For those among us who are not prisoners, which is to say the majority of the human population, it would be unimaginable, and indelibly torturous, to create your own sealed-in internment, and for an indefinite period of time: an extreme jail-like existence where you no longer know the wafting breeze or the generous bleat of the sun, or the equally simple pleasure of saying hello to a fellow passerby, and you never know when you will get out. At least prison terms have that: a term. By comparison, convicted criminals have it relatively easy; at least they get out in the yard.
Yet one man, a middle-aged Australian, has strangely created for himself this nightmare scenario, his confined predicament entirely of his own making. Instead of facing up to the problems that have bedevilled him these past three years, the prematurely white-haired Julian Assange, 42, has only made his own perilous situation far worse.
The former computer hacker who set up a website revealing state secrets given to it is in this pickle after jumping bail in England and running to Ecuador's modest embassy in central London because he does not want to answer questions in Sweden concerning two women who claim he sexually abused them.
Courts all the way up to the Supreme Court in England ruled that Assange be extradited to face questioning in the Nordic nation, prompting the Australian, who had been under house arrest in England as proceedings were underway, to seek political asylum in the Latin American country's mission. He feared Sweden would dispatch him to the United States, where severe penalties, possibly including death, might await him over WikiLeaks' publishing of confidential military and diplomatic files. (The provider of the logs, the now-renamed Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years' jail in July, and is aiming for a presidential pardon.)
And so Assange has been living in cramped quarters as a guest of the Ecuadorian government for over a year, with British police camped outside and ready to nab him should he even dare to poke his head out the door for a rare breath of fresh air. There is no exit in sight. In this peculiar circumstance, Assange decided that if he became a politician in his native land he may have a way out; he might, somehow, be able to leverage himself back home. It seemed like a corrupted usurping of the democratic process for personal gain, but then again many an elected official has been accused of self-service; Assange merely sought to take it to a stratospheric level.
And while the fugitive from justice spoke, rather bombastically, of wanting "to essentially parachute in a crack troop of investigative journalists into the Senate and to do what we have done with WikiLeaks, in holding banks and government and intelligence agencies to account," the party imploded as key officials resigned over differences with their leader, a troubling theme that has also been a feature of Assange's website operations.
Assange said he had not been able to give his full attention to his Senate run - this despite doing a wide array of media interviews, some in the very early hours of English time, due to the problematic nine-hour time difference with Australia - because of the Edward Snowden affair.
Outlandishly, he said he had been "trying to save the life of a young man" as the former American intelligence worker fled from Hong Kong to Russia with a trove of US surveillance secrets and eventually gained political asylum there. If Assange had been serious about his candidacy, it was to the voters that his attention should have been directed, not to the global media story surrounding a leaker whose life was never really in danger.
And so, in last weekend's elections, WikiLeaks won not one seat. (The party managed to get 1.18% of the primary vote in Victoria, where Assange was running; in New South Wales, a paltry 0.8%; and in Western Australia, an almost non-existent 0.71%.)
The entire effort was a shambles. Voters had no interest in a man on the lam. Despite WikiLeaks' lofty ideal of transparency in government in order to bring about a better society, people did not want their precious votes ostensibly used to free a man facing sex abuse allegations.
Assange, whose WikiLeaks has lost much of its lustre and is now embarrassingly reduced to regurgitating "very sensitive" intelligence emails and publicly available information, says he will press on, that "the WikiLeaks Party will continue for sure," according to the Australian Associated Press. That's not likely to happen, so long as its leader remains in hiding.
To impose an infinite prison sentence upon yourself, a type of solitary confinement with nine to five workers milling about, is surely an extraordinary act of self-cruelty. The longer Assange chooses to continue with his term, the more harm he is doing to himself.