Thursday, January 20, 2011

Does Wikileaks Really Matter?

There has been another important symposium discussing and deliberating the potentially paradigm shifting phenomenon which Wikileaks has helped bring to the forefront of the world. While the majority of the mainstream continue to reinforce it's biparisan world, and the people trudge along dealing with the new austerity movement — I am thankful we do have some critical thinkers out there who understand the importance of this issue, and are at least willing to attempt to reach some kind of understanding of how these transparency and freedom of information issues and the associated cause and effect could impact our future rights, freedoms, and even the very structure of democracy.

I continually wonder if I come off sounding like the paranoid Chicken Little with all this continual information on shifting paradigms and how we should play a much more active part, or at the very least, pay closer attention! Sometimes I think I should just shut up and read, and stop coming off as some wacko alarmist. But when I do step back from the stream, this guilt builds within me and I feel as if I am not doing my part. To be honest, I no longer know if that is because I feel I am letting everybody else down or if it is because I feel I am cheating myself. Regardless, seeing as I really hate feeling guilty, I suppose I will continue to tell of our falling skies. I apologize.

The speakers of this panel include, Daniel Ellsberg, Clay Shirky, Neville Roy Singham, Peter Thiel, Jonathan Zittrain, and moderated by Paul Jay. — "A panel of leading thinkers explores WikiLeaks and its implications for access to information, security, first amendment rights, innovation, and more." Once you start the video, you can click on the Watch FULL Program at the bottom right of the embedded video. This will transport you to the main site and you can choose full program or individual chapters.

If you missed the previous symposium from Personal Democracy on the Wikileaks issues, you can find my post on the discussions here as well. It's entitled How Do We Survive the Leak

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wikileaks — Plug the Hole or Irrigate Democracy

Mention Wikileaks to an average slice of the U.S. population and the feedback we get back is not as predictable as what we would hear when mentioning issues such as single payer medical care, gun control, or taxes. On most issues the ratio can be expected to be somewhere around 50/50, give or take a few percentage points, and supporters and non-supporters will fall into the yin and yang of the conservative/liberal, democrat/republican division. From the majority of that slice of people, we would not have to guess if they are for or against an issue. Most would announce emphatically what they support and why. However, when it comes to the Wikileaks issue, the dividing line is not so clear, and the deathly silence that accompanies it's mention is very noticeable.

Some of this silence is likely due to the strong steps taken by our government and corporate interests in defianace of the whistleblower style of Wikileaks. From the slice of people I have come to know on-line, only a very small number will say anything concerning Wikileaks, and the majority of those remain on the sideline waiting for some other shoe to fall. I believe the reason for this is because this higher level of transparency due to these leaks is not just one of our every day issues us voters face. There are no clear defined lines for us to choose. Wikileaks offers us an alternative world through the proverbial looking glass. The world on the other side is unknown and unpredictable and we struggle to find our footing. Wikileaks does not focus on, or make us think about issues. It forces us to think about the entire structure of our representative democracy and brings to the surface many of our suppressed feelings concerning the state of democracy and how it will survive this new thing referred to as the Information Age.

Do we really want a pseudo democracy whose foundations are built on lies, and if not, are we ready for the responsibility that accompanies a true open democracy? Or would we rather continue living the lie and remain in our comfort zone of denial? Consider the words of Slavoj Žižek:

Consider too the renewed popularity of Leo Strauss: the aspect of his political thought that is so relevant today is his elitist notion of democracy, the idea of the ‘necessary lie’.Elites should rule, aware of the actual state of things (the materialist logic of power), and feed the people fables to keep them happy in their blessed ignorance.

The only surprising thing about the WikiLeaks revelations is that they contain no surprises. Didn’t we learn exactly what we expected to learn? The real disturbance was at the level of appearances: we can no longer pretend we don’t know what everyone knows we know.

What WikiLeaks threatens is the formal functioning of power. The true targets here weren’t the dirty details and the individuals responsible for them; not those in power, in other words, so much as power itself, its structure. We shouldn’t forget that power comprises not only institutions and their rules, but also legitimate (‘normal’) ways of challenging it (an independent press, NGOs etc) – as the Indian academic Saroj Giri put it, WikiLeaks ‘challenged power by challenging the normal channels of challenging power and revealing the truth’. The aim of the WikiLeaks revelations was not just to embarrass those in power but to lead us to mobilize ourselves to bring about a different functioning of power that might reach beyond the limits of representative democracy.

These excerpts taken from an essay by Slavoj Žižek entitled, Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Us is the Word!

Through my interaction within a community far, far away, I discovered the remarkable Christine Kane and her thoughts concerning how we should stop "hoping" and start "creating". I believe I first heard of the "Word of the Year" from Christine, but for me it was Fine Line, a friend and trusted member of that community, who turned Christine's thoughts into action. Although I do not "officially" participate in the "Word of the Year" program, that does not mean I do not think it is a wonderful idea. On the contrary, anything that will empower us has my support and praise. So last year I gave some thought to this idea and decided on chosing a word for myself. To be honest it did not take much thought to come up with my word, as it seems to have somehow chosen me. Now it is "Oh Eleven" and a word has chosen me once again.

The word I have chosen for the new year is the same word I chose for 2010, and the same word that began being such a large part of my life back in 1999. It is the same word that has remained in my thoughts and in my notes ever since. That word is us, not to be confused with the abbreviation of our country. We are the key to solving many of the problems we now face. As our societies dissolve into a global pool of uncertainty, I can not emphasize enough how important we are in the equation. To quote Christine Kane, "Be Creative. Be Conscious. Be Courageous." So to kick off "Oh Eleven", I choose a hero of mine to emphasize the importance of us as the new year begins. We have a rough path ahead, and let us hope that reason will conquer ignorance, and we will come to understand the power we possess.

The idea of saviors has been built into the entire culture, beyond politics. We have learned to look to stars, leaders, experts in every field, thus surrendering our own strength, demeaning our own ability, obliterating our own selves. But from time to time, Americans reject that idea and rebel.

These rebellions, so far, have been contained. The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent, and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority.

In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen. These people-the employed, the somewhat privileged-are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.

The Coming Revolt of the Guard by Howard Zinn
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