Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edward Snowden & Intuition in the Long Run

Sometimes you have to wait a very long time, years, even decades, for the full import of an intuitive message to come through. That means you have to remember them, so you can refer to them over time. Edward Snowden's flight to Moscow reminded me of this.

I grew up during the Cold War. This was a time when political prisoners were jailed in the USSR, and often sought political asylum in the US.

I was curious about the Soviet Union, asked questions, and expressed an interest in visiting. My parents told me I should never go there, because the hotel rooms were bugged. They knew a couple who'd visited, who'd told them stories of their guides making comments about things they'd only said to each other in the "privacy" of their hotel room. I had a bad habit of telling the truth, and couldn't keep my mouth shut. (I still tell the truth, but I've learned when to keep my mouth shut! :) )

My dad subscribed to all sorts of magazines that came to our house, but went to his doctor's office waiting room fairly quickly. One of these was Travel and Leisure. When I was 11, the cover photo on one issue was a beautiful shot of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. I was captivated! I stared and stared at that photo. Then it came to me -- I just knew -- that the US and the USSR would become more and more alike, and that we'd be trading with each other. I decided right then that I had to learn Russian, and insisted on being sent to a high school where I could learn the language. My dad really heard me and made that possible.

3 years later, I was in my first year of Russian classes at a school near Albany, NY. That year, the Russian wheat harvests had failed, and our governments had arranged a grain deal, in which some of our wheat would be shipped to the Soviet Union. And our teacher took our class (all 4 of us) on a field trip to the Russian freighter that had docked at the Port of Albany. I didn't understand much of what the sailors were saying, but I still remember the sight of the grain pouring into the hold.

This was at a time when social programs in the US were still expanding, which were described by some as "communist". Wow -- we're getting to be more alike!

I had to drop out of Russian classes after 1 year at Princeton, because it was just too hard to do that on top of my engineering courses. But by the time I moved to New York in the late 1970's, we were actively trading grain with what was still the Soviet Union. In fact, a good friend was a grain trader.

Then the second Russian revolution happened -- the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union was dismantled, and the promise of democracy beckoned. Wow -- we're getting to be more alike!

We all know that democracy didn't really take hold in the Russia. And we know that the security state has grown in the US. Wow, we're becoming more alike. :(

And today, irony of ironies, Edward Snowden has had to seek political asylum by transiting through Russia. Has the US become the USSR?

I keep thinking about that knowledge that my 11 year old self had, and how she had no way to know how right that information would turn out to be, no way to predict exactly how it would play out.

Sometimes you have to wait years -- or decades -- to watch your intuitive information play out. And the only way to do that is to remember it. Sometimes, like what my 11 year old self got, it just sears itself into your mind. But journals help, too. And no matter how scary it is, it helps to tell other people what you get, because they'll help you remember.

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