I'm astonished at how like the last progressive revolution this one will be. There are muckrakers (Matt Taibbi) evil big business villains (AIG) and really, Barack Obama should be reading the biographies of Woodrow Wilson rather than FDR. I worry about our addiction to experts to solve our problems. Timothy Geitner was chosen (and so was Tom Daschle at HHS) because of their expertise, but that expertise is due to their closeness to the problems that they're facing. You apparently can't be an "expert" in the healthcare crisis without having been a lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, or an expert in Banking without having "Citi" on your resume.
I love articles about demography, marketing, and grouping of individuals along education and class status. These articles are never completely accurate, and some are out-and-out wrong. Take this one, by in The Atlantic Monthly, :
...perhaps these times of hardship will see a return of the true bohemian, as in the days when the Left Bank was actually squalid. Stylistically, some artistic people are returning to thrift chic (either Goodwill retro wear, or something akin to the party a girlfriend threw recently called “Bitch Swap,” where you trade around the rags you’re tired of). ….listen for poignant, witty Frank O’Hara stories about transformative experiences that occur on public transportation (in the rain), on This American Life. As Borders stores shutter, perhaps we’ll see a reflowering of public libraries. In any case, unable to secure those astronomical loans, more Xers will have to start rubbing shoulders with The Other, living in truly mixed neighborhoods, next door to such noncreative types as Kohl’s-shopping back-office workers and actual not-yet-ready-for-their-close-up-in-Yoga- Journal immigrants.
This economic catastrophe is teaching the Xers that their prized self-¬expression and their embrace of personal choice leads to … the collapse of capitalism. Time to inculcate not those self-satisfyingly hip and rebellious values—innovation! self-fulfillment!—cherished by the creative class (a class, after all, that includes in its ranks those buccaneering entrepreneurs who’ve led us down the primrose path), but those staid and stolid values of the bourgeoisie: industry, sobriety, moderation, self-discipline, and avoidance of debt.
Okay, who the HELL is she talking about? Well, she’s talking about herself and her artist/writer LA/New York friends. People who have, or until recently HAD, paid jobs at the Atlantic. Remember David Brooks, when he assured the “bourgeois bohemians” or Bobos, as he called them, in 2001 (also in The Atlantic):
“…there's talk of widening income gaps, and there are certainly widening social gaps -- between the people who shop at a Restoration Hardware, for example, and the people who wouldn't get all the verbal references at a store like that, all those sly references to F. Scott Fitzgerald novels and such. But as I went around the country, I didn't find much social resentment.David, honey, Arianna Huffington is BANKING on "absorbing the talented members of the oppressed classes" and paying them in eyeballs, isn't she? And Brooks, you must kiss your lucky ass every morning that the public has a short memory, but that kinda goes without saying.
Actually, I saw a woman get arrested at a Restoration Hardware in Palo Alto for yelling at some of the rich customers. She was yelling "You rich bitch!" and things like that. I thought, Here's real social resentment—here comes the revolution! But other than that incident I really didn't find much. What I did find was a society that doesn't resent the elites—that doesn't have a clear sense that some people are better than others. Everybody seems to belong to their own little clique. There's no sense of inferiority. And therefore no sense of resentment.
So does that mean that Boboism is here to stay?
I don't see anything toppling it. I don't see any mass populist revolt against it. What I do see is an elite that's very good at co-opting things. Marx said the most dangerous elites were the ones who could absorb the talented members of the oppressed classes. And thanks to admissions committees and outreach programs and things like that, Bobos are very good at absorbing talented people into their ranks. So I really see this group lasting and lasting and lasting.
I never cared much about money, particularly in terms of salary. That sounds like a lie, even to me, but then I remember an interview I had, the interviewer asked me if I cared about money and I said no. The job interviewer said, "It's obvious from your resume you don't." There was another opportunity I had to go into management once. My boss loved my work at IT helpdesk and suggested I could move into IT management. I looked at him and said, Boss, I've seen my supervisor's computer desktop. It's full of "continuous process improvement” folders. Why would I want to give up a job where I'm actually helping people to work on that kind of ...I didn't say Bullshit but he was a former drill sergeant, so I didn't have to. I know I had his respect for my decision, since he was the same way. What you do and what you fix is much more important than what other's name you. I can smell a person impressed by the title "manager" a mile away and I avoid those people.
The thing is, we have a President like that, now, too. It's really shaking up Washington that oh my fucking god the President really doesn't care about power. Well, get this: he does care about power, but only to the extent that power will help him accomplish something. He was born after 1960. Coincidence? I think not.
I'm not laying blame and saying "the economic debacle is not MY generation's fault." This is about "You’ve handed my generation a huge mess and expect us to find a way to put Humpty back together again. What we’ve got to work with is a dustpan of worthless dollar bills owned by China."
The largest generational divide in this country is between those Hillary Clinton’s age (62 ish) AND those Barack Obama’s age (47 ish). I do feel for those almost ready to retire who feel the rug has been pulled out from under them, but get this: a whole big lot of 40 somethings don’t think Social Security will be there for them at all, let alone some fucking mutual fund.
And I really shake my head at the “journalism” above, because it points not to a real drive to end greed and downsize, but to, let’s be honest, poverty chic. The boomers will never be old and poor. They will be the seasoned and frugal generation. Everything that happens leads to the “ever new kind of cool” that boomers are so addicted to. My friend JR put it so well, “The generation that INVENTED the lifestyle is going to find a way.” Economic need? Ooh, let’s make elder communes. Tap water reduces the landfill! Local food, thrift stores, vintage! No matter what and no matter how bad it gets, the Clinton/Huffington generation will make their response to it cool.
We're facing more than an economic crisis. This is a race to the bottom at the moment, and one of the problems is, those of us who never had a big stake in capitalism aren't all that upset about it. I was reading Figleaf (nsfw) the other day and this statement astonished me: "Despite having been homeless for nearly two years and nearly homeless for another two I don't really think I know that much about poverty...in gendered terms," Well, setting aside the gender part of his statement being under-housed for four years is a sure sign of knowing quite a bit about poverty.
Is Figleaf in denial?
I spoke to a fellow gen xer about this and he said "well, but compared to the underclass in the third world he is not in poverty." I agreed, but see where we 40 somethings took that? Not to pitchforks and torches, but to bowing our heads that we are not in Darfur. It's a crazy-ness, because we have a right to get mad at the greed that says it's okay for a Presidential candidate to NOT KNOW how many fucking houses he owns off the top of his head, and a gifted white guy writer is semi-homeless for four years, but that's okay because, what, his wife doesn't own a brewery estate? And after all, at least white guy gifted writer isn't in Darfur. What is fucking WRONG with this picture? I don't get it sometimes.
A lot of boomers genuinely agree with the following simple rules:
- The world owes everyone on this planet a decent home and a enough to live on.
- And we've all been put here to help each other get there.
- We’ve got to give up greed on an individual level to make that happen.
Too many of the wealthiest people on the planet don't get that. Here's an extreme thought: what if everyone who subscribed to Real Simple, Voluntary Simplicity, and Yoga Journal had cashed in what they didn't need to live on, most of their 401K's, for Darfur? They didn't, and I'm not chiding them for that. I'm saying there's a huge difference between voluntary poverty for the sake of patting one's own back in yoga sun saluation. Welcome, America, to not-so-voluntary poverty. Greed is not good.
This is not a dollars and cents problem. It is a sense of right and wrong problem. Paul or whoever wrote this down for Paul in Corinthians and Ephesians, so many centuries ago, got it. (from the Weymouth Translation)
The weapons with which we fight are not human weapons, but are mighty for God in overthrowing strong fortresses. For we overthrow arrogant 'reckonings,' and every stronghold that towers high in defiance of the knowledge of God.I have my own myopia, in that I have surrounded myself with poor struggling writers online. So I think that’s who matters. We’re the creative class who won’t be adopted by Arianna for no money down, not because we’re holding out for her money but because we really truly don’t want it on her terms. I love the Twitter bio: “will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, will keep making things up and writing them down.” But that’s Neil Gaiman’s Twitter bio, the guy who wrote Coraline and Sandman. Age? 48, baby. A real job? Huh.
For ours is not a conflict with mere flesh and blood, but with the despotisms, the empires, the forces that control and govern this dark world--the spiritual hosts of evil arrayed against us in the heavenly warfare.
The squalid Left Bank is now virtual, you see. And we've even got a philosophy (natch) called New Puritanism. It's the perfect muckraker/progressive/'save the world and bite the hand that feeds' zeitgeist:
The terms New Puritan and Neo-Cromwellians were coined by Jim Murphy, associate director of the Future Foundation, to describe a perceived trend in British society. The term, which has been adopted by a number of main stream newspapers and other media, refers to the increasing tendency for the young middle classes to accept increasing regulation and self regulation of their life curtailing the "consumption culture". ...The Observer suggests a further example: at the point of sale in a major High Street store the assistant states "I'm duty bound to ask you if you want to open a store card with a preposterously uncompetitive interest rate". The reporter declines. "Good," he said, "I never push them, sometimes I don't even mention them, because they just encourage people to get into debt. Personally, I'd ban store cards." Clearly such suggestions have implications for many aspects of the economy...Gee, I'd like to buy that High Street store clerk a fair-trade latte. Wanna meet me after yoga class?