Sunday, November 27, 2011

Renouncing Materialism? Where Have I Heard That Before?

Will the Occupy Protesters be Yuppies in 20 years?  You Betcha!

A funny thing happened on the way to the revolution.  The Hippies and Yippies of the 1960's, who renounced materialism, capitalism, and all forms of modern American consumption, became the Yuppies of the 1980's and took consumption to a whole new level of excess.

It is one thing to get older and say, "Gee, the naive idealistic notions of our youth were not so realistic to apply in the modern world, let's modify them slightly to be more practical."

It is another thing entirely to say, "Screw that commie-crap, I want a BMW and a new espresso maker!"

And by the late 1970's, the Hippie movement - if it ever existed as a movement at all - had split irrevocably.  I remember, with my older Brother and Sister, visiting some family friends in Boston.  Their parents were so proud!  Their Daughter was the manager of a Pier One store and had a new BMW 318i.  And she and her husband were fixing up an old row house, in the style of "This Old House" - which was just starting to air on PBS.

My Brother, of course, living on a commune, was livid.  How could these people "sell out to the man?"  Perhaps he felt they had betrayed the cause.  Or perhaps he was starting to wonder if living in an unheated barn in Vermont, in the winter, was all it was cracked up to be.

But more and more of that generation gravitated toward materialism, particularly once they started having children.  And besides, you could "change the world" through consumerism - simply by making better choices - paper or plastic, or perhaps "fair trade" coffee!

But of course those early, underpowered 3-series BMWs lead to more sophisticated and powerful 5-series.  And at they garnered promotions and pay raises, suddenly it seemed that they "needed" more toys and things, and of course larger homes.  And before you knew it, the Baby Boomer generation was pretty much indistinguishable from their parent's generation, except that they have far nicer shit and far more of it.

So will the same thing happen to today's "Occupier" crowd?  Well, again, never confuse a news story with a "movement".  The "Occupy" people represent a tiny minority of public opinion.  It is just a loud minority and one that has good visuals for the TeeVee Nooze.  But even among people named "Rainbow" and "Ketchup" change is in the air, and change they would vehemently deny at this stage in their lives.

Yes, there will be some Commie true-believers who will actually think everyone is serious about this anarchy crap.  And they will feel cheated, when, 10 years from now, when everyone shows up for the "Occupy" anniversary party, how many folks will be driving luxury cars.

But people get older and they get jobs and the settle down and have kids.  And they realize that the "system" isn't going away anytime soon, and moreover that it ain't such a bad system, considering the alternatives.  And moreover they realize that they are the system and that they can change the system from within.

And yes, while the Hippies became Yuppies, times have a-changed since 1968.  Opportunity for minorities and particularly women have increased dramatically.  If you doubt me, watch some old television commercials or shows from that era.  Back then, it was a big joke on the "Tonight" show, if you had one of those "Lady Doctors".  Today they make up about half the profession.  We have come a long way, baby.

And the "evil corporate world" has changed as well.   This was brought home to me when I visited a client in Austin, Texas.   Everyone wore blue jeans and casual clothes.   Rock and roll bands played in the lobby.   I thought to myself, "This is a long way from what IBM was like in 1970!"   Our generation took over - and changed the world - from within.   The next generation will do the same to their world.

So, yea, changes will occur.  I am certain that our current tax system, which favors the wealthy to a great extent (our progressive tax rates are negated by the regressive nature of the Social Security tax, plus the availability of deductions in the higher brackets) will be "reformed" by allowing the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy to die.  And that right there could make all the difference in the world, in terms of distribution of wealth.