12 December 2011

OWS Care Bears

Studiously Uncool | Jules Aimé | Imagine unicorn sweat Pt 1

That title was inspired by a great line from Walter Russell Mead:
... greens shrieked hysterically and furiously that the world’s house was on fire. That may be true, but the greens were suggesting that all we had to do was collect enough unicorn sweat and then we could use that to put out the fire.
He's writing about global warming but the line applies to all sorts of political issues. To take just the great protest of the day, think of how the Occupy protestors resisted putting up any coherent list of demands. They thought it was enough to point at a problem.

As I've said before, this movement is anarchistic in spirit: it is driven by a magical belief that if we destroy the thing we don't like something we will like will most wonderfully grow in its place. All we have to do is care enough. [...]
There is no Green Lantern Ring of Power, and the State is not a Fairy Godmother with a bippity-boppity-boo magic wand.

Not having workable proposals to deal with things you dislike does not earn you bonus points for "transcending traditional politics through consensual consciousness raising." Yes, identification of a problem is good, but that is only Step Zero.
It's not an accident. For generations now, well-meaning people have taught kids that imagination and will are all it takes. Do you remember the adult who told you that, "You can be anything you want to be, you just have to set your mind to it". [...]

I remember, way back in the 1980s, hearing gay activists say that the only reason a cure for AIDS had not been found was that governments didn't care about gay men. Similar arguments are made about breast cancer and women. The implication being that all we have to do is care enough and we'll cure these diseases. With it goes the corollary that any failure proves ill will.
This attitude really annoys me. Not only is it completely wrong, it's counterproductive. Dangerous, even, because attributing bad outcomes to ill will and hoping someone will magic-wand them away prevents us from addressing the real causes.

Let's take a more recent example. Perhaps the disaster response to Katrina was so bad because "George Bush Hates Black People." But on the other hand perhaps the response was so bad because FEMA is a screw-up organization lacking the proper incentive mechanisms and insulated from the consequences of poor performance.

Which one of those diagnoses is going to lead to interventions which make disaster relief more effective the next time around?
The protestors have no intention of fixing anything themselves or even of indicating what they think will solve the problem. Someone else who is somewhere else is supposed to already know how to solve the problem. This has to be the case because, in the protestors' view, the problems only exist because of ill will.

And thus the reason why these protests always end in violence and disorder. That's not an accident but the intended result. The point is to keep attacking and tearing down until someone else makes all the things you don't like go away.
A protest founded on fairygodmotherism, besides sowing the seeds of it's own uselessness, actually reinforces the status quo system because it teaches people that the real problem is that elected leaders don't care enough, so if we only elect some other people who care even more all our problems will be fixed. Rather than revolutionizing politics, protests like OWS only serve to further entrench the cult of personality.

No comments:

Post a Comment