Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pirates of Information

It seems that I have been suffering from writer's block (without being one!) or am simply short on time or both - hence the dismal rate of blogging. I have attempted to disregard both and made a fresh attempt below. Hopefully, I'll be more regular from now on!


For anyone who lives in today's world and has access to internet, to know what a person across the diameter on the globe is doing is no deal. The burgeoning membership of sites like facebook, twitter et. al. have clearly done more to make this world a truly global village than all the the social and political reformations combined. Even the celebrity cult which , by definition, is often considered aloof in a hallowed sort of way has been seduced by this wave of bare-it-all (on a different beat though). Every single detail of every single moment of one's life can be 'shared', 'downloaded', 'discussed' and 'tweeted about'.

This wave of open access has recently assumed a much more controversial face in geopolitical scenario under the name of 'WikiLeaks'. It started with a release of 25000 diplomatic cables, obtained illicitly by Wikileaks(wonder how?,) which threaten to 'change' the face of world politics. Julian Assange, the public face of wikileaks and an australian-born hacker, asserted in a recent interview to TIME magazine that this will lead to a major rearrangement of viewings about many different countries. But will it? Going by the content of the leaks most of the 'revelations' have been a mere confirmation of what the world, inside and outside the corridors of power brokers, already knew. (There have been some amusing additions though, like the one where a US diplomat considers the North Korean dictator Kim Jong II 'flabby'). In addition, however, this exercise threatens to endanger the fuel that is crucial to run the engine of world politics - diplomacy. The art of diplomacy usually finds no common ground with transparency even in everyday life, least in the machiavellian ways of politics which are aptly described by someone as follows:

"In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted into each others' pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third."

Even in real life if we are able to read each other's thoughts, I am not sure how may friendships will survive this open access lifestyle.

An even graver argument against such an exercise comes from an apparently unrelated incident which occurred on the Rutgers University campus (New Jersey) a few months back. A student committed suicide after his intimate encounter with another student in his room was published by his roommate on the internet via a web-camera left connected deliberately. The outrage felt at such flagrant invasions of privacy was evident in the harsh punishments requested by various parents and students.

I find the parallel between this episode and the recent release of classified information by Wikileaks disturbing. In both the cases the information was illicitly obtained without the knowledge of people involved in the scene and the release was preceded by boisterous claims. However, the ends to which the released information is used was clear in the Rutgers case (the apathetic idea of fun of a pathetic individual); in the case of Wikileaks the intent of the release is claimed (and hoped) to be more credible. Whether such a claim holds and will it lead to indeed more scrutiny and accountability for the state machineries across the world remains to be seen. For now it has shattered the flimsy comfort zones that thinly veiled the dangers within - let us hope this shakes the players on the world stage out of their complacent slumber. They will need to act fast before all hopes of a peaceful coexistence 'leak' away into oblivion.