Occupy vs. Tea Party

Yesterday, or maybe the day before, I heard some commentator saying that the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement were two halves of the same coin. In a way, this is good news, because it means that there is space for productive cross-dialogue between the two movements. And indeed they are both upset about overlapping issues, as illustrated in this diagram.

But what this analysis misses is that the two movements have at their core fundamentally different moral codes. The Tea Party wants to go back to the conservative values of the 1940s and 1950s in the U.S., in which Christian Religion was central to defining behavior. The Occupy movement--although it has been depicted as somewhat amoral--has instead a very different moral code at its center. I had heard the term "socially progressive" lots of times here at Berkeley and San Francisco, but I never really understood what it meant, until yesterday when I was reading coverage of the Occupy Walnut Creek event on Saturday and found myself suddenly defending that stance.

Social progressivism is not about gay marriage or universal health care or any of these single buzz issues. Social progressives believe, unlike people in the Tea Party, that our society is evolving into a community of cooperation, support, shared knowledge and understanding. In fact, the internet has made this evolution happen much faster than anyone could have imagined in the 1960s. And the key difference here is that Social Progressives believe this is a good thing, not a bad thing. And that the government needs to catch up, and stop treating us all like rats competing for scraps off a table.

That is why comparisons between the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring are far more apt. Because in both cases, the idea is that current forms of government are completely unable to deal with a truly informed, knowledgeable, and socially responsible populace.

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