by Alva Long
I read 1984 when I was nineteen years old. At the time, Bill Clinton was in office and there had been no September 11 yet, and therefore no Patriot Act or any of the watershed implications. 1984 Scared the Hot Mess out of me. It was too eerily possible to not be relevant to aspects of our own society. The telescreens watching you, the thought police engaging in elaborate rituals to implicate thought criminals, the memory holes wherein history was manipulated and erased continually in tiny incremental ways. All of these were too valid to dismiss.
Fifteen years later Edward Snowden ostentatiously barreled up to our screens and declared that all of my paranoia was legit. In fact, I had not even been paranoid on a level equivalent to the espionage being performed by my government, particularly given the homes of whistleblowers being raided once said whistle was blown. The breadth and scope the intelligence agencies employed against all citizens (including Congress, to their chagrin) was not one that any of us could imagine. We all pulled ourselves up strong to shout questions about how wrong it is, how wrong it was. Why is our government spying on us? Am I my people’s enemy?
The question we should be asking ourselves is how complicit we are in this new surveillance state. “Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera,” on televisions a generation ago liked to point to the humiliation du jour. “What happens when people stop being polite and start being real,” MTV broadcast in the tone of a warning.
Jane Austen said once, “Every man is a neighborhood of voluntary spies.” We — our generation, our culture — we have long since given our permission to have our ideas dissected and used against us. The NSA has merely taken us at our word.
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image: The Droid Lawyer