San Diego – Some evil bug nailed me early last week and I’ve been really pretty sick ever since then. I slept through Friday and Saturday and probably will do much the same today as I am on a mission to get this, whatever it is, over and out of my system. I am not a good patient and despise being sick.
Anyway, I received a response to the last post taking me to task over calling some of my friends on Facebook “idiots” for their unrestrained, uncritical support of the occupiers. However unlike some of the private flames I am used to getting, this was posted as a public comment and was phrased nicely and respectfully and I think it deserves a serious answer. I’m sorry it has taken so long to respond but I’ve been under the weather and will probably head back to my warm blankie when I finish this.
Several things play into my position both about the occupiers and those who uncritically support them.
First, do remember, hard as it is to believe, that I was alive and well in the famous or infamous 60s. I was even at the original Woodstock and still owe my ex-wife $14 toward the tickets. Oh yeah, bell bottoms, beads, mud up to your eyebrows, the whole works. If I only knew today what I thought I knew back then I’d be one wise man. But along the way I went into business for myself and saw first hand what an idiot I had been and how thoroughly naive were my thoughts in those bell-bottomed days of legend. If, therefore, it “takes one to know one” then trust me on this, I’ve been one. In fact the embarrassing truth is that over the years I’ve done idiotic things in so many different areas and on so many different levels I should, by that standard, be able to speak profoundly on idiocy on a grand scale.
Marching in the streets is a grand tradition here in the colonies but our turn in the sixties did not do much to give such activities a good name. I had dearly hoped that time and greater availability of information might have led more current marchers to sounder positions than ours but alas, that appears to have been a forlorn hope.
Understand too that I believe in the Constitution; not just the convenient parts I like, but all of it. It is a document unique in human political history and based on its words was founded a nation also unique in human political history. We are, or are supposed to be, a nation based on the rule of law not on the rule of the sword or the whip or the iron maiden. We agreed — agreed — to believe each other in a court of law if we only swore to tell the truth. We went beyond trial by combat, the dunking stool, the rack, and in doing so founded a place that drew people like a magnet from around the world. Here, in America, due to the words of that document, there was the freedom to succeed if you were willing to work for it. But, here too was the freedom to fail which provided a marvelous motivation to succeed.
Those freedoms go hand in hand inseparably. We are a country that has no guaranties, only freedoms. Only socialist, fascist, and communist countries have guaranties and those are usually not that the bottom will rise but that the top will be brought down to the bottom level. And they pay for those guarantees with the loss of freedom. Some of you may prefer that but i do not. I’ve been there, seen that, and do not want it for my life.
And finally, as a premiss for my response, let me state that I totally abhor mobs. The easily aroused herd instinct in modern man quickly falls prey to the mob mentality. That unfocused but common anger at some general sense of unfairness and the need for “some” action is the mentality of the lynch mob, of the mobs that backed Lenin and Stalin and Hitler and Mao. It is the same mentality that took the citizens of France from a legitimate storming of the Bastille to the horrors of the Reign of Terror. It is the gruel for tiny minds but at the same time the ammunition for tyrants. Lenin called such mob adherents, which he was masterful at stirring up, his “useful idiots” and it was largely in that sense I used the term because I think it applies.
So what do we now have occupying the streets that elicited the “idiotic” comment from me? In my opinion we have a mob drowning in naiveté and throwing the rule of law into the gutter while claiming to hide behind it. A gaggle of folks unburdened by any real knowledge of history of civics or pretty much anything relevant who share only a common dislike for not having the stuff of others and who seem more than ready to blame that lack not on themselves or even on the real basis for abuse in society, the government itself and its uneven application of favors, but instead upon those who managed to rise above all of that and, gasp, succeeded.
They blamed capitalism but we’ve not had true unfettered capitalism in this country for over 100 years, rather we’ve had a very uneven playing field where the government has taken upon itself to decide who and what to regulate and how and who to leave free to do as they wish. Sorry, that is not capitalism. Look up the definitions of economic systems where the government can control the means of production through regulation and see for yourself what we have come to and then ask again how well it has worked.
They hated corporations and businesses but I could not help but wonder how many of them were employers of workers for whom they were responsible? They hated banks but none of them seemed to understand that the banks did only what was at first demanded and then allowed by congress. If ever there was a movement to, as the cliché goes, throw the baby out with the bath water, this is it. I’m sorry but that does not strike me as exemplary of a high state of brilliance.
Let me be quick to say that I assume that somewhere in all of those people there are some, maybe even a few, who are there with a serious set of ideas to help resolve some of the ferocious abuses to our system that has brought them into the streets. But I have yet to hear a peep from so much as one of them. Many of those abuses are all too real but we will have to look elsewhere to hear any practical. viable solutions because non are coming from the street. And because of the rantings from the street, those trying to come up with real solutions to those vexing problems are now in a worse position than before so in addition to being of little use that mob has actually worked against its own avowed goals. I’m sorry but that is idiotic.
What I have heard from, loud and clear, are anarchists, socialists, communists, even one ditzy lady clad in the black uniform of the Red Brigade claiming we should be following Chairman Mao. Oh good call; now there was a paragon of social justice and fairness… although it must be said that singlehandedly he almost solved China’s population problem in the same way Vlad the Impaler solved the beggar problem in Wallachia.
What else clamored for the microphones to voice their reasons for being there? There were people wanting free rent, free food, free tuition, free goodies and more free slop at the pubic trough. There were people claiming to have quit their jobs to come protest unemployment. That is as stupid as those students a few years ago that cut classes to protest cuts in education.
There were people wanting universal employment by the government at current union wages. There were people who wanted to end capitalism but without a clue what to substitute for it, people who wanted to end democracy without a clue that we do not have and have never had, thank goodness, a democracy in the first place. if they truly were 99% then the worse thing we could ever have is a true democracy.
There were, here in San Diego, people of the occupiers who intimidated and shut down street vendors and store front businesses because they would not provide free snacks and coffee or other services. So they helped add to the roles of the unemployed.
There were a mob of people who trashed pubic property, created unsafe and unhealthy places (in some places fetid open sewers) and others who defecated on police cars, who also trashed private property and yet who tried to hide behind “Freedom of Speech” as if destroying public and private property and peeing on the street is some sort of protected behavior. Free speech was never at risk though intelligent speech was becoming harder and harder to find.
There was the common cry of envy over the rich who “needed to pay their fair share” as if anyone of them could do the math to determine the truth of it. To what country should we look at for comparisons here? In a recent survey of the major industrialized countries, the G20, Time discovered that on average, the top 10% of wage earners pay 30% of the costs of the country. Except in the U.S. So you are right, our rich do not pay the same proportion as do the rich in other countries. Here in the U.S. the top 10% pay over 45%. Oops…
To give everyone cradle to grave free rides of housing, food, education, high paying jobs, and a dog of their own comes at a high cost… so who is to pay it? If anyone truly believes the Soviets had it better under a system that purported to do just that then I would suggest they should pack their bags and head to Russia where Putin is trying to return to those days or to Cuba where, Michael Moore notwithstanding, they still exist. But please, please, get a one-way ticket.
The history, the math, the psychology, the economics are all there for anyone to research and draw on for their own conclusion. No one has ever claimed life is fair or that it ought to be (well except for those unwilling to put in effort for their own care) and only mathematical/economic/historical morons think the productive world is a zero sum game so that in order for one to prosper another has to fail. So I think and continue to think that the voices shouting forth from that great unwashed mass are, as they were in my own day, idiots, because the truth is there for them to find and they chose not to. At least in my day it was harder to find although it was still there.
What they propose are not resolutions to real problems but vague feel good pabulum for simple minds and pretend to wisdom through obfuscation because if someone did, in fact, manage to solve the real underlying problems they would be out of a platform. And no matter what they might propose, any mob that does not understand that the right to dissent and free speech per se does not make it OK to damage public or private property is not one with which I wish to associate my name.
If people who might agree with my own point of view wanted to take to the streets then I would insist they respect the property upon which they gathered and leave it looking like they found it because to do otherwise makes a lie out of any claim to operating under the law. And if they don’t care about the law then they do not speak for me no matter what they use for platitudes to lure the masses.
I walk with a limp because at one time in my life i was willing to fight for the right of Americans to have such things as Free Speech, and actually to try to spread that right elsewhere. If I thought for a moment this occupy group was what I fought to protect then I would be ashamed of my service and try desperately hard to hide the limp.
And with all that as my appraisal of the group in general it is easy to come to the position where I have the same appraisal of those who, especially those of a college age with the internet’s availability of data, both wheat and chaff, would support something simply because it feeds a general anger that may be legitimate, but without the sort of reflective thought and careful examination of propositions and resolutions (or absences thereof) I think it fair to demand of them. And if they want my respect I do demand it of them. Respect is earned; it is not an entitlement.
We cannot solve problems we refuse to admit exist. In that sense at least, the occupiers are correct. But resolutions to serious problems come at a cost; they always do. And they often have unforeseen consequences. An examination of alternatives can help shake out the unacceptable costs and consequences but that is not what is being demanded in the streets. That does not mean the cost might not be warranted, only that it be accepted knowingly and woven into the solution itself. But if I am to respect someone then I demand that reflective thinking of them as I expect them to demand it of me.
By allowing tolerance to become cowardice, by refusing to call idiocy (or worse) what it is when we see it, if only to get people to stop and think reflectively about what they are proposing, then we simply facilitate more cures worse than the diseases and perpetuate the entire process by being unwilling to ask people to stop, drop back a few yards, and think about it.
And that is what I would like those of my students or friends who in fact do know me and respect me to do to honor that respect. I have never asked that you agree with me about anything. I don’t think the uncritical supporters of the occupy people are idiots because they disagree with me, but because they are uncritical and unwilling to address problems that anyone with two brain cells to rub together could see. Having once thought about it they are free, in my opinion to draw their own conclusions but I do ask that they try to think more than a step or two ahead. Learn to become good chess players and not just mediocre checkers players.
We are, in my opinion, facing one of the true crux points in our nation’s history. It is not a time for bonfires and shouting crowds, it is a time for some very, very serious quiet reflection and research to come to grips with what, historically, has worked and what has not. We cannot afford another failed social economic experiment. We have to get it right… and right now. The time for bonfires may be just around the corner but unlike this crowd we have to learn not to break one law to pretend to follow another one. If we cannot work within the law as we find it then we will deserve the lawlessness that we have set free in that mob but I don’t think we will much like the uncontrollable outcome. Many are coming to believe that “lock and load” time is nearly upon us and I can only hope they have given it more thought than these occupiers have.
So please, feel free to disagree with me all you wish, but also please don’t just listen to your own choir; listen to the others as I do. I’ve never believed any one side has all the answers all the time and the only way to hear those others you normally do not is to be open to it.
So, bottom line is, If I offended someone by implying they were an idiot because I misinterpreted their support for the occupiers then I am sorry for it.
But if the shoe fits…
And finally I was right about one thing… I’m headed back to my blankie right now.