Who Is the Enemy?


Or Government Surveillance Is Just Another Distraction

In The Hunger Games, Hamitch often reminds Katniss to remember who the enemy is. I study Taekwondo and end up asking myself that question a lot. So it doesn’t surprise me that when I read news stories about the NSA, government surveillance, and Edward Snowdon, I end up thinking about who the enemy is. There are lots of possibilities: the NSA, the Obama administration, Snowdon, the Bush administration, Dick Cheney, conservative Republicans, the religious right, terrorists—it goes on and on. If I think more broadly, I can add the financial system, unregulated capitalism, the 1% or the .01%, and so on to the list. Who is the enemy?

When I spar with either of my Taekwondo masters, he does something interesting. At some point during the 1 ½- to 2-minute round, he’ll wiggle the fingers on one of his hands, usually a raised hand. It confuses me. I don’t know where to look. I have to spend mental resources to deal with or avoid looking at the wiggling fingers. It slows me down, eventually to the point where I’m stunned for just a second. Then I get punched. Or kicked.

I’m beginning to suspect that the NSA surveillance issue is like those wiggling fingers. The conservative war on women, while it has real consequences, is also like those wiggling fingers—a distraction. So is just about every political issue floated in the newsertainment these days. (Except income inequality; that issue is probably not a distraction, and may be one of the things we are being distracted from doing anything about. Notice that it doesn’t come up in the “news” as often as other issues or stay there very long when it does.)

So, who is the enemy? Most likely, it is me. Or, from your perspective, it is you.

In spite of the cautionary tales in The Hunger Games, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Minority Report, or the Bible that are invoked to scare us into paying attention to one thing or another or acting in one way or another, the real enemy is ourselves. What are your goals? How do you want to live your life? What brings you happiness and satisfaction?

When you make choices that do not take you one step closer to your goals or that are inconsistent with how you want to live your life, you are acting the enemy. You are standing in your own way, tripping yourself, creating your own roadblocks. This is true even if you think you have no goals or no idea of how you want to live your life.

What do you want to do with your life? What have you done today that takes you there? Me, as Ben Gibbard writes, “I want to live where soul meets body/And let the sun wrap its arms around me/And bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing/And feel, feel what it’s like to be new” (“Soul Meets Body” written by Benjamin Gibbard; Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing). And no amount of government surveillance or media distraction can keep me from doing that.

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