“Nothing here is what it seems: he isn’t the plucky hero; the alliance isn’t some evil empire; this is not the grand arena.”
As far as the story in Serenity goes this is true. The cleverness in the writing by Joss Whedon is that he knows these are the polarised ways in which people talk about such matters and although he uses this to get us to invest in his characters he writes them so well that we question our perceptions, also. Mal is, in the minds of most Firefly fans, the protagonist and hero albeit a damaged and twisted one, the alliance represents an overbearing government force, and although ‘the war’ is over Mal and his crew are still fighting small battles with that force. In truth Mal only has one colourful angle on what comfortable free living should look like. It happens to clash with the opinion of ‘a body of people, notably ungoverned’ who managed to gain power and the upper hand at the beginning of the colonisation of the new solar system, and they are less than concerned by this small rebel… until he might actually be able to affect their shit.
Why do I mention this? Well, as is clear by most of my posts, American politics is of great interest to me. Much to the distaste of my British friends and family, Americans are not wrong when they say they are a world power and that to be the president of the United states is to be the most influential person in the free world, not just of the country itself. The political and economical decisions made there, will have a domino effect on the rest of the world. Why is this setup in place? Purely a product of history, just as in the Firefly ‘verse. And also as in the Firefly universe, shit may soon hit the fan.
The matters of surveillance and security are always issues in the political system. With each technological advancement the balance of freedom to existence always has to be recalibrated by way of implementing new restrictions and norms. It is not as many would have you believe to do with creating innovative new systems in the judiciary system to combat new threats. The only difference between new threats to the old threats we are accustomed to, is that they are termed new. The way in which threats to civilian populations manifest themselves is nothing new. The other day I found myself having a bizarre conversation with my Grandmother about whether living ‘back in her day’ would be better. Culture, media and personal freedoms would be different along with numerous other things like work and food availability- but what we were talking about was violence and war. She seemed to forget all about the IRA terrorists, the kamikaze bombers of World War II and the assassinations of political leaders. Instead she focused on the fundamentalists we deal with today like the men in Woolwich who brutally slaughtered a soldier, and the bombers that have been on the news since the World Trade centre buildings were brought down. I argued with her that things weren’t what they seemed. When I was born my father had only just been brought back from the first Gulf war and this I argued was the beginning of all the madness. A madness that hadn’t bothered us throughout the first years of my life- 9/12 2001 was the day that the propaganda about such things came back to full swing. Being a wee Scottish old lady she hadn’t yet heard about the tapping of emails and phone calls that was recently uncovered by a Mr Edward Snowden.
My angle is that there are always threats. Peace is not broken by war, but actually people are perpetually at war and we work towards brief moments of peace. This being the case, I see the argument that the increased surveillance is necessary because the threat to our lives has been increased is folly. It’s not that the threat has increased or changed form- we just happen to be more worried about it now than we used to be. And with the change in technology- our increased use of mobile phones that work like mini-computers and communication by way of email being eternally possible (so long as the internet holds up with the limited bandwidth)- different surveillance is possible although not necessarily necessary. If in World War II there had been the possibility to catch criminal activities as quickly and efficiently as it is now possible by way of our new technologies, the debate as to whether it was a good idea to do it would be just as polarised as it is now.
Do you know, I don’t even have an angle on this really. When I heard about this whole thing I wasn’t surprised. The only thing that offended me straight off was that there was no concern from Americans that the American government have implemented this worldwide. Americans in general, only seem to care that they have been tapped. Doing it to civilians of every other nation, well that’s fine. They seem to forget that doesn’t just mean the Arabic countries they are so irrationally fearful of, but that allied countries are likely also included. My question was immediatly- I wonder if my government is trying to protect me from the American government in any way? I read another Brit question what our government was doing to protect us against themselves. Everyone now questions whether their own government is doing the same thing as these guys. My speculation is that the answer is yes (no; I don’t have any evidence or rational reason to believe that- it’s pure hunch). I remember distinctly when my partner and I had been sitting fairly silently, surfing the web separately, I snorted all of a sudden and I had had to explain that Cenk Uygur (a person we both have a lot of admiration for) had just pointed out to his audience that the memo that had been revealed said nothing about needing a warrant to spy on Americans who were abroad. Understand that I had two reasons to snort. Cenk seemed to have the same blinkered opinion that to be watching folks who weren’t American was okay (or at least he never said anything against it). Also, I am a dual citizen- and the likelihood is that by way of me talking on the phone to my American relatives and emailing them they were being spied on by proxy and I’m sure they are not the only Americans to have been screwed over that way. Now that we know everyone is surveyed regardless of loopholes it means things like Americans abroad makes little to no difference.
It just so happened that after this news came out, I was finishing another re-watching of the Firefly series and the movie. I do re-watch it from time to time and it’s not just because there are no more to watch- I’d probably re-watch them anyway. It’s all so well written and so much of it is culturally poignant. It gave me the perspective that this whole mess is just a whole array of colours and opinions, individual decisions and events, emotions and atmospheres and that to thereby make black and white or polarised opinions and decisions based upon this information is a hot headed and misguided thing to try. It’s all just the product of history and the makings of history to come. In a way I’m just a bystander to all this- the things I do and say cannot immediately affect it all. My hope is that somehow this perspective gets around; around so far that it reaches the ears of some influential person. My wish is that politicians stop being so rash with decisions to “protect the people” and start being wary that they look like and have been acting like imperialists of late. Our fight should not have to be with government- the fight should be able to be the one to achieve some moments of peace.
A drop-out marine biology student from Scotland. Certainly some cursing will be bandied about.
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