I read this article on Slate, and I felt the need to set the record straight in regards to my birthplace and childhood home.
As a rule, I try not to react to articles like these. They’re clearly designed to get a rise out of people, to create controversy even if none exists. Whenever a white knight parks his horse to tell the offending author that they’re wrong and they’re a doodoohead, the author can smile and rest easy with the fact that they’ve done their job.
But…I just can’t walk away from this shit. I can’t. My nativity to the South Bay is compelling me to explain to this guy that he’s an asshole.
So congratulations. You’ve done your job. You’ve annoyed me to the point of spending verbal capital to debasing your shitty opinion.
There are three problems with this article:
A – it assumes that the Silicon Valley is a place that has actively staked a claim on defining “cool”.
B – the examples of “cool” are as outdated as my high school yearbook.
C – the common mistake of painting with a broad brush when it comes to any criticism of a particular city. The Silicon Valley, while widely known for its tech industry, is much more than being the landlord of Google, Apple, and Cisco.
In my history as a Silicon Valley resident, I don’t think I’ve seen my hometown make many overt attempts to draw attention to itself. There are a few weak grabs to nurture tourism, but I don’t think Silicon Valley has ever tried to paint itself into something that it’s not.
We know we’re not a cultural hub outside of our tech giants. Our contribution to the world is through technology, which is pretty fucking important and cool in its own right.
But in the “old-media” sense, especially along the parameters that this author has laid out, Silicon Valley can never be “cool”. There aren’t many fashion houses, the arts scene is underdeveloped despite its vibrancy, and our famous people include players of the San Jose Sharks, tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs, and fashion bloggers like HapaTime.
We’re not “cool” in the sense that New York and San Francisco is “cool”, but here’s the thing, we never thought we were New York or San Francisco “cool” to fucking begin with.
This town knows what it is, and it’s never tried to act differently.
I slightly agree with the author’s assessment that the core of “cool” is not giving fuck, or even two fucks.
But this author doesn’t get that “cool” is a dynamic term that attaches itself at the whim of the masses. This author also conveniently forgets to include the appropriate definition of “cool” in its true vernacular form. “Cool” is simply what’s “fashionably attractive or impressive”.
Tastemakers and trendsetters might have a good handle of what may become “cool” in the future, but really, “cool” is determined by the mixture of a person’s natural tastes and their susceptibility to groupthink. While most “cool” things are grounded in a statement of a lack of fucks to give, “cool” can also be excitement and energy, especially with this wave of EDM music and culture.
And really? Bringing up smoking and sunglasses as icons of what “cool” is supposed to be? How old are you, guy?
I always tread lightly when I criticize a city that I’ve never lived in. I know that New York isn’t all about glitz, glamour, and muggings. I know that Chicago isn’t just fat white guys that eat a lot of meat and potatoes. I know that Texas isn’t all crazy Republicans who want to shoot every stranger on their front lawn.
The Silicon Valley is known for its tech. We can all agree on this. But the day-to-day of a typical San Jose resident isn’t just wrapped up in tech and cool and swag. There are over a million people that live in the Silicon Valley, it’s a statistical impossibility that all of them would work in tech.
My parents would be a good example. My dad raised a middle-class family tinting windows for a living. He doesn’t even know how to work his Hotmail account.
The Silicon Valley is also the Korean bars on El Camino, the Vietnamese coffee shops in the East Side, the Bay 101 card room, San Pedro Square, Santana Row, the orange sauce at La Victoria’s. There’s a personality here, one that’s unique and one that’s undoubtedly ours.
People here are better at keeping it real than any other city. We combine blue-collar bluntness with California chill. The honesty, lack of pretention, and resistance to mob mentality amongst my Silicon Valley friends is something that’s unparalleled. There might not be a huge cultural impact that the Silicon Valley makes outside of tech, but you’d be hard pressed to label these people “uncool” when you see how grounded and authentic they are.
As you can see, I get worked up when people talk shit about a city that they know nothing about.
My hometown isn’t perfect. It’s a suburban copy-paste job that happened to luck into tech investment. The bro culture is rampant due to the laughable girl-guy ratio at the common South Bay bar.
But these are all things I know because I’ve lived there for two decades. This is my home. This is my territory. I know what makes it “cool” and what makes it “wack”, and I have that authority because I was raised here. I come from a place where I can maintain an educated opinion of what the Silicon Valley is and what it isn’t.
So in conclusion, don’t open your trap and pass judgment about my home when you’ve never walked a mile in these streets.