Michael Oher, offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, was online on Wednesday night when his Twitter feed started filling up with tributes to Steve Jobs. A bewildered Oher tweeted: “Can somebody help me out? Who was Steve Jobs!”
He was on his iPhone at the time.
Who was Steve Jobs? Well, he was a guy who founded a corporation and spent his life as a corporate executive manufacturing corporate products. So he wouldn’t have endeared himself to the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, even though, underneath the patchouli and lentils, most of them are abundantly accessorized with iPhones and iPads and iPods loaded with iTunes, if only for when the drum circle goes for a bathroom break.
The above is a somewhat obvious point, although the fact that it’s not obvious even to protesters with an industrial-strength lack of self-awareness is a big part of the problem. But it goes beyond that: If you don’t like to think of Jobs as a corporate exec (and a famously demanding one at that), think of him as a guy who went to work, and worked hard. There’s no appetite for that among those “occupying” Zuccotti Park. In the old days, the tribunes of the masses demanded an honest wage for honest work. Today, the tribunes of America’s leisured varsity class demand a world that puts “people before profits.” If the specifics of their “program” are somewhat contradictory, the general vibe is consistent: They wish to enjoy an advanced Western lifestyle without earning an advanced Western living. The pampered, elderly children of a fin de civilisation overdeveloped world, they appear to regard life as an unending vacation whose bill never comes due.
So they are in favor of open borders, presumably so that exotic Third World peasants can perform the labor to which they are noticeably averse. Of the 13 items on that “proposed list of demands,” Demand Four calls for “free college education,” and Demand Eleven returns to the theme, demanding debt forgiveness for all existing student loans. I yield to no one in my general antipathy to the racket that is American college education, but it’s difficult to see why this is the fault of the mustache-twirling robber barons who head up Global MegaCorp, Inc. One sympathizes, of course. It can’t be easy finding yourself saddled with a six-figure debt and nothing to show for it but some watery bromides from the “Transgender and Colonialism” class. Americans collectively have north of a trillion dollars in personal college debt. Say what you like about Enron and, er, Solyndra and all those other evil corporations, but they didn’t relieve you of a quarter-mil in exchange for a master’s in Maya Angelou. So why not try occupying the dean’s office at Shakedown U?
Ah, but the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at. At Liberty Square, one of the signs reads: “F**k your unpaid internship!” Fair enough. But, to a casual observer of the massed ranks of Big Sloth, it’s not entirely clear what precisely anyone would ever pay them to do.
Do you remember Van Jones? He was Obama’s “green jobs” czar back before “green jobs” had been exposed as a gazillion-dollar sinkhole for sluicing taxpayer monies to the president’s corporate cronies. Oh, don’t worry. These cronies aren’t “corporate” in the sense of Steve Jobs. The corporations they run put “people before profits”: That’s to say, they’ve figured out it’s easier to take government money from you people than create a business that makes a profit. In an amusing inversion of the Russian model, Van Jones became a czar after he’d been a Communist. He became a Commie in the mid-Nineties — i.e., after even the Soviet Union had given up on it. Needless to say, a man who never saw a cobwebbed collectivist nostrum he didn’t like no matter how long past its sell-by date is hot for “Occupy Wall Street.” Indeed, Van Jones thinks that the protests are the start of an “American Autumn.”
In case you don’t get it, that’s the American version of the “Arab Spring.” Steve Jobs might have advised Van Jones he has a branding problem. Spring is the season of new life, young buds and so forth. Autumn is leaves turning brown and fluttering to the ground in a big dead heap. Even in my great state of New Hampshire, where autumn is pretty darn impressive, we understand what that blaze of red and orange leaves means: They burn brightest before they fall and die, and the world turns chill and bare and hard.
So Van Jones may be on to something! American Autumn. The days dwindle down to a precious few, like in whatever that old book was called, The Summer and Fall of the Roman Empire.
If you’ll forgive a plug for my latest sell-out to my corporate masters, in my new book I quote H. G. Wells’s Victorian Time Traveler after encountering far in the future the soft, effete Eloi: “These people were clothed in pleasant fabrics that must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though undecorated, were fairly complex specimens of metalwork. Somehow such things must be made.” And yet he saw “no workshops” or sign of any industry at all. “They spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things were kept going.” The Time Traveler might have felt much the same upon landing in Liberty Square in the early 21st century, except for the bit about bathing: It’s increasingly hard in America to “see how things are kept going,” but it’s pretty clear that the members of “Occupy Wall Street” have no plans to contribute to keeping things going. Like Michael Oher using his iPhone to announce his ignorance of Steve Jobs, in the autumn of the republic the beneficiaries of American innovation seem not only utterly disconnected from but actively contemptuous of the world that sustains their comforts.
Why did Steve Jobs do so much of his innovating in computers? Well, obviously, because that’s what got his juices going. But it’s also the case that, because it was a virtually non-existent industry until he came along, it’s about the one area of American life that hasn’t been regulated into sclerosis by the statist behemoth. So Apple and other companies were free to be as corporate as they wanted, and we’re the better off for it. The stunted, inarticulate spawn of America’s educrat monopoly want a world of fewer corporations and lots more government. If their “demands” for a $20 minimum wage and a trillion dollars of spending in “ecological restoration” and all the rest are ever met, there will be a massive expansion of state monopoly power. Would you like to get your iPhone from the DMV? That’s your “American Autumn”: an America that constrains the next Steve Jobs but bigs up Van Jones. Underneath the familiar props of radical chic that hasn’t been either radical or chic in half a century, the zombie youth of the Big Sloth movement are a paradox too ludicrous even for the malign alumni of a desultory half-decade of Complacency Studies: They’re anarchists for Big Government. Do it for the children, the Democrats like to say. They’re the children we did it for, and, if this is the best they can do, they’re done for.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2011 Mark Steyn