Thursday, December 16, 2010

To know or not to know

Julian Assange founder of WikiLeaks has quickly become famous by releasing tons of previously classified government documents to the public via the internet. Assange’s motivation was to unveil the shroud of secrecy that the U.S government was working under. He wanted to expose the work the government does without the public’s knowledge, and perhaps without the public’s approval. Many have seen Assange’s act as a form of treachery against the United States inflicting great public relations harm. Others have lauded Assange’s act as heroic by exposing the conspiring evils of a too big and too strong of a government. His enemies have put Assange behind bars for other crimes, his admirers have sent web attacks on websites of any corporation that has tried to subdue him. Assange has created a dividing line between those who believe all information should be public information, versus those who believe that the government should be able to operate with classified information to better accomplish the agenda of the American people.

With the rise of the internet knowledge and information have become readily accessible at one’s finger tips. I was reading a child’s book the other day that stated Americans’ eat 300 million sandwiches a day. I found this fact staggering. Before the internet how does one double check such a statistic? It would take hours of searching and digging. With the internet I checked, double checked, and even triple checked websites which seemed to confirm Americans eat only 30 million sandwiches a day. Thank you internet! Anyone else getting hungry?

It is said that knowledge is power. We see the more educated a people are the more they are able to rise out of poverty and out of abusive and dictatorial situations. However, when dealing with power it is always an important to consider who we are giving power to. While one of our constitutional rights is to bear arms, it is foolish to give anyone such power. Why give a gun with power to a convicted murder, or terrorist? Just because knowledge is power does it mean we should give all knowledge to all people? Can we at least agree that there are some things that some people should not know, like the password to your email or your home security system? Can we agree that there are some things that are at least meant to be known only by a few, such as a conversation with a spouse, a confessional secret between two friends, or information shared between a doctor and her patient?

We have fallen under this idea that all knowledge to all people is good. We see this on our facebooks where we openly talk about the private fight we had with our friends, or the struggles we are having with our spouse, or pictures of our children who are going to the bathroom for the first time(which they will hate you for later in life). It seems we are so quick to sell ourselves out, our friends out, and our family out in the name of truth and knowledge. The truth is there are some things that some people should not know. I know this idea has led to some oppressors and dictators to keep knowledge and freedom away from people, and I am not advocating this at all, but what I am saying is that knowledge and information do not guarantee safety, morality, or even happiness, and that sometimes knowledge produces only harm.

Some knowledge is only useful in capable and responsible hands. When a child asks, “where do babies come from” we would think it inappropriate to go into detail about sexual intercourse with sperm and eggs and the birthing process. It would be insensitive and destructive to my marriage if I told everyone everything that was done or said between my wife and me. Knowledge is power, but some knowledge has only power to destroy.

Adam and Eve were not content with what God had given them. When tempted by the serpent, that ancient enemy, Adam and Eve realized they too wanted to have the knowledge of good and evil. By eating the fruit from the forbidden tree Adam and Eve gained knowledge too powerful for them to have. Immediately we see not freedom, or happiness, but guilt and shame that accompany their knowledge.

I am not saying that Mr. Assange was wrong in what he did, and I am not saying he was right, that is beyond my political knowledge and grasp. What I am saying is that we have to think about how we use knowledge and power, and we have to be wise about what we allow others to know, and even what we allow ourselves to know. Some knowledge gives us power to do good and make positive changes, but some knowledge has only power to destroy. The truth is some knowledge corrupts and even perverts. Wisdom should be the goal, not knowledge. Wisdom knows how to use knowledge to bless others. Wisdom understands that there are some things greater than us and beyond us.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding             - Proverbs 9:10