Interview with Daniela, Part 2 of 2.
Steph: Okay. So I’m going to read you this quote and then we’ll talk about it together. But it’s a quote by Edward Snowden. You know who Edward Snowden is?
Steph: Edward Snowden is one of the most famous people in American history, especially contemporary history, things that are happening right now in our lifetimes. He’s a whistleblower. You know what a whistleblower is?
Daniela: Not exactly.
Steph: A whistleblower is somebody who’s on the inside of the system and figures out how it works and realizes that there’s something about the system that’s really, really wrong and not okay and they tell everybody about it.
Daniela: So kind of like an undercover person?
Steph: Well, the thing is is they don’t go in undercover on purpose. That’s not why they’re there. They’re doing their job. It’s work they really like. They’re committed to it, they believe in it, they think it’s going to do something good for humanity. Whistleblowers start out innocent. They don’t have an agenda. But then once they’re there and they start seeing stuff, they realize there might be a problem. People who go on to become a whistleblower usually collect some information about how the system is not working right and they might even have ideas about how to fix it, but they can definitely help pinpoint what parts of the system are so bad or wrong or unfair. So this is a quote from him, from Edward Snowden, from his book that he just published. The book is called Permanent Record.
Steph: This is what he said. He’s talking about when he was a kid and how he was frustrated by the authority at school because there were things about how adults were that were basically unfair. Right? The adults have all the cards and they make the rules and change the rules whenever they want to.
Steph: If I remember right, he, before this, he’s saying what kids often do is they get in a lot of trouble or they go into drugs or they … There’s all these kind of typical reactions when authority is being unfair. This is what he said. “Instead, I started hacking, which remains the sanest, healthiest and most educational way I know for kids to assert autonomy and address adults on equal terms.”
Steph: He goes on to say, “The origin of all hacking is the awareness of a systemic linkage between input and output, between cause and effect. Because hacking isn’t just native to computing. It exists wherever rules do. To hack a system requires getting to know its rules better than the people who created it or who are running it, and exploiting all the vulnerable distance between how those people had intended this system to work and how it actually works or how it could be made to work. In capitalizing on these unintentional uses, hackers aren’t breaking rules as much as debunking them.”
Steph: What do you think? I know it’s kind of heavy.
Daniela: Yeah, it’s a lot to take in but I feel like he’s kind of opening another way of how the system kind of wanted racism to work. So that’s how I kind of took it as, but I feel like he’s kind of talking about how the system is trying to bring it back to how it used to be before and how people are kind of opening their eyes to how it really works and how we can change that.
Steph: I think you’re right. The only thing that I think that he’d disagree with, and I disagree with a little bit too, is that there was no before that’s magical and better.
Steph: But we are definitely in a system that needs to change and it needs to be a better system that treats people more fairly all the way around. Yeah. So there’s a couple of phrases in here that … You know what hacking is. I mean, usually when people say the word hacking, you know what that means?
Daniela: Yeah. Maybe hacking a computer or something.
Steph: Yeah. Messing with the code in a computer or in some program so it does something-
Steph: So yeah. So how do you hack this whole system that we live in? That’s kind of what I’m thinking about. I like what he says. So you have to know the rules better than the people who created it. So what are the rules in the system and you named racism. So if we accept as a premise that we’re in a racist system because the government of America was designed to benefit white people and nobody else.
Daniela: I mean, that line, I kind of take it as … Because now that I think of it, a lot of our politics and our famous people, they’re primarily older white men. I feel like they just have a way of thinking about the system on how it used to be. Not that it’s better, but it was strictly racist and sexist. So maybe that’s why we can’t really change anything because we need to have people that have more knowledge about the problems that are happening now because it’s different when you’re living it and it’s different when you’re creating it. So to be creating racism is a different feeling and to be living racism towards your life is also a different feeling. So it’s like you never know how other people react to those kinds of rules.
Steph: Yeah. Yeah. So I think maybe those reactions that people have from whatever position they’re in is part of what I feel like we can look at together. That’s maybe this phrase. He talks about the “vulnerable distance.” I don’t know, I’m still thinking about that phrase and how we can use it or whether it’s a good metaphor for us, but the distance between the people who are still running the show for the most part and the people who know the system is not working is a big distance.
Steph: But the people who know the system isn’t working can see things and perceive ways that the rules can be changed, that is the opening to making those changes.
Daniela: Yeah, I agree.
Steph: You’re thinking.
Daniela: Yeah, I just … I don’t know. There could be many solutions to fixing our society and our government and the way that it works. But I feel like it takes a lot to try to help or change the people to see how. Because we do need more humanity. People deserve to be treated like nothing less than human. You can’t really completely change people’s mindsets when they were raised in these kinds of conditions. Some people will probably think of it as … Oh, this is so hard. Okay. So it’s like when someone is raised in a certain position where they’re taught to be … they’re just taught to be in these kind of rules where it’s like you can’t do this because this isn’t right.
Steph: But that’s the people that raised them and that’s their traditions and their culture and then there are other cultures that teach you differently. So it’s like you can’t really reverse all of that and teach someone a whole new way and expect them to agree and feel comfortable in that new position because everyone’s been through their own kind of trauma and stuff and different cultures and different race is just a really big topic and it’s heavy for many people. So it’s like you have to find a good way to help them understand what they don’t know.
Steph: Maybe there’s two parts to it. I mean, I think what I hear you saying is that people also want to hold onto their heritage and the traditions that work for them.
Steph: But we need a bigger system over all of that that lets people have that freedom to be the way they want to be, but without being penalized for it or punished for it because it’s not the mainstream way.
Steph: Is that a close paraphrase?
Steph: So I’m going to ask you in one more stretch question. When you were talking about the Peace Rally that y’all did, do you think that there’s some tips or tricks or techniques in what you did during the Peace Rally that helps people stay different but still get along okay?
Daniela: I mean definitely. Because in Holyoke, despite of all the different religions and traditions that we have here, we know, we’re very aware that not everyone in Holyoke is Christian or religious and not everyone believes in God. But we still had the priest come and we still had the choir sing a church song and we still had a prayer circle and we knew that not everyone might not be comfortable with that. We were just having an open space for people to come and feel invited to it. So it was like we weren’t forcing anyone to come to our peace circle, but we were just having an open seat for everyone who wanted to come because it was like we understand that some people … some people grow up as atheists and they just don’t believe in God or just their own opinion. But we’re always trying to encourage people to know, come in to the normal traditions and just do their own thing at the same time.
Steph: All right. I think we’re talking about two different things now, but that’s all right. Because I think you’re talking about the individual right to believe or not believe, and I’m trying to stay at a … Well, it’s tricky because we’ve got different perspectives, right? Because I’m coming from inside a whiteness, which I want to disrupt and you’re coming from the other side of that. Solidarity means something there that’s really important.
Daniela: That’s kind of like … solidarity is mainly the reason that we had the Peace Rally because there are many different races in Holyoke and there’s people from all over the world here and like there’s different traditions in every single place of the world. So since praying is a big one here in Holyoke, no matter who you are, what your traditions are, how you were raised, once you move here, you kind of get a feel of what the people do here and how Holyoke is itself.
Steph: Yeah. Yeah. So accommodate to the norms of the town.
Steph: It’s kind of what you’re saying or the bigger community here.
Daniela: And it’s not like we were going to shame anybody for not coming into our prayer circle or not singing along to our songs because we do know that there’re different perspectives of everyone. But it was kind of just an open space for everyone to bring in their feelings and just come together.
Steph: Super cool. Thank you for having this conversation with me.
Daniela: Thank you.
Steph: All right. Maybe we’ll do it again someday.
Daniela: Oh god….
Steph: You survived.
Recorded Friday, October 5, 2019.
Location: The Fiesta Cafe, Holyoke, MA