It wouldn’t shock anyone who knows me to hear that I’m not favorably disposed to the Occupy Wall Street crowd. But my opinion was reinforced while reading the latest novel by my favorite author, Philip Roth. Anyone who reads Nemesis would quickly conclude that the entire Occupy generation is a bunch of soft, overindulged whiners.
Although fictional, Nemesis accurately describes conditions in Newark, New Jersey, toward the end of World War II. While many brave Americans were overseas risking their lives to fight fascism, the home front was battling the scourge of polio that was devastating the nation’s youth. The novel takes place during the summer months, when risks were highest and fear consumed large segments of the community. People had to endure sweltering heat in cramped apartments, constantly challenged by the dual tragedies of war and disease.
By the time I was born (in 1953), polio was still ravaging American children. The year before, polio had its worst outbreak: 58,000 cases, 3,145 dead, thousands paralyzed, and parents everywhere utterly petrified. I vividly remember the never-ending line to receive my sugar cube with the vaccine created by Jonas Salk, aka the “miracle worker.”
The next challenge faced by my generation was the war in Viet Nam. There’s little doubt that this war was the principal catalyst for the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The war was over by the time I graduated college, but it had become dismally evident to me that many of my generation had nowhere near the character and courage possessed by our parents. We were, in fact, getting soft. Unfortunately that was nothing compared to the Occupy crowd, who saunter from their air-conditioned homes to their air-conditioned cars to their air-conditioned classrooms with their faces buried in smart phones, texting away to their friends about their fantasy football team or the results of Dancing with the Stars. Many look with disdain at the burger-flipping jobs my peers took while working their way through high school and college. They’re too busy with sports and clubs to work, unless it’s an internship for a group that is saving the earth or the whales or the smelt fish – in fact, saving everything except their parent’s money. To say that they haven’t faced adversity and that they are an abundantly indulged generation severely understates the matter. Of course, there are exceptions in every generation: Athletes who live the principle of sacrifice for their team. There are the engineering and science majors that face demanding curriculums in order to earn good jobs. And, most obviously, there are the large numbers of young Americans who put their lives on the line by volunteering to defend the country in the armed services.
Separate out these remarkable, goal-oriented young men and women – and ignore the crazies and anarchists who have capitalized on the situation – and what you have left are the young Americans of the Occupy generation, a group of people who went through college expecting (yes, expecting) that upon graduation, they would be rewarded with a job where they would continue to be pampered. When they left the protective nest of academia and walked into an economic downturn that didn’t have a big fat job with a big fat paycheck and big fat benefits, they decided it was the mystical “rich” of America – the 1% – who were at fault. The absolutely hilarious part comes from them completely ignoring that, because they live in America, they are part of the world’s 1%. They ignore that the reason they’re not part of America’s 1% is because they haven’t worked for it. And they really ignore the fact that the scholarships and loans they received are the product of the hard work, contributions, and taxes of the 1% that they both hate and/or envy. Despite their college “educations,” they display an embarrassing lack of knowledge in economics and government. They demand bailouts from their student loans “just like Wall Street was bailed out,” utterly clueless to the fact that Wall Street paid back the money with interest. They implore the government to create more “equality” in America, completely oblivious to the following facts: In the last 50 years government has grown from 27% of GDP to 37%; and, during that time, almost 50% of Americans have stopped paying income taxes, while the top earners bear an ever-growing share of the tax burden. And yet despite this blatant redistribution of wealth, income inequality in America has skyrocketed. Maybe they should correlate those facts and figure out that it’s probably government, not Wall Street, that’s the cause of rising inequality – just like government was the root cause of the housing crisis.
So what is our reaction to dealing with these overindulged youths when they decide to protest? We indulge them some more. They go to a park in New York and have a “Love-in.” The Mayor doesn’t give them the boot while other people supply free food and clothing. In a little known fact not reported in the mainstream press, Mayor Bloomberg has recruited a team of mothers to fluff their pillows and tuck them in at night after making them hot chocolate. Finally Bloomberg decides that recruiting all these volunteer mothers is too hard so he gives the kids the boot. Meanwhile, our babysitter-in-chief Barack Obama panders to the group by changing the rules to relieve them of the responsibility of paying their first financial obligation – their student loans.
What they need to do is take one of the jobs that exist in America. Yes, there are a whole lot of them, but those jobs are beneath these kids. I understand there are crops to be picked in Alabama and California because illegal aliens are scarce. Or maybe they could work at a donut shop or a McDonald’s. But that’s not going to happen because these kids have expectations and their food has always just appeared in the refrigerator – provided by magic elves of course.
We are all delighted to live in a society where our children are no longer fearful of diseases like polio or smallpox. It’s wonderful that they can get an education in a cozy environment, and we certainly don’t want to see them marching off to war. But someone needs to slap these kids across the head and remind them they should be thankful every day that they live in the United States of America. Or maybe take away their Smartphone’s and have them actually converse with another human being. That would be fun to see.