Some months back, in October, I watched Invictus with my class. You might have heard of the movie; it centers around the start of Nelson Mandela’s presidency and his attempts to unite the people using sports. The national South African team in rugby was experiencing quite a bit of opposition from the non-white majority of the country that would support the opposing team instead, and Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) found a way to connect his people on a small scale.
In the movie, the captain of the rugby team, Francois Pienaar (played by the always wonderful Matt Damon) was able to meet Mandela and hear his story. He also visited the jail Mandela was in for 18 years, located in Robben Island and got to see the tiny cell that was Mandela’s home for all those years.
The title of the film comes from a poem by William Ernest Henley which inspired and empowered Mandela during his time in prison. He gives Pienaar the poem in the movie to give him strength to lead his team to victory. It ends with “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”.
I have to admit, I was extremely late in my knowledge of Edward Snowden and what he was known for. Weeks went by with me being “what? Snowden? Who’s that?” Yes, you are free to judge and I don’t have any way to defend myself. I guess I was too occupied by different things (those things being tv-shows and fanfics). Don’t worry, I’m (kind of) up to date now. If you’re not, well, Edward Snowden is a whistleblower; he disclosed thousands of classified documents that he had acquired to media outlets, revealing to the extent which the American government is surveilling their people. While he has many people supporting him, quite a few think of him as a traitor and he has been marked as a public enemy in the US. He is currently living in Russia, and there is no doubt that he would be very unsafe if he were to come back to his home country.
In class today, we watched a video of Snowden being interviewed by a German documentary filmmaker, Hubert Seipel, at the beginning of the year. He discussed a variety of subjects surrounding what he had done and how the public has reacted to his actions. Quite early on, he said he had read several death treaths made by anonymous government officials working in the United States intelligence. In his words, they said they wanted to “poison me as I was returning from the grocery store” and “have me die in the shower”. He asked for police protection.
The fact that the government chooses not to respect their people’s privacy is not a strange concept. We are far from the world of Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but might be closer to it than we think (a guy in my class held a presentation on North-Korea today, and they are definitely not too far from that world, Big Brother and the secret police watching and all). The act of revealing all that information was brave, and some might say, stupid. But then again, isn’t a big part of bravery reliant on stupidity?
I guess it’s apparent that I support what he did and find it to be the correct decision. Whether I would do the same… well, there is always the fear of it coming back to hurt you and/or the people you care about. I would probably be quiet about it, I have to admit. Still, while there are apparent negative points to what the government does, I can’t help but understand why they find it necessary. By basically “spying” on the people, it would make it easier to spot potential future murderers, terrorists or drug dealers. They should just find a different way of doing it that doesn’t inflict on the privacy of others. Or…? I find that this topic is too great for me to fully express my opinions over. I’m torn.