I have a new motto in life. Let me explain it too you.
I work in the "Internet Industry", which some may imagine as being a safe-haven for bold, counter-culture types, or at least a place for a bunch of dorks to try pretend they're bold, counter-culture types, but lo, it sadly isn't so. No the people who run the internet industry may think they're counter-culture types just because they don't wear a tie and know a little bit about Unix or something, (and they do think this), but they're not. By and large, they're business people, the same breed of business people you'd find at any brokerage firm, bank, real estate sales office or money lender's. They read the Wall Street Journal, curse NAFTA and Alan Greenspan, and discuss the stock market in their free time.
This kind of thing becomes clear, for instance, when I mention to someone at work that I'm taking a creative writing course. He asks me if it's to help my business writing. I explain to him, no, it has nothing to do with business writing, and, in a different setting, might have explained to him that someone would have to hold a gun to my head to get me to write a single line of ad copy, but he just says "Well, hey, it'll help your business writing too."
This is not the first time something like this has happened too me. Once I tried to explain to a former boss why I wanted a part-time job so that I'd have more time to myself. He looked at me blankly, "You get paid by the hour," he said, "what, you don't want money?"
I swear this is exactly what he said, "What, you don't want money?" It's like a mantra for these people or something. If it doesn't relate to money, it might as well not exist, and these soulless people end up like the characters in the movie Boiler Room, tons of money, and no clue how to spend it. Because these people have nothing to be passionate about except material wealth.
One more example, just to reinforce the point. I was at a headhunter's office once and he asks me "What this YanktheChain.com thing on your resume?" "Well," I explain, "it's a web magazine I publish and write for." "So it's a startup?"
I'm just imagining the gears working in this guy's mind, like some kind of robot: "Category: Web Magazine; Type: website; Moneymaking? Processing.. category found, STARTUP. Correct output: 'So it's a startup?'"
Just to clarify, here's what "startup" means in business talk: a startup is a new business venture in which someone gets an idea that a hundred other people already have had, and plans to work 16 hours a day on it for three years until it gets profitable enough that he can sell it to a large corporation for a lot of money. Usually they then have nothing to do with all their money, so they take it and make another startup.
Passionless. Soulless. Heartless.
Frankly it sends shivers up my spine just thinking about it, thinking about these people willing to throw away years and years of their lives for nothing but economic gains, arbitrary numbers that mean nothing past a certain point anyway. I mean, does anyone really need a hundred million dollars? For fuck's sake, what are these people doing with themselves?
Which brings me to my shiny new motto for living, my counter-mantra, if you will. It is this:
"Never trust anyone who spends their free time talking about the stock market."
"But Eric," you might say, "surely there's nothing wrong with investing a conservative index fund over a long period of time to plan for your retirement, along with a reasonable 401k plan."
Other then the evil of having to know terms like "conservative index fund" and "401k", I suppose there's nothing really wrong with saving money so you won't have to worry about starving later on in life. This is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about people who talk about the stock market for kicks, who debate fine points of junk bonds and treat their 100 shares of Sisco like something to brag about.
"But Eric," you might also say, "the stock market is a fascinating numerical representation of our economic system. By studying the Dow Jones we can grow to understand patterns of mass behavior and the underlying mechanics of capitalistic society."
Okay, perhaps as a form of scholarly research the stock market might be worth talking about. And Newt Gingrich should be elected president. And everyone should watch Titanic at least three times a day while shoving razor blades under their toe nails.
Really, the people who say this kind of horseshit are simply trying to justify their own greed and the emptiness of their pathetic lives which need to be filled up with over-blown philosophical statements about an already over-blown way for rich people to stay rich without adding anything to society.
Let me tell you about what the stock market really is, and saying this is the only truly justifiable excuse to mention the stock market at all.
The stock market is a means for parasites. Stock brokers, investment firms, Mutual Funds, people who spend their livelihoods pouring money in and out of the market do absolutely nothing for society except move money around; they don't create anything, they don't try to make the world a better place, except in the most abstract examples of things like Al Gore claiming that he created the internet because he gave money to its development.
And we, as a society, don't need these people. The people themselves might try to convince us that we do, that we cannot have innovation without a system of financial backing, but that's horseshit. There is no excuse for a system that allows non-productive people to be among the richest. It's a travesty, and, taking a cue from Douglas Adams, we should pile all the middle men we can find in a big rocket ship and shoot them as far away from us as technologically possible.
Until we do, don't trust anyone who spends their free time talking about the stock market.
EricR is the editor and programmer of YanktheChain.com, a web magazine that believes in improving the world through hate. It will IPO in November.