#OccupyWallStreet and the sad state of activism

Revolution is but a tweet away

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Sometime between the third and fourth bourbon, I checked my Twitter feed.

Our resident newsman Paul Bowers was on the scene at the #OccupyCharleston meeting at the Unitarian Church, and he was tweeting reports on the proceedings. One post in particular stuck out.

At the meeting, one attendant had this to say about their particular style of activism: "I'm much more likely to say something on Facebook than get in somebody's face and say, "Your bank is evil.'"

The day before the meeting, one of the organizers for #OccupyCharleston answered questions from Paul via e-mail about the Holy City operation. The individual agreed to communicate with Paul on the condition that his or her identity remain anonymous. Paul agreed.

According to this e-mail, the would-be revolutionary claimed that #OccupyCharleston boasted 300-plus members at the time, a statement that was reported in the story Paul wrote the group. Shortly after finishing the story, Paul posted it online. Sometime after, one of our regular commenters, Mat Catastrophe, noted the apparently large number of individuals who swore allegiance to #OccupyCharleston, writing, "300 people is more than enough to shut down lower King Street to traffic."

This is true. Three hundred people gathered together in one spot on King Street would surely stop traffic, as well as business, on the busy street. But there was one problem with this figure: the individual to whom Paul was communicating was not referring to the number of people who were ready and willing to take to the streets to fight for economic equality and a complete erasing of debt for all but 1 percent of the U.S. population. He was simply noting the number of people who had so far hit the "like" button on the #OccupyCharleston Facebook page.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, says quite a bit about the #Occupy movement that is currently spreading across the country and the largely under-30 protestors that make up the loose collective of anti-capitalists, anarchists, and recent college graduates who want Uncle Sam to make their student loans go away: It's easy to throw your support behind a cause when all you have to do is attach an #OccupyWallStreet hashtag to every tweet you send out. But that's what activism is these days.

Gone are the days when young men burned their draft cards and were beaten.

Gone are the days when civil rights activists were lynched.

Gone are the days when anti-war protestors were gunned down by U.S. soldiers.

Today's activist has no desire to truly put himself in harm's way. He tweets his support. She "likes" the cause. They order a pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks and chat with the other members of the local #Occupy franchise for a few hours.

Now, sometime between the fourth and fifth bourbon, I began to wonder if perhaps something fundamental had changed about the nature of reality. I began to question whether the world I was living in had faded away and I had entered an alternate reality, one where history itself was drastically different, one where the radicals and the revolutionaries of the past behaved in strange and unnerving ways. I embraced this new reality and quickly began scribbling down its history.

In this alternate reality, Abbie Hoffman hit the "like" button on Woodstock's Facebook page and ended the Vietnam War.

In this reality, Gloria Steinem attended a Ms. Magazine MeetUp, drank some coffee, and equal rights for women were granted before the cup was finished.

In this reality, Harvey Milk checked into the Castro District via Foursquare and immediately became the mayor of San Francisco.

In this reality, a man was run over by a tank in Tiananmen Square because he was too busy tweeting on his iPhone

In this reality, anti-war Buddhist monks Skyped their acts of self-immolation.

In this reality, Rosey the Riveter did her part by ordering a vegan pizza for the troops on the front line.

In this reality, the men of Easy Company camped out on the shores of Normandy, France, and marched all the way to Berlin wearing Guy Fawkes masks and chanting, "Hell no, Hitler's got to go."

In this reality, Gandhi ate nothing but bagels and organic peanut butter for days.

In this reality, Jesus' time on the cross was divided into shifts so he wouldn't fail his calculus class.

In this reality, the Holy Bible is an iPad, the cross has become a hashtag, our prayers are transmitted via wifi, and every little message to the Almighty Jobs ends with @men.

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