Bacchus (c. 1596)
-by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio [September 28th, 1571–July 18th, 1610]
An informed electorate is necessary to a functioning democracy. The freedoms of assembly, of speech, and of the press are included in our rights because we must have debate and a free exchange of ideas before we can make an informed choice of one candidate over all the others. And we need to know not only about the candidates but also about the conditions of our own nation, state, county and community.
We must be kept informed. When years ago the tobacco industry fought court battles over their liability for smoking victims—and against anti-smoking legislation, they hid internal memos and reports from the courts that had a bearing on all those cases. Once that information was made available to the public by tobacco industry whistle-blowers, the industry continued to fight for the suppression of that information. But information has power—the tobacco industry’s efforts to sequester that now-public information was short and sweet—where their original secret-keeping strategy stymied health and safety advocates for years, even decades.
Even more troubling is the issue of ‘Big-Pharma’ cherry-picking which drug studies are kept confidential and which are made public—there have even been instances where some studies’ key data were kept confidential while the otherwise positive study-results were made public! And we should remember that the same sort of hard-working chemists who invented children’s aspirin also invented the gas-canisters for Nazi death chambers—that is, just because they make medicines, that doesn’t make their corporations good for our health.
Car manufacturers have had scandals which publicly exposed their manipulation of data to obscure bad car parts and design flaws that would otherwise force them to issue very expensive recalls on well-respected car brands. And it is a fact that these corporations shamelessly make calculations based on the cost of liability lawsuits compared to the cost of the recall—and when car-buyers being injured or killed is the less expensive of the two, that is the course they will follow.
I hesitate to bring up HMOs and shoddy health insurance ethics—their depraved indifference to their customers has been fodder for many a thriller’s plotline, to the point where we are numb to their disgraceful lack of ethical conscience. However, in all such instances, keeping some data secret (or falsely representing data) plays a large role in allowing these corporate pirates to continue unimpeded and unpunished.
The Catholic Church is also guilty of keeping horrible secrets with regard to their nuns’ and priests’ behavior in their diocese. At times in our more recent history we have found the Office of the Executive also being less than forthcoming.
We hear of banks foreclosing on solvent mortgages in good standing—and, in a twist, we find that this is a problem due to their inability (or lack of interest) in going over the mountains of data represented by their thousands upon thousands of mortgage loans. No one could be bothered to read it all—the vast majority of them were bad credit (just the way they had sold them) so they just foreclosed on all of them, ignoring the lone few who had actually made an honest go of their home investment, and made their payments on time.
Equally mind-numbing tsunamis of printed data confront everyone who wishes to be kept informed of our legislative process—bill-proposals with page-counts requiring hand-trucks (that’s plural) to deliver a single copy are the norm. Even the legislators can’t make time to re-read their own ‘product’—they get synopses from legal aides who spend days poring over the verbiage, trying to whittle down these paper mountains into digestible spoonfuls.
Now we are told that NRA lobbyists have successfully blocked the CDC from including ‘gun violence data’ in their reports on health and safety. This is a new low—the lobbyists for the arms industry are actively legislating against free speech—shamelessly advocating the suppression of the truth from the electorate.
I took a break and watched some TV. The entertainment industry is the worst when it comes to dishonesty—and I guess it is their stock-in-trade, after all. I have watched a documentary that Cablevision has listed as a documentary released in 2012. I come back here to say a few words about it and—what do-you-know!—iMDB says the documentary was actually released in 2008. I’ve also had this problem with printed fiction (novels, that is) when they slap a new cover on something 15 years old and sell it to me as if for the first time—until I start reading it, and then feeling a little too familiar with the story, and then checking my two-car library to see the same damn book, bought in 1995! But with science fiction, fifteen years is old (with a capital O)—and by the same token, a film documentary should have the correct date label, as if they were newspaper editions. What’s a documentary for if it isn’t giving us new information?
So anyway, I’ve just seen this 2008 documentary, “Kiran Bedi : Yes Madam, Sir” which chronicles the career of Kiran Bedi, who became India’s very first female Police Officer in 1972. She (and they have ‘stills’ of this) faced down a sword-wielding Delhi mob (from which the rest of her fellow officers were retreating) alone, with a police baton in her hand. As she continued to serve she ran into an unethical system. But she didn’t just refuse to participate in the endemic, well-entrenched corruption—she wouldn’t acquiesce to it, either.
Her superiors felt (and still felt comfortable, as of the documentary’s making in 2008, to repeat their unfounded allegations) that she was rocking the boat, and she was sent to be Inspector General of the Tihar Jail, a notorious pit of a prison, at that time, in which she was expected to fail completely. Bedi instantly implemented prison reforms that included mass meditations with no guards present. She started a daycare/school for the prisoners’ children, who lived in the prison with them until age six. She transformed a prison system into an Ashram, but she is hounded from the post, re-assigned as IG to a more rural region. After being dishonestly besmirched by her political and civil enemies, she is sent to run an infamous police training academy, which produced virtually untrained fodder for the existing chain of corruption—and which she also transforms into an Ashram.
Her well-trained, spiritually enlightened recruits began to cause friction with the ‘status quo’ police forces they joined upon graduation. Her enemies were determined to ruin her reputation and drove her from the training academy. Then she is awarded the Magsaysay Award, Asia’s ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ for idealism and integrity in public service, in 1994. She was chosen by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as UN Civilian Police Advisor in 2003. Since then she has seen her critics forced to withdraw all their false allegations and her government has officially recognized her humanitarian programs and reforms.
What a gal, as they used to say. What an incredible champion for truth and justice!
I saw another documentary a few days ago—“Pink Saris” (2010)—this Indian woman, Sampat Pal Devi, goes to the homes of mistreated girls and young women trapped in prostitution and publicly admonishes the men who are abusing these girls—whether their fathers or their husbands or their uncles—insisting that they be decent human beings in their treating with the females of either the family or the brothel; that they let their daughters go to school, that they stop practicing domestic sexual abuse against the women, which the police turn a blind eye to—and then this incredible lady excoriates the policemen who are standing around doing nothing, telling them they should arrest this husband or father or pimp.
She blatantly shames these losers—and the camera catches the truth in their faces—that they know they are doing wrong. The women she wrests away from the pimps are all given pink saris to wear– Sampat Pal Devi makes them all members of the Gulabi (‘Pink’) Gang.
But my most favorite is a Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, from the Swat valley. Responding to the recently-empowered Taliban’s forbidding education for girls in 2009, this little eleven-year-old, at the wish of her father, Ziauddin, became a public speaker for women’s literacy and an activist advocating women’s education. Her speaking out for women’s rights brought attention throughout her country, not only in the issue, but in her, personally. In October of 2012, Taliban would-be assassins hijacked her school bus, where one of them climbed aboard, looked for her, and shot her twice, in the head and neck. They ran off immediately and she was very close to a hospital at the time—a main reason for her survival—and she has since been flown to Great Britain for surgery. She is almost fully physically recovered now (one photo showed her sitting up in her hospital bed and reading) and I take great pleasure at the thought of the humiliation those Taliban bastards must feel.
And so, we see that we are in a global information war—but we aren’t just fighting for access or openness, we are fighting for the truth and we are fighting against the lies. We are fighting over the legends for the pie chart graphs, for the test results the drug company was very unhappy about, for the safety of our food, our medicine, our homes, cars, children—ourselves. And some people are employed by corporations—and their job is to front for the lies and spin the truth.
We see that our schools are the assembly line of our future, deserving of at least as much funding as our military—for without a future for America, what is it our military is defending? We see that lobbyists, business leaders, and politicians are often more interested in being left to their own devices, to generate revenue, than in being a positive part of our future. We learn that enough money can turn the truth to a lie and lies into facts. We understand that power-seekers are the worst possible candidates for positions of authority. And we stand in wonder at these fearless women—each one a self-contained fighting machine for truth and justice; a white tornado of change that no amoral power-machine can withstand.
Anyway, what I started out to say was that the gun lobby’s suppression of CDC data gathering is a public monstrosity—and a far more important factor of this issue than whatever Ted Nugent has on his beer-soaked mind.