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. Those efforts interact to produce a culture of willing ignorance. The benefactors 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.

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(originally published November 15, 2010)

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