Thursday, 1 September 2016

A catharsis about being free from society's sycophantic bullshit

A few days ago, I read an extremely well-written feature piece on Moxie Marlinspike in the latest issue of WIRED Magazine. No, Moxie Marlinspike is not Hollywood's next purple-haired, uber sassy but impossibly cute manic pixie dream girl.

He is the programming genius who invented the software Open Whispers, which enables double-end encryption on your text messages, online messages (i.e. on Facebook and Whatsapp), and phone calls. He's the world's number one guardian of privacy. A cynic of government and law enforcement. A believer that only rule-breaking leads to progress. He is, by all means, the people's hero. And truly, his technology played a critical role in the events of the Arab Spring.

Moxie Marlinspike is a grade A rebel. He doesn't play by society's rules and he will never have his life suffocated by the boundaries that other people set for him. He did things like drop out of school, not go to college, couch-surf among different friends for months, go sailing around the world with a few of his best mates. He once had to sleep on a bench. But this was the life he had chosen and wanted. It was the most precarious, the most exciting, and the most personally satisfying.

And then I realised something. Something that has further changed how I understand myself and what I want out of life. On the other hand, I can see how some people may argue that this is something borne dangerously out of my own fantastical desires - a harbinger of my vocational death. And perhaps what I say next is only further testament to my quixoticism, but goddamn, I only have one life, and if I had to conduct myself according to the rules, conventions and expectations dictated by the rat race of society, its ridiculous fashions, and its cretinous toxic industries, then I'd rather fucking die right now. What I wanted was to be - was Moxie Marlinspike. 

I envied the hell out of Moxie Marlinspike. Reading his story, I became acutely aware that I am not a genius coder, and that in my lifetime, I probably will not possess a skill anywhere near the level of consummation that Moxie exercised over coding (except maybe writing? lol). But I definitely recognised that the more I read about him, the more I was nodding to myself in absolute awe. Here was a guy who was both changing the world quite drastically, and not having to commit to bureaucratic bullshit, eight hours a day of sycophantic smiles, memorised by-lines, and tea-sipping etiquette with old white men/boring white-collar suits. He was answerable to no-one, and absolutely free to be himself.

And I loved it. 

Maybe this is just a phase, spurred by my countless interactions with bosses who believed that 'respect' was a top-down hierarchy and not an egalitarian, horizontal one. Spurred by the neverending comparisons and heavy expectations placed on me as a law student. Spurred by the extreme stress and existential crisis that law students feel when they apply for clerkships. 

To be honest, it's probably more to do with the first factor (where I've been underpaid, ignored, insulted, misunderstood, disrespected etc etc). And the fact that growing up in a Chinese family heavily involved in prominent Chinese-Melbourne circles, I've been forced by my parents to 'kiss ass' every time I attend a function, and battle for photos with whichever politician was present. I've been doing this since high school and I have barely ever self-promoted such photos on Facebook or whatever. I don't know, it's just fucking embarrassing. Like, taking a photo with the President of the Electoral Commission when I was 15, or with the MP for Box Hill and his wife when I was 17. Who the fuck cares? Do people care? 

Every time I post shit like that now, which is certainly not often, is because I'm finally at the point where everyone around me is doing the same shit and I feel pressured to self-promote. I also sometimes do feel a bit guilty. I have had all these incredible opportunities to network and I haven't capitalised fully on them, or I never actually sustain the networks I've built. I once had a lovely mentor who graduated from Cambridge business school and did a JD at Monash. He's now the Asia Pacific director of some international law firm. We used to exchange emails, and then I just stopped replying (it might have had a little to do with the fact that I was 17 and he was 41 when we first met, and I was uncomfortable that he was driving me around to get coffee and stuff oh god I'm sorry mister, you were a good guy).

Anyway. I know. I was fucking stupid to give that up. But honestly, I'm exhausted. I was thrust into a world of sycophantism when I was very young, and although I know that I am good at talking to people, I hate having to try really hard to please people that I don't know or like, and seppuku my own personality for the sake of what other people deem a necessity of life. 

Fuck I really need to study now. 

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