5 Consequences of Living in a Bubble
April marks our one year anniversary in Los Angeles and already we’re starting to feel restless. As compulsive movers, this typically doesn’t happen for another 6-8 months. All of a sudden, the thought of spending another 17 months in one place fills us with dread.
Recently, we’ve begun to suspect that our neighborhood might have something to do with it. Living in West LA has struck a nerve. We’ve allowed ourselves to get too comfortable. There’s a reason they call it La La Land. It’s too easy to sweep problems under the rug here. Everything in Los Angeles is room temperature. All the time.
I’m not saying we’re above any of this. I took the PBS “Do you live in a bubble?” quiz and my score was 5 out of 100. 0 presumably means I'm The New Yorker logo: man with upturned nose, powdered wig under a top hat, examining a butterfly through a monocle.
When I think about life in a bubble, I'm reminded this passage by a one-time LA resident:
5 Consequences of Living in a Bubble
1. The Grand Canyon between thought and action
People in LA are generally in favor of immigrants and refugees. Just enough to allow them to stay and continue building our homes, cooking in our kitchens, and tending our gardens. But God forbid they raise our taxes or move into our neighborhood!
George Orwell took the cynical view that liberal elites sympathize with the poor, but not enough to do anything about it - the sacrifice to their way of life is too high a price to pay. Liberal values, loosely held, means having the right opinions among friends and acquaintances. Outrage becomes the antidote to a problem we were never committed to solving in the first place. Instead, we write a clever piece of satire on McSweeney’s and have a protest before happy hour.
It’s hard to rally against a system in which we are the primary beneficiaries. It’s a constant uphill battle to divert time and money from disposable pleasures to things that actually add value to the lives of those around us.
For example, there is little direct incentive for us to donate our time to charity vs. staying at home and literally throwing hours of our life away on Netflix. Living in a bubble means having to battle the cognitive dissonance we experience when faced with the choice of doing what’s good versus what’s easy.
2. Lack of empathy
In our neighborhood, there are more pet shelters and animal hospitals than homeless shelters and human hospitals. What we spend on our pets could conceivably feed a family of four abroad for years.
A few weeks ago, Jennie told me a story about how some in her office were debating how to rescue a half dozen newborn puppies from a homeless couple. It’s easy to be cynical and say that people value animal life over human life. I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t think our urge to protect the defenseless makes us assholes - just lazy. A suffering animal is the easiest thing there is. It will never demand anything we aren’t prepared to give.
3. Our IdentitieS Are For Sale
I’d like to think that individuals are more than the sum of their social, political, and gender identities. These days, I’m not so sure. What started as a righteous battle against bigotry and discrimination has devolved into a series of political hot takes, backlash, and backlash to the backlash.
What makes us individually unique has been drowned in ideology. Our hopes and aspirations melted down and fed into an amorphous group that needs us to think and act a certain way. Please, somebody tell me what I should be offended by.
Joining “a movement” means letting yourself be defined by someone else. It’s relinquishing control over your life. As a capitalist, there is nothing noble or true in this world that can’t be perverted and exploited for monetary gain. Consider the proliferation of products, advertising, and content that openly panders to the personas we choose to adopt.
4. Trivial Things Become Important
Everyone seems to be in a rush somewhere. We’re too busy for the people who matter. We're connected and yet are left feeling utterly alone. How else could this article make it to the top of Medium? What are other people working on in coffee shops? Such a simple question, and yet so very...profound.
By the way the coffee shop in question is called Deus Ex Machina: Emporium Of Post Modern Activities.
5. Self-congratulatory tolerance and enlightenment
Much like this entire post, we’re good at pointing out hypocrisy but terrible at providing concrete solutions. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Neither Jennie or I have got a clue, and as the name of our blog suggests, we’re literally making it up as we go along.
The only practical takeaway from this is that perhaps it’s time for us to move. In the interim, let’s try not to lose our sanity as we both pine for Timbuktu.
Hey, can you keep a secret? We’re trying to organize a prison break. We’re looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this neighborhood, then this city, then the state, and finally, the country.