In the words of Ernest Hemingway, expressing similar sentiments in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the protagonist, Robert Jordan, debating with himself if life is worth living in the face of such widespread atrocity and destruction in the Spanish Civil War, has a moment of clarity when he reflects, “If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.” It is not the certainty of success that should predicate hope; rather, it is its possibility that things can go another way, and that even an individual can change it. Have a little hope.
What can change things, however, is the recognition of this fact: that freedom, while it might mean different things to different people in different places at different times, is very much a matter of degree and also one of privilege. These struggles are not even remotely of the same degree of importance and vary immensely on scales of gravity. In a time where the world seems to be trending more and more in the direction of authoritarianism, quantifying the meaning of freedom directly, as it applies to conflicts where thousands, if not millions of lives and livelihoods hang in the balance, as opposed to minor inconvenience, is a matter of prudent necessity.
After months of unnecessarily painful-to-watch negotiation and infighting, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly referred to as the Infrastructure Bill, passed the House and will be presented to President Joe Biden. On the surface, it seems as though most Americans, Republican and Democratic, should celebrate that $550 billion of much needed improvements to the country’s bridges, roads, public transportation, water and energy infrastructure are on the way. More surprisingly, 13 Republicans in the house joined the overwhelming Democratic majority in supporting it, an incredibly rare show of bipartisanship.
Contrary to the words of many conservative pundits, there is nothing unprecedented or tyrannical about President Joe Biden’s rules that would require vaccination against COVID-19 for certain groups of Americans. Acting as a sort of mandate, the new rules require all employers with 100 or more employees to fully vaccinate their personnel. Additionally, any and all contractors who do work with the federal government must vaccinate their employees. Healthcare workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals must do the same. All in all, it obligates vaccination for around 100 million Americans, part of a larger effort to combat the contagious delta variant.
The events of Jan. 6, 2021 need no introduction. A month ago, the nation and the rest of the free world watched in horror as the Capitol building was breached by a fanatical Trump-supporting mob that sought to overturn an election and execute several elected officials. In the aftermath, five people, including a Capitol police officer, died, and hundreds more were injured. Several high-ranking cabinet members resigned, and representatives and senators both Republican and Democrat strongly condemned the riots, explicitly placing the blame for the incitement of the irate horde on the shoulders of former President Donald Trump himself. Trump and his repeated, unsubstantiated claims of election fraud stoked the fear, anger and prejudice of millions. Unfortunately, this is where the unity ended. In order to both prevent the spread of dangerous election-related conspiracy theories and the future planning of violent terror, nearly every social media platform, from Twitter to TikTok, banned former President Trump and suspended the accounts of thousands of his supporters. One platform in particular, the right-leaning, “free speech”-supporting Parler, was deplatformed entirely, with the App Store and Google Play Store banning its presence, and Amazon Web Services refusing to host its servers.
In one of the final dialogues of “Antigone,” the third play in Sophocles’ epic Oedipus Cycle, the blind fortune teller Tiresias has some choice advice for his king, Creon of Thebes. As Creon is deciding his niece Antigone’s fate after she illegally buried her brother Polynices, he struggles to balance the urge to appear strong before his people — who had recently emerged from two long, bloody conflicts — and to understand that Antigone’s crime was committed out of love and religious duty rather than seditious defiance. Creon, choosing the former, imprisons Antigone in a stone crypt despite her romantic infatuation with his son.
Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of collaborating on the writing of an editorial discussing Sodexo’s recent insertion of special dining pamphlets into various dining locations around campus. At first glance, the pamphlets seemed to be encouraging a healthier diet, instructing students on how to build plates that maintained appropriate portion sizes, how to use water as a means of suppressing one’s appetite and secretly physically exert oneself doing mundane tasks in order to burn calories. Evidently, these seemingly harmless pamphlets encourage weight loss, something many attempting to have a healthier lifestyle do not seek to do.
We have been thrown into a brand new decade, complete with its fair share of disasters. Two days after celebrating the New Year, the hashtag #ww3, or World War 3, was trending on Twitter. This trend was in response to the abrupt killing of a high-ranking Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, an action that the United States promptly took responsibility for. Understandably, this enraged both the Iranian government and its people, with the Supreme Leader and numerous parliamentary figures promising “harsh revenge” for the United States and its allies.
On Nov. 7, Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old lawmaker, was delivering a speech in front of the New Zealand Parliament in favor of the Zero Carbon Bill, a piece of legislation designed to set a target for the country to be at zero carbon emissions by 2050. During her speech, Swarbrick was heckled by an unidentified older member of Parliament, whereupon she nonchalantly responded with the phrase “Ok, Boomer,” seeming to acknowledge, but parry the attacking verbiage of her detractor. Swarbrick’s choice of words here could be perceived as quite intriguing, as she was clearly referencing a viral meme referring to baby boomers, a generation of Americans and Western Europeans born in the two decades of economic prosperity and abundance following the Second World War.
I have been at Brandeis for over a year now, and I’ve taken my fair share of good and bad classes. I’ve sat in lecture halls that felt electrified by passionate professors and students, with subject matters more interesting and entertaining than some of my favorite movies. The opposite has also been true, and I’ve found myself thinking that going to certain classes wasn’t even necessary. I have thought to myself, “maybe I should have consulted other students’ opinions and thoughts on said classes and professors before enrolling, or at least shop it before spending hundreds of dollars on used, rented textbooks.” I became wary of which classes I signed up for, almost to the point of paranoia; what if a class is required for my major or University requirement, and I’m unable to pass it due to either a teaching style that I can’t follow, or some incomprehensible, poorly-explained material?