Today’s wordpress post a day prompt is “Can you handle the truth?” I was not particularly interested in the topic until I saw the “bonus twist.” “How does your answer impact your view of wikileaks?” Actually, without the prompt in front of me, I’m not certain if those are direct quotes, but they do convey the questions. Anyway, that wikileaks twist caught my attention.
The simple answer is that yes, I can handle the truth, but that would not make for a very compelling post. That comes from a discussion of truth and how said truth is presented. The fact is that it is important that individuals face truths that they would rather not. I can’t speak for every situation, and I could see some readers finding value in denying truth to prevent a bad situation from getting worse. The example that comes to mind is ignoring some fatal problem in a marriage to keep the family intact for the sake of the children. While the end may be (arguably) a valid one, it requires a different mean. Rather than denying the truth or deliberately avoiding confirming the truth, the parties need to know and accept the truth. Acceptance does not dictate action, but it does allow for action to be devised based on accurate information.
Truth is too important to just ignore. To do so is to imperil one’s self. Whether it’s relational, medical or financial, harmful truths left unacknowledged lead to harmful actions. On the other hand, truth is freeing. More often than not, is it not the lie, the deception, the cover-up that makes a bad situation into a terrible one? But confronting the truth is freeing because it allows us to turn around and start to fix the problem.
This applies to people, but it also applies to societies. Think about how freeing it would be if we just accepted that our way of life is killing us and the planet and then started to change it. How freeing would it be to accept that we are addicted to credit, oil, bad food, and lowest common denominators in information and entertainment? We could solve so many of our nation’s and our world’s problems, if we were to just admit that they exist and then do the work of remediation.
So what about wikileaks? Well, my view on the matter is somewhat paradoxical. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have a problem with the leaks. I’m not even too horrified by what I’ve seen. Politics and statecraft are not children’s games. Beneath the veneer of civility that goes into diplomacy like this week’s summit, there is a lot of information being supplied to the principals. That information needs to be candid, and needs to be shared without fear of it being held against the people reporting it. The fact is that politics and statecraft are akin to making sausage. It does not serve anyone to focus on the process over the end product.
Does this mean that I believe that the ends justify the means? No. I don’t believe that. Just as a sausage factory needs to adhere to certain health and safety rules, there are norms of protocol and behavior that need to be respected for the system to work.
As much as I don’t fault Assange for releasing the information, and as much as I don’t fault officials for using less-than-diplomatic language in their cables, I also can’t blame the government for trying to keep a lid on the leaks. Just as Assange has his role as a muckraker, the Obama administration has to play the role of responsible stewards of the nation’s data. That’s where the paradox comes in. I support Assange’s efforts to reveal the “truth” about government policy, I can’t fault the government for trying to shut him down. Both are doing their jobs.