The narcissism of liberalism
The Occupy Wall Street movement is the epitome of the narcissism of liberalism. Its cacophony of causes may seem incoherent, but it is unwittingly articulate in describing America’s Left. It gives unfiltered voice to the conflicting agendas, the limitless demands, and the proposals without end points that liberals continually espouse, but for which they are rarely held accountable.
Almost five months old, we now know with what Occupy Wall Street is occupied: itself. It is Woodstock without the music, but with better tents. Yet even Woodstock and the Summer of Love ended. Occupy’s encampments still continue, though their purpose is no clearer.
When will they leave? Will they emerge from their tents someday without seeing their shadows, like a political Punxsutawney Phil, and will we then have just six more weeks of sanctimony? Unlikely.
Occupy cannot say what their ends really are, so of course they cannot know when they have achieved them. This does not bother Occupiers, any more than it bothers the broader swath of liberalism from which they spring.
Both Occupy and America’s Left are awash in goals that are at cross-purposes, infinite entitlements, and open-ended proposals. Occupy is just unabashed about it.
Occupy arrogates for its denizens alone the public spaces they inhabit. And inhabit, and inhabit, and inhabit. If this is a physical manifestation of free speech, it is for their speech alone. And when those rights are to be restored to “the public” will come at the determination of Occupy Wall Street.
They want to redistribute what they consider to be the nation’s malapportioned wealth. Yet they are peopled by those who apparently can afford prolonged time away from earning a living. And in this exercise in extended urban excursion, they claim to speak for those who are struggling to make ends meet.
Obviously, their plans are wholly dependent on the wealthy. They need plutocrats to fund their programs, to produce the wealth necessary to pay for their good intentions—and produce it in copious quantities.
These inconsistencies are beside the point, because they aren’t Occupy’s point in the first place. Occupy’s real end—not simply its means—is about focusing attention on itself. It is the very embodiment of narcissism.
As liberating as it may seem in this day of relentlessly focus-grouped and over-polled agendas, there is a point to this approach. The goal is to seek to understand what others want and to give it to them. By doing so, the general public is more likely to accept it. It is the modern means to the old adage: Give the people what they want.
Occupy must realize just how out of step it is with essentially the entirety of America. Its members should be asking themselves—if they are trying to persuade others to accept their views—how to present those opinions in ways that somehow reflect the 99% for whom they profess to speak.
Yet they do not do so. Everything, even effectively communicating, is secondary to making themselves visible. To demonstrating the purity of their intentions, not the efficacy of them.
Liberalism can often be the same way, just to a lesser degree. By its intentions, not it results, the Left demands to be judged. If its goal is pure, the end must be as well—failure being due to some external element. Conversely, if the intent is adjudged “impure,” as is everything that emanates from the marketplace, then so too is the result.
Because those on the Left see economic forces as illegitimate, there is nothing the market does that the political state cannot somehow improve. This is the reason why “nonprofit” is the highest badge of honor they can bestow—regardless of result—and “for profit” an understood slur, regardless of its productivity.
Liberalism has come to espouse using someone else’s resources to realize its ends. The left hand of the Left forever extends into the right pocket of America. And because others foot their bills, there is no cost liberals are not willing for others to bear—so there can always be another program, another goal to be reached.
Like performance art, Occupy acts out liberalism’s ideals. It is as unapologetic about its contradictions as it is oblivious to them. Both are quite comfortable in the role of redistributing wealth they do not produce. And both are equally appalled that their means be questioned when they see their ends as so pure.
Occupy is liberalism’s id. It is completely unfiltered. And while its members tell us little about themselves, they speak volumes about the Left. In ironic reality, they themselves are America’s 1%—just a very different single percent than those they harangue. They are the self-absorbed fringe, bearing no relation to the rest of the nation, and apparently perfectly content to be so.