Does anybody like to be watched? At face value, nobody wants other people to know their secrets and possibly use those secrets against them and surely nobody want all their online information recorded and their phone call wired. So why is the National Security Agency (NSA) carefully taking down everything we do with their giant yeottabyte-computers deep in the Utah Desert? We know about this NSA scheme because of the leaker Edward Snowden who has been recently granted a one-year temporary asylum by the Russian government. Why Russia granted the asylum and why Snowden is even there can be tied to three basic concepts of intercultural communication, those of culture & social group, perspective, and cultural relativism. Edward Snowden was a “security contractor at the NSA for the last four year, employed by several private contractors” (Economist 8840, 23).
After announcing that he leaked the information that the NSA is using a program code-named PRISM, which collects an unknown quantity of e-mails, internet phone-calls, photos, videos, file transfer, and social-networking data from the technology giants such as Google and Facebook, Snowden boarded a plane flight to Hong Kong. According to his followers, Snowden first fled into the arms of the Chinese and then the Russian because of the harsh treatments Private Bradley Manning, the leaker of military secrets to WikiLeaks, received. On August 1, Snowden “finally managed to break free of his confinement at the transit zone of Moscow’s international airport” after he received his asylum on Thursday. In theory, this event is deeply connected to three concepts of communication: culture & social group, perspective, and cultural relativism. The three concepts are all concepts that are based on an intercultural point of view, because they all represent our culture and the differences it has with other cultures.
Our culture is as distinct from other cultures as two different people, they think differently, and interpret and act in accordance only to their own maxims and perspectives. The government’s perspective is very different from Snowden’s perspective, without their perspective being different, Snowden would not have done what he did, or the U.S. would not be chasing him around the globe. In addition, if the Russian Government did not recognize cultural relativism, Snowden could never dream of getting an asylum from Russia. Our culture is a key factor of why the Snowden affair even began. Because our culture can be considered quite a zealous security culture, we impose such rules that social communities and other culture may not approve.
After “September 11th 2001, George Bush tipped the balance too far from liberty toward security” and the balance stayed off ever since (Economist 8847, 11). Due to the common American way of life, people prefer a way of living in which they receive the most amount of comfort. If you walk up to an American and ask him what he thinks is important in life, one of his many answers will be the enjoyment of life. Snowden is no exception, and thought that doing something that would potentially stop the government from watching us and make himself feel more comfortable when he use a phone is totally acceptable. While the government is thinking about tracking down potential criminals, Snowden is thinking about why he is being watched and record and wired every second of his life except when he is asleep. Snowden’s perspective is the same as the government in that they both want the best for the people, but they differ widely on how that is to be achieved.
Snowden believes that in order for the people to be free and genuinely happy, they must be given the right of doing what they want without certain constrains such as having their telephone record collected when they are not suspected of crimes. On the other hand, the government believed that the more America knows, the better it is at defending itself. Due to the fact that Snowden had a different perspective from the government, he “handed over ‘thousands’ of classified documents” and showed Americans what the government is doing behind their backs and in front of their faces (Economist 8840, 23). Even though there has been questions regarding why Russia granted Snowden the asylum, it can be explained easily by the communication concept of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism recognizes that cultures vary in how they think and behave as well as in what they believe and value. This clarified the point that Russians do not think as Americans and their government functions differently.
If Russia were to think like the American government, it would have never looked for “trouble” with Snowden. Americans consider their own welfare above all other things; due to that, when the American government grants asylums to “criminals” desperately wanted elsewhere, the government rarely think about how it is affecting the other countries. Now, when the American government is put in this situation, it automatically assumes that all action done for Snowden’s benefit is for American’s detriment. On the Russian point of view, what they are doing may actually be a way to keep the “Security-Prioritized Americans” from going to war with others for no good reason. It is posisble that Russia thinks that it is wrong for a country to be a hypocrite, and that the American government should “learn a little lesson” from Russia’s asylum grant.
Edward Snowden would not have done what he did without his culture, his social group, and his perspective. On the other hand, Russia would not grant an asylum if they did not recognize cultural relativism. Over all, the Snowden affair has been a controversy between the people and the government. The people have to apply all the communication concepts to use in order to make the future of America the best possible, and the government has to make its best judgments based on the people’s decisions. Therefore, people should all learn be better communicators, thus become better citizens, and help their country at such times of need as this.