An excerpt from The New York Times Sunday Book Reviews, “Surveillance States” by Azar Nafisi:
“The real reason for government surveillance is fear, in this case the state’s fear of its citizens. Governments that spy on their people want to gain information and thus control not only over their enemies but over everyone, keeping them perpetually suspicious. What begins as a political action quickly permeates every aspect of life, including our most private spaces. What originates in fear of an enemy, sometimes founded in reality, quickly attaches to the familiar and mundane. The enemy becomes our eccentric colleague, the new neighbors speaking in a foreign tongue, those three people talking quietly to one another on the metro. Soon, every bag carries a bomb, every question contains a trap and all the places where we felt comfortable are no longer safe.
“It stays with you, that fear. It burrows under the skin. Even after you escape and are thousands of miles or many years away, you will still sometimes feel you are being watched. Something within you has been permanently damaged by the terrible knowledge of the human capability for cruelty and your own weaknesses in the face of it.
“When I came to America in 1997, for a long time I was in a state of euphoria, basking in the freedom to say anything to anybody. But euphoria doesn’t last long, in the real world or the fictional one. The fear I thought I had left behind when I immigrated caught up with me. In Iran surveillance and violence against citizens are naked and obvious. Here it is insidious. Here we are threatened by indifference. I fear the reign of ignorance, of citizens uneducated in their own and others’ histories and cultures. How can we find answers to the predicaments we face, without knowing what the questions are?
“Saul Bellow expressed anxiety over how those who survived the ordeal of the Holocaust would survive the ordeal of freedom. I don’t fear the ordeal of freedom. I fear the moment when we stop thinking of freedom as an ordeal.” (emphasis added)
Freedom is, should be, an ordeal. Our freedoms are something for which we should never cease fighting. Here in America, we often hear the phrase, “Freedom isn’t free” as it pertains to military service. But what of our responsibilities as citizens in a alleged free society? What of our responsibilities to uphold one of the most cherished documents in human history, the Bill of Rights? Do we truly believe our government and economic leaders are going to uphold our civil rights of their own volition?