Monthly Archives: October 2011

Steyn: American Autumn

American Autumn

by Mark Steyn,   October 8, 2011 4:00 A.M.

The zombie youth “occupying” Wall Street are contemptuous of the world that sustains their comforts.
Michael Oher, offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, was online on Wednesday night when his Twitter feed started filling up with tributes to Steve Jobs. A bewildered Oher tweeted: “Can somebody help me out? Who was Steve Jobs!”

He was on his iPhone at the time.

Who was Steve Jobs? Well, he was a guy who founded a corporation and spent his life as a corporate executive manufacturing corporate products. So he wouldn’t have endeared himself to the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, even though, underneath the patchouli and lentils, most of them are abundantly accessorized with iPhones and iPads and iPods loaded with iTunes, if only for when the drum circle goes for a bathroom break.

The above is a somewhat obvious point, although the fact that it’s not obvious even to protesters with an industrial-strength lack of self-awareness is a big part of the problem. But it goes beyond that: If you don’t like to think of Jobs as a corporate exec (and a famously demanding one at that), think of him as a guy who went to work, and worked hard. There’s no appetite for that among those “occupying” Zuccotti Park. In the old days, the tribunes of the masses demanded an honest wage for honest work. Today, the tribunes of America’s leisured varsity class demand a world that puts “people before profits.” If the specifics of their “program” are somewhat contradictory, the general vibe is consistent: They wish to enjoy an advanced Western lifestyle without earning an advanced Western living. The pampered, elderly children of a fin de civilisation overdeveloped world, they appear to regard life as an unending vacation whose bill never comes due.

So they are in favor of open borders, presumably so that exotic Third World peasants can perform the labor to which they are noticeably averse. Of the 13 items on that “proposed list of demands,” Demand Four calls for “free college education,” and Demand Eleven returns to the theme, demanding debt forgiveness for all existing student loans. I yield to no one in my general antipathy to the racket that is American college education, but it’s difficult to see why this is the fault of the mustache-twirling robber barons who head up Global MegaCorp, Inc. One sympathizes, of course. It can’t be easy finding yourself saddled with a six-figure debt and nothing to show for it but some watery bromides from the “Transgender and Colonialism” class. Americans collectively have north of a trillion dollars in personal college debt. Say what you like about Enron and, er, Solyndra and all those other evil corporations, but they didn’t relieve you of a quarter-mil in exchange for a master’s in Maya Angelou. So why not try occupying the dean’s office at Shakedown U?

Ah, but the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at. At Liberty Square, one of the signs reads: “F**k your unpaid internship!” Fair enough. But, to a casual observer of the massed ranks of Big Sloth, it’s not entirely clear what precisely anyone would ever pay them to do.

Do you remember Van Jones? He was Obama’s “green jobs” czar back before “green jobs” had been exposed as a gazillion-dollar sinkhole for sluicing taxpayer monies to the president’s corporate cronies. Oh, don’t worry. These cronies aren’t “corporate” in the sense of Steve Jobs. The corporations they run put “people before profits”: That’s to say, they’ve figured out it’s easier to take government money from you people than create a business that makes a profit. In an amusing inversion of the Russian model, Van Jones became a czar after he’d been a Communist. He became a Commie in the mid-Nineties — i.e., after even the Soviet Union had given up on it. Needless to say, a man who never saw a cobwebbed collectivist nostrum he didn’t like no matter how long past its sell-by date is hot for “Occupy Wall Street.” Indeed, Van Jones thinks that the protests are the start of an “American Autumn.”

In case you don’t get it, that’s the American version of the “Arab Spring.” Steve Jobs might have advised Van Jones he has a branding problem. Spring is the season of new life, young buds and so forth. Autumn is leaves turning brown and fluttering to the ground in a big dead heap. Even in my great state of New Hampshire, where autumn is pretty darn impressive, we understand what that blaze of red and orange leaves means: They burn brightest before they fall and die, and the world turns chill and bare and hard.

So Van Jones may be on to something! American Autumn. The days dwindle down to a precious few, like in whatever that old book was called, The Summer and Fall of the Roman Empire.

If you’ll forgive a plug for my latest sell-out to my corporate masters, in my new book I quote H. G. Wells’s Victorian Time Traveler after encountering far in the future the soft, effete Eloi: “These people were clothed in pleasant fabrics that must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though undecorated, were fairly complex specimens of metalwork. Somehow such things must be made.” And yet he saw “no workshops” or sign of any industry at all. “They spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things were kept going.” The Time Traveler might have felt much the same upon landing in Liberty Square in the early 21st century, except for the bit about bathing: It’s increasingly hard in America to “see how things are kept going,” but it’s pretty clear that the members of “Occupy Wall Street” have no plans to contribute to keeping things going. Like Michael Oher using his iPhone to announce his ignorance of Steve Jobs, in the autumn of the republic the beneficiaries of American innovation seem not only utterly disconnected from but actively contemptuous of the world that sustains their comforts.

Why did Steve Jobs do so much of his innovating in computers? Well, obviously, because that’s what got his juices going. But it’s also the case that, because it was a virtually non-existent industry until he came along, it’s about the one area of American life that hasn’t been regulated into sclerosis by the statist behemoth. So Apple and other companies were free to be as corporate as they wanted, and we’re the better off for it. The stunted, inarticulate spawn of America’s educrat monopoly want a world of fewer corporations and lots more government. If their “demands” for a $20 minimum wage and a trillion dollars of spending in “ecological restoration” and all the rest are ever met, there will be a massive expansion of state monopoly power. Would you like to get your iPhone from the DMV? That’s your “American Autumn”: an America that constrains the next Steve Jobs but bigs up Van Jones. Underneath the familiar props of radical chic that hasn’t been either radical or chic in half a century, the zombie youth of the Big Sloth movement are a paradox too ludicrous even for the malign alumni of a desultory half-decade of Complacency Studies: They’re anarchists for Big Government. Do it for the children, the Democrats like to say. They’re the children we did it for, and, if this is the best they can do, they’re done for.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2011 Mark Steyn

The following graphic from SDA illustrates Mark’s opening point rather dramatically:

Good reads also here and here (great cartoons!).


Gutmann: Hope for Occupy Wall Streeters!

Leaving a mark on Liberal Education…

There’s Hope for These Occupy Wall Streeters!

I actually have hopes for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now, before you dismiss me, let me explain.

I hope that one of the things we’re seeing down at Zuccotti Park is the first rustlings of what will eventually (though maybe not in our lifetime, comrades) become a full fledged revolution — not against capitalism but against what Rush Limbaugh likes to call Big Education and Michael Medved calls the Educational-Industrial Complex.

This is really what most of these kids are angry about, isn’t it? Most of them — except for the usual complement of old lefties and sundry off-their-meds street people — are, as many reporters have noted, college grads. One fellow interviewed last night on the Michael Medved radio show, for instance, was even a J.D. (Tellingly, he was not working in law — a symptom of the lawyer glut.)

They’re mad that they “can’t get jobs.” As Herman Cain points out, surely they can get some kind of job right now — just not in a trendy place like New York, Boston, or Seattle (cities where the Occupy movements have sprung up). In that time-honored Grapes of Wrath–esqe tradition, they could put Ma in the flatbed and set off cross-country to look for work. The job will probably be a low-paying one, and conservatives would do well not to sugarcoat this fact. Wages for entry-level and semi-skilled workers have barely budged in ten years. I credit this to employer’s wariness about hiring anyone at all. Hiring people (and all the litigation risks they present) is simply too risky unless that hire is obviously going to enhance the bottom line. Risks on the young and the untested are simply unacceptable in a tight economy tied down with regulation.

In short, if an Occupy Wall Street kid is ever inclined to look for work, the job he finds is not likely to be the groovy one he and his beleaguered parents envisioned when that $200,000 was shelled out for a four-year degree in poli-sci or women’s studies.

So, Occupy Wall Street kids, you’re right — there are some sleazy characters out there! But I wish you’d turn that laser of your rage on the educrats hiding behind their ivy-covered walls; the ones hawking the notion that without a four-year college degree, you’ll end up the gutter; the ones exploiting fear to sell a product that grows more expensive, and more shoddy, every year.

We haven’t had a bad enough economy to test this proposition in a while — an economy that forces employers to hire only the most essential workers — but what we are seeing these days is that a four-year liberal-arts degree is completely non-essential. The only twentysomethings I know who are gainfully employed and living like men, with their own apartments, cars, and girlfriends, are in the building trades. My upstairs neighbor has more work than he can handle designing and installing sound systems in large places like auditoriums and shopping malls.

If there’s going to be a revolution in this country, I would like one part of it to look like this: Vocational schools would be opened again (and celebrated, not marginalized) and parents would tell junior that a four-year degree is off the table unless he knows exactly how he can use it.

[Ed. note:  the article is worth a link and read just for the comments that follow – seems to struck a nerve. A couple of examples:]

My son’s 22, a recent college grad, in his third job since May, now safely ensconced as an apprentice at a (non-bailed out) NYC financial firm. Has his own apartment in Brooklyn, girlfriend, car. I bought him two suits in July but otherwise he pays his own way.

Conversation with him four nights ago, over lasagna at a little Italian place in Manhattan:

“Hey Dad, my friend Pat called and asked if I would go with him to occupy Wall Street”

“what did you tell him?”

“I told him that I already occupy a desk and 42 square feet on the third floor”

Ya gotta love your kids…


” … and parents would tell junior that a four-year degree is off the table unless he knows exactly how he can use it.”

I spent a good bit of time in academia before moving on to another career. I am convinced the two thirds of the kids in a typical state school have no business being there. One third just simply aren’t going to ever get what you’re trying to teach them. Another third will get it but never use it. They are there, bless ’em, just to get a degree because, the way the marketplace works, you just have (or did have, a few years ago) more opportunities with a degree.


Can’t stand when conservatives take an anti-intellectual stance. There’s more to a college education than getting a job afterwards. It offers one the opportunity to learn about great ideas. Students making foolish choices about their major does not impugn college education as a whole. It sounds like ms. Gutman blames the “educrats” rather than the students for the choices they make.

Your fire is misguided. Saying that most kids who get 4-year degrees are wasting their money is only anti-intellectual if you think that, to earn that degree, they underwent four years of rigorous intellectual stimulation. I had more intellectual stimulation in my freshman year in highschool than most American kids get in their four-year educations. It is precisely because I admire intellectual stimulation that I think most American kids in college are wasting their time….. Intellectualism had to be defined down to justify getting these kids’ (or therir parents’) money to pay for their ‘education’….