In 2009 Roseanne Barr – of Roseanne fame – dressed up as Adolf Hitler for a photo shoot and ate “burnt Jew cookies.” Two years later and she says the Occupy Wall Street Movement has gone too far.
But everything in the news about this Occupy Wall Street Movement is just a little off. Their aim, remember, is to protest that the capitalist nature of government simply doesn’t work. It’s taken a group of Canadians to bring to light how far we’ve come from the American Dream. The Adbusters Group, who led the movement have spread their message through a series of non-violent gatherings, starting on September 17th 2011 with the first protestors camping out in Zuccotti Park in New York, have now stayed there for over seven weeks.
That’s right; a bunch of people are so upset about the economy that they’ve done absolutely nothing for seven weeks. Sound familiar? While students have a semi-legitimate excuse for indolence, do these people not have lives to live? Families? Friends? If they want to fix the economy so badly maybe they should go home, take a bath and start looking for a job.
Now, that’s not to say I’m some kind of draconian hippie-hater, but it does bring to mind that famous John F. Kennedy quote, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In what way imaginable is this protest helping anyone? Did they think governments were just completely unaware of unemployment figures? The only thing this protest is doing is making a mess of a public park – and whose taxes do you think are paying to clean it up?
From the initial Manhattan protests, various factions have sprung up, most notably in Oakland, California; and in London – where the protestors made a nuisance of themselves, taking on St. Paul’s Cathedral. And what’s weirder is that they won; they beat religion. The protest caused enough of a furore that the cathedral temporarily closed its doors to the public.
Well at least one outmoded, flawed and elitist set of systems suffered from these protests.
If ever there’s ever been an ill-judged social commentary, this is it. And what’s ironic is that it is this very capitalist system that has created these protestors; over the past twenty or thirty years the world has become obsessed with the idea of individuality and independence. Gone are the days of finishing school at twelve, getting a manual labour job and then working for “the man” until you die. Nowadays – if sitcoms are anything to go by – we all go to university and carve out careers, while we hang out with equally unique friends and search for the perfect “one” to marry.
Every facet of society screams at us that we can make a difference and we’re important people. The smart phone is an example so perfectly indicative of this; very few people actually need all this information at their fingertips— if I don’t know what the weather’s going to be later on, what difference does it really make? It’s not like it’s either going to be torrential storms or blistering heat. This is Britain; it’ll be overcast, or overcast with drizzle.
When you see people sitting on trains, or cafes or wherever it is taking their phone out and checking their e-mails, you really have to question what information they’re expecting that just cannot wait until they get home. And even if it vital information – a terrorist attack on your economic capital, for example – it can still probably wait until you’ve finished what you’ve started – reading books to children, for example.
But while the percentage of people who need smart phones is very small, the population of people who think they need them is very large. So while we’re all free to make our own choices, we’re also free to all make the same decision. And hell, if you want to play the part of Knight Rider then who’s to stop you? The same way that you are publicly encouraged to write a blog and befriend strangers on the internet, but it doesn’t make it a valid use of your time.
I’m not saying we should be living in a Fight Club level of cultural chaos here – but we’ve become desperate to avoid just that, that we’ve swung so far in the other direction so respectability and authority mean less and less. Just look at how many legitimate news broadcasters are citing “tweets” as opinion sources. Why listen to a professor when you can listen to CrazyDude76?
The saddest moment of the Wall Street Movement came a few weeks ago, when they’d managed to book John Lewis, a civil rights reader; a pretty big coup for what is essentially a bunch of hippies reliving the good-old-days, as Graham Nash’s and David Crosby’s appearances prove. But before the guy could give his speech a member of the crowd shouted out that no one person should be given precedent over another. While in an ideal world this would be true it would be foolish to suggest we are all intellectually and culturally equal. If you had a choice of learning how to box from me, or from Muhammad Ali, it’s pretty clear who you’d pick.
Okay, maybe that’s not a great example these days.
This story only gets more tragic when – to everyone’s surprise – the crowd agreed with this moron, and Lewis had to leave, without uttering a single word. So instead of a potentially concise, authoritative view on the matter, we’re bombarded with a crowd of nobodies with ill-thought, irrational arguments.
Or to put it another way: the internet.