Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Land of the Free, Limited
By now, any self aware citizen of the earth will know that a very few of us live in actual democracies where every person is equal. It does not take much to know this is not the case: starting with the rather empty line of hot shots convicted for the GFC and moving onwards, it is clear there are the A class people in this world and then there are little people. The vast majority of us are little people.
Those big people, who we got to call "the 1%" during the past year or so (even though they're probably much less than that), are using the power of our governments against us. This happens everywhere. The latest example I have stumbled upon took place in Israel, where an army electronic surveillance vehicle was brought in to eaves drop on a peaceful and very legal protest at the center of Israel (see here). By far the worst offender seems to be the USA, with repeat examples of extremely silly behavior on behalf of the authorities as they go out of their way to subdue people: There is the ongoing pursuit of activists associated with Wikileaks, such as the now routine airport harassment Jacob Appelbaum has to go through or the seizure of private tweets made by Icelandic politician Birgitta Jonsdottir. There is the list of people sent through to Guantanamo for daring to wear Casio F91W watches (see the list maintained by Wikipedia for yourself here). I can go on and on, but the point should be clear. The problem is that the USA weighs more than any other country on such matters, and for two main reasons: first, by virtue of its heritage and what it is supposed to be standing for, land of the free and everything, the USA stands as a beacon for all other nations on matters of freedom; second, and as a direct result of the first, whatever the USA allows itself to do, its satellite countries - the UK, Australia and Israel included there - will soon follow suit. And follow they do: pay attention to all the help Julian Assange, guilty or not, is not getting from Australian authorities to see the point. Or the attention high profile criminals like this lady are getting from the police for daring to take part in a very legal pro Assange protest.
The USA & Co are attacking the activists, even though it is clear those activists are innocent (and are actually supported by millions of Westerners, Americans included) for a simple reason: subdue the activists and you will subdue all resistance before it has a chance of shoving its head above the mire. The problem becomes personal if you happen to be one of those targeted activists; otherwise one can continue living while pretending nothing is taking place. This is where I am starting to have a personal problem with the USA.
I am no activist. Other than tweeting and blogging I don't do much in the activity arena; I'm too lazy to do anything substantial. However, that might be enough in the eyes of American authorities: they have been known to keep an eye on those following Wikileaks on Twitter (count me in), they have been known to keep an eye on Pirate Party activists, and they have been known to keep an eye on activists such as Asher Wolf with whom I have some virtual associations through Twitter.
The question I ask myself is whether the above is enough to get my computer confiscated and searched the next time I arrive for a visit to the USA? Or will some person of authority decide that I should be the next Richard O'Dywer to pay a personal price despite breaking no law, just to make an example of and scare others? I don't know. The truth is that I very much adore the USA, the first foreign country I have ever visited, the source of many an illumination (Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, John Scalzi) and the source of much of the technology that makes my life so enjoyable. Any act of terrorism is as far away from me as it is from O'Dywer, Wolf, Jonsdottir or Appelbaum. Yet that is exactly the problem.
Until the USA comes clean and changes course I see no reason to want to visit the country. They have the attractions, they certainly do, but the number one criterion for me choosing a holiday destination is not going to a place that would have me constantly worried. The USA certainly does.