Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Edward J. Snowden: The 365-Day Man

[Part of the series: 2013 = 1984?]


"Now that he had recognized himself as a dead man it became important to stay alive as long as possible." (George Orwell, 1984, p. 25)


How many of us would willingly trade places with Edward J. Snowden?

He has a 365-day lease on life now that Russia has granted him temporary asylum. The clock is ticking.




The fact is, of course that all of us are in the same boat: our days are numbered. The difference is that most of us prefer to divert our eyes and act as if we will live forever. How differently would we spend our days if we stopped to think that our days aren't going to just stretch on indefinitely?

I place Snowden and Bradley Manning in the company of the small number of people who have had the courage to face the limitation on their days, and have acted accordingly.

In 1984, Orwell talked of the paradox of someone realizing that he was a marked man, and only then truly beginning to live.

By losing control of his life, did Edward J. Snowden ultimately gain it?




The Gospels are full of provocations to confront this paradox: people are forever saving up and guarding against a future that is never going to come, while throwing away the present that they do have. ("You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Luke 12:20)

There is no question that, by far, the most obvious path for Edward J. Snowden would have been to keep working away on his contracting assignments, socking money away in the bank, and planning for an early retirement. Wouldn't it have been sufficient to keep going through the motions, wait for someone else to reveal the extent of government spying, and then join the chorus of approbation from a safe distance?

Instead, he took the leap. And maybe -- just maybe -- the world will start to change as a result.




So . . . what would you do . . . if you had 365 days to truly live?


(More thoughts on 1984 here . . . .)


(1984 page references are to the 2009 Plume paperback edition.)


Related posts

The song's lyrics alternated between "talking about the passion" and "carrying the weight of the world," over and over again. It was as if to say, "This is something we are going to keep working through, again and again, until we come to grips with it."

(See Thoughts Before Holy Week: Talk About the Passion )






"Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world. His function is to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt toward an individual than toward an organization." (p. 185)

(See Big Brother: Not the Watcher, But the Reason We Allow Ourselves to be Watched)












How's this for a New Year's resolution? What are YOU going to do in 2012 to #RESIST US #NATO #war #murder #torture #detention #Afghanistan #Iran etc etc etc RSVP

(See #resist2012 )







Ai Weiwei is a fascinating character, and particularly interesting to me because of my years of involvement with China. But at some point I started to wonder if the situation of Ai Weiwei and other dissidents in China isn't just too remote to be relevant to most Americans. Somehow it was only when I saw these re-creations of the detention experience that I saw how directly connected the experience of Ai Weiwei is to that of people the U.S. persecutes.

(See Ai Weiwei: So Far Away, and Yet So Close (Take 1) )