Thursday, November 03, 2011

Challenge 2: Invention

I have challenged my students to write a college application essay of at least 300 words every day for 30 days, working off a long list of essay topics. Below is one of my attempts. (Note from the future: Out of about 50 students, 22 actually completed it. I tried but gave up after 18 days.)

#18. What invention would the world be better off without, and why? (Kalamazoo)

It has never been easy being a leader. Look through the pages of history, and you will see that every great leader has been second-guessed and vilified by critics and opposition parties, by his own people as well as foreign powers. But the great leaders have endured, have held on to steer their nations through the rough waters of troubled times. Through intimidation, suppression, as well as sheer willpower and overwhelming force, the great leaders have always successfully crushed the voice of dissent.

Until the invention of social media.

When I look at my brothers in our neighboring states – Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Moammar Gaddafi in Libya, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia – I cannot help but think that they would still be in their respective (and rightful) seats of power if it had not been for Facebook and Twitter. According to Voice of America, organizers of protests in these autocratic strongholds have used these social media tools to mobilize supporters. And therein lies my concern – or should I say, the concern of every strongman living and ruling today in the Middle East: Leaders of these uprisings have used “the power of social media as a tool for political change.” For this, they are thankful; because of this, the great political families of Morocco and Algeria, Syria and Yemen, must live in fear or in hiding.

When one sees how these modern hippies and revolutionaries have reached out to the masses and have given courage to the voiceless, one can see that the world would be better off without Facebook and Twitter.

However, now that it is here, how can one person – alone in his palace of gold – completely eliminate this evil known as social media? Perhaps it is impossible. Instead, tactics must be employed. It is possible, I am told, to shut down the Internet during peak demonstrations, cutting off protesters' access to online resources. As the great Chinese leaders have censored online content and slowed down Internet connections, so too can we. One may also use fire to fight this fire: I say, use Facebook user accounts to shadow and capture members of the opposition. If activists want to use this new tool “to accelerate political and social change,” the rightful authoritarian regimes should use the same tools to stifle that change.

The West intends to spread that spirit of democracy in the Middle East. We must do what we can to stifle it, or our next Facebook status update may as well be :`(

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