Wow, a lot has happened to the stories we tell ourselves this past week! Another layer peeled from the onion that makes up our reality. I have to admit, I don’t pay too much attention to whistle-blower scandals but when journalists like Chris Hedges and the good people over at Truthdig flood their headlines with the name Edward Snowden I just have to know what the fuss is about.
Turns out the fuss was pretty major. On June 8, Americans learned that the National Security Agency has been collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of the telecommunication giant Verizon. It was revealed that the NSA claims internally that it has been using a top-secret spying program called PRISM to gain direct access to personal data belonging to customers of top Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo.
Those revelations came to us courtesy of 29-year-old Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who currently works for NSA outside defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. And as The Guardian noted, “Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning.”
So most of us vaguely knew that the US government has been spying on its citizens for a while and since 9/11 and the Patriot Act, it has all been perfectly “legal“. But we didn’t know to what extent and now we have confirmation that the extent is, basically, “everything”. All our calls, texts, emails, blogs, internet comments. It is all being monitored. Personally, I am not surprised. I’m still upset about the fact that I was questioned about this blog at the airport during immigration a couple of weeks ago. I already knew they knew pretty much everything. But seriously, think about it. Everything. Your Facebook messages to your best friend. Your emails to your mom. Your naughty texts to your significant other. Everything.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect to all of this is the overwhelming support for continuing the surveillance program, that the majority of people in the US say they don’t mind being spied on by the government because they have nothing to hide. Because it is in our best interest for our own security from terrorists and people who wish us harm. Consider now that the likelihood of being victim of a terrorist attack is less than the likelihood of being struck by lightening. Not to mention the likelihood of being involved in a car accident, so I suppose the next logical step is to stop going outside all together. But don’t most accidents happen in the home?
It seems to me that we have become a species too afraid to live. We want all kinds of assurances that everything is going to be ok, right up to the point where we are willing to give up everything that make life worth living in the first place. Why are we so terribly afraid of death, when death is actually the only thing in this life that is absolutely 100% guaranteed to happen?
In all of this troublesome news I did find the report that sales of George Orwell’s novel 1984 (written in 1949) have been soaring this past week, up 5000% on Amazon, somewhat amusing. My boyfriend and I are often gobsmacked (yes, seriously) by how it can be that this novel written over 60 years ago still functions as a blueprint of how the world have evolved since then. Just the fact that he didn’t set it in some alternative universe but rather titled it 1984 as the ultimate dystopian future for humanity, and while we have a lot more junk food and nice, shiny gadgets than in the book, the surveillance state aspect of the book is frighteningly similar. Consider these famous quotations from the book:
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
We live in a world where a lot of the history, especially from the past 100 years, has been written by the American empire. In this version of the truth, all their wars have been just and they are never the initial aggressor. We live in a world where corporate interests trumps all and governments bend to their will, yet the people in charge remain in shadows. What if we lived in a world where wars are never just? Which leads us to Orwell’s next quote, the mantra of the 1984 world. Repeat it enough and it becomes truth:
war is peace
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength
It’s a fun exercise to try and argue the truth of the above statements. I suppose war is peace if you enter the war with the notion that it will eventually bring peace, not considering the broken generation that grows up after the war and their desire for revenge. Freedom could be considered slavery if you as a free person had to fend for yourself in a lawless world, whereas as a slave you will consistently have access to shelter and food as long as you work for the masters. Ignorance is strength… well, this one speaks for itself. Go to any online news article on CNN, FOX or HuffingtonPost that discusses contraception, abortion and rape. We have all the technological advances in the world yet seemingly a lot of us prefer to spend our time telling others what they can and cannot do with their bodies. On the internet.
George Orwell died in 1950, at age 47.
What is your relationship with death? Have you made a conscious decision not to live in fear of it? I don’t remember exactly when or how, but I did some time ago. I do occasionally struggle with depression and when you find yourself in the grip of it, death suddenly seems like a very real and tangible thing, like a final relief. There is comfort in knowing this existence is temporary and that might actually be enough to keep you going; to keep being happy again. It doesn’t matter what you believe comes after death since no one alive will ever know for sure, but living in fear of death is just a big waste of life. That’s how they can control you. That is how they can make you do terrible things you never thought yourself capable of, or simply make you turn a blind eye to terrible things being done by others.
Don’t let your fear of death get in the way of living. Because right now it seems like that is what the people in control is banking on. That your fear will grant them the power to shape this world into their image. I think it’s a good thing we all read and re-read 1984 because the sad image below is what CNN’s front page wants us to take home from all these stunning revelations.