Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Century of Transparency

They have called the twentieth century the century of atoms, the century of computers, the century of space, and so on. But the twenty-first century has so far admitted only of one name, and that is the century of transparency. A new world is under construction, driven by the thirst of its inhabitants for knowledge and aided by advances in information technology. Life in this new world is like life in a glass box.

In the twentieth century those in power used their might to assert control over radio, television, and news agencies, and then used their control over the flow of information to manipulate public opinion. But in the century ahead of us, it becomes increasingly costlier, if not unnecessary, to control the media. Internet connection, which has the potential of connecting a person to any other at any given moment, is the phenomenon of our time. Life in such an era forces those who hold power and social positions to come to terms with transparency. The eyes of the “big brother,” which constantly watches over the actions of politicians, artists and businessmen, has changed life in the twenty-first century – it has even turned parties into transparent glass houses.

Politicians and social actors in the West have no choice other than to come to terms with technological advancement, and to grow with it as it grows. It is more difficult for politicians in the East to conduct political and social business in a transparent environment. Easterners do not respect personal and individual spheres as much as Westerners, though at the same time they like cover, and feel secure in it. They define their workspace as one that must not admit any strangers. When they come to power, they prefer to expand that space and bring governance under a veil.

In order to establish civil society, however, people must learn to pay the price of their actions. It is not enough to expect only the government to be responsive. Those who want a part in government but have not yet reached it must also be responsible and responsive. The Iranian opposition must also practice civil governance and prove its commitment to democracy and justice with its actions.

On the other hand, I take the remarks of the head of Iran’s National Security Council [Ali Larijani] to be unacceptable. Instead of defending a policy that took Iran to the Security Council and isolated the country, he says that opposition leaders from inside the country sent signals to the West, which led to the passage of Security Council resolutions against Iran.

For several reasons, it is unacceptable to think that members of the Security Council would place their entire trust and judgment in the hands of two individuals [which were specifically named in Larijani’s accusation] and vote on the basis of their analysis.

It is not necessary to go into these arguments. Mr. Larijani knows well that Iranian opposition leaders do not have such an influence. One has to ask, who sent the signals to China and Russia to vote against Iran?