Thursday, July 4, 2013

George Orwell and Ben Franklin walk into a bar...

 ...What would they talk about?

War is a way of shattering to pieces... materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable and... too intelligent.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

My grandfather was very wise man. Now he was ornery and such a curmudgeon that if there was a hall of fame for such people his likeness would be craved in the finest marble and set atop an equally ornate pedestal but as wisdom goes I base my distrust on established hierarchies and beliefs on his teachings. While a white Southerner who had grown up in its dominate culture and ideas during the absolute worst part of the Great Depression he nonetheless had a progressive side that would often shine through his admittedly rough and inherently conservative exterior.

“Americans sure do love to live on the edge of the slippery slope.” He said to me once in the early 1980’s as we watched the evening news. I forget the exact point in time but I believe Ronny Reagan had gone and invaded the Caribbean island nation of Grenada with numerous politicians and pundits warning anyone who would listen that the United States had no business trying to play policeman of the world again. The disaster that was Vietnam was still fresh in the memory of most Americans and very few had the stomach, at that time, for half-assed crusades.

Contrary to the naysayers and the worriers the invasion of Grenada did turn out to be a “minor” military campaign that did liberate a small country with really nice beaches. However only an idiot would disagree that its primary purpose was to tweak the nose hairs of the old and nearly senile Soviet leadership and give Fidel a heart attack as he sat in his Oceanside villa dreaming of his lost baseball career.

“Watch my words boy,” my grandfather said to me as we sat in the living room watching his huge and now incredibly old fashioned cabinet television, “a few years from now American soldiers will be going all over the world fighting wars again.” He said this during some of the most anxious years of the Cold War when most pundits thought any major deployment of American troops overseas would be just a short prelude to letting the missiles fly resulting in a deep fried planet and Homo sapiens learning to walk like the dinosaurs.

What I do clearly remember is just nodding my head in a semi-condescending manor since I was just a few short years from starting my military career. Never the swiftest in mental operations and with my head filled with scores of Ramboesque movies where super soldier saves western civilization and then sails off into the sunset with some hot babe. I had dreams of “being all that I could be”, which like the steroids using film twits generally involved defeating godless communism then having some attractive young lady fawned over my war wounds.

Who would have thought, besides all those with foresight and a little knowledge of how power corrupts, that First Bush would launch the United States down the road to nice little wars in both Panama and Kuwait. Curiously enough our antagonist in both conflicts were individuals formerly on the payroll in some fashion of the American government but that little fact was both largely sweep under the media rug and ignored by a population hyped on Ronny Reagan patriotism. No one could screw with the United States, we had cut the balls off the Russian bear then watched it crawl off to cower in some corner allowing Americans to bask in the glow of their own awesome awesomeness.

Of course Clinton followed First Bush by deploying troops into the former Yugoslavia and then conducting an aerial campaign against Serbia but it was Second Bush, a longtime trust fund loving slacker, who came after him with the single goal of rising above the shadow of his famous father.

Being in a semi-good mood I will not throw around volatile accusations of possible foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks or how once informed of the situation his staff let him continue with his appearance at an elementary school classroom surrounded by children. My point being that Second Bush’s visit had been long scheduled and while he later had fighter escort after Air Force One was in the air they did nothing to pull him out and get him to a safer location right then. DISCLAIMER: I am not suggesting anything. That is just one of several curious points that have never been answered to my satisfaction. Unlike many, I realize life very rarely ties all situations into nice little bows with the gift card having all the “T”’s crossed and little “I”’s dotted.

Nevertheless, the nation was primed for war and even more importantly, vigilant for any manner of behavior that might suggest possible terrorism both foreign and domestic. This new threat called for increased measures to secure our corporations and other economic interests from attack. Scratch that, I mean homes, hospitals, schools, and other crumbling infrastructure.

This insidious danger called for the technological might of the United States government to be brought to bear. No, we did not gear up to rationally take on the causes of the insanity that breed terrorism. All available government intelligence resources were mobilized along with the call going out to the patriotic private sector to help out in the “War on Terror.” The private sector, seeing this as a great way to make a profit jumped onboard and began helping out the government listen in on billions of phone calls along with overseeing the internet as people played Angry Birds and surfed around for decent porn.   

This now brings to center stage Edward Snowden, who worked for a private intelligence gathering contractor, and decided to play Don Quixote and start attacking the windmills of the monolithic National Security Agency by letting all the spying cats out of the bag. Since Snowden skipped the country the United States government has tried its best not to look completely incompetent but despite stamping its feet in a full-fledged tantrum and threatening to hold its breath like a spoiled toddler all demands for his immediate return have gone unanswered.

Various polls of the American people seem to suggest the country is relatively split on the merits of Snowden’s actions. For me he is a hero as well as a well meaning idiot who will more than likely spend the rest of his life in jail when the United States government gets its dirty hands on him. You simply do not embarrass the current military and economic superpower of the world without paying a heavy price.   

As far as my feelings on Snowden are concerned I believe what he did was right. I do not trust the government to listen in on phone calls and watch what people do on the internet without a warrant. I do not give a rip if a Democrat or Republican is in the White House, power corrupts and the one thing all elected officials crave is more power. That being said where I start having Orwellian fits of nervous anxiety is over the establishment of a corporate Espionage/Intelligence gathering complex (Yes, a trademark is pending on that phrase). The Military/Industrial complex is long established and has considerable interest in making sure our glorious and wise elected leaders not only always feel there is a need for their current weapons but that huge amounts of taxpayer dollars are always being pumped into their corporate weapons research coffers.

This corporate Espionage/Intelligence gathering complex has similar DNA and is certain to look after its own interests by making sure our stalwart elected leaders and the more malleable segment of the American population always believe some evil boogeyman is lurking in the shadows. I guess depending on your point of view it could be said both of these corporate industrial power blocs are one Hydra-like creature. Whatever the case even now they essentially own a significant timeshare in the United States government along with the oil industry and the bankers.

The military/Industrial complex and its minions in the media have already whipped up enough patriotic froth amongst the intellectually compliant that the very idea of war is peachy keen cool for every international issue that even remotely plagues the United States. Hell, Senator John McCain, his very, very good buddy Sweet Lindsey, and others in their entourage have never heard an idea for war they did not like. Once the Espionage/Intelligence gathering complex comes up to full steam I can only imagine the Big Brother-like policies they will say the United States has to buy from them or fire will rain from the sky, chaos will rule, and the nasty enemy de jour will soil your sons and daughters.

On the other hand, it may already be too late and we are sliding down that slippery slope of authoritarian oppression my grandfather worried about.  Here are a couple of videos that might prove interesting. The first is a more in depth and coherent examination of Orwell's vision. And the second shows a man being arrested for simply recording the actions of the local police who then arrest him and kill his dog.  


Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Whew, that's a lot of stuff to digest, dude. I'm not as naive and gullible as I used to be, but I'm not yet as cynical as you (and my hubby) are, either. Although I'm somewhat disheartened at a lot of things going on in our country, I'm leaning toward believing Snowden is more of a traitor than a hero. I believe he's a poorly educated man who only knew partial truths, at best, and has no idea or concern about the harm he's caused. I'm horrified by the fact that his disclosures aid and abet the terrorists.

Life As I Know It Now said...

The Military/Industrial complex is long established and has considerable interest in making sure our glorious and wise elected leaders not only always feel there is a need for their current weapons but that huge amounts of taxpayer dollars are always being pumped into their corporate weapons research coffers.

This is already a reality as far as I can see, and is in fact, how I understand history since WWII. I think the fact that most of those in power give lip service to freedom in this country is Orwellian doublespeak in action.

Akelamalu said...

Can't trust any politician. :(

Pixel Peeper said...

Reality control... very scary words.

I read this morning that British and American government agencies aren't the only ones spying on emails and phone calls - the French DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure or General Directorate for External Security), too, has been massively collecting communications data. I think the revelations are just starting...

Beach Bum said...

Susan: Just about any other time in my life I would agree that Snowden's actions would classify him as a traitor. The problem with that being the current assessment for me is that the actions of the government he "betrayed" are they themselves illegal.

I probably went a little too far with the tongue-in-cheek mood of my post but it is my opinion that it is very dangerous for the government to have that much power. As I stated, both political parties crave nothing but more power and the ability to manage the opposition more effectively.

While I am a sorry ass liberal and fear the right-wing tendencies to demagogue the issues, especially the overly religious, this is one issue that for me squarely comes down an American problem.

The one question have have to pose is that while terrorists of course have to be stopped where do we draw the line as to what actions the government can take? If we become a police state in the name of the very often abused excuse of National Security dose this just hand the terrorists everything they wanted in victory against us?

As for the warmongering, I stand completely by my words. The United States puts far more efforts in killing people than it does solving problems. While the right to self defense can never be denied for any person or nation at some point you have to wonder if all the drones and laser-guided bombs are creating more problems than they solve.

Life As I Know It: Absolutely, the Military/Industrial complex already owns a significant portion of the souls of our elected leaders. My fear was that the up and coming Espionage/Intelligence Gathering Complex will be able convince these moral, ethical, and intellectual stalwarts to pump a similar amount of funds into their corporate bank accounts. Because nothing curls the toes of politicians more than being able to convince the unwashed masses some boogeyman is out to get them.

Akelamalu: The one universal in the Western World appears to be gutless politicians.

Pixel: I do my best to resist conspiracy theories, except when I want to take a tongue-in-cheek jab at them and ponder about certain events that do not make any sense, like Second Bush sitting through an elementary classroom visit in the middle of 9/11. But this coordinated effort at monitoring information flow goes beyond anything Orwell could have imagined.

Randal Graves said...

When the biggest criminal around is The Man, it doesn't get more vital than revealing The Man's activities, especially since there's an inverse relationship between the fuckery caused and the crime committed.

Freedom over safety, no KGB for me.
Hey, that rhymes, and you know that rhymes, Marge.

Marja said...

As far as I know and what I see in facebook posts Edward Snowden is regarded as a Hero here too and I agree. People are angry about the spying. I also feel sorry for Edward. What he did is the same what the NSA did. That's the ironic part of it

uzza said...

National security is a scam. People buy it because we still frame things in terms of nations as if they were still autonomous entities. They're not.

Fuedal lords eventually had to cede authority to the newfangled idea of a 'country', and today the nation-state is yielding to multinational corporations who tell them what to do.
How to spend their money, mainly, which is naturally on whatever is most profitable to the corporations, and historically that would be war profiteering.

This used to require another country to be at war with, but their new marketing strategy gets around that by targeting the ever-expanding category of "terrorists". The more money is poured into this (increasingly privatized) security theater, the more the people rebel, the larger the category expands, and the more money is 'neccessary'. It's brilliant really.

They can keep sales up as long as the idea sells that some of us are not equal, that to be different is to be "suspicious". The only problem is they're taking our money to make us the enemy. Once we're all 'terrorists", we'll stop buying. How close are we to that?

lime said...

ya know, i have to agree with you here. i really do. and i wish you were wrong because the implications of being right about this are just....i don't even have words.