Sunday, June 9, 2013

Historical Perspectives On The Loss Of Privacy And The Breach Of The Social Contract

With distrust in the government steadily rising, this seems like the perfect time to tie the past and the present together. The phone tapping program conducted by the  National Security Agency has started a new round of conversations about privacy. What the NSA is doing is an evolutionary extension of the wire tapping program the Patriot Act gave us. Whether we call it wire tapping and appoint a court to oversee it, or run some clandestine operation with an official acronym, the fact is: it's the government is spying on you.

I'm amazed at how shocked people are over the revelation of what should have been a known truth. The government has a history of infringing on the rights of citizens. We entered into a social contract as a civilized society. The chaos of  living in an immoral world where Psychological Egoist took what they wanted prompted Rational and Altruistic Egoist to react. We gave a sovereign the power to promote the general welfare and to enforce the laws; that trust is sacred, but what happens when the breach of the social contract is by the sovereign?

Thomas Hobbes laid the philosophical groundwork for this kind of society in his treatise Leviathan. In an ideal society our sovereign works to protect us, our interests, and our freedoms. When person A attacks person B the sovereign administers justice. We relinquish our power to enter into this protected agreement. What's happened over time is that the sovereign has sought to gain more power than we freely gave it.

I want to focus on the abuses of governmental power as it relates to us (private citizen). We've been conditioned to give up privacy for security. What the NSA is doing now is bad, but small potatoes when compared to the Counter Intelligence Program.

The Counter Intelligence Program was started in 1956 with the goal of "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order." What started out as a program designed to keep tabs on the Communist morphed into a full blown assault on every uprising during the 1960's. When the psychological warfare tactics and IRS audits weren't enough, the FBI would spy on, imprison, and even assassinate troublesome "Americans".

All of this sounds far fetched to young people who grew up with the fairy tale image of our country. "Cointelpro" was real. During the 15 years it was in operation they ran covert operations against every major movement that challenged the establishments control- even against Puerto Ricans trying to gain independence. What started with the Communist Party USA spread to the American Indian Movement (AIM), the civil rights movement, and groups protesting the Vietnam war.

The FBI, under direct orders from J. Edgar Hoover, began targeting many prominent members of the civil rights movement. Basically, every American Indian, Mexican, and Negro you learned about in school from that era was under surveillance, selected for intimidation, and in the case of Fred Hampton assassinated. The Nation of Islam, The NAACP, SNCC, AIM, The Communist Party USA, and the Black Panthers were all infiltrated.

When Americans get scared we cede more of our freedom to those who are sworn to protect us. We turn a blind eye to injustice right in front of us. America will declare war on anyone who resembles the enemies of the war we are currently fighting. There are over 80 innocent people trapped at Guantanamo Bay. Men who are guilty of nothing else but having a name similar to someone else's. This is no different than the internment of the Japanese during WWII. We've been told that these men are a threat to the security of our country, so we've kept them surrounded by the guilty ones for over a decade.

The hardest part of claiming morally superior ground is having to walk on it. We label China and other Communist countries as"rouge" or "oppressive" regimes, yet we employ the same types of espionage tactics they use against our own citizens. We get in an uproar when innocent Americans are held in other countries, yet ignore the war crimes we commit. Imagine the national outrage if Russia flew drone missions in Alaska to take out targets they felt were hostile to their security. These are things we do everyday.

I know people are upset about the government having access to their phones, but we've lived in a police state for a long time. No one freely gives up power. I know it's trendy to blame Obama, but he's just a continuation of the policy in place. I wish he would've closed Guantanamo Bay, I wish he would quit signature drone strikes that kill innocent people. I hope these things happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

When you love someone you hate to see them do things contrary to their best interest. It's the same for your country. Liberty demands honest critique of policies and practices.

I'm going to close with an excerpt from an official Cointelpro FBI document:
For maximum effectiveness of the Counterintelligence Program, and to prevent wasted effort, long-range goals are being set.

1.  Prevent the COALITION of militant black nationalist groups.  In
unity there is strength; a truism that is no less valid for all its 
triteness.  An effective coalition of black nationalist groups might be the
first step toward a real "Mau Mau" [Black revolutionary army] in America, 
the beginning of a true black revolution.

2.  Prevent the RISE OF A "MESSIAH" who could unify, and
electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.  Malcolm X might have
been such a "messiah;" he is the martyr of the movement today.  Martin
Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammed all aspire to this
position.  Elijah Muhammed is less of a threat because of his age.  King
could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his
supposed "obedience" to "white, liberal doctrines" (nonviolence) and embrace
black nationalism.  Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real
threat in this way.

3.  Prevent VIOLENCE on the part of black nationalist groups.  This
is of primary importance, and is, of course, a goal of our investigative
activity; it should also be a goal of the Counterintelligence Program to
pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they 
exercise their potential for violence.

4.  Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from
gaining RESPECTABILITY, by discrediting them to three separate segments of
the community.  The goal of discrediting black nationalists must be handled
tactically in three ways.  You must discredit those groups and individuals
to, first, the responsible Negro community.  Second, they must be
discredited to the white community, both the responsible community and to
"liberals" who have vestiges of sympathy for militant black nationalist
[sic] simply because they are Negroes.  Third, these groups must be 
discredited in the eyes of Negro radicals, the followers of the movement.  
This last area requires entirely different tactics from the first two.  
Publicity about violent tendencies and radical statements merely enhances 
black nationalists to the last group; it adds "respectability" in a different

5.  A final goal should be to prevent the long-range GROWTH of
militant black organizations, especially among youth.  Specific tactics to
prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed. [...]

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What Is Your Life Made Of?

Our lives are made up of the total days we've lived. These days are, in essences, what define us. The idea of running from your past is parochial; no matter where you go, you carry your past with you. We live in a society in which it's easier to distract ourselves from the reality of our situations than to face them. The use of alcohol and drugs (legal prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal) combined with all of the distractions of our technology driven culture have comfortably sedated us into a false reality. The fact is: the booze wear off, the high comes down, and we're left where we started; we are Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill when we run from life. We wake up with a hangover and all of those same problems waiting on us. The examined life is hard! The idea of "thought wrestling" isn't a new concept, but rather a choice people have been making all along. Thoreau once said, "what can I do to awaken my sleeping neighbor?" I don't have a silver bullet full of answers; no one has a monopoly on the truth: we can make claims, but we could be wrong. It takes courage to look deep inside ourselves and question what we believe. I have to engage in this kind of deep Socratic dialog. This is my nicotine, alcohol, and drug addiction rolled into one. There are times when I'm more alive by myself with a book than when I'm surrounded by people. All of my problems in life were a result of my unwillingness to face what was right in front of me.