Citizenfour, Glenn Greenwald and why privacy matters

ideas.ted.com

When filmmaker Laura Poitras started receiving encrypted e-mails in 2013 from an anonymous whistleblower identifying himself as “Citizen four,” she did what any brave filmmaker would do: she picked up her camera and went to investigate.

Poitras charts what happened next in Citizenfour, a documentary that premiered Friday at the New York Film Festival. Watch the trailer:

Citizenfour provides a gripping look at events including her first meeting in Hong Kong with “Citizen four,” aka Edward Snowden (TED Talk: Here’s how we take back the Internet). Learn more about the film.

As one of the first reporters to see Edward Snowden’s files, journalist Glenn Greenwald (TED Talk: Why privacy matters) has broken many stories on the global surveillance being conducted by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Greenwald’s current book on the topic, No Place to Hide, was released in May. He continues to write about surveillance issues for The Intercept.

Watch…

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The witness speaks

I never needed a mirror, for all that I saw around me all the time was me. Or atleast I thought so, if lush green leaves and moist, brown branches were anything to go by. I stood here under the sun and the rain. I stood here despite having no one to cause me pain. I still grew.




One day all the lives that I thought were me were chopped off. I was all that remained of my kind. Massive blocks were raised by other lives , facing me. These blocks, it seemed, were meant to encage lives like the ones that raised it. Patches , of me, were grown here and there in a rather predictable manner, quite contrary to how lives like me grow. 



During daytime I would watch the encaged lives outside in front of me, doing things. They all seemed to share an emotion that I had not quite felt before ever in my life. It never made me feel good. But there were these rare occasions when they felt lighter and I would go back to being myself again. That’s when I learnt what pain meant and what peace did.
Sometimes I watched one life deliberately causing pain to the other lives of its kind. And sometimes I would watch all lives raising slogans against the one that tyrannised. And every time they did that I wanted to bow down to them. These were the only instances when I saw myself in humans.
One day it was all over. No one was imprisoned. No one was inflicting pain. No one was exhibiting acts of bravery or oneness. It was over. But I had still grown during this phase.
For a while I rarely saw any humans. The ones that I did see were much like the clouds. And as though none of this ever mattered, again I had grown.
Today, I see people throughout the year. Some talk about the people that were imprisoned. Some listen, while the rest continue talking among themselves. Some laugh while others revere. They have brought me into the limelight calling me the Banyan tree that witnessed all the struggle. I see people taking pictures of me just as I see them taking pictures of the prison.
From peace to struggle to a tourist attraction, I have indeed witnessed it all. The terror, the suppression, the anger, the brotherhood and friendship, the pain, tears and death, the thirst for freedom and the absolute knowing that the thirst shall be quenched…………….. I’ve seen it all, and I have also seen how all of this is now only a mere mention in these premises.
Soon I shall be gone too. The witness shall also diminish into the void that the witnessed disappeared into.
So what is it that matters, she asks, the one writing for me. Is there anything that matters?
Fortunately for her, more than seven decades of observing has blessed me with the answer to her question.
The only thing that matters.  The only purpose that ever existed and shall ever exist – change.
You and I are the change.
You and I are the experience. Nothing else matters.

[ P.S: The prison the banyan tree speaks of in this blog is the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman island. The banyan tree was and is a witness to the freedom struggle of India within the walls of the prison.]