The Internet and Personal Exposure

Lughnasa                                 New Moon

Every once in a while the internet jumps out and bites me.  I lost a potential job because I talked about the process on my blog and the congregation thought I had violated their privacy.  Last year on the Sierra Club blog I posted what I thought was obvious information about how our lobbyists planned to work a committee only to discover that it was supposed to be in house.   Monday I posted about the MEP, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, meeting I attended.  They found it and called Margaret at the Sierra Club.  There was no problem with what I wrote, they said.  Except, they said there was no problem.  Of course, confidential material (which the lobbyist last year felt I had disclosed) is just that, confidential.  In order to retain trust we agree not to break confidence.

This capacity of people to troll the web for whatever they want, especially things that concern them, is a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing when it allows a person or organization to track matters of importance to them.  It’s a curse in that it can have a chilling effect on communication.

Margaret has a legitimate issue.  She wonders if I will be quoted or misquoted from my blog and then identified as a Sierra Club leader.  In that sense there is a persona management concern for the organization.  We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

On a related matter, tomorrow I will install an electric fence, a device for making our dogs respect the boundaries we have established for them.  That’s what all this is about:  boundaries.  Boundaries are fluid, shifting from one person’s perception to another’s.  Respect for boundaries is an important aspect of living in community.

Interestingly, it is at just this juncture that liberalism, with its focus on individualism, can run into problems.  Those of us on the bleeding edge of the liberal boundary can tilt toward too much emphasis on liberty, the negative kind that insists only on the right to do what we want, or, contradictorily, toward restrictions on individual liberty to achieve some other virtue, like justice.  This is also the precise intersection where equality, as fundamental an aspect of liberalism as individualism, can create social tension.

In fact if we decide on economic equality as a necessary part of our political program we may move across the line from liberal to socialist, a communitarian model for economic justice.

Actions for or on behalf of the environment demand human action and these demands often create the perception of curtailed liberty.  Why can’t I hunt whales?  Why can’t I build a dam where the salmon run?  Why can’t I shoot the wolf I believe killed my livestock?  Why can’t I drive my Hummer?