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Paradigm shift?

In the spring of 2011 I received a visit from a former student of mine. She came with her boyfriend and a lot of philosophical and political issues to discuss. As the hours passed, points were made, issues were debated and the world seemed to fall to pieces, come together, and fall to pieces as we talked. In the end the only thing that made sense to any of us was the idea that the world was either in need of, or going through, a serious philosophical and political paradigm shift. The ideologies and socioeconomic philosophies of the 19th and 20th centuries just did not seem adequate for describing and addressing the issues of the world today. Because of the complex issues and mounting problems facing 21st century civilization, we came to agreement that if this paradigm shift did not occur –that is if people did not wake up to the fact that the views and solutions of the last two centuries are outdated, holding us back and bringing us down– we are in for some serious problems in the not so distant future. We decided that people from the left, right, and center all need to conceive the world in a new way.

A couple months later, in early summer, I received a Facebook invitation. At first I thought it was one of those tongue-in-cheek invites to some crazy not quite real events. Merely for kicks and giggles, I clicked that I would attend. My thought being that if even 50 people show up to Occupy Wall Street, piss off a couple stock brokers and get arrested, it will at least be mildly entertaining. I forgot about it after a few days, and it did not cross my mind again until September 17, 2011.

I turned on my computer, probably somewhere around noon or so. Whether it was the invite telling me I was “Attending” or something else, shortly after logging into Facebook I found my way to the live stream. The exact times and sequence of events from that day are a little fuzzy because from about noon Saturday until about 1:00 AM on Monday (late Sunday) I slept about four hours. At first, just kind of staring in curiosity, “they are ACTUALLY doing this?!?!” Then it moved to, “what ARE they going to do?” After a few hours it became, “this could get interesting.”

It was not long before the occupiers were asking for anyone watching the live stream to start spreading the word. I had actually started doing this because I was still of the mind that if they stay till Monday and piss off a couple stock brokers, I will have a smile on face. As things rolled into Saturday night, I had become obsessed with the idea of doing anything I could to keep this thing going until Monday morning. I and others, who were now glued to the live stream, were surfing the internet posting, posting and posting. “Several thousand protesters descend on Wall Street and intend to occupy it.” As Saturday wore on, I found more chat rooms and forums popping up devoted to the occupation.

As the occupiers on the live stream asked for supplies, the chat rooms, forums and of course Facebook became a posting and update place along with anywhere on the internet that messages could be posted. A couple thousand of us were like an information guerilla squad. It did not matter what the forum or chat room was devoted to; copy-paste post, copy-paste post… By Sunday orders were being called in from around the world to the local pizzeria with delivery orders for the occupiers. People on the ground took pictures of the pizzas being delivered and tweeted them. We reposted them with the story of what was happening. “This is really happening!?!?!”  More orders came in. People started asking for an address where they could ship things. They were told the address of the UPS store not far from the park and packages were arriving by Monday night. A site was set up where people could donate money for food; the donations began rolling in.

By Sunday night I was tired and happy because they were going to make it until Monday. I went to work, no news. I started hunting for information as soon as work was over, nothing. I managed to get on the live stream site but it was lagging on the network at work. “They are still there, good enough.” I drove home and jumped right on the computer. They were still there, but the numbers looked really small. People were posting in the live feed chat room, “It’s over, only 50 people left. Go home hippies!” “You guys are losers, get a life.” “In other news, 50 people sat in a park in Manhattan and no one in the world gave a shit.” But the money was rolling into the food account, people were starting to deliver supplies, they made the UPS store an official location to send supplies, and so on. By Tuesday or Wednesday the account was over $20,000. People from around the world were coming into the chat room giving words of encouragement. “Solidarity!” “Thank you America for finally waking up!”

Tuesday night the first arrests to be filmed and go viral boosted the numbers, and on Wednesday nearly 2,000 people protesting the execution of Troy Davis merged with OWS and marched on the Manhattan police square. Watching much of the events live, I was sucked in even farther. By Wednesday night, I was fully part of this thing and was feeling a sense of solidarity with the people in the park. I had spent hours helping make the videos viral and posting information, and “damn it this thing has to continue.”

At the end of the second week I was in front of Bank of America in downtown Orlando with about ten other people holding signs and chanting. The occupation of Orlando, America and the world had begun.

Is this the paradigm shift?