Author Topic: DM18  (Read 11188 times)

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Offline Daen

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« on: January 18, 2022, 10:00:05 AM »
Daen's Musings #18

So the other day I was thinking about when I started thinking politically and philosophically. I remember that they happened at about the same time, and the inciting event, but I could never really link why to those changes at the time.

It began with Edward Snowden. In 2013, I started hearing news reports about a massive leak of information from the NSA. I knew a little about Julian Assange, and had found it mildly interesting, but not exactly gripping to me. Then I found out what exactly Snowden had released. Details concerning the all-encompassing ways our government was spying on us. The cynical, brutish ways the intelligence community was forcing various companies and nations to become even more vulnerable to that spying. And most damning, the man in charge lying to congress about it.

In Citizen Four, Snowden says that last one was his breaking point. It was to me as well. Up until that point, I had presumed that most of our elected officials (and those they appointed) deserved our trust. That the mere fact they were in charge somehow imbued them with the moral and intellectual high ground.

I was very, very wrong.

Now that I think back on it, I can kind of link the outrage I felt at how completely the NSA was spying on me, to the philosophical awakening I experienced as a result. In retrospect, I can conclude that it was because of guilt.

Why do you spy on someone? Because you think they might be doing something wrong. You think they might be guilty of something. Why did our government spy on everyone? Same reason.

We have a saying here in the States: people are innocent until proven guilty. This presumption of innocence was put into law here in 1895, but it's a much older concept than that. It was a bulwark in British law back in 1791, and its origins can actually trace back to France in the 1300s. We didn't create the presumption of innocence, not by a long shot.

"What are you getting all bent out of shape about, anyway?" Someone might ask me in regards to this. "It's just the government listening in on a few phone calls. Besides, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of."

That's the path of least resistance. Passive allowance of a violation of our civil liberties is no different than violating someone's civil liberties ourselves! Even if it was just a few phone calls and not also every text, email, direct message, purchase, MEDICAL BILL, etc, it would still be wrong!

Basically the question we needed to ask ourselves (and still need to ask today) is how much do we value our freedoms? If, when I hear that the government is surveilling me, my response is simply to do nothing they might think is 'wrong', then the answer is clearly 'not very much at all'.

They work for us, people! We're their bosses! We have to crack the whip from time to time to remind them of that!

huff huff huff

Since then, I learned that it's not just the government. Corporations have been doing the same for a lot longer, and they have even fewer restrictions on their power. In their case it's all about profit, and not specifically power, but the results are the same. Why do they spy on us? So that they can sell us things more easily.

Just for kicks, I borrowed a friend's computer and opened up a web browser incognito. That's supposed to block all history and make the experience a blank slate. I logged into my email and sent off a test letter to a friend. Then I logged off again. Somehow, the next advertisements that came up were all targeted at writers! I switched between YouTube and Twitch and Facebook and Twitter, and they were all for various spellcheckers and writer's aids, and literary agencies!

What the hell, people? These companies picked up that I write books from my EMAIL! That's supposed to be secure! And when I started whining about it, I noticed the ads change to include VPN services! That's even worse! Instead of STOPPING their hateful, selfish and tyrannical peering into every nook and cranny of my being, they're advertising ways I can pay them to stop! Ways they certainly have back doors into.

Guilty or innocent isn't just a legal distinction. It's part of who we are as a society. As a people. We look at each other, and we immediately form a first impression based on what we see. For cops, many of whom have been trained to see black people as threatening, this can lead to horrific crimes. For soldiers, the same is true for brown people. We're told, no, more like compelled, into looking for threats first and foremost. Who is this person? First, let me look for anything about this person I can be afraid of. What? There's more to them than just threats? Nah, I'll just settle for judging them solely on fear.

That's how it became normal for governments and corporations to spy on us. They told us right from the start that this was all to make us safe. That they needed this intelligence infrastructure to keep the bad things away from us. They conveniently neglected to mention (or probably even consider), that we might need to be safe from them.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine the other day. Well, more of an acquaintance really. Friendship is a two-way street, and he doesn't like me very much right now. I complained about how we (Americans) say that we have a presumption of innocence, but we don't act like it. A single tweet, even if it's a total and complete lie, can destroy someone's career in a day. Sure, objections and fact-checking will surface after the fact to debunk said lie, but so many of us (Americans) never even bother reading the follow-up.

I mentioned how the same is true in law enforcement. There's a presumption of guilt when it comes to skin color especially, and qualified immunity applies to cops who brutalize people. Those cops, who to be clear are murderers, have actual laws that protect them and no one else.

"You just hate America," my 'friend' responded. "We've got it good here compared to everywhere else, and you just want to tear it all down. Why can't you just be happy being an American?"

That line really caught me by surprise. It shouldn't have, but it did. Of course I hate America, I was going to respond. I hate all nations. The very concept of countries is just another way we divide ourselves from other people, and justify treating them badly.

Thankfully I bit my tongue and didn't say as much to him. "Sure we have it good here," I said, choking back a lot of anger. "Economically, especially. That'll happen when your country manipulates, bullies, or straight-up controls most of the world for the better part of a century. Britain had it really good when they were an empire, but you can't really say the same about Africans, Indians, Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians, Chinese, Japanese, and probably dozens of other people groups at the time. In order for Britain to thrive, they all had to suffer."

I didn't go on, but my point was clear to him. I was talking about America, and he knew it. The conversation toned down a bit after that, and we parted cordially, but I have no idea how our next chat will go.

I get how we can get caught up in American exceptionalism. It's easy for people on the top of the pile to think they deserve to be there. Even if they hurt a lot of people during the climb up.

Technically, I don't hate America any more than I hate any other nation. It's more like I'm disappointed in America. We started out with a lot of promise, and I mean that literally. We 'promised' that all men were created equal, even if it took eighty years and a civil war to even begin to make that a true statement. We promised that our government would be run by the people. We've kinda slid backwards on that one, unfortunately. Sure, we vote for some government offices, but who chooses which candidates we have as our options? We promised we would be accepting of other religions, but the actions of a handful of people on September 11th twenty years ago basically put the nails in that coffin.

We need to live up to our promises. We need to make other Americans live up to our promises, too. We need to be determined, and forceful, and relentless in our pressure to live up to what we intended to be originally. If America really is the best nation in the world, we need to prove it. Not just economically, because we've already proven that we can take stuff from people. We need to prove it socially, ideologically.

« Last Edit: July 22, 2022, 05:32:39 AM by Daen »