Saturday, December 30, 2006

When A Secret Is A Crime

"Think twice before burdening a friend with a secret."
- Marlene Dietrich, actor

There is no such thing as a secret. By the time one person knows something, one person too many already knows.

Ms. Dietrich made this statement meaning that you shouldn't tell even a friend something that no one else should know except you because others will eventually find out anyway. In other words, she says that even a friend should not be trusted with confidential information.

That raises two points. The first is that it would be safer for us to not indulge in activities that require strict confidentiality because someone will likely find out anyway.

The second is that in our age of information overload, it's almost impossible to do something that is not recorded somewhere. Nothing is scret any more.

The average person living or working in a city passes through dozens of video cameras cameras daily (sometimes hundreds), usually without knowing it. It's almost impossible to have something on a home computer that can be kept strictly secret if that computer is connected to the internet--even governments and large banks have their files stolen or read, so the chances of an individual having unbreachable security is near zero.

Police can catch criminals easier than ever before, using sophisticated electronic techniques and technology. The problem is not catching offenders, but the fact that there are more of them than ever before.

Secrets are risky.

There are little secrets we may want to keep from people, such as how bad they look in a certain outfit or pair of shoes. However, the problem is less that making this information known is wrong or harmful, more that most of us are not emotionally prepared to accept opinions about ourselves that are not complimentary, especially if we have just made a large investment in an article of clothing that looks terrible on us.

The reality we must face is that if we participate in activities that must be kept secret, we must also be prepared to accept the consequences of that secret being revealed. Eventually most secrets come out.

As the slogan went in the old Barretta television series, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Whether a secret involves a crime or not, it usually comes out.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make it all clear.
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