A Washington Post-ABC News poll learned that “86 percent of Americans support requiring patrol officers in their areas to wear small video cameras while on duty.”
In the words found within David Egger’s book, The Circle, “All that happens must be known.”
In other routine news, a congressman resigns after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion charges. A former governor is found guilty of 11 counts of public corruption. Four of the last seven governors of another state spent time in prison. It happens to mayors too. And judges. And to numerous federal officials.
Every profession has bad apples. So, if it’s good for cops to wear cameras while on duty, why not elected and appointed officials?
“All that happens must be known.”
David Egger’s utopian/dystopian novel (it sort of depends where you sit) is centered on a mega corporation, called the Circle. The Circle is used for 90% of all internet searches, but it’s also a technology company.
As we join this excerpt, one of the Circle’s founders – Stenton – is giving an Idea talk in the Great Room of Enlightenment.
“As you know…, transparency is something we advocate here at the Circle. We look to a guy like Stewart as an inspiration…. [Stewart wears a video device on his chest; he has been recording and sharing every moment of his life for the past five years.]
“…There’s another area of public life where we want and expect transparency, and that’s democracy. We’re lucky to have been born and raised in a democracy, but one that is always undergoing improvement. When I was a kid, to combat back-room political deals, for example, citizens insisted upon Sunshine Laws…. And yet still, so long after the founding of this democracy, every day our elected leaders still find themselves embroiled in some scandal or another, usually involving them doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Something secretive, illegal, against the will and best interests of the republic. No wonder public trust for Congress is at 11 percent…. Your occupation could be dropping human feces on the heads of senior citizens … and your job approval would be higher than 11 percent.
“So what can be done? What can be done to restore the people’s trust in their elected leaders?
“I’m happy to say that there’s a woman who is taking all this very seriously, and she’s doing something to address the issue.”
Stenton then introduces Congresswoman Olivia Santos. Santos is at the Idea talk to announce “a very important development in the history of government.” She acknowledges that all citizens have the right to know what their elected leaders are doing, who they are meeting with, talking with, and what they’re talking about.
“We’ve all wanted and expected transparency from our elected leaders,” Congresswoman Santos says, “but the technology wasn’t there to make it fully possible. But now it is. As Stewart has demonstrated, it’s very easy to provide the world at large full access to your day, to see what you see, hear what you hear, and what you say….”
At this point it’s obvious what Santos is going to announce.
“Starting today. I will be wearing the same device Stewart wears. My every meeting, movement, my every word, will be available to all my constituents and to the world.
And the Idea talk audience rose to their feet in the Great Room of Enlightenment cheering, whooping and whistling their approval.
When Santos first announced what became known as “the new clarity,” there was a bit of media coverage, but not much.
“But then, as people logged on and began watching, and began realizing that she was deadly serious — that she was allowing viewers to see and hear precisely what went into her day, unfiltered and uncensored — the viewership grew exponentially…. [Soon] there were millions watching her.”
The new clarity spread.
“By the third week, twenty-one other elected leaders in the U.S. had asked the Circle for their help in going clear…. By the end of the first month, there were thousands of requests [for the Circle’s help] from all over the world…. By the end of the fifth week, there were 16,188 elected officials… who had gone completely clear, and the waiting list was growing.”
Like police departments that tried to resist in-car cameras, and who may initially balk at requiring officers to wear cameras, resistance for the politicians in Egger’s world was futile.
“The pressure on [politicians] who hadn’t gone transparent went from polite to oppressive. The question, from pundits and constituents, was obvious and loud: If you aren’t transparent, what are you hiding? Though some [people]… objected on grounds of privacy, asserting that government, at virtually every level, had always needed to do some things in private for the sake of security and efficiency, the momentum crushed all such arguments and the progression continued. If you weren’t operating in the light of day, what were you doing in the shadows?”
Back to real life for a moment, “in the first year after .. cameras [were introduced in the Rialto, CA police department] … the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.
The result in Egger’s world?
“Within weeks, the non-transparent [elected] officeholders were treated like pariahs. The clear ones wouldn’t meet with them if they wouldn’t go on camera, and thus these leaders were left out. Their constituents wondered what they were hiding, and their electoral doom was all but assured. In any coming election cycle, few would dare to run without declaring their transparency…. There would never again be a politician without immediate and thorough accountability, because their words and actions would be known and recorded and beyond debate. There would be no more back rooms, no more murky deal-making. There would be only clarity, only light.”
Several people have mentioned to me that in 2015 we will be as far away from the year 2030 as we are from the year 2000. That does not seem all that long ago. But so much unpredictability has reshaped the world and this nation in those mere 15 years.
Who dares predict what will emerge in the next 15 years? Let alone what 2015 will bring.
Remember to breathe.