The NSA's Job Is To Protect Us — From the Truth

Dreams, Freud and the NSA

Dreams are truth distorted. We would go mad if forced to confront the naked truth, and so an internal filter changes and warps our worries into the nighttime dreamscapes we inhabit.

So thought Freud, and a century of psychoanalysis supports his conclusions.

In the wake of the Snowden affair, I have to wonder: Is the security apparatus in a democracy a similar kind of filter, a naturally-occurring barrier that protects us, not from terrorism or crime, but from the truth?

America was founded on a Constitution that guarantees us, at least on paper, freedom. Yet our government exports nothing by tyranny. Can we, as a fabled but fragile democracy, handle the truth — that our security apparatus murders, blackmails, rapes, poisons, and even commits genocide in our name?

Let's look more closely at how dreams work.

A dream holds two levels of content: the Manifest Dream and the Latent Dream.

The Manifest Dream is that you are surrounded by purple elephants dancing on top of finely-sharpened carrots (for instance).

The Latent Dream is that you are morbidly obese and obsessed with your inability to lose weight.

The Manifest Dream is that we live in a democracy.

The Latent Dream is that we live in a totalitarian dictatorship run by spies.

But the truth (the Latent Dream) is too horrible for us to confront directly, because it means implicating ourselves — each one of us — as complicit in that evil.

Just as the ancient Athenian Empire called itself the "Delian League" — a euphemism if there ever was one — so we, The United States of America, find ourselves unable to say: We are an Empire, and if you get in our way, we will kill you, torture you, blackmail you, etc.

Instead we contort ourselves into greater and greater hypocrisies, trying to make sense of a reality that would send us mad if we looked it in the face.

But, as any psychoanalyst will tell you, the dream filter is our enemy. The cure for our collective psychosis is to confront the truth. It is only by seeing reality as it truly is that a patient — an individual, a society, an empire — may truly be healed.

Truth is coming, Snowden tells us. We can only conclude that every effort will be made to stop it. We can only hope that when it arrives people will acknowledge it. And for the sake of the ideals America claims to value, we can only hope it means the final, permanent destruction of our "dream filter" — the NSA, CIA, and associated security apparatus.

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