Spies Like Us

Reading up on this news story about the secret service operative who blew the whistle on the extent of spying that the secret side of government does on its citizens’ internet use has been very intriguing.

There is a weird coincidence, a small insignificant one, just before this news story broke I watched an old television series – Secret State – which touched upon this very issue, and showed a secret government agency which monitored its citizens, mainly persons of interest. Recordings were activated when certain key words were spoken by the person being watched and an operative was assigned to keep an eye on what that person was saying, often having to listen to irrelevant things for hours on end in the hopes that something relevant might turn up. It did not appear to be an appealing job. Day after day in a dark windowless room, sitting at a desk staring at a computer with headphones on all the time, watching, listening, but never being able to speak or interact. A secret fly on an invisible wall.

I think it is interesting to note that one of this secret service operative’s reasons for whistle-blowing is – “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” (quote via an article on Gawker)

Yet for many years he did do these sort of things, and earned a living from it, and seemed content to live in this world where people like him did what they did and were handsomely rewarded for it.

I wonder what really made him decide that he couldn’t do it anymore, was it perhaps that it dawned on him that those who spy may also be spied upon? Did he think that by being one of the watchers and listeners he was safe from being watched and listened to, and some incident caused him to realise that he was not safe at all.

And did he think that whistle-blowing was going to make it stop?

He has actually only succeeded in making himself even more watched and listened to, and everything he says and does is being recorded, especially when he gives an interview. If he wasn’t being spied on before, he certainly is now, and not just by his government’s secret service, but by the secret agencies of other governments, by the international press, and the worldwide public too.

Perhaps that was his intention, subconsciously. He had had enough of being unseen and unheard, of being successfully anonymous and invisible, so he did something which would make him the centre of attention of the entire world and society at large. He has in actual fact created for himself the epitome of the world he doesn’t want to live in or support.

And where exactly is there a society and a world which doesn’t do this sort of thing. Humans spy. We have always spied and we will always spy on each other. Humans also often create for themselves the very nightmares they fear. Our attempts to avoid the worst case scenario are sometimes the very actions needed to make it a reality. Another human behaviour is to deny our truths. Sometimes the things we say we don’t want are the very things we desire the most, but we find it very difficult to admit to ourselves that these are our true desires because we feel it is wrong to want those things, perhaps because society has made us feel ashamed of our true feelings, and the only way we can admit to it is by making it happen. Once it happens, there is no way of avoiding it, and thus we can accept it, and we may even be praised by others, by society and the world, for accepting something which is viewed as unacceptable.

I know of someone who had a similar job, who also decided they did not want to continue in that line of work for similar reasons. They disappeared (they were not disappeared) to live quietly off the grid. That was what they wanted.

Perhaps the most fascinating element of a news story like this one is how we all react to it individually. Our reactions tell a story of their own, of our truths, hidden and out in the open. How we view ourselves, our part in society, and our values, individually and collectively.

This little blog blurb is a reflection of my reaction. There is something hidden in my words, which has revealed a clue to something I have been trying to figure out about myself and my life. Everything is connected, but only if we choose to see it that way. I do.

Of course there is far more to this story than I have touched upon, this is just the part which drew my focus the most, and that is the part which I personally needed to notice.

So, how did you react to this news story?