I realized the other day that I haven’t really felt the economic downturn at all. In fact, I’ve been better off these last few years than the last 20. Yes, I work six jobs, but each one of them is secure. At my regular salary serf jobs, I’ve seen huge annual raises, absurd quarterly bonuses, and a general sort of blank stare from bosses and co-workers alike when you mention the economy.
Elsewhere, book sales are on the rise, and I have more freelance gigs than I can take.
I had no property to lose, and I’ve always been a credit union kid. My publishing-related debt to the credit cards, after three years of stagnating, is now about ten months from being completely paid off. My hideous and annoying day job is giving us all a 25% raise in January. Which seems like it should be a typo, right?
Good times are here again for everyone, as far as I can see from my vantage point. I don’t even notice the weak dollar. I’m going to the UK for three weeks next month and the exchange rate is better now than it was the last time I visited in 2007 – before the economic collapse.
With dawning horror, I realize that I’m in that 1%. Perhaps not financially, but I’m certainly the One percent’s bitch. Everything seems fine.
And that’s the problem with the revolution, dear street occupiers. The 1% is bigger than you think. My day job boss, the quintessential armchair liberal, was talking the other day about how Occupy Wall Street is the first step of an “American Spring.”
(It’s very hard, by the way, to keep from lunging across my boss’s desk and biting his face.)
He says the Occupiers are going to change the country and we’re going to see the movement snow ball into something that will change our way of life. Like they’re going to be filling up The Mall, or walking across bridges as the police set the dogs on them and guardsmen fire indiscriminately at children.
I told him – these are polite fucks who are obeying the law, getting permits, operating in cooperation with the police, and, most importantly, nobody I know understands what’s going on or what they want. And, apparently, they don’t quite know either. That’s no revolution. That’s no threat. That’s no game-changing social civil war. It’s a sit-in that’s obtained the blessing of the government. Call me when they link arms, sing “We Shall Overcome,” and get hit with fire hoses and rubber bullets.
Which, I gather, is the story at Occupy Oakland. Though I always thought that was how Oakland was normally.
I’m always ready for revolution. I embrace it. I have no particular goals or purpose. I don’t care about changing anything. I just think revolution is human nature and we should indulge in it as often as possible, from small scale defiant acts to toppling governments. My main motivation: I think it would be amusing. I don’t care how many people are strung up and how many landmarks are burned by a bloodthirsty mob as long as it’s entertaining. Edge of your seat popcorn action – like much of the Arab Spring has been.
The world is always a very boring place, life is always very dissatisfying, and our bosses and leaders will always be a bunch of corrupt monsters who need to be put against the wall and machine gunned as soon as possible. Their revolutionary replacements will be exactly the same. There’s no way to win. Revolution, then, becomes simple catharsis. Get it out of your system and then get back to the status quo. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Etc…
Without revolution, the angst sort of builds up. America hasn’t seen true revolution since the early 70’s, so we’re starting to get into #firstworldproblems country and getting overly enraged when we burn the popcorn.
But we don’t yet have a focused enemy that appeals both to the people who can and do “occupy” a place and the ones like me, who are wealthy sociopaths looking for a good time.
Here’s the revolutionary secret – you need the guys like me. You need the 30-something well-heeled sociopaths who suffer from chronic boredom. We’ve seen the dynamic in every modern revolution – from the democratic movements of the 18th century down to Nazi Germany, Communist China, and the 60’s in America. A disorganized mass of often youthful rebels are led by people in their 30’s and 40’s who have too many liberal arts degrees and a trust fund or two. Hell, look at Jesus. A well-heeled 30-something who’s completed his apprenticeship for a reliable trade. These leaders are guys who understand how things work, and how you get things done, and how you turn a mass of angry people into an army, into a force that doesn’t need permits or zoning but can truly occupy a place and face the government response. For better or worse.
These people are always with us. Maybe they’re the fathers of nations, maybe they’re genocidal madmen, maybe they’re just anarcho-goodniks like MLK, or Abby Hoffman, or Tom Hayden. There’s never a shortage of leaders because – as you may have noticed every couple of years – it doesn’t really take too much intelligence to lead. You simply need a dash of charisma and a goal.
But, as long as the people like me are comfortable (and we are), we’re not going to come out of the woodwork. To get these leaders of men – who are, in the end, simply wealthy hobbyists – to take action, you have to really get in their faces. In the 18th century, you needed tyrannical fucks to kick you around a few times with almost Hollywood-like villainy. You needed social and political disaster in the 19th and 20th. For the leaders of the 60’s, you needed a forever-war that weighed deep on the consciousness largely only because it was the first war that was televised and we only had three channels to choose from and nothing but colorful musicals in the theaters. Of course Vietnam freaked us out. Even so, it took five years of in-your-face coverage to start to freak us out, and eight years before we lost our cool. And then only because our government didn’t know how to react to a sit-in. You can only club so many peaceful demonstrators to death before we start to wag our fingers.
Oh, and, you have to club quite a few demonstrators to death. Oakland is just a tiny blip. We don’t care. Call me when a woman and her baby are eaten by police dogs. Then it’s time to have that first flicker of outrage which, several deaths and many horrible burning riots later, turns into revolution.
I wish it didn’t take so much. But it’s really a big step, so I guess it’s nice that there are safeguards. If you think about it, our whole society is built on keeping the over-30 crowd pacified. We start to get tired, we age out of our weird college and post-college relationships, we’re encouraged to settle down with families and accrue debt. Our governments have always known where the revolutionary leaders come from. They’ve always feared youth, but they’ve also always understood how the revolutionary leadership works. They’ll take care of their middle-aged citizens before they help the college kids. They’ll bail out homeowners in trouble at the expense of anyone who needs a student loan.
And, so, I sit here, without any real worry in the world. I’ve got three computers running in my apartment right now, all geared towards providing some sort of mindless entertainment. I bitch about my idiot jobs and my idiot bosses and sit all day in a dark office ho-humming through the hours. I’m worried more about what Edward Olmos is going to do next on Dexter than anything that’s going on in the world.
And that’s why the Occupy thing is going to fail. You’ve all noticed, of course, that it has no leaders. And, without leadership, has adopted a laughably naïve attitude that it doesn’t need leaders. The 1% is not frightened because they’ve pacified that dreaded Silent Majority. We’re all, really, okay. Even if there are a few bumps in the road, it’s nothing serious.
This segues into the homogenization and emasculation of the media. Unlike the world prior to, say, 1980 or so, we don’t really see the problems. We see glorified local news, and saccharine world reports. We’re confronted with a single, Orwellian voice that pulls every punch, even when hundreds of thousands are dead. A lullaby of death and despair that gently coaxes us to change the channel, roll our eyes and say we’re just soooo tired of that tsunami, and get on with the candy-coated jokey stories. Even with the occasional high-level intrusion – Katrina, 9/11 – we’re lulled to sleep. Our media – TV, print, internet – is really the 21st Century equivalent of a state-run, censored press. Government ignores Katrina victims. But all hail the Great Leader! Meanwhile, on the Breaking News Blog, when are they going to get around to fixing the sidewalk at 14th and U? Seriously! I totally stubbed my toe the other day.
We should be scared of that, you know. That’s where we should begin. Corrupt bankers will always be there. Come on kids – they’re an easy target. That’s like saying, gosh, I hate being mouth-raped by a razor gang. Yeah! Me too! What’s your point?
If we want to revolt, we have to destroy the media. Bring those monsters to their knees and machine gun them all. Then go back to actual reporting, to being forced to decide on the truth between very differing versions of a story in a liberal, conservative, and government paper. An active, free, non-corporate controlled press will wake everybody up. Why? Because the world is a very bad place. Because four billion humans are basically disposable slaves right now, and these are the last of the good times. Just imagine what’s coming.
And imagine is all you’ll be able to do. The corporate, pussy media will hold out and whisper softly in your ear right up to the point when the wave hits. And then it’s too late.
But don’t listen to me! It’s the “American Spring,” right? So go ahead and waste your time. I’ve got to clear out my DVR.