On the lines between us all, drawn and not so very

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On the lines between us all, drawn and not so very

It's Tuesday evening.

I've just come from the restaurant downstairs where, during happy hour, I asked for a "girlie drink" (because I'm a bit out of touch with what they are and the tiki decor inspired me), got something pink, and proceeded to open my copy of Mary Daly's "Quintessence...a Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto"... It does seem to be one of those contradictory lifetimes.

This afternoon, I cross the street on the corner of where I now live, and bump into one of our city councilors. I'd been planning on turning him onto Brin's "Transparent Society" (since I've been into some of those ideas lately) so it's convenient to run into him.

We talk a bit about the idea of this sort of public transparency since he's been fully apprised of the challenges I'd experienced over the last few years - he shared them with me.

We've had plenty of thorny complicated tangles around the issues of security, access and freedom, especially around very legitimate concerns like "who does constitute the press?" (relevant to who is allowed to tape and record and who is not; who is given access and permission to film inside some sort of Police Line, often granted to the press, and who is not?), "who should be allowed to speak at a public meeting and for how long?"; "when should meetings between public officials and private citizens by appropriately taped, recorded and broadcast?"; "who should get those records, and when, and at what cost?"...etc.

These are relevant issues, whether at the level of the nation-state (the current gutting of the FOI Act, for example, or the withholding of Reagan's and Bush's presidential papers), or our local City, especially with respect to planning decisions that affect the quality of life for thousands, yet are made by a handful of families with tied industrial and mercantile interests. The fractal analogue of it continues selfward, even to the level of my day to day business life - my conduct with the fellows who wish to buy my store - or my relationship with myself, or with someone special, like you.

What is appropriate to share? To comment upon? To voice a desire for? To insist upon a right to know? What is helpful to reveal and what should be saved, kept private - held or borne alone? What do I reserve the right to keep as "mine", my practice-place where I get to try out the weird and mysterious ways of my human vehicle without being subject to the Heisenbergian influence of others' judgement and observation?

Always I check for mis-steps, accidental mis-use of the Other (yet I'm not so sure I'd want others to be perusing my every move for a mistep) while I also try to proceed without so much caution as to kill my desire to Deeply Connect, no matter what boundaries are transgressed, and perhaps at all costs...(So far - and always - I have discovered those mis-steps too far after the fact to correct them. My hope is that that has changed)

But, back on the corner and aware of the import of this - for it really is extremely interesting - the councilor and I chat a bit, and then who should come up but the editor of that paper I was bemoaning just a couple of days ago, right smack into the middle of a conversation on transparency and privacy. That was rich. Studs Terkel's "Main Street". We didn't get to go far - it was too cold - but the irony wasn't lost on me.

I don't know what is to be done here in our community about what we do and don't know or say about one another. I don't know what should be done with the information at truly mass levels - levels within which I completely lose all sense of individuality, and am simply one of the many whose collective momentum of choice shapes the direction we trend in, though not necessarily what I want.

And yet I can think about what I would do as a person, as one individual with another. It's what I believe I am practicing today, not always very adeptly, and that is, in part, an awkward but sincere respect that still leaves room for me to express my own desires for connection, or communication - responsibly and diversely - and my right (or another's) to choose to be left alone.

An agreement - an information system - with these principles would always give all parties the choice of opting out in the transaction of data: its recording, its dissemination, its retention. It would allow for reasons for action - motive - beyond what can be fully understood or explained. It would supply the benefit of the doubt as long as it could afford the investment. It would recognize that trust - the benefit of the doubt - is just about the most efficient and wisest investment that can ever be made. As would a good friend.

I've been toying with a mechanism in my story that touches on this.

In my tale (of which you haven't yet been apprised of the plot, and won't be here, because it's too long, and I want to tell you over long drawn-out foot rubs that let me ramble on and on...) I have a fellow who has a conflict with a woman who conscripts him into public service. He, thinking to outmaneuver her, invokes what's called "Sovereignty", a legally recognized state that treats him as a sovereign entity, exercising the rights of a sovereign nation-state of One.

This is in accord with a law enacted in earlier years, and allows registered individuals to be accorded the rights of a visiting dignitary with treaty relations with the government. When you invoke Sovereignty with a civil servant, that individual's conduct is now under rigid scrutiny. Cameras and recorders move into all interactions. Help information for legal advice is available constantly, and a variety of legal facilitators enter into all contact. Interesting models are the relations between indigenous Indian Tribes and the US Government, or the status of micro-nations.

Sovereignty's invoked when someone feels threatened, or thinks they have monetary recourse because a fiscally punishable injustice is taking place, and they want to ensure the interchange is recorded and admissible as untampered evidence.

Ironically, Sovereignty may just be about maximum transparency. It's not about being isolated and protected so much as being equally exposed. It really is the condition I think Brin suggests where the visibility is two way. I'm not saying this works - I'm just saying it's 4 million pages of legal text closer to a quantifiable parity in transaction than where we're at now (and quantifiably closer isn't necessarily better).

Most people in the society I posit live in some state of constant but self-limited Transparency. I don't posit a terminally dysfunctional society, either. But this particular story device has Sovereignty invoked precisely to explore the extreme of such an enforced transparent experience.

The fellow that invokes Sovereignty pays for it socially, for the group of people he's conscripted into (much like a band of Hoedad treeplanters, pranksters, scientists, musicians and wise grandmothers) experience his Sovereignty as a burden of added paperwork, forms, filming, restricted behavior and contractual documentation that they normally don't engage in with one another. It leads to some conditions that move the drama of the story along.

I haven't fleshed out all of it, but I get the sense that options for degrees of transparency will (as now) be available. I'll draw some of the more ready-to-hand inevitabilities - those with money can buy privacy; there will be an encryption race; competition will focus on revealing or protecting personal data; protected guild memberships will secure the right to "wear digital clothes" while others will be forced to move naked through the information world; etc.

A couple of presumptions I make are 1) that those who trust - and trust may look like allowing a person the maximum amount of shielding or revealing - curiously experience the most practical autonomy (Sovereigns have the most theoretical autonomy) and 2) underneath whatever ritual of ego observance we craft for one another, the world of the planet and its unfolding life richness goes on, and on.

I try to do this by supporting the dialectic of personal space (i.e., characters interacting in a novel, within invented cultural constructs like law and ego) with a lush and evocative natural world - the bulk of the story - that ever feeds upon itself in order to grow, diversify, and find survival in complexity, and simplicity in death.


Well, I didn't know where *that* one was going. Interesting...

It's now 9:30. I hung out with the Mage Christine last night and got my fill of more modal thoughts. I was thinking that you'd really enjoy this woman. What an amazing thinker she is! I hope you have an opportunity to meet her someday, and hang with her. Her husband just laughs at the distances we travel together. I get the gift of articulating edge ideas around her, somewhat like those I do with you. I can't tell you how much I value this opportunity, for it's a rare soul who draws it out.

At one point we were talking about the future as she sensed it - a genderless time, since she's just moving into the last stages of menopause - a place of singleton cronehood, where sexuality is too distant because the world is now skin deep with her odd changing eyesight and her husband is different than expected. I feel her future and its veils brush me. I try it on.

I don't feel genderless, but I do feel alone. I'm not complaining, but now and then (as I've said) a hug and a kiss could go a long way. She says that's just the way some people spend their lives - in longing. I don't know if she's speaking for herself, or speaking to something she sees in me. It's not the sort of thing I feel like contemplating too deeply tonight - my life doesn't bear up under close examination as anything other than that right now.

Luckily I'm well supplied with fantasies about the future - one or two with your eyes in them - and they counteract the solitary cast of my moody moment. The thing that I like about tomorrow is that it comes.


PLUR. Remember PLUR



-- Anonymous, January 16, 2002

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