Page 1

the EPOCH JOURNAL

VOLUME IX, ISSUE 1

Fall 2015

diseased democracy by Sawyer Neale

interview with babken dergrigorian by Allison Tretina plus ELECTRIC YEREVAN & TWITTER AND HISTORY

The Epoch: On Dissent

FA L L 2 0 1 5

1


the EPOCH JOURNAL Fall 2015

volume IX, issue 1

editor-in-chief Allison Tretina Sawyer Neale contributors Morgan Anastasi Babken DerGrigorian © 2015, The Epoch Journal disclaimer The Epoch Journal is produced and distributed in annapolis, maryland. opinions expressed in articles or illustrations are not necessarily those of the editorial board or st. john’s college. advertising please contact sjca.epoch@gmail.com for information about advertisements mailing address st. john’s college 60 college ave. annapolis, md 21404

2

THE EPOCH JOURNAL


Editor’s Letter In unbalanced relationships, whether between person and capital or person and the state, or between person and person, the duty to prevent an abuse of power usually, if not always, lies in the hands of those who hold less power. The woman in bed, the voter in a booth, or the end user of an app is given two choices — yes or no. Here, within this world of two-sided choice is not a free field, but a one-sided duty to consent. By way of one of the United States’ twisted voting procedures, known as gerrymandering, before a voter enters the voting booth, he has already in a way consented to a party. That is, even if the voter votes outside this said party. Just in time for the 2016 elections, sophomore Sawyer Neale retraces gerrymandering to its inception, only to show how harrowing its effects have been and will be on democracy in America. As his title “Diseased Democracy” suggests, sometimes consent feels more like a disease than a freedom. Outside of formal bodies of power — and outside of voting booths — the American public is finding other ways to publicize their demands and grievances. North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, local anti-fracking campaigns, Fight for $15, and Black Lives Matter are examples of the country’s everyday opposition. This remarkable surge of dissent has inspired Morgan Anastasi to make a call for historians to mark the “revolution,” as he calls it in his article “Twitter and History.”

When public consent goes unwarranted, dissent too struggles for a foothold. This past summer proved that one such place is Armenia, where citizens have little to no say about the decisions affecting their livelihoods, and where political figures see public dissent only as a threat to their power. In a two-part series, including an article and an interview with political activist from Armenia, I try to capture the spirit of the “Electric Yerevan” protest and consider how it will reform the country’s political sector and, ultimately, bring the Armenian people closer to an open democracy. ■

—Allison Tretina, Co-Editor-in-Chief

FA L L 2 0 1 5

3


FEATURES

4

THE EPOCH JOURNAL


Politics and Government

Diseased Democracy On Gerrymandering in America by sawyer neale

In our age of newfound progressivism, attention devices to draw the districts for those congresis being drawn to the negative impact of Citizens sional seats, with few major legal restrictions. United, with SuperPACs funnelling untold millions This is where gerrymandering comes into play. into campaigns from the municipal to state, to fedGerrymandering occurs when the party controleral level, drowning out dissenting voices by virling a state’s legislature creates electoral distue of allowing those with the most money to fund tricts which benefit candidates from said party. the loudest kinds of political speech. Partisan redistricting has its roots in the early However, SuperPACs and corporate political days of our country, with Gov. Patrick Henry of speech aren’t the only diseases afflicting American Virginia leading attempts to draw congressional democracy. There is something far more insidious, districts to prevent James Madison from being perpetrated by both political parties throughout this elected to Congress. The name gerrymandering, country behind closed doors, which singlehandhowever, comes from former Vice President Eledly undermines not just our ability to voice our bridge Gerry, who, while serving as Governor of opinions, but the representaMassachusetts, approved of a tion that our elected officials redrawn electoral map with a afford to the public. This disdistrict, shaped like a salamanThis disease makes dissent ease makes dissent either imder, which benefitted his party, either impossible or meaning- the Democratic-Republicans. possible or meaningless and less and near-singlehandedly near-singlehandedly perpetuAfter the initial gerrymanates the political status quo, be der, gerrymandering went on perpetuates the political it Democratic or Republican. status quo, be it Democratic or unabated until the 1960s, when This insidious affliction has the Supreme Court released Republican. been described by as “a politia decision in Baker v Carr, cal device of far-reaching efwhich held that state legislafect. It sets aside the will of the tive district maps are, in fact, popular majority. It is a species of fraud, deception, judiciable. This holding was expanded in the cases and trickery which menaces the perpetuity of the Wesberry v Sanders, and Reynolds v. Sims which Republic of the United States more threateningly in introducing the notion of “one person, one vote” than does, perhaps, the injustice of unjust taxation, mandate that Congressional and state legislative for it deals more fundamentally with representative districts, respectively, need to have a roughly simigovernment.” It is called gerrymandering, a set of lar number of people. Directly following these caspartisan redistricting techniques that seeks to underes, the Voter Rights Act passed which also required mine the representative nature of our democracy. that electoral districts be drawn such that minority Once every 10 years, after the US census, the voters are properly represented. Although section 5 federal government undergoes a process called of the Act, which specified that state legislative discongressional apportionment, wherein—proportricts in certain states with a history of using gerrytional to the population of each state—it distribmandering to undermine minority votes must have utes all 435 voting congressional seats across the their districts approved by the federal government country. After congressional apportionment, state was struck down in the recent case Shelby County legislatures are constitutionally left to their own v. Holder, allowing the Republican-occupied legFA L L 2 0 1 5

5


islature to draw districts which packed disproporfrom minority party from making positive change. tionate amounts of african-americans into a few There is also reason to believe that gerrymanderdistricts, reducing the number of districts in which ing is responsible for increased partisanship in govafrican-american voters have an impact and making ernment. The general theory is that as gerrymandersuch districts more safe for Republican candidates4. ing creates safe districts for whichever party and the This case in particular illustrates the ways in general election ceases to be competitive, candidates’ which the majority party, whichever it may be, focus turns towards winning the primary, where ingerrymanders districts. The typical techniques of stead of supporting moderate policies which would gerrymandering is that of “cracking” and “packenable them to win swing voters, candidates appeal to ing” districts—both drawing districts such that any the bases of whichever party has the benefit in the disopposing members in a desired “safe” district are trict having what Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin so far dispersed that they have no real impact and Leach says “no political incentive to talk to [members pose no real threat to whatever candidate the maof an opposing political party] at all... So, what is the jority party may put forth (“cracking”) as well as political incentive? It’s to be crazy!” The point, howdrawing districts such that members of an opposing ever, has been heavily contested with leading studies party have a supermajority in a district (“packing”). suggesting that increased partisanship is caused moThis technique is evident in Maryland’s 3rd reso by socioeconomic changes than gerrymandering. Congressional District, regarded the most gerryThis problem, however, can be fixed. First off, the mandered district in the most gerrymandered state easiest way to counter gerrymandering is by holding in the country. In this district, the Democrat-occuyour elected officials who take part in partisan redispied legislature has created a district that stretches tricting accountable. As redrawn congressional and from a small hamlet called Annapolis (you may legislative maps typically have to undergo approval have heard of it!), to the inner harprocesses in state legislatures, this bor of Baltimore (not the dock, but means contacting your state reprethe harbor itself), to Glen Burnie, to sentatives and senators before a new Oleny, through a variety of twists, round of redistricting starts and telling The big issue at hand turns, and corridors that more them what you think about gerrymanis that these districts, closely resembles the many-armed dering, and how they shouldn’t supwhich are drawn by Scylla from Odyssey than any senport gerrymandered electoral maps. It your elected officials be- also means voting against gerrymansical and properly formed district. The issue isn’t that the districts hind closed doors serve derers. Regardless of whether you look absurd, of course. While geono purpose other than to fall to the left or right, and whether graphic compactness is a commonly your representatives do, too, if your perpetuate the majority legislators vote against democracy— used metric for determining whether of the majority party. a district has been gerrymandered, and vote against your interests—by the big issue at hand is that these supporting gerrymandered maps, districts, which are drawn by your they deserve to be voted against. elected officials behind closed doors The best way to fix gerrymanderserve no purpose other than to perpetuate the majoring, however, is to entirely remove politics from ity of the majority party. In creating districts wherethe redistricting process. States like Pennsylvania in the interests of the public play second fiddle to utilize gerrymandering reform in the form of biparparty interests, we are taking away the very repretisan legislator-run commissions to draw state legissentative nature of our representative democracy. lative maps, which still need to be approved by the Further, in creating districts that unfairly benlegislature, but don’t use that commission to draw efit one party over another, we are culling one of congressional maps and do congressional redistrictthe most basic forms of political dissent, dissent ing strictly in legislatures. In the majority of states, through voting. I making unfairly “safe” districts, however, all redistricting is done in state legislawe are perpetuating a status quo of the majortures, which, humorously enough, means that these ity party—be it Democratic in Maryland, or Relegislators are drawing their own districts, choosing publican in Pennsylvania—and preventing those who they represent and how to best get re-elected. 6

THE EPOCH JOURNAL


The best possible option seems to be a nonnon-partisan commissions is a great way to make partisan commission, such as the citizen-led one them a reality. Plus, in the states that allow citizens in California, where well educated private citito put forth ballot initiatives, the power rests enzens from a variety of backgrounds and political tirely in citizen’s hands, and you yourself can play affiliations are tasked with drawa major role in making American ing districts in a manner which democracy a little less diseased. is both geographically compact and representative of the various You yourself can play demographics of the citizens of a major role in making the state. These commissions are fairly cost-effective, with the CaliAmerican democracy a fornian commission representing little less diseased. a final cost of 10.45 million dollars to the state, a cost which is only incurred once a decade. As a point of comparison, that legislator-led commission from Pennsylvania—which only does state legislative districts—costed the state 4.8 million dollars. Very simply, these citizen led commissions make sense. In addition to holding gerrymandering legislators accountable, volunteering and supporting candidates for state legislature and progood government organizations that support these

FA L L 2 0 1 5

7


Armenia

Electric Yerevan: Part 1 An Interview with an Armenian Political Activist by allison tretina

I assume sanctions against Russia might have something to do with that. But, without a doubt, mismanagement and corruption, including renting out luxury apartments in central Yerevan and paying really high salaries, like absurdly high salaries, has something to do with it, as well. The company accrued all this debt, What sparked the current protest? and basically if it doesn’t pay off this debt, it will Babken DerGrigorian (BD): I like to distingo under and be unable to provide electricity. guish between the protest and the movement. In order to raise the rates, the company had The protest is about the hike in to present its case to the Armenian electricity tariffs. In the very state regulatory agency, which is narrow sense that hike, or the an arm of the Republic of Armenia, announcement of that hike, is not Russia. The agency’s decision The movement is what sparked this current proto allow the rate hike is what trigtest. But the movement is about about transparency gered the demonstrations. Popular transparency and corruption and anger is actually geared toward the and corruption and that movement has been buildArmenian state regulatory agency, that movement has ing up for the last few years. And because it is supposed to be looking been building up for it has had success over the last out for the interest of Armenian citfew years. It is the only successthe last few years. izens, and didn’t do that in this case. ful political entity that’s been in Armenia since at least the new What are some examples of the president has come into power, movement’s successes, before if not since its independence. the current demonstrations? I should back up a little bit and explain the BD: The movement has had smaller, local sucreason for the hike. The electricity company, cesses, which have been tangible. In the sumArmenian Electrical Network, is a Russian mer of 2013, there was a really big protest company, and is a subsidiary of a larger Russian against a 50% increase in transport fares. That electricity company, whose majority stakeholdwas halted in under a week and six days, purely er is the Russian state. The Armenian Electrias a result of popular mobilization. A lot of orgacal Network’s Russian CEO announced (I want nizers of the movement and the current protests to say two months ago; it may have been less) are veterans of that previous effort. A lot of the that due to mismanagement the company had rhetoric and value structures that are being repaccrued a lot of debt, and needed to raise tarresented in the Yerevan protests right now are iffs to cover that debt. Interestingly, Ernst & from that demonstration. The transport protest Young does the auditing for this company, and was itself a product of a previous victory that the last few audits were so bad the company was the result of another smaller, earlier vichasn’t been able to find financing from abroad. tory, in which we were able to save a small park Babken DerGrigorian, a long-time political activist in Armenia who actively participated in the protest, shared his thoughts in an exclusive interview on the demonstration as it was happening. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

8

THE EPOCH JOURNAL


in central Yerevan from being turned into retail boutiques. So the movement has been building and building for the last four years at least. Have the protesters’ demands changed over the last two weeks? BD: Protesters have made the following demands: (1) repeal of the electricity rate hike; (2) review of the current rate, to find ways for lower it; and (3) legal accountability for the police officers (including plain clothes officers and those who gave orders) responsible for the crackdown against protesters last week. The first two demands haven’t changed. The third one was added after the police crackdown. I think this part of the movement’s simplicity. It’s a very clear, simple set of demands. There is no room for negotiation. These clear, simple demands have, however, raised a whole host of other issues. For instance, people are starting to wonder why Armenians have to pay for the mismanagement of a Russian company? Why does a Russian company own the exclusive right to electricity distribution in Armenia? As a part of this inquiry, there has also been an awakening in terms of what it means to be an Armenian citizen and about the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship. The broader slogan of this and other protests has been: “We are the owners of our country.” It’s this understanding, that it is our right as citizens to demand accountability from our government and that our government is to be accountable to us, that is driving these demonstrations.

On the other hand, the Armenian government can’t really meet the protesters’ demand without addressing some really serious issues in terms of its relationship with Russia. For once, it would actually have to stand up to Russia. Over the last five or ten years, especially in the last two or three years, Armenia has increasingly become overly dependent on Russia. There is a colonialist relationship between Armenia and Russia. Most famously, Armenia backed out of the association agreement with Europe in September 2013 and decided to join the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Armenian president met for only an hour. This is after Armenia spent three years negotiating and fulfilling commitments to the European association. After three years of reforms, at the very last second, Putin blackmailed Armenia into dropping and joining the Eurasian Economic Union. He was able to do this because Russia owns almost all major infrastructures in Armenia. For instance, the Russians purchased a 20% stake in the gas distribution network that used to be owned by the Armenian state, which is now 100% owned by Gazprom. More and more, Russia has really dug its claws into Armenia. This is very consistent with Russian foreign policy. The only difference is Armenia is forced to play ball with Russia, because of its ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh territory. This has created a complex web of overdependence on Russia and a deterioration in Armenian sovereignty. The Armenian people are fed up with the asymmetry in this relationship.

What are the chances protesters’ demands will be met? BD: It’s hard to say because on the one hand people aren’t going to go home, unless there is some dirty provocation by the police, which there have been rumors about, or police repression. There is no room for negotiation or concessions. On June 27, the president announced there will be a new independent audit of the Armenian Electrical Network, and people here weren’t even talking about it, as if it didn’t even concern them. There is one demand to be met, that of the protesters. Period. There is no “or else.” We are not going home until our demands are met.

How is the Armenian media covering the protest? BD: It’s mixed. In the Armenian media landscape, you have the state-owned media and then a number of oligarch-owned media outlets. The line is really blurred between what is private, independent media and what is stateowned. The son-in-law of the president owns a number of media properties. Interestingly, his media outlets have been pretty positive about the demonstrations, which has led people to believe the government would like to co-opt the movement. I don’t watch the state-owned media, so I don’t know how they’re covering it. FA L L 2 0 1 5

9


On the other hand, you’ve got really vibrant online media in Armenia, everything from Internet TV channels and newspapers, which have been covering the protests really well. One great outlet is civilnet.am. It’s an independent, web-based television channel, that has been providing excellent coverage on the demonstrations, including live-streams of the sit-ins and footage from police stations after people have been arrested. Then there is social media. There is pretty good coverage on Twitter, although there are only a few of us tweeting in English. Then, there is Facebook. Facebook is huge in Armenia. It is used in a really different way than in the West. It is a free space for people to have critical discourse in a way that you just don’t see as much in Western countries. How is the Russian media covering the protests? BD: Horribly! To the point where the Russian foreign ministry actually had to put out a statement to the Russian media telling those outlets to stop covering the protests so horribly. Russian media is almost all propaganda. It’s almost all state media in Russia. The one exception there

10

THE EPOCH JOURNAL

is Dozhd TV, which is similar to civilnet.am. A lot of Russian journalists have come to Armenia and have been basically ostracized by the protesters, because of their shitty reporting. They are really quick to try and frame this as another Euromaidan. So, if you have been seeing a lot of insistence that this is not like Maidan, it is in response to the Russian media, the Russian trolls, trying to make this out to be some sort of CIA plot. Why is it important that we distinguish the Armenian protest from Ukraine’s Euromaidan movement? What are the differences between the two protests? BD: There is a lot of affinity with what happened in Maidan. What happened in Maidan was Ukraine’s legacy, and it needs to stay Ukraine’s legacy. We don’t want to co-op that legacy. We can have respect for it, but we are doing something different. Among the differences, the protests in Armenia are about an awakening of citizen identity, which probably happened in Ukraine before Maidan and even before the Orange Revolution. In 1994, for example Ukraine was the first post-Soviet country to have a peaceful transition of presidential power,


which is something we haven’t had in Armenia. Armenian protesters actually have to be careful to distance themselves from Maidan. In this part of the world, Maidan has become an almost pejorative term; when you say Maidan people who are used to watching the Russian media automatically think “CIA coup.” Because Russian media has such a large influence in Armenia, it was important from the beginning for protesters to say, “This is not the Maidan. Let us figure our shit out. It’s not the U.S.; it’s not Russia. We’ve got this, guys.” It’s an Armenian-centric movement. Yes, there is a Russian element, but the world does not revolve around Russia. It’s Armenians trying to solve Armenian issues. Do the protests have implications for neighboring countries, or other countries in the European Economic Union? BD: I think if anything this will have an effect on the relationship between Russia and Armenia. I definitely don’t see it affecting Georgia, for example. There has been a lot of solidarity with Georgia, which has been great. Georgia had its Rose Revolution in 2013 and has also had a peaceful transition of power. Geor-

gia is, as such, in a different situation from Armenia. In that sense, I think if anything, it’s an awakening for Russia. Russia claims to be Armenia’s biggest partner and supporter and yet it is screwing us over the most. Russia is more responsible for anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia than the West could ever be. Is there anything you would like to add about the protests? BD: I think it is important to note this has been years in the making. It did not just come out of nowhere. So, I think it is important to talk about this in context. A lot of the leading organizers here were veterans of the transport fares protest. It is also important to note the lack of leadership from political parties. This entire movement, the broader movement, came out of the political vacuum left by the failure of traditional political opposition parties to achieve anything. This sort of movement, this sort of social mobilization, has more legitimacy in Armenia than all the opposition parties put together. This is the only thing that has actually been able to challenge government policy and promote public opinion.

FA L L 2 0 1 5

11


Armenia

Electric Yerevan: Part 2 Civic Initiatives in Armenia by allison tretina

Thousands of Armenian protesters flooded the called “No to Robbery,” urged the protestors to acstreets of Yerevan when in late June the state utili- cept the offer. But unsatisfied, the people refused. ties commission announced that there would be a “The fact that [the debt] will be covered by the dramatic increase in electrical prices. For several budget money…well, it’s our money. It’s like, weeks, protesters occupied the capital, refusing to ‘OK, if we’re not taking it from your right pockleave until the government repealed the uncalled for et, then we’ll take it from your left,’” a proteshike that would increase prices by 17 to 22 percent. tor complained to Hromadske International. The reason for the hike remains an unsettled affair. On the night of June 28, after the police threatAccording to Public Radio International, the Arme- ed to disperse the crowds, many of the protestors nian government blames the depreciation of the dram, evacuated the scene. That is, until another group of the country’s currency. The relentless organizers took over dram is currently at its lowthe protest and insisted the est level since 2006. Protestgovernment do away with the This entire movement, the ers, however, are convinced price hike completely. The ferbroader movement, came out vor soon diminished, however. the sudden call for increase of prices is the result of misAs fatigue set in and the govof the political vacuum left management and corruption ernment refused to budge, the by the failure of traditional at the Armenian Electrical crowds dwindled to a few hunpolitical opposition parties to dred. By July 10, the organizNetwork. The network excluachieve anything. sively controls the country’s ers officially ended the protest. power grid and has been a Despite its name, Electric nine-year subsidiary of the Yerevan was never purely a Russian company, Inter RAO UES. Today, the compa- protest about electrical prices. It was part of a new ny is $225 million in debt, according to Armenia Now. wave of civic activism in Armenia, motivated by a Protestors believed that the government was stealing general dissatisfaction with local parties and NGO’s from their pockets in order to alleviate this debt, and lack of action. More specifically, it arose out of the that the Armenian people had become the victims of complex confluence of economics and politics in the Inter RAO’s poor choices. For the Electrical Network, country, tangled in a difficult relationship with Russia. there was no other way to absolve its debt without exSince the USSR’s disintegration in 1918, Armeternal aid. Yet reports published by Inter RAO showed nia’s allegiances have been with Russia. As an exthat the company has a high profit margin, with report- ample, in late 2014, the former Soviet state forfeited ed revenue of $104 million in the first quarter of 2015 its EU membership in order to instead become the alone — nearly half of the company’s accumulated debt. fifth member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Gaining international recognition and its very Union (EEU). The choice was seemingly inevitable. own hashtag #ElectricYerevan, the protest had some According to Eurasia Net, 20% of Armenia’s GDP effect. The government budged. Armenian presi- comes from remittances from Russia. A fifth of the dent Serzh Sargsyan announced his government country’s growth domestic product comes from Armewould subsidize the difference between the old elec- nians living abroad, at least two million of whom live tricity rates and new ones. The organizers, a group and work in Russia. In the early 1990’s, Russia also 12

THE EPOCH JOURNAL


backed Armenia in its brutal war with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Just north of Armenia, in neighboring Georgia, EU flags wave proudly from government buildings. Toward the east, Azerbaijan stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States’ troops in the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And toward the west is Turkey, now a launchpad for a U.S.-led coalition’s airstrikes against ISIS. Yet the small, landlocked country, Armenia, hardly gives the West a second glance. American company ContourGlobal is an exception to the rule. Earlier this summer, the company bought all of the hydropower plants on the Vorotan River for $180 million and pledged to invest $70 million toward retrofitting the 405-megawitt facility. The company currently provides 15 percent of Armenia’s electricity needs. Yet, so long as Russia dominates the country’s economy and security sectors, ContourGlobal will remain an exception. If anything, Electric Yerevan is a stark reminder that a chasm sits between the political sphere and its people. In the words of Central Asia expert, Nate Schenkkan, “The protest is a function of a broken policy process that excludes the public from key decisions affecting their livelihoods.” Russia is not entirely to blame. After all, this was not the first time President Sargsyan has

neutralized a popular, high level uprising, but his fourth since ascending to the presidency in 2008. In 2008, security forces violently dispersed protestors who claimed the presidential election was rigged. Eight protestors and two police died in the clashes, and at least 130 were injured. Arab Spring-inspired protests began in 2011, and while the opposition succeeded in extracting a few concessions, President Sargsyan remained in power. Protests following the 2013 elections, dubbed the “Barevolution” by supporters, also failed to dislodge Sargsyan. All the while, he has managed to avoid significant international scrutiny. What’s more, civic initiatives in Armenia have failed to find wider traction. Although the full and partial victories have inspired participants, brought greater public recognition, and influenced the local level, initiatives like Electric Yerevan have yet to make more structural and high-level political changes. Indeed, it remains to be seen how civic initiatives will develop and what form protest and activism will take in the future. Can and will they continue to remain as autonomous, loosely organized, informal groups? Or will they expand their efforts by either institutionalizing or becoming NGOs themselves, albeit of a different, more radical kind? Or will they join forces with political parties?

FA L L 2 0 1 5

13


14

THE EPOCH JOURNAL


#Blacklivesmatter and History

Twitter and History “Who will be our Thucydides?” by Morgan Anastasi

On July 30, 1815, from his Massachusetts estate, former President John Adams wrote a letter to the then-President Thomas Jefferson, which began as follows: “Who shall write the history of the American revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to write it?” Jefferson responded a few weeks later: On the subject of the history of the American revolution, you ask Who shall write it? who can write it? and who ever will be able to write it? nobody; except merely its external facts. all its councils, designs and discussions, having been conducted by Congress with closed doors, and no member, as far as I know, having even made notes of them. these, which are the life and soul of history must for ever be unknown. Two hundred years later, the #BlackLivesMatters protests in Baltimore, Ferguson, and across the country, have us asking similar questions: Who will write the history of our revolution? How will those countless generations who are yet to be born learn about these protests? Who will be our Thucydides? The nature of these protest movements poses a unique challenge to the historian. While historians during Adam and Jefferson’s time were used to making analyses based on a limited amount of information, the #BlackLivesMatter protest affords historians a surplus of information. The Ferguson protests alone generated millions of Twitter posts and a similar number of Facebook statuses, each of which, like the Adams-Jefferson exchange, provides a lense into the concerns, hopes, and fears of the people. Furthermore, the protests were completely decentralized. There were no Patrick Henrys or Robespierres to give an authoritative account. Rather, leadership was distributed amongst everyone participating in the protests. Each of the millions of Twitter posts and

Facebook statuses were equally authoritative as the rest, and each will need to be analyzed and considered when giving a comprehensive account of these movements. That is, before technology makes them either unreadable or nonexistent. The rapidly accelerating pace of technological development threatens to leave Twitter, Facebook, and the valuable cultural and historical insights they contain in the same graveyard as Myspace, Betamax tapes, and 78 RPM records. These are the three massive difficulties that any historian attempting to give an account of contemporary dissent movements faces. There is a great amount of completely disorganized primary-source data to sift through. It is all equally important for a comprehensive analysis, and it is extremely ephemeral, threatening to vanish at a moment’s notice. What, then, is the solution? Who, as Adams asked, will be able to write the history of our revolution? When all that is familiar to us has paid its dues to the hands of greedy Time; when we have retired from this life, and an individual whose grandparents are yet to be born extends a tentative, uncertain hand across the ages from his era to our own in an attempt to grasp something which is eternal and unchanging—what will be here to meet him? Too soon to tell.

FA L L 2 0 1 5

15


the EPOCH JOURNAL 60 college avenue annapolis, md 21401

THE EPOCH JOURNAL

16


FA L L 2 0 1 5

17

The Epoch Journal - Fall 2015  
The Epoch Journal - Fall 2015  
Advertisement