It was on July the 20th that Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and International Scourge of Man, reached space. “You guys paid for all of this,” said Jeff Bezos emphatically, stepping from his rocket ship dressed like a deranged movie-extra who couldn’t decide between a walk-on part in Armageddon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This (the remark, not the outfit), upset general consensus enough that, lambasted by just about everybody, Jeff Bezos saw the light and promptly coughed up 200 million dollars towards charities of your choice. God bless you, Mr. Bezos.
(Copyright Tim Mossholder)
My point? It’s easy to hate the richest man on Earth. I do. Most likely so do you. But, before you sharpen your pitchfork and run across Jeff’s four mile long front lawn to toilet-paper his house, consider this:
At this very moment in time, is Jeff Bezos crouched in some unhallowed corner of one of his multimillion-dollar hovels, desperately thumbing a well-worn copy of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ as he downs a tub of caviar-flavoured ice cream in a fruitless effort to quell yet another fit of hysterical sobbing?
I think not.
Because, Jeff Bezos? Well… he’s just too rich to care.
There is, admittedly, little to laud about Jeff Bezos. His business morals are unscrupulous at best. His fashion sense is worse. And yet, if there’s one, inexorably worthwhile lesson to be extracted from the 21st century’s answer to JP Getty, it’s this; tell the truth.
Granted, the truth isn’t always nice. Often it’s pernicious, conniving, disconsolately evil; it would do no good in today’s retributive climate to absolve Jeff Bezos of any of these epithets. His ‘success’ is facilitated by privilege derived from exploitation. For his employees, the overworked and underpaid, there is no such luxury; if they ran around with the same audacious glee as their boss, their tenure amongst the Amazon acolytes would be quite short. Jeff Bezos has earned the right to do what he wants, but only at the cost of those suppressed by his systematic exploitation of industry, and the voiceless who lie crushed beneath the engines of his rocket ship. Jeff Bezos’ affluence and the ability to act responsibly in business are mutually exclusive; the latter has died so the former might live.
Then why does it matter, you ask? We’ve already established that Jeff Bezos is the Devil Incarnate, blasting off to space in prison overalls and a cowboy hat while his workers slave away in windowless warehouses on minimum pay zero-hour contracts.
But wait! There’s an easier way to understand Jeff Bezos. And it can be summarised thus; it’s hip to be horrible.
This is, of course, a generalisation. But there is a growing trend of what can only be described as anti-self-help self-help literature, designed to dismantle the virtue-signalling and obsequiousness of modern business relations and advocate that slippery inscrutability that Jeff Bezos manages so well- the irreverence of being yourself.
If Jeff Bezos is the King of this Hill, then his court scribe is undoubtedly Mark Manson, a man with such Howard-Beale-in-Network “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” swagger, that he actually named his book ‘The Subtle Art of Not giving a F*ck’. Manson says no to most everything that anyone has ever told you about how to get ahead in business:
Say no to blaming others if you fail to achieve goals that you think you deserve.
Say no to spending an uncomfortable evening listening to your boss’s kid’s violin recital, then throwing him some platitude about Yehudi Menuhin in the hope of wheedling your way into his good books.
Say no to forming some kind of weird, pagan-y séance to deduce Howard Hughes’ beyond-the-grave tips for successful and happy living.
Say no to mimicry, bitterness, flattery, neurosis, obsessiveness, anal retentiveness, sycophantism, pig-headedness, envy, righteousness, indignance, martyrdom, fear, self-importance, narcissism, hubris, meekness, political correctness, defensiveness, pettiness, passivity, avarice, resent, jealousy, pride.
Manson knows this. As does Jeff Bezos. He is liberated by not caring what we think. And this is perhaps why Jeff Bezos has the most effective brand of all.
Take, for example, Richard Branson. Branson owns his story; he’s the guy that began by selling old 45s from the boot of his car. Why do you know this? Because he wants you to. Because that’s his brand. He owns an island, dresses in drag, flies in hot air balloons; this is the careful curation of his persona, the eccentric uncle with a mullet to rival any member of Duran Duran circa 1984. And Branson is fun. But you know he cares. Jeff Bezos’ uniqueness is that he doesn’t.
Because there are fewer f*cks a man with Jeff Bezos’ track-record could give than going into space. Yet he did it anyway. Why? Because he’s Jeff Bezos. Because he can.
This is something another titan of the anti-self-help self-help contingent talks about; Glennon Doyle, in her book Untamed, admits that she wanted to thrust an iPad into the hands of her newborn baby the moment it left the hospital. We could call it controlled selfishness; sometimes you simply have to do things for you. And if exiting the stratosphere in a questionably-shaped rocket is your scene, then who are we to query it?
The point is this: Manson and Doyle, so refreshing in their outlook towards both business and life, advocate a harsh lesson in getting on in a society that is awash with soft-edged equivocators waiting to be knocked down: sometimes, you have to tell your truth, unpalatable as it may be.
Jeff Bezos has had his scruples cross-examined by just about everybody who’s ever purchased anything from Amazon. He could have deflected, perhaps sought to paint himself in a more favourable light. If not giving a f*ck is the future of living dangerously, then Jeff Bezos is already a black belt in the dojo of cynical self-liberation. Because, in simple terms, Jeff Bezos‘ brand is built around noting public opinion, then continuing to do as he pleases. His power lies in the fact that he doesn’t need you to like him.
It is true then, that Jeff Bezos is owning his story, albeit a cautionary, acrid tale of the folly of those with too much money. He’s a man with a singular narrative – his own. And when telling the truth is the most frightening thing in the world, Jeff Bezos is offering us perhaps the bravest one of all: the fact that he just doesn’t care. And if we, like him, were all a little less fearful of our place within the minds of others? It was this self-belief that sent Jeff Bezos to space. The possibilities are endless. With that in mind… I’ll have what Jeff’s having.
Author: Anna Hanlon