You know things are bad when crises devolve into ad-hominem attacks

Remember the California Water Crisis of (was it 2017, 2018, or 2019?) a few years ago? At the worst of it, people turned on each other instead of focusing on solutions. Farmers blamed the suburbanites, the suburbanites blamed the farmers, everyone blamed the politicians, and the politicians blamed the people.

We tend to do that when we get angry and scared.

Listening to the recent dust-up between James Altucher and Jerry Seinfeld about the future of NYC is a little more of the same.

  • James makes the mistake of calling NYC “dead” even though a city doesn’t have a binary dead/alive state. I think what he meant to say was that we are going through a die-off, will pass through a quiet period, and that afterward, things will not be the same afterward. He’s grieving the loss of the NYC he has known and loved.
  • Jerry also loves NYC and its people but makes the mistake of attacking James. He sees himself as it’s/their champion. I think what he meant to say is that we should have hope and optimism, and know that we (most of us?) will pass through this downturn and eventually rebuild our lives.

Listening to Jerry and James argue reminds me of this classic anecdote:

Two neighbors were fighting over a financial dispute. They couldn’t reach an agreement, so they took their case to the local rabbi. The rabbi heard the first litigant’s case, nodded his head and said, “You’re right.”

The second litigant then stated his case. The rabbi heard him out, nodded again and said, “You’re also right.”

The rabbi’s attendant, who had been standing by this whole time, was justifiably confused. “But, rebbe,” he asked, “how can they both be right?”

The rav thought about this for a moment before responding, “You’re right, too!”

James and Jerry are both right. We’re going through a cycle of death and renewal. We need hope and grit to survive and rebuild. We must ask how they can both be right (and wrong) so we can go through this process with grace.

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