Author Topic: Bradley Manning and the Age of Conscience  (Read 1438 times)

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Bradley Manning and the Age of Conscience
« on: April 02, 2012, 14:32:38 PM »
From Social Media to Moral Awakening; Bradley Manning and the Age of Conscience

Submitted by Beyondborders on Sat, 03/31/2012

James Madison once said, "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives". Madison recognized that accurate knowledge is essential for each person to take charge of their own lives. With the explosive growth of social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, we now have access to more information than any other time in the history of this planet. Through the Internet, pictures, news and ideas travel around the globe like the speed of light. Social networks are creating avenues of free communication that move beyond centralized systems of information distribution.

WikiLeaks's chief editor, Julian Assange pointed to Madison's idea that pertinent information is critical for the public to perform as a check and balance to those in power. Elsewhere he spoke of how concealed information has the greatest potential for just reform because those who hide it spend a lot of energy and resources in that concealment for a reason. He pointed out that this signal of suppression is a sign of opportunity and that exposing this information could lead to reform. The online collective Anonymous is also standing up for freedom of speech and assembly and for the conviction that public control of the flow of information is essential for any society to guard against the inevitability of corruption.

This insurgency of information sharing set the stage for Arab revolutions and the Occupy Movement. Effective political discourse such as the recent online protests against the US government censorship bills showed how openly shared information can quickly mobilize and fuel collective action against oppressive regimes and their policies. Madison was right: Knowledge is power. Perhaps this is the first time in history that his ideal is being enacted on a broad scale. The recent BBC documentary WikiLeaks: Secret Life of a Superpower attributed the spark for revolutions in the Arab World to WikiLeaks revelations, showing how US cable leaks shared through social networking sites in 2010 became a powerful force that finally toppled the corrupt Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.

But the explosion of social media alone has not been enough to explain what led to these momentous events. Information by itself is not knowledge. Many people have been aware of US and NATO war crimes and other injustices around the world that are often perpetrated by their own governments. Yet most have acted as if they are powerless. They remain apathetic spectators, continuing their familiar routine in life. Even in Tunisia, before the WikiLeaks revelations, Tunisians knew how corrupt their government was, but seemed to have accepted it as if nothing could be done.

In a recent article on AlterNet, clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine described the likely cause of this inaction with what he refers to as the abuse syndrome. He posed the question "Can people become so broken that truths of how they are being screwed do not 'set them free' but instead further demoralize them?" He noted how people in the US were abused by the corporate takeover of every aspect of their lives and one common response to the abuse was to just shut down.

    When people become broken, they cannot act on truths of injustice. Furthermore, when people have become broken, more truths about how they have been victimized can lead to shame about how they have allowed it. And shame, like fear, is one more way we become even more psychologically broken.

Then what could overcome this victim mentality? Levine claimed that encouragement, small victories and examples of others successfully challenging abusive actions are essential. Information itself, no matter how accurate or revealing does not create the spark of empowerment. Public understanding of a particular incident reported in the news was not the only thing that brought the impulse for deep change. It is also not simply the result of eyewitness accounts tweeted by citizen journalists. What was concealed were facts and remain so even after they are revealed to the public. But something else arose in 2010 and has since become a major force for catharsis and uprising. What so inspired people to fight back?

On the first day of Bradley Manning's pretrial hearing America's most famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg traced the impulse behind these movements that have quickly risen as tides of change for our time:

    The Time magazine cover gives...... an anonymous protester, as "Person of the Year," but it is possible to put a face and a name to that picture of "Person of the Year"." And the American face I would put on that is Private Bradley Manning... And, the combination of the WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning exposures in Tunis and the exemplification of that by Mohamed Bouazizi led to the... non violent protests...

The spark of transformation might have started with this young US private. Bradley Manning stood up with the courage to blow the whistle on war crimes and ongoing abuse of civilians in US Middle East military occupations. Then, Julian Assange's unflinching commitment to transparency and to honor the intentions of WikiLeaks's source fanned the spark into a flame. When information is suppressed, it becomes stagnant. The human will to liberate it brings it into movement. In this case, the release itself became a powerful communication, conveying not only the truth, but also the conviction of the messenger. The message was his faith that ordinary people could change history. In the alleged chat log with Adrian Lamo that led to Manning's arrest, Manning expressed this faith and how it led him to release the biggest document leak in human history.

(1:11:54 PM) bradass87: and ... its important that it gets out ... i feel, for some bizarre reason

(1:12:02 PM) bradass87: it might actually change something

(02:21:18 AM) bradass87: and god knows what happens now ....

(o2:22:27 AM) bradass87: hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms

(o2:23:06 AM) bradass87: if not... than we're doomed

(02:23:18 AM) bradass87: as a species

Information that is freed becomes something more than just facts; it becomes a message or story whose gentle lips tremble with urgency, aching to speak. What was revealed in the Collateral Murder video appeared for some like a scene from a video game. For them, authentic images that graphically showing the gravity and soullessness of war was blocked with repeated National Security rhetoric of RPGs, enemy combatants and terrorists. This created a picture of justification for killing the ordinary people in a van; a father driving his kids to school. Yet for many, these images broke down along with the euphemism of collateral damage and they began to feel and see the horrendous incident from the eyes of the victims. Here was something that overcame the propaganda: information that might have otherwise remained as dry abstract fact was transformed into stimulus for an internal shift in a large section of the global population.

Was it alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning's conscience and courage that triggered this awakening? Conscience is generally understood as individual discernment between right and wrong. But what is conscience really? Jungian psychoanalyst Edward Edinger in elucidating the etymology of the word conscience he related it to the concept of consciousness:

    Conscious derives from con or cum, meaning 'with' or 'together,' and scire,'to know' or 'to see'. It has the same derivation as conscience. Thus the root meaning of both consciousness and conscience is 'knowing with' or 'seeing with' an 'other'. In contrast, the word science, which also derives from scire, means simply knowing, i.e., knowing without 'withness.' ... The experience of knowing with can be understood to mean the ability to participate in a knowing process simultaneously as subject and object, as knower and known. This is only possible within a relationship to an object that can also be a subject. (p. 36)

Conscience first engages empathic imagination, breaking down walls of separation. One starts to feel the other's pain as if it is ones own. To act from conscience means to speak from this place of being with the other, in a voice that is no longer separate, but shared compassionately as We.

Alleged leaker Bradley Manning began to see the everyday reality in Iraq from the perspective of the other and he felt the suffering of people not unlike himself in the scenes of those war crimes enacted in New Baghdad and all around the Middle East. Perhaps in that moment, he began knowing with and seeing with those he had been trained to see as the other, those who have been been methodically demonized by a corporate state war of terror. If he was the source of those documents, his act of whistle-blowing was truly a deed of conscience. He was willing to risk death to reach out from this place of his shared humanity.

People heard the voice of unspoken conscience. Manning's message filled many with courage and hope. It was as if one heart was responding to another. US army specialist Ethan McCord, the soldier in the Collateral Murder video who rescued the wounded children came forward after viewing the video.
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Read more: http://wlcentral.org/node/2534