Todd Essig: Contrasting Psychologies of OWS (Inclusion of All) and the Tea Party (Exclusion of Many)

Cultural Intelligence
Todd Essig

The Contrasting Psychologies of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and the ‘Tea Party’


One is primarily a psychology of exclusion, the other inclusion. But both start with deep similarities: anger, fear, frustration, resentment, and an enduring faith in democratic ideals (why else participate?).

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The differences between the Tea Party position and that of Occupy Wall Street emerge in how that upset is expressed, in how solutions are sought. If we think of the Tea Party starting with a rebel’s yell of “get your f-in hands off my f-in stuff” then OWS begins with a naive complaint about being hungry while others unfairly have too much, “how much stuff do you really need, really, to have a good life?”

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From the start the Tea Party was about safety through exclusion, protecting oneself from outside influences—including a President seen as an un-American “other,” perhaps for racial reasons, perhaps other reasons as well. What the Tea Party rejected was anything perceived by them as coming from outside the center of America. It’s not us, it’s never us; it’s them.

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The start of OWS is radically different. Everyone is included, everyone gets to have a say. Rather than policy they have process. The “we” of OWS is worldwide, a globalized, networked “we” full of good and bad existing simultaneously and everywhere. The messier the better; better to let in those you don’t want then miss out on including those you do.

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For Tea Party members, the world will always remain full of persecutory others (Obama’s the devil!!) while OWS holds out the promise of community, no, of communities of difference.

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Of course, moving from the psychology of protest to specific policy recommendations is the responsibility not of the protestors whose message needs to be heard but of political leaders. And I want to note that there’s something profoundly anti-capitalist about the critics of OWS. It’s a movement about which capitalists, real capitalists who work hard and smart, have nothing to fear. Oligarchs, on the other hand, should be afraid, very afraid.

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More than anything else, OWS is helping facilitate a shift in psychological values from more—and then more more—to enough, from the destructive envy of raging at someone who has more to the genuine satisfaction of appreciating what one has.

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See Also:

Todd Essig: Huge Psychological Bias Against Creativity

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