Assange, Snowden, Manning . . .
They’ve been called whistle-blowers. But this is a misnomer. They are, to use the politically incorrect epithet, “white folk heroes”. They belong to a tradition of white folk heroism connecting with the past through deep primordial modes of being and feeling. They have exposed all the nasty lacy patterns of the underskirts of Empire. Here are seven examples of such heroism over the last two thousand years:
Rome: Not everyone wanted to be colonized by Rome. Revolts against Roman imperialism were not spasmodic. They were continual and formidable: besides wars and revolts in North Africa (Carthage) by the Jews and Persia, there were anti-Roman campaigns in Greece, the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal and Spain (Hispania), in Britain (Boadicea), and by Germanic peoples in the north who eventually invaded and ruined the Empire in the 5th Century AD. Of course, “civilized” Rome referred to its enemies as barbarians, tribes, hordes and so on. Vandals! Parliamentary Rule: At the beginning of the 13th century disgruntled barons in the north of Britain revolted and forced the king, John, to sign the Magna Carta, a document later cannibalized, reformed and truncated, but which got the feudal king to accept the principle that all men, even the king, were subject to the principles of law.
In the late 14th century, peasants, pressed by harsh economic times and high taxes, revolted and set fire to sections of London, buildings, gaols, law books, a palace (the Wat Tyler Rebellion).
The 1832 Reform Acts in Britain, a creature of public pressure, brought great changes to parliamentary reform, curbing abuses and bringing a greater number of districts and commons into the electoral realm. Europe had moved from Feudalism, rule by monarch, dukes, barons, the Papacy, to bourgs parliamentary rule.
19th Century Artists: Many artists, poets, novelists in 19th and 20th century Europe and America were unhappy with bourgeois rule. Wordsworth and Keats painted the ravages on the industrial economy on the commons, the social and natural world. Dickens painted pictures of young children, chimneysweeps, vagabonds, orphans caught up in hostile dysfunctional metropolitan
economies. Mark Twain, perhaps belatedly, pointed to the injustices of slavery, humanizing Jim, immortalizing the child conscience of Tom Sawyer. Henry David Thoreau mythologized the natural and imaginative world, like the European Romantics, as a counter to the prevailing cult of Manichean reason and machinery. The Abolitionist
Movement: The French Revolution (1780s) had proclaimed ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’. These were ideals developed by European thinkers, philosophers, such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, in the intellectual trenches of the 18th century. After the French and American Revolutions, their ideas were honoured more in the form of rhetoric and legal clauses than in practice. Some who practiced them could be lynched, hanged. In 1859, American John Brown and his sons led a raid against the Harper Ferry Federal armoury. His idea was to channel slaves to the north, to a free country; to end slavery by insurrection. He was hanged. William Wilberforce earlier gave voice to the anti-slavery lobby in the British Parliament. Riding the wave of slave revolts everywhere in the Caribbean, the Americas, he spent eighteen years introducing many motions in parliament as part of the campaign to abolish slavery. The Russian Revolution: The Revolution of 1918 put an end to Russian feudalism, the monarchy. The peasants and workers joined to overthrow the ruling dynasty but when its luminary Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, and his alternate, Trotsky was axed to death in Mexico in 1940, the conscience of the Revolution was knocked unconscious. Stalin, called by Trotsky the “outstanding mediocrity of the Party”, converted the nation and the states around him into a Gulag state, like his U.S. counterpart across the Atlantic. These two
Big Brothers joined hands in a common surge for global empire.
Social Activism: In the 1960s and 1970s young Americans took to the streets to revolt against the Vietnam War. Over the past forty years, young and old, in cities across the U.S. and Europe, have joined campaigns to fight the self-proclaimed New World Order: the punitive aspects of the neo-Liberal economy and globalization; too big to fail banks; the Iraq War, debt, depredations to the Third World economy, trade agreements such as NAFTA, the TPP. While many politicians and citizens in the “Third World” refuse to fight, through ignorance, cowardice, collusion, many of the citizens in the First World sit in, break down railings, take incoming pepper spray and teargas, go to jail. For the Third World!
Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Bradley Chelsea Manning: these three represent the latest incarnation of Western revolutionary heroism. Their millions of released cables, memos and emails have presented a detailed picture of the actual thinking and modus operandi of Western genocide across the planet. They have converted surmise and deduction into hard data, raw proof: the orchestration of war and genocide through mass surveillance, mass media, internet and drone technologies. Since August 2012, Assange, an Australian, the co-founder of Wikileaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Since June 2013, Snowden has been exiled in Russia, unable to return home. And Chelsea Bradley Manning, a former soldier, sentenced in July 2013, is serving thirty-five years in jail.
Assange, Snowden and Manning are antidotes to terror. The solution to terror, lies not in Washington DC or Westminster, but holed up in jail, sanctuary and exile across the planet.
Heroes or villains? Legendary whistle-blowers (left to right) Julian Assange, Edward Snowdon and Chelsea Bradley Manning.