The Fyre Festival is all over the internet today. I’m not hip, or particularly young, so I didn’t hear anything about it until today, when it failed, spectacularly. The gist is this: Ja Rule (the rapper who I presumed dead after the first Fast and Furious, where he played an important role) and some entrepreneur teamed up to make a music festival on an island in the Bahamas. Then they did some marketing for it on social media, mostly just attractive women in bikinis wandering around beaches. Then they announced the prices, which were, as you’d expect, not cheap.
And then the time for the actual festival rolled around, and it seems it went… poorly. Nothing was ready – Luxury villas turned out to be FEMA issued disaster tents, many of which apparently blew away. Food was bad. There was no beer. Bahamian customs, at some point stopped allowing people out of the airport, telling them the island was at capacity. The whole thing has now been essentially cancelled, and they’re working to get everyone back off the island.
And honestly, it’s pretty funny. Really funny, actually. Twitter is having a field day, because no one is a safer, easier target to mock than young people with money (bonus points if you already vaguely hate them because #millenials). Also because if you wrote this script as a comedy, it would work, with almost no changes – from Ja Rule being in charge, to the fact that the other guy is apparently a tech entrepreneur, to the terribly dumb promotional videos. And it actually happened. As has been said over and over on twitter, it’s Lord of the Flies with rich millenials. I’m sorry, it is funny.
Anyway, in spite of all that rambling, and the 2 hours I just wasted on twitter following this (seriously, give it a look), it did make me think about more than just laughing at other people’s misfortune (which I’m apparently totally cool with).
This whole deal failed spectacularly – and, by all accounts, it did so because of negligence, laziness, or incompetence on the part of several people in charge of it. However – from here, in my comfortable chair, in my house, where I’m doing nothing, it’s so easy to mock. It’s so easy to listen to the internet and see how this was never going to work, and how every single person involved – from the people who came up with the idea, to the people who were paid to promote it, to the officials on the island, all the way down to the people who paid money to fly on a chartered plane to an island for a music festival – are all morons, and deserved what they got. It’s too easy.
When faced with this kind of situation, deep down, I think most of us are putting ourselves in the shoes of the festival goers, or the organizers, and trying to distance ourselves, to figure out how we’re superior, and we’d never have ended up in the same situation. We see something going terribly and see, in hindsight, all of the things that went wrong, and how stupid the organizers must have been. And we internalize it: “They failed, because they’re dumb. I don’t want to be dumb, I don’t want people to think I’m dumb, I need to avoid this.”
Maybe they were dumb. Clearly the organizers weren’t prepared, and maybe ignored some pretty solid advice and now they’re paying for it. But I worry that when I look at this and other high profile failures, what I hear, what I’m told, what I decide deep down is actually to never try, to never do anything big, because I don’t want people to discover that I’m a moron too. And it’s not just huge public things – it filters all the way down to how I interact with people, how I approach problems at work, how I choose to spend my free time. The message is always “Just don’t end up announcing to the world that you’re a moron, because look at all these average people that have the good sense to know better”. And we listen to it – we assume that the average person (who conveniently is working with the advantage of knowledge of the outcome, and hindsight) would not make dumb mistakes, so we shouldn’t either, lest we advertise our below-averageness.
So here’s my part to help: I’m a moron. I do dumb things. I make mistakes that some people can see coming a mile away, and other people can clearly make sense of (and mock) in hindsight. I’m probably not going to plan an expensive music festival on an island with little to no infrastructure, but I’m sure I’ll do something else obviously stupid, likely on a smaller scale. And it’s ok. I hope I never stop doing dumb things and making mistakes.