The world will one day move to a model of Total Transparency. All highly evolved societies do. We are told this in Conversations with God. The question is how, and when?

There are those who say that transparency will never work unless and until all elements, all segments, of society are operating on the same model. I agree that this would be the most effective implementation of the idea. Yet it is clear to me that waiting for all cultures, organizations, institutions, governments, corporations, and individuals on our planet to embrace this notion simultaneously would be a waste of time. Such a shift in global consciousness is never going to happen all at once, with the snap of a finger. How, then, will it be produced? By people, organizations, and governments demonstrating leadership through showing the way.

This will take great courage. Masses of people do not like individual people who show the way to a new lifestyle. We like followers, not leaders.

We accuse leaders of making us “wrong,” of putting down our current way of being, of tearing apart our society with their “new ideas” and their “new rules,” and with their exposing of our foibles and of the non-beneficial outcomes of our present behaviors.

My favorite (and saddest) story about this is the account of Ignaz Semmelweis, described in Wikipedia as a Hungarian physician of German extraction and now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures.

According to the Wikipedia article, Dr. Semmelweis “discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics. Puerperal fever was common in mid-19th-century hospitals and often fatal, with mortality at 10%–35%. Semmelweis postulated the theory of washing with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 while working in Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, where doctors’ wards had three times the mortality of midwives’ wards. He published a book of his findings in Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever.

“Despite various publications of results where hand-washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings.

“Semmelweis’s practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory and Joseph Lister, acting on the French micropbiologissst’s research, practiced and operated, using hygienic methods, with great success. In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum,  where he died at age 47 after being beaten by the guards as he tried to escape, only 14 days after he was committed.”

Four of the latest people to show us our foibles and the non-beneficial outcomes of our behaviors have been Julian Assange, the Australian Internet activist who is created with having created WikiLeaks; Bradley Manning, a United States Army soldier arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed diplomatic cables and other classified material to WikiLeaks — much of which is said by some to have generated many of the uprisings of what has come to be called the Arab Spring; William Binney, described by Wikipedia as “a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency turned whistleblower,” who has repeatedly claimed that the NSA regularly engages in warrantless eavesdropping, including surveillance of email, phone records, and other data; and Edward J. Snowden, the latest whistleblower, who recently unveiled information about U.S. Government surveillance of phone records and other data from millions of Americans.

All are considered by many to be traitors and criminals, who some believe should be punished by death or by life imprisonment for revealing the military, diplomatic, and security secrets of governments (chiefly, the U.S. Government) to the world.

Whether these men are “traitors” or “heroes” is a matter for history to decide. But they certainly do illustrate the danger of some people practicing transparency while others do not. Lives can be at stake — as those who argue for severe punishment of these men point out. Yet it has also been argued by others that many lives have been saved as a result of their whistleblowing.

Whatever the outcome of their cases and of their lives, there is no question that they and others have placed high on the public agenda the topic of just how open human society should be and can be. And the invitation in Conversations with God is for all of us, on an individual level, to practice complete and utter transparency in our daily lives, personal and business interactions, and intimate relationships — whether or not others are doing so also.

In this, as in all things that produce revolutionary and evolutionary shifts in our global society, somebody has to go first.

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