in the light of most recent events, I want to address this open letter to you.
It seems, during the past weeks, a lot of disturbing occurrences have happened throughout the Western world: first the media (and FBI) attack on KYAnonymous (otherwise known as Deric Lostutter), who, as you might remember was responsible for uncovering (or at least bringing it into the consciousness of the people) the rape culture that is present throughout the United States, and now the scandal about the NSA surveillance, that is being followed by a number of similar scandals from different countries. In other countries, like Germany, discussions about government overreach and privacy protection have been going on for a while.
To top it all, the person who leaked the information about the illegal activities of the U.S. government, Edward Snowden, now has to fear for his life and is hiding out in Hong Kong in order not to follow in the footsteps of people like Bradley Manning, who got arrested and severely mistreated for similar reasons.
As a citizen of Western civilization – more so, a citizen of the world – I have been deeply disturbed by not just the occurrences, but even more by the handling of them.
Let us face it, the rumor that governments are spying on us is an old one, and my generation, which grew up mostly in the 1990s, is probably especially familiar with it, due to television shows like “The X-Files” which (fictionally) portrayed just this version of the government that you are now proving to be real: democratically elected governments acting as the enemies of the people, spying on them and gathering information, secretly. Granted, the internet was not even an issue yet in the 1990s unless you were a nerd – like I was. But back then it portrayed to us that one ray of hope, that positive potential, that humankind might actually live up to in the new millennium. An infinite database of knowledge, and unrestrained sharing of information, regardless of who you were, where you were, what your social status was and how wealthy you were. Projects like Khan Academy still work tirelessly to fulfill that promise that was inspired in millions in the 1970s and 1980s through shows like Star Trek.
But you governments are more and more trying to turn that positive potential of the internet into a negative one by transforming the device into a spy-machine of a size that even George Orwell did not come up with in his worst nightmares.
The German government is tirelessly working on a project known in Germany as the “Bundestrojaner” (federal Trojan), which would allow them to spy out all the stored data, passwords and cache of infected computer – even more, enabling the federal government of Germany to copy any file onto your computer, or vice versa, delete any file they please. The use of this program has been approved by the federal government – despite of the protest of millions.
The NSA’s spy program so eloquently named PRISM truly presents a prism of information about billions of people all over the world: connection data, caller IDs, call durations and email content only scratch the surface of what PRISM is capable of. The so-called “gläserne Bürger” (see-through/glassy citizen) has long stopped to be the delusion of paranoid-ridden conspiracy theorists, and become real: Thank you, governments of the world.
Efforts like ACTA, CETA and IPRED hit the news (not the general news of course, because it would be too dangerous to inform the general public now, wouldn’t it?) on an almost weekly basis: efforts to limit the internet (evil tongues might call it “censor” – not officially, after all we are the FREE world, and not China, although at this point this is mere semantics) for the average user in order to protect corporate and government interests.
It is making me sick. And I am not the only one. And there is a very distinct reason for that.
Dear governments. You have been democratically elected by US, THE PEOPLE! You are no tyrants. You are no dictators. You are no people with interests. You are elected as representatives of US THE PEOPLE. You are not elected representatives of corporations, or of your party, or of your own schemes and interests.
You are in power for but one reason: WE THE PEOPLE elected you and entrusted you to represent us and govern us with our wishes and interests in mind.
That does not include spying on us and treating us like your worst enemy. That does not include threatening us with drones. That does not include imprisoning the people who uncover wrongdoings in your midst.
We are not your enemy. WE ARE YOU! YOU ARE US! As representatives of the majority of the people, you have but one agenda: TO FOLLOW THE WISH OF THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN YOUR COUNTRY.
You are not in power to protect corporations – or their financial interests. You are not in power to protect your own position, or work tirelessly to stay in power. Money is not your foremost purpose. Power is not your foremost purpose. WE, THE PEOPLE, ARE.
On the afternoon of 9/11, when I was watching the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on live television, and saw both of the twin towers collapse, I was merely 19 years old.
I was always a rather naïve child, who believed in the good of all people, and that life would turn out to be like a Walt Disney fairy-tale for me, and the second star to the right would make all my dreams come true. It was not that I hadn’t experienced darkness in my life – but the world out there to which the door was only just opening to me, seemed like a vast field of explorations and possibilities – and endless positive potential.
Despite of being that person, the instant I saw the twin tower collapse on September 11, 2001, I intuitively knew that the world as I knew it had ended. I couldn’t pinpoint just what was different, but there was the distinct feeling that nothing would ever be as it had been before.
Now, 12 years later, I know that the rather childish intuition from back than was nothing less than an accurate vision of the future. I was born a free citizen, a free thinker, and I have turned into the prisoner of a media largely influenced by government interests; a suspect under constant surveillance of our governments.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a success. Not because of the horrible attacks which demanded thousands of victims of all races, religions and nations. Not because of the terrorist cells (supposedly) hiding out in all kinds of different Middle-Eastern countries.
It was a success, because it was meant to be an attack on Western democracy and Western freedom – an effort which you, governments, have worked tirelessly towards ever since. Since 9/11, numerous different laws have been put in place in almost all Western countries, which limit the freedoms of its citizens in order to secure their ‘freedom’. Even 10 years after the terrorist attacks, the patriot act in the U.S. was extended for another term – even more, it was expanded to allow the US government to even apply it to US citizens (albeit accompanied by a (non-binding) promise of the current president that he would never make use of it).
The terrorists dreamed of destroying our freedom and attacking our democracy. But you, dear governments, made their dreams come true.
It was Henry David Thoreau in his essay “Civil Disobedience” who stated that “under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” That was in the 19th century when American democracy was still young and actually largely fulfilling its promise to be a government for the people by the people.
For the longest time, the act of civil disobedience was considered to be one of the most American acts possible. And the right – no, the duty – of civil disobedience is just what people like KYAnonymous and Edward Snowden are exerting. In government systems, where you hear phrases like “what he was doing was morally right, but illegal” or “it was a good cause, but we must arrest him”, something has gone horribly wrong. In a system, which essentially opposes good vs. laws so openly, what is there that can still be trusted?
If people like Edward Snowden and Deric Lostutter have to be sent to prison – should we not be right there next to them? In a government, in which breaking the law is morally right – does that not inevitably lead to the conclusion that following the law is morally wrong? When was the point, where a citizen started to be forced to decide between following the law and doing the right thing? In systems, where doing the right thing, and following the law has ceased to be one and the same thing, serious reconsideration needs to take place.
In a democratically elected government, that can no longer be trusted to act in the best interest of the people, an act of CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is the most democratic measure, that any truly democratic citizen can – no, has to – use in order to remind the government of its purpose.
In times, where our freedom, our privacy and our security are under attack – not by terrorists, but by our own governments, whom we entrusted with our most important matters – it is the duty of any upstanding citizen to face its government, protest on the streets, and resist any measure which is targeted against them.
For every attack, that a democratically elected government launches against its people (be it their privacy, their rights, or their life) is an attack against democracy itself.
And as a free citizen of a democratic country who believes in democratic values, I don’t want to accept any attack on this system of government which started out so promisingly – because democracy means government for the people by the people.
Our voices matter.
- a citizen who still believes in democracy
Share and Enjoy