And then everything changed

Freitag, 3. Juli 2015

Why the world needs more people like Edward Snowden

Last week I attended a German festival named Fusion which is the world's coolest festival. It is basically an parallel society for everyone commited to a hippiesque lifestyle, anarchism, communism, a meatless life, and most of all tolerance. It's a paradise for all free spirits out there who believe that art and music are far more important than money. (As are love and friendship and passion and basically everything life offers, by the way.) The festival also had a movie theatre which is where I watched a documentation about Edward Snowden.

In this movie he was asked why he decided to give secret military documents to journalists and if he wasn't afraid of the consequences. Snowden answers that he was afraid. And that he was aware of the risks. But that he couldn't be part of an organization which did the things he made public and that he believed that the public had a right to know. He stood up for what he believed in. And he lost everything.

Ever since Snowden admitted that he was the whistleblower, he is on the run. In a high risk move he left Hong Kong where he was deployed. He only got out because the NSA got his second name wrong. He was locked in a room at the Moskau airport for more than a month. He will never be able to walk freely, to show his face on the street ever again. He's wanted. If he gets caught he will face life-long prison, maybe even death. And he knew that these things will happen if he gives away secret information but he did it nevertheless. Because he understood that without transparency a democracy has nothing.

You can think about Ed Snowden what you feel is right. But let me ask you this: When was the last time you stood up for something because you believed in it? When was the last time you did the rightous thing regardless of the consequences? When was the last time you risked something important like a job or a relationsip or a visa for your beliefs?

The week before I went to the festival I copy-edited an article for the online magazine I worked for. It was a scientific article and while reading I felt like it has to be a fraud. I believed that the exact opposite was true. I wanted to continue and save the article as ready to be published nevertheless when my boyfriend who is a scientist asked me how I could publish something I believed to be false. He argued that this was no irrelevant issue, it was a matter of health.

That was when I realized how ignorant I've become. I was about to publish a lie because my job is not to judge the truth but simply to make sure the articles are free of grammatical and spelling errors. I did my job like a naive little soldier oblivious to the big picture.

After I realized this, I read several scientific studies on the subject which in fact proved that the article was wrong. Then I wrote a mail to my manager, directing her to the studies and explaining why I'd reccomend that this article won't be published, In the end it's her decision but I argued my point and I asked her to at least assign the article to a different editor because I don't feel comfortable with editing it.

I was afraid of the consequences. After all this truely is not my job. My account was blocked for a week because that's what happens if I don't edit an article and I lost a week full of salary. But I didn't loose my job. And I felt better afterwards because for the first time in a long time I actually stood up for something and I risked something for what I believe in.

There's a great quote by Eminem which says:

"If you have enemies, good,
that means you stood up for something."

We will never know the truth. There is always the possibility that we're wrong or that we fail or that we loose more than we gain. If this happens, I say: Screw it! At least we stood up for something!

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