October 7, 2011

Occupying Wall Street: The Social Contract Party?

I just visited the designated occupation site in Zuccoti Park several blocks from Wall St. itself. This picture is one of a few I took with my cell phone this afternoon. Thousands of protesters are using political signs, art, and music to get their message across. My sense is that by and large, they are thoughtfully and peacefully protesting against what they perceive to be a lack of business ethics stemming essentially from a corporate breach of an implied social contract to provide the American middle classes with a basic level of economic security. A manifesto of their demands can be found here.

I struck up a refreshingly rational political, cultural, and economic discussion with a British man filming some of the activities with a digital camcorder. He lives in the U.S. and was obviously rather well informed. He was not a radical by any means. He even lauded the mainstream press, namely, CNBC's recent national economic news coverage. So the movement is attracting a great number of reasonable and well-informed people who are not in the least bit shrill or closed minded. This is a refreshing contrast with many self-described Tea Party members and is why I hesitate to call this movement a budding leftist Tea Party.

It remains to be seen if it will have any impact on either raising corporate consciousness or increasing government regulation to meet  any of its manifesto's goals. Much will likely depend on how many other groups come out to join them. Thus far, they have been enjoying increasing union support. Perhaps if a popular political rock group such as Radiohead or U2 decides to perform a concert there, this could provide a legitimizing imprint strong enough to launch a renewed leftist movement across the United States.

It has been somewhat surprising that while there is a rightist Tea Party, there is no current left-wing analog. So if these protests ultimately lead to one--complete with its own televised electoral debates--that would certainly be a worthwhile achievement. In this case, it would have to come up with a name. Perhaps the Social Contract Party?

In any case, for now Mayor Bloomberg has said that they can stay. And that's a start.