Monday, January 10, 2011


There was a demonstration scheduled this afternoon for Place du Premiere Mai. Twitter is down, as is Facebook. It’s hard to tell what roll, if any, online social networking has played in the protest movement here, yet since the Tehran uprisings in 2009, governments everywhere seem to believe that every Tweet brings us another step closer to the brink.

This is how you know something is happening: it’s rush hour, yet the city is quiet. When I left the university this afternoon, there were few students milling about, and the languages building was almost completely deserted. My classes were more than half full, but many students were missing. We continued a long deferred discussion of Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.” The conversation was animated, as we pondered the problem that confronted Thoreau and his contemporaries: Once you see the world, as it is, once your perspective has shifted, once you know that the emperor is naked, what do you do? What are the consequences of this knowledge? We’re still working on the answer.

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