The Lives of Others

What we had in mind in 2011 was a full disclosure of truth. Needless should I say that we found “truth” a right entanglement of unverifiable facts and figures, some imaginary, some forged, and some unfortunately true.

And yet our strive for disclosure continues, for it is only with the demise of the gatekeepers can we truly be redeemed, and can our struggle find respite.

In East Berlin, citizens began occupying Stasi buildings in December 1989, fearing that their comrades in uniform would burn away the records they worked so hard on accumulating. They were not allowed to burn memories of people they had already destroyed one way or the other. Eventually, the records were preserved under the Federal Commission for Stasi records.

Stasi files were made public in 1992. Germans could walk up to the daunting buildings they once feared, only to find welcoming banners encouraging them through the door. They would sit and read their case files in gradual remorse, anger, bewilderment, or calm. I have yet to hear of an incident where this practice of coming clean caused injuries or unrest that outdid the hurt and turmoil originally caused by Stasi. With every reading came a sense of relief, or perhaps further agitation. It is hard to tell. I am sure though that every reading sealed a sense of closure, brought about an exorcism of old ghosts, and a realization that the past is behind, and that time is linear.

It is not a coincidence that Stasi stands for State Security. An emulation was definitely underway in our little country. A history of collaboration is perhaps no too far-fetched either.

But the histories of both establishments diverge in 1989. And our beloved State Security exists to this very day, with reinvigorated vengeance against a public it purports to serve, accruing more files, piling record upon record of illegitimate tappings, statements extracted by torture or intimidation, and reports filled out by unscrupulous informants for a perk here and a privilege there.

It is not a religious revolution we need Mr. President. Rather, a moral revolution against those who still believe they can serve a greater collective good by destroying lives of individual men, women, students, civil-servants, and writers, for a conviction, an utterance, an opinion, a stance, or a free choice between loving and loathing. What we require is an outrage against a practice whereby men are paid to pry into the lives of others, inevitably leading on people to believe that prying, informing, reproofing and judging are national sports and healthy ways to pass time. What we seek, Mr. President, is neither a rebranding of our Stasi, nor of what it means to be an enemy of the state. Ours is not a problem of marketing. It’s our product that’s faulty, sir. A product corroded by a despicable security service, and bigwigs that happily flaunt your image on television.

A revolution persists Mr. President. One that will irk you still.

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