I hereby declare the death of irony. Hipsters from every borough of New York City have converged on the financial district to “occupy Wall Street”. As if on cue, they have been joined by the usual Hollywood celebrities and various labor union bosses. Some have declared this to be a new “revolution” in America, a progressive answer to the Tea Party movement. While the Tea Party, as close as I could tell, was agitating for less and less government, the Occupy Wall Street crowd just can’t get enough of it. I checked out one of several lists of demands found on the official web site to get the flavor. The first four bullet points racked up a whopping 6 trillion in government spending. It takes a ton of money to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, give everyone a free college education, declare universal, single-payer health insurance for all, and guarantee every American a “living wage, regardless of employment”. Wow, a living wage guaranteed to me regardless of whether I work or not?? Sign me up!!! My personal favorite demand was an immediate default on “all debt”, whether its sovereign debt , college loan debt , or mortgage debt. How wonderful would that be? Although a problem might potentially arise when our defunded military-industrial-complex is faced with the Chinese army ,navy, and air force, who probably won’t be too thrilled with the fact that we just welched on over one trillion of Chinese government holdings. Still, imagine how cool it would be to tell all of your creditors to take a hike. Of course, if this idea ever did become law I would feel like a gigantic sap. 12 years ago when I built this house, the bank told me I could qualify for a $600,000 loan. But , like an idiot, I only borrowed $230,000. Can you imagine how much bigger a house I could have built if I had known that 12 years later my loan would be wiped out , thanks to a couple thousand college kids in New York??. Oh well, timing is everything.
So, why is this the death of irony? Watching and reading and listening to this thing unfold, and hearing the sad news of the death of Steve Jobs, it occurred to me that the Hipster generation has lost all connection to it's roots. We have been told that the home of irony is the hipster generation. Books have been written about it, the internet abounds with essential guides to Hipster Irony. And yet, practically everything I know about Occupy Wall Street has been delivered to me by products conceived and produced by the biggest, baddest capitalist enterprise on Earth…Apple Computer. Videos of all the action are filmed on I-Phones, dispatches posted to facebook via hipster i-pads and Macbooks, all the while, the sound track pounds through the earphones courtesy of i-pods. How could kids so manifestly anti-capitalist not see the profound irony in their complete devotion to and adoration of the products of a company so manifestly anti-union as Apple Computer ? But I give everyone of those kids up there a pass. Most of them are in their early twenties, and their active and eager minds have not yet been seasoned with enough life experience to save them from this sort of thing. But when the big-shots of labor unions start showing up at a movement whose goal it is to take down “Wall Street”. Well, then, that’s another story. Irony takes another blow at the sight of labor union bosses decrying the evil greed of Goldman Sachs, when their members’ pension plans are being managed by the very companies they seek to vilify. If a riot breaks out and the shares of US companies tank as a result, the rank and file union members will have their leaders to thank when they open their 401-K statements in January.
But, even though there are many reasons to roll the eyes at some of the stupidity on parade at Occupy Wall Street, there is an element of sincerity and righteous indignation for which I have great sympathy. They may have the wrong remedy, but their essential claim that something is terribly wrong with our financial system is true. At 53 I understand that the problem isn’t as simple and its solution isn’t as easy as demonizing banks, or even politicians. There is blood on all of our hands for the mess in which we find ourselves. Greed isn’t the sole possession of the rich, just as laziness and looking for a handout isn’t the sole possession of the poor.