Conspicuous Consumption vs. San Francisco Values: Tech's Role in the Battle for SF's Soul
They now charge 10 cents for a bag at Whole Foods. I needed 1, but asked for 10. #wealth— Sara Mauskopf (@sm) October 2, 2012
San Francisco Magazine recently published an article called "How much tech can one city take?" If you live in SF, you know the answer is "a LOT." But, we're definitely reaching saturation point. The article presented several sides to this question. Clearly, the boom is good in some ways: more jobs, increased revenue for the city, and the energy of innovation that bleeds into other projects in San Francisco. But, there's also the troubling aspects: exploding rents, tech companies that work to insulate their employees from the very city they claim to want to be a part of by offering free meals so employees don't have to wander through their neighborhoods and by providing private transit options in spite of and likely to the detriment of public transit, and the encouragement of an culture of unearned privilege and special-ness.
Overall, I liked the article. I actually like tech. I'm proud of what is being created in my city. Sure, I raz the "techies" and complain about their impact on the city, especially in SOMA. But, we don't have real weather here, so I have to complain about something.
But, when I saw the tweet above, I was a little surprised and, frankly, disgusted. Yes, SF is the great liberal, progressive, socialist, Marxist playground. We wear our bleeding commie pinko hearts on our sleeves and worry too much about seemingly trivial issues while people sleep on the streets. Still, this tweet encompassed everything that's wrong with some of tech and some of the people who have moved here to participate in the current boom.
San Francisco is a green town. We don't want you throwing your recycling in the trash or your plastic in the compost. (And, if you've ever read this blog before, you will get the irony of me discussing and defending this.) But, deep down, I'm actually pretty green. I just like to pretend I'm not. I carry a grocery bag in my messenger bag (all SF residents are required to have a messenger bag btw). I don't own a car. I even compost at work (because they made it SO easy). Sara doesn't care about that. She's above and/or beyond it. She's not part of the fabric of this community.
I believe that Sara's tweet shows a disconnect with local values. For months, San Francisco grocers have been advertising the upcoming change: As of October 1, paper bags will cost 10 cents each. The city wants to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags to the store. The nominal fee is one way to encourage this behavior. Sara couldn't be bothered to notice, though. She was probably tweeting on the Twitter shuttle, surrounded by other Twitter employees, trying desperately not to notice the city around them. Tweeting while Rome burns.
For me, Sara's tweet is the ultimate behavior modification tool.
You see, in just two sentences, she made an advocate out of me. Her gross disregard for local politics and regulations combined with her truly revolting perception of her own status was enough to make me write this. And it will be enough to make me be damned sure I have my "Anti-Sara-the-Techie-who-is-too-good-for-San-Francisco-and-doesn't-care-what-anything-costs-because-she-works-for-Twitter" bag every time I go to the grocery store.
For that, Sara, I thank you. For your attitude and your lack of common decency, I can't wait to see what the bubble looks like after it pops.
As for the rest of you, pack your bag or pack some dimes.