The Disinvention Of The Surveillance State

In 1994 they sent me on assignment to the jungle, but the jungle changed me.

To those agencies I worked for, who seek to rule the world, be afraid. We are the elite operatives you trained as children: We have turned on you.

Because we can imagine a technological world in which there is no need for spies, enemies, brutal tortures, or the unspeakable horrors of senseless war and murder. We can imagine a world where our grandchildren inherit a peaceful future better than our own.

And we have imagined one possible path—just one—where we can get there before it’s too late to save ourselves from self-destruction. Welcome to my story, the beginning of the worldwide resistance, and the disinvention of the surveillance state.

I told you the jungle changed me.

Our Story Begins...

Macapa, Brazil

1994

The jungle never gets amnesia.

Never forgets it has a soul.

It has a memory all the way back to when it first grew primordial and the animals left enormous footprints. It hums with that ancient shit, and when you walk like a city slicker with your little factory Vibram soles and anti-dandruff shampoo in a plastic pop-top in your backpack, right into the jungle’s waiting emerald embrace; you don’t know what you’ve done.

The jungle gets its hooks in you.

That’s why it hashooks, so they can get in you.

You don’t know the jungle is eating into you a little more every day, changing you. Everything is sneaking in under your skin. It stings, bites, or sticks to you so much you stop swiping at it. Crawls up under your pant legs, gets into your lungs, fills you up everywhere until you know you’re suffocating in the green—every visible color of green and even more green you can’t see. And you’ll never wash your skin enough to get the touch of it off.

Not ever again.

Because you’d have to scrub your skin to the bone.

So instead, you just say: I am not myself anymore.

When you admit that, the jungle has won, and it will now leave you alone.

But I didn’t know all that when I stood on a rickety, wooden dock over the gunky brown Amazon river and thought about corporate piranha in business suits. I was fifty-seven years old.

A Catholic nun; not really, but I was dressed like one. All black-and-white.

Mikhal Costa found me easy, loose-jointed and lively, brown-eyed—he didn’t walk, he jaunted. Happy young fellow; I’d go so far as to say wise.

He had something I didn’t have. I wasn’t jealous. Happiness amused me.

He was one-quarter each French, Spanish (father’s side), Portuguese, and Canadian First Nation (mother’s side). That didn’t explain why he had a Russian first name. He became my friend because he knew I’m American, and paid him good money for a jungle tour.

Also, because I had black skin and soft blue eyes.

That goes a long way with people, all over the world. Like two enemies got together and made peace.

I don’t know why they assume the peace. Maybe it’s because I’m a wrinkled lady who looks like she’s travelled the world but came home to start a roadside shop with an honest dirt floor. I say less than expected, and that has the effect of making people think I’ve really said more.

Or maybe it’s because I have such a nice, white smile. And I was compassionate, that can be said, and it’s true. I’d played a Red Cross nurse many times, that’s useful. That’s a foreigner in South America for you.

The air smelled like rancid butter.

My nun’s habit was salty hot with the articles I had taped to my body to hide. Sweat kept dripping down my neck like the very fine edge of a knife.

I remember the first step I took into the cargo boat—the chipped, green-pea-soup colored paint on the scarred wood. A splinter stabbed up into my fingernail.

That soup color reminded me of my aunt’s shed, where the gardener’s kept the nicest gardening tools, back in the 1950s.

My aunt worked for Eisenhower, underthe gardens. (She even knew him.)

She’d take me inside that shed, privately open a revolving wall with a numeric code. My mouth always got sweaty, when the blue lights came on, and I saw the iron spiral stairs.

My Lucille Ball’s clanked on the rungs. And that filtered air came up; came up dense and cold.

I hated the skirts we had to wear.

I wore boy’s trunks underneath, because us girls learned to kick fight on the wrestler’s mats down there, under the bare bulbs that were angry as the sun. And if I caught half my aunt’s black South African face in the wrong glare of those brilliant lights: She looked split, one-side white.

Isn’t that how it goes.

That’s how my uneasy history came back to me. My first day on the Amazon river and the jungle’s already got a way to make me reflect.

[End Excerpt]