Way back in 1968, after the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Mayor Daley declared that his forces were there to “preserve disorder.” I believe that was one of Hizzoner’s famous malapropisms. Forty-three years later Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland, and the Oakland city council have made “preserving disorder” the official municipal policy. On Wednesday, the “Occupy Oakland” occupiers rampaged through the city, shutting down the nation’s fifth-busiest port, forcing stores to close, terrorizing those residents foolish enough to commit the reactionary crime of “shopping,” destroying ATMs, spraying the Christ the Light Cathedral with the insightful observation “F**k,” etc. And how did the Oakland city council react? The following day they considered a resolution to express their support for “Occupy Oakland” and to call on the city administration to “collaborate with protesters.”
That’s “collaborate” in the Nazi-occupied-France sense: The city’s feckless political class are collaborating with anarchists against the taxpayers who maintain them in their sinecures. They’re not the only ones. When the rumor spread that the Whole Foods store, of all unlikely corporate villains, had threatened to fire employees who participated in the protest, the regional president, David Lannon, took to Facebook: “We totally support our Team Members participating in the General Strike today — rumors are false!” But, despite his “total support,” they trashed his store anyway, breaking windows and spraypainting walls. As the Oakland Tribune reported:
A man who witnessed the Whole Foods attack, but asked not to be identified, said he was in the store buying an organic orange when the crowd arrived.
There’s an epitaph for the republic if ever I heard one.
The experience was surreal, the man said. “They were wearing masks. There was this whole mess of people, and no police here. That was weird.”
No, it wasn’t. It was municipal policy. In fairness to the miserable David Lannon, Whole Foods was in damage-control mode. Men’s Wearhouse in Oakland had no such excuse. In solidarity with the masses, they printed up a huge poster declaring “We stand with the 99%” and announcing they’d be closed that day. In return, they got their windows smashed.
I’m a proud member of the 1 percent, and I’d have been tempted to smash ’em myself. A few weeks back, finding myself suddenly without luggage, I shopped at a Men’s Wearhouse, faute de mieux, in Burlington, Vt. Never again. I’m not interested in patronizing craven corporations so decadent and self-indulgent that as a matter of corporate policy they support the destruction of civilized society. Did George Zimmer, founder of Men’s Wearhouse and backer of Howard Dean, marijuana decriminalization, and many other fashionable causes, ever glance at the photos of the OWS occupiers and ponder how many of “the 99%” were ever likely to be in need of his two-for-one deal on suits and neckties? And did he think even these dummies were dumb enough to fall for such a feebly corporatist attempt at appeasing the mob?
I don’t “stand with the 99%,” and certainly not downwind of them. But I’m all for their “occupation” continuing on its merry way. It usefully clarifies the stakes. At first glance, an alliance of anarchists and government might appear to be somewhat paradoxical. But the formal convergence in Oakland makes explicit the movement’s aims: They’re anarchists for statism, wild free-spirited youth demanding more and more total government control of every aspect of life — just so long as it respects the fundamental human right to sloth. What’s happening in Oakland is a logical exercise in class solidarity: The government class enthusiastically backing the breakdown of civil order is making common cause with the leisured varsity class, the thuggish union class, and the criminal class in order to stick it to what’s left of the beleaguered productive class. It’s a grand alliance of all those societal interests that wish to enjoy in perpetuity a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. Only the criminal class is reasonably upfront about this. The rest — the lifetime legislators, the unions defending lavish and unsustainable benefits, the “scholars” whiling away a somnolent half decade at Complacency U — are obliged to dress it up a little with some hooey about “social justice” and whatnot.
But that’s all it takes to get the media and modish if insecure corporate entities to string along. Whole Foods can probably pull it off. So can Ben & Jerry’s, the wholly owned subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch corporation Unilever that nevertheless successfully passes itself off as some sort of tie-dyed Vermont hippie commune. But a chain of stores that sells shirts, ties, the garb of the corporate lackey has a tougher sell. The class that gets up in the morning, pulls on its lousy Men’s Wearhouse get-up, and trudges off to work has to pay for all the other classes, and the strain is beginning to tell.
Let it be said that the “occupiers” are right on the banks: They shouldn’t have been bailed out. America has one of the most dysfunctional banking systems in the civilized world, and most of its allegedly indispensable institutions should have been allowed to fail. But the Occupy Oakland types have no serious response, other than the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by government-funded inertia.
America is seizing up before our eyes: The decrepit airports, the underwater property market, the education racket, the hyper-regulated business environment. Yet curiously the best example of this sclerosis is the alleged “revolutionary” movement itself. It’s the voice of youth, yet everything about it is cobwebbed. It’s more like an open-mike karaoke night of a revolution than the real thing. I don’t mean just the placards with the same old portable quotes by Lenin et al., but also, say, the photograph in Forbes of Rachel, a 20-year-old “unemployed cosmetologist” with remarkably uncosmetological complexion, dressed in pink hair and nose ring as if it’s London, 1977, and she’s killing time at Camden Lock before the Pistols gig. Except that that’s three and a half decades ago, so it would be like the Sex Pistols dressing like the Andrews Sisters. Are America’s revolting youth so totally pathetically moribund they can’t even invent their own hideous fashion statements? Last weekend, the nonagenarian Commie Pete Seeger was wheeled out at Zuccotti Park to serenade the oppressed masses with “If I Had a Hammer.” As it happens, I do have a hammer. Pace Mr. Seeger, they’re not that difficult to acquire, even in a recession. But, if I took it to Zuccotti Park, I doubt very much anyone would know how to use it, or be able to muster the energy to do so.
At heart, Oakland’s occupiers and worthless political class want more of the same fix that has made America the Brokest Nation in History: They expect to live as beneficiaries of a prosperous Western society without making any contribution to the productivity necessary to sustain it. This is the “idealism” that the media are happy to sentimentalize, and that enough poseurs among the corporate executives are happy to indulge — at least until the window-smashing starts. To “occupy” Oakland or anywhere else, you have to have something to put in there. Yet the most striking feature of OWS is its hollowness. And in a strange way the emptiness of its threats may be a more telling indictment of a fin de civilisation West than a more coherent protest movement could ever have mounted.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2011 Mark Steyn