Monday, December 06, 2010

The Circus

Apart from the resources boom of the past half-century, it would appear my country's greatest export, since Australia Square first punched at the virgin Sydney heavens as a perfect circle, is a particular breed of itinerant ratbag intent on shaping the world in their own image, or at least of leaving their mark on it like a child scratching her name in a desk the first day of term.

The latest in this long, snaking, checkered line is, of course, the Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, physics graduate, computer programmer and hippy child. Like many of his generation (of which I am, need you be reminded, one of the eldest of the elder statesmen), Assange bears no allegiances and is innately suspicious of anyone in authority. That such a stance seems blind to the rather obvious paradox of his own and his institution's sudden ascendancy, I will leave to one side for the moment.

For those of you whose only experience of cyberspace is Bluepepper (and I know you are legion, or the sky would not be the colour it is), Wikileaks is a "controversial whistle-blowing website", according to the print and electronic media, who all in all seem strangely ambivalent about the phenomenon Assange has set in motion. Perhaps because in their jaded wisdom they clearly see the paradox I mentioned above, or perhaps because they are a lazy, pampered breed of lapdogs happy to see someone else doing all the dirty work, or perhaps because they see nothing so earth-shattering in the material Wikileaks has managed to get its hands on.

Truth will out, for it forms the bridge between our suspicions and our latent paranoia, beneath which a dark, slick something flows, well, thickly. Anyone who has read Evelyn Waugh or suffered piles through a Wodehouse knows that the stamp of the pampered and infantile is to accuse rather than empathise, to suspect rather than think.

Perhaps it is more the means of conveyance than the substance of the matter that is the matter here, when all is said and done.

In the latest chapter of the Wikileaks/Assange saga, roughly one quarter of a million confidential diplomatic documents from Government cables right across the world have found their way onto the Wikileaks site. If there is a bias, it is merely through weight of traffic from and between the US diplomatic missions, for as I said before, Julian Assange and his cohorts appear to be equally suspicious of authority no matter where it crops up to impede the mind and body of we ones so burdened and so gifted. 

However, nothing I have read so far has struck me as particularly earth-shattering, although I must admit I have had a good deal of trouble gaining access to the Wikileaks site and thus have had to rely on the very mainstream media Assange and co were hoping to circumvent. You could play a good game of poker with the ironies and paradoxes stacking up in this story, but does any of it make us any the wiser? 

Remember that we must elect someone to represent our collective interests, whether through consensus or the myriad shades of coersion. There is simply no way around this in our flawed binary universe. We cannot present our collective interests individually and expect real action. Such a system is called a committee, and at international level is little more than a sound and picture archive. Assange believes we have a right to be informed, and we do of course, but only when there is a reasonable expectation that we will be both willing and able to act upon the information so kindly proffered us. Is this the case here?

The recent startling example in mine and Assange's native country of collective action against a Prime Minister reneging on his promises to act on climate change would suggest that perhaps, at least at a domestic level, the possibility exists. But international relations are another beast entirely, and I fear that behemoth, the generation born immediately after the last world war, has once again led us down the garden path here. For they are a generation moulded by a world of polarities; through no fault of their own, nevertheless a fact that goes some way to explaining the lurching nature of their collective life from unsustainable (and rather short-lived) idealism to equally unsustainable narcissistic materialism, and I see no evidence that they possess either the patience or the capacity to see the world as it really is: more 1913 than 1949.

I can't help wondering if this latest bout of leaks will merely thicken our collective hides and accelerate a trend in international affairs that has been marked for some time now, in which all concerned play a timid game of watch and wait, aspiring to only the most easily attainable goals, and placing the real global challenges (such as climate change, or the north-south disparity, or a lasting Middle East solution) to the endless back burner of committees and sub-committees where the next generation of faffers and milksops are given a chance to cut their teeth.

What price so much chatter in so many ears when the chatter was already too timid to pierce a wall, any wall?

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