As wonderful as your opinion is on this, I just have to disagree, at least for the U.S. side of things, because most U.S. citizens are sheeple, with their heads buried deep in the ground. It's why the government has been getting away with so much all these years.....
I can see both sides there...
What I'm worried about isn't so much the flat-out-in-your-face draconian attacks on basic Natural Rights. I'm more worried about sappers. Those insidious tunnelers that work unseen in the darkness... They're only visible if you actively look for them.
I understand the disagreement. I used to think the same way. Around here people tend to think pretty similarly (far outside the norm) so I wouldn't expect anyone to agree just based on my word. Unfortunately it would be impossible for me to cover a small fraction of why I believe this. I'd have to cover everything from history to neuropsychology to anthropology with a level of detail that's way beyond me. I have a talent for organizing huge amounts of information into patterns and systems but individual details vanish almost instantly. If we met I wouldn't remember your name a minute after you said it. What I can do is briefly (keeping in mind my version of brief) explain how all that applies to what I see from the last few decades.
People in the US are not fundamentally different than people everywhere else. The vast majority of the population learns almost everything by sort of absorbing it socially. It's something only one other species on the planet (bonobos) can do. It's our default way of learning from the day we're born. We can't understand language but we can transfer ideas, and actual thoughts eventually, completely nonverbally.
As we mature some people naturally move away from that instinct because they figure out they can learn more literally using different parts of their brain. Some of us have dysfunction in the parts of the brain responsible for all that social learning so we have no choice. Females, on the whole, are much better at social learning because it's an evolutionary adaptation originally related to maternity. Boys, as a group, eventually become better at thinking more independently because of that handicap, for lack of a better word.
However people who can truly think outside the box, or think creatively, or recognize connections that are fundamentally different from what they already know, are not just in the minority. We are so rare as to be outliers. We rely on the masses to keep the species going but they rely just as much on us to chart a course.
Probably the best example, on a visible level, is looking at the way girls learn together in groups. Society as a whole isn't nearly as efficient but the effect is the same in the long run. Let's say a group of teenage girls is working on solving some science problem together and one of them is the exception to the rule who still excels in the subject. After they sit down and talk everything over not only will they end up with the best answer between them, chances are all of them will have accepted it in the same way kids just accept that what their parents or teacher tells them is absolute fact.
It looks like magic but actually it's a type of intelligence, emotional intelligence to be precise. It comes from the limbic regions of the brain which control emotion. In the case of humans and bonobos it also allows us to read others' emotional states (not me but most people) and also broadcast our own. As we get older that develops into the ability to read and transmit much more complex information. Just as importantly, it's the brain's mechanism for deciding what's true or false, what's significant or trivial - even for us independent and rational thinkers. On a side note it's also the part of the brain progaganda and other emotional manipulation targets and what allowed Pavlov to train his dogs.
As a result of our extended childhood compared to every other species, and the resultant reliance on social learning, we are literally conditioned to feel allegiance to social groups. It's the reason you get angry when you learn about some complete stranger you'll never meet being bullied or oppressed by the government. It's also the reason we feel the need to have discussions like this to educate each other.
We instinctively share what makes our amygdala happy and try to absorb what does the same for other people we identify with. As individuals we lack the brain power to make sense of the world but by adding your thoughts to mine and our thoughts to the collective we all benefit from them even though most people have no idea why. People learn to identify with other individuals and sort of self organize into opinion makers who push their ideas on others and opinion followers who internalize them. Some of us, once again the outliers, lack influence on the masses so instead we seek out others who share, not necessarily our opinions, but our way of forming opinions.
The individuals who find their way into the upper echelons of government are the opinion makers. It's not so much because of independent thinking, although that may be an element, but more because their particular social skills are for dominating the group with their thinking. Most of them begin, at some point, as surprisingly idealistic people but the closer they get to the top the less significance any interest in the common people has. In particular, in our present system especially, they are face to face with the second most powerful emotional influence there is.
The most powerful emotion is fear. That's just a survival instinct. It's why your fight or flight instinct (from your amygdala btw) can literally shut off signals from the rest of your brain and just sort of take over. The second most powerful influence is the possibility of an unimaginably positive outcome. Thats' what makes otherwise reasonable people start spending a fortune on lottery tickets when the jackpot gets high enough. It's also what makes legislators jump into bed with lobbyists because they know their support could pay off in a high paid lobbying position of their own in the future. Or if you're like Mike Rogers (or anybody with the same amount of power) it can pay off right now.
At that point you've also stopped identifying with all the little people you did on the way up. Their problems are not yours. When you pass a piece of legislation for the banks to make it harder to file for personal bankruptcy everybody in your world is happy. In your world, or as David Wong calls it your monkeysphere
, is being bent over by the banks. They're buying you expensive meals and contributing to your next campaign.
Now for ordinary people, if you happen to have grown up in the most powerful country in the world, one of the thoughts you've conditioned yourself to accept is that we don't need to change. The world will just have to work around us. It's unique to use in the present, but it has been the same historically for every country in that position and it has always been their downfall. It was what took down the British, the Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptions, the Incas, the Mesopotamians - all the most powerful countries throughout history.
That's also what ultimately gives our leaders the amount of power they have now. They reaffirm what people want to believe. This current cycle basically started with Reagan. He told people they could pay less and get more which is Trickledown Economics, or as Bush Sr. called it Voodoo Economics, in a nutshell. Except it wasn't true so it has gradually dragged us down. Between financial tricks, completely off the charts investment speculation, and the explosion of the Internet it took a long time for most people to really feel it.
As that happened the politicians ratcheted the emotional manipulation from the next to highest setting to the highest one - fear. The Republicans were all racists who wanted to give your money to their rich friends and take away Medicare checks and Social Security. The Democrats were all socialist pacifists who wanted to take your money and give it to freeloaders while letting other countries push us around. All the while the lobbyists built a solid levy in Washington to protect them from the flood of public outrage that was inevitable if people figured out what was really going on. It also isolated the power elite there even more from the rest of us.
At the same time, though, the Internet was punching holes in it. File sharing freed music lovers from the price fixing of record labels. Then the labels started exposing the corporatocracy by suing their customers. The first Internet bubble burst and the "middle class" (it doesn't actually exist any more) started experiencing real poverty for the first time in their lives. Then the financial industry collapsed and people started losing their jobs and houses while in Washington they were bailing out billionaires. Then the recovery came and those billionaires put it straight in their pockets.
But the crony capitalist propaganda machine was sophisticated and efficient so even though everybody knew their was something wrong the voices of reason telling them what it was were drowned out. The Internet continued breaking through, though, and lacking acceptable answers from all those greasy PR experts people turned to blogs and independent commentators and built online social networks where they shared all this stuff with each other. Over time they adapted to the virtual world and ideas spread just like they do in the physical one. Only now it wasn't limited to the people in your neighborhood or office or city. Ideas spread from everywhere to everywhere.
Last year we saw the first truly massive manifestations of that effect. The first was the defeat of SOPA. Contrary to what they think in Washington that was not driven by Google and Wikipedia or even tech bloggers. It wasn't even driven purely by Americans. Those of us around the world who have been trying to get people's attention for years struck a chord and all the people who were standing on the sidelines confused rallied behind us. I remember one incredibly influential Republican blogger in particular who very publicly said it was so important he pledged to do everything in his power to take down any Republican who voted for it and asked Democratic activists to do the same on their side.
Then ACTA got signed and Obama successfully cut the Senate out of the process by refusing to send it to them for ratification. There was nothing the American people could do - within the system anyway. So instead we kept spreading the word an letting people around the world know what their governments were up to. Our politicians didn't listen to us but the EU politicians had no choice after the widespread protests.
That didn't just happen. We, by which I mean all the "little people" all over the world spreading the message, killed it together. Those events also impacted the people involved unconsciously. After all that time trying to figure out how to fix all the problems they didn't really understand they just stumbled on a group of people who made them feel like they could fix things. The power brokers ratcheted up the rhetoric and fear mongering again, and it still worked, but it wasn't as effective and it wore off faster.
And then Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald dropped a nuke on Washington. Everybody at the top reacted exactly the way the have hundreds of times before. They rolled out the fear mongering and disinformation but this time it was different. A lot of people who used to hang on their every word weren't looking to them for answers. They were looking to people like us because they just felt like that gave them a little bit of hope back last time. It didn't last but it made an impression nonetheless.
You rely on evidence and reason because your amygdala tells you that's what produces the best results. The sheeple rely on whoever they think has the answers - not the government any more by and large, because that's what their amygdalas tell them. The power elite do the same thing. Turning up the rhetoric has always worked in the past so when simple denials didn't do the job they tried it again. The cranked it up all the way to 11 this time but the story still won't go away. It doesn't go any higher than 11, though, so now they just sound like a very loud and confused broken record.
In the process they're gradually discrediting anybody who takes their side. When a former intelligence official goes on TV, like last week, and a CNN talking head lets him tell the American people what they have to believe they don't. But CNN loses a little more credibility and becomes a little less influential. When the President goes on TV and tells the public the solution is to get in line for another kick in the balls they look somewhere else. When all the not journalists writing blogs and independent news websites tell them they should stand up and give the government a kick in the balls it just feels right.
The longer the government sticks to the Chico Marx defense (Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?), the more credible the people pointing every inconsistency out have. And when the masses are following somebody they don't go half way. That's what gets us in these messes in the first place, but it's also what brings us out the other side a little wiser as a species. If you were right about the government spying you're just as believable on all the other problems in Washington. And in fact there's a lot of truth to that.
They'll simply accept most of of it the same way they accepted that segregation was wrong because of the civil rights movement and the no nukes activists were right after 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl - the same way they accepted Y = mX + B from their math teacher. Most of them still won't understand 99.99% of it but it will be as absolute in their minds as gravity. They will pass it on to their kids and it will get added to the history books and eventually people will start losing sight of it and somewhere down the line the whole thing will start all over again.
But next time people like us will have what we figured out as a starting point just like we had what all those previous generations of us learned. And next time around the people will come out of the gate with the world wide social network we're building and they'll have to improve on it again to fix things just like we did. In the 60s it was organizers on college campuses and television images of violence against protesters and war in Vietnam. Before the American Revolution it was newspapers where people wrote in and spoke directly to each other the same way we do on the Internet today - Benjamin Franklin even used sock puppets to make his points like forum posters do today. In the Renaissance it was the movable type printing press and in ancient Greece it was theater and philosophy.
Everyone is doomed to repeat history. Those who don't remember it are dependent on those who do to find a little bit better solution when the shit hits the fan just as surely as you're dependent on the guys who pave the roads and deliver food to the store where you buy it. It's not a cycle so much as an ebb and flow like the tide. We unite together and move in the same direction and the tide comes in. The urgency fades and we turn to what we want instead of what we need and gradually the tide recedes again. But unlike the tides every time it comes in just a little further and recedes a little less.
And this is your punishment for getting into a discussion with me