Just published: Another of dg’s worldly epigrams at the international affairs magazine Global Brief. Here are the opening paragraphs. Click on the link or buy the magazine to read the rest.
The great 18th century French diplomat Talleyrand once said that speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts – a counterintuitive claim that explodes many sentimental myths about both communication and diplomacy. People never say what they mean: communication is not exchange, but aggression – and secrecy is at the heart of diplomacy. That is why we have reached the end of the age of diplomacy.
With unseemly haste, the new digital era has ushered in the end of individual privacy, just as it has ushered in the end of official secrets. Any whistle-blowing idealist or malcontent can download a thousand state secrets in seconds, just as credit card companies, phone companies, Internet sites and security cameras daily harvest data about our lives – some, if not all, of that information sold or shared for commercial purposes. Every day, diplomats blush to have their unedited, private remarks and reports published to the world.
Diplomats are the mouthpieces of governments, which also like to keep secrets – doubly secretive as such, for diplomats renounce the expression of personal views, just as they tend to keep their country’s true intentions tight in their hearts. Thus, diplomats always bear the mark of Cain – the sign of untruthfulness; an unsavouriness, as it were, for their professional hypocrisy.