Yet in spite of this optimism, what is sometimes known as “liberation technology” is not, in fact, making pro-democracy movements more effective. It’s true that we’ve seen more episodes of mass mobilization since the rise of digital communications than we did before. But we should note that the stunning rise of nonviolent resistance came long before the Internet. The technique has enjoyed widespread use since Gandhi popularized the method in the 1930s and 1940s. And in fact, nonviolent resistance has actually become less successful compared to earlier, pre-internet times. Whereas nearly 70 percent of civil resistance campaigns succeeded during the 1990s, only 30 percent have succeeded since 2010.Whereas nearly 70 percent of civil resistance campaigns succeeded during the 1990s, only 30 percent have succeeded since 2010. Why might this be?
When my family and I pulled up to my cousin’s new house in Redlands, California, he was waiting to greet us, leaning against a pickup with wheels the size of our rental car. He smiled that smile that had led him into the beds of countless women and got him out of trouble with as many cops. He looked happy to see us. He wore a tank top that put his tattoos in full show. Across his arms was a parade of swastikas, iron crosses, and skulls.
His tattoos weren’t a total surprise. He had a reputation, had been flirting with Nazi ideas his whole life. We’d heard from other family members that lately the flirting had moved more toward heavy petting. But no one thought he was serious, and anyway, in my family, blood trumped everything, we always said. So there we were, in his driveway, smiling right back at him.
One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.
From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons.
During my last tour in Iraq, I made it a habit to inquire after people’s children. I found that by doing so I got through defenses, that people opened up, and even grew receptive to what I had to say. It was a splendid tactic that I used with sheiks and patriarchs and police chiefs. I used it with merchants, imams, mayors, and, sometimes, even insurgents in disguise. It’s a trick that works especially well with soldiers, my own as well as Iraqi. In ten years in the Army, I discovered one thing I found consistently surprising: I never met a professional soldier who wanted his children to someday follow in his path.
The caretaker stares at the wrought iron door and its four ancient locks with a gleam in his eyes. Outside, the Moroccan sun shines down upon the ornate coloured tiles of Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin, located in the old medina of Fez. This, it is widely believed, is the oldest library in the world – and soon it will be open to the general public again.
“It was like healing wounds,” says Aziza Chaouni, a Fez native and the architect tasked with restoring the great library.
On a cloudy day last fall, I handed out my syllabus to my introductory creative writing class. It came with the usual suspects — character, point of view, and plot. We would learn to write stories, I said, by interrogating each of these building blocks of craft.
Then we dove right in, filling class time with rich discussions about each of these craft elements. The semester flew by. Students wrote stories, discussed, and workshopped.
On the last week, as reflection essays stacked up outside my office, it dawned on me that all semester I had danced around one vital question that students were beginning to ask on their own.
It is, perhaps, the most valuable question a creative writing teacher can ask a student: why write fiction?