Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fisking another ridiculous proposed list of demands for #OWS

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Occupy Wall Street logo: Ballerina on a bull (or something)
Still no idea what this is supposed to mean

I’m starting to feel like I’m always on the (purportedly) wrong side of public protests these days. Earlier this year, I shoveled some crap over (a presumably small faction of) Anonymous for their roughshod Internet vigilantism; and last month, I pointed and laughed at a “proposed list” of ridiculous demands for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. The thing is, I really don’t mean to come across as a contrarian; I honestly have nothing but respect and support for these groups’ goals and motives, if not their methodology. Maybe they’re overly idealistic; perhaps I’m just overly pessimistic. I dunno.

But then, I come across something like this new “proposed list” of Occupy Wall Street demands, with gems like these …

  • Ban the private ownership of land.
  • Make homeschooling illegal.
  • Reduce the age of majority to 16.

… and sweet holy fuck, this is even crazier than that last list. You just know I’ve got to tear into this. It’s for the good of humanity. (Or something like that.)

Now, let me state the obvious right up front: Yes, these “demands” are really just the writings of one random forum user on the purportedly official Occupy Wall Street website, and as such, it would be unfair (if not outright idiotic) to attribute these positions to Occupy protesters at large. But I’m not claiming that these are demands espoused by everyone protesting income inequality, nor am I attempting to dismiss the movement as a whole through this silly list. Merely, I am trying to shine some light on how every cause, including the truly rightful ones, have their fringe elements, and that we cannot allow these kooks to become representative of the movement as a whole.

Which brings me to this debunking.

Raise the minimum wage immediately to $18/hr. Create a maximum wage of $90/hr to eliminate inequality.

Why, yes, what a brilliant idea, that. Surely, there cannot be any problems with giving everyone, especially those employed by the thousands of small businesses that can barely stay afloat as it is, a $720 weekly paycheck (or $540 – see below). Pray tell, from whence cometh such economic mastery?

Institute a 6 hour workday, and 6 weeks of paid vacation.

You know, there’s a reason that workdays are divided into three equal, eight-hour shifts. For one thing, the thought of adding a third rush hour to the day will probably send untold numbers of civil and transportation engineers scrambling for cyanide pills. And that’s not even to mention the world-ending migraines that would develop all around at the idea of rearranging our entire modern society to fit four work shifts. There’s a fine line between idealism and foolishness; this “demand” doesn’t so much blur it as nuke it.

Pass stricter campaign finance reform laws. Ban all private donations. All campaigns will receive equal funding, provided by the taxpayers.

I’m all for regulating political campaigning and imposing reasonable fundraising limits – or, at the very least, reversing the Supreme Court’s absurd “corporations are people” ruling – but actually prohibiting people from donating to their candidates of choice if desired really rather smacks of fascism to me. How can one reasonably call the government a democracy if the people no longer have the right to financially support their favorite contenders for office?

Allow workers to elect their supervisors.

The workplace is not a democratic government, and nor should it be treated as one. (I do understand the confusion, though; I mean, they both got hierarchies and paperwork and stuff, right?)

Lower the retirement age to 55.

Because what this bleeding economy needs is an even weaker workforce. Basic math: The current normal U.S. retirement age is 67 years. There are roughly 43.8 million U.S. citizens between the ages of 55 (the proposed new retirement age) and 69 (closest to the current normal retirement age of 67).* Using this OECD table, one can calculate that just over 20 million of these seniors are currently employed. Now, that may only constitute a fraction of the entire U.S. workforce, but nonetheless, can someone – perhaps the apparent economic prodigy who presented this new retirement age – explain to me how, exactly, losing just about 20 million workers is supposed to be a good thing, especially with the current need for economic recovery?

Ban the private ownership of land.

What in the world does this even mean? Is this person seriously proposing that the notion of private property be eradicated? All structures, residential or otherwise, are now to be the property of the government? Am I reading this correctly? I understand the merits of socialism (on paper, anyway), but this is just ridiculous, if not outright insane.

Make homeschooling illegal. Religious fanatics use it to feed their children propaganda.

Okay, no more ‘if’s – this is outright insane. Just off the top of my head: A) this is pure fascism (and only bolsters the stereotype of Leftists as advocates for Big Government); B) banning an activity because some of those who practice it are bad apples is irrational and unfair; C) like it or not, parents fully have the right to impart whatever cultural/religious teachings they wish upon their children, as they should, thereby making any prohibition of this a clear and inexcusable violation of religious freedom; and D) it’s foolish to think that taking kids out of homeschooling would somehow spare them from religious indoctrination, given that it would keep them out of the house for, at best, 40 hours a week, thus leaving over three times as much time for parents to teach them whatever they please, indoctrination or otherwise.

Oh, wait – the obvious solution thus becomes to take all children away from their homes permanently! They can just live and learn in perfectly secular, government-run compounds, thus removing absolutely all risk of them picking up on any fundamentalist nonsense.

If you don’t cringe in horror at such logic, even if you are the most ardent of secularist atheists, then you don’t deserve to have children.

Reduce the age of majority to 16.

I literally facepalmed when I saw this. Really? I mean, just freaking really? Because 18-year-olds have proven themselves to be so well prepared for adulthood thus far, so adept at shouldering the responsibilities and privileges of adulthood, and the idea is to set the bar even lower (in more ways than one)?

I … don’t even know what to say.

Ban private gun ownership.

Okay, I’ll admit that this one does have me a bit conflicted, as always. But, as I’ve previously stated, despite my dislike of the idea of allowing the hoi polloi to freely get their hands on deadly weapons, there’s something that’s just a little too authoritarian for my taste in banning the right to bear arms altogether. As always, what’s needed is a measured and moderated procedure – not a blanket statement in either direction. Those never seem to fare well when faced with human nature.

Immediate debt forgiveness for all.

Hey, you’re going broke and your only hope is to wait for those who owe you money to pay you back? Shit, you just went outta luck, pal. Instead, why don’t you grab a credit card – assuming the very notion of credit doesn’t collapse overnight what with the sudden disappearance of debt and repayment – and buy yourself a couple of nice beachfront manors? Hey, it’s not like you’ll ever have to pay for them. Not really.

Really, as was the case last time, the sentiments and mindset evident behind these demands are honorable, but that doesn’t make this list any less of a farce. You cannot – and will not – be taken seriously if this is the sort of thing that passes for reasonable and measured reform in your mind. Face it: We’ve all got our ideas of what a utopia would be like, and as much as what this list describes does sound like a sweet concept, it remains pure folly to believe virtually any of these have the slightest chance of swaying anyone in power over to your side, much less actually getting anything concrete done.

As always, the key to any reform is pragmatism: knowing what works and what doesn’t. Sadly, anyone who seriously believes that these are demands the people should be making of their government in this day an age is really just kidding themselves.