Century Marks

Century Marks

Dream on

Last summer, when Isabel Castillo told Virginia governor Bob McDonnell that she had graduated from college in three and a half years with a 4.0 grade point average, the governor responded that the state needed more people like Castillo. Then she told the governor, "But I'm undocumented." Castillo, who came to this country when she was just six years old, went on to ask McDonnell to support the Dream Act, a bill that would make it possible for undocumented immigrants with college degrees to become U.S. citizens. The governor was not persuaded: "People who come here illegally need to be detained, prosecuted and deported," he said (New York Times, February 20).

Staying put

Christian clergy in Libya said they have no intention of leaving the country, where protests against Muammar Gaddafi and retaliation by government armed forces have left hundreds of people dead. Religious sisters working in hospitals in the eastern coastal region of Libya were busy treating those wounded in clashes. The Catholic Church is the largest Christian body in Libya, but there are also Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and Pentecostal churches (ENInews).

Peace is the way

Gene Sharp, an intellectual little known outside peace activist circles, served as an inspiration to the nonviolent protests that brought down the Mubarak regime in Egypt. Arguing from an empirical analysis of history, Sharp has long maintained that nonviolent strategies provide the best means of bringing down tyrannical regimes and that nonviolent resistance has played a bigger role than most historians have acknowledged. If the protesters had used violence, they would have likely been crushed by the Mubarak regime. Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy can be downloaded from the website of the Albert Einstein Institution (Scientific American, February 11).

Joking around

While religion played a role in the Egyptian protests (see "Muslims and Copts together"), so did humor. The garbage pile that accumulated in Tahrir Square was labeled the National Democratic Party headquarters—the name of Hosni Mubarak's party. After the vice president accused the protesters of having foreign agendas, youth started showing up with blank notebooks, proclaiming to each other, "Whoops, I left my 'agenda' at home." One woman, in an e-mail, likened Mubarak's reign to a long, loveless marriage: "After 30 years with my husband I feel like I need a new start, but he ­doesn't feel the same way, and now I can't get rid of him." The humor built camaraderie among the protesters and provided a safe means of defying the regime (The Atlantic, February).

Academic tithe

Troubled by world poverty, Toby Ord founded Giving What We Can, a philanthropic collective mostly for academics. It operates with two rules: give generously and give effectively. Ord, a philosophy researcher at Oxford who makes $52,000 a year, has recruited some academic heavyweights, like controversial bioethicist Peter Singer of Princeton University. The 80-some members of the collective have pledged to donate at least 10 percent of their annual pretax income. Ord says that where you give is as important as whether you give. Some graduate students at Rutgers University have started an American chapter of Giving What We Can (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13).