June, 1987

THE RIGHT TO KNOW

In the original concept of the democratic form of government, one of the cardinal principles was the ‘Right of the citizen to a complete knowledge of all of the facts and circumstances that might affect his or her welfare, or the welfare of the state as a whole’. Democracy was defined by one of its greatest exponents, as, “Government of the people, by the people and for the people.” But how can a people govern itself wisely and successfully unless it has access to the facts concerning situations about which decisions must be made? A prime requisite of any successful democracy is, therefore, that all of the people have access to all of the facts, and this is, of course, the ideal purpose of all public media, newspapers, radio or television newscasts.

Since it is obviously impractical, in a large nation, to refer all of the decisions directly to all of the people. it is necessary to choose certain individuals to represent all of the people. It is the clear duty of these individuals to implement the will of the majority of the people as precisely and as fully as that will can be determined. One of the flaws of an imperfect democracy is that too many of its elected officials feel that, because they have received a few more votes than their opponents, they have been given a mandate to govern their constituents according to their own opinions or whims. In a true democracy, no elected official is given the power to govern, they are simply given the duty to represent those who have elected them! In any event, the successful operation of the system still requires a complete knowledge of the facts by the citizens.

Unfortunately, during the last few decades this basic tenet of democracy has been suffering a substantial reversal of form. The democratic concept of the ‘right to know’ has, in many areas, been replaced by the paternalistic principle of the ‘need to know’. This principle is, of course, a basic tenet of all military organizations, and its adoption by portions of our federal government is an indication of the degree to which the military complex has influenced the policies of the latter.

In any military organization, of course, the private has no voice whatever in the choice of objectives, policy or strategy. These are formulated by a few men in the high command, without the slightest reference to, or consideration of the will or the opinion of the private. When the time comes to put the plan into operation, the private, the lieutenant, the captain, and even the colonel are given only as much information as may be necessary for the successful completion of their assigned duties. This is the principle of the ‘need to know’, it’s application is necessary in many military operations where the most vital ingredient of success is the ignorance of the enemy. Its application to a democracy however, attacks the very foundation upon which that democracy rests!

Today, this principle of internal as well as external secrecy has progressed so far that, not only do the people not know what the government is. doing, but, in many cases, the government itself does not know what the government is doing! At least those at the top level of government, who should be doing the planning, seem to have no idea what their subordinates are doing, especially in the sale and random distribution of military weapons to avowed enemies of the United States, and the subsequent concealment of the proceeds of those sales. These may seem to be relatively small and insignificant events, and hardly worthy of comment, but if it becomes a part of the normal political procedure for the alleged representatives of the people to conceal from those people, the commitments which have been made in their name and at their expense, then truly, government of the people, by the people and for the people will have perished from the earth:

(signed by Daniel W. Fry)

Seek ye f first the kingdom of God. MATTHEW 6:33

Ask, and it shall be given you;

seek, and ye shall find;

knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

MATTHEW 7:7

I KNOW NOT WHAT I SEEK ETERNALLY

I know not what I seek eternally

on earth, in air, and sky;

I know not what I seek; but it is something

that I have lost, I know not when,

And cannot find, although in dreams invisibly

it dwells in all I touch and see.

Ah, bliss! Never can I recapture you

either on earth, in air, or sky,

Although I know you have reality

and are no futile dream!

The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar;

Not in entire forgetfulness –

Rosalia de Castro. Translated by Muriel Kittel