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The Politics of “fooled but not swindled”

In De Rerum Natura  the rationale used by governments to track all forms of communications between its citizens can be found in Lucretius’s poetic verse. Lucretius explains that “I write…

Clear verse about dark matters. This is not
A senseless affection; there’s reason to it.
Just as when doctors try to give to children
A bitter medicine, they rim the cup
With honey’s sweetness, honey’s golden flavor,
To fool the silly little things, as far
As the lips at least, so that they’ll take the bitter
Dosage, and swallow it down, fooled, but not swindled,
But brought to health again through double-dealing

When dark matters besiege our shores we are advised to go about our daily lives and be not troubled; go and shop at the mall, spend your money at the movies, games , and what ever brings you pleasure and distraction. For health to be restored and maintained, the Republic requires you to go about your life undisturbed and serenely oblivious to  matters that would arrest your normal activities.

Those in positions of political power will deal, or double-deal, with the bitter truth. That the President had to mention such unpleasantness after revelation about the scope and depth of the government’s activities in tracking, collating, and analyzing these very keystrokes I type, and a trillion others coursing through the ether with other images, voices, data , and “metadata”, is regrettable .

Arguments about the legality of the activity are almost besides the point, for laws can be written to make it illegal for both the pauper and the plutocrat to sleep on the park bench. More to the heart of the matter, is the role of the citizen qua citizen in a democracy. Implicit in the seemingly ever increasing secrecy that envelopes much of what the organs of our government like the NSA, CIA, and FBI and other agencies are engaged in,  is that the main function of the citizen is to  function as a drone, fulfilling our designated roles of producing and consuming and not question how these activities alter our freedoms and relationship to each other.

When those in power promote fables instead of the realities of the hard choices, the bitterness that comes in trade-offs between secrecy and security, privacy, protection of liberties, and shifting priorities, we are treated as “silly little things” to be taken care of by our more mature and capable leaders.

Perhaps they think the “dosage” would be too great. We’ve been fooled, but have we or have we not been swindled?

 

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