Daniel W. Drezner

Hmmm…. maybe I need to take Occupy Wall Street more seriously

I thought I’d said my peace piece about Occupy Wall Street earlier this week — interesting, but in all likelihood not going to amount to much unless it resonated culturally with broad swaths of American society. I think it’s safe to say that these protests don’t resonate with OTB’s Doug Mataconis.  So this would seem to ...

I thought I’d said my peace piece about Occupy Wall Street earlier this week — interesting, but in all likelihood not going to amount to much unless it resonated culturally with broad swaths of American society.

I think it’s safe to say that these protests don’t resonate with OTB’s Doug Mataconis.  So this would seem to be a data point to support my argument.  In his rant against the We Are the 99% crowd, however, Mataconis says something that triggered my history alarm:

The first thought I had when I looked through the Tumblr account is that these people can’t be doing all that bad if they’ve got access to the internet and a computer with a webcam necessary to create the posting that they put up at Tumblr. In any event, though, what strikes me more than anything else is that alot of these people are frustrated 20-somethings who have gotten out of college and found that the road to the good life isn’t quite as smooth as they thought it would be. Of course, things are more difficult today than they were ten years ago but that doesn’t mean they were easy back then. Establishing yourself in life is always a challenge, especially if you run up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt without really thinking about how you’re going to pay it off.

What comes across to me the most, though, is a sense of entitlement from some people and they idea that the situation they’re in clearly can’t be their fault so it must be the blame of someone else. There’s an attitude about the protests that there is something morally wrong about the fact that not everyone is suffering equally in the current economy as well. So when they look up and see that some people have managed to succeed during these rough economic times, that sense of entitlement becomes intermingled with a sense of envy and the belief that the only way these other people could have succeeded is by cheating….

There’s something pretty immature about blaming other people for your situation in life.

Now this strikes me as a bit harsh in judgment, but that’s neither here nor there.  What I can’t help wondering, however, is whether Mataconis has also described the necessary conditions for a movement like Occupy Wall Street to sustain itself.  Young people with a lot of time on their hands and prior entitlements possess both the will and the assets necessary to sit in for a looooooooooooong time. 

There’s something else:  Mataconis’ description of entitled young people used to peace and prosperity and demanding more of it sounds like… like… the people that decided to protest the Vietnam War after they began to realize that they might get drafted once they graduated college.   

If the job prospects for twentysomethings are that bleak, then it really doesn’t matter whether the protestors are responsible for their student loans or not.  If they feel like the system has screwed them over, then they’ll take to the streets and stay there.  And in a society where the overwhelming majority of people haven’t seen their wages or net wealth trending in the positive direction, I can’t say they they’ll necessarily trigger that much resentment. 

Developing….

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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