We’re supposed to take a passage from the text, then outline and explain the significance of the quote in terms of its relation to elements of the novel’s character, plot or theme development, as well as your personal connection to the piece. The piece of text I’ve chosen is on pages 175-180. You can read the entire book here.
She turned around and was laughing too. “Inflation has hit the nation’s slogan-writers, it seems. How many of you know where this phrase comes from?”
We looked at each other. “Hippies?” someone said, and we laughed. Hippies are all over San Francisco, both the old stoner kinds with giant skanky beards and tie-dyes, and the new kind, who are more into dress-up and maybe playing hacky-sack than protesting anything.
“Well, yes, hippies. But when we think of hippies these days, we just think of the clothes and the music. Clothes and music were incidental to the main part of what made that era, the sixties, important.
“You’ve heard about the civil rights movement to end segregation, white and black kids like you riding buses into the South to sign up black voters and protest against official state racism. California was one of the main places where the civil rights leaders came from. We’ve always been a little more political than the rest of the country, and this is also a part of the country where black people have been able to get the same union factory jobs as white people, so they were a little better off than their cousins in the southland.
“The students at Berkeley sent a steady stream of freedom riders south, and they recruited them from information tables on campus, at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue. You’ve probably seen that there are still tables there to this day.
“Well, the campus tried to shut them down. The president of the university banned political organizing on campus, but the civil rights kids wouldn’t stop. The police tried to arrest a guy who was handing out literature from one of these tables, and they put him in a van, but 3,000 students surrounded the van and refused to let it budge. They wouldn’t let them take this kid to jail. They stood on top of the van and gave speeches about the First Amendment and Free Speech.
“That galvanized the Free Speech Movement. That was the start of the hippies, but it was also where more radical student movements came from. Black power groups like the Black Panthers — and later gay rights groups like the Pink Panthers, too. Radical women’s groups, even ‘lesbian separatists’ who wanted to abolish men altogether! And the Yippies. Anyone ever hear of the Yippies?”
“Didn’t they levitate the Pentagon?” I said. I’d once seen a documentary about this.
She laughed. “I forgot about that, but yes, that was them! Yippies were like very political hippies, but they weren’t serious the way we think of politics these days. They were very playful. Pranksters. They threw money into the New York Stock Exchange. They circled the Pentagon with hundreds of protestors and said a magic spell that was supposed to levitate it. They invented a fictional kind of LSD that you could spray onto people with squirt-guns and shot each other with it and pretended to be stoned. They were funny and they made great TV — one Yippie, a clown called Wavy Gravy, used to get hundreds of protestors to dress up like Santa Claus so that the cameras would show police officers arresting and dragging away Santa on the news that night — and they mobilized a lot of people.
“Their big moment was the Democratic National Convention in 1968, where they called for demonstrations to protest the Vietnam War. Thousands of demonstrators poured into Chicago, slept in the parks, and picketed every day. They had lots of bizarre stunts that year, like running a pig called Pigasus for the presidential nomination. The police and the demonstrators fought in the streets — they’d done that many times before, but the Chicago cops didn’t have the smarts to leave the reporters alone. They beat up the reporters, and the reporters retaliated by finally showing what really went on at these demonstrations, so the whole country watched their kids being really savagely beaten down by the Chicago police. They called it a ‘police riot.’
“The Yippies loved to say, ‘Never trust anyone over 30.’ They meant that people who were born before a certain time, when America had been fighting enemies like the Nazis, could never understand what it meant to love your country enough to refuse to fight the Vietnamese. They thought that by the time you hit 30, your attitudes would be frozen and you couldn’t ever understand why the kids of the day were taking to the streets, dropping out, freaking out.
“San Francisco was ground zero for this. Revolutionary armies were founded here. Some of them blew up buildings or robbed banks for their cause. A lot of those kids grew up to be more or less normal, while others ended up in jail. Some of the university dropouts did amazing things — for example, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who founded Apple Computers and invented the PC.”
I was really getting into this. I knew a little of it, but I’d never heard it told like this. Or maybe it had never mattered as much as it did now. Suddenly, those lame, solemn, grown-up street demonstrations didn’t seem so lame after all. Maybe there was room for that kind of action in the Xnet movement.
I put my hand up. “Did they win? Did the Yippies win?”
She gave me a long look, like she was thinking it over. No one said a word. We all wanted to hear the answer.
“They didn’t lose,” she said. “They kind of imploded a little. Some of them went to jail for drugs or other things. Some of them changed their tunes and became yuppies and went on the lecture circuit telling everyone how stupid they’d been, talking about how good greed was and how dumb they’d been.
“But they did change the world. The war in Vietnam ended, and the kind of conformity and unquestioning obedience that people had called patriotism went out of style in a big way. Black rights, women’s rights and gay rights came a long way. Chicano rights, rights for disabled people, the whole tradition of civil liberties was created or strengthened by these people. Today’s protest movement is the direct descendant of those struggles.”
“I can’t believe you’re talking about them like this,” Charles said. He was leaning so far in his seat he was half standing, and his sharp, skinny face had gone red. He had wet, large eyes and big lips, and when he got excited he looked a little like a fish.
Ms Galvez stiffened a little, then said, “Go on, Charles.”
“You’ve just described terrorists. Actual terrorists. They blew up buildings, you said. They tried to destroy the stock exchange. They beat up cops, and stopped cops from arresting people who were breaking the law. They attacked us!”
Ms Galvez nodded slowly. I could tell she was trying to figure out how to handle Charles, who really seemed like he was ready to pop. “Charles raises a good point. The Yippies weren’t foreign agents, they were American citizens. When you say ‘They attacked us,’ you need to figure out who ‘they’ and ‘us’ are. When it’s your fellow countrymen –“
“Crap!” he shouted. He was on his feet now. “We were at war then. These guys were giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It’s easy to tell who’s us and who’s them: if you support America, you’re us. If you support the people who are shooting at Americans, you’re them.”
“Does anyone else want to comment on this?”
Several hands shot up. Ms Galvez called on them. Some people pointed out that the reason that the Vietnamese were shooting at Americans is that the Americans had flown to Vietnam and started running around the jungle with guns. Others thought that Charles had a point, that people shouldn’t be allowed to do illegal things.
Everyone had a good debate except Charles, who just shouted at people, interrupting them when they tried to get their points out. Ms Galvez tried to get him to wait for his turn a couple times, but he wasn’t having any of it.
I was looking something up on my SchoolBook, something I knew I’d read.
I found it. I stood up. Ms Galvez looked expectantly at me. The other people followed her gaze and went quiet. Even Charles looked at me after a while, his big wet eyes burning with hatred for me.
“I wanted to read something,” I said. “It’s short. ‘Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.'”
One of the reasons I particularly like this passage is because it doesn’t just provide the information from one side. Most of the book is written from Marcus Yallow’s point of view, and doesn’t really provide an explanation of the DHS’ reasoning. In this debate, Charles provides his reasoning for why the DHS is doing what they are doing. Even though I still sympathize with Marcus’ plight, it makes the section of text more powerful by giving someone who supports the DHS a chance to explain why they think the DHS is in the right.
There are many debates like this throughout the book, involving many different people. For example, Marcus argues with Van about whether he should take the chance and fight the DHS, his numerous arguments with his father about the tactics of the DHS as well as morals and ethics, the section of text mentioned here, and also the other classroom debate, this time involving the new, biased teacher focussed on teaching the class ministry-given propoganda. They were all attractive options, but in the end, I decided upon this piece because I felt it was something that everyone could learn from, with many interesting parts to it, and above all, the most moving.
This segment was really important to the development of the character. Hearing about the previous movements, what happened to the leaders of the resistance, as well as how the authorities responded really helped Marcus understand exactly what he was trying to do, and how to proceed about doing it. I think that this was sort of the breaking point of the entire book. I think that this debate proved to Marcus that what he was doing was right, and that he needed to continue on to keep the spark of hope still residing in everyone else on the Xnet. From this point on, everything else (the concert, the other debates in class, the interview on the Xnet, coming clean, and the Vampmob) were all in some way directly related to this point. It really convinced him that he needed to continue fighting the Department of Homeland Security, and that he had to do it in a way that publicly humiliated them, so that they would own up to their mistakes and close down their operations.
I think the last paragraph, when Marcus is repeating something from the Declaration of Independence was one of the most powerful pieces of the whole debate. Once you actually think about what that means, instead of just skipping it, or having your eyes glaze over as you scan through the passage, (which is what I did the first time…) it’s really potent and makes you think a lot. It seems to me that it’s saying that governments can only govern, as long as they have the governed consent. It also seems to say that people can choose who governs them, and if they choose, can entirely destroy the said government. To me, that’s one of the most important things about our rights, that governments are only as strong as the happiness of the governed.
I think that this text kind of sums up the main points of the story. The DHS against Marcus. The big guy, with all the powers and the law behind him, versus the little one, struggling to stay one step ahead and remain free. That’s why all the good cop versus famous robber movies are always really big. It’s because they’re both wired the same way. Same thing in Little Brother. Marcus is doing everything in his power to free his friend Darryl from “Gitmo-by-the-Bay”, a interrogation camp using many unorthodox, unethical methods to extract information from Marcus and his 3 best friends, including beatings, torture, and even simulated execution. It’s all about secrets, either withholding them, or uncovering them, as well as security. Do all the implemented security measures really make us any safer? For all the good that metal dectectors and body pat-downs do, a man got onto a plane with the intention of blowing up his underwear! It was a good thing that he failed, but what happens the next time someone gets it into their head to try and blow up an airplane? The bombers might not fail next time. I think that this passage, as well as the entire book discusses the pros and cons of security measures, and what happens when people become scared, and take good intentions to the extreme, blending and blurring the thin line between protecting the people, and harming them.