Saturday, December 11, 2010

343 / Our Spies Are Everywhere

Because knowledge is power, secrecy and democratic government are fundamentally incompatible.

Mao Zedong was known for his "Little Red Book," a copy of which I purchased at my college bookstore when I was an undergraduate. I think its official title was Quotations From Chairman Mao.

One of the quotations in the Little Red Book was probably originally from On Guerrilla Warfare:

Many people think it impossible for guerrillas to exist for long in the enemy's rear. Such a belief reveals lack of comprehension of the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops. The former may be likened to water the latter to the fish who inhabit it. How may it be said that these two cannot exist together? It is only undisciplined troops who make the people their enemies and who, like the fish out of its native element cannot live.

I have a friend who often passes on tidbits of information she has gathered about land use issues in the Monterey Bay Area. Her informational emails often come with the subject line: "Our Spies Are Everywhere."

My friend is not, to my understanding, at all interested in armed guerrilla warfare, but she is interested in democratic self-government, and swims around regularly in the waters of local society. We all do such swimming around in society, to one degree or another, which means that we all have access to information that could make a difference, if others knew of it.

Disclosing the information to which we have access is something worth doing, for those interested in creating and sustaining the politics of democratic self-government.

We all can, and do, gather knowledge that is a weapon in the war on the kind of secrecy that destroys our opportunity to govern ourselves.

Think about what you know, that others don't, and that they should know. You don't have to run WikiLeaks to get the truth out. It is just like my friends says: "our spies are everywhere."

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