Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Outrage Over NSA Surveillance - Should American Pay for their Own Security?

The haves in Western society have gotten used to being able to have their cake and eat it, and to not have to pay for the consequences of their actions, and even for their freedom. Somebody else pays, but that doesn’t trouble us too much.

In times of recession the have-less slip down the ladder dangerously close to the have-nots, but in boom times so far enough have recovered enough to keep the system going, despite that they’re paying too high a price. Working for wages that don’t reflect their contribution so that corporations and their shareholders can profit. Spending beyond their means so that banks can make a profit.

And then everybody kind of becomes unaccountable. The have-nots of course pay for everything and over time that group gets bigger and bigger. But a lot of people look the other way. It won’t happen to me. Even if it did happen once, it won’t happen again. It seems to be human nature. Until you’re down and you just can’t get up again. Then you realize, I have the power to change this. And then the whole world changes for you.

But those people are in the minority. Just as it happens at an individual level, it does with societies. The majority believe that what they do in their lives from moment to moment and the choices they make have nothing to do with the trouble that their country gets into. Of course they’re right in some ways. Leaders fabricate wars to oust inconvenient rulers or parties or squander budgets. Politicians steal the money and/or do what the wealthy and powerful want them to do. Bankers bankrupt entire economies and get away with it: correction, are rewarded for it.

But none of it could happen if every citizen actively participated in elections, which means finding out everything there is to find about candidates before they’re elected. Then communicating with them on everything they do. Protesting every single time they step out of line.

Some do it more than others, but the majority of us wait until something really disastrous happens then we wait for the next election and we vote differently, unless we allow ourselves to get seduced by bland election promises or we’re blinded by our prejudices. We’d rather hold onto them than properly inform ourselves.

And when an unjust war is started on the pretext of protecting our freedom, we accept it and look away from the fact that somebody else is paying for that real or imagined freedom. The soldiers, for one. Innocent civilians for another, just wanting to live their lives in peace, learn their own lessons in their own way, being smashed to pieces. Maybe dying, maybe surviving to live the rest of their lives in hell, their family, town and country destroyed.

Americans are being given the choice of actually paying the price themselves for their own security now, with the Obama Administration’s intelligence gathering. Isn’t it better than making others pay? Creating a fake war on a false pretext and bombing the hell out of a country? Conning US soldiers who get physically and mentally maimed or destroyed into believing they did something noble? Conning parents into believing they're sacrificing their children for something great, so that they'll  encourage the rest of the children to give themselves up like so much fodder? Illegally holding 'suspects' and illegally torturing them, treating them like animals?

For the war in Iraq the US military sent its missionaries into poor urban areas and targeted young men who had no jobs, no resources, no opportunities. Congressmen and Senators didn't send their own sons to fight. In fact they made sure their sons didn't fight. That’s not the worst kind of intrusion into privacy?

With this latest intelligence gathering story, the real intrusion on privacy would be if content were being mined which it isn't. And a much greater threat to individuals is when violent response, most of it inappropriate, fosters more hatred and more terrorism. When the superwealthy and giant corporations get away with not contributing adequately to society. When wages are too low so profits can be high and shareholders and CEOs can make a fortune. When a Republican governor squanders $24 million to further his personal agenda and says he didn't know what it cost and he didn't care. Shortly after he had cut $10 million from after-care programs in poor schools, $12 million from hospital charity, and refused to spend $25 million on early voting.

In comparison to the alternatives, intelligence gathering is a peaceful and non-violent method of dealing with the terrorist threat. It would be great if there was no threat. But there is one and something has to be done. The question is simply, who’s going to pay for the security? The people who receive it, or those who don't?