We live increasingly in a world of whistleblowers. Although they’ve been around in one form or another for decades, the latest generation have pretty much taken center stage. Names like Assange, Snowden and Greenwald have fashioned, with their fearless iconoclasm, their very own spotlights. Will our culture’s celebrity-itis sideline their noble missions? With what’s-his-name’s gender switch, Julian’s sex charges and Glen’s gay-boys-shacking-up-in-Rio schtick the foul deed is just about done. There is no stark reality that cannot be trivialized and trashed. What was she wearing when she ate her baby? No mud has stuck to Snowden as yet, but his choir boy purity could yet be subverted by any number of shadowy smears.
The net result is that we are almost constantly assailed by reports of their utterances and activities, and are left to ponder the weight of their various exposures and revelations, while wondering who is listening to our phone calls and staring at us through our webcams. Can Orwell’s dire predictions really be so unerringly accurate? Shit, pretty soon, we’re all going to be like the diplomats at the UN, conducting our private business on the park benches down the street, as that seems to be the only place that isn’t bugged.
Who are these people who monitor every shade and detail of our lives? Government and corporate employees is the simplest answer; a mixture of those who just need a job and will shut the fuck up to keep it, those who have bought into the prevailing belief system of their organization, turning themselves out every morning as correctly purring ideological puppets, and those who thrill to the idea that they are above the law and beyond detection and reproach. People who either don’t give a shit, or don’t mind being a tiny cog in the remorseless stripping away of human dignity, or who really believe populations need to be controlled and manipulated.
These control and manipulation freaks automatically align themselves with those in public relations and advertising who get their kicks from devising new and more profitable ways to sell us services and products, often those we didn’t know we needed. Sometimes, in pity for their addictions to such vacuous and inane pastimes, I find myself willing to continue my sacrificial lamb impersonation just so the poor sods will have something to do.
Privacy, and the dignity implied by its practice, has become a relic of the distant past. Consenting adults in private: well, that’s mostly gone, especially if you use a cell phone or computer. A recent report mentioned that fifteen or so percent of GCHQ monitored Skype calls were sexual in nature. If they start getting passed around as party favours by rogue employees, and some of them feature teenagers then we have a whole new world of predatory practice on our hands. That a prediction there, Mr. Psychic? Umm, yeah, it is.
As we know not even the elite are safe from prying eyes. When Angela Merkel goes out for sushi with her girlfriends do the lads at the NSA take bets on when they’ll get back to the office? And do their bets line up with those of drone operators and attack copter pilots, slashing lives at a safe distance? It’s a small step for man and an even smaller step for mankind.
Of course, it’s through the conscientious sacrifices of the whistleblowers that we know any of this at all, and I, for one, applaud their willingness to stand and be counted in opposing these shameless moral trespasses which undermine the very foundations of our cherished democratic freedoms.
Are we at the mercy of psychopathic organizations and individuals who have found a legally sanctioned way to infiltrate our lives for the wanton pleasure of previously private information? It would seem so. Perhaps it’s the challenge of looking for the needle in the haystack of the metadata, the thrill of the hunt and all, but I doubt it. It’s the unfettered frenzy for social control, not the peculiar notion that toenail statistics will sell more shoes. Usta be we were paranoid about communist shoes, now it’s muslim footwear that rocks the boat. With more than a hint of communist resurgence, courtesy the Vladimir of our darkest dreams. Imperial Moscow, Imperial Washington, Imperial Bejing, Imperial London: everyone wants an empire, or the old empire back. Me? I’m all for the brotherhood of man, laughably naive as it may sound.
Can we not embrace the shadow and see that the Other is us? I believe we can, as citizens, as cultures, as a planet, but as yet we are outweighed by too many greed embracing enterprises which depend on maintaining the enemy as the shadowy other.
They need the enemy for foreign policy, they need the enemy for arms manufacture, they need the enemy for standing armies, they need the enemy for the post-war reconstruction, they need the enemy for cultural reeducation, they need the enemy for junk food distribution, those poisons on paper plates perfected in labs, they need the enemy to balloon the budgets so the bigwigs can get even more and bigger, we need the enemy so we can be right, we need the enemy so we can feel superior, we need the other so we can be us.