The Architecture of Oppression

The Pentagon, US Dept of Defense Building (Wiki commons)

The Pentagon, US Dept of Defense Building (Wiki commons)

Fascinatingly, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, about whose actions many people feel highly conflicted, has a GED–a General Education Diploma, commonly known as a General Equivalency Diploma–not a high school diploma. Why is that such a big issue? Are our high schools so wonderful? If so, why the extremely high dropout rates and failures in literacy? Retrospectively, it may not have been the best decision I ever made, but I finished high school in three years, merely by taking two accelerated English classes instead of one in my junior year. High school seniors are still typically marking time, kept in a holding tank where they will (hopefully) stay out of trouble as they mature. The unusual high school keeps the rare senior engaged and interested throughout the entire senior year. This is uncommon, or the phrase “senioritis” would not be a much-used phrase in the U.S. I earned a diploma from a well-respected high school, but I was never a high school senior.

Edward Snowden probably never had great respect for so-called authority figures because he did not complete high school in the traditional manner, nor did he complete college, goes the argument. Edward Snowden has, by this argument–like many home-schooled children and college drop-out, Bill Gates–been insufficiently indoctrinated. Alice has stepped through the looking glass again: If we do not want to live in a police state, should we not all question authority all of the time?

A less elegant phrase for “architecture of oppression” might be “entrenched, abusive structures of authority.” Why should we not openly know what many of us have suspected, that there is constant surveillance of private citizens’ every spoken or written word.

We were informed that every Tweet would be stored in the LOC (Library of Congress) archives. Fair enough. We know full well that Facebook and other social media sites will continue, like the Dementors of Harry Potter novels, to suck every possible bit of information about us, and store it in its data bases. The rules of social media will constantly change, so that we can never keep our privacy settings up-to-date. We can, however, eschew social media. But few of us can take a year, or even a week, at Walden Pond and forgo emailing or conversing with our colleagues, family, and friends. So the government’s illegal snooping affects us all, no matter how innocent. No, I am no Libertarian: far from it. But I do think our military-industrialist Capitalist State has gone too far.

The government exists to serve us. It is a “government for the people.” So what is this all about? Fear. Irrational fear, unlike the perfectly rational knowledge of gun control advocates. The First Amendment appears to be written fairly well, but is blithely disregarded. The Second Amendment appears to be written, as it was, for the post-Colonial era–the British might come back!–and is interpreted to and beyond the letter, in an absurd and harmful fashion, resulting in deaths of innocent civilian Americans every day.

Let us all reread the great, thought-provoking novel about social conditioning 1984 written by Aldous Huxley in 1931, and published in 1932. The government’s attacks on the improperly conditioned, the slightly freer thinkers, is merciless in 1984, just as we can be certain that our government’s actions against Edward Snowden will be. In the meantime, let us not, like sheep follow the herd. Let us not castigate, but rather thank, Edward Snowden for revealing half-suspected truths that we have every right to know.

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