Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sarah, Surveillance and Racism

Sarah, Surveillance and Racism

“Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Amos 5:24

Hello Reader,
Got genre reflecting life?

Continuing from earlier in August, I want to say that another genre that reflects life is science fiction.

This month I am going through a sci-fi TV series from a more innocent time, a time of almost a decade ago. In The Sarah Connor Chronicles from 2008 we see people using modern cellular telephones while still holding to their innocent beliefs.

Today we know better, maybe. Sadly, many Americans will have seen that movie Snowden by Oliver Stone where the staff of the NSA watch the six o’clock news and see their boss lying to Congress about whether the NSA staff are spying on loyal Americans. This while it could be said of those staff, as the prophet Jeremiah said, “Not one is righteous, no, not one” Not one regular staffer blows a whistle. 

People keep writing Edward Snowden was a “contractor,” with a disturbing implication: That only a “contractor,” would or should reveal the NSA’s dirty tricks against the republic. What rubbish! This is like saying “only” a “reservist” should blow the whistle if the regular army massacres a village or runs a prison torture system. Again, rubbish! Every man and woman in service to their country, whether contractor, regular or reserve, should know in their bones that “only following orders” is not a legal excuse. (And know that it’s not legal to lie to Congress) That’s why the allies hung people at Nuremberg, right? Just as they hung war criminals in Japan.

Have tempers cooled since the war? To use a scientist’s thought experiment: Should a bleeding heart conservative, who owns a time machine, go back and rescue those German war criminals? No. Granted, it might pluck at our heartstrings down the decades to see war criminals who are bent, limping, senior citizens being hunted down like animals and dragged off for trial—but no. For such cruelty, a noted Nazi hunter had a reply, saying in effect: “The war criminals of tomorrow are already living among us as children today. They need to see there will be consequences…” There is no statute of limitations for murder.

Which brings me back to clear-eyed Sarah Connor and her son John. Sarah knows that if she fails to stop SkyNet, then the consequence will be a rain of blinding fire and bleached skulls. Her resulting sensibility is grim: Maybe it is from her grimness that she doesn’t show the expected horror that would be the normal reaction, back in 2008, to seeing a whole town secretly under surveillance. This by capitalists like Google, not by the government. Today, needless to say, we are mostly ignoring “technocreep” in our lives—by our own electronic devices! We of today have something in common with that 2008 town where the people have been hoodwinked. Maybe not against their will, but without their consent… 

Surely the greatest weapon of any tyranny, (as a Robert Heinlein character noted) be it a Muslim theocracy or a communist People’s Republic, is secrecy. Censorship. In the case of that town, secrecy includes self-censorship. Sarah attends a town funeral where even after 35 workers have suddenly died… people still say they don’t want to know what the company was doing. 

A tearful widow talks to Sarah, saying she “never knew” her husband. Sarah stays silent, although that same husband, a week ago, tried to murder her. 

The metaphor? Besides surveillance? It’s like any town, from any time-space location within “1970-U.S.A.,” where the white women “don’t know” what their menfolk are doing… turning their heads away from jail beatings by cops, and planted evidence… ignoring their husband’s dirty excuses to keep a trial from being “removed” from racist state courts to the federal courts. This even though the “law of removal” was explicitly passed to prevent racism in courtrooms against civil rights workers. The town stood for any little county or city where police beatings and killings are performed at the direction of “the establishment,” the culture, and therefore won’t be stopped, not until the white culture is stopped. But can culture be stopped? Today? As it happens, today liberals are making “culture” a sacred cow. In Canada, for instance, the liberal party believes Government must not say that barbaric practises of another culture, such as honor killings and female genital mutilation, are “barbaric practises, “ and Government mustn’t teach this judgement to new immigrants.

(Note: the values of the enlightenment, from the 1700s, are not picked up by immigrants by magic. Not automatically. In Finland this week it was an asylum seeker, after two years of living in freedom, who went on a terror spree. Here’s a link in English to a proud Finn)

In Sarah’s town the widows and orphans are as clear as light bulbs: They say they don’t want to know, they don’t want to change.

We of today, less innocent, don’t want to know, perhaps, why the U.S. Congress, while claiming there is nothing to fear from surveillance, would not therefore pardon Edward Snowden… meanwhile is also claiming to be be afraid of the surveillance of Hillary Clinton. (by the Russians) Disciples of Big Brother have a word for that: double-think. 

Back in 1970, I must admit, when we said, “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem,” back when I myself was walking the earth and wondering about God, I was NOT trying to educate racists in the United States. Just as today U.S. Muslims are NOT trying to educate people over in Arabia that “Islam means peace.” Partly because, let’s admit it, many Americans,  not just Muslims, can’t spell “war effort.” (War on Terror) To be fair, some of those same Muslims DID once help educate the South Africans that “apartheid is wrong.” 

A 1970 level of white racism is something I would not be acclimated to. These days, like science fiction writer John Scalzi, I could happily live in a small town in Ohio where “everybody and their dog” voted for President Donald Trump, but no, I could not now live in a 1970 southern U.S. town like Omelas.  I’d have to walk away.  

In a 1970 town, according to a 1976 book I’m reading by John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down the worst racists are in the white Christian churches. Yes, I know that’s sounds crazy, yet Perkins, a Christian who was bruised for other’s iniquities, reasons out his belief about whites quite carefully. Meanwhile, in our own century, in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, (T:TSCC) a spiritual Black man, who attends Bible studies, teaches a chained up artificial intelligence to know right from wrong. He explains to the machine that killing is wrong “Because we are all God’s children.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t expect my white neighbors, if they have known only respect, dignity and easy lives, to care about right and wrong the way I do.

The childhood of Sarah’s son John is, for me, a special metaphor. I don’t relate to the adult version of John, in a space-time where he is the very confident leader of the resistance, but I can sure relate him as a growing boy living in a state of hiding. Because as John would say, I too grew up knowing “You are never safe!” 

John could not be protected by twenty F.B.I. agents in the episode What He Beheld, and I could not be protected by two parents. Nor protected from them. The good news is that I’ve grown up into a person who cares about Blacks and my clients, into a functional citizen, caring enough to try to understand the world. I would agree with Sarah Connor: As Sarah knows in her bones, knows when stress knifes into her so badly she attends a Sleep Institute because she can’t sleep at night… Never give up!

…as genre reflects life…

Sean Crawford
Under the big sky of Alberta

Edward Snowden, to his credit, used a “check and balance” by going to solid citizens with “journalist ethics” and then letting them decide whether to publish. 

~Journalists (at least in the British Commonwealth, and presumably also in the U.S.A.) will never turn traitor just for a “scoop.” The gentlemen of the press to whom Snowden confided obviously did not think Snowden was a traitor. Furthermore, ethical reporters won’t print a fact if they cannot either attribute it to a source or at least know themselves that it is utterly true. (For example, they won’t attribute that Paris is the capital of France, but they will attribute how much cargo flows into the Paris docks “according to the Minister of Transport”) 

As newspaper editors know, for a news reporter, a factual error is as rare as a soldier dropping his rifle on parade. Yes I know, magazine editors use “fact checkers,” (a practice some folks such as Peter Drucker disagree with) but remember, sometimes their periodical writers are not like honorable samurai, not like self-respecting reporters “riding for the brand” of journalism ethics, but sometimes are like dishonored ronin, merely “hired guns.”

(A sidebar for stupid trolls has been deleted)  

~I pondered the culture of wholesome clean cut Americans, without involving their wives, allowing themselves to believe in surveillance in my essay Reflections on Surveillance archived October 2013

~I wrote of Sarah Connor in my essay Sarah, Terminators and Feminists archived July 2011

~In the context of innocent John Connor, I wrote of the morality of mainstream Hollywood in my essay Morality, Boys and Hollywood archived July 2013.

~While I’m forever astonished at the cancelation of the show Firefly, (link to my buddy Blair’s review) I am merely frustrated that T:TSCC was canceled from the Fox network. A nerd on the Internet said the show was too philosophical for those expecting a bang-bang action show.

Note to self: Never try to place your TV series on Fox.

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