You may find this interesting. In light of what’s going on with Occupy Wall Street, The New Yorker dug up some pieces that E.B. White wrote about the “Bonus Army” demonstrations in 1932. TNY noted that “While deeply sympathetic to the plight of the jobless in the Great Depression (see this Comment from earlier in the year), White was largely dismissive of the Bonus Army.”
The piece went on to quote White directly:
In a democracy, there are a thousand, ten thousand groups…. Each has its own particular sorrow and its grievance; there exists no common tyranny against which to rebel, not even the tyranny of hard times. If you mixed bonus marchers with Kentucky miners, they would probably spend the rest of their lives arguing about what to rebel against.
I could identify with that. With White’s attitude, that is. One of the things that bothers me so much about political parties is that they are aggregations of people who pretend their aims are the same, and mesh perfectly — when they don’t.
But even more pertinent to the protests we see today is this bit: “there exists no common tyranny against which to rebel.” To see the OWS as coherent, as having a point, you have to believe that there is some identifiable They that is oppressing the demonstrators.
But I could also identify with this sympathetic observation from a week later:
Being out of a job perforates the walls of the mind, and thoughts seep off into strange channels. To say that the country is as rich as it ever was is a joke: something is gone that used to be here—the spirit of millions of men is gone, and a man’s spirit is just as real a natural resource as gold or wheat or lumber.
While I don’t see it that darkly, I do see the world as vastly changed from what it was a generation ago. Different for my children than for me. Funny thing was, I felt like things were harder for us than for our parents. Yeah, we had more stuff as a generation — but it took two salaries even to be in the middle class, which had not been true for our parents’ generation.
Anyway, just some tidbits for thought…