Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Wrap it Up and Knock it Off

Some reflections on 2022, and advice for 2023.


With 2022 soon behind us, it is time for some linguistic housecleaning, America.

Everyone please stop using the term "side hustle." Call it a part-time job or a small business. Either way, they rarely work out, despite the incessant flow of trash from 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 percent of all start-ups, new small businesses, and the like fail. 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" to the list—people imagine they are disruptive or innovative when they 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, Fiverr, any delivery service), really, you are their side hustle.

So, let’s stop with the Etsy people who get profiled on their second week and are never heard of again with their breakthrough idea to knit sweaters for bunnies. Let’s 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.

If we somehow do have to hear about these people, can the stories include something about profits instead of just telling us the gross sales, which mean nothing if no profit is made? And are all these people the same people? The women 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 lawyers while being sued for sexual harassment by people they chose not to hire because of the needle tracks down their forearms.

Let’s also remember: 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 “Hey Google” can be research. 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, a core idea that facts can prove or reject. "Research" is also not the same as an education. Anyone can look up a list of symptoms, but medical school is helpful for producing a real diagnosis that accounts for variables you and I don't even know exist. Also, maybe a working knowledge of biology and chemistry.


This point applies to the people whose "research" is predetermined to reach a predetermined conclusion, such as "racism is everywhere." Collections of cherry-picked eventoids do not automatically add up to a valid theory of the world. That requires an understanding of context, of what was going on around events, and especially the knowledge of history that allows you to judge events as they would have been understood in their time. People should stop losing their minds every time a new Gen X person discovers the Constitution uses only male pronouns. If you believe a particular religious book is the literal word of the deity, you should probably learn a bit about how translations work, especially those from ancient to modern languages.

Let’s talk about experience. 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, is setting the bar pretty high. And if you invoke it second or eighth hand, you sound like an idiot. For example, no one who has any experience with war thinks prefacing your comment with "As the great-grandson of a guy who fought real fascists in Nazi Germany..." improves your argument.

Those who insist personal experience is the only way to know things 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 ____. I can use imagination. That is in fact the whole point of the arts, never mind history and academia in general.

And let’s stop with the “firsts.” The first black president was noteworthy. The first woman CEO at an S&P 500 company was important. It's 2022 and the first disabled left-handed trans woman bank clerk with autism is not. Stop.

Nobody outside your peer group and some people in human resources who have found a new monetized niche in life care about your pronouns. Your not having gotten promoted is 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.

Here’s some advice for 2023.

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." Speak clearly.

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).

Live in the moment. 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.

Remember, 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?

Note: 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, well-supported beliefs. "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.

Stop being so easily offended by words. That was all supposed to be fixed in the 1970s anyway, when we were ordered to use Ms. and say African-American. If that didn't change much, then the new versions of things (including new statues) aren't going to change much now.

It may just be me, or it may be that 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, now get off my lawn.