Like many people, I was surprised to hear of Edward Snowden’s decision to leave his job and move toward Hong Kong in search of a place where he could reconcile his conscience with his understanding of humanity and the US Constitution. Ever since, I have been trying to understand how he had come to a decision that, one may be certain, others contemplated, but then did not pursue for reasons that are not important, at this point, to figure out.
As days, weeks, months passed, most citizens of the US had difficulties in assessing Edward Snowden’s act: was he a hero or a traitor? In the midst of these hesitations, his father embraced him tightly. [His mother may have done the same, but more discretely, so discretely in fact, that no one but herself and Edward and his father know about it]. It was a very encouraging and courageous act even if it had to be handled, as too many things have to, in these days, with the help of a lawyer.
Is this lawyerly mediation of father-son love a sign of the times we are living in?
Solidarity, generosity, love,
Natural as humans for thousands of years
Cannot be expressed without consulting
Lawyers, expert navigators in protecting
Humans from being liquidated by other humans
So blinded by the exercise of power with impunity
They and/or their lobbyists
cannot see how such insanity
Has led to a slow, possibly
Of annihilation of values that
Once defined humanity
In these turbulent and confusing times, the striking quality of Edward Snowden’s voice may account for the silence it has tended to generate among his fellow humans. In the ideological dictionary of how to catalogue him, the specialists are at a loss, between honoring him as a hero and castigating him as traitor. Yet, his voice has come out as clear as crystal, as simple as a healing voice echoing his own conscience, a conscience fine tuned to how it was defined thousands of year ago when humans began to gain a conscience of themselves as different from animals.
As one reads Ancient Egyptian texts, especially around the concept of Mâât (justice, balance, ethics, solidarity, etc.), it is not difficult to see the connection between Snowden’s Ba (inner spirit, soul, conscience, according to the Ancient Egyptians) and that of The Man In Dispute of His Ba, a text from the 12th dynasty. (See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature. Vol. 1: The Old and Middle Kingdom. UCLA press, 1975) It is not difficult to imagine Snowden debating with his Ba on how to decide what to do in the face of doing work that told him that it was not right.
As in that text from the 12th dynasty (1990-1785 BC), one could imagine Snowden thinking like that man:
To Whom Shall I Speak Today
The Constitution shows one way
My bosses kept messaging me: stay away
From your conscience
They would say
Insisting you are
Too young to know anyway
The right from the wrong way
Still I kept asking myself
To Whom Shall I speak today
While being encouraged to go
against the right way
To Whom Shall Speak Today
Facing solitary incarceration
Because I cannot help say
Yes to my conscience
Knowing what he did and what he was being asked to do, it is not difficult to imagine how he first tried to push his conscience away, silence it, telling himself that his job was to follow orders and not think about the bigger issues of whether it was right or wrong. But his conscience or his Ba kept coming back, sometimes in the middle of the night. He may not have thought the same as The Man from the text in Ancient Egyptian 12th dynasty, but it is also clear that it is those words that led him to look for people with whom he could share the load weighing on his conscience/Ba. The pain from the load was too much. Like any reasonable human being he looked for help, searching for someone he could speak to, without facing punishment concocted by generations of misguided, gone astray guardians of laws built on lies, violence, still unacknowledged crimes against humanity.
We do know that our brain/body still react physically/psychically in ways that were learned from thousand of years ago, whether in the face of threatening danger or in the face of dilemmas dealing with life issues. Living as human beings means that one is permanently connected to one’s conscience. That umbilical cord that connects us to primordial times has never been severed, but it will come under severe strain, now and again. In times past, land and conscience were as inseparable as any of the organs that make humans what they are. Inheritors of that crime against humanity see nothing wrong in cashing in on that original impunity by invading the soul/conscience of every single human being to own it as they owned the land they conquered.
Could it be that the difficulties of figuring out how Edward Snowden decided to do what he did stems from a station in the evolution of humanity that is showing signs of being split from its conscience. Put in another more brutal fashion: could it be that one of the consequences of the way humans are being organized economically, politically, scientifically, culturally, religiously, humanity as we have known it, is being liquidated, along with its history and being replaced by a species fashioned to respond without resistance to the rules and regulations that are being imposed in all spheres of life, all of them rooted in the impunity that sanctioned the severing of the land from people whose conscience kept repeating:
You are the guardian of the land
Earth, air, water one way
As Corbin Harney used to say
Only one way to stay
The integrity of humanity
Let no one take your land away
Because not long after they
Will take your conscience away
They turned the land into a commodity
With names like plantation, reservation,
Bantustans, colonies, commonwealth,
How far is humanity
from unrecoverable cacophony
hibernation, isolation, desolation. Liquidation?
The signal is clear: do not listen to your conscience, especially if tells you to denounce something that is damaging to other members of humanity.
Looked at from such an angle, Edward Snowden’s voice and action can be seen as healing gestures in a world increasingly being pushed to self annihilation by practices that emphasize, single mindedly, the competitive search for self-enrichment. In the face of such a disaster, should one be surprised that a person with a highly sensitive conscience could not help but follow it? When a healing voice, like Edward Snowden’s, emerges in the midst of an undeclared war against humanity, one can be certain that such a voice is the result of a massive healing energy being expressed from different segments of humanity. This voice is not an isolated cry. Could it be the water breaking preceding the birth of a renewed conscience and affirmation of fidelity to humanity?