The OWS movement embodies certain qualities which we don't seem to fully understand. It's neither a generational or an issue-driven movement. It lacks solutions. It has no direction or focus. There is a reason for this, defined many years ago by Eric Hoffer.
Hoffer was skeptical of mass movements, feeling they epitomized juvenile behaviors. He was able to determine why, pointing to a lack of self-esteem which the protesters exhibited. Hoffer felt self-esteem was critical in the development of adult behaviors. He outlined how widespread affluence and the rapid changes in modern society lead to a desire to attain adulthood more quickly, but with certain rites of puberty being shortchanged, particularly with regard to work and endeavor.
In his view an extended adolescence led many to seek outlets for their inability to define themselves. These people, lacking in self-identity, defined themselves as they saw themselves described by others. There was an intense self-loathing and guilt regarding position and place. This was a direct result of low self-esteem. Self-esteem was not being cultivated as many of those in protest movements didn't work, and were incapable of understanding their responsibilities. From this perspective, all mass movements were interchangeable, regardless of what they sought to promote.
Self-esteem and self-contempt have specific odors; they can be smelled. ~Eric Hoffer
Hoffer pointed out that blue collar workers rarely joined protest movements. Since they tended to join the workforce at a young age, they developed their identities earlier than protesters. Their self-esteem was in place and didn't require an outlet for juvenile behaviors.
Over the last 10 years, the US has seen rapid change in society and economics. In addition, widespread affluence has led to some strikingly similar social constructs to those Hoffer had observed.
What is different between Hoffer's time and the last 10 years, however, is the nature of education. Hoffer's protest movements had more stamina and focus for a single reason. Its children were educated differently. Recently, a good portion of the US has spent considerable effort in developing self-esteem for school age kids. Achievement and reward have been pushed aside in some places, as they were viewed as obstacles to development. Success was viewed as an impediment, holding some children down at the expense of others.
There is something good in men that really yearn for discipline. ~Vince Lombardi
The goal of self-esteem has become a means unto itself. We have shifted focus from achieving a goal to just looking at the goal. This has led to an unfocused approach to education and expression of self by many students. Where achievement and reward were once a means to an end, they have been pushed aside and rewards were given for the sake of reward itself.
Is it any surprise that OWS exhibits the traits we are seeing? Juvenile, unfocused, lacking in solutions or direction? This is precisely what educational authorities have wrought by not building up, praising, and rewarding achievers. We have attained a state of institutionalized mediocrity, and it has overwhelmed even the protest movements.
Hoffer, in defining the problem, had a solution. As would be expected from a man with his background, it involves the government filling in where society 'failed'. It seems more likely that rather than relying on the government to 'solve' anything, we need to focus more on the achievers in the world. By letting individuals push forth on their own, seeking to be the best they can be, we are all improved. We need to get back to rewarding and praising those who do, produce, and achieve, and stop being so self-indulgent. We don't need self-esteem for the sake of self-esteem. We need self-esteem as a result of productivity and achievement defining who we are. We achieve nothing if all we do is take from one and give to another or ourselves. To paraphrase Thomas Sowell, we demonize the producers, subsidize the slackers, and canonize those who complain.
Right now in a large sense I think, we’re engaged in a struggle which is far more fiercely contested than anything, and it's a struggle for the hearts and it's a struggle for the souls and minds of all of us. And it's a game in which there are no spectators, only players, and it's a struggle which is going to test all of our courage, and all of our stamina, and all of our teamwork...At no other time in our history have the prizes and the perils at one and the same time been so great. But I think we have to decide whether we want to provide a full life for humanity or destroy ourselves with our own problems. And the test is going to be whether man mistakes the growth of wealth and power with the growth of spirit and character. Or like some infant who is playing with matches destroys the very house he may have inherited...
Today we have a new ideology - that is to be homogeneous, no letter grades, no classification. The only line that some of our people seem to want today is a line between passing and failing. There is no hunt for excellence in other words. And you and I both know that this is the easy way. The prevailing idea today is to take the easy way - and that effort and that work are unnecessary. ~Vince Lombardi
It's another typical fall weekend here in New England, with cooler days predominant and fast fading foliage colors. The foliage wasn't as good this year as seen in past years, not so much for the actual colors than the scattershot...
Tracked: Oct 23, 20:47