and we start taking money seriously.”

“I remember in my early trading days, …when money was starting to become easy. I would take taxis, and if the driver spoke skeletal English and looked particularly depressed, I’d give him a $100 bill as a tip,… I eventually stopped; we all become stingy and calculating when our wealth grows and we start taking money seriously.”

“The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

That checks out. With money you achieve power, and as we all know, power corrupts. The charities to which you so publicly donate, their very existence is due to your existence as a billionaire and those like you. No Chamath, that was the worst advice, and if everyone in that room did just that, then our world will be worse off because of it.

Confession of an Amazon Customer

Have you ever seen people who have the word “sinner” tattooed on their skin? No matter where they go and what they do, they have chosen to be permanently reminded that they are not perfect, that they are incomplete. I don’t mean to pick on Christianity, but one of it’s core messages is to constantly remind us to strive to be more ideal, more like Jesus. We can, in fact, only become more like him, we can never put ourselves on the same level, because we can never stop sinning. Some people need this constant reminder, otherwise they might just think, “Hey, I’m not so bad after-all!” Oh wait, *glance at tattoo*, that’s right, I’m just a sinner. Like the movie “Momento” where the main character had to tattoo all important events on to his skin, otherwise he would literally forget they had happened. To all those sinners out there, I get you, and I need reminding about my Amazon sins. I’ll refrain from that tattoo at this time and go with this blogpost instead.

Which brings us to the subject of this particular blogpost and someday I would like to meditate on the similarities of the imperfection of the Christian sinner and the unwholeness of the American consumer. There’s a, from my recollection, genius handling of this in the book “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, but I can’t find my copy of it and I refuse to buy a copy off Amazon for reasons that should be obvious. Actually, right now I am refusing to buy anything, but that is, yet again, the subject of another blogpost.

Anyway, the reasons to abstain from buying from Amazon should be obvious; however, human beings are experts in ignoring things they don’t want to see. We all have this innate skill, no matter our socio-economic background, age, race, or gender. If there is a slight inconvenience for us, if it takes some small mental or physical effort, if there is no direct and immediate benefit, indeed if the act or non-act serves us in some way, we can easily and instinctively (without thought) ignore all evidence that what we are doing or not doing is “wrong”, hurting us in the long run, or not aligning with our purported values or purpose. There’s probably some evolutionary benefit to behaving in this way.

I confess, I order from Amazon and I am even an Amazon Prime customer! I have been trying to abstain (and making my family abstain) since the quarantine. The reasons why none of us should give Bezos any more money are obvious to anyone that wants to look, so I really don’t think it’s necessary to explain. Nevertheless, I’ll include a link to a video at the end, because his wealth (read: power) is really is mind-blowing.

This is about me confessing the excuses I have designed to enable me to order from Bezos. I’d be very interested in yours if you want to write them in the comments. Here goes:

  • I’m not as bad as those people that order five different sizes of the same thing and then send back four.
  • I’m not as bad as those people that order every little thing from Amazon – even paper towels and laundry detergent.
  • Amazon makes it so easy to order from them, shouldn’t they reap the benefits of their world-class services?
  • There’s a whole marketplace of sellers whose livelihood depend on Amazon’s platform.
  • I love the free shipping and the free returning.
  • Sure, there were issues in the past, but Amazon endeavors to take care of their employees. The commercials with their workers prove that.
  • Sometimes I need to buy it from Amazon, because I can’t find it anywhere else.
  • It’s cheaper on Amazon and I can’t just throw money out of the window.
  • I love how I can see all the orders I’ve ever made. This makes it so convenient to reorder something.

Q: “Are you arguing to let airlines, for example, fail?” A: “Yes.”

CNBC’s Halftime report with former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya who states that when a company goes into bankruptcy the employees end up owning more of it. – Interview on April 9th, 2020.

The moderator of this CNBC show was visibly flabbergasted to hear the “let them fail” argument being expressed by his billionaire guest. “Why… how does that make sense,” he asks. Here’s how.

This billionaire’s astonishing statement is actually common sense and and was common knowledge not too many decades ago. “Investing” in the stock market is actually “gambling.” Let me explain even though we all know this instinctively. There are people that have money that they don’t need. In other words, their lifestyle is not dependent on all of the money that they have. So, they take that excess money and they do things with it wholly separate from their immediate survival.

If they choose to put it into the stock market, they are making a bet, taking a gamble. After all, they could have also just left it in their bank accounts for a rainy day, or given it to their kids, a charity, a homeless person, a soup kitchen, a billionaire, or their employees, they could have bought another car. They could have done any number of things with the money, but they chose to use it to gamble with the hopes of making even more of it. You could argue that it is informed gambling, but I think a horse-racing bettor will tell you their bets are also very informed, nevertheless a wrong bet will inevitably come.

How did it become normalized for the common people of a country to be the permanent guarantor of the bets of a group of people with excess money? That would be exactly the same thing as the horse-racing bet loser being eligible for government grants to recover his losses – and to add insult to injury – he would be allowed (even encouraged) to make new bets with those grants!

The argument of the moderator in this piece is that the investors lost the money through no fault of their own. No one could have seen this pandemic coming. Firstly, as demonstrated above, the “investor” could have done absolutely anything with the excess money they had. The possibilities are limitless. And, just like with horse-betting, you can do all the research and listen to all the experts that say the horse “Everyone’s Darling” is the absolute favorite and all other horses don’t even come close, and still lose your shirt when “Everyone’s Darling” throws a shoe. Nobody could have seen that coming. You still lost your bet. And to be sure, someone bet against “Everyone’s Darling.” Even if they didn’t see that exact event coming, they at least allowed for the possibility. Again, the point is moot, because the gambler could have done anything with their money. Nobody made them gamble it in the stock market.

I’ll take the analogy even further, because it is so fitting. The horse racing industry creates atrocious abuses and exploitation of living beings (horses). There is extensive reporting on that if you’d like your eyes opened. Just like horse racing, our entire capitalistic system that enables stock market gambling is only possible due to the exploitation and abuse of living beings (humans) of which we are all more or less aware.

So, no, to me it is not a surprise for any halfway decent person to come out and say we the people should not be obliged to make speculators, betting on the ups and downs of a system made possible by exploitation and abuse, whole again. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing whether our seemingly halfway decent billionaire will be invited back on the show again anytime soon.

New York’s Mass Grave and Apollo 13

I live in Europe, so I get a whole different angle on the news. The angle is further skewed, because I am currently re-reading “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb where he writes that he, “completely gave up reading newspapers and watching television.” By the way, he says the coronavirus is not a “Black Swan” event. I learned that by watching him on television. More on that some other time.

What was interesting about the news the other night was the fact that there were three stories about America – one right after the other. Imagine seeing three stories about the same foreign country, half a world away, one right after another on the evening news in the US! Highly unlikely. I recently asked a colleague here who she was going to vote for in a local election. She said that she was more interested in the American election and that she believes that everyone in the world should get a ballot, because America has more impact to our quality of life than our own local politicians. There seems to be a lot of truth to that. The US has traditionally, “set the tone.”

Back to the news. The first story was about the Coronavirus and how America was so woefully botching it with aerial views of the New York mass burial site. If you haven’t seen this, it’s horrible. Coffins stacked three deep. There was nearly the exact same scene in Iran just a few weeks ago. In some ways, that didn’t seem so horrible, because it kind of meets with expectations of how Iran might handle the crisis. But for America, you certainly wouldn’t expect it. Which makes the same news different depending on who it’s about.

It’s sort of like interviews of business people in the 90’s, where a question like, “How do you balance your responsibilities in the company with raising your 5 kids?”, seemed perfectly reasonable when a woman was asked, but absolutely ludicrous and out-of-place when her male counterpart was asked the same question. We have certain expectations for people and nations and we recklessly hold on to them even with evidence to the contrary. Against these expectations we base the questions we ask. The expectations are the canvas and the questions are the paint – or are the answers the paint? I’ll think about that sometime. Who was it that said your quality of life is based on the questions you ask? (Google says, Anthony Robbins!)

So, the second news story was about a Nazi concentration camp where they were trying to celebrate the anniversary of the liberation during social distancing. Who liberated the prisoners? The Americans! They came in, the adults in the room, and put an end to the suffering and injustices in Europe. A true “Lord of the Flies” moment. They were unstoppable, on the highest possible moral ground, heroes for millions! On a side note, it’s easy to understand why everyone in the world went along when America declared that we needed to go to war with Iraq.

The third news story was about the Apollo 13 mission. I once had a colleague who repeatedly purported the view that America used to have vision. He liked to bring up the moon landing every time he came within 2 meters of me. After all, the Americans had the great vision to declare they would send someone to the moon and the gumption to get it done. This was a pivotal moment of leadership and ingenuity and displayed what Americans stood for – and I think most of the world felt like they were part of it. On the Apollo mission, against all odds, through further ingenuity and outright genius, the Americans saved the lives of the astronauts on board. “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” This is still the view of America that is etched in our minds to which we compare all new information. Even if we didn’t personally live through it, it’s still being shown on the news to this very day and decisions are being based on this view.

Indeed, the world still believes, on some level, that they can state calmly, “America, we have a problem” and that they will be saved by the hundreds of white shirted, short-sleeved American engineers in the Houston control room. With all the new evidence coming in, I think a lot of people are wondering, myself included, if we can still rely on this expectation of America.

A Letter of Thanks

I feel a sense of gratitude to a lot of people I’ve met in my life. I don’t always find the time or the words to thank them. Today, I wrote a letter to someone who helped me a great deal nearly two decades ago. This is what I wrote.

Dear Barb,

The generous things people do for us may stick in our memories longer than our own generosity. So, it could be that you are unaware of what your help meant for me. You may have even forgotten the circumstances. In any case, your help, your sponsorship not only eased my struggle, but showed me the value of generosity and what it means to help people.

Twenty years ago, my boyfriend was your son, Tim! We were going to college and I was in my last year of school unaware at the time that it would be the last year that I would live in the U.S. I had had a good job in the summer and I had loans, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep me afloat. It my final year and the most challenging. You started sending me cash by post. Every week a short note arrived with $20 taped to it. That enabled me to cut my hours at one job and quit another one entirely. I finished my studies successfully and became one of two women to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering that year.

You helped me achieve that! Your generosity meant the world to me and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve shared the story many times with others – often right before doing something generous myself!

My daughters know the story well and encouraged me to write you a letter to let you know the impact you’ve had on me and how I live my life. Finally, in this time of lockdowns and uncertainty, it is the right moment to do just that.

Thank you so much for supporting me. I wish you and your beautiful family health and peace during these times. I know you will take care of eachother.

With love…

P.S. If you have a chance to write, I’d love to hear from you! Also, please give my love to Tim!

The picture is of the card I made following the “Comforting Card” Tutorial at “The Postman’s Knock.

Hello, how dare you, now?

It’s not that I’ve never had anything to say before. I just happened to get sidetracked by my daily life. This has been a long time in coming. Here’s my thinking on the day I finally dared to get started.

I’d like to share some good news with you.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are a human being with many facets and there is a singular dignity in your unique life experience.  You have a heart and a future and you may have made mistakes in the past, but if you forgive yourself, you are forgiven.

We have been raised in varying degrees to believe that there is something wrong with us.  This is a lie.  Women may feel this more keenly than men, because a woman is easily considered “out of line”, whereas a man tends to have more leeway.  The line is a current and it flows in one direction – towards power.  As it pushes you downstream, your power is captured in the current and mostly drawn away from you.  Sometimes, it will pull you along with it, if you are lucky.  Then, when you dare a look at the banks of people left behind, you realize that you’ll do nearly anything not to land there, nor do you dare to think of the countless people that go under.  There is no ultimate destination to this stream, because enough is never enough.

There is nothing wrong with you or me; nevertheless, we feel a permanent uneasiness.  This uneasiness is vital to ensure that all power flows in the direction of power.  Once this is understood, no article, no book, no speech, no advertisement, no instagram photo, no facebook post, no employee appraisal will be understood in the same way. 

The current is diffused and disorganized just like a river, and like a river, it is all moving in the same general direction.  There are swaths of life that are more or less displaced by it, but we are all affected – all genders, all races, all religions, all ages, all people.  We must be kept in permanent unease, subject to the barrage of societal influences and downright poverty that keep us wrong and take our power.

My unique experience is one of a woman, an American, and a permanent alien. I’m not the leader of a major company. I am not a Olympic gold medal winner.  I’m not rich or poor. I’m not lesbian or bisexual. I’m not in politics and I’ve generally been absent from social media.  Nevertheless, I will be heard.

My experience is not so unusual. I left the United States for good at the age of 25.  I originally moved to Europe with two suitcases.  I’ve now lived in Europe for nearly 20 years and I consider myself a relic of a past American culture.

I am saddened, yet motivated by the drama and pain unfolding at this time in history. I will add my voice with the main goal of helping people to realize and use their own power.

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