Why Do I Think Wikileaks Is Important?

Wanting once to escape from a world where curiosity was no virtue, I made a circuitous approach to philosophy and higher learning. It was only gradually clear to me what universities were for. It seems I come late to most things in life. As late as my early 20s I felt as if my choices were informed by a body of knowledge constrained at its edges not only by my own ignorance, but by ignorance of the true extent of that ignorance. Understanding, for me, requires a grasp of the global to inform the local. The global was inadequately catered for in my education, as they prepared me for being useful to my economy. I wonder now what sort of awareness it was that I had then.

Intuitively then I knew that newspapers and television were no source of knowledge, and that neither was the conventional wisdom that informed all our guesses as to the nature of things the other side of the planet. I could speak on nothing with confidence, because it felt as if all that I knew was derived from hearsay and speculation, though it came from Organs of Truth that sufficed for most. Comfortable truths were never very comfortable for me, and sometimes I hated the casualness with which others repeated them, the cause for their ubiquity. It seemed like a conspiracy of wretchedness in which we all got to play a part.

Our world is systematically unjust. That very systematicity implies responsibility. To those with a global perspective, ‘getting on with life’ is an intolerable prospect: the equivalent of walking past a universal holocaust every morning on the way to work, with an air of entitled indifference. Guilt has to kick in at some point. But there is no guilt in ignorance. And so we often conspire in remaining ignorant. These efforts interact to produce a culture of willing ignorance. The beneficiaries of global injustice, the powerful and their sycophants, are happy to conspire in that ignorance too. It is a symbiosis. ‘Heal me of my guilt, journalist. Conceal from me its cause.’ With ease, my son.

While I might have been born in ignorance, the fight to escape it inured me to the world of easy truths. I now know that for all of my life I have been lied to, lied to as my parents were lied to, and as my comrades and their children now are lied to also. I can no longer hate the wretchedness from which I come, from which most of us have to come to be aware and informed in our world. The reverse of that hate is sympathy. Most of us never had a chance. But we have a chance now.

We have a chance now. From prison, Gramsci wrote “pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will.” This year I woke from unrelenting pessimism about the future of our species, and our planet. Few with foresight believe the present course of humanity is leading anywhere good. This is probably the reason few are willing to have any foresight. I have always hoped for the best, expected the worst. But I cannot turn my eye from grim probabilities, and hope was until recently an exercise in resourceful self deception. Far easier most of the time to be wry or bitter, and wager nothing on a lost cause.

No longer. I watched the fallout from Collateral Murder this year with a dawning sense of genuine hope. Someone had figured out how to cheat the system. Wikileaks is an organization engineered so as to press hard on the pressure point of the global power nexus. If the corporate/government/media complex is some ghastly managed operating system, in which users can do anything they want as long as it is allowed, Wikileaks has found a way to open a terminal, and to start getting it to work for us for a change. They seem to have found the master list of commands. Here is a cause with genuine potential for systematic change, rather than deckchair-recombinance.

The academy has lost its allure. It had been losing it for some time. It presents no true counterpoint to what I must now see as a great hegemony, a grand conspiracy without conspirators. Chomksy speaks truthfully when he identifies most academics as the vanguard of status quo apologism. I grow impatient with the shrinking journal industry, with the closed circuits of congratulation, feedback loops of endlessly recursive arcana. That world throws great nets with which to catch our best minds, only to dull them with logic puzzles and distractions. Free in the world, they might interfere, becoming something to fear, as Julian Assange and others are feared and as those of revolutionary intelligence were feared in the past.

I am not alone. At home, the arrival of wikileaks went mostly unheralded, but abroad on the internet there were whispers of a coming storm. Entering the conference of eager voices I have found many who speak now as I do. Some of them have always done so. The wisdom of the old hands of internet activism informs this movement – it is their movement, and their continuing project for special enlightenment and freedom from tyranny. But there is something new here, too; new minds entering the fray. There is something dynamic and important about all of this. Part of my hope is the solidarity, the sense of shared power and purpose, the mutual sense of being awake while history is happening. Assange says “I support similarly minded people, not because they are moral agents, but because they have common cause with my own feelings and dreams.” His own actions have brought a lot of us out of the burrows. Together, we might actually achieve something. Responsibility devolves on all of us.

I will gladly hoist my sail when the winds of change are blowing. The more I read about the internet that I have come to take for granted, the more I think that we are all involved in something that is radically shaping the world to come. This realization will not seem profound to those who nurtured the internet since its infancy. But it is more important than current financial disasters and arbitrary party advocacy. This has to do with the much wider economy of information, which has made possible our development as a species, and without which all of our politics, our philosophy, our culture, our achievements and our evaluations of our achievements, would be naught.

Everything is changing, changing right before us. The rules, precedents, laws and designs, behaviour patterns and systems which structure our civilizations from the lowest to the highest levels, are in flux, as we can imagine they might have been after the invention of bronze age agriculture, the greek enlightenment, the hegemony of the churches and the transition to feudalism, the invention of industry, the enclosure movement, the printing press. Some of those transitions are mostly viewed as having been portentous. Others are more ominous.

The making of some thousand-year equilibrium for our species may very well lie with us, during these short decades. It may be us, now, who choose for the billions who will come after us, between an ominous or a bright future: us who create the conditions in which we might all change for the better, or us who might cement the terms of our own future stagnation.

It seems to me that this is a part of history in which it would be a worthy thing to participate. Borges wrote: ‘This fable deserves to be very ancient.’ So be it, if I am able.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer