Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On the Americanization of Freedom in “Little Brother”

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Before I begin my postcolonial rant on this book, let me first say this:

I’m loving this novel, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It’s great sci fi on how government and internet surveillance is getting really out of hand. I love that I am learning a lot of really interesting things (such as how ridiculous it is to have false positives of 1% on something that is as rare as 1 in a million – that’s 10,000 false positives per million), and about encryption, etc. I love how it’s making me realize how political and media rhetoric misrepresent reality to cause propaganda. I love how it makes me rethink many of my online choices, my daily choices.

I also love love love how every chapter is dedicated to one of the author’s fave booksellers. If i ever write a book all my own, I’ll do dedications 🙂 haha shoulda dedicated each chapter of my thesis 🙂

Let me also say i am not yet done with the book, so it’s possible the author might change the direction he’s going in, but at the moment, I feel the author has sort of given America (and he’s Canadian so this is even more annoying) some sort of “claim” on freedom.

How?

First, whenever people get arrested unjustly in the novel, they claim their Americanness, their American citizenship as a defense. Really? Is that to say that anyone non-American deserves to be suspected of terrorism? (My experience as a woman who wears headscarf is that i get stopped for a “random check” 50% of the time i travel in the West. Nothing random about it. Also, last time i was in England, the airport security lady put her hands in my underwear while patting me down… I was seething, and my poor two-year old at the time was so confused by seeing me that angry). The other question is: can’t a US citizen be a terrorist?

Of course, to be fair, part of the argument of the novel is that the real terrorist is the STATE, Homeland Security, and the way they are terrorizing people in order to control them, exaggerating threats and behaving aggressively and violently in the name of the war on terror. So I guess the author doesn’t really mean that US citizens can’t be terrorists, but still…

Second, the whole constitution discussion grated on my nerves. Marcus’ mom is originally English and he makes fun of the fact that Britain has no written constitution and apparently some shady laws. He goes nuts in class when some teacher (pro-State) questions the sanctity of the constitution. We’re supposed to agree with Marcus that, no, the constitution is above all else? We’re supposed to disagree with his dad (I’m usually NOT on his dad’s side) when he says the constitution was never meant as religious doctrine. Duh. It isn’t, and no document written by man should ever be. Why would it be? (And yes, i am Muslim but even religious doctrine reaches humans through humans – it’s open to questioning, too, just maybe with more reverence if you’re more religious).

So there’s this part in a virtual press conference where Marcus says he believes in freedom and the US constitution.

Aaaarrrggggh … And I just had to write this post.

I’m hoping this book takes a turn somewhere, because America never really had the patent on freedom (hello, slavery? Done by same ppl who wrote that constitution? Hello?), maybe just the strongest rhetoric on it these days.

Will stop now and try to finish this novel before Eid starts 🙂

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