Time magazine claims, “the organizers of the Occupy movement should be heartened by the latest outpouring of sympathy from establishment figures.” Younger readers might find this surprising, but I can remember anti-establishment groups actually loathed the establishment — and vice versa. But these days, when they’re not astro-turfing the occupiers, they’re getting a distinct case of nostalgie de la boue — nostalgia for the mud. Just ask Gail Collins of the New York Times:
Waves of nostalgia swept over me. This was exactly how I spent my college years, which were theoretically dedicated to creating a more humane society and stopping the war in Vietnam, but, in reality, mainly involved meetings. Endless meetings in which it was alleged that the winner was the person who managed to remain sitting while everyone else toppled over with boredom. I can’t say definitely, because I never made it to the end.
“Just make sure there’s not a whole bunch of white men speaking, please,” said a young woman to the group, which was largely a whole bunch of white men.
You particularly don’t want this fellow as your spokesman, who’s having his own sense of nostalgia for a more orderly time and place:
Robert of Canada’s Small Dead Animals blog responds:
It’s bad enough to see ignorant Leftards parading around in Che t-shirts but for this fellow to proudly wear an East German Military uniform has to take the cake. There should be required viewing in our schools of the startling film, The Lives of Others, which illustrates how incredibly terrible that particular Leftist Utopia really was.
I think the gentleman in the above uniform would view it as a how-to guide. (In more ways than one, come to think of it.)
At first glance, it might seem odd to find the left so nostalgic. We tend to expect conservatives to be the backward looking bunch. But it isn’t all that peculiar, really. The modern left began as a project to recapture a lost innocence corrupted by greed and power. That’s how Rousseau understood the human story. It’s how the French revolutionaries understood what they were doing. And many subsequent projects of the radical left (from Maoist agrarianism to the anti-globalization riots of the 1990s) have been fundamentally anti-progressive, and so have been in some tension with both the more nihilistic elements and the more technocratic elements of the left. (The right, of course, has its own share of similar tensions, especially between libertarians and traditionalists.) The American left, like every other movement in American politics, has always been less radical than its foreign counterparts, so its nostalgic streaks have been less nuts, but they have been no less prominent—from Jefferson’s agrarianism right through contemporary environmentalism, with its naïve yearning for a simpler time.
This helps to explain the left’s attitude toward the increasingly obvious fiscal implosion of the welfare state. Liberals have so far responded almost exclusively with reactionary denial and with a doubling down on the very ways of thinking that created the problem. They yearn for the glorious energy of the Great Society era, unwilling to see that its consequences are the very source of our troubles. They really seem to believe that leaving Medicare just as we have it is essential to guarding the American dream. And to oppose conservative attempts at reforms of various programs, they appeal to an almost blind fear of change, and to the segments of our population most inclined to such fear—ignoring the plain fact that the status quo is unsustainable and the question is only what kind of change will come.
Speaking of nostalgie de la boue, note how very little has changed since George Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier back in 1937. As Kyle Smith writes, it’s as if Orwell was “reporting live today from downtown Manhattan:”
The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting. This last type is surprisingly common in Socialist parties of every shade; it has perhaps been taken over en bloc from the old Liberal Party. In addition to this there is the horrible—-the really disquieting—-prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
And now a guy in an East German uniform. Who’s likely not much of a Glenn Beck fan.
Update: Presumably, our wanna-be East German soldier would not be happy with Occupy Wall Street attempting to occupy the National Air and Space Museum, right? It certainly wouldn’t have played well in the real East Germany. (Video of incident here.)