Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago tomorrow

(Cross posted from Facebook)

An emotionally charged weekend. Twenty five years ago tomorrow, the Berlin Wall came down. I’ve added a post about that day on my website.

I took a bit of hiatus from writing there… a lot of the memories and recent events were just too painful to bear, and I needed a break. But it’s a worthwhile project, I think, and I intend to start filling in the events as I go back through my memories and my wife’s meticulously kept diaries.

Yesterday I watched ‘Good Bye, Lenin’ – a movie based on the events taking place at the time the Cold War was coming to an end. For my movie buff friends: if you’d like to get a taste of what living under communism was like, here are some tips, with links to trailers: The Unbearable Lightness of BeingLives of OthersKolyaUcho

The last one is unfortunately not available in English or with subtitles (not that I know of, anyway). It’s spooky and it’s brilliant. The trailer says it all, even if you don’t understand Czech…

The point of this little rant is: On the eve of the beginning of end of Communism in Eastern Europe, it is fitting to remember what a totalitarian tyranny looks like.

It’s not all about forced labour camps, or long queues to get a piece of meat in a state run butchery, or a mad rush to the pharmacy when they got toilet paper. It’s mostly about the lack of basic human freedoms – freedom of expression, freedom of thought, right to privacy, freedom to travel. It’s about the general, pervasive mistrust of the government, of your fellow citizens. It’s about the knowledge that ‘they are watching you’, and not knowing if, how, when, or who will strike at you. It’s about encouraging to spy and snitch on your neighbours. It’s about unelected bureaucrats setting up rules and regulations that stifle innovation and motivation. It’s about uneven playing rules between people of different ways of thinking.

If you know what the East European version of communism was, and if you’d follow the developments in the Western world, you’d be as concerned as I am.

Since 9/11, our “democratic” governments have been pushing for more and more mechanisms establishing similar kinds of surveillance and citizen controls that millions of people like me escaped between 1948 and 1989. It kind of culminated last year with the NSA spying files disclosed by Edward Snowden, but it keeps going on.

If you don’t believe me, check the debate on the recently passed bill C-13 (the Canadian cyber bullying law). Only seven of the 60 provisions have anything to do with cyber bullying. The rest is giving police and security agencies more powers of surveillance of peaceful, law abiding citizens, and granting immunity to telecommunication firms when they share your private data with police, spooks, even politicians.

That law is wrong, and it’s up to us, the people, to oppose it. Write to your MP, support Canadian Civil Liberties Association, tell others.

The Internet has been a wonderful tool to spread democracy and freedom. It is now turning into a tool of oppression, and it scares the hell out of me.

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