The presence of scores, even hundreds, in some cases thousands, of protesting radicals calling for class-warfare & revolution, yet being allowed to occupy sites in cities across America for weeks on end, has raised many questions, as well as the indignation of moderate & conservative Americans. While many participants--from Wall Street to the Pacific--appear unkempt & scruffy, others present an almost respectable appearance; even claiming to have been "educated" & suffering from a dilemma on how to pay for that "education." (For which problem, they consider it appropriate to blame the economic system--a logical stretch of some magnitude.)
On reasoned reflection, it seems clear that the roots for this protest, with expressed wishes for actual revolution, are not in an economic system, but in what passes for "education" in contemporary America. We revisit what has increasingly passed for "education," in certain key disciplines in American schools, since at least the 1960s.
There are multiple roots to a shifting emphasis in the "Humanities" in American education over the past two generations. While not exclusive, the two most pernicious have arisen in what we will call "the Norman Cousins' pursuit" of a new world order--see Myths & Myth Makers--by emphasizing ways in which all peoples seem alike, rather than the traditional perspective on what makes each nation unique; and an uncritical rallying of most Left leaning American groups to embrace the "Civil Rights Movement," as both idealistic & practical. Both facets of this modern Egalitarian pursuit are based on wish lists, not reality. Neither is likely to contribute either to a more peaceful world, or to the betterment of any segment of society.
Because it is a denial of reality, Egalitarianism is the enemy of the very objectives many of the protestors claim to pursue--that is, if they are not simply trying to tear down those whom they should be seeking to emulate. The Cousins' effect undermines the sense of community--of common purpose--among those afflicted by it. The Civil Rights Movement undermines the individual's sense of personal responsibility, encourages one to blame others, rather than apply principles that actually work to human betterment, and thus augments the Cousins' effect by appearing to discredit traditional social identifications, which tend to inspire constructive behavior.
Neither facet of contemporary Egalitarianism actually contributes to better feeling between communities--either domestic or international. Yet both have had a massive influence on American education. By undermining traditional ethos & role models, they have obfuscated benefits of a many generational struggle for a moral perspective--the upward thrust of responsible individuals coming to grips with the eternal verities--by substituting the pretense that the answer to human problems is in a centralized dependence, rejected by America at her birth.
To understand why the idiocy of "Occupy Wall Street" appeals to some of our youth, one must look at this one sided approach in contemporary education--the emphasis on glorifying Egalitarian movements, rather than teaching the actual history of the settler peoples who built prosperous political/economies, literally from the ground up, in what are now the United States of America. The pursuit of internationalist ventures, social & economic equality--the leveling of human achievement--are increasingly honored in an evolving curriculum; while the importance of actual achievers, who formalized traditional American legal & social structures, are continually downgraded. In the process, the whole perception of what made America work, shifts from respect for property rights--going back almost 800 years to Magna Carta in England--to a doctrinaire make believe that people are interchangeable; that people have a right to expect Government to correct all the problems in their lives; and that, assuming everyone is, in fact, equal, those who succeed can only do so by somehow wronging those who fail.
What is involved, here, is a total reversal of values. In place of an ethos that honors those who built, those whose families risked everything in an uncharted wilderness--an ethos that reveres those Founders who put multi-generational achievements on the line, to preserve a set of values based upon individual responsibility in the face of future challenge--an ethos that taught humane & classic virtues, while mandating consistent priorities;--we have allowed those who would substitute a Marxist or "Mipip" ethos of envy, resentment & blame, to corrupt the minds of innocent youth with totally antithetical premises.
In place of a political/social structure, that mandated strictly limited Government at the Federal level, while allowing primary definitions of how best to protect the property, health, safety & morals of the people, to remain with the States & local communities--communities where individuals could pursue happiness defined by family premises;--that reversal of fundamental values has come to justify a corruption of power at the Federal level, supported by an educational vision of that Federal Government as the ultimate problem solver.
Do we dare not address this? Can we address it effectively without demonstrating the fallacy in the twin premises--that of the equality of human potential & the efficacy of remote political intervention in the dynamics controlling achievement in a consequently less free market? We do not suggest, in this, that all is perfect in the present workings of the market; nor do we suggest that recognizing that all of us differ in aptitudes, personalities & inclinations, is reason to treat anyone with disrespect. While what we have referred to as the "Norman Cousins pursuit" can never be acceptable (if it is not treason, it is certainly first cousin to treason); and, while we celebrate qualities that made America unique--the exceptional achievements of specific people;--there is no reason to abandon the policy of Washington & Jefferson, which treated each nation with respect--so long, of course, as they returned the courtesy.
We acknowledge that centralized Government is not the only factor that restricts a free market's ability to rapidly correct maladjustments in the cost & availability of resources & personnel; nor do we contend that all Government regulations are harmful. At the present time--partly because of forces independent of politics & Government, as well as those misguided political intrusions--there are people being paid amounts, on an annual basis, that it would be extremely difficult to justify on pure reason. Included in this category would be those at the higher levels of corporate management & those with true celebrity status in sports & entertainment.
With respect to corporate management, the problem has arisen over decades in an increased diffusion of shareholder control. While individual shareholders have lost effective control of the managers of their property, those managers--often relying upon "Peer Review," by those equally adrift--have gradually forgotten that they are in a Fiduciary position, where their first duty is to those shareholders; not to pay themselves ever increasing benefits, beyond how their services would be valued, if they actually had to negotiate with an effective proprietor. In sports & entertainment, the problem arises in what we might describe as a "Bread & Circus" effect. The good life in America has led to a frenetic pursuit of entertainment on a mass scale, not unlike what preceded the final days of Rome. Those able to satisfy that pursuit now command exorbitant fees.
Yet nothing in this justifies a demand for revolution; nothing justifies an appeal to envy & resentment--a demand for class warfare--or a Marxist mythology that blames those who succeed for the failure of others. But accepting that there will always be maladjustments in the interactions of a free people, does not deal effectively with the present challenge. What is the answer?
The first principle of Conservatism remains Truth. You cannot defend enduring values by misrepresenting or ignoring realities that pertain to those values. You cannot defend your traditions by remaining silent while others misrepresent those traditions or the realities that those traditions dealt with. Allowing the absurd premises of the Collectivist/Egalitarian Left to go unchallenged, while your youth are systematically convinced that your traditions have denied opportunity for others to achieve, creates a fundamentally flawed basis for discussion of any policy, the relative merits of any office seeker or the continuity of any people.
No one ever sat in a class, where the child on either side was their perfect equal. Some are better at one thing; some at another. No two apples on the same tree are equal. Equality is a mathematical concept. Equality before the Law is an abstraction, like equilibrium in an economy. In a fair legal system, equality before the Law is a reasonable objective; even as a true market economy always tends--even if the pendulum can never stop there--towards equilibrium. But the leveling of a society--the intrusion of centralized power to tear down the economic & social positions obtained by individuals or families--is the precise opposite of equality before the law. It is, also, the absolute antithesis to those benign market forces that tend towards equilibrium.
For too long, Conservatives have been afraid to tackle--even openly recognize--the Egalitarian nub of what is being taught; hence even some Conservative Republicans voted for an idiotic, "No child left behind," rationalization for Federal intrusion into local education--a prime example of compounded folly. There, as in other falsely premised efforts at "doing good," we have allowed Egalitarian ideologues to undermine what actually works to improve the human condition. While none of us enjoy being called names--the usual answer of Egalitarian demagogues to any challenge to their basic premises;--we need to get over such squeamishness.
As set forth in the August feature below, Egalitarianism sabotages the human potential. The real target of "Occupy Wall Street" is the aspiration to excel, to be the best one can be. The demand for Government to war on success, is a total repudiation of the actual premises of the Declaration Of Independence--a repudiation of the very concept of America. It is not enough to have Police clear the demonstrators, once they become a health hazard; that but ignores the real problem. We will either challenge the false egalitarian premises, now dominating American education, or we will effectively "pack it in" as a people.