Applaud the ‘Occupiers’

Applaud the ‘Occupiers’

I read Jared Silverman’s op-ed piece (“‘Occupying’ groups violate Lockean contract” Dec. 8) on the same day that the Associated Press reported the results of a poll showing that nearly half of all Americans “have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.”

Silverman upholds the “social contract” of John Locke as justification for an attack on the Occupy Wall Street movement. In his mind, it seems, only those who create a public nuisance are to be blamed for our current mess. Not the overpaid and over-privileged CEOs. Not the under-taxed billionaires. Not the bankers whose ingenious avarice created and then toppled the real estate “house of cards.” Not the public officials (both Republicans and Democrats) who, over the past three decades, have weakened regulations that might have averted today’s calamity. Not the Republicans who have become the party of “No!” and work to block every humane initiative that may create jobs and restore social justice (yes, sometimes through the public sector and/or with public assistance).

Contracts usually have something in them for all signers, not just the “haves.” If Silverman wants decorous behavior from those who are hurting, then he fails to understand why there was an American Revolution rather than an infinite number of petitions to King George III, none with any hope of changing the status quo.

In all times, and in most cases, those with power do not relinquish it easily or willingly. Witness slaveholders, robber barons, the industrial-military complex. It takes a public nuisance to change an unjust condition. Witness the women’s suffrage movement and protests to the Vietnam War.

Even Locke believed that under the social contract, the people could instigate a revolution against the government when it acted against the interests of citizens and replace it with one that served the interests of citizens. In some cases, Locke deemed revolution an obligation.

Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street is not a revolution. Nothing so radical. Rather, it is a reminder that our system allows for the people to be heard — provided they make enough noise.

The Occupy Wall Street movement may or may not be the instrument to restore the middle class and again give more of the American populace a true opportunity to prosper. But let’s applaud its members for their gumption instead of complaining about their presence in a park.

Alan Richman

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