You can ask, I guess..
Against my better judgment, I engaged a young “walk-out” correspondent on Facebook. I couldn’t help noticing a striking similarity to a conversation I had with an “Occupy” couple a few years ago.
In both cases, the young, earnest protesters were unapologetic for having no idea what they were talking about. They knew something was wrong. They knew it had to be fixed. But when I asked them what policy or legislative solutions they were proposing, they appeared startled, even annoyed, as though the question were insulting. “Google that,” one of them said. “Other people can explain the problem better than I can.”
“But, wait,” I asked. “You were out there protesting. You can’t tell me what you’re asking for?”
“You don’t respect that we were protesting for something we believe in?”
“Protest is great,” I said. “Protest is American. But what are you asking for?”
“An end to violence in schools.”
“And how are you going to do that?”
“Uhhh..dude.. the government has to do that. We can’t do that.”
“And how will the government do that?” I asked.
And that’s where, apparently, Google comes in. This matched a conversation I had with a photographer some years ago, a woman in her late twenties who traveled all over the world charging a great deal for her work. She and her boyfriend were what I would have to call deeply in love with the Occupy movement. They appeared to be having the political equivalent of a threesome with the whole idea of young people occupying the lobbies of corporate America.
“So what’s the end game?” I asked.
“The one percent.”
“What about the once percent?”
“It’s unfair that income is so unevenly distributed.”
“So what do you plan to do about it?” I asked, pondering the very sizable payment I had just made these two for some promotional pictures and the lavish photo shoot they were about to supervise in Hawaii.
“Protest,” they said.
“Right, but to what end?”
“What do you mean?”
Seriously. They had no idea how to solve the problem.
They swore they weren’t socialists. They didn’t want a tax increase — at least not for themselves. They just thought there was something desperately wrong with the corporate America that paid them to do cushy, four-star photo shoots all over the world. They were in love with the idea of young people creating little impromptu villages in public parks and walking around shirtless and pretending they didn’t care about their smart phones and their $300 pre-ripped jeans.
Some of the older folks, my generation, are guilty of actually applauding this festival of the feckless . “Look,” they say, “they are doing something; they are getting involved; they are showing their passion. Don’t ridicule them for showing their heart.”
“Let’s talk solutions then,” I respond. “Let’s let teachers arm themselves. Let’s put security on campus.”
“Now you’re making it political.”
“Not political. Practical.”
“And that’s the problem.”
I think there might be something in the water these days. After a long exchange after this pattern, after being told I was offering no solutions, when, by my humble reckoning, I was the only one offering any solutions, I just signed off with:
“Well, give yourselves a prize for participating.”
Their response, without a trace of irony?
“Thanks! We will!”