The Primary Value of WikiLeaks

Julian Assange is the “bad” boy in the family who jumps up and down waving his parents’ dirty laundry. He’s shaking up the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. Everyone’s in a tizzy.

By exposing the secrets of the ruling class, Assange and WikiLeaks can help us to grow up psychologically.

The relationship we have with the ruling class is patterned on the relationship we had with our parents. We maintain in our psyche the emotional memories of how we experienced our parents. Passivity is a primary feature of that relationship. As young children, we were dependent on our parents, and we understood that they had the power and were, in a sense, our rulers. As children, we’re biologically unable to rule ourselves. We need the rule of parents. In an ideal world, parents would always practice benevolent authority.

The rule of parents over their children is biologically necessary, just as the rule of political leaders is socially necessary. We’re not evolved enough yet to live in a complex society without a hierarchy of authority. This authority is entitled to withhold some information from the public in order to maintain an advantage over its enemies. On these grounds, the release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks (not by WikiLeaks) probably calls for legal review.

Yes, we need authority at the political level, but that authority has to be held accountable. Children don’t have the ability to hold their parents accountable, but as adults—as citizens—we must hold our political authority accountable in order to maintain and grow a democracy. As adults, we’re able to see objectively into complex dysfunctional situations, providing we are clear enough in ourselves. Sometimes we first have to become stronger by overcoming our own passivity and self-doubt. Once we’re strong enough, we can contribute to reforms at the social or political level.

We can be hindered still by lingering passivity that goes back to our childhood. Those old emotional associations still live on in our psyche. Now, as we experience the ruling class the way we did our parents, we trust these leaders to know what is right for us. Yet childish traits accompany this arrangement, and we fail to protect ourselves when our leaders become untrustworthy, misguided, or dysfunctional. We can’t find the words or take the actions that represent us effectively in the face of misguided authority. We think we have power because we can vote. But because of our immaturity, we often can’t even discern who’s going to best represent us in the political process.

A lot of ordinary citizens don’t want WikiLeaks around. They feel its revelations are none of their business. Like children, they don’t like to consider the weaknesses of their caretakers. That frightens them. They feel less secure. They can also feel guilty about doing nothing. Many of them certainly have no intention of taking personal responsibility for the cracks in our fragile democracy.

The ruling class, meanwhile, feels it will lose power or control if there’s more openness and freedom of information. The more dysfunctional or tyrannical the rulers are, the more they depend on secrecy to maintain control and to cover up their ineptitude and self-aggrandizing intentions.

Suddenly, WikiLeaks emerges through the power of the internet telling us all these secrets about our rulers. The secrets in themselves are not necessarily eye-popping. What’s breathtaking is that us—“mere children”—are now seeing our “parents” more clearly than ever with all their flaws, pettiness, lies, and weaknesses. Is this the best they’re able to do for us? If they were lawyers in private practice, would we hire them to represent us? If our rulers aren’t smart enough to keep us safe or to save us, who is?

Obviously, the answer is us. This is the primary value of WikiLeaks. It reveals the truth about our role in a democracy: We have to be involved in the process of leading our world into peace and prosperity. We have to know what’s going on. Our corporate media aren’t informing us. We have to inform ourselves. WikiLeaks is an expression of that process.

By feeling comfortable with WikiLeaks, and being grateful for its presence in the world, we help ourselves to grow up mentally, emotionally, morally, and psychologically.