I just looked up old New York Times articles from 1967-1970 about student protestors, to see how they were covered at the time.
What stood out the most was how similar everything was to today— even more than I expected. We all know about major incidents like Kent State or the 1968 Democratic convention, but there were all these articles about smaller, everyday protests. And so many of them were sit-ins, or even sleep-ins— stuff you could easily write off as hippies hanging out if you wanted to. And there were so many vague declarations about how society has wronged us; if anything, their demands were less clear than Occupy’s demands are today. And it was mostly college students. And there were cops and school administrators shutting it down and being criticized for using violence— which, sadly, was not captured on YouTube.
People generally think of the 1960s protests as a good thing, right? That’s the accepted narrative? That while the counterculture eventually fell apart and did too many drugs and got old and became yuppies, that brief period when everybody seemed awakened was a moment of glory and a significant cultural touchstone?
This is really the same thing. The good and the bad.
Said it before and I’ll say it again: if you criticize Occupy Wall Street, you are the Big Lebowski screaming at the Dude about how the bums lost.
At the same time, there’s such a palpable desire to recapture the feeling of the 1960’s among the modern left it’s tough to tell if the movement is genuine or simply a wooden doll desperately wanting to be a real counter-culture movement. The protests of the 1960s have been romanticized so heavily because those who lived it eventually came to cultural dominance ( through Hollywood, politics, and the academy). Did any mini-mass protests since then operate without thinking that they were their generations incarnation of the glory days? I don’t think so. I’m not denying parallels (I don’t doubt your research), but I think we’re a bit culturally predisposed to lust after the 1960’s as grassroots ideal.
And why was it idealized so much? Certainly, for some people, it really is the content that lionizes them as they look back. For the rest, though, it’s youth. The 1960’s became their ideal not because of what they did, but because of when they did it in their lives. So for the young (or young at heart) to project themselves onto a movement defined by nostalgia doesn’t strike me as all that significant.
At this point, I’m not sure what will happen with Occupy. There seems to be little interest in turning grassroots action into a political influence, like the Tea Party did, which I guess means they’re planning on sticking around their various cities and being mad as hell and not taking it anymore. It should be interesting.
Also, if I remember the Big Lebowski correctly, the film has a funny nihilistic conclusion. The Big Lebowski maintains his power and money, the Dude goes back to his old routine no worse off, and someone completely unrelated to the whole thing dies. Not exactly a stirring metaphor for political change. :)
If the point of college is to get a good job, maybe colleges should drop the pretense of education, ditch the gen-ed requirements aimed at creating well-rounded and knowledgeable citizens, and focus explicitly on being job training.
If the point of college is to get an education, maybe everybody should stop viewing college as a way to get jobs.
If the point of college is both, maybe that doesn’t work.
Maybe we should rethink what college is and what it’s for?
Back to schoolwork.
Insert cynical comment about university endowments and student loans as investment vehicles.
A Brief Rundown of the GOP Presidential Candidates
I’ve been pretty quiet on the GOP race, for the most part, but a few people have asked my about my take on the race so I figured I’d post it up. I’m covering the people included in the debates, so Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson will just need to accept that.
Michelle Bachmann - The best compliment I can give her is that while she’s probably a very nice woman, she’s not my flavor Kool-Aid.
Newt Gingrich - His command of policy is impressive, and the thought of having that in the White House is nice. But he’s got so much personal, erm, baggage, and his breezy professor style doesn’t leave much confidence that he could actually implement it.
Ron Paul - Ron Paul is a gorgeous girl who is terrible at dirty talk. You get all hot and bothered at the thought of abolishing the Department of Education, and then he starts talking about the Fed and you lose your chub.
Rick Perry - By most Republican accounts, Rick Perry is a pretty good governor… of Texas. I think we all learned over the last decade that perhaps the things that make one successful in Texas are not quite the same as what makes one successful in other regions.
John Huntsman - A successful Western-state governor with solid domestic and international accomplishments. But a moderate in an election cycle where the grassroots right is pushing the race further and further right doesn’t have a chance. Plus he’s the media’s favorite candidate, which automatically dooms him in Republican circles.
Herman Cain - Oh man, I’m so glad this guy is running. He’s about 9(-9-9) inches deep on economics, and an inch deep everywhere else, but he’s just so much damn fun to have in this race. He’s a Kool-Aid candidate, but he’s my flavor at least.
Rick Santorum - I care about as much about Rick Santorum as I care about social issues. Which is to say, not at all.
Mitt Romney - Blah. Generic ballot Republican who has tried so hard to be President for the last half-decade we might as well just give it to him. He’s the candidate you bring home to mom, even if he doesn’t excite you.
I don’t really have a candidate. I gave Fred Thompson $100 last cycle (yes, seriously), but there’s no one I can really get behind this cycle. If I had to bet, I’d expect Romney to win the nomination, most likely picking a Tea Party darling like Cain, Rubio, or Ryan for Vice President. But I keep looking at these candidates and thinking, “Christ, is this the best we can do?”
While almost everyone reading this is at odds politically with both Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, they did a 90 minute 2-person debate in Texas. Talk about a breath of fresh air! They’re talking about problems for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. It’s a much more engaging presentation of the candidates and their platforms.
One thing that I think alienates me from modern Catholicism is that it seems to be a very, very different religion than the one described by Christ. I really like the radical Christianity Natalie is into, but I know I don’t have the balls for it.
PROTIP: If you want to sound more religious than you actually are, say “Christ” instead of “Jesus”
The people at the We Are the 99% blog didn’t choose this; they expected something different. They didn’t see it coming. Yes, yes, maybe they were naive about the possibilities of a fulfilling and secure life in the field of non-profit environmental management. Probably they should not have sunk tens of thousands of dollars into acquiring a BFA. But these mistakes didn’t usually used to be crippling. They were a drag, as you paid off those huge student loans with your tiny little income. (Ramen and cheese doodle surprise again? Yummmmmm … )
Unfortunately their choices became utterly, horrifyingly disastrous just at the moment when we had a terrible financial crisis that spiked our unemployment rate up to 10%. We can argue about exactly who is at fault and to what extent, and how much longer our public sector spending would have been sustainable without the financial crisis. But whether or not you think their reaction is empirically correct, it certainly isn’t surprising. To them it looks like a bunch of greedy, stupid bankers stole the jobs that they were entitled to. And why the hell do a bunch of thieves get to drive around in BMWs while I take the bus?
A follow up from Megan McArdle on OWS as the revolt of the New Class. The whole piece is much longer (I’ve just quoted the end) and also provides a nice historical context on the friction between the upper-middle class and middle-class. She’s quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers. She also says this, as an addendum:
I do think that at least some of the anger comes from the fact that many people in the lower-upper do not perceive many of their consumption choices—attending an elite private college, living in a desirable urban area—as fundamentally consumption choices, not basic human endowments that you are supposed to be able to choose without regard to cost. An income which would be very comfortable in Omaha requires real sacrifice in New York or Los Angeles, and if you don’t perceive the choice to live there as a choice, it’s apt to seem very unfair.
I’ve often thought about how different my consumption levels and lifestyle would be outside of New York, but it’s never really appear to be an option. I’ve had a few friends leave the city (and not just move to LA; I mean ‘leave’ the city) and the reaction to it borders on morose. To those us in the New York cultural and lifestyle bubble, existence outside of the metro area is as impossible to conceptualize as death, pre-existence, or a Herman Cain presidency. That is our blindness, and if we refuse to acknowledge that life can exist outside of New York, is it anyone’s fault besides our own?