This manifesto escapes to any presumption of originality. If a manifesto is supposed to bring a series of renewal statements about a concrete issue, we are far too late. During the convulsive years of the economical crisis, every single institution has already created a ‘transparency manifesto’ before us.
In the daily rituals, when ‘light: X’ encounters ‘material: Y’, it can interact with it in several different ways. These interactions depend on the wavelength of the light and the nature of the material. We can distinguish the ‘X-Y’ encounters, for example, as ‘Transparency: T’ when the material has the physical property of allowing light to pass through, ‘translucency: t’ when a material only allows light to pass through diffusely, and the opposite property ‘Opacity: O’, when the transmission of light is not taking place.
Architectonically, transparency has evolved within the centuries, so we can observe how the Romanic opaqueness, was modified when the craftsmanship of the glass walls break into the Gothic churches, to later on, thanks to the industrial revolution, the glass buildings where a sign of development and modernity, to finally arrive to the post-modern times, where we are being constantly overwhelmed with the display of transparent building that represent what contemporary civilisation is aiming for: stability, security, cleanness, and of course: ‘T’ transparency.
September 2008 will be remembered as the month in which capitalism experienced one of the strongest headquarters in his history. September 2008 was the month in which Lehman Brothers collapsed, and with it, new orders in international economics values were set. The maxim ‘Lack of transparency’ was pointed out as the ultimate responsible for the crisis, that brought the fourth bank of the U.S.A. to a bankrupt. The relation ‘X-Y’ gave the impression to be in a ‘t: translucency’ state, when in fact was in the ‘O: Opacity’ region. The economical cataclysm that ‘O’ engendered, generated a new order consequently, a sort of ‘Transparency era’ where there is no room for secrets, where there is nothing to hide. ‘O’ had risen as the enemy to beat.
Since then, ‘transparency’ is not an option anymore, it seems to be a need, an obligation, or perhaps the only way to escape the worldwide mistrusted environment, raising ‘T’ as the ultimate device to show the needed solvency into the international markets. Because of that, every single organisation that pretends to have recovered credibility, designs and publishes in their own statutes a ‘T’ transparency protocol. The launching of ‘transparency manifestos’ has seeded the international platforms, corporations, governments and agencies, giving the appearance of an unusual crystalline status.
The idea of ‘market transparency’ pops up, and it seems that we are living in a super-transparent era, in which businesses, and even political spheres have monopolized the terminology and the uses of transparency. To give you an example, a quote from the UK government ‘Transparency Plan’. In David Cameron´s words:
‘We understand that people want government to be more effective in what it does, and to do it for less money. That means transforming the way the state goes about its business, using decentralisation, accountability and transparency to reduce dramatically the cost of government. And because sunlight is the best disinfectant, we will bring the operation of government out into the open so that everyone can see whether we are delivering good value for money.’
What else could be added to this!
The dichotomy that Cameron introduces in his text, takes place in the conflict area between ‘light and dark’, between ‘good and bad’, between ‘transparent and opaque’; it is basically the dichotomy that exists between one of the most primordial human needs: ‘the known vs. the unknown’.
It is human nature to search for understanding, and since Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, because their nosy blueprint, we all carry within us the duty of the original sin. The benevolence of God was betrayed for a disloyal couple that allowed themselves to eat from the Tree of knowledge. What seems to point out this primal biblical tale is that ‘knowledge’ should be only in the hands of ‘God’, and who else would try to get it from him, would be punished.
Centuries are passing by, and the place that the different churches had, appears to be replaced with another kind of organisations. The skylines of the cities are not dominated by the cathedrals anymore, on the contrary, they seem to shrink at the same rhythm that skyscrapers get higher and higher, manifesting the complex relationship between horizontality and verticality. The new leaders of the new power order, keep the top of their flamboyant and transparent buildings just to themselves, so while being faraway from a possible visual intrusion, they can be a bit closer to god, or at least try to represent having such status.
In traditional public relations management, damage control involved the suppression of public information. But, as observed by Clive Thompson, the Internet has created a force towards transparency. Since Internet commentary is inescapable, the only way to influence it is to be part of it. Being transparent, opening up, posting interesting material frequently often is the only way to amass positive links to yourself and thus to directly influence your Googleable reputation. That’s why, while transparency ‘T’ becomes the watchword of many institutions and corporations, the word has become manipulated, demoralized and mainly radicalized.
What I’ll try to point out in the following lines, is my intention to recover certain levels of transparency, ‘T’ elements that manifest themselves into a more humanistic scale; so we could call it ‘human transparency’ or just ‘HT’. Somehow, transparency is related with the idea of truth, of awareness, intelligibility, clearness, lucidity, etc., terms all of then that can drive us towards conduct of the being in a social level.
Human transparency could be defined as a more conscience use of honesty.
So we are defending one idea of a transparency that makes people to communicate with each other in a proper balance, a transparency that doesn’t doubt about the others sincerity, an open transparency, a transparency that brings truthfulness and a transparency that is not under the threatend state of the international markets.
As a consequence of the previous reflexions, we must say:
· We believe in the inner beauty that transparency offers.
· We think that transparency is a quality ‘itself’, but not self-sufficient, so it needs to be maintained to keep the proper levels of transparency.
· We dislike the term ‘radical transparency’, because it goes against it’s nature. Transparency shouldn’t be radical.
· We don’t like semantics monopolies, because of that we reclaim the use of the term ‘Transparency’ as a word not only related with economical operations.
· We believe in human transparency, among other reasons, because it doesn’t work in a hierarchical scheme.
· We agree with David Cameron that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
· We define Human transparency as an ethical attitude towards fellow humans.
· We believe that a good question deserves a good answer.
· We believe in human transparency, as a way of seeding social awareness.
· We also would have been eating from the forbidden tree, because knowledge is good.
· We assume that this crisis period will bring a more equalitarian power distribution, in which the representational forces spread their winds. We say that because right now the notion of Democracy should be kept in quarantine.
· We agree to disagree.
Miguel Angel Melgares, in the name of Pleas[e]nter team.
Amsterdam, March 2nd, 2011