It’s too much to say that they’re socialists, or have a socialist agenda. Some of them are; a lot of them are anarchists, who seem to get along with the socialists just fine… to a weird extent, actually. The Ron Paul people are a small but unusually cohesive minority, clotting together and happily planning to occupy the Federal Reserve next door.
The first time a libertarian spoke up– a guy in a Ron Paul t-shirt, seventy-ish, the head of the Libertarian Party of Queens County– the People’s Mic faltered, but only for a moment. Now, the socialists are used to the libertarians. There were a couple of Misesian hipsters from Brooklyn who I saw early on: they had, as I recall, cool hats. Those little straw fedoras everyone was wearing last summer. They think Thomas Woods is nifty.
And then there’s me. I’m something of a lunchtime occupier. I make signs quoting Russell Kirk and protesting the Enclosure Movement.
The occupiers know what they are not, which is in favor of things staying pretty much as they are, with very wealthy companies and very big and distant government influencing each other in ways that seem to smoosh the rest of us. Aside from that common ground, you can walk across a dozen ideologies in a half-dozen steps, in the area where people lay down their cardboard signs.
What’s going on down there in Zuccotti Park is a big bouillabaisse of conversation. That’s why I love it– that’s why I keep going over there at lunch time, and after work, and when I get the chance. Not because I agree with the anarchists or the Marxists or the libertarians– I certainly do not– but because there are people actually having conversations about politics and economics– real conversations, a lot of them, in public, that go on for a long time, while they are eating pizza and getting their hair cut and eating more pizza and also some vegan desserts. That’s real conversations, where you are in the same physical space as your interlocutor.
And what you’re guaranteed down there is that you’ll run into people you disagree with: you may, for example, be a libertarian; you may run into a distributist. Far more than half of the hippies there would never, except for this, have allowed themselves to come within a quarter-mile of a Ron Paul supporter, let alone share a vegan blondie with one.
There are a whole lot of things about the movement that are venal, or silly, or pernicious. There’s an overriding hatred of authority and the concept of leadership– shared by libertarians and hippies alike– that sits very badly with my Burkean soul. There’s a self-dramatization appropriate to the second act of Les Miserables: I’m drawn to that too, but it’s certainly somewhat overblown. And, yeah, when the movement crystalizes it will certainly, barring a literal miracle, embrace bits of the left’s agenda with which I’m going to profoundly disagree. The Belloc and Chesterton quote signs lasted in the park for a couple of days. The sign that tried to make a parallel between the institution of corporate personhood in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific, and the denial of human personhood in Roe vs. Wade, did not last.
But… but what they’re calling out is genuinely wrong. What they are rejecting is a culture of hedonistic consumerism and social passivity which no serious Christian can seriously argue is good. If you disagree on what you assume to be their solutions to the problem, at least see that you agree on the problem. And then go down there, bring your pamphlets, and join the conversation!