Jewish World Review July 20, 2001 / 29 Tamuz, 5761

Lewis A. Fein

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The Dot-Communist Manifesto: All Play and No Work -- REMEMBER the dot-commers, those decadent symbols of capitalist excess? Tattooed and ignorantly opinionated, the dot-commers (of which I was also briefly a member) now seem like another cultural relic - the social equivalent of George W. Bush at a Greenpeace rally, or Gary Condit before a taping of "America's Most Wanted".

Unemployed and dispirited, the dot-com generation shakes its fist (or worthless stock options) against an indifferent audience. Indeed, the image is harsh: companies must now earn or produce something; employees must dress properly; and Wall Street must act logically, not rapaciously. Yes, this contemporary Great Depression will take its toll. How will America's workforce, decades before it will even become eligible to collect Social Security, manage? How much longer until Generations-X and -Y revolt, enraged at the inflationary pinch of Starbucks and Niketown?

Of course, dot-commers may still pursue the American Dream. But the hard economic and cultural truth is something different. To invoke FDR, I see one-third of a nation overpaid, underworked and overeducated. For no nation can survive - indeed, no person should tolerate - the death of casual business attire, or expensive weekend calling plans.

Even worse, the dot-com political agenda is dead. Al Gore, the dot-com generation's Al Gore, is a distant memory; he symbolizes the false hope of bold political leadership. Yet Ralph Nader - in dot-com parlance, the political equivalent of IBM versus Gore's Apple Computer - is the true villain. How else to explain Gore's defeat to George W. Bush, a man wholly unconcerned with broadband, bandwidth, and yes, chlorofluorocarbons?

Thus, dot-commers must seek guidance from that lodestar of courage and good ethics: Hollywood. Denied a Democratic president, dot-commers cheer their television substitute, President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) of NBC's "The West Wing". No doubt this vicarious political thrill has its limits, but Hollywood's virtual president is nonetheless entertaining.

Dot-commers even endorse Hollywood's crude accounting, where profitability is non-existent and business experience unnecessary. After all, Hollywood remains the champion of the dot-com business model; films routinely exceed the most liberal budgetary constraints, while studio chieftains approve increasingly frivolous expenses. Naturally, investors rarely enjoy pleasure or profitability among the glitterati.

Perhaps then the dot-com generation is not dead, simply repositioned amidst the land of silicone and satyriasis. In fact, every producer is a potential venture capitalist; every screenwriter another entrepreneur; and every director a future executive. No wonder most aspiring actors are unemployed or destitute.

Yet dot-commers enjoy something greater than money: fame. It is this philosophy - that a table at an exclusive restaurant, or enrollment within a substance abuse program, is somehow better than stable work - that defines this new generation. Imagine dot-commers as the celebrities of technology, replete with nose rings and ecstasy.

Yes, shed a tear for the dot-com generation. These young individuals now must confront an enemy of enormous power and massive resistance - reality! Reality is harsh and . . . well, real. Reality lacks a pension plan; it neither offers health insurance or instant riches. Hence the allure of Hollywood, the proverbial land of make-believe.

The dot-com world of perpetual play is over. Former rags-to-riches-to-rags individuals will quickly discover an unavoidable truth - life - no, reality - continues. Creditors will locate debtors, and bills will further accumulate. Yet the dot-com generation enjoys its vacation from reality. Of course, reality will soon awaken these individuals. Meanwhile, let a new clarion call embolden these future leaders: Dot-commers of the world, unite!

You have nothing to lose but your Birkenstocks.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Lewis A. Fein