What to make of the #occupy “movement?” Well, come to think of it, I unknowingly did say something about it a few weeks back when I wrote a far too long post on Joe Pug’s contemporary folk song I Do my Father’s Drugs. So my contribution to the punditry’s occupation with #occupy will be to provide an edited version of that post here. The song was written around 2008, and here is the first stanza:
When the party starts on Monday,
Christmas starts in June,
when no one minds I’ve just arrived and I’ll be leaving soon,
if I return with eyes half-opened
don’t ask me where I was,
I do my father’s drugs
Pug is saying there’s something odd about these times: we do things by rote, out of proper time. “Partying” is a daily occurrence, not connected to a work-week, not done to celebrate any particular event. The party…no longer seems even about cultivating friendships and connecting, for no-one really cares if our narrator is there or not. The party is on automatic. …
As for the rest of the song, things get “political”:
When every revolution
is sponsored by the state
there’s no bravery in bayonets
in tearing down the gates.
If you see me with a rifle
don’t ask me what it’s for
I fight my father’s war.
This might be a comment on Bush’s democracy-promotion in Iraq…
A more convincing reading is that… …it is particularly the present-day radicalism that is the forced and sponsored thing. It’s the young lefty who gets extra participation points in her Service Learning or Peace Studies course for joining the rally or signature drive that these lines are really meant to speak for. It’s the sense a young protester has that his desire to protest against the Iraq war is all-too-welcomed by his elders. Their struggle against the Vietnam war hovers over everything, so that the cause he has been told he is crucial to turns out to be constantly framed and even organized as a refighting of his father’s “war.” …
When hunger strikes are fashion
And freedom is routine
All the streets in Cleveland are named for Martin Luther King
You will see me at the protest
But you’ll notice that I drag
I burn my father’s flag
The last true excitement felt on the left was given it by the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Vietnam War cause, and the Sexual Revolution, but now that the freedom sought by the first and last really has been basically achieved, and proves disappointing once it becomes routine, there seems nowhere to go, nowhere to direct those 1789/1917 desires. …
I hold that our times are caught in a cultural cul-de-sac, ever-repeating the same…cycles and styles. The 90s saw the final consolidation, moderation, and normalization of the 60s cultural revolution. …And part of the established pattern is the free person “jumping into politics” from time to time, as Plato and Tocqueville both put it, and typically into leftist causes. But the bottom line is that the causes are tired and have felt ever more so since the late 90s. For a few years, the Iraq War and then Obama breathed new life into progressivism generally, and thus perhaps into rock’s radicalism also, but as Pug’s song witnesses, something about it felt forced, felt dictated yet again by the liberal-boomer culture-rulers.
…The song’s narrator feels obliged to show up at the protest—the protest community is in some way his—but his heart is not in it: You’ll notice that I drag.…
It is unclear what may happen to that drag and that habitual radicalism if a yet more serious and more youth-unemploying failure of the economy now occurs. …
So that’s my self-edit. My explanation, then, of #occupy? In part, it’s due to the real impact of a horrible economy on young people. Of course not a few of them would be angry, and especially if leftist, at their wit’s end.
But in larger part, it’s due to old drugs.