Banish the Darkness

| December 26, 2011

2010 Menorah in Washington DC, courtesy of National Geographic

Editors’ note: These views are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of BU Culture Shock and its staff.

Tonight marks the seventh night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. For eight days, Jews across the world light candles to commemorate Nes Gadol, the Great Miracle. Legend has it that the Maccabees rebelled against the Greeks, who at that time ruled Jerusalem. After successfully fighting them off, the Maccabees returned to the temple to find it ransacked. The Ner Tamid, the eternal candle which once burned so brightly, was extinguished. Searching high and low throughout the temple, they found the oil needed to light the candle for one day. Making more oil would take eight days, at which point the flame would once again die out, plunging them back into darkness. Miraculously, the one day of oil kept the candle lit for eight days, allowing the Maccabees to make enough oil so the candle would remain lit. In honor of this great miracle, we light candles for eight days, eat fried foods, and sing about bringing light into the world.

Why did the Maccabees fight back against the Greek rulers administering the land? A Greek edict had banned the Jews from practicing their religion. Torah study and praying were forbidden. They were effectively being censored, shut out from doing that which defined them. Study was relegated to dark rooms and secrecy.

Today, we face our own edict of censorship. Two bills making their way through Congress right now, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), threaten to fundamentally change the internet as we know it. These bills shift the balance of power from the people to corporations and the government. With SOPA and PIPA, the government can effectively erase a website from the Internet, scrubbing clean all traces of the URL and even forcing the removal of search engine links to the site.

My dad's old menorah, celebrating night 3

Ostensibly, this bill is designed to help protect a company’s copyrights. It is aimed at file sharing sites, many of which are located outside the US and therefore out of its jurisdiction. However, the power these bills allow extend beyond simple infringement. Any site linking to a possible offender is automatically at risk of going dark itself. These bills provide no recourse for the site owners to fight back. They don’t even have to be notified before the site gets taken down.

Like the Maccabees of yore, it’s time to take a stand. The only way to fight this is to speak out against them before they silence your voice. SOPA is up for vote in January, and right now it looks like it will pass. Call your senators and congressmen and tell them you care. Tell them it’s bad. Tell them to vote no.

“Everyone’s a small light, and we are all a strong light,” we sing. “Fight darkness and more blackness. Fight because of the light.” This is the time to fight. Let us banish the darkness.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: featured, Politics, Social Activism

About the Author ()

Adam Even Engel (CAS '12) is a founding member and current editor for BU Culture Shock. As the son of an Israeli mom and an American dad, he was raised in Framingham, Mass and transferred to Boston University after spending his freshman year at Binghamton University in upstate New York. He now studies chemistry and computer science. His future plans involve figuring out his future plans, perhaps getting lost on the way. Oh, and he is more than a little embarrassed by his picture, but he has been barred from changing it by consensus of BU Culture Shock writers and editors.

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. DJ Walker says:

    It is clear that this is a fight that our generation certainly needs to engage in. To be sure the internet is the last free medium of expression that we have in this country. Radio, TV, Magazines, Newspapers are either censored to death or controlled by only a few elites arguably not interested in allowing true freedom of expression. With this understood we know that the proponents of this legislation will not be swayed by arguments about freedom of expression those arguments only sway passionate scholars and true statesmen and our country suffers from a severe lack of both. We must couch our arguments not only in constitutional rhetoric but show how the passage of these bills will stifle innovation and creativity harming this country’s economic growth.

    We can also use this issue as a political hammer describing it as the last straw in youth support of this president. He knows who got him elected as well as the congressmen who rode his coattail to victory in 2008. Make this our generational call to arms- we will use our time, talents, and votes to defeat anyone who supports these measures, including the president. Let’s make it clear that when the politicians come around asking not just for our votes but for us to volunteer canvasing for them, making calls, and all the other grunt work that is necessary to be elected that they rely on college students to do we will have a litmus test. In the process our generation will gain a more powerful voice and we can began the conversations about game changing ideas that I agree is absolutely necessary.

  2. Chag Sameach

    I think this is an opportunity for conversation about game-changing ideas that I am uncertain Americans are willing to engage. It’s less about breaking the Internet and more about deciding what we want in the balance of corporate greed, creators making a living, and consumer entitlement. Throw in a little free speech and free assembly, too.

    This is also an issue about forward-thinking leadership. Are our legislators, judges, and other leaders able to keep up with technology. Can they have a real conversation about the nature of creativity and how it fits in to the social, moral, and civic aspects of this nation. And, while they’re at it, can they figure out how these kinds of laws need to move forward in shaping global economies.

    We also need our poets to give us new language to describe these issues – “piracy” and “property” sound so harsh and outdated.

    Doubt we’re interested in the conversation about game-changing ideas.

    • Some reports coming out of the SOPA markup hearing mentioned that congressmen present acknowledged their lack of understanding of the bill, but planned to vote for it anyway. I believe one was even quoted as saying “Bring in the nerds.”

      This may be an opportunity for conversation, but it’s also an opportunity for action. Not action of the “setting up tents on the Capitol steps” variety, but action of the “Learn more and tell your politicians WHY it’s wrong” kind. Sure, some of the bill analyses jump straight to the doomsday scenarios, but even the more realistic ones describe the potential for abuse inherent in the bill(s). That potential for disrupting the free flow of ideas and information disturbs me far more than the possibility of “breaking the internet”.

      Instead of “piracy” and “property”, I could see our discourse changed to discuss “exchange” or “sharing” of “works” and “creations”. This emphasizes the inherent nature of music, film, and software as the product of hard work rather than the ownership of said creations by megalithic corporations. “Intellectual works”, “creative works” put the ownership back in the hands of those who actually generated and executed these ideas.

      EDIT: Can’t forget, chag sameach to you and your family as well!