Business, Finance & Economics

#OWS: The hidden message behind protests


A man who identified himself as Brendan Watts is seen with blood on his face while surrounded by three police officers in Zuccotti Park on November 17, 2011, in New York City. A fight broke out between protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street and police, in which Watts was injured.


Andrew Burton

In case you missed it today on GlobalPost here's my latest column, which deals with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement.

Here's the big idea, as police crack down and the movement plots its next move:

It all comes down to the social contract.

For most of our history, Americans have been okay with hard-working people getting rich, as long as the rules of the game were fair to all. 

The trouble now, of course, is that too many people think the game is now rigged. 

The money quote:

In short, the social contract in America is broken. The optimistic glue that has successfully held together so much diversity, so many disparate dreams, for so long, is coming undone.

This is the unspoken message behind the Occupy Wall Street movement — in New York, Boston, Oakland, Portland and in all the other unhappy cities around the US. Its echoes can be heard around the world, from Tahrir Square, to London, to Tokyo, to every other place where economic inequality is today rearing its ugly head.

For complete GlobalPost coverage of the global Occupy movement, check out our ongoing reporting series Occupy World, which collects our growing coverage from New York, to Boston, Oakland, Chile, Tokyo, London and beyond.

In other smart Occupy coverage:

I came across this interesting blog post today from photographer Melissa Golden, who detailed her recent experiences at Zuccotti Park in New York, and compared them with the many other protests she's covered over the years. 

Here's some of what Golden had to say:

I talked to some interesting and kind people, but also met a few profoundly mentally ill individuals. Given the ratio, it made me wonder who was filling the ranks of Occupy. I personally believe the shrinking middle class is a lethal threat to American democracy and that political and financial reforms in this country are beyond necessary, so I applaud the general sentiments expressed by the Occupy movement, but lack of leadership and a cohesive message and a plan is nothing to be proud of. It’s easy for middle America to dismiss the movement outright when Occupy lets itself be represented by its most fringe elements. I asked one curiously dressed boy why they didn’t consider occupying the Brooks Brothers across the street and getting some suits so as to send a strong visual message that they are to be taken seriously. He said “Wow, I never thought of that. I’m going to mention it at the General Assembly tonight!” Of course, nothing ever came of it.

I don’t want Occupy to fail because things will only get worse and history is pretty clear about what happens when we reach a true breaking point. I’d rather shoot a bunch of idealists in a park any day than an actual armed revolution.

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