Monday, June 10, 2013

Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Since Edward Snowden's identity was revealed, I've been racking my brain as to where I know the name, but of course it's Catch-22, and even though "Snowden" wasn't the main character of the book, he was important, and the ironic parallels with the book kinda just blew my mind:

"The thing that gets to Yossarian is not just that he is trapped by Catch-22 into doing an illegal number of missions for the military, but also that no one else around him seems to recognize the absurdity of his situation.

This point is especially clear when Yossarian discovers that Nately's prostitute and her kid sister have both been turned out of their home onto the street. When Yossarian demands to know what right the soldiers and police had to kick them out, an old woman replies, "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing" (39.21). This is the real logic of Catch-22: it's a name given to any policy that benefits people in power. There's no escape from it because those with authority can compel you to obey, no matter how ridiculous the rule is. [later] In an impassioned conversation with the sympathetic Major Danby, Yossarian tells him:

Christ, Danby, I earned that medal I got, no matter what their reasons were for giving it to me. I've flown seventy goddam combat missions. Don't talk to me about fighting to save my country. I've been fighting all along to save my country. Now I'm going to fight a little to save myself. The country's not in danger any more, but I am. (42.71)

In other words, there are moments when national interest has to overcome personal safety, but there must be an individual amidst the violence. War deadens people's emotional responses, while bureaucracy schools them into Catch-22-style thinking. Yossarian, as one of the last genuinely free thinkers left in the novel, can only protect his clarity of mind by leaving the front entirely. Maybe he'll never make it to Sweden, but his effort to get there proves the importance of protecting the independence of his mind over what the Colonels offered – security of body." []

One wonders if Snowden himself, has read Catch-22.

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