Occupy the Paradigm Shift


When I moved from the world of education to the world of law, I encountered a new phrase: “in real time.” For a few years, I kept asking, “As opposed to unreal time?” (Of course, as a Witch, I regularly deal in non-linear time. And there’s chronos and chairos, but I was pretty sure that the lawyers, MBAs, and engineers to whom I was talking weren’t discussing either of those.) The expression just bugged me, but, bright girl that I am, I’ve been acculturated and now I’m about to use it.

As events unfold in real time, we’re often so busy processing everything that’s happening that we don’t stop, stand back, and realize that we’ve just witnessed a paradigm shift. Mary Oliver talks about this in one of her best poems when she says:

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

If you garden, you know what Oliver and I (but I, less eloquently,) mean. For a few weeks, I’ve been checking the cottage garden for the first snowdrop. I looked this morning as I went to my car to go to work and there were none, not even any green leaves. When I came home this afternoon, there it was, in all its snowy splendor: the first snowdrop, peaking out from under the lirope.

All of which is a rather long wind up to my point (and I do have one). This week, I think that we got our first indication of just how amazingly effective the Occupy Movement has been. It slipped in almost unnoticed, in the real time cacophony of noise about Tim Tebow, Beyonce’s baby, the resignation of one of Obama’s bankster friends, and the attacks by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum on Mitt Romney’s activities as the CEO of a private equity firm.

Discussing Romney’s experience in business Gingrich, for example, said:

“Look at the one example from The Wall Street Journal story,” Gingrich said on Fox. “To put in $30 million and get back $60 million would have been a fabulous return. To put in $30 million and get back $90 million would be a fabulous return. Did they really need to take out $180 million if, leaving $30 [million] or $40 million, if the company would’ve survived, the people would’ve been employed, the jobs would’ve been there? These are places where they made money while the company went broke.”

Bain Capital specializes in providing financial and management advice, often taking over distressed companies, which in some cases means massive layoffs. Romney contends that the companies Bain turned around more than make up for the layoffs, and that he helped create more than 100,000 jobs during his time there.
But Gingrich likened Bain to so-called “vulture capital” groups that pick weak companies clean.

“The question is whether or not these companies were being manipulated by the guys who invest to drain them of their money, leaving behind people who were unemployed,” Gingrich said on Bloomberg. “Show me somebody who has consistently made money while losing money for workers and I’ll show you someone who has undermined capitalism. … That’s an indefensible model.

The darling of the New Apostolic Reformation, Rick Perry, made similar comments.

And, no, I don’t for one moment believe that either of these politicians really have an iota of a problem with private equity firms ripping off pension plans and shipping jobs overseas. Heck, they’ll both take all the campaign bribes donations they can get from such firms, will support policies that make the work of such firms easier, and will generally do things that hurt working Americans.

But I’d like for us to stop for a moment, ground, stand still, sniff the wind, listen to the way that the insects and birds have all become quiet, pay attention to the angle of Moonlight on the frozen ground, and notice the paradigm shift happening all around us. Just as fish are unlikely to discover water, we, so immersed in the internet and the day-to-day changes in the narrative of what Thorn Coyle calls the “overculture,” are unlikely to discover this instant when everything changes.

If you’d asked me last January, last Beltane, last Lammas, whether Republican candidates would ever criticize any form of aggressive capitalism, I’d have laughed at you. Heck, Barack Obama, the Democratic president, even today, wouldn’t do such a thing. No one in polite company would dare to suggest that there might really be something wrong with making millions at the expense of mill workers, and toy store employees, and blue-collar workers. Suggesting that it was less-than-patriotic to ship jobs offshore would have gotten you labeled as a dirty-fucking-hippy WTO protester, smashing Starbucks windows in Seattle. Yet, today, even Republicans are rushing to jump on the bandwagon and assure their followers that they, too, are against “vulture capitalism.” (Which Newt, et al. are carefully trying to distinguish from “real” capitalism. Good luck with that, Newt.)

Somehow, someone involved with Occupy tapped into the zeitgeist and managed to perfectly frame the correct criticism of the overculture. And, like all good magic, once it was articulated, it spread. Someone managed to get the framing right, in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the criticism of Occupy’s lack of “specific” complaints. (In the end, “Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit” may have been the best articulation.)

Of course, the danger — and it’s real — is that Gingrich, Santorum, et al. will appropriate the paradigm shift and suck it dry of all real meaning. But at the moment, that’s not what worries me. What worries me is Obama’s emotional need to distance himself from Occupy, to imagine that he can show that he’s a better friend to the vulture capitalists than Gingrich.

Regardless, that sound that you just almost didn’t hear was the sound of a paradigm shifting. Can you amplify it?

Poster found here.

2 responses to “Occupy the Paradigm Shift

  1. There definitely has been a paradigm shift in the over culture because the effects of “vulture capitalism” or “predatory capitalism” as it’s been called one by economic hit-man are showing their effects on regular Americans instead of say, third world countries, whom have had to deal with these issues for far longer and were all but ignored by many of the people showing righteous indignation now.

    I do support Occupy Wallstreet in its message. It’s a message activists in many communities have been trying to get out there for a very long time; student unions against sweat shops, activists in Latino and Black communities who watched these practices strip mine entire swaths of their middle-classhood; it wasn’t until it began effecting White middle class America that it became an “American” problem and not just a problem of “those other people.”

    I walk Freedom Plaza to gaze at the faces of revolution and saw an awakening to the reality that vultures can, and will, come for everyone; not just the others or those brown/yellow people in far away countries. In some ways I am gladdened,but in other ways I am reminded of just how oblivious our majority population is to the suffering it blithely ignored when it wasn’t happening to them en masse and, even now, the connection is lost as the hipster generation considers itself post-socioeconomic/racial politics.

    It’s a fine line to walk, that hedge between cautious optimism and the pessimism that comes with watching too many activists omit the same facts, and people, over and over again. A paradigm has shifted, let’s hope this time that paradigm shifts for the good of everyone and not just those with the privilege to actually reap the benefits.

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