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LIFE IN A GLASS HOUSE

It is no secret that most bad things happen in the dark or behind closed doors. The computer hacker works in the privacy of his bedroom. The mugger sequesters himself in the desolate alley. Date rape often occurs in the pitch dark of the small hours. Of course there are exceptions. Riots often happen in the light of day and in public places, as does the police brutality that quells them. But with the evolution of media, hidden cameras and smartphones strapped to every hip (by 2020 80% will have one) even these unfortunate byproducts of civilized society are disappearing.

Which is a good thing. As US Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, himself an early champion of transparency, once said: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

And it's true. How much safer do you feel walking down even the most dangerous road when the sun beams brightly overhead? Of course this doesn't go for the Middle East, in which dastardly deeds happen in the blinding dryness of the desert. And while sunlight is a natural anti-bacterial (exposing sores to the sun can help them heal) too much sun can cause rashes and increase your risk of skin cancer. It seems there's an exception for every rule. God what am I trying to say?

We live in a see-through age. The media calls it transparency. There are more outlets to be heard (social media) and more ways of being seen (hidden cameras, smartphones) than ever before in human history. And overall this is a good thing. Take away the veil of secrecy, and secrets don't get made. After Edward Snowden leaked NSA secrets to the media, huge bureaucracies will think twice before implementing policy for which they'd be condemned if the public found out. Because the public will find out. As Joel Brenner, former NSA senior counsel, told Scientific American: "Very few things will be secret anymore, and those things which are kept secret won't stay secret very long."


Indeed organizational culture, the stuff going on at the highest levels of business and government, is characterized by the behavior occurring when other people aren't watching. As on Wall Street, where bankers can manipulate interest rates, assist people in evading taxes, sell mortgages that shouldn't be sold, all because no one will ever know. But what if people did? This criminal behavior would change, likely for the better. As in, crashes like that which occurred in '08 would be avoided.

But transparency is occurring at the personal level, too.

Much of it is voluntary. We reveal our previously hidden or private lives for friends, acquaintances, total strangers to see, via pics posted to Instagram, aphorisms on Twitter. This blog which nobody reads. But nobody has a problem with this. See all of me is really see all of me that I want you to see. But if the government has access to phone records and can listen in to what you thought were private conversations, then all hell breaks loose. Assuming the government cares enough about you to listen in. And even if it did, would it even have the personnel? There are by far more talkers than there are listeners.

The truth is nobody really cares. Nobody listens, because everyone's so hell-bent on getting out what they want to say. Even the silent ones are caught up in their own thoughts, trapped in their own heads. Look around you. Ever wonder why that stranger is frowning? What's going on in his mind?

Be that as it may, it's probably best that we say goodbye to privacy. And this is certainly a good thing. Most Americans would agree, or should at least, if it is true that eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians or Jewish. Because both creeds follow the Old Testament, and what does the O.T. say about the time before the fall? This from the King James version: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

Being transparent is really akin to being naked. Without secrets to hide, where is the shame?

You may call me biased. After all, I grew up in a household where if I told my mom something, however "intimate" and "secretive" it or I was, by the end of the day it would have been broadcast throughout the neighborhood. I exaggerate. But only slightly. She most definitely told my father, our family's "head of state," in name if not in form. Really, I had no privacy, and without privacy, secrets cannot thrive.

Case in point. When I was twelve I went over my neighbors' house to babysit their 3-year-old son, Brandon. Cutest kid ever! The Himes lived two doors down and were friends of my parents. I think Mr. Himes was even my father's client. While visiting the bathroom I noticed a stack of girlie magazines on the toilet. Girlie magazines plus adolescent boy causes a chemical reaction with the explosive force of nuclear fission. Figuratively, of course. Man, those female figures! So I ripped out a particularly delectable picture (beach scenario, if memory serves) and took it with me back home to my room, where I stashed it in my desk to be extracted when, you know, the urge next seized me. Which was often, though I reckon not as often as other kids my age.

The next day I came home from school and my mother greets me at the door with my fantasy girl in her hand. The cut-out was held so high even my two younger brothers could see. Busted! She didn't even ask me where I got it. Only that I return it immediately. Oh, the shame! Mom must have rifled through my things pretty regularly back in the day, since the timing was too coincidental to be coincidental.

So yes, I grew up in a transparent world. The sun was always shining in my household, is the euphemism I use. The furniture had eyes and the walls had ears and sliding glass doors were everywhere. But living in a glass house taught me to do only those things I'd be okay with if they got found out. Because they probably would get found out. My bedroom door was always open. I still explored my sexuality - but only when the lights went out.

If you begrudge your transparent life, be consoled by the fact that you still have your own thoughts - that is, until "they" implant a chip in your brain. That time may never come, but even if it does, my point is this:

Realize that all you think, say and do shines in the light of your awareness; that somebody is always watching, and that somebody is you. And behave accordingly. Once you do, you'll find you have nothing to hide.

Or you could buy a box. I hear they're pretty cheap these days.

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