Over 250 years ago, Thomas Paine used the power of the printed word to influence public opinion when he published Common Sense. When I visited Zucotti Park today, I knew that printed signs would be a medium for the activists’ messages. But I was expecting to see laptops, webcams, smartphones, flash mobs and QR codes moreso than pamphlets, The Occupied Wall Street Journal and The People’s Library.
As Jennifer Sacks reports in her article, “Occupy Your Mind: The People’s Library” in today’s edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal: “That a lending library would spring up fully operational on day one of an occupation makes sense when you consider that the exchange of ideas is paramount here…” She continues to quote librarian Mandy Henk, who says, “Anytime you have a movement like this, people are going to bring books to it. People are going to have information needs. And historically, the printed word has played an extraordinarily important role….Stories are incredibly important for helping people to understand the world…And this is a place to come to understand the world.”
Information increasingly means the Internet. As revolutionary as the Net may be, you still need access to it. According to the this report by the U.S. Department of Congress, 28% of Americans do not use the Internet at all. This 28% obviously falls into the 99% category the activists are representing, so it was gratifying to see people without computers, Internet access or smartphones aren’t being excluded.
These activists’ position is that change can be effected by building awareness through nonviolent methods. Perhaps the pen is still mightier than the sword.