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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Protest as Identity

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.

15 comments:

Edward Cline said...

Great piece, Daniel. You underscore the reason why I have always regarded OWS as “Woodstock II,” or “The Son of Woodstock.” Aimless counter-culture on second-generation hormonal political protest, one and a half generations taught in grade school, high school and college that life is pointless unless one belongs to something – to the “99%,” La Raza, a “class,” or a “gender.” However, these same aimless, selfless, foggy-minded protesters, whose minds can be characterized as squash (or cabbages, if you like) can be formed into a potent and dangerous political force. Because their minds are so malleable and susceptible to indoctrination – nature will not tolerate a vacuum, not even in men’s minds – with the right handling by professional organizers, they can be knocked into shape to become brown- or black- or green-shirted ciphers in an American style Free Corps. Zuccotti Park and all the other Occupy venues served as their boot camps. While many veterans of Occupy won’t want to deal with the mess again, too many others will. Occupy was their great introduction to the “real world.” They’ll want to relive it, even if they’re obliged to don a uniform and learn how to wield a club. All they’ll need is a leader to tell them what to do. I discuss this subject in “The Storm Troopers of OWS,” here: http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2011/11/storm-troopers-of-ows_3048.html

John K said...

"To the left protest is an identity"

I started to notice that as the Iraq war demonstrations reminded me of the Vietnam protests, as well as the music festival circuit reminding me of the music scene back in the day. I realized that people were taking political positions just to have something to be against and to unite with like-minded people so they could have a social group to give them peer acceptance.

"The Lotus was known for thousands of years along with its bitter aftertaste."

So true, really, of any kind of wrong-doing. Sin has its enticements, but it also has bitter consequences.

"Alternative societies attract dealers and scammers, not to mention wannabe muscle, wannabe cult leaders, the pathologically insane and the violently deranged."

Historians studying the 60s say that this is the same thing that destroyed the dream of Haight-Ashbury.

"Protest is always personal and those who make protest their identity are really protesting against themselves."

I've heard others express this as a form of self-loathing. I am not conversant enough on the materials I have read to articulate further.

Anonymous said...

You missed Louis Farrakhan in the power hungry,maniac list. :)

Cheryl S. said...

Oh my gosh Daniel, just when I think you can't get any better...
This piece was absolutely brilliant! If it weren't for your blog, I would be thinking it was me that was going crazy.
Just returned from a trip to San Francisco/Oakland and I swear, I thought I was in an alternate universe. I was sickened and disgusted by the constant demonizing of America. I couldn't wait to get away from there.

Daniel greenfield said...

Edward, people desperately looking for an identity are always perfect for that

Cheryl, I'm returning to new York so I understand

John, indeed

but pygmies said...

"Daniel greenfield said...
Edward, people desperately looking for an identity are always perfect for that"

Everyone is seeking his own identity (whether they know it or not), because they know deep in the place they hide from even themselves, that they are faking it. Self-confrontation is a hard business. But it's the only place one can find one's identity.

Keliata said...

Naturally Critical Mass had to make an appearance in NYC. All those idiots on bicycles tooting their bike bells LOL. Shows just how childish these Occupiers are.

Protest is their identity for sure.

Anonymous said...

Rebels without a cause,pretentious poverty as entertainment,children playing grown up, criminals committing crimes,blame games,coolness by contact with danger and freedom by disassociation is the best these folks can do.

Their increasingly distasteful actions are a drive for acknowledgement and attention that can't be given.How do you show solidarity to no concrete complaints,ideas or goals? How do you prove a non -point?

And when it ends what great wisdom,social reform,critical thinking or discussions have they created?

We now know the rich are rich,have great accountants and lawyers.We've learned some people are unhappy,want more money,have poor- expensive educations and are bored.

The 60's ended with hate and blame directed at the government,police,parents,military and each other.Their victory was violence,resentment,STD's,drug overdoses,racist affirmative action and some good music.

OWS can't even reach that level.

plf5403 said...

Excellent essay on protesters and where their pathology leads. Absolutely brilliant distillation of the subject, many thanks.

LibertyAtStake said...

The only thing anyone needs to know about the Left: They are not happy unless they are miserable.

d(^_^)b
http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
"Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive"

Miriam said...

good article! good comments too!

Keliata said...

OT: I went to the Occupy Buffalo website and the colors (red, black, and white) seemed quite similar to the old Buffalo Beast (The Beast) website.

There used to a print edition of Buffalo Beast here, but the alternative biweekly folded and went online.

I can't recall how, but Buffalo Beast has some sort of ties to Russia. I found it interesting that an activist here, Nate Buckley, was interviewed about Occupy Buffalo by RT (Russia Today).

The pro-Putin new channel is the second most popular foreign news channel second only to the BBC. It's on Time Warner cable here.

I don't know why a pro-Putin, government funded news outlet would care about Occupy Buffalo since it's small potatoes compared to Occupy Wall Street in NYC and other parts of the country.

There was a Russian flag in Niagara Square during the summer, long before the Occupy movement started.

Michael Moore sent a message of encouragement to Buffalo's occupiers from NYC.

It's just odd. Occupy Buffalo is pretty much off the radar and yet a Russian government funded English language news show seems interested. Small protests, poorest city in the country, off the radar nationally so why the interest in what's happening here?

People keep saying Russia isn't a Communist country anymore but since RT is pro-Putin...I don't know. Something just isn't adding up.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

They care because they're following the old Russian goal of undermining the West.

It's disgusting that RT, a government linked channel tied to the old KGB, is on TW cable.

Keliata said...

I agree.

Take a look at this RT program about the Occupy movement. Pause at 2:00 and notice how the colors are black, red, and white--map of the US red.

Black/red/white--same mastheaad colors of The Beast and Occupy Buffalo, both with ties to Russia.

http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday?blend=1&ob=5#p/u/3/ApZg89ciay8

Anonymous said...

Ows seems to be disorganized but don't be fooled. It is being high jacked by mysterious dark strangers with dark eyes, some with accents. They are injecting themselves into the empty and nihilistic crowds offering them a " new" vision, an worthy cause. Those dark eyed man are becoming the front voice of the " movement" and their flock of sheep is happy to comply.It is sinister and firm in its message ....declaring psychological and economic jihad on mainstream America.

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