Tuesday, 11 June 2013

You've failed, your highness ... I am a Snowden ... like my father before me

What follows is a post I made at The Guardian's CiF section, on the article announcing the identity of Edward Snowden as the man responsible for the most consequential whistleblowing in recent times, the release of highly classified NSA documents relating to their sweeping data collection practices.

I reproduce it here as an act of purest ego. It is a comment of which I am unreasonably proud.

It is also, in my opinion, a very important point, pertinent to all of recent history in ways none of us fully apprehend as yet.

(for presentation here I have added some emphasis to various phrases, and made use of blogger's simpler linking mechanism to add additional supporting links)

My grandfather (my father's father) was wounded on the beach at Gallipoli. He lived through the experience only because he was so incapacitated he was unable to prevent flies from laying their eggs in his wounds. He told me that many of his fellow soldiers who were less disabled died from gangrene as a consequence of covering their wounds. He walked with a pronounced limp all the rest of his life.

My father served in the New Zealand Scottish Regiment in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, in North Africa, Italy, Germany, and after the war in Japan. He died relatively early, from conditions the New Zealand Ministry of Defence concedes were partly related to injuries sustained during his active service.

I say this as preface because many people will otherwise misconstrue what comes next.

Although such men served, as do so many today, in the ardent belief that they served the forces of liberty and civilisation, and opposed the forces of tyranny and barbarism, this belief cannot be substantiated by reference to our documented actions as nations, or to the facts of history, or to any sensible assessment of human behaviour in the light of self-interest.

It exists now only in the political rhetoric used to goad naive young men and women into recklessly and ruthlessly attacking each other for the profit of others who are already immensely wealthy and powerful.

Let's face it squarely; they would not otherwise go to war so readily if they were not convinced that an existential struggle between good and evil required it. If they were told the truth - that such wars are fought for power, for the personal aggrandisement of repugnant political and industrial operatives, for the purposes of acquisition: and always have been - they would not cooperate in such numbers.

If we are to learn from history, we must first shed the self-serving versions of it we were taught by the victors in these wars, and that we still tell ourselves. We must learn to look at history dispassionately, only as human beings and not as nationalists. We must learn to discount the ego-defences of the victors as being unreliable sources of truth.

I say this as the son and grandson of the victors; men who in my experience were sincere and devout in their belief in the rightness of what they set out to do, but far less so after having done it.

One of my favourite authors, Iain M Banks, died the day this story exploded across the newspapers of the world.

He had this to say:

. . . "in every age and every state, there has seldom if ever been a shortage of eager young males prepared to kill and die to preserve the security, comfort and prejudices of their elders, and what you call heroism is just an expression of this fact; there is never a scarcity of idiots."
~Iain Menzies Banks, "Use of Weapons" [1990]

As Dave Allen used to say, may your God go with you.

"Blessed are the peacemakers"

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