No need to mark it down on the calendar, but 2011 is on the verge of joining all those other years in which hypocrisy ruled triumphant, while idealism struggled to be heard amidst derision and scorn.
How many years in a row has that been the case? Christians might say 1,978. Baby boomers, vaguely recalling some events in 1968, might argue 43.
Whatever the number, practical pragmatists have quite a streak going. Even the Green Bay Packers would admire their winning record.
This year was notable for the emergence of the so-called Occupy Wall Street movement, which became so widespread it was often referred to merely as Occupy.
It came as a bit of a surprise. There hasn’t been a mass protest movement in North America since the anti-nuke marches during the Cold War era.
Typically, it’s easy to criticize the Occupy This and Occupy That activists. First of all, their very name is a throwback to the 1960s, a protest era largely discredited due to the emergence of selfishness as the defining trait among so many aging baby boomers.
They should have picked a new moniker that they could make their own, without creating any association with a bygone era. Rattle Wall Street could have worked.
Journalists would ask activists, “Why are you protesting?”
The Rattlers might reply, “We’re here to Rattle Wall Street. We want to shake up an economic system that is unjust and immoral.”
Newscasters caked with makeup and plastic hair would intone, “The one per cent were rattled today when they realized just how much they are detested by the 99 per cent.”
Like the hippies, yippies and New Leftists before them, the Occupiers face the dilemma of being instantly judged based on their looks.
Baby boomers may have pioneered aspects of looking weird — long hair, ridiculous clothes, etc. — but many middle agers still don’t get the metal-through-the-lip or the I-like-to-look-dead crazes.
You see some kid being interviewed on the news who has a shaved head and a facial tattoo, and what’s being said becomes secondary to the preposterous image. Whenever I see a shaved head, I think, “Man, tattoo a number on your forearm, too, and go for the total Concentration Camp look.”
This is a mistake. Jumping to judgment based on personal appearances is tempting, but shallow. The message is important. Looks aren’t.
In hindsight, who was right about the Vietnam War — Richard Nixon or Abbie Hoffman? One looked clean-shaven, well dressed and respectable, while the other didn’t. One sent thousands of young Americans to fight and die in a pointless war in Asia, while the other didn’t.
The Occupiers’ main message is important, and valid. Economic injustice is one of the major issues of our time.
As with generations of idealists before them, the Occupiers face the dilemma of how to mount an effective protest. Youthful baby boomers opted for sit-ins and be-ins, while their 2011 counterparts prefer camp-outs. Do those methods bring change and improve society? Can any protest method?
The answer is mostly up to viewers and witnesses. We can watch and respond, “Yes, those people have a point,” or, “No, those people are weirdos.”
It is a shame that so many Canadians have mocked the Occupiers. It’s even more of a shame that a judge determined that people’s right to walk their dogs in a park outweighs the Occupiers’ right to express their dissent by pitching tents on public land.
For years, baby boomers have lamented the lack of idealism among the young. Now that it’s here, we should say, “Welcome back.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.