The Might of the Army

The true prophets of the revolutions around the world aren’t the political commentators.  It’s not Glenn Beck.  It’s not any of the people on CNN, FoxNews, or MSNBC.  No, the true prophets are the military.  They are the ones who can accurately predict who will win the revolution.  Take Tunisia for example.  The Tunisian revolution didn’t really start until the Tunisian military decided not to fire upon the protestors.  It gave protestors a sense of security.  The feeling of knowing that the military would refuse to support the current regime, they would refuse orders to shoot the protestors, it gave the protestors the sense that is was alright to bring their children.  It was alright to bring their entire family along, they could bring everyone without the fear of harm coming to the ones they had loved.  By having the military endorse the revolution, it gave a sense of finality to the rebellion. You could sense that once the military would throw its weight behind the revolution, nothing could stop it.  Ironically, the military gave the revolution peace.

Think about Egypt now.  It was only after the military called the protestor’s demands “legitimate” that the president, Hosni Mubarak, decided that he wouldn’t run for re-election.  It was only then that, as one protestor described it,

The Egyptian people can change Egypt now.

Really, that’s all that the Egyptians want.  They just want to be able to have a choice.  To know that they aren’t going to have decisions forced upon them.  Decisions forced upon them by an autocratic dictator.  A dictator who has been making choices for a whole country for 30 years.  Another protestor put it more eloquently.

He’s (Mubarak) trying to tell us that without him, without the regime, you will fall into anarchy, but we have all told him, ‘No’

That one word, ‘No’, symbolizes everything that Egyptians have wished for.  They don’t want Mubarak to leave in September.  They want him to leave now.  Now, not when he passes the power to his son.  Not when he decides that it’s appropriate to leave.  They want him gone now.

Now, inspired by the recent successful rebellions by Egypt and Tunisia, countries in the Middle East, already afflicted by turmoil and conflict, are calling for revolutions of their own.  The King of Jordan has fired his cabinet after protests, and Pakistan has promised to hold its long-awaited municipal elections as soon as possible.  Yemeni and Syrian activists have renewed calls for protests in light of what has happened in Egypt.  But the true reason these rebellions will succeed isn’t because of the number of people, it will be because it will have the support of the military.  The Egyptian protestors handed out a pamphlet that had a picture of a soldier alongside the protestors.  It was a subtle reminder to the soldiers of the much-vaunted Egyptian army that it could be their family among the rebellers.  It could be their parents, wives, sons and daughters who believed it was more important to speak out for what they believed was right rather than their own personal safety.  It was a reminder that they could have been among the masses had they not joined the army.  It was an excellent way of ensuring that army wouldn’t listen to government orders.  But most of all, it was a way of  showing unity against the face of oppression.

If activists in the Middle East are to keep on producing change and upheaval, they must secure the support of the army.  It provides a sense of security for all the protestors, and is a huge blow to the government.  The government often relies on the pure strength of its military, and when its military defects, they lose one of their most important allies.  The support of the military means that it is standing behind and endorsing what the citizens want.  They want change.  And the most effective way to secure that is through the military.

WikiLeaks…good, bad, or just plain UGLY????

As I’m pretty sure that anyone who hasn’t been living underneath their bed for the past few days knows, WikiLeaks has released about a quarter of a million cables sent by diplomats and ambassadors around the world.  And, in class, and in many other Socials classes around the world, it’s become a very hot-button issue.

In my opinion, this was a very stupid move for WikiLeaks in terms of global interests, but a very shrewd one in terms of Americans themselves.  The way I see it, one of the largest problems we have in terms of racism is the fact that people simply don’t understand and can’t comprehend the entirety of the situation presented.  The reason that people don’t understand that the Muslim faith  is all about

peace, generosity, unity, freedom, and kindness

is because they just don’t have enough knowledge to make an informed decision.  Unfortunately, they end up spouting this drivel to their friends, who take it as the truth.  The only way this cycle of stupidity can end is if the public BECOMES INFORMED.  And, at the heart of it, that’s what I think WikiLeaks  tried to do.  BUT WAIT!  This isn’t a story where it all ends happily, Julian Assange is forgiven, and the US government is commended for a job well done.  NO!, it’s a story where innocent Afghans have taken a risk to speak to NATO forces to help them fight against the Taliban, a fact that the Taliban are sure to try to seek retribution against.  It’s also placed many diplomats and ambassadors in precarious positions, and strained political and military ties with other allies.  I don’t understand how anyone can praise WikiLeaks for what it’s done.  People are getting hurt every day, pain around the world is spreading.  The people who say that WikiLeaks has done a good thing can say this because they aren’t on the front lines.  It has impacted the whole geo-political balance of power throughout the world.  Countries will be less willing to trust and share secrets with the US, fearing another security breach.  Plus, a formerly secret alliance may be now public, resulting in a public outcry from people set against America, and in the country feeling the backlash from an attempt to work with the US politicians.

Think about this.  Where do you think the American Revolution would have been if WikiLeaks had been around.  The Congress in Philadelphia is just getting off the ground, when documents are leaked listing all the major names and ideas of the eventual Declaration of Independence.  Tarred and feathered much?  If this had indeed happened, the Revolution would have stalled, all the ringleaders taken and severely punished by the British rulers.  Remember, this was when the British were sending in thousands of troops in an attempt to crackdown and regain control over unruly America.  If WikiLeaks had been around, it may have resulted in a situation not unlike Hong Kong, with England remaining in control for many many years.   It would definitely have slowed the development of the US, and might have even prevented it from becoming the global superpower that it is today.

On another note however, it’s really kind of amazing how well sports and life go together.  Quoting from my Wikispaces post, just so that any passing public might enjoy, just this past week, Colin Campbell’s emails were made public. In them, he (among other things) had called Marc Savard “a little fake artist“, and made complaints about the penalties referees were calling on his son, Gregory Campbell.  Similarly to the US, whose diplomatic cables were just made public.  And in order to retain some ambivalence with allied countries, the US pr crew has been working 24/7 in order to do damage control. Same thing with the NHL. Only in the NHL’s case, it’s not working. Like the US, Colin Campbell has said some very controversial things. And like the US, the NHL hasn’t apologized for those comments. The White House said that the “reckless and dangerous action” taken by WikiLeaks could disrupt American activities around the world. Well, if it’s potentially that harmful, then WHY IN THE WORLD ARE YOU SAYING THESE THINGS!!!!? It just doesn’t make sense. In an interview with TSN, Colin Campbell was asked whether he thought that his e-mails were inappropriate and he said no. But when pressed, he admitted that “it is inappropriate”. Wait. I thought you just said it wasn’t? Now you’re changing your answers? To compound the problem, he then said “But no one told me or maybe told you five years ago that you can take your emails and read them all. If I knew someone was going to read my emails, then I would have positioned it differently.” So, if you knew someone was reading it, you would have said something else? Because that just solves the whole problem. No, this wasn’t just “dressing-room” talk. It was a mistake that you hoped people wouldn’t find out about. Just like the US, they said somethings they hoped people (North Korea, Pakistan, Americans, etc) wouldn’t see, and now they’re trying to cover it up by talking to the offended countries. “Yeah, you know how we were bashing you in secret messages we never meant for you to read? Well, we didn’t REALLY mean it, it was just dressing room talk, and we hope that we can still be friends and everything.” The NHL has already messed up. Now it’s the US’s turn. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle it, and whether it’ll turn into the same kind of debacle as the NHL PR has on their hands right now.

The Best Part of the Book: The Afterword

Afterword by Bruce Schneier

I think about security systems and how to break them. Then, how to make them more secure. Computer security systems.  Surveillance systems. Airplane security systems and voting machines and RFID chips and everything else.  Cory invited me into the last few pages of his book because he wanted me to tell you that security is fun. It’s incredibly fun. It’s cat and mouse, who can outsmart whom, hunter versus hunted fun. I think it’s the most fun job you can possibly have. If you thought it was fun to read about Marcus outsmarting the gaitrecognition cameras with rocks in his shoes, think of how much more fun it would be if you were the first person in the world to think of that.  Working in security means knowing a lot about technology. It might mean knowing about computers and networks, or cameras and how they work, or the chemistry of bomb detection.  But really, security is a mindset. It’s a way of thinking. Marcus is a great example of that way of thinking. He’s always looking for ways a security system fails. I’ll bet he couldn’t walk into a store without figuring out a way to shoplift. Not that he’d do it there’s a difference between knowing how to defeat a security system and actually defeating it but he’d know he could.  It’s how security people think. We’re constantly looking at security systems and how to get around them; we can’t help it.  This kind of thinking is important no matter what side of security you’re on. If you’ve been hired to build a shopliftproof store, you’d better know how to shoplift. If you’re designing a camera system that detects individual gaits, you’d better plan for people putting rocks in their shoes. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to design anything good.  So when you’re wandering through your day, take a moment to look at the security systems around you. Look at the cameras in the stores you shop at. (Do they prevent crime, or just move it next door?) See how a restaurant operates. (If you pay after you eat, why don’t more people just leave without paying?) Pay attention at airport security. (How could you get a weapon onto an airplane?) Watch what the teller does at a bank. (Bank security is designed to prevent tellers from stealing just as much as it is to prevent you from stealing.) Stare at an anthill. (Insects are all about security.) Read the Constitution, and notice all the ways it provides people with security against government. Look at traffic lights and door locks and all the security systems on television and in the movies. Figure out how they work, what threats they protect against and what threats they don’t, how they fail, and how they can be exploited.  Spend enough time doing this, and you’ll find yourself thinking differently about the world. You’ll start noticing that many of the security systems out there don’t actually do what they claim to, and that much of our national security is a waste of money. You’ll understand privacy as essential to security, not in opposition.  You’ll stop worrying about things other people worry about, and start worrying about things other people don’t even think about.  Sometimes you’ll notice something about security that no one has ever thought about before. And maybe you’ll figure out a new way to break a security system.  It was only a few years ago that someone invented phishing.   I’m frequently amazed how easy it is to break some pretty big name security systems. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the big one is that it’s impossible to prove that something is secure. All you can do is try to break it if you fail, you know that it’s secure enough to keep you out, but what about someone who’s smarter than you? Anyone can design a security system so strong he himself can’t break it.  Think about that for a second, because it’s not obvious. No one is qualified to analyze their own security designs, because the designer and the analyzer will be the same person, with the same limits. Someone else has to analyze the security, because it has to be secure against things the designers didn’t think of. This means that all of us have to analyze the security that other people design. And surprisingly often, one of us breaks it. Marcus’s exploits aren’t farfetched; that kind of thing happens all the time. Go onto the net and look up “bump key” or “Bic pen Kryptonite lock”; you’ll find a couple of really interesting stories about seemingly strong security defeated by pretty basic technology. And when that happens, be sure to publish it on the Internet somewhere. Secrecy and security aren’t the same, even though it may seem that way. Only bad security relies on secrecy; good security works even if all the details of it are public. And publishing vulnerabilities forces security designers to design better security, and makes us all better consumers of security. If you buy a Kryptonite bike lock and it can be defeated with a Bic pen, you’re not getting very good security for your money. And, likewise, if a bunch of smart kids can defeat the DHS’s antiterrorist technologies, then it’s not going to do a very good job against real terrorists. Trading privacy for security is stupid enough; not getting any actual security in the bargain is even stupider.

So close the book and go. The world is full of security systems.   Hack one of them.

Bruce Schneier

As the title maintains, one of the pieces that I found most interesting was the afterword in Little Brother, the one written by Bruce Schneier. While the one written by Andrew “bunnie” Huang (he also has his own website) was equally well-written, I found the one by Bruce to be more powerful, and had many grains of truth within, just like the book itself. I find that many people, including myself, will often skip the bits before and after the story, concentrating on the plot and characters, not caring what some random person had to say about the book. Too often I have done the same, but recently, I have started to actually take a close look at what is being written. With time, I’ve gotten to realize that the afterwords and introductions are words written from the heart, with many thoughtful things included.  It’s obvious that they aren’t the main attraction, nor do they aspire to be, but they still provide some very useful insights and thoughts about the book.

Over the weekend, I really took Bruce Schneier’s words to heart.  I thought about what the security systems at malls and banks really did to protect us, and realized that it wasn’t much.  I mean, no offense to the security guards or anything, but most of the time they’re old, out of shape, and not very intimidating.  I mean, I don’t think that it would be very hard to get around them.  I approached my dad the other day with my views, and he told me that the security guards weren’t there to protect the bank, in fact, is someone was to rob the bank, the tellers  are actually supposed to hand over the money!  I guess that it’s not in their job description to have to try to prevent a robbery!  But thinking about this, I wonder what the guards are for.  If they aren’t there to actually prevent a robbery, what are they there for?  Maybe it’s just to provide the illusion of safety.  Maybe it’s to try to lull people into a sense of confidence, that their money is being protected by not just machines or cameras, but by actual human beings.  Yet human beings can be corrupted, and machines and cameras are all too easily avoided.  So maybe it’s just tradition, an outdated procedure from long ago, when guards were actually used to protect valuables, until the modern world and it’s advanced detection systems overtook it.  I don’t know why there are guards at a bank, but it’s certainly something worth thinking about.

Another thing I’ve always wondered about are the TVs in Wal-mart.  Why do they show you that you’re being videotaped???  It seems to me that by showing you where you are in relation to the camera, they’re actually making it easier to avoid them.  “Oh, so if I move to the left, the TV doesn’t show where I am…good to know” I mean, it doesn’t really make sense!  What’s the point of having video cameras if you’re just going to show them off? “Haha Bestbuy, my video cameras have a wider angle than yours!” or “Hey!  Home Depot!  My burglar alarm is louder!” It just doesn’t make sense…But then, a lot of things in life don’t make sense!

In my post about the Theme Synopsis, I kind of touched on what Bruce Schneier said about security. I like what he says about security being a way of thinking, and at the end when he remarks about trading privacy for security is stupid. I really believe in that, but I also think that you can’t have privacy without security.  I especially like the part about Marcus knowing the difference between knowing how to defeat a security system, and actually doing it.  I think that that’s the really big difference between criminals and other people.  I’m sure that there are many people out there that know how to rob a bank.  Security technicians, bank tellers, security guards, there are probably tons of them.  But most of them will never actually act upon this knowledge, but the ones who do, those are the criminals.  Actually, it reminds of the last scene in Dark Knight between Batman and the Joker, when Joker tells Batman that their battle is like an unstoppable force coming up against an unmovable object.  It relates to life, Little Brother, everything.  There are always going to be arguments, and battles that you can’t win in life, when you really want something, but someone else is determined to prevent you from getting it.  In Little Brother, I think that it refers to Marcus against the DHS.  He’s determined to take them down, to extract revenge for their treatment of Darryl during their incarceration in Gitmo-by-the-Bay.  And the DHS’ role in this is to prevent him from unearthing all the unethical methods they’ve used to extract information from their detainees, and to stop him from going public and destroying the DHS’ credibility and reliability.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that the afterword really affected how I view this world, almost more than the actual book, because it’s an actual person talking about his experience with the world and its security systems.  It impacted the way I walk around shopping malls and banks, how I think about the world in general, so that’s why I view this passage of text as important.

A Theme Synopsis (Hey Mr. J, mark this one please!)

There are many different recurring themes throughout the entire book, but overriding them all are the ones of privacy, security and trust.  All feature prominently throughout the book, but these are the overarching ones, coming through again and again.

Privacy and security is probably the main theme, if not the most important.  It starts in the first chapter, being detained by the DHS right after the bomb went off, right up until the end, when he is pulled back into Gitmo-by-the-Bay for further questioning about his activities as the leader of the Xnet.  Throughout the entire book, there are countless examples of how he tries to make sure that his activities are secure and private.  For example, the numerous steps he takes to get out of school, to the way that he protects his computer by running programs like ParanoidLinux, but none of these compare to the way that he protects himself while on the Xnet.  He jumps from wireless network to network, making sure that he can’t be traced, strips out “fingerprints” off the photos that he uploads, as well as making sure that everything he does is untraceable.  Yet, the security factor still manages to find out.  The DHS, trying and failing to protect the city of San Francisco constantly manages to catch up to Marcus, who barely avoids detection and capture.  Most of the time.  One the 2 occasions that he does end up being detained, his privacy and security, as well as his rights are destroyed.  They force him to reveal his e-mail and phone passwords, as well as implement measures that can be used to track his movements using common things like a Fast Pass, or toll booth, or even what telephone you phoned from, all part of identifying people with “nonstandard public transit usage patterns”.  Eventually Marcus that realizes that perhaps privacy and security is exactly the wrong way to go about taking down the DHS. So,


he goes and talks to a reporter, strips away all the layers of privacy and security, basically lies, and realizes that going public with his ordeal and refusing to break under the DHS’ harsh methods of cracking down on terrorism and terrorists is actually the best way to publicly humiliate the DHS is to come clean about what has happened, particularly their abusive use of waterboarding, a simulated execution, and other inhuman things such as starving him, isolating him for long periods of time, as well as forcing him to live in squalid conditions.


I think that quite possibly, the most important theme in the entire novel isn’t about hacking, or fighting back for what’s rightfully yours, but rather one of trust.  Multiple times, Marcus is forced with a decision about whether to trust various people, such as the DHS, his mom, Angela, Masha, Zeb, Jolu, or even Barbara Stratford.  Each time, he is faced with the decision to either trust them, and reveal his secrets, or else to shut them out.  Most of the time, he makes the smart decision to trust others, but sometimes, he tries to do everything by himself.  Too often, this is the way that he gets into trouble.  He mentions often in the book that a code is only as strong as the creator.  He can only prevent against what he can do, not to the extents of another, better hacker.  I think that there’s another, deeper message underneath it, having to do with trust.  How can you create the perfect plan by yourself?  You can’t cover all the possibilities and variables, only the ones that you can think of.  There are many proverbs and sayings that cement this fact, and they can’t all be wrong!  Things like “Two eyes are better than one” or “There’s no I in team” are all telling you that you can’t do everything by yourself, you have to eventually open up and trust someone.  Time and time again it’s been proven that trust is the most important, and often the hardest thing to build-up and maintain.

There are a number of very important morals and themes throughout the book, all ones that are vital and can be damning or saving, but I’ve selected what I feel are the most important, or the ones that are the hardest to keep.  Privacy, security, and trust, all intertwined in complex ways, that can be unraveled only if someone takes the time to scrutinize the details closely.  You can’t have privacy without security, and often people think that to have security you need to keep your privacy and trust.  But actually, I feel that it’s almost the opposite.  If you keep private, people will want to be nosy, and find out exactly what it is you’re doing.  By trusting people, they’ll recognize the leap of faith you took, and keep your privacy secure by maintaining your trust.  See?  Those 3 words from a net, tangled and twisted.  Most often, people can’t connect the 3 altogether, but focus on 1 individually.  Yet one can’t work without the other, so the key to staying private, secure and trusted is to embrace all three.  And that is the lesson that Little Brother teaches.

A Little Section of text about Yuppies…(Hey Mr. J, please mark this one!)

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.