mituns: (towers)
There is a movie called "The Lives of Others" which is set in East Germany and deals with the surveillance state that East Germany was, and how this surveillance got abused for personal gain. East Germany, of course, is not the only place where people lived with the constant threat of being overheard. Nazi Germany was another, and another was the Soviet Union. Reading the book "Everyday Saints - and other stories" one of the stories deals with a high official in the Orthodox Church, who was allowed make a trip outside of the USSR who wanted to relay information to a priest in the UK. Knowing that there was a very good chance that, even in London, he was being listened to, "In order for them to speak, they actually needed to lie down on the floor, so that the Secret Service agents tailing Metropolitan Nicodemus, and never once leaving him alone, would not be able to record their conversation through the windows."

Now it has been alleged that the NSA (perhaps in conjunction with the GCHQ) is basically spying on everyone in the United States. On one hand, we've been told that anything that the NSA (or any other agency) does is for our own safety & protection. After all, we 'don't want to let the terrorists win'.

Being a student of recent history, though, I have quite a different opinion. When governments feel the need to spy into every aspect of ordinary citizen's lives, it is never done for the security of the citizen, but for the security of the state. In a free country, those two things are synonymous; however, in a state that relies on the suppression of dissenting opinions to survive, the two are vastly different. The information gained from universal spying on one's own citizens is meant - by design - as a weapon to be used against the individual. That we have promises that it would probably never be used in such a way does nothing to allay my fears because the fact still remains that this weapon has been created and can easily be individualized for use against any one of us.

Am I being paranoid here? I don't think so. I already brought up the case of East Germany, but it is hardly the only example. When this type of information is collected, it not only becomes a weapon of the government as a whole, but also of any group or individual who might be able to gain access to it. So you tick off some alderman in your town. If said alderman can access this information or has connections to people who can, it becomes easy for these people to make your life a living hell. Furthermore, when government agencies collude to make themselves a burden to someone (see the case of Catherine Engelbrecht, who found herself a target not just of the IRS, but also the ATF, FBI, and OSHA ). How many of us have the resources to defend ourselves under such an onslaught?

(This isn't even mentioning how this information can become a weapon for other "less friendly" entities - imagine China hacking into a database of information on American citizens!)

Now, Google's CEO has said the following: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." This is a ridiculous position to take. Just because you don't want people to know about something, doesn't mean that one is doing something illegal or even wrong. Look at how many people give donations to charities anonymously. Some of this may be done in self-interest, such as when people don't want others to know how "loaded" they are or something, but to give without wanting outward praise for something is specifically Biblical (Matthew 6:4). Should people not have this right? Furthermore, taking again the example of the alderman, isn't it the right of a free citizen to be able to express opinions contrary to the alderman's without fear of repercussions for holding a different personal or political belief? Yes, it is understandable that people generally don't want their misdeeds to be known, but there is other recourse for dealing with illegal activity without assuming that everyone is a criminal to begin with. (Then again, with the plethora of laws that get passed, in the eyes of government, everyone is a criminal.)

I cannot vouch for the motives of Edward Snowden, and I won't try to. However, whatever his motives, if what he is saying about what government is doing to people is true, we as a people - as THE people - need to stand up and say that this is absolutely unacceptable. The ramifications for continuing on with it are just too great.
mituns: (freiheit)
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemöller

Back in the days of the Third Reich, there was a saying that went such Halts Maul - sonst kommst nach Dachau. Basically, it translates to "Shut your mouth, otherwise you'll be going to Dachau". Now, one of the theories that floats around about why Germans didn't speak up to defend the Jews is because they simply didn't know what was happening. Now, this isn't to say that every German knew the extent of the extermination camps, but with sayings like this, it's obvious that people had a general sense of terrible things going on, and that people would be silent in the hope that this wouldn't happen to them. All in all, that reaction is very human; after all, who wants to do things to attract persecution? However, the price of this silence was the lives of millions of other people, not only Jews, but anybody who did have the courage to oppose the regime. The Nazi government knew that they could use this type of fear to control people, and they implemented policies such as Sippenhaft which was the policy of not only punishing someone who spoke out against them, but punishing family members as well. For most people, this was too much to deal with, because even if they were willing to go to prison or die themselves, most were not willing to put their families and associates in such danger.

In hearing about the scandals breaking out dealing with the IRS, dealing with hassling conservatives group applying for non-profit status, illegally getting health care records, the government getting AP phone records, the EPA selectively waiving fees for "friendly" groups, etc., a lot of people are celebrating that maybe the country is waking up to the corruption of this current US government.

Call me a cynic, but hearing about these scandals break all together strikes me as highly suspicious. I believe that there is a high probability that these scandals "broke" on purpose, in order to further cow people from participating in resistance to the government. The revelations that the story breaking was scriped and that the woman in charge of the IRS at the time this was happening got a promotion to the Obamacare division of the IRS only serves to strenghten my view. I believe that this is being used as a warning to the American people to let them know the kind of things the government is capable of to destroy the voices of opposition.

Short of a complete replacement of the entire government or a complete dismantling of the IRS, EPA, etc, I don't believe that anything substantial is going to change. As many people contemplate the risks of not complying with Obamacare (for instance) knowing that these institutions still exist and still operate is a huge consideration. Who's to say that a family that won't support Obamacare wouldn't have their kids taken away for neglect? An audit pales in comparison. Who's willing to risk that?

Furthermore, for those who believe that there is some recourse in due process, there may be. But like in the case of these conservative groups, how many of them just gave up rather than have to deal with this? If one's kids are taken, and if one regains custody it's a measure of years before that happens, is that really justice? Many of Obama's nominees for various positions have rightfully been challenged for being overly partisan or incompetant or malicious. This is not an accident; it's a clear message to let people know that if they stand in the way of the agenda, they will be dealt with accordingly. That Obama seems to stay aloof from all of this is also no accident. After all, as Solzhenitsyn wrote, upon hearing of Stalin's death, there were people weeping in sorrow, because even after all they had been through, they could not believe that Stalin himself - as hero of "the people" could possibly have anything to do with such atrocities.


mituns: (Default)

September 2013

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