Hippies

When I was young and stupid (Gosh, I’m having a lot of nostalgia for my young and stupid days here, aren’t I? Odd considering I didn’t enjoy them the first time around.), I thought I would have loved being young in the late ’60s – early ’70s. I wanted to have been at Woodstock; I wanted to have sat in somewhere. I wanted to have damned the man.

Then I got, like, two years older and learned that actually, I’m not really much of a one for protests. Two things happened in college to make me realize this – I took a course called The ’60s: Continuity and Change in American Culture with the fabulous Jerry Cohen and started thinking all those sit-ins were just a bunch of entitled brats who didn’t want to take their finals. (My parents were horrified that their coming-of-age years were a college class. But whatevs, dudes. When my coming of age years become a college class, the professor will have to give a lot of time to the discussion of blow jobs and the definition of “is”.)  And, also, Charlton Heston came to speak at my college.

I don’t know how he got there. If I’m remembering correctly, the campus Republicans group (of which there were, like, two members, and both were Zionist hawks) invited him and then NRA members in the broader suburban Boston community made up most of the audience. There was a very limited number of seats reserved for students. So for the weeks leading up to the event, and then on the day of the event itself, there were protests. People pretending to be gunshot victims (which was almost laughable on a campus with as little crime as we had), people saying things like, “Thou shalt not kill, right, Moses?”

And I was pretty fed up with the whole thing. First of all, it’s “Thou shalt not murder.” There’s a big difference and the difference is that the sixth commandment (or fifth, if you’re Catholic) is perfectly compatible with the second amendment.

And second, CHARLTON HESTON IS (was) AN ACTOR WHO PLAYED MOSES, NOT THE REAL THING, YOU STUPID HIPPIES.

Now, I say all this as a person who believes that gun control is good and guns are, in general, bad. Even when my husband suggests getting one for our civilization-collapses stockpile, I veto the plan. I tell him that when civilization collapses, the big strong guys who already know how to use weaponry will take our gun, shoot us with it, and eat our peanut butter. But I am not fond of protests. I am not fond of summing up a political position with, “2! 4! 6! 8! Guns, guns, guns are what we hate!” I like to consider both – or all – sides of the issue. I like thoughtfulness, consideration, compromise. A clear delineation of an agenda with an understanding of what the ideal is versus what the acceptable is. Protests just aren’t for me. (I also don’t see that they do much good, but I am very possibly wrong about that.)

So I feel with this Occupy Wall Street protest. Yeah, I think the banks are horrible and the governments kowtowing to them is horrible and all the rest. But I am not reading any coherence or thoughtfulness into their protesting. And they’re stalling traffic and interrupting my sister’s commute to work and, according to The Daily Show, they’re pooping in people’s bodegas without paying for so much as a soda so fuck them.

But then there’s a lot of talk of, “Oh, these protesters, hating on Wall Street while mourning the death of multi-billionaire CEO Steve Jobs. What hypocrites!” And that’s a willful misunderstanding, too.

Look, God knows I’m predisposed to mourn Steve Jobs. I came home Wednesday night to a teary-eyed husband. I’m typing this on my iMac. My iPhone is by my side. My internet is coming over an Apple router. My daughter (whose first movie in a movie theater was Toy Story 3) and I were playing a matching game on her iPad earlier today, which is also loaded with nearly every Pixar movie. We are an Apple house and I love these products, especially my iPhone, which you will have to pry from my cold, dead hands. (I tried to stop that joke from happening but it overpowered me. With its gun.) And a lot of people who have Apple products feel this way about them because they WORK, they MAKE SENSE, and they are BEAUTIFUL.

(Not to get all weird on you or anything but I am experiencing, vis-a-vis Jobs’s death, this weird thing that has happened to me since my stepfather died. When I see public figures who are significantly older than my stepdad was, like when Jimmy Carter was on “The Daily Show” very shortly after my stepfather’s death, I’m irrationally pissed at them for still being alive when he’s not. But when a man like Steve Jobs dies at ten years younger than my stepfather, I feel sort of . . . at peace about it? I don’t know; I know this is pretty fucked up and I’m trying to figure out how to get past it. And that’s our TMI for this week.)

But that’s kind of the point. People are mourning Steve Jobs because Steve Jobs made things that they love to use. Sure, it’s a little bit of a cognitive dissonance thing when the oppressed masses streaming to the streets to protest the evil bankers have expensive electronic devices with them. But they’re good products.

The banks were putting out bad products. Bad mortgages, bad loans, bad everything. They KNEW that the products they were putting out were bad; they were betting on it! They were telling Mrs. Social Security, “Of course, our 5-year 6% APR with 2% down is going to be the PERFECT mortgage for you and you should trust us because we’re you’re banker!” while at the same time they were using their own money to BET AGAINST MRS. SOCIAL SECURITY. Then, when all that shit hit the fan because it turns out you can’t just create money out of thin air to cover all the bad loans you knew were bad, the banks got money from the government! And Mrs. Social Security got evicted! And now we’re still up an economic creek without a fucking paddle because the banks have decided to be “responsible” and not lend us the money our fucking government gave them to buy paddles! And with the money they are not lending us to buy paddles, they are buying themselves a THIRD private jet! And the federal government is doing fuck-all about it! So people are pissed! Whereas Steve Jobs, yes, charged a lot of money for his products, but they are good products that made the lives of those who could get them better.

That the same people who will protest Wall Street will mourn Steve Jobs is only confusing if you think they’re just pissed that some people are rich and some people are not. And look, some of the protesters on Wall Street (or, apparently, Broad Street, my sister tells me) do probably think that. (And some within that set probably do use Apple products because they’re stupid hippies.) But for the most part, people are pissed because people who don’t deserve it in any sense of the world have money and almost everyone else doesn’t. And they’re pissed by the gross disparity of the very few (they are claiming 1%) on the top and the very many (they are claiming 99%) on the bottom. They’re not pissed at Steve Jobs.

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3 thoughts on “Hippies

  1. Vanessa says:

    Wow, that was quite the post. I’ll just add something about the lack of organization so far:

    “The protests, for all this incoherence, restore Wall Street to a central place in the economic narrative. Here is the financial industry, not just as recipient of taxpayer funds but as originator and aggravator of the crisis. The protests may not have an agenda, but they do not need an agenda other than to return political focus onto Wall Street.

    The larger role of the protests, should they continue, ought to be to reestablish the terms of the political debate. Historically, liberalism best succeeds when compared against a radical alternative. In the thirties and sixties, fear of extremism and mob violence made business elites eager to accept liberal compromise designed to preserve the system. Since 2009, the question of how to respond to the economy has been framed as a debate between meliorative liberalism and vicious reaction. In this climate, Wall Street has been howling about Obama’s mild verbal scolding of the industry, his plans to impose some measure of regulation upon it, and ever-so-slightly raise the tax levels of the very rich.

    The protests can usefully re-center the debate. When Wall Street CEOs are expressing even tepid fear for their personal safety, terms like “class warfare” might start to be reserved for more stringent measures than the return of Clinton-era tax rates.”

    – Jonathan Chait http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/10/obamas_unlikely_anarchist_frie.html

  2. Vanessa says:

    Douglas Rushkoff, at CNN:

    “Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/05/opinion/rushkoff-occupy-wall-street/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

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