A couple of days ago Borepatch had a very interesting post Know your enemy. In it he discusses the observations of another blogger named Sabra that, if you look at a lot of their demands on the ground, there are areas of common ground between the Occupy HereAndThere protesters and the Tea Partiers. You should read his post, and Sabra's post that he links to, but this is how his post ended:
Every time we read a story in the press about guns, we roll our eyes. Every time we read a story in the press about the Tea Party, we roll our eyes. We know there's an agenda at work.
So now we read a story in the press about "slackers occupying Wall Street"? Dude, get offa your Mom's sofa!
Sure, sure - this time it's different. Remember the line from Brian Keith playing Teddy Roosevelt in The Wind And The Lion: I never shot anyone by accident. I need their votes.
The elite - that's the trouble. There are allies everywhere you look, if you look with eyes that will see. And there are enemies everywhere you look, too, if you want to look that way.
The idea you couldn't capture the minds of a whole generation screwed by the intersection of the Universities and Wall Street willing to lend them non-dischargable student debt - if we can't convince these young folks of that, then we're the stupid ones.
Of course he's not talking about the minders of the demonstration who are organizing the Progressive Stack of Speakers, Group Microphones and what-not. Instead, Borepatch is talking about the foot soldiers who provide the manpower for the protests. Why didn't the Tea Party message of governmental fiscal responsibility resonate with the kids who are carrying tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt or the people with mortgages underwater, especially since so much of their problems stem from crony capitalism?
Part of the problem is illustrated by the picture at the top of this post. It is a still from the Levi Ad Go Forth that I discussed in an earlier post Style, race and riots about the English riots of this summer. The ad features various scenes of young people, clad in Levis, going forth and living life to its fullest -- with one of the end scenes being the young lad shown above confronting a line of riot police.
Street protest, or at least street protest done by the proper sorts of people, has been packaged as being chic. Listening to what a lot of the Occupy protestors have to say it is clear they haven't been gathering in smokey coffee houses discussing politics in depth, they just have a patina of what they imagine revolution to be. Revolution is cool. It is a romantic thing, it is not Che putting bullets into prisoners heads, rather it is the iconic Che with his beret jauntily tilted on his head.
Tahir Square = London looting = camping out in parks in U.S. cities. Free pizza, supportive tweets from celebrities and police brutality being a whiff of tear gas rather than hanging upside down in an interrogation room getting whipped with an electric chord.
Where we have failed is in not answering street theater and style with substance. We have not made clear the truly revolutionary nature of the American Experiment as opposed to the old and tired imperitive of the elites grasping for power.
What the minders of the demonstrations are doing is not new. Since time immemorial petty nobles and third-world air force colonels have been whipping up the rabble into storming the King's castle so they can get to the levers of power. When the smoke clears the kulaks are still kulaks and it is just a different group of elites living the sweet life and issuing edicts.
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
That, summed up by Lincoln in a single sentence, is a truly radical and revolutionary notion. It is not the illusion of equality that equity of outcome promises with its leveling, it is equality granted to each person to do with as they will. It is freedom.
It is also an intimidating concept. Myra Andrade, the Cape Verdian, sings about that view in her song Lopsided Democracy:
It was said that democracy,
It was said that democracy
Was like a hidden treasure,
But now that it has been found.
We have all opened our eyes
And each one, relying on his judgment,
Confidently declared that what was round was in fact square,
And went to work, with a great many theories,
To prove that he was right.
The question that begs to be asked is who decides what is square and what is round? Myra Andrate? Me? The Occupy Wall Street facilitator setting up a Group Microphone? A Tea Partier with their pocket Constitution? Been and Jerry or Nancy Pelosi from their mansions? Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin?
I don't think you get those people to our side by arguing party or policy. Take them down to the foundation of the issue. Are we peasants or free men? From the answer to that question all else flows. If you don't take your own equality, you will not get your freedom in the end. Instead the minutia of your life will be determined by faceless bureaucrats stamping approved or disapproved on forms in a haste to get to their coffee break.
And those types don't forgive the riff-raff's debts. In fact, they'll just keep piling them higher.
Sorry, I can't embed this, but this video clip is a another view of democracy. It is a version that shows what happens when there is an elite to total the ballots for us.