Psst! Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?

Secrecy is a dangerous thing, and it is hard to distinguish from confidentiality which is a good thing. You see ‘secrecy’ implies that things are happening in private which affect other human beings, human beings who must not know, ever, what is happening in secret. ‘Confidentiality’ on the other hand is the conscientious and dutiful undertaking not to divulge or use information which could bring harm or distress to another. There is an element of deceit and manipulation in ‘secrecy’ rather than the relationship of trust and mutual regard which gives rise to ‘confidentiality’. It is wise for a priest, at least, to know the difference. The great myth of Adam and Eve, and the attempt to keep secret the acquisition of the forbidden fruit, shows what can happen with the one, whereas Jesus’s demand that we try and keep secret our good works hints at the hidden rewards of the other.

Similar dilemmas afflict (or should afflict) those who are charged with authority over us. We all understand that, in times of war for instance, it is necessary to keep secret one’s troop movements and future plans for the security of all. No one minds this. But what happens when secrecy is used as a device to exercise power and coercion, to deliberately mislead those one is charged with serving? What happens when secrecy becomes an unseemly part of one nation’s private judgements on another? Well, we have just found out: Julian Paul L’assange, an Australian journalist, decided to take his crusade against the insidious and corrupting aspects of secrecy onto the Internet: he devised Wikileaks, and promptly revealed to an astonished public the private thoughts and machinations of those who govern us or exercise diplomacy on our behalf. So, we learn that certain prisoners in Guantanamo Bay were deliberately kept out of the purview of the International Red Cross making one suspicious of maltreatment and also distrustful of the authorities which told us America did not do this. We learn that nuclear accidents had happened in Iran, a fact that was kept secret. And, this year, alongside the name-calling and verbal bullying more commonly found in playgrounds but here found in secret memos between American government departments and which even involved members of our own leading family, we also read about two journalists being shot at by gun happy troopers who thought cameras were guns. You will have read to distraction some of the seamier and more devious stuff. And, whilst it is not beyond possibility, one can be forgiven for doubting that it is  a coincidence that L’assange is then charged with sexual crimes in Sweden and major financial backers such as Penpal and others suddenly withdraw their support from the website. A week of cyberspace mayhem has ensued in which those very backers had their own websites brought down by supporters of L’assange’s freedom of expression.

The fact is that all of us have known since Kim Philby, the Birmingham Six and countless other dirty tricks campaigns that the world of governmental secrecy is murky, manipulative, self-seeking and simply not to be trusted. I’m behind anyone who wants to let us into the secret of exactly what is going on in our world; who is doing what to whom and why they are doing it and how this secrecy might affect me, my family and friends and the communities I belong to. It seems to me that this is the real aim that L’assange was after and why he seems to be so feared by our governments and those in big business.

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~ by Tim Ellis on December 13, 2010.

One Response to “Psst! Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?”

  1. Bishop Tim

    Loved the article. Yeshua exposed the scapegoat mechanism which controls both the religious and political worlds. Both were responsible for the death of the Nazarene Prophet. I think you’d enjoy the writings of Catholic philosopher and anthropologist Rene Girard whose theory of mimetic desire explains much of dysfunctional human culture.

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