|Mr Spock – Wikipedia
From the reaction I’ve been following on Twitter, opinion would seem to be unevenly divided. Most people seem to be in favour of the leaks currently being released by the Guardian, El País, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and the New York Times. A few see it as an unreasonable development which will, in the future, affect the ability of governments to carry out the due process of diplomacy and international relations. I myself have expressed the belief that such indiscriminate revelations change the ground rules unfairly halfway through the game. If freedom of information policies had indicated prior to these revelations that working in government would be a goldfish bowl, everyone I am sure would’ve been more likely to be on their best behaviour.
And government – for better or worse – would have been conducted in a different manner.
The truth of the matter is that at lowly levels in both business and public office, control systems, procedures and processes make it very difficult for such workers to get away with anything politically incorrect, abusive or telling. It’s only higher up the food chain that such activities begin to reproduce themselves with an unfortunate frequency.
Thus it is that those against organisations such as WikiLeaks might suggest this is a battle to protect the anonymity and freedoms to do good of millions of people across the world – from bloggers to journalists, from diplomats to politicians. (And it is quite easy to hold the position that international relations require ambiguous areas of greying intercourse. The easy blacks and whites of demagogic exchange most definitely do not suit the inexactitudes of cross-continental morals.)
Whilst others might equally argue that this is simply a battle of the lowly versus the high and mighty – that is to say, a battle between those who must always play by the rules versus those who generally get away with breaking them.
What is undeniable is that indiscriminate acts of any kind rarely serve a long-term useful purpose on their own. However, in this particular case there are far wider implications for the body politic in what is going on than the red faces of a few diplomats. And it’s not only WikiLeaks I’m talking about it when I suggest the consequences are deeper. The contrast could not be clearer here in Britain at the moment: from the obfuscations of Coalition politicians as they currently spread their lies – on a range of subjects from tuition fees to economic recovery – to the openness with which protesting students are conducting their protests, what I think we are really beginning to witness is nothing more nor less than a much more profound and integral demystification and deprofessionalisation of the act of being a public servant.
Whatever your level, WikiLeaks is telling us, you must act in private as you would prefer to be seen in public.
For some, generally the young, this still comes easily.
For others, generally the experienced, this is no longer an option. And the experience that makes them unable to act coherently on the frontiers that divide their inner and outer Chinese walls is precisely what, to date, governments and companies have valued. The experience that imposes a loyalty to a cause over a loyalty to a truth.
But in a world of massive leaks of classified and secret information such as these, power is no longer in the hands of the rich, wealthy and knowledgeable – for, as the rest of us were relatively without possessions, it is now their turn to become the dispossessed.
Dispossessed of the information which – before – gave them such power.
Thus the rule-changing moment that I now surely feel will divide generations. The students now protesting the evils of ideologically charged government feel no obligation not to intervene, despite their lack of training in such matters as professional political discourse – that is to say, that discourse of restricted access. Instead, they feel free and empowered – with every right in the world – to take part in such a discourse, to participate in such policy-generating dialogues; even as they see no need to experience the greasy pole of professional political devices.
They are participating because they are fighting for their lives – fighting for their lives as they know them.
Thus the process of demystification and deprofessionalisation I identify above. Thus the wider implications of WikiLeaks – which transcend the short-term miseries of the professional politicos amongst us. Thus the reality that such politicos must not deny: this is a historical trend that will not be bucked.
One final point before I sign off tonight: whither now those freedom of information policies I mentioned earlier?
For if everything is now potentially to end up in the hands of the electorate, what’s the point of having such legislation in the first place? Wouldn’t it be easier simply to do politics on the basis of assuming everything will be known sooner or later – and, presumably, these days, in the light of recent events, sooner rather than later?
Shouldn’t any politician or public servant with any degree of foresight choose to give in to the inevitable and begin to work for a world of far truer transparencies?
Wouldn’t that, as our dear Mr Spock might inform us, be the most logical thing to do?