Edward Snowden interviewed in the Nation

Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor of the Nation magazine) and Stephen F. Cohen (professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton) published the results of a long interview that they had with Edward Snowden in Russia and it offers interesting glimpses of what his life is like now.

He seems to be relaxed and enjoying life. I can relate to him. I too am a loner who is not bothered by the solitary life. As long as I have access to the internet and books, I really don’t need more than a minimal interaction with people and he seems to be like that too. For people like us, where we are physically located has little importance other than to meet minimal needs. He says that he has freedom of movement and is not living a shadowy existence and that the people he meets are friendly

And I do go out. I’ve been recognized every now and then. It’s always in computer stores. It’s something like brain associations, because I’ll be in the grocery store and nobody will recognize me. Even in my glasses, looking exactly like my picture, nobody will recognize me. But I could be totally clean-shaven, hat on, looking nothing like myself in a computer store, and they’re like, “Snowden?!”

He also expresses some serious reservations about where the US is headed,

We are a representative democracy. But how did we get there? We got there through direct action. And that’s enshrined in our Constitution and in our values. We have the right of revolution. Revolution does not always have to be weapons and warfare; it’s also about revolutionary ideas. It’s about the principles that we hold to be representative of the kind of world we want to live in. A given order may at any given time fail to represent those values, even work against those values. I think that’s the dynamic we’re seeing today. We have these traditional political parties that are less and less responsive to the needs of ordinary people, so people are in search of their own values. If the government or the parties won’t address our needs, we will. It’s about direct action, even civil disobedience. But then the state says: “Well, in order for it to be legitimate civil disobedience, you have to follow these rules.” They put us in “free-speech zones”; they say you can only do it at this time, and in this way, and you can’t interrupt the functioning of the government. They limit the impact that civil disobedience can achieve. We have to remember that civil disobedience must be disobedience if it’s to be effective. If we simply follow the rules that a state imposes upon us when that state is acting contrary to the public interest, we’re not actually improving anything. We’re not changing anything.

I believe strongly that Occupy Wall Street had such limits because the local authorities were able to enforce, basically in our imaginations, an image of what proper civil disobedience is—one that is simply ineffective. All those people who went out missed work, didn’t get paid. Those were individuals who were already feeling the effects of inequality, so they didn’t have a lot to lose. And then the individuals who were louder, more disruptive and, in many ways, more effective at drawing attention to their concerns were immediately castigated by authorities. They were cordoned off, pepper-sprayed, thrown in jail.

It had an impact on consciousness. It was not effective in realizing change. But too often we forget that social and political movements don’t happen overnight. They don’t bring change immediately—you have to build a critical mass of understanding of the issues. But getting inequality out there into the consciousness was important. All these political pundits now talking about the 2014 and 2016 elections are talking about inequality.

I agree with him about the Occupy movement. It had a real impact on consciousness. The label of one-percenters is now entrenched in people’s minds and brings home how unequal the US has become.

The full interview is worth reading.

Meanwhile the release in Cleveland of Laura Poitras’s film Citizenfour was delayed from November 7 to the 14th so I will have to wait until this weekend to see it.

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