There is a specter haunting America: the specter of adolescence.
The left-populist rage that brought us the “Occupy Wall Street” protests has spread to the nation’s capitol, where the loudest cries are not for freedom and constitutional government but for the comforts of state-provided largesse. One notices, too, beyond the the utter lack of shame in demanding other people’s money, a distinct zombie-like character in the protesters. Like much of today’s college-age youth, they sputter and droan about their feelings and are in no way prepared to be questioned or challenged. Theirs is a protest against the difficulties of adult life as much as it is one against the crimes of Wall Street. This video, put together by the libertarian-leftist Adam Kokesh, gives us a closer look at the essentially pubertal nature of The Crappiest Generation:
As you can see, the protesters can barely croak their slogans properly. The girl in the Harvard shirt has trouble with complete thoughts; when she does manage one, it fails to inspire deference for the alma mater of John Adams and Dean Acheson. Her principle talent seems to be that she is capable of “dissent,” but even in this she is utterly graceless and unremarkable. Her sentiments do not rise to the level of an intellectual position. Then there’s the artsy dude in the trench coat, who calmly hopes the government will use force to initiate “social justice”—the same government he doesn’t trust to use force against terrorism. The extent of this force is beyond his immediate concern, and one gets the impression it wouldn’t trouble him in the slightest to leave the boundaries of acceptable coercion undefined. The protesters’ vocabulary is as limited as their political acumen. Words like “privatized” are inserted randomly to fill the yawning chasms between their rhetoric and reality. Their worldview is that of students in a creative-writing seminar: they are the wretched of the earth, the oppressed. The instruments of their oppression are not specific laws that they can articulate and cite, but abstractions like “profits” and “wealth.” (Abstraction is a key ingredient of tyranny and violence.) They deserve lots and lots of “free” stuff. The world is described, in true populist fashion, as one crafted and determined by the motives of “the richest one percent.” This is a world not of things and ideas but of emotions, crude impulse, and weasel words. Harvard Girl even drops a Halliburton reference. One’s cup runs over.
In December 2008, after an enraged Iraqi assaulted President George W. Bush with his footwear, I was in the theater district of New York City, about to enter my favorite Italian restaurant. On Broadway, a small but strident collection of young rabble had assembled, signs in hand, demanding the release of the would-be shoe assassin. While passing them, I had the opportunity to inspect their faces and mannerisms. They marched like automata, in a circle, blankly chanting an atonal dirge about their comrade’s plight. It didn’t matter to them that the subject of their little stunt was someone of no great importance, whose name they probably didn’t even know, and whose great act of defiance consisted in a failed attempt to harm the head of state of their own country. Indeed, they seemed totally unaware of what they were actually protesting; all that mattered was that they were protesting something. Like Harvard Girl, the instinct to hold a sign trumped the considerably more difficult requirement of making sense.
Far be it from me to say that Wall Street is not deserving of immense public scorn and immediate legal action. Their collusion with big government has robbed taxpayers not only of money, but of freedom and national dignity. In principle, protests are what we need. What we don’t need, however, is a vanguard of coffeehouse communists. A visit to their website confirms that New York and Washington have been visited upon by masses of the puerile and the starry-eyed. Beneath the raised fist of Old Left solidarity, on the site’s forum, one reads various manifestos, full of various people’s wishes for a Better World and, inevitably, “lists of demands.” These “demands” include such proven economic policies as the abolition of free trade (though I suspect not with Cuba, since opposing “the embargo” with that prison state is the only time a leftist supports free trade), “free” healthcare, and a “guaranteed living wage regardless of employment.”
These “demands” are listed with the same naive seriousness of a kid who wishes for a million bucks before blowing out his six-candled birthday cake. By all accounts, the protesters’ desire for your money is insatiable, as is their desire to abolish personal responsibility: They would also like “free” college education, a trillion dollars’ worth of “infrastructure spending,” a “racial and gender equal rights amendment,” wide open borders, total debt forgiveness for everyone in the country, and the abolition of all credit-reporting agencies.
In other words, if the protesters had it their way, they would replace one bloated, bankrupt tyranny with another. Some “protest.” The king is dead; long live the king.