Edward J. Snowden and the Exposure of Voyeuristic Fascism

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
By Paul Martin

Self-Pacification of the American Citizenry

JUNE 25, 2013

One person can make a difference in the affairs of state. 21st century political civilization has become habituated to international relations as the province of mega-units in something akin to an uneasy, disturbed condition of equipoise, in which underlying structural-economic-ideological forces, prone to confrontation, have become artificially muted: a surface of politesse, seething beneath, intended to disguise national strivings for power. Not all the presumed hegemonic players are alike in composition, direction of their historical course (ascending or descending), or geopolitical strategies for their survival and/or expansion. Self-evidently, China is rising in global influence, Russia, an injured giant finding its way through a mixed political economy and withdrawal symptoms from its previous expansionist phase, and the US, though for a century seeking and frequently achieving unilateral world leadership, now seemingly a wild card, capable of anything in order to remain on top. In this setting, individuals, until very recently, did not appear to matter, at least those excluded from positions of power—the vast majority of humankind, for whom the role of passivity coincided with the rise of mass, centrally directed technologies and organization, foreordained in practice to dwarf individual identity and sense of actuation in shaping their lives.

It is, of course, too early to tell, but events of popular history in such a brief span of time, occurring nevertheless still somewhat at the periphery of power politics—i.e., Egypt, Turkey, now Brazil (which could not help but ride the momentum from these currents of change)—have reintroduced the possibility of human transcendence over reified institutions and their leadership. No, we have not entered, thus far, a New Revolutionary Age, but in the last two weeks—a sliver of time as wars and the violation of civil liberties go—America has suddenly lost face, stature, and the moral high ground it has always claimed, and stands exposed, more than in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, to the world’s and its own people’s understanding as the invader of human dignity and privacy, priceless attributes distinguishing democracy from totalitarianism. This did not begin Inauguration Day 2009, but Obama must be held responsible for the intensification of pressures whose consequence has been the attempted breakdown of the human personality.

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