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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Secrets breed lies

Defenses are offered for the ethicality of anonymity - an otherwise abhorrent form of "communication" which denies a most essential piece of communication, in my and many others' perspectives, that of human connection. One such defense is that certain concepts are worth expressing but social reality makes it unsafe for the expresser to own the expression, to be a human being with a name.

A name is one of the most powerful elements of God's creation.

Concepts worth expressing - for the sake of the individual, because to get it out is better than to bottle it up inside; and for the sake of the larger society, because to be made aware of the anonymous "person"'s reality expands everyone's experience of true reality.

Unsafe - because of physical, emotional, and other retributions that individuals or masses might enact upon hearing the expressed perspective. Enact on the expresser and others.

The defense of anonymity as a rule (especially in mass or large group communication - newspapers, bulletin boards, other print publications) is based on the assumption of the worst. It is a cynical assumption. Or, maybe it is not. Maybe it is a responsible, discerning and wise assumption.

But, certainly, it doesn't allow me, as an individual human being, to make a choice in responding (to a human being). And it doesn't allow me to connect with another individual human being directly. (It may, though, spur on my connection with someone else through conversation and processing the anonymous post. I have to call it a post. I can't bring myself to call it a communication.)

Question:

What is the right (best, loving, truthful) thing to do when I know who the anonymous is, and the anonymous does not (apparently) know that I know?

Anonymous' secret, arguably rightly motivated, places me in a position of keeping a secret without sharing a secret. It, in effect, requires me to lie.

Does the anonymous want to know that I know, if I know that I am a safe recipient of this expression? That I, as a member of a mass, untrusted audience, can, in fact be trusted?

Do I lie (by omission) by acting and communicating as if the anonymity is intact?

What are the good effects that can come from telling this particular truth (the truth that the secret is not a secret)? How can I love more fully, by naming? Can I love the anonymous by offering a safe relationship? Does the anonymous want to be free to own their expression? To be known?

What are the good effects that come from not telling this particular truth? (We cannot tell all truths all the time. There is no such thing as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. All truth that is told is chosen, contextualized, in its moment of telling. That doesn't make it less true, just not the whole truth. It is true right now that I am thirsty. But, it is irrelevant, and unhelpful. No less true.)

I want to be able to relate to named human beings individually, openly, relevantly, and lovingly. When I keep secrets (when I sense that it would be safe not to do so), I feel like I am lying.

Full disclosure: to be fair and honest, I admit that I hold my own secrets. There are truths I do not tell to many people because I don't feel safe having those individuals know. The worst part is when these truths are relevant, they should be owned. But, I am not expressing them anonymously, and when I share them with a human friend, I try to trust the friend to make the most wise decision on whether and where to keep or share my secret. Confidentiality itself, as a general rule, has many of the same pros and cons as anonymity, including its essential cynical nature. Maybe?

1 comment:

mccobbey said...

I think that you should talk to the person who is "anonymously" communicating especially if you think they know you know. I think it ends up worse when you pretend you don't know. In similar situations I've experienced, I found that I was in worse problems than if I had just confronted the issue. But then again who knows how they'll react to disclosure of their anonymity....sometimes what's "right" ends up being more difficult & painful before it gets better (that is, if it ever does get better....)