Heart On Sleeve: On the virtues of public disclosure.

To the tune of: Blind Willie Johnson – Nobody’s Fault But Mine

I wrote this late last year, but forgot to post it. 

My past errors bear testimony to a tendency to public disclosure; this doesn’t always seem the wisest thing to do, but I have a sharing preference. It’s probably the same reason I’m a liberal – all things being equal, I’ll do something rather than not; I’ll share, I’ll change the system, I’ll take the red pill, I’ll talk about something I shouldn’t. (e.g. I’m currently writing this in a local pub in Swiss Cottage. Any passerby can read over my shoulder.)

No openness – I’m hiding in this picture.

That said, this could be what my ex- Jill always called a “post-hoc justification” – after the fact I come up with an explanation why I’ve done a thing, even if that reason wasn’t present ahead of time. There’s that imperative, inside me, to tell a passerby all my secrets. This absolute honesty has served me well in making friends, occasionally, but also driven my friends away, occasionally – if I’d thought things through more carefully, there are many things I might not have said (telling friends about mutual friends’ affairs, for example.) There are still hugely embarassing things I have trouble admitting – normally sexual things, in part thanks to my Middle England upbringing – but the events are outgrowings of that same lack of self-control. Akrasia, I’ve called it in the past. It’s the same reason I admire people who seem to make this decision rationally, like Louise Hewitt – I’ve never known a person so pensive about her mores, frank about her deviance from the norm, and who seemingly both benefits from and enjoys that openness so much.

(It’s also the reasoning behind my love of the Roman poet Catullus and why I seized on the recommendation of Crow from friend Chrissy, who curates the Poetry library. When Catullus splits with his lover Lesbia, he’s horrifically open about his heartbreak, and he turns from the highest, purest abstruse poetic language, to angry jealous ranting. It’s how I’ve felt from moment to moment about my relationships  – I’ll paste it at the bottom of this article.)

This is the reason why I’m an early adopter of every social network going. I want to be tracked, I want to embrace this future where organisations and friends know everything about me. I feel, with only a semi-rational urge, that I will benefit from this sharing, that it’ll skip past the tedious catching up, the inappropriateness that conversations often fall into. You read my blog, my Facebook, you know my predilections; if you talk about your faith, you should know I’m going to undermine it; I like folk music and books so don’t talk about metal or wrestling to me, unless you’ve a wider lesson to share.

I feel there will be benefits from corporations having access to my data too. For example, the more information about me that’s out there, the better targetted the advertising I see on my computer – I wouldn’t be using adblock if the adverts actually said something I wanted to read. I don’t care that the information is in the public domain; in this instance, my interests coincide with those of the major corporations.

Of course, those interests don’t always coincide, so sometimes I need a proper governmental safety net. For example, if my DNA data gets out there and it proves hugely aberrant, then no health company would insure me – so I have to thank god that the NHS  is around to cover that base. I’d love my data to be in the public domain, so I can get marketing messages from companies that might have identified root causes of problems that I’ve not even considered either solvable, but I need the base level of care, because patients simply shouldn’t be culpable for many genetic and medical conditions.

It speaks to a Rawlsian basis for society, the justice principle – that, all things being equal, I would want there to be enough security for everyone in society, so that whatever situation a person ends up in they have nothing to fear, that they’ll be supported in their openness by a society that recognises that any individual could be in any situation, given the luck of circumstance (by luck I mean ‘our ignorance of enough information to predict our deterministic universe’). This reflects my desire to remove culpability, meritocracy and deservedness from public discourse altogether because, like Tolstoy’s God, I just don’t think they’re useful concepts.

Anyway, there’s me being open on openness. And as I promised, here’s Catullus being horrifically open:

Furius and Aurelius, companions of Catullus,
whether he will penetrate into the farthest of the Indies,
where the shore is pounded by the far resounding
eastern wave,
whether to the Hyrcanians or the gentle Arabs,
whether to the Scythians or the arrow bearing Parthians,
or the sea which the sevenfold
Nile colors,
whether he will walk across the high Alps,
visiting the monument of the great Caesar,
the Gallic Rhine, the terrifying sea and the
farthest Britain,
whatever the wish of the celestial gods will bring him,
prepared to attempt all these things at once,
announce to my girl a few
not good words.
May she live and may she be well with her adulterers,
300 of whom she holds at the same time in an embrace,
loving none (of them) truly, but repeatedly breaking
the groins of all;
and may she not look back at my love as before,
which dies by her fault like the flower of
the farthest meadow, after it was touched by the plow
passing by.

Furi et Aureli comites Catulli,
sive in extremos penetrabit Indos,
litus ut longe resonante Eoa
tunditur unda,
sive in Hyrcanos Arabesue molles,
seu Sagas sagittiferosue Parthos,
sive quae septemgeminus colorat
aequora Nilus,
sive trans altas gradietur Alpes,
Caesaris visens monimenta magni,
Gallicum Rhenum horribile aequor ulti-
mosque Britannos,
omnia haec, quaecumque feret voluntas
caelitum, temptare simul parati,
pauca nuntiate meae puellae
non bona dicta.
cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens;
nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit uelut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratro est.

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