ON PRIVACY

I am a college teacher who received a phone call on Sunday morning from a student who was concerned about his grade. I received a phone call from a student at 9:00 p.m. who forgot the homework assignment and wanted me to go over it. In neither case did the student apologize for interrupting my private life because in their view, your time is my time. The modern world has no boundaries, we can interrupt another person whenever we desire and if we feel like speaking loudly on our cell phone while you eat lunch, just pay attention to the food. Every night we are assaulted by messages about diabetes or a special car deal or could you donate messages.

Wikiileaks is simply a manifestation on a broader scope that privacy belongs to the past, and openness is now common. I understand the difference between desires of a private citizen to have a zone of privacy and that of government which is elected, and thus responsible to its citizens. Julian Assange argues the public has a right to know all. During the Cuba Missile Crisis of 1962 which threatened to destroy the entire world if nuclear weapons were used, privacy was essential in order to resolve the problem. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was under pressure from his military leaders not to give in while Kennedy realized some of America’s military leaders were ready to drop the bomb, and “so what!” Kennedy and Khruschev negotiated in private and ended the threat of nuclear war.

On a personal level, a child has to know what is shared with mom is private, a dad has to know conversations with daughter remain between the two of them. A teacher knows what is told in private by a student remains locked in the vault of secrecy. A political leader needs privacy in many forums in which compromise is being hammered out. Wikileaks performed a public service by making known private thoughts of leaders. But, what is the price we pay for this information?

Negotiation requires privacy and if information is public, demagogues like Glenn Beck would rant and arouse anger. Julian Assange believes all must be known. A noble, but misguided notion. In any successful marriage there are times NOT to let the other know what you are thinking. The history of successful diplomatic negotiation reveals the importance of secrecy. Sorry folks, you can not be privy to what is said in private.