Skip to comments.Protest as Identity
Posted on 11/20/2011 6:05:16 PM PST by Space Patrol Hoppa
The assorted "Occupations" may be drawing to a close as even liberal mayors have lost patience with the occupation of public space and the budget drain created by aging radicals, wannabe hippies and random homeless people, hucksters, scammers and professional activists, but it isn't over because it never really began.
To the left protest is an identity, which is also why the Occupations never seemed to have much of a coherent message. The purpose of their protests is to protest, the romance of the protest is all the justification that it really needs. Creating permanent protest encampments turned protests from an occasional activity into a theme park, and that was what Zuccotti Park really was, a protest theme park for overgrown children too old to go to Disneyland, who instead tried to go back to the seventies.
The left is one long permanent protest by useful idiots whose dissatisfaction makes them seek out alternative societies in the guise of denouncing this one. Zuccotti Park was Neverland, as it would be in the real world, complete with disease, rapes and a rising body count. Peter Pan had a bong, Wendy had body piercings, the Lost Boys had game consoles and no desire to go to work tomorrow. Together they recreated the same old narrative of Woodstock to Altamont.
Today's Peter Pans and Wendys are as likely to be successful professionals as the old stereotype of dropouts who couldn't hack it. They have degrees, often more than one, many of them have jobs that the actual 99 percent would kill for, and family backgrounds in the upper and upper middle-class. What they aren't is adults. And that is an indictment of a culture whose top 9 percent sees no reason to keep going.
Generations of the left have produced children who are trained for success, who have the right tools and the right background, but who have also imbibed the idea that hard work is drudgery and that the only thing worth doing well is trying to overthrow society centered around some incompatible combination of the pleasure principle and social welfare for everyone. Those brats aren't just squatting in dirty tents, many of them are lawyers, public officials and cabinet members.
The history of the left is of childishly naive ideals fought for with ugly tactics and implemented as totalitarian dystopias. "Everyone should have things and no one should feel bad" quickly morphs into "Off the pigs" and finishes as "Starve the Kulaks" and "Bring on the Gulags". What begins with flowers ends with bombs and bullets, and depending on the outcome, sobs and bitter recollections of how the revolution was crushed, or revisionist history that denies everything that happened since the revolution succeeded.
The modern left's strange combination of lotus eaters and fire breathers, freeloaders and fanatics, isn't a split personality, it's the identity of people who have been deprived of every other form of identity, who romanticize alienation even when they are actually insiders, because they are no longer members of a nation, a nationality, a religion or even a professional class. They are the lost boys and girls still looking for happiness long after their grandparents failed to find in drugs and communes, and their great-grandparents failed to find it in psychoanalysis and decadence, and their great-great-grandparents failed to find it in spirit rapping and unstructured poetry.
Those for whom happiness is escape briefly found it in a cluster of dirty tents, volunteerism, drugs, communal sleeping arrangements and the collapse of societal boundaries as the edge of a new world. Neverland with drugs, casual sex and a feeling of self-satisfaction at one's own self-righteousness. It wasn't a new discovery. The Lotus was known for thousands of years along with its bitter aftertaste. What follows after all the rules are broken is the discovery of how bad life can be without them.
At Zuccotti Park, the professional activist, working for unions and community groups, encountered the professional protester, who goes to a bewildering mix of rallies to spew his hate at his favorite targets, and together they ran into the lost boys and girls who confused anti-capitalism with utopia, and they all met the homeless and the huckster-- the men and women living in actual poverty on the edge of their shining societies out of view of their parents' mansions.
If that encounter taught them nothing else, it may have taught them that the left's romance with poverty is a foolish thing. Poverty doesn't mean seventy thousand dollars in student debt and a job at Starbucks. It means looking at a trash can and wondering if there's something good to eat inside. It means being cold and hungry, and it also often means being greedy and manipulative.
The streets of New York City are not all that bad, but surviving them still doesn't breed philanthropic traits. New York's homeless are often mentally unstable or suffering from drug and alcohol problems. They are violent or have learned to be in self-defense. The occupiers may have begun by feeling empathy for them, but they quickly learned that the empathy was not reciprocated. This may be the fastest that the left has ever learned this lesson, which it has thus far failed to do with every single minority it glommed onto and tried to organize for their own good.
The segregation of gentrification meant that even the occupiers who have moved into the formerly grungy parts of downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn had never really lived side by side with people on the edge. And shacked up next to people who didn't even have a place in housing projects quickly brought out their own selfish side. Confronted with people who only knew how to take taught them how to hold on to what they had. And in learning that lesson, they absorbed the ugliest part of capitalism that they had come to denounce. Faced with greed, they became greedy. Confronted with the reality of surviving in an environment with no rules, the occupiers became propertarians.
Then there were the hucksters, con artists, gang members, drifters who don't qualify as homeless, but are a long way from solid citizens. Some came to deal drugs, others to take advantage of whatever was offered, from food to smartphones to sleeping women. Alternative societies attract dealers and scammers, not to mention wannabe muscle, wannabe cult leaders, the pathologically insane and the violently deranged.
These are the people you quickly pass by when you see them standing around, the ones who try to lure you into a conversation that escalates into a scam or a shakedown, or those who stare at the passing sheep with wolfish eyes waiting for one of them to be alone in the right place at the right time. You see them on camera walking away from an armed robbery, a rape or a mugging. Many of them are smarter than that. They brush against the law, but they don't go down for anything serious. Strange names, shadows of Riker's Island on them, they are the ghosts haunting this city and all cities.
They see themselves as men of honor who have gotten the short end of the stick, they have tales of their parents, their girlfriends, parole officers, employers all took advantage of them. And they had no choice but to stand up for themselves. Look back through and the parents lock their doors at night, the ex-girlfriends wear burns and bruises to bed, the parole officers sigh and the employers fired them for stealing or violent outbursts on the job. They're not the dangerous criminals that Hollywood is fascinated by, they are actual criminals.
And when you create a revolution, the best and worst of them are the ones who eventually take over. Hitler and Stalin, Manson and Saddam, dark-eyed men who are always angry over perceived injustices, who have learned to charm the birds down from the trees right before they crush them to death. Power consumes them. Power is their obsession. How to get it. How to keep it. When movements begin planning revolution they show up and sooner or later, they get to the top, if they don't sideline themselves into a commune or a cult.
Persuasiveness is their biggest asset, they are romantics at heart and capable of dreaming big. But their only real dream is absolute power for themselves. Give them a revolution and they'll knock off everyone who stands between them and the big chair, and then purge the idiots who made it happen. That was the fate of the SA at the hands of Hitler, of the old Bolsheviks at the hands of Stalin and the Baath Party at the hands of Saddam. If the American left ever got its act together enough to pull off a violent revolution and take over-- sooner or later their own Stalin would show up with a cold smile and even colder amusement in his eyes.
The Occupiers don't know how lucky they are, because despite all their degrees they have forgotten how revolutions, real revolutions, end. They end when the people holding up the ridiculous signs, the petty criminals and the mentally unstable, whom no one took seriously, become the secret police for one of those charming outsiders who wandered in and now owns the place. The fellow with the dark eyes who excels at taking control of meetings and driving out people who don't agree with him. Who despite his poor literacy speaks so magnetically that it seems impossible to believe that's he's a lunatic who dreams nightly or killing everyone who ever offended him.
Unluckily they'll have another shot at it, as many as they can take. The left has defined itself by opposition, protest is its identity, if you aren't outraged then you aren't paying attention. Even when it is in power, it tries to position itself as the courageous underdog battling the forces of people who just want to eat lunch in a public park and the people who want to sell them their lunch. Capitalism, in other words.
The theme of 99 percent and 1 percent emphasizes the schizophrenic universalization of alienation. We are all on the outside... together. But you can't build a society of outsiders, much as the left has tried with its programs of multiculturalism and borderless nations. Making alienation your identity is fine for teenagers who are still busy rebelling against conventions and expectations, but there's no future in it for anyone but musicians and community organizers.
When people gather to be alone together, to eat of the lotus of a new world without worrying who where the money will come from or how the place will smell after a week, they are not protest against the way things are, but against the way they are. Protest is always personal and those who make protest their identity are really protesting against themselves.
>> The purpose of their protests is to protest, the romance of the protest is all the justification that it really needs.
I know some aging hippies from the 60’s. They are “outraged” over everything. It’s really their only valid emotion. They can’t be happy because there’s always something out there to be outraged at, and when they are outraged, they can’t be happy either. Even if the problem is fixed, they remain outraged that it wasn’t fixed “enough” or soon enough.
Basically, they are all insane.
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Greenfield’s an excellent writer.
Useful idiots cease to be useful after a revolution.
It is no real surprise that a movement this contrived and artificial finds itself co-opted by the pros - these are, after all, precisely the same terms those fat cats used to foist an entirely unqualified celebrity on a gullible electorate in 2008. Fortunately for the country, announcing victory - and they have - is not the same as actually achieving it. The election is less than a year away and the "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" political street theater is finding its curtain in an undignified descent. The real 99% is out there and we're not being fooled, and breathless media commentators announcing that we have been doesn't make it so.
It’s an excuse to rebel against authority, ultimately God.
We shouldn’t be surprised that liberals gather to whine and wallow in victimhood. They’ve always gained tremendous psychological satisfaction from such protests. This is a great article that points this out clearly.
But the liberal minions always read the tea leaves (pun intended) before the supplicant media and the establishment left do.
OWS seems different because there’s an element of defeatism there.
The good news is that the Wall Street location was chosen for a purpose-to taunt the victors in what they perceive is a war they’ve lost.
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