Or Will History Call Him Robin Hood?

Julian Assange, Picture from WikipediaI have this line of thought towards how I live out my Christian faith that I share with others from time to time. It makes for an interesting conversation, and usually points to where we aren’t thinking when we are doing smaller actions. The statement is:

In 100 years, will someone be able to look back on your life and say that you were a Christian? They will most likely ignore everything you proclaimed about yourself, but they will measure you against Scripture and against history as it was lived after your actions. Does your faith as you live it now line up with that reality?

Given the current waves Wikileaks and its founder (Julian Assange) have made in the news. I wonder if he – or even us on the sidelines – see him as he is now and how he will be perceived generations later?

That is not to say that I agreed with his leading of Wikileaks (though I do think the idea of such a site was inevitable given how much is already digital in government workplaces). There is a handling of information and reputation that anyone in a capacity where they handle secret knowledge has an obligation to handle judiciously.

I don’t agree with the tone of some of the larger media outlets around this. Where they were lightly favoring the information, and most likely using it in pieces before Wikileaks went mainstream, now the tone is much like a friend distancing themselves from you when you were both present at the scene, yet only you were sequestered for the truth. There’s not much (loud, mainstream, public) conversation towards that end that I’ve seen. Yet, when there is stuff out there, its pretty intense.

I don’t necessarily agree with how governments are handling this either – at least from a media-facing perspective. We get it – Wikileaks had information that they couldn’t have had without some type of special access, and released it without fully realizing the implications of it. The data puts a different face on (this) government than what had been curated since 9/11. Problem is, when it comes to this government, the actions of those in office are also my actions – I did vote them there (or was outvoted but remained in the state), and they do represent me.

Governments and private companies (is there a difference) are now walking along that line of managing a channel that is very much hard to control. And then they have the fun of trying to keeping intact the relationships they have with one another beyond the data from Wikileaks. I’d honestly not want to be in their positions, and can understand the deliberate pace being taken in dealing with those relationships as this continues to ripple outward. Yet, we will continue to see governments and companies make decisions towards their good – at the cost of something many might never understand.

I would like to know why  the conversation around information management in the private sector/enterprise isn’t also front and center? People have for years been asked to do things such has have passwords they can’t remember, security keys they often lose, and use mobile devices they not only don’t like, but also keep them and their company data accessible in an unsecured and marginally productive terminal. Where’s the conversation in the marketplace around us needing to be the ones that change our behaviors in the workplace (a little bleep about FireSheep hasn’t stopped what happens inside of intranets one bit)?

But we do have a serpent, an Eve, a hunger pain, an unfulfilled desire. We have someone to blame because we weren’t careful with the data that we deemed essential to be hidden for the good of all. For better or worse, Mr. Assange took from the rich and placed into the open market gold (data is the new oil). And that’s disruptive in the worst frame because in the face of that data, we can’t shift blame to environment, economics, senses, or even media. We have to take the blame for making the choices which will judge us one way or the other once history has had its say.

History might call Mr. Assange a pirate. And to that effect, one could say that his current public/media hanging is the kind of plank walk he deserves. Others esteem him, making him like a martyr and finding ways to continue what he started. Or maybe we have a real modern day Robin Hood, and his legend is being written before he has passed on. What will be left in the future of that version of Mr. Assange might be dreams, foggy memories, and best guesses – at least until the effects of his actions no longer pose any more direct harm to certain constituents.

As with Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt, Truman, and several leaders before and after who had to make decisions which at the time had one outlook, and after history’s lens were given something different/clearer, had another, so shall the judgement be with Mr. Assange. His actions and his words will be put up against the prosperity and neglect of the culture he helped to cultivate. And then judgement towards that worth will be placed.

We too will be seen in that lens. I wonder if history’s take will align us as co-laboring Merry Men, down-trodden peasants, or staunch adherents to the Sheriff of Nottingham? Mr. Assange aimed well for a certain kind of change, and he’s given the world’s stage a show that is by no means left to the memories of a playbill. When the credits roll, what then will history say about us all?

Aside: The day this post was published, Mr. Assange’s thoughts on this situation and the media/political fallout were published at NDTV/The Australian which mirror quite similar to some of my points raised here. The question of right or wrong is one thing, accountability is another.