The view from my office looks right at the State Capitol, so for the last couple of weeks I have gazed upon the vagrant tent city comprising “Occupy Denver.” I find the spirit of this movement somewhat ingratiating and their execution haphazard and mediocre at best. The night the police told them to disperse, I awoke the next morning amused and annoyed by the news report of the evening’s events.
White dudes with dreadlocks stood there yelling at police about how they have a constitutional right to protest their government and the police’s orders to disband were tantamount to tyranny. While it is legal and constitutionally protected to protest the government, it remains illegal to camp overnight in Denver city parks, which is what they were doing. The city has the right to enforce the law, and exercised that right. No one said they couldn’t protest, they just can’t break municipal ordinances. Yet, there was Dreadlocks McGee shouting at the police all blustery about tyranny.
Considering how many members of my generation participate in the “Occupy Wall Street/Denver/Kirk Herbsreit” movement, I’m reminded of how idealistic and driven we can be, but how that drive and determination can turn us into myopic jackasses.
In a New York Magazine article called “The Kids Are Actually Sort of Alright” by Noreen Malone, the author attempts to provide a snapshot of the Millennial mindset, post-economic crash. Given the data she opens with, the impetus for “Occupy Wall Street” is easy to understand.
“Nearly 14 percent of college graduates from the classes of 2006 through 2010 can’t find full-time work, and overall just 55.3 percent of people ages 16 to 29 have jobs. That’s the lowest percentage since World War II, as you might have heard an Occupy Wall Street protester point out. (Not coincidentally, one in five young adults now lives below the poverty line.) Almost a quarter more people ages 25 to 34—in other words, people who should be a few years into their independent lives—are living with their parents than at the beginning of the recession.”
As pissed off as everyone was, I figured this movement was no better than the 2003 rally in Fort Collins to raise war awareness that did nothing more than screw up traffic for a morning. I thought it was just stupid hippies being stupid hippies and failing to understand how the real world worked.
Then I came across this FoxNews.com article on a friend’s Facebook wall and recalibrated my thinking. “‘Occupy Wall Street’ — It’s Not What They’re for, But What They’re Against” by Sally Kohn posits that protestors aren’t really for anything, they’re actually against “the gaping inequality that has poisoned our economy, our politics and our nation.”
More specifically, what they want “is an end to the crony capitalist system now in place, that makes it easier for the rich and powerful to get even more rich and powerful while making it increasingly hard for the rest of us to get by.” Essentially, what it boils down to is an end to the stacked deck we’re all currently playing with and the rebirth of a fair game. I can get on board with that. And unless you’re one of the few that benefits from the rigged game, why wouldn’t you?
The problem is that given the disproportionate amount of Millennials participating in this movement due to this recession hitting our demographic harder than the rest of them, it’s bound to fail. Why? We don’t have any fucking perspective. And while its cause is not entirely our fault, we are solely responsible for failing to rectify its wholly fixable worldview.
According to Malone’s article, “our parents tried to see how much self-confidence they could pack into us, like so many overstuffed microfiber love seats, and accordingly we were awarded clip-art Certificates of Participation just for showing up.” And apparently it worked since social scientists are considering using a new self esteem measurement scale since ours is so high, we consistently measure off the charts. Win or lose, we still got praise. Malone’s next point is so good, I almost forgave the rest of her article. She says, “Meanwhile, it’s this characteristic that our parents’ generation—which instilled it in us!—so delights in interpreting as ‘entitled.’”
I fucking hate this about Baby Boomers. They call us all “entitled” when they’re the ones responsible for this mindset. We didn’t raise ourselves. We weren’t the ones overcorrecting for some misplaced regret about how our own parents couldn’t show us love. And speaking of entitled, wasn’t it baby boomers who droned on about free love and peace and drugs and open minds and all that happy horseshit then promptly told us to “Just say no,” bitched about taxes, put warning labels on everything, tried to censor our music, are now demanding their social security and have left us with the bill? Who’s entitled now, assholes?
Anyway, Malone makes a good point about the root cause of our mindset, and even plumbs it some more with interesting discussions of “the organization kid” and how the lack of actual brass rings has left many without their pot of gold at the end of the hard work rainbow. It’s well-reasoned and reasonably convincing. Then we meet some fuckface named Desi.
“On the day before I turned 27, I went to meet my friend Desi for a beer and a burger. He is a thoughtful, very smart 24-year-old college dropout, smallish and dark-haired with a bushy Brooklyn beard.”
From a writing standpoint, this is excellent as I can tell who this guy is flawlessly. I hate him already.
“He rides a motorcycle and seems to be friends with half the staff of places like Four & Twenty Blackbirds, where his roommate works as a baker. He took time off from Georgetown on a lark to work on an offshore oil platform and get some life experience (‘stories rather than ideas,’ he said—admitting in the next breath that it may have had something to do with the number of times he’d read On the Road) and wound up never returning to school.
Wow, another hipster douchebag who misunderstood the point of On the Road. This guy must be deep. And his working on an oil platform to get “stories rather than ideas” makes me want to shovel a big pile of puppies into a giant furnace it enrages me so much. That is such meaningless, hippy-dippy nonsense.
“When he dated my roommate a couple of years ago, he was paying the bills with a gig delivering cloth diapers, and she made it sound like he was having trouble finding other work. Desi is the guy you would have once said had thrown away his future but today seems like maybe he’s got something figured out.”
Something figured out? Like what? How to drop out of college and work a blue collar job? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with blue collar, but it makes me want to fucking gag my eyes out when intelligent people who give up, and, for all intents and purposes should be doing more challenging work than delivering diapers, talk aspirationally about the nobility of manual labor. Die in a fire, you disingenuous, lazy shit.
“The morning before we met, Desi’s motorcycle had broken down. If his truck goes next, he won’t have the money to fix it. ‘A little bit of bad luck, and things can unravel pretty quickly,’ he said.
Yeah, it sure is fun doing work below your intelligence level, isn’t it? Having a truck that doesn’t work is so much more honest than finishing college and paying your dues in a job more suited to your intelligence level.
“But Desi wanted to sell me on the merits of constrained circumstances, not tick off tales of woe. He is still delivering diapers, but he’s now got another job as a woodworker-slash-lacquerer. Desi does a great deal of yoga. He proselytizes about the book Shop Class As Soulcraft. ‘Getting better at enjoying life’ is something he describes very seriously as a goal.”
Oh, eat a bag of AIDS, you bearded hipster cuntslice. You know what makes it easier to enjoy life? Money. Having a challenging job that rewards your creativity, dedication, and diligence. This is simply arrested development passed off as new age, love yourself drivel. Jesus, it’s called “Shop Class As Soulcraft.” If that doesn’t scream for a wish to return to high school, I don’t know anything. And this is leading back to my original point, I promise.
“Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, says the most prominent shift she has seen so far among young people in this economy is an apparent decrease in materialism. We are less interested in stuff, but still very interested in self.”
Fair enough, but Twenge is missing the point here.
“Desi’s onboard with less stuff. ‘You don’t need to have money to buy a huge record collection; you have Grooveshark. You don’t need that shit. Life is just getting easier.’”
Okay, asshole. Has it ever occurred to you that “that shit” is what makes the economy function? Thanks to an entire generation of remorseless, me-first shitheads that stole music, movies and computer programs with wild abandon, the entire entertainment industry is less profitable than it used to be. That means less jobs, and less of a living wage for boatloads of people.
In a less malicious case, something like Craigslist has almost single-handedly ruined the entire newspaper industry. Since classified ads no longer cost anything, the entire financial backbone of newspapers has disappeared. Ten years ago Senor Limon and I placed a classified ad in the campus newspaper for a roommate for our sophomore year. I bought space in the local paper to sell my car, and it worked beautifully.
Four years later CJS Regular Salwon found his roommate on Craigslist and Lady E sold vintage chairs there. The difference between those two sets of transactions is only about $40 for the placed ads, but when you multiply that by EVERYONE WHO SELLS ANYTHING EVER, it starts to add up.
So yes, technically you “don’t need that shit,” but as a culture, yes, we do. Don’t drive a car, man! Use the bus! Very well. Nevermind that our entire highway system is paid for by gasoline taxes and our way of life is predicated upon easy mobility and transportation of goods and services. But by all means, let’s all of us never pay for anything again and then bitch about it when our infrastructure goes to hell.
Malone even acknowledges this earlier in her article, which makes her inclusion of Desi’s flippant “you don’t need that shit” all the more enraging. “It’s part of the American way to get a lot of self-worth from your job. Meanwhile, one of the reasons there aren’t enough of those jobs out there is that America no longer makes enough stuff.”
So what does this all mean? How do we get back on our feet? How does Occupy Wall Street turn the tide and get us all a fair shake? Malone turns back to Jean Twenge for answers who talks about a locus of control. She rightfully observes that much of the locus of control of our lives rests outside of ourselves and considering the “global financial crisis that revealed just how deeply ingrained, intertwined, and intractable the world’s problems (are),” that trend likely won’t reverse.
However, leave it to her bastion of self-actualization Desi to change that and assert hope in the face of the most complex financial quagmire we’ve ever encountered.
“Yet someone like Desi manages to place the locus of control firmly within himself, centered narrowly on his own life and the people he knows. Notwithstanding what that attitude portends for social justice (nothing good), maybe it’s the only way to feel like you are in charge of your own destiny, by focusing your lens ever tighter.”
It’s that exact fucking mindset – the “focusing (of) your lens ever tighter” – that got us to the point of needing something like Occupy Wall Street in the first place. If we agree that the cause of our economic problems is powerful, self-interested cocksuckers rigging the game in their own favor, is what we need really more underemployed, self-absorbed hipster twats doing the same thing? I think we’d all argue that rich guys indubitably feel like they’re in charge of their own destiny. My question is: Why is that a good thing?
In my estimation, it’s broadening your lens ever wider that will allow you to understand the world’s intricacies and better position yourself to, if not change the game outright, at least learn to function better within it. By taking a more egocentric approach and focusing ever more only on that which immediately surrounds you, the only truth you discover is that you influence nothing.
I am fortunate enough in my career to be forced to work with a broad variety of people both inside my company and outside of it. Colleagues from every department, executives, counterparts at peer companies, stakeholders, government officials, opposition groups, trade associations, members of the media, and about a hundred others populate my professional world.
We all have different goals, different needs, different hang-ups, different challenges. But we all work together for the benefit of the greater good. We’re forced to. None of us exists in a vacuum. And none of this is done solely for the benefit of the greater good. This is a company that exists to make money, yet in the pursuit of that, community benefit is also reaped.
It’s through this prism that I view Occupy Wall Street. I applaud the mission of ending crony capitalism (which isn’t capitalism at all, it’s oligarchy), but I fear for those championing the cause if they’re wired anything like our good friend/noted shithead Desi. If the locus of control remains turned inward, this mission is doomed before it starts.
Sir Isaac Newton said once, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” His lens was clearly not focused ever tighter. And it’s with that quote in mind that I hope Occupy Wall Street figures itself out. If it is allowed to serve as the soapbox for twits like Desi, it will fail. If it is allowed to be corrupted by labor unions, it will fail.
Only if it embodies the spirit underpinning Newton’s quote and work together the way even a miserable bastard like me has to everyday will it succeed. The myopic jackass in me says it won’t. The driven and determined me hopes it will.
But what can I say? That’s what it’s like being a Millennial.
20 Oct 2011 E Dagger