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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Information Nazis and the Great Controversy

by Tom King (c) 2011

One gains spiritual insight from places that may at first glance seem odd. “Information Weekly”, a journal for CIOs and data management people ran an editorial this week in their global-CIO segment called “The CIO vs. The Information Access Mafia” that I found enlightening.

Howard Anderson interviews Stu Laura, a Wall Street corporate Chief Information Officer (CIO) about his frustrations with his company's internal information wars. Laura's problem is that his company's staff is fighting a turf war over who has access to what information.

On the one hand, the company's product development people need broad access to information in order to get the “bonus” of coming up with creative ideas that cross boundaries. On the other hand, the data management people - Laura calls them “Information Nazis” - are concerned (to the level of paranoia sometimes) that the wrong people in the company may have access to sensitive data. As a result, the company's system of approving who has access to what data is so slow that, according to Laura, they “squash great ideas”.

This problem finds its parallel in government where big government/high control types want decision-making about who has access to information about services offered by or input into the governing process placed in the hands of a few insiders. This “nanny state” approach prevents the children from hurting themselves by keeping them away from things considered “dangerous” by those who know better.

Facing off against the progressive/socialists are small government/low control advocates who want a less restrictive environment, more freedom, and less regulation with strict punishment for those who abuse the privilege.

Laura's solution, ironically for a data management guy, steps outside the “computer problem” box and recognizes that the problem is a business management problem. He says, “The only thing that might work is if we let people escalate and then come down very hard on those who abuse the privilege.” In effect, he advocates less control on the top end and firm punishment for violating the trust shown people. This parallels the small government/lower regulation philosophy in the political arena.

At the same time there is a spiritual lesson to be drawn from the information wars. This high control vs. low control argument has gone on for a long time in the Judeo-Christian faith. Jesus, Himself, preached a brand of religion that freed people from the access-to-God Nazis in the Sanhedrin. It's why they felt they had to murder Him. All this freedom imperiled their control over the populace and the Scribes, Pharisees and Saducees could imagine all sorts of bad things happening to the poor people they felt charged with “protecting”.

The pattern was repeated in the Dark Ages and Medieval era when the Roman Catholic church restricted access to Scripture to clergy alone, on the grounds that “the people” needed protecting lest they misinterpret what Scripture said, especially on those issues that differed with official church doctrine or practice. Turns out they were right to fear open access by the people to God's Word for as soon as the Bible began to be printed in the common tongue, the Protestant Reformation swept the Christian world and the power of church authorities was diminished.

Again, after all that heady wave of religious freedom, many Protestant church heirarchies began to look for ways to hem in their congregations or to place church leadership between the people and the ultimate source of information, if you will. Having people reporting directly to God is always problematic for church bureaucrats because it limits their power and exposes them to severe consequences if they get caught exercising the “privileges of power” enjoyed by so many generations of powerful men and women in ages past.

All these conflicts are basically a single conflict. It was once called “The Great Controversy” by a 19th century religious writer in a book by that name. The controversy dates back to the beginning of creation when God decided to make man with the power of free will. This level of free will had, apparently, not been granted to any other creature in the history of the universe. Only one “prototype” creature with that in-built freedom of choice existed – the angelic choirmaster, Lucifer.

When God developed plans to create Man, he saw that it would be inevitable that any creature with total free will would, like Laura's creative staffers, abuse the privilege. To insure that His new creation would not self-destruct, God developed a plan that involved incredible sacrifice on His part. He willingly sacrificed Himself in the form of his Son because, evidently, God thought it was important that a creature like Man should exist in the universe.

Lucifer, knowing well the temptation to sin that comes with free will, seems to have decided that a more restrictive approach was in order. He probably guessed what sort of mischief men and women could get up to and decided it would be better to place restrictions on them in the first place to save them from themselves. Lucifer, the original “Information Nazi” apparently carried his disagreement over the nature of Man to the point of creating a “revolution” among the angels in support of his view. God finally had to kick him and his followers out of heaven to restore order.

Lucifer carried his war to the Earth, conducting a guerrila campaign to prove to God just how wrong God was. You can look down the history of this planet and see, time and again, governments set up following a restrictive, elite-governed model that purports to “protect” the people. In the end, these governments by the nobles, the commisars, the emperors and the upper classes inevitably abuse the very people they are sworn to protect.

God's model is basically a high freedom (we may sin if we choose), high access (we have a direct line to God) and strict punishment (loss of life for abusing the privileges) model. Myself, I believe that this dangerous model is essential if God is going to people the universe with creatures like himself in their ability to choose. I don't believe humans could create as prolifically as we do were our free will more restricted. It is that creativity that, I believe, is the “image” of God described in Genesis.

Television, radio, literature, art, movies andYoutube would not be nearly as interesting if we had all been made like Lucifer thought we should and all lived under Lucifer's idea of “good government”. God wanted sons and daughters, not “the workers” and “the masses”. I think God wanted children who are individuals, not cookie-cutter “congregations”. Can you explain all the varied denominations of Christianity any other way than as expressions of worship by individuals with different tastes, cultures and understandings of God's Word? Sure we have our differences, but each of us carries a piece of the truth and each of us is striving to reach the same place. One day, when at last we all come together on the Sea of Glass, I expect we will make one whale of a choir, each one of millions upon millions of unique people, bringing his or her own experience to the song to create a harmony like nothing we've ever experienced.

God wants us to be free and unique individuals. The everything-fair-and-the-same-for-all” approach simply doesn't produce human beings of sufficiently good quality that it would be safe for God to grant eternal life to them. Such people will be inconstant and indecisive, wandering from powerful leader to powerful leader, whichever catches their attention – a useful trait in people if you are one of the politburo or a member of the nobility or church heirarchy and wish to keep the troops in line (behind yourself, of course). Such people find it difficult to look beyond mortal leaders to communicate with God directly. Like the Children of Israel, they are slaves and beg for some powerful leader to stand between them and God. And once the leader goes up into the mountain, they choose another one, or carve one out of gold to tide them over. They have not the stuff to stand for the right alone, but must have the permission of the heard to make any decision. Such people sacrifice their true self for a delusion of safety in numbers.

Like I said, God wants sons and daughters, not slaves and concubines. In that respect, we are also like Him for do we not want sons and daughters, not butlers and maids? Isn't it difficult for us to see our kids suffer and learn hard lessons for themselves. Aren't we proud, though, when they do learn, grow and mature into amazing people? Do we not experience great joy in their triumphs and achievements?

And would we not die for them as well?

So when someone asks you “How could God let all these bad things happen?” recognize where this idea that people need to be protected from bad things comes from. It's not from heaven.

Me, I welcome the pain and trials of this life, because I believe that heaven is cheap enough at that price. When we seek to protect ourselves and others from all pain or the consequences of our own actions, we choose a path that leads downward to tyranny, stagnation and a bland and wasted life.

Albert Einstein once wondered why we couldn't figure out a way to make everyone happy. Einstein, brilliant though he was, thought of it as a “computer problem”. If we could figure out how people work, we should be able to program our world so that everyone would be content and cared for. But, life is not a computer problem. It's a self-management problem. You don't run a happy planet by knowing which buttons to push or how to design effective systems of government. You run a happy planet by filling it with good, happy people that have no interest in lording over their fellow men and women. You change the individuals, not the system. 

If you just like the computer analogy, think of it this way. If we allow God to clean up the corrupt coding in our software through our relationship with Him, He in turn gives us back ourselves free from the viruses, trojan horses and malware that once infected us. But cleaning us up alone does not solve the problem of how to make people happy or how to make a clean and ordered world. We have to choose for ourselves how to do that. Then we must roll up our sleeves and do our job. It's the job God gave us in the first place – to tend the Earth.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to getting to work in the garden.


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