He did not tell them what he had done. He tried, a couple of times, but the words just would not come out. Chess sat alone in his bedroom and stared at the wall, hearing only the white noise in his head and his own quickened breathing. He was leaving in two days, and everything seemed unreal.
He would go to the game one last time, he decided. Yeah, he owed himself that much. He was too terrified to feel proud of his decision, but he knew he was doing the best thing he could do. He stood, inhaled deeply, and began to pack his knapsack for the game.
A soft knock at the open bedroom door made Chess straighten and toss his backpack aside. “Oh, hey, sis,” he called, trying to make his voice sound casual, normal. “Is the internet back yet?”
His sister appeared in the rectangle of light from the hallway. “Not yet,” she frowned. “They said they shut it down for safety reasons… because people were publicizing their protest and a big mob was growing at the gate.”
“Yeah? Were they rioting?” Chess asked, surprised. He began to calculate how he could give them and the entire gate area a wide berth.
“Not that I know of but…” His sister looked darkly thoughtful for a moment. “The problem is, now, we don’t know what’s going on there... or anywhere. You know,” she added, sounding hesitant, “I think the government might be overstepping.”
“Huh.” Chess checked the time and considered what else he needed to pack. “What does your mayoral candidate think about all this?” he asked carelessly.
His sister stepped further into the room. “How did you know I’m working on a campaign?” she whispered fiercely, her eyes suddenly wide. “Does Mom know?”
Chess stopped and gazed at his sister’s face, surprised at how frightened she looked. “Is it a secret?” he whispered back.
“No, but…” His sister rolled her eyes and then glanced quickly over her shoulder. “You know how Mom is: she never wants to talk about politics at all. I didn’t want to upset her.”
“Oh…” He shrugged dismissively, absently started for his knapsack, and then turned back to her as a thought occurred to him. “Hey, about this kid, Pete, in your poly sci class: what’s going on between you two?”
His sister laughed. Seeing her face relax from her usual seriousness seemed good. “So that’s how you know about the campaign!” she cried. Her face looked positively bright now. “Yeah, there’s nothing going on between me and anyone from poly sci class,” she answered pointedly. She lifted a hand to smooth back her hair and the light fabric of her dress floated with her arm movement.
Chess took a step back. “Why…” he stammered. “Why are you dressed up?” And then he noticed the scent of her perfume. “Are you going out? You’re going out now?”
She smiled more widely. “What, you think you’re the only one who can sneak out after curfew?”
Now, his eyes widened in shock. “You know about that?” he gasped, watching her roll her eyes again. “Okay, fine. But you’re going out, too? You’re dating someone? Why am I just finding out about this stuff now?” he cried.
She squinted at him, looking confused at his reaction. “Hey, you’ve been sneaking out for much longer than I have. And what’s wrong with finding out now?”
He stared at her, his mouth open but unable to speak. He still could not find the words to tell her his news.
“Well,” she said finally, glancing toward his open backpack, which was still lying on the bed, “wherever it is that you go all these late nights, sneaking out past curfew and all, I hope it’s for a girl.”
Then, unexpectedly, she stepped close to him and hugged him tightly, her lips brushing his cheek at the same time. “Just take care,” she admonished, as she turned and walked out of the room.
Continued next page...
In the Internet era, governments have found many ways to control the flow of information — or at least to try to do so — by interfering with digital communications or limiting them.
“It’s almost become de rigueur during events like this — elections or political demonstrations — to tamper with the Internet,” Professor Deibert said. But he added that the shutdown in Egypt was “unprecedented in scope and scale.”
Egypt Cuts Off Most Internet and Cell Service, The New York Times, 28 Jan 2011
I have a tendency to think of samizdat publications as being along the lines of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlet, but that was actually mass-printed on a printing press. I think it’s reasonable to assume that samizdat took many different forms besides incitements to revolution. Samizdat media likely included flyers advertising performances of all kinds, various genres of fiction and non-fiction, reprints of artwork, and even audio cassettes and videotapes in the eighties.
I think it’s also possible that some people added their own personal touches to the things that they were copying out, sort of the way I imagine Medieval monks adding their own flourishes or possibly making more substantial changes to religious texts. I guess this is the way the culture of a population -- un-suppressible by even the most autocratic government -- has always sustained itself and evolved: in a wiki-style mass effort. Because it seems like there are always a few more avenues to communication than there are ways to censor.
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