By Peter Van BUREN
With the year 2022 soon behind us, it is time for some linguistic housecleaning, America.
I’d like everyone to please stop using the term side hustle. Call it a part time job or a small business. Either way, it rarely works out despite the incessant flow of trash from the media about how it is some sort of new thing. Historic data on small businesses shows a remarkable record: no matter how long you look back or what the economic climate is, around 90% of all start-ups, new small businesses, and the like fail. Those are terrible odds. The primary reasons for failure are money running out, being in the wrong market, a lack of research, and not being an expert in the industry. I’d like to add “showing scorn for people who are experts in the industry” by imaging you are being disruptive or innovative when you are just naive.
Keep in mind if your side hustle is mainly making money for other people who do nothing but provide a platform while you do all the work (TaskRabbit, Uber, Doordash, Fivvr, any delivery service.) You are their side hustle.
So can we stop with the Etsy people who get profiled on their second week and never heard of again with their breakthrough idea to knit sweaters for bunnies? Can we stop hearing about people who think they can run a global vegan cookie business out of their apartment? Please, no more commercials showing some small business thriving because of the post office or colorful flyers? And do they always have to be cute coffee shops or flower stores or worse, ambiguous open offices where frighteningly beautiful people holds meetings and point earnestly at screens before raising fists in triumph at the end?
And if we somehow have to hear about these people, can the stories include something about profits instead of just telling us gross sales which mean nothing if no profit is made? And as an aside, are all these people the same people? Females are strong, fierce, little political meme generators selling empowered crafts. The men all look alike, about 35 with neat beards, big watches, and all-cotton clothing draped over V-shaped bodies. They always have time to chat with equally-pure customers. We never see them firing the minimum wage worker for making a Tik-Tok in the back room while the juicer overflows out front, or on their phone with their lawyer being sued for sexual harassment by someone they chose not to hire because of the needle tracks down his forearms. Just stop.
Also, influencer, YouTuber, and podcaster are not real jobs.
In that same line, let’s stop misusing the word “research” as in “Well, I did my research before going to Orlando.” Nothing that starts and stops with Google searches can be research, especially broad searches like “Hey Google, what do I need to know about starting a business.” That’s not research, that’s flipping through a magazine on the plane. Research involves multiple layers of questions in search of actual rudimentary facts, creating some sort of hypothesis-core idea that facts can prove or reject. “Research” is not the same as education. Anyone can look up a list of symptoms but actual medical school is helpful in a real diagnosis that accounts for all the variables you don’t even know exist. Also, maybe a working knowledge of biology and chemistry.
This also applies to all the people whose “research” is predetermined to reach a conclusion, such as “racism is everywhere.” Collections of cherry picked eventoids do not automatically add up to a valid conclusion. That requires an understanding of context, of what was going on around those events, and especially the knowledge of history that allows you to judge events as they would have been in their time. That’s why people should not lose their mind every time a new Gen X person discovers the Constitution uses only male pronouns. Persons who believe a particular religious book is the literal word of the deity should learn a bit of how translations work, especially those from ancient to modern languages.
Experience is important; it broadens us and can bring into a conversation new ideas. This is good. But beginning your screed with the words “As a…” and then alerting us that as a lesbian, or a native Jamaican, you have rare insights sets the bar pretty high. If you invoke it second or eighth hand, you sound like an idiot. For example, no one who has any experience with war thinks preferencing your comment with “As the great grandson of a guy who fought real fascists in Nazi Germany…” improves your argument.
Stop with the firsts. The first black president was noteworthy. The first woman CEO at a S&P 500 company was important. It’s 2022 and the first disabled left-handed Asperberger’s transwoman bank clerk is not. Stop.
Same goes for those who insist personal experience is the only way to know things and thus in one swipe eliminate the point of poetry, history, painting, fiction, and the rest of scholarship and the arts. Yes, I in fact can know something of what it is like to be a ____. That is in fact the whole point of the arts, never mind history and academia in general.
And special mention to the ragged few who actually do disregard good scholarship, the sum of many personal experiences, for a single, biased lived version nearby. As in “Well, professor — Robert — you say the civil war was about ending slavery, but my great great grandma still was poor even a few years ago.” In addition to its use in the budding field of uninformed racism, this idea is all through conversations about immigration. Sorry but not everyone’s grandfather came to America with only one dollar, had his name forcibly changed to Biff at Ellis Island, but then went on to found IBM. So leave the Central Americans clanging at our southern border out of this, or invite them to your house for dinner and tell them your fanfic version of family history.
Nobody outside your peer group and some people in Human Resources who have found a new monetarized niche in life care about your pronouns. The chances you did not get promoted are much more likely to have had something to do with your work than your gender, race, religion, or which orifices you prefer to sexually engage with. Once you grasp that you are likely to do better work.
We all see through passive-aggressive language, so just say “Please take your seat” and not “Um, people, I like really need you to sit down, OK, um, thanks.”
Before you use a stainless steel reusable straw to drink an iced herbal gluten free tea consider the amount of resources it takes to produce and ship steel straws and how many thousands of times someone would have to use them to equal the “waste” of one paper straw made from recycled paper. And whenever lose your reusable straw, it will basically exist in the environment for much, much longer than something paper.
Never spend more than $1.99 on coffee. Don’t buy a family of pads and pod devices that all do basically the same thing except in different sizes. Don’t take out student loans for majors that will never earn you a living (that’s called a hobby.) You don’t need whatever it is you saw online. It is weird you have so many photos of yourself on your phone. Ten years ago it would have been seen as a symptom of some psychiatric event. Life should not be about endless self-marketing. Smash the subscribe button, like me, follow me, swipe right on me, review me. We are people. We are not products. We live lives. We are not meant to execute marketing campaigns from birth forward.
Stop being so easily offended by words. That was all supposed to be fixed anyway after we were ordered to use Ms. and say African-American in the 1970s. If it didn’t change much then new versions of things (including statues) aren’t going to change much now. English has many good words so stop over-using bonkers, unhinged, mocked, burned, let that sink in, period, full stop.
Any “event” that begins and takes place online, such as outrage over something, is not real and is certainly not news. Determining the success of something by likes, follows, or ratios means nothing outside of the closed loop hive mind of social media. You understand the only point of social media is advertising, right, except you do most of the work? Woke acts by companies are also just advertising. Understanding both sides of an issue is not an “ism” to be mocked. It instead suggests an open mind, and can lead to deeply held beliefs well-supported. “News” based on sources or reports is gossip and/or propaganda. The more you agree with the politics of an article the more you should questions its bias.
It may be me, or things really have fallen apart. The great Talking Heads doc, Stop Making Sense, seems like a motto I should have in Latin on my chest. If you have helped create a society based on narcissism, constant advertising and media manipulation, grinding consumerism and the debt is creates, and permanent existence in a state of offense, don’t be surprised when one day you wake up and realize it stinks.
And fine, yes, the best music was the stuff recorded when I was in high school, and now get off my lawn.