Tuesday, December 07, 2010

WikiLeaks: Does exposed truth set us free?

At the extremes, the question raised by the WikiLeaks phenomenon is whether we are better off in a secretive world or an open one?

To me the question resonates with the founding principle that we have a government “of, by and for the people.”

The more secretive the government, the less it is true to the democratic principle.

Count me among the skeptics who argue that the principle has been violated so many times that it no longer guides us. Ours is a democracy in name alone. The WikiLeaks debate is part of the same crisis in democracy.

We don't need WikiLeaks to tell us that ours is a government by, of and for the wealthy. In short, it is a plutocracy. Look no farther than today’s headlines in which tax cuts for the super rich are on the verge of being — extended against all reason.

Add to that the now-legal, secret corporate donations to political campaigns. The money pays for the creation and dissemination of emotive visual images that defy reasoning and civil and civic discourse.

Yet I still hear in the WikiLeak's debate the distant cry from the Sixties: Power to the People! I see WikiLeaks as nurturing that power and being of that spirit.

Is that good?

Or is openness, versus secretiveness, simply the lesser of two evils.

How often in the course of casual conversation or in conducting business do we wrap information in the shroud of “just between the two of us....”? That’s a secret about to be shared. But why? Is it to weigh perceptions? To warn? To win favor? To create a bond of obligation?

Why can’t we be open and share speculatively? What if? What would your response be if....?

And what, exactly, is a secret? If you have an private thought that you feel isn’t worth sharing, or isn’t ready to share, or appropriate to share, or harmful to share, is it a secret or simply a thought? Must we divulge everything we are thinking? Are shared thoughts confined to a small group secrets?

Do we have different standards for personal “secrets” and societal, political, diplomatic, military and governmental ones?

How do we live with this practical paradox: for a society to remain open it must rely on secrets. Sounds like the ends justifying a contradictory means.

And that question leads to others: Will a truth that is widely known really set us free? Could it, in fact, enslave or destroy us? Must the truth be widely known for it to free us?

So we are left with a quandary.

Still I’d rather have the quandary of awareness than to be lost a thicket of secrets and ignorance.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wikileak is more change Obama can imaging. We NEED transparency for our global society that we created an cannot control.To many crises. Would we have gone to Iraq over Weapons of mass destruction is we could read the cables first ? Climate Summit ? Redesign our 200 years old political system now. How can a few wise people understand these complex global issues pending ? How can we survive ? Shutting down WL is naive. At least the cork out of the bottle. Fact is that secrets are harder to keep anno 2010. Discuss it is the only option.

6:48 AM  

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