Flash Mob and the Social Contract

Perhaps you saw the recent news: NJ Family Visiting Baltimore Haunted By Random Teen Attack At Inner Harbor

Flash Mob

About 5 years ago I was at Harbor Place in Baltimore. It was mid-day. All the sudden about 30 kids – all black, probably 10-14 years old, waving their arms and yelling – rushed through an open-air performance area. The vocal group and many of the people in the audience gasped at the interruption, unsure what was happening and what was next.

Surprisingly, the kids continued through and out of the line-of-sight. Nothing more untoward happened. The flash mob came and went.

I’m sure I speak for many there when I say that the ease with which norms of social behavior were flaunted made clear that more disturbance could have occurred. The reason it didn’t was the whimsy of the flash mob, not the presence of a couple of officers across the plaza nor fear of audience retaliation.

Social Contract

Social Contract

Social Contract

The scene gave a glimpse of the thinness of civilization’s veneer that protects in a communal society. That veneer is maintained by the social contract.

Our Constitution is one social contract, governing law and order.

The American Dream is another contract. It is the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

If people grow up without that equal opportunity, it’s not surprising they don’t feel as bound by laws as we wish. That is not an excuse, but an explanation.

Equal opportunity is a demand on the haves. Abiding by laws is a demand on the have-nots.


Its demands and promises should be known to both haves and have-nots – through school, common conversation, and political debate. When the social contract is met on both sides, then perhaps the have-nots can become haves.

Leave a Reply