By FRANK J. FLEMING

Last Updated: 12:34 AM, October 18, 2011

Posted: 10:39 PM, October 17, 2011

This economic climate has been so hard for everyone that many of us have overlooked its effect on one of our nationís most vulnerable groups: the hippies.

With all the focus on people who want to work but canít, itís easy to forget that things are also tougher on those who never wanted to work in the first place. Now the hippies have started the Occupy Wall Street movement to get the attention they deserve, but is America ready to listen to hippies again?

You might think that high unemployment has no effect on hippies, who were never looking for work, but youíre forgetting how much they depend on the resources of others. With everyone struggling, no one is really in the mood to listen to hippies demand free health care and student-loan forgiveness.

This is really hard on hippies, because thatís not something they can understand. Try to explain how economics works, and theyíll just tilt their heads, furrow their brows and point at what they want, never comprehending why someone canít just hand it to them.

Plus, right now people are looking at their budgets and realizing how much easier things would be if they didnít have to support their adult children anymore. And who is hardest hit by that? Thatís right: the hippie. So in this economy, itís not so much that hippies canít find jobs as the threat that they may actually need to start looking for them.

But the effect of the recession on hippies is only part of their problem; much worse is the effect on their favorite activity: protest.

The protest is the hippieís reason for existence. In fact, by looking at protest attendance, you might conclude that the most oppressed group in American society are white college students.

But now people with actual problems are out protesting, which has stolen attention from the hippies. Groups like the Tea Party have easy-to-understand complaints, such as the governmentís spending more than it takes in, and thatís given a new standard to protesting that the hippies canít quite comprehend.

Theyíre used to ranting vaguely about ďthe systemĒ and ďthe man,Ē but now people want more specifics, and it confuses them.

They thought complaining about the ďgreedĒ of ďWall Street bankersĒ was more specific than they usually are. Maybe that doesnít really sync with their desire for student-loan forgiveness (as loaning $100,000 to people allergic to work isnít so much ďgreedĒ as plain stupidity), but no one seemed to care about coherency before.

Thatís why they get so indignant when people ask what their demands are -- figuring out what they want is other peopleís job; they always just made noise. A hippie protesting is like a baby crying: It doesnít know what needs to be done -- or often even exactly what the problem is -- it just knows something is wrong, so it makes noise until an adult comes and fixes things. But when people already know something is wrong and are trying to fix things, the baby crying is nothing more than headache-inducing.

Thatís the dilemma for hippies. They have no place when people must deal with real problems. You donít see hippies in war-torn Third World countries; useless idiots are a luxury.

When America has a great economy again, people will feel a bit guilty about their prosperity and consider listening to hippiesí complaints. But while people have actual problems, they have no desire to listen to hippiesí rants. Thatís the irony: Things need to improve a lot before people will bother listening to hippies complain about how bad things are.

Frank J. Fleming is a political humorist.

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