by Nozomi Hayase
A World Beyond Borders
Author John Ralston Saul once said, “When language begins to prevent communication …civilization has entered into serious degeneracy.” In any society where reality is concealed by those in power through obfuscation and manipulation of language, vital communication among citizens is prevented. The killing of civilians is now justified with the euphemism of collateral damage. Torture and illegal wars are justified with the rhetoric of terrorism. Digital surveillance and destruction of civil liberties are justified under the banner of national-security when there is very little actual threat to the nation from outside forces. These acts result in normalizing decadent violence on a systemic level. These tend to blind the majority to the powerfully destructive direction of modern civilization.
The juggernaut of decay in Western civilization is now careening into its self-destruct phase. For many who realize this and who cherish free communication and open government, it seems there is little that can be done to change this seeming inevitability. Yet, something new is emerging on the horizon. One year ago, WikiLeaks entered the wasteland of the corporate media landscape with the release of the Collateral Murder video. This was the journalistic shot heard round the world that challenged the systems of power and their linchpin -secrecy and control of perception and language. Soon after WikiLeaks took the world stage, a worldwide Internet collective called Anonymous emerged. They stepped into the fray like a leaderless global guerrilla force fighting for the First Amendment. Anonymous accomplished something unprecedented in the realm of direct action against concentrated power. They attacked Paypal, MasterCard and Visa when these companies cut off funding streams for WikiLeaks. Though it was largely simply a statement of protest, what was new is the nature of Anonymous itself.
In February, the Anonymous radar picked up a new target. This action really caught my attention. A small security company called H.B. Gary Federal was developing tools to thwart the group itself and discredit those that support Anonymous and WikiLeaks. On behalf of major law firms and corporations such as Bank of America, they had developed a plan to directly attack Anonymous. In a brazen and foolish move, the CEO of this small firm publicly expressed his intention to take down WikiLeaks and Anonymous, essentially by beheading what he termed their ‘leadership’. Aaron Barr, CEO of this cyber-security firm put forth these plans to reveal the ‘members’ of Anonymous, ostensibly with the intent of selling this idea and related products and services to the largest bank in America and possibly to the US government. These methods that he outlined included damaging the reputation of Journalists such as Glenn Greenwald who were sympathetic to WikiLeaks and Anonymous through libel and extra-judicial attacks on legitimate websites.
Barr’s intention utterly failed as Anonymous moved in to corner their prey. The more he tried to identify a power structure for Anonymous the more it was like sand slipping through his fingers. Then the group took the cyber-battle to the company’s doorstep. They responded to Barr’s plans by hacking and defacing the HB Gary website, wiping information and exposing thousands of internal documents and emails to the world. To make matters worse for HB Gary, it was allegedly a 16 year old girl who did the primary hacking of their site.
At this point the HB Gary story took on a personal dimension when I discovered my name on the list of potentially important contacts within Anonymous. Of course, I knew how absurd these claims were, as I have never knowingly been in personal contact with their members nor participated in any of their actions. Until I saw my name on that list, I had never thought of myself as a member of Anonymous. Granted, I sympathize with both WikiLeaks and Anonymous and have written extensively about them, so to some it might seem that I belong to the group. Though this is not outwardly the case, it made me wonder whether it is possible to be a part of something like this and not know it. In any event, finding my name on Aaron Barr’s list certainly came as a surprise.
This episode unveiled something to me that I had only experienced before on a feeling level. I saw familiar names on that list that I considered to be like-minded friends from all over the world. These are people whom I had come to know through my writing and social networking over the past few months. I share many ideals and values with this community of individuals who I had never actually met. The question suddenly occurred: Am I in some way a part of Anonymous?
As these things often go, this question was soon buried beneath my busy daily life. Then one morning, the feeling of connection I had experienced with these people reemerged. Compassionate messages from around the world flooded my in-box and Face Book account in response to the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in my home country. I came to realize that I was part of a truly global network of people who care for others irrespective of national or cultural boundaries.
In light of all this, the question of who or what Anonymous actually is began to deepen. I saw this question as not so much related to individuals or even to an organization, but more to certain underlying inner qualities and intentions of those involved. How could it be that I feel such a strong connection with people I had never met? Who in me was feeling this instinctive affinity as if we had known each other from somewhere before?
I began to notice how this subtle feeling is often pushed down. It is ignored or unnoticed in daily life. I remember when I was very young I felt a connection with all people. Yet, as I grew older, parent’s occupations, status and socioeconomic differences began to separate me from my friends. This kind of socialization usually begins at an early age when small children are discouraged from playing together. Through unspoken adult racial and class bias, the children often leave their shared ground of humanity for a relationship based on power dynamics and cultural norms. Genuine human relationships can be easily transformed into an artificial, mostly patriarchal hierarchy of race, class and gender.
I find that this hierarchy is a network of patronage that is often economically driven. Such a network depends on power dynamics that inherently push against altruistic human virtues such as love, creativity and compassion. Modern social and political institutions have incorporated the principles and legacy of Western civilization. This patronage carries both the promise and the shadow of European influence in history, with its legacy of colonization that has devastated cultures of colored and indigenous people in the name of ‘progress’. These collective crimes have not been fully acknowledged, so the oppression is carried into our present condition and institutions. For the past fifty years the United States has been acting as the defender of these kinds of institutions. Corporate and financial cartels, working with the might of the military-industrial complex have consorted to create and defend institutions that systematically perpetuate racism and collective exploitation.
Institutionalization tends to dehumanize and limit human motives to narrow self-interests. It divides humanity into ideology, nation and class to compete for resources. In order to survive, people have compromised and denied their inner experiences of shared humanity. This has created a schism, a veneer of an expected persona and who we truly are inwardly. Those global connections that I recently felt by way of the Internet awakened something in me that has been long suppressed. I became aware of the part of myself which had been displaced from this shared humanity.
It seems that you’ve been living two lives. In one life, you’re Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company. You have a social security number; you pay your taxes… The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias ‘Neo’ and are guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not. -Agent Smith to Neo, The Matrix (Wachowski & Wachowski, 1999)
Perhaps I was not the only one who identified with Neo’s internal conflict. Just as he followed Trinity out of the Matrix when she awakened his feeling for truth, many people are now beginning to notice the subtle feeling of a forgotten yet familiar calling. In the face of constant surveillance by the powers that be, people are turning to tools such as TOR and alternative identities within this rapidly evolving and decentralized medium of the digital world. Millions are entering the rabbit hole of the Internet as a quiet force to be reckoned with. It is an underground where borders of nation-states vanish, where what has been oppressed by the dominant corporate order still lives as potential.
No flesh can inhabit cyberspace and the usual five senses no longer govern perception. Activists can become invisible to the censor of big brother’s enforced world order. “We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias…” (Loyd Blankenship, a.k.a.The Mentor, Jan 8, 1986). With digitized avatar aliases, given personalities and status in society disappear. Familiar ground falls away and one becomes free from the eyes that scrutinize. One begins to ‘see’, ‘feel’ and ‘sense’ the other anew.
There is a dark side to the internet and one may get lost in a digital netherworld or become addicted to electronic stimulation. Yet, for some it provided a temporary refuge from the harsh reality of a dehumanizing corporate world order. This is done by opening this new medium into a creative space for direct expression of their ideals. Although one must be careful not to let digital interaction replace direct heart to heart communication, it has become a space where one can recognize the other through ideals and common intention.
We have been living double lives for a long time. This growing split is fast becoming irreconcilable and the upsurge of outer social conflicts mirror these inner conflicts. Corruption of Wall Street bankers with governments torturing and suspending civil rights is a manifestation of this rush to destruction. Confrontation between those forces that are pulling the world into different directions is inevitable. The countervailing upsurging force against this destruction is being expressed in the outer phenomena of WikiLeaks and Anonymous.
The effect of WikiLeaks on mainstream discourse with the Collateral Murder video was the edge of a wedge that split open the ribcage of institutionalized corporate governance. Ordinary people acting on their principles within the systems of power are courageously stepping forward. WikiLeaks is an insurgency in the best sense of the word. Committed to anonymous whistle-blowers, they strive to bring maximum political impact for those voices and for principles of justice. Out of the depths of the cyber-underground, WikiLeaks shines with the conscience of ordinary people, allowing that light to permeate the darkness of corruption and abuse of power. Their courageous actions are like an earthquake that is shaking the self-satisfied edifice of corporate cunning; the ruthlessness of commercial interests over human values.
Releasing the US diplomatic cables provided a trigger for uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. In Tunisia and Egypt and now throughout the world, ordinary people are empowering themselves. The oppressed and silenced are beginning to carry the the waves of world revolution.
We are Tunisian, “We are all Khaled Said”, We are Libyan, We are Julian Assange.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people” (McTeique, Wachowski, & Wachowaski, 2006). The Anonymous meme of Guy Faulkes masks from V for Vendetta has been given new life, like a Tsunami courageously moving through the opened floodgates.
When the Tunisian government blocked incriminating cables, Anonymous hackers redirected Tunisian government websites to WikiLeaks and exposed the corruption of the Ben Ali regime. At the same time, Anonymous did a cyber sit-in protest by temporarily disabling Tunisian government websites. A similar thing happened in Egypt with Anonymous supporting the uprising through mobilizing information on Twitter and Facebook, helping to create a free information flow and space for imaginations to flourish into concrete actions.
People are transcending national borders and freely participating in collaborative actions that are fast reaching critical mass. Unleashed emotions are becoming waves of catharsis for change. “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!” (41Anon14). What was once a refuge has now become a ground of resistance.
The phenomenon of Anonymous is calling for a sea change. It is a revolution of identity. Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? Anonymous is human potential, a hidden classified secret about who we really are. The unrecognized authors of our own lives are waiting to incarnate as active agents in history. “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea!” (McTeique, Wachowski, & Wachowaski, 2006). The light of conscience and courage brought forward by anonymous sources have rekindled ideals that have remained out of reach for too long.
United in universal ideals, Anonymous is a kind of new race. The headless corporate business suit is a symbol of the denial of illegitimate power that abstracts life into artificial moneyed interests and subjugates people to the rogue law of profit at any cost. Anonymous direct action is like cutting off the head of the corporate facade, whose empty speech only rumbles rhetoric disconnected from their deeds.
The Anonymous image of the missing head does not mean that individuals give away the ability to think, but rather it reveals an opened space where something that precedes thinking can grow and guide humanity. From Operation Tunisia, Egypt and Wisconsin to sending prayers for earthquake victims in Japan, ideals that are embodied within each person now are moving beyond borders and shifting identities. Many are beginning to step out and speak for those who have become strangers to themselves.
Western civilization is moving into decadence. In the last stages of the American empire a clock is ticking for mankind to make a decision. Establishment desperation in losing control is now reaching to command the open source space of the Internet. Social networking online is becoming the largest spying tool in history and leaders of nations are threatening society with different forms of internet controls and kill switches.
In times of difficulty in the past, strong personalities infused the will of the people to create a better world. They became icons of their age, inspiring many to change their life direction. Che Guevara was a symbol for overcoming oppression, Gandhi for non-violent peaceful action. While leading figures are still vital today for social change, we have entered an age where we can no longer wait for heroes. Each person must become active to inspire themselves and create a movement.
“Anonymous is not merely a group of ‘hackers’. Anonymous is the art of being indignant. It is the art of being one yet being nothing” (gamefreaker1398). Recently, anonymous researchers, writers and artists gathered to stand up for transparency and justice concerning the case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. They launched Operation Want, an online collaboration for this purpose.
I might be a part of Anonymous and I might not be. It feels like anytime I assure myself and claim that I am one, I can no longer be. Even the source of this question remains anonymous. This question is like a passionate vortex invites people from all walks of life to engage in the art of discovering who we are together.
In the height of tragedy, compassion is contagious; in the face of deceit, solidarity is contagious; in creating the future, joy is contagious. Anonymous is a movement, an identity of imagining who we are that calls out the best in each person. To the degree one brings free will to engage, they can become the living symbol that is a guide for the future. New social modes of expression are emerging through unmediated transnational exchange. Living ideas woven on the web are moving out into social sphere.
Does the world run writhing into the turmoil of death or turn to a spring of rebirth? As hatred, greed and wars are waged to divide one against the other, ideals in the heart will never die. Anonymous is a new race; the last race for human redemption. It is a race to redeem the fallen senses that have lost connection with reality. Once human passion is awakened, it cannot be stopped. We are Anonymous. Expect us.
John R. Saul, Voltaire’s bastards: The dictatorship of reason in the West. New York: Random House. (1992). p. 476.
About the author
Nozomi Hayase is a contributing writer to Culture Unplugged, a global citizen blogger, at Journaling Between Worlds. She brings out deeper dimensions of socio-cultural events at the intersection between politics and psyche, fiction and reality to share insight on future social evolution.