The age of increasing transparency shows the world is changing dramatically

I decided to look up the frequency of the use of the word transparent. I had a suspicion that it had increased. I was correct.

Since 2000, the word transparent has steadily increased in usage in a long, single uptick, not seen in the history of its recorded use.

Throughout the history of the word transparent, the number of times the word pops up in literature, media, and daily speech has gone up and down over time, generally up. But since around the year 2000, it has snowballed into use without stopping.

Without being a sociologist or linguist myself, I do believe the need for such a word has increased over the last 50 years in particular.

In the mid-20th century we truly began to get a handle on the type of corruption that could exist in elected government. We had become complacent with our system. And while most public servants are honorable, unless they are visible, it’s very easy to run amok with power.

We are increasingly dissatisfied with people making decisions behind closed doors on our behalf. There is something magnificent in this. Something sacred. It reveals our inherent self-worth.

Why demand transparency unless we instinctively believe we have a right to say in how our government is run and what actions it takes on our behalf? Or modern corporations, for that matter.

It was not that many centuries ago when very few people ever considered they were worthy to participate in such levels of decision-making. A huge swath of society felt they were merely subjects of someone else’s decisions. And they were.

However, if you’re wondering how we are doing as a society, consider whether or not an increased use of the word transparent signals something radically important occurring behind our conscious awareness. The steady increase in the use of the word transparent illustrates we are, and have been for some decades, waking up.

Our desire for increased visibility is, generation by generation, making an impact. And we want the view to be two-way. We not only wish to see, we wish to be seen. What do you think the natural result of that demand will be over time?

The new City Council chambers here in my hometown of Fitchburg is a former bank building located to the left of City Hall. A large brick archway dominating the facade reveals a clear glass opening directly into the chamber proceedings. They are visible right from the street.

That means there are people in positions of authority in my hometown who thought that was a good idea. They were correct, it is. And that is the type of decision which demonstrates attention to what people are needing right now. Transparency in government. Likewise, transparency in business, and nonprofits, and in religion, and health care.

I am endeared to my hometown because of basic symbolic decisions like this to fill a brick archway of government with glass instead of a wall and doors.

It’s true, I’m an optimist. I, like everyone, am subject to what’s known as confirmation bias. But things like this are much like listening to the ground for signs of life. It’s not an exact science. Take it how you will.

There are no guarantees that all which takes place within view is honorable. We have to actually look through the glass. We have to speak up and participate in the process. We have to learn from this increasing transparency and build upon it.

The world is changing dramatically. Sometimes terrifyingly so. But look for signs like this if you want to know what’s really coming tomorrow. Intent is everything. All shall be well.

Wil Darcangelo, M.Div, is the minister at the First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and of the First Church of Christ, Unitarian in Lancaster. Email [email protected] Follow him on Twitter and TikTok @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.

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