06 April 2007

Privacy vs. Transparency vs. Accomodating Structures vs. Edenic Intent

A couple of weeks ago, at our weekly forum at seminary, a visiting pastor made some comments on the project he is working on while on sabbatical. Long story made shorter than it ought to be: we are fallen.

The speaker said that what both creation stories agree on is male and female -- different, but equal. Contrariwise, Genesis also suggests that humans are designed to govern ("have dominion"). Equality and Governance are not simply compatible, so humans tend to create structures that result in domination rather than equality. Hence patriarchal systems come about. Patriarchy leads naturally to monarchy (since, what is monarchy really than family patriarchy expanded to a national level), and that results in slavery (if you aren't king you aren't anything). And nearly all structures, including church structures, are created to support and perpetuate and inequality of some sort. This may be a poor interpretation of what the speaker said, but I think it is mostly fair. At any rate, this is just background and not really the point.

Somewhere in the midst of this narrative the speaker mentioned the state of the first humans: naked and unashamed. When he said this, he went off on a bit of a tangent about society being so concerned with privacy because privacy allows secrecy and secrecy allows power -- in heaven, he suggested, everything would be completely transparent as God intended it to be.

Since I am a person who generally thinks we have a bit too much privacy, and think of ourselves as more entitled to privacy than we really are, and since I think that we would be happier in the main if we were less concerned with whether people discovered our secrets and more concerned with living such that secrets were irrelevant, and since this forum topic arose the same week I received the Transparency Issue of Wired (the one whose cover I thought was going to be clever only to be sorely disappointed, though for different reasons than Andrew Keen was disappointed) wherein transparency in business is advocated as a strategy for growth (how cynical), and since whenever I find myself thinking about transparency I am reminded of Bible Stories for Adults, wherein God recognizes that the problem at the Tower of Babel was not that people understood each other too well but that they understood each other not well enough, and wherein God rectifies the earlier misreading of the human condition by making everyone understand each other fully with the somewhat predictable result that people can no longer stand each other or even themselves ... for all these reasons, I was struck with this thought: perhaps we should settle for translucence.


John David said...

privacy = secrecy = power ?

What about the power that nations and corporations gain over individuals when the privacy of those citizens is violated? When people have no secrets they are at the mercy of those who control the information.

I'm all for transparency in institutions and privacy for individuals. Why, if the Alaska state constitution did not guarantee the right of privacy, we wouldn't be able to possess marijuana in our homes. OK. Bad example.

But privacy for individuals and transparency for institutions balances out some of the power inequalities.

The day will soon arrive when it will become the moral duty of every citizen to smash every surveillance camera on every street corner.

BMG said...

This sounds like the ramblings of an anarchist.

Oh, right.

John David said...

Fight the Power!

Anonymous said...

I am a little unclear about the need for transparency. Maybe if we promoted voluntary transparency. Mandatory transparency means the one who wants privacy has not power to make that choice. Sounds a little like a catch 22 thing, huh?

It's the same with communism. Jesus calls us to a communistic way of life, but if it is forced on us, it becomes works instead of an act of faith. One can not force equality. Equality has to be a choice. Each culture has to develop leveling systems to perpetuate itself. Yet, without incentives, communism fails because few people are intrinsically motivated to excel. Transparency is like this. If forced, it's an infringement of rights, but when freely given, it becomes a by product of what becomes revealed by the transparency.

As far as the Garden of Eden story, it is a story of God dealing with his children that grow into teenagers. They hit puberty and then just fight the system because it is there. God finally kicks them out on their own like all teenagers should be treated. ;)