Saturday, October 11, 2008
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 6 Comments
These are some of the same people who will often talk about the anger of inner city blacks or Muslims abroad, or the working class people... but rarely if ever do they talk about their own anger. Yet it's their anger, their barely suppressed simmering rage that is driving our political process.
From the black ski cap wearing protesters hurling bags of cement at both conventions, the Code Pink women hoping for Cindy Sheehan sized stardom, the upper middle class authors and directors who flirt in fiction with the idea of assassinating Bush to your average DailyKos diarist, the white middle class liberal of both genders is vastly overrepresented when it comes to furious political tantrums. But where then is all that anger coming from?
We are after all talking about people who aren't starving, who aren't oppressed, except occasionally in their own minds, and who live better than the other 99 percent of the globe. And yet paradoxically that may be exactly what drives their anger.
Prosperity without purpose breeds egotism, it gives rise to both the manchild who is the focus of so much of the east coast and west coast's popular culture, and his accompanying tantrums. The manchild is not driven by rational political discourse but by the eternal tantrum that his parents and society at large have indulged until now. Debate becomes surface, insults become the ultimate trump card and political commentary degenerates to the snideness of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Comedy after all is just anger with a mask on and the mask isn't much of a disguise anymore.
In the conventional liberal narrative anger is the product of deprivation, in reality anger is the product of entitlement. If political anger in this election is so much more clearly manifest among white middle class liberals, it's a natural product of both their immaturity and entitlement.
Naturally they find themselves drawn to the most radical elements at home and abroad who appear to mirror their own anger, and have the courage to not only express anger, but act on it. Generations of enabling and encouraging domestic and international radicalism, the anger of the entitled feeding the anger of the disenfranchised. That is the paradox of radicalism.
Marx and Lenin were just as much members of the upper middle class as Bill Ayers or many of the The Weathermen. For that matter Jeremiah Wright may not be white, but he was just as much a product of a comfortable upper middle class upbringing.
If anger is the product of entitlement meeting frustration, there is still one missing ingredient, projection. Someone must be to blame for generations of the entitled who find that despite everything they lack the ability to make themselves happy. And there is nothing so frustrating for an egotist as to realize that he cannot be happy, and that is when he must find someone else to blame.
The anger of the entitled isn't premised on any actual deprivation, but a free floating anger that settles on the socially accepted "Other", the Red Staters, the people who paradoxically seem to be happy despite having less money, less "culture" and less choices. Their "inferiors". How dare those people in their small towns actually decide elections against the will of the people in the Hamptons and Beverly Hills.
But behind all that political anger is a very personal anger, it is the anger of people who have tried very hard to learn how to be happy from the self-help section, from Prozac, from following trends and remain baffled that the more they talk about "following their dreams" and "doing their own thing", the less happy they actually are.
Their numb drive toward greater centralization, toward the UN or the EU, toward gathering by the tens of thousands to hear a messianic speaker preach to them about "hope" and "change" puts one in mind of Europeans battered by WW1 listening to the promise of a new era, one of Utopian socialist peace or Fascist national empires.
Yet this modern generation of prosperous Americans and Europeans, college educated, afflicted with the latest gadgets and trends have not seen a generation of their friends die in the trenches of the Somme. It is not horror that bedevils them, but the wrong life choices that their parents and themselves have made. Their Kaiser was Dr. Spock, their killing fields were a social revolution that robbed their lives of meaning, their education of context and their character development of self-control. Their ranks age anything from the teens to their sixties. Their problem is that they have had their own way for too long and that has only crippled them as surely as any poison gas ever did.
And who better to symbolize that arrested development than a manchild, Barack Obama, a man whose biography is still rooted in his adolescent identity struggles, who speaks openly of his drug use, who panders shamelessly, delivers empty speeches and offers concerts, beer and circuses. The messianic figure of the infantile is always infantile himself, but a stage above on the ladder, allowing him to be worshiped for having made that smidgen of progress that his own audience is unable to make.
And what better trigger for those tantrums of anger than the adult rejection of that messiah to turn the self-entitled progressive liberal into the ugliest of brownshirts. As the adults depart the Democratic party, the manchildren remain trotting out their design schemes, partying beneath Styrofoam Greek columns and certain of their victory over adulthood, commitment and maturity. Over their nation.