Monday, December 19, 2005

I Just Don't Get It

Every time I post on politics, I feel dirty later on, like I've gone and sacrificed reason in order to blow off steam. But then I keep doing it anyway. So, today, in addition to everything else I think is ridiculous about the current administration, I share Emery's bewilderment on the issue of unchecked NSA Surveliance vis-a-vis Conservatism. As the story I've linked indicates, having been caught red-handed in the act, and apparently having learned the lesson of the Plame leak, they're loudly proclaiming that what they're doing is absolutely just and right. I don't know, as this thing gets rolling, if legal parsing will make it so or not, but I do understand that a base tenet of Conservatism is distrust of government. The government should not be in your life. It is bottom-line dogma.

But even this isn't what I don't get. What I don't get is what's in it for them. One of my basic a priori assumptions about humanity is that no one actually thinks of themself as an evil, arch-villian. Yes, George Bush has cut taxes and overseen an unchecked growth in spending, mostly to the benefit of the extremely wealthy. There's not much question outside of Neo-conservative circles that this is an act of evil, but if what you want is that your nation doesn't tax you and doesn't pay for anything but national defense (the stated aim of the Neo-conservative movement), you might reasonably believe that it is right to bankrupt your nation's government in order to achieve this result.

Likewise, I just can't bring myself to believe that George W. Bush thinks that it would be better for this nation if he had unchecked dictatorial power. I'm sure he believes that there are things that have to be done for the security and safety of this nation, that his administration has to do what it has to do. I mean, I understand the psychology of it, I do. One of my previous jobs, in the earlier days of, was to solve problems. If something was blocking the flow of orders from the website, or the generation of shipments from the warehouse, or the shipping of those orders out the door, I was supposed to fix it. When I started the job, the company was relatively small, and I had direct administrative access to many of the servers, production databases, and software that ran the company (I had, what I used to refer to headily as "The Unlimited Power"). I literally had the power to take down the company if I wasn't careful. I was damn good at this job, and I also occasionally screwed up. A couple of times I screwed up badly, and a warehouse would stop functioning for several hours. Eventually the company started to put protocols in place, such that I couldn't just ad-hoc modify production data or software. I could still do it, but I had to get permission first. At first (and by "at first," I mean, "for the rest of the time I worked that job") I was pretty pissed off about it--they wanted me to solve problems, and these bureaucratic hoops were just getting in my way. To me they didn't seem to serve any useful purpose whatsoever, they were just blocking a person who was damn good at his job from doing it.

You know what? I was wrong. I was a lot wrong. Those protocols are there for a reason, because it is not a good idea to give people the Unlimited Power. Sometimes people with The Unlimited Power get paged in the middle of the night, log in to work, think that they're clearing an order queue that's blocked and accidentally delete everything in it instead. It's not because they mean harm, but it happens anyway.

So I don't get it. I don't get what they think they're doing. And, to quote Emery again, where is the outrage? Every aggressor in the history of the world who invaded another country said they were doing it for the safety of them and everyone else, and I'm sure the people who said it believed it. Every state that captured citizens and held them without trial, and that tortured them, said that those citizens were direct threats to that nation's security, and that it was absolutely necessary for the common good. Every leader who claimed unchecked executive power on his way to dictatorship claimed that he was doing it for the good of the citizenry. Every. Single. One. In. The. History. Of. The. World. I'm not saying this is where we're headed. I am saying that this is what it looks like when you are.

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