Friday, November 18, 2011

Are today's OWS Protesters the same as Anti-Vietnam Protestors?

What’s new today

Our # 1 story is a comparison of the OWS with the hippies protesting the Vietnam War.  You be the judge if they are the political offspring.  #2 is a list of OWS demands.  Just when you didn’t think it could get any nuttier than it is, it does.  #3 is a look at what’s happening to the Obama generation, those young people who voted for BHO last election. Story #4 lays out what is going on in the area of births. 

1.  Occupy Wall Street:  Descended from the Anti-War 1960s?

….I'm not one to deny historical links, but to weigh this analogy, we have to get past a good deal of mythologizing, both by former participants in the sixties protests and by people who have grown up since hearing stories of heroic baby-boomers facing down bayonets with bouquets. Some older people want to relive their youth; some younger people want to claim the mantle. But claiming a connection doesn't necessarily make it real.

At a deeper level, I see several threads of continuity:

  1. BOTH MOVEMENTS ARE DOMINATED BY THE RELATIVELY AFFLUENT SONS AND DAUGHTERS of the upper-middle class. They are disproportionately white, college-educated, and used to getting their way.
  2. Both movements AIM AT MOBILIZING POPULAR RESENTMENT. They aren't aimed merely at rallying their own. They make a claim (the "99 percent") to speak for the many.
  3. Both movements are "performative" -- i.e., they rely on stunts, street theater, and bravado in the place of arguments.
  4. Both movements are MORE OPPOSITIONAL THAN CONSTRUCTIVE. They say easily what they are against but are tongue-tied in saying what they are for.
  5. Both movements use the rhetoric of "democracy" (see #2) but are profoundly elitist in spirit and undemocratic. They want to impose their views, not persuade people.
  6. Both movements have attracted and to some extent been organized by a radical vanguard.
  7. Both movements use as part of their public identity low standards of personal hygiene. This may sound like a slur, but it is a social fact of considerable anthropological interest -- and I'm an anthropologist. "Dirt" is never just dirt. It is a way of evoking disgust and revulsion, setting aside social norms, and signifying defiance of social order.

That adds up to a pretty strong parallel. SO WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT?

  1. THE NEW LEFT IN THE SIXTIES WAS GENUINELY NEW. The idea of mobilizing the children of the upper-middle class, as opposed to the proletariat, was a heresy to the Marxists. Now it has become the Marxist orthodoxy.
  2. In the sixties, the universities were politically liberal and technocratic; today, they are radical and technically incompetent.
  3. The students who participated in the sixties protests were, by virtue of their educations, fairly well-informed about history; today's protesters grew up on Howard Zinn and are an amazingly ignorant bunch.
  4. ONE ASPECT OF THE SIXTIES ANTIWAR PROTESTS WAS THE CLARITY OF THEIR AGENDA. Their manifestos became more and more extreme, culminating in the Weather Underground's craziness, but there was no mistake about what they wanted. THE CURRENT MOVEMENT IS AMORPHOUS AND SELF-CONTRADICTORY. You get the sense that none of them passed Rhetoric 101, let alone "Constitutional Government."
  5. Not only did the sixties protesters have a clear agenda, but they were focused on what was plainly a real phenomenon: a war, with actual bullets and real casualties. PART OF THE MYSTERIOUSNESS OF THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT IS THAT ITS "EXTERNAL" TARGET IS AN ABSTRACTION: "CORPORATE GREED." A war can be ended. "Greed" is a sin, or if we are going to be entirely secular, an unpleasant aspect of human nature. It cannot be ended. It can only be denounced, or used as a reason for passing more restrictive laws aimed at curtailing some of its manifestations.
  6. "GREED" IS AS MUCH A QUALITY WITHIN THE PROTESTERS THEMSELVES AS IT IS A QUALITY OF THEIR SUPPOSED TARGETS. Vietnam war protesters had little of this internal contradiction. They opposed a war that they believed was imposed on them.
  7. The antiwar protests were anti-establishment and took on the policies of both a Democratic and a Republican president. President Obama is not universally popular with the Occupiers, but he has endorsed the movement, and the Democratic Party has allied itself with the Occupiers. IT IS, IN AN ODD WAY, AN ESTABLISHMENT MOVEMENT ITSELF, THOUGH DRESSED UP AS ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT.

An interesting look at a strange and toothless protest movement. 

2.  OWS Demands

What do they want? HERE IS A LIST OF DEMANDS POSTED ON THE OCCUPY WALL STREET  WEBSITE. As a humorous exercise you can keep track of how many violations of the Constitution this list encompasses.

Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. Unionize ALL workers immediately.

RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE IMMEDIATELY TO $18/HR. Create a maximum wage of $90/hr to eliminate inequality.



Repeal racist and xenophobic English-only laws.

OPEN THE BORDERS TO ALL IMMIGRANTS, LEGAL OR ILLEGAL. Offer immediate, unconditional amnesty, to all undocumented residents of the US.

Create a single-payer, universal health care system.

Pass stricter campaign finance reform laws. Ban all private donations. ALL CAMPAIGNS WILL RECEIVE EQUAL FUNDING, PROVIDED BY THE TAXPAYERS.

Institute a negative income tax, and tax the very rich at rates up to 90%.

Pass far stricter environmental protection and animal rights laws.

Allow workers to elect their supervisors.

Lower the retirement age to 55. Increase Social Security benefits.

Create a 5% annual wealth tax for the very rich.


If you wonder why the OWS movement isn’t being taken seriously, read the demands.  What is frightening is that many of these people are college students or graduates.  You would think they would know better than this. 

3.    So What’s Happened to the Obama Generation?

4.   Latest Numbers on Unmarried Births

The federal government released its latest figures on births (“Preliminary Data for 2010”) yesterday. The illegitimacy numbers by race and ethnicity are essentially the same as last year’s. MORE THAN 7 OUT OF 10 AFRICAN AMERICANS (72.5 PERCENT) ARE BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK, along with more than 6 out of 10 American Indians and Alaska Natives (65.6 percent), and more than 5 out of 10 Hispanics (53.3 percent) — VERSUS FEWER THAN 3 OUT OF 10 WHITES (29.0 PERCENT) AND FEWER THAN 2 OUT OF 10 ASIANS AND PACIFIC ISLANDERS (17.0 PERCENT). Disturbingly high for all groups (the composite figure is 40.8 percent), but do you notice any connection between these demographic-by-demographic numbers and HOW EACH GROUP IS DOING EDUCATIONALLY, ECONOMICALLY, CRIMINALLY, ETC.?

It’s not good for a society when marriage is not considered necessary. 

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