Topic: Decline of the West
Reflecting on the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, I’ve concluded that among its amorphous goals is a yearning to escape into the past.
Many observers and commentators sympathetic to the movement have bemoaned the fact that its goals are so amorphous. If only OWS could get its act together, they sigh, it might shape itself into a political force to rival the Tea Party. What these observers don’t understand—or perfer to overlook—is that OWS exists to meet the psychological rather than the financial or economic needs of its rank and file. Barring the usual far-Left suspects, who flock in the direction of such street demonstrations like flies to rotting meat, most of the OWS protesters really have no idea why they’re there. But being there makes them feel good, so they wave their signs and chant.
As I noted before, the OWS movement embodies some legitimate gripes, e.g. the cost of a college education and the burden of student loans. That’s all they are, though—gripes. Somebody should do something about the plight of a twenty-four-year-old woman who borrowed $50,000 to obtain a degree in eco-feminism, cannot find a good job, and is now living with her parents while waitressing at the Olive Garden. But who should do something and what, precisely should be done? “They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right,” runs one of the charges in the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City,” billed as “the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park.” Who are “they”? Never mind. Education is a “human right,” you see, which means that “society” needs to pony up the $50,000 to bail out that bachelor of eco-feminism. OWS demonstrators seem oblivious to the fact that “they” in this case are the very universities they attended, whose sky-high tuition and fees necessitated those large student loans.
But it feels good to protest, and when one’s target is some large, abstract entity—“Wall Street,” “capitalism,” “the one percent,” etc.—it’s easy to strike a pose of moral righteousness. And striking that pose, preening for the TV cameras, is an act of escapism. Escape to where? To the Sixties—where else?
False memories of that low, dishonest decade continue to pollute America’s collective consciousness. The responsibility for this rests primarily with the baby boomers, who have thoroughly romanticized the Sixties, airbrushing out its ugly blemishes: the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, the drugs, the dirt, the squalor, the wasted lives and above all, the systematic promulgation of a great lie about the evil of America. Echoes of that lie reverberate in the chants and demands of the OWS protesters. And, perhaps subconsciously, they understand what they're doing. The Occupy Wall Street movement forges a connection between its participants and a moment in history. Never mind that it’s a false history based on nostalgia and doublethink—it feels good.