If someone asked me what this week’s festival was about, my answer would be fairly simple: “it was a celebration of the arts for social change.” Kronos Quartet: celebrating music as a way to connect across borders, as a way to define oneself and one’s nation, as a way to express oneself when words are censored. Tony Kushner, Politics as Story: celebrating theatre’s ability to transform peoples’ thoughts, beliefs and actions. Salman Rushdie, Freedom to Write: celebrating our (relative) freedom of expression, and rallying for those who are without. All of these events recognized and celebrated the arts as activism.
As he was talking about the power of theatre, Tony Kushner explained that theatre could impact the audience in a way that a well-written novel, or essay, could not. Theatre has the ability to change the world—slowly—it is not a tidal wave; it changes people’s thoughts through their feelings and emotions, to help them understand the world they live in. As he put it: “any true representation is going to show that justice is a desirable thing, that injustice is a terrible thing, that inequality is a problematic thing,” and so on.
We believe that the decision to resume arms shipments to the government of Bahrain without tangible evidence of progress in restoring and protecting human rights sends the wrong message to the Bahraini people and the international community—namely that the U.S. will privilege national security over documented human rights violations. That is surely not the message the administration wishes to project in the region.
Poetry infiltrates all levels of Afghani society. When the mullahs want to make a statement but cannot back it by reason, they back it with a poem and end the discussion. In the recent years, lords and warlords have competed to have the best poets onside, much like the courts of the past kings. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of one of the terrorist groups – one of the most wanted in America – is a professional poet. Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary commander and rival to Hekmatyar was also a poet. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the opposition and Gilani, head of a Sufi popular group also share the passion for poetry. This common thread can at times bring all the leaders and commanders together under one roof.
Reza Mohammedi, on the rich history of poetry in modern Afghanistan
While law enforcement sometimes argues that making members of the public aware that cell phone companies can track them will make it more difficult to catch criminals, it is too late in the day for that argument now that cell phone tracking is a staple of television police procedurals… Why aren’t these policies available on the companies’ websites? With such information, consumers could vote with their wallets and punish those companies that don’t protect privacy. Keeping their customers in the dark about surveillance is better for business, it seems.
Catherine Crump, ACLU on surveillance and business.
Salman Rushdie reads Natalia Estemirova’s “Wild Garlic Gatherers” as part of PEN’s 2009 event, Bearing Witness in Chechnya: The Legacy of Natalia Estemirova.