Aug 17, 2006

Who Dares to Question the Wisdom of Our Big Brother?

A Federal Judge Rules Against El Presidente and his Warrantless Spying!
If someone asked you to name a country today that can arrest people, torture them, keep them incarcerated without a charge for an indefinite time, without legal representation, without any contact to the outside world, where that country's citizens could be spied upon without any legal warrant, then which country would it come to mind? That government would also argue that the courts have no jurisdiction or that questioning its actions would "weaken the country" and that the "state secrets doctrine" should prevent judicial review!

The Bush administration has repeatedly shown a gross disregard of our constitution, especially the First and Fourth Amendments (part of the Bill of Rights). Following a lawsuit [click to download the pdf file], a federal judge has ordered a stop to the warrantless (read: illegal) NSA eavesdropping program! Hopefully el Presidente will abide by this decision but don't hold your breath. This do-nothing Congress isn't willing to play its constitutional role in our checks & balances political system, so it's up to the courts to restore some sanity into the madness & destruction brought by BushCo. Oh, by the way, the answer to the rhetorical question above: it's the US! Draw your own conclusions.

Now, if the chief executive doesn't want to abide by the law, we have a problem. The president will probably seek and likely get an injunction for a stay. An appeals court will re-examine the case and the losing side will push the case to the Supreme Court. The latter is the sole arbiter on what cases to accept and rule on. However, SCOTUS has ruled several times against the administration's claims of "executive privilege" and "state secrets."

These days I'm teaching a couple summer courses at a local college and I'm discussing the First Amendment: Freedom of expression. It includes freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly & association, right to petition the government, etc. Freedom of expression is an indispensable condition for all other freedoms. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable search & seizures, so we can be safe in our own domains & possessions, without government's intrusion. Oh, and when the government intrudes it needs a warrant! That's according to our constitution--you know, that document which gave liberal freedoms to people in America and which made other people to long for the rights we enjoyed here!

I'm also discussing George Orwell's 1984, the political allegory about a system where Big Brother "knows best" and intrudes into every aspect of human activity. The use of the "enemy out there" [or the devil/evil if you prefer] who's ready to destroy you... unless you behave in a certain, authority-sanctioned way! What most people don't realize is that once they give up a freedom--in order to safeguard "other freedoms"--it's extremely hard to get it back. Further, the talk about unity through conformity and safety through excessive governmental powers is for the weak-minded, not for free thinkers and responsible citizens!

We can have national unity through diversity, critical inquiry, tolerance, and an open dialogue. As a matter of fact, open societies are stronger and have happier citizens. Why happier you ask? Because it is through freedom an individual can realize his/her potential! If your speech, movements and anything private are monitored, you change your behavior. Authoritarian regimes are bad, if for nothing else, for the kind of people they produce. When our government does not respect our freedoms, it also does not respect us. Admittedly, too often people have been immature or unwilling to be in control of themselves and of their government.

We liberals appreciate liberty and freedom not in the abstract but in line with a utilitarian principle. It makes sense to pursue activities that promote happiness and self-fulfillment, does it not? Since most of us have a functioning brain and are able to think critically, why not exercise our most precious faculties? Obviously every person can decides for himself how to live, but, to me, Big Brother's policies are a brutal suppression of individualism and freedom and, thus, are unacceptable.

You know, being safe from the ..Devil or all enemies does not mean anything to me if I'm not safe from Big Brother! Many conservatives are weak-minded, unimaginative, scared [remember: the politics of fear, the "war on terror" that has no fronts & end!], have authority issues, and are what the philosopher I. Kant described, living in "perpetual immaturity" by allowing others to make decisions for them. Otherwise, how come so many of them are willing to accept that 2+2=5...

"..But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother." From 1984.

And thus, all Winstons everywhere finally accept that two plus two equals five!