Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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When Gil Scott-Heron penned the song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," he was talking of course about the corporatization of the counter-culture. He wasn't very subtle about it, either. "The Revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox in three parts without commercial interruptions." OK, we get it.

When the Revolution comes, if it ever comes, no, it will not be televised, at least in the sense that it will not be brought to us in three parts without commercial interruptions. When Scott-Heron said "the Revolution," he was talking about the victory of "the People," or "the Masses," over the Bosses, over the entrenched special interests, over the good ol' boys. That's the battle liberals and progressives are fighting today, albeit without the delusions of grandeur.

We don't need to worry about anything being televised. Today the left in this country, and this city especially, is swamped with revolutionaries in suede Pumas, the children of entitlement and the upper-middle class who pack rallies and protests, talk too loud at hipster bars and try so hard to be considered part of the class they grew up exploiting.

Who are these revolutionaries in suede Pumas? They work for big non-profits and pseudo-political organizations, drawing tiny paychecks they are secretly proud of and using coded language to disguise their bourgeois origins. They come from upper-middle class families, not rich enough for a trust fund but rich enough that they've never spent a waking minute worrying about their next paycheck. That, of course, is why they can afford to float on high, in some fairy bubble, dropping moral certitude on everybody who isn't working towards the revolution.

Really we should pity them, these revolutionaries, because they've fallen for the oldest trick in the book, perpetuated by the upper class: money is the root of all evil, and morally rewarding work makes you a better person. Right, that's fine and good: the bourgeois guilt keeps these kids from pursuing their own self interest, but their instincts for a comfortable life keeps them from committing to any real revolution. What a trick it is!

Some kid, parents Lakefront Liberals, moves through life lighter than air. Lands at a good college where his parents proudly encourage his experimentation and hardly shrug at his indiscretions. They pay for his schooling abroad, effortless trips to Paris, Prague, London, Mexico City. He's radicalized. A phone call gets funds dropped into his checking account, and he moves on. Comes back to the lakefront, and working for the "man" — previously his own family — is unconscionable now. Who works for money? Working to earn money is so pedestrian. A few years at a non-profit, some community organization, "slumming" it out there amongst the People! Or as they call them, "folks."

Or at least, that's how they refer to black people. They call them "black folks." White people they call, "white people." What makes one group of them "folks" and the other group "people" has never been completely clear to me. You'd have to ask one of these ersatz Wicker Park Trotskyites.

Then, of course, it's back to graduate school. Let's say — Northwestern's school of business. They'll study non-profit management. Kellogg! A Kellogg grad, neat beard shaven just so, free to pick his pet issue — immigration is a favorite. Immigrant rights, mixed up as it is with labor and Cesar Chavez and all those marches and the swirl of multiculturalism — always a plus — yeah, why not, immigration. A Kellogg grad, school of business — non-profit management. On daddy's stationary he writes grants and starts his organization, a man of the people, no corporate drone but part of the revolution! And he sets up his payscale and hires the next generation of bourgeois revolutionaries at unfair subsistence levels, but they revel in it, these revolutionaries in suede Pumas, pounding the pavement for "the People," who are somewhere, out there, where they've never been and can never really go. Oh, but how good they feel about themselves!

And with these as the foot soldiers of the left, these eternally out-of-touch revolutionaries in suede Pumas, who unwittingly look down their nose at the very people they purport to help — people who work for a living to make money, and who want more money, and who like owning nice things and the thought of sending their kids to college and occasionally spending a night out at a club. With these as the foot soldiers of the left, we wonder why we're shrinking? Our revolutionaries would never dare flash their in-born privilege by dressing it, or driving it, or drinking it or even eating it.

But they're out there, pounding the street for change, for the causes of the left. As the "revolution," if ever there was such a thing, moved forward it didn't get corporatized but institutionalized. The fire in the belly of working people fed up with their lot was seized upon by the kids of the upper middle-class, who did the only thing natural to them — figured out a way to control it so they could live comfortably, while maintaining the sense of moral certainty their insecurities demand. Fire in the belly turned into 501(c)(3)s, or (4)s, or whatever part of the IRS code justifies their fat Executive Director salaries, as they siphon jobs away from the public sector in the name of glorifying their own Liberalness.

Our revolutionaries in suede Pumas, patting themselves on the back while we drown.

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About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at .

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