Paul Andersen: Fair Game |

Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

My only direct experience with the Occupy movement was during a late fall bike ride when I stopped at the Meredith Store in the upper Frying Pan Valley. On a sheet of notebook paper tacked to the bulletin board was scrawled: “Occupy Meredith.”

Sympathetic with OWS, I decided to occupy Meredith – on my own. I had no megaphone, no manifesto and no audience, so I simply sat on the bench and occupied. The futility of the Occupy Wall Street movement became clear to me at that moment as an act of radical impotence.

Today, as the last die-hard Occupiers are evicted from public places and shunted from the national stage, the Occupy movement is fractured and vague. Last week OWS announced it had gone online, making it a virtual protest, which it has been from the beginning.

There never was a critical mass to OWS, just a handful of frustrated people holding an old-fashioned sit-in. The movement had clout only in its novelty, which the media adores, but the outcome was rather pathetic. The disconsolate protesters must have elicited titters, if not outright guffaws, from the “banksters” in nearby high rises who were staging a far more comfortable occupation of Wall Street in plush offices behind a phalanx of security guards.

Not only was OWS never a real threat, the 99 percenters had their math wrong. It should have been 99.99 percent. According to recent statistics, the wealthiest 0.01 percent of Americans took home half of the nation’s capital gains last year.

OWS discreetly distanced itself from charges of class warfare, but that’s exactly what it was as protesters attempted to shame the ruling elite. That game had no traction, however, because there is no shame in a society where the exalted top percentile is revered with entitlements to an outlandishly large share of the Commons.

America has promulgated a class system since its beginnings. Wealth piles up on its top tiers like snow on an evergreen and evaporates from the lower and middle tiers as in a warm summer rain. The American education industry serves as gatekeeper to the top of the pyramid while the job market conspires to consolidate a cadre of the highest performers for deification. Equal opportunity in America is written on thin parchment.

Half the U.S. Congress are millionaires. Thanks to insider trading, the other half will soon be. An American president could be Catholic, African American, Jewish or female, but not poor. The class line is strict on this.

Now that OWS is banned from Zucotti Park, the occupiers should consider Aspen, where there is far easier access to the elites. But Aspen is far too complacent. A small army of Occupiers commutes daily up Highway 82, not to protest, but to serve the elites and bask in the largesse of conspicuous wealth.

Aspen has long prided itself as a classless society where the rich and the not-so-rich mingle socially at concerts and on the ski slopes. This egalitarian zeitgeist is a myth carried over from the 1960s, when it was cool for the upper classes to slum with flamboyant, over-educated ski bums who rarely posed a threat beyond their Bohemian seductions.

Historically, it was the Paepckes who first drew a class line through Aspen, simply by their bearing. Like a Hapsburg loyalist, Walter Paepcke bowed to kiss a woman’s hand. Elizabeth, cultivated and refined, served as a kind of grand duchess. The Paepckes practiced noblesse oblige by striving to lift Aspen from its bootstraps, which they did, both in culture and in real estate appreciation. The deeper values they instilled, however, have fallen prey to the pursuit of material status.

Aspen’s class division has surfaced most recently with labor rights activist and ski instructor non gratis Lee Mulcahy vilifying Jim and Paula Crown. His harangues hark to revolutionary France. Like Robespierre, his cause has merit, but his tactics are vainglorious.

Picture a guillotine on the corner of Hyman and Mill surrounded by a mob of Aspen’s laboring class chanting under Mulcahy’s thrall. The uproar is heard in the Little Nell penthouse of Jim and Paula Crown. Paula, bedecked in a powdered wig, summons a courtier. “What’s all the commotion?”

“The people are outraged. They have no ski-in-ski-out housing. They refuse to pay for parking. They can’t afford memberships to the Caribou Club. And the dispensaries have just raised their prices! What are they to do?!” Paula considers for a moment: “Let them ski powder.”

The American class system will endure until the last bankster is pilloried in Meredith.

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