The Danger of Secrets!

SECRETS … We all have them. There are some things we just do not want other people to know. Secrets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are personal ones. Perhaps you’re an adult and you still like to cuddle your teddy bear. No one needs to know, it harms no one. Then there are other more dangerous secrets that are also personal.  We have all heard about the sneaky spouse who has a lover and who goes to great lengths to hide the fact from their partner and even their friends.  Eventually secrets like these, like an infected sore, fester and cause a great deal of pain for all concerned.  Edgar Watson Howe, American journalist and author, probably was not far from the truth when he said, The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep

The problem with secrets is that they create mistrust. To utter, “I can’t tell you, it’s a secret”, is to create instant paranoia. The feeling of being left out or excluded from information will instantly send a person’s mind into overdrive. “They are talking about me” -”What have I done wrong?” –  “Someone is dying and they don’t want me to know”. The human mind is programmed to think the worst. Probably this is an instinctive response from primitive times. The problem is this instinct creates a fight or flight mentality. The individual feels at risk and they can become either aggressive or withdrawn – It is all about self-preservation.  Secrets are, more often than not, minor but there are few things in the world that will make people more defensive than secrets.

The problem is that when there is a need to keep secrets often it is because the individual or organisation is up to no good.  It is often that they have an agenda and they don’t want anyone or anything to stop them achieving their agenda. When people are willing to keep secrets about their agenda they often are willing to lie or even kill rather than have their quest interrupted.

Donna Cavanagh in her essay “The Danger of Secrets – Hiroshima and the Atomic Bomb” (August 2011,, perceptively describes the danger of secrets, particularly political ones.  She highlights the Catholic Church and its cover up of sexual abuse of children over many years. Says Cavanagh, “Think of how many less molestation victims there would have been if one priest, bishop, cardinal or pope had the balls to come forward and tell the truth about what had been going on for so long. “

Cavanagh poses the question of what might have happened if the American Government had told the true story of the Atomic Bombs that they dropped on Japan. The Government chose for several decades to hide the videos of the suffering and disfigurement of the victims of the bombs. They also hid the effects that it had on American Service Men who were exposed to the horrors.  They kept this information secret and hid behind rhetoric of self-defence and the threat of Russia. Says Cavanagh, “ If the graphic information about the Japan bombs were released, and we saw what truly happened there, maybe nuclear arms would not have been so widely accepted among Americans. Maybe we would have insisted that the money that went into nuclear weapons go into other issues like stopping hunger or developing an alternative fuel that would have allowed us to tell the Middle East to go to hell.”  But the American Government had an agenda, this secret would have derailed it. The Government clearly thought it was for the greater good but what right do a band of a few men and women have to decide this on our behalf knowing full well how we would all react if we knew the truth.

When people keep secrets because they THINK THEY KNOW BETTER we are in trouble. Recently Deaf Children Australia sold land at great profit. The sale is apparently conditional and dependent on the Government agreeing to release a Caveat that is currently placed on the sale of the land. This Caveat, it is believed, prohibits the sale of the land and states that the land is to be used for the education of deaf children. The Caveat has been a great source of frustration to Deaf Children Australia because, essentially, it owns the land where the current Victorian College of the Deaf exists. Despite owning this vast block of prime real estate it is virtually of no commercial value because the Government Caveat prevents its sale.

Deaf Children Australia resides in a very old Bluestone Building. It requires constant and costly maintenance. Deaf Children Australia, rightly are trying to free assets so that they  can look after the building and ensure it does not fall down around their ears. The motive for the sale of the land is sound. The problem, arguably, is that parts of the process of the sale were cloak and dagger.

It was no secret that sale of the land was under consideration. Indeed Deaf children Australia had a number of forums to explain why the land was under consideration of sale. These were open forums for anyone to attend. So Deaf Children Australia is to be commended for their efforts to communicate elements of the sale to the Deaf Community.

BUT this communication came about when clearly the sale of the land was well progressed. It came about because the Victorian College of the Deaf voiced its opposition to the sale. They became quite public. They used the media and spread rumours of the sale of the land among the Deaf community. The Deaf community seeing that its heritage was under threat became quite vocal and concerned.  The Victorian College of the Deaf even went as far as to place NOT FOR SALE signs on the FOR SALE signs that were erected to advertise the sale of the land.

The problem is that Deaf Children Australia, rather than communicating the sale of the land to the Deaf community from the outset, only did so once the Victorian College of the Deaf began to voice its opposition. The communication, seemingly, only came about as a form of DAMAGE CONTROL rather than a genuine desire to communicate the sale of the land to the Deaf community. It is a little like the Catholic Church that only owned up to the sexual abuse of children by some of its priests when stories of the abuse became public.

Of course the sale of the Deaf Children Australia land did not have such tragic consequences as the sexual abuse of children by rogue Priests of the Catholic Church BUT a lot of heartache could have been avoided IF the Catholic Church had owned up to the problems immediately. Likewise Deaf Children Australia should have involved the Deaf community in the sale of the land from the onset and not only when DAMAGE CONTROL was necessary.

Kyle Miers, in a video media release to explain the sale of the land to the Deaf community, admitted that when negotiations for the sale of the land were happening, confidentiality was a condition. But WHY did this need to be the case? I can understand the buyer not wanting to disclose how much they were willing to pay because it could lead to other interested parties out bidding them. BUT information about what was intended to be done with the land by the buyer SHOULD have been communicated to the Deaf community. If Deaf Children Australia can release videos after the sale, then why could they not have released regular updates from start to finish? The need for confidentiality does not hack it. Deaf Children Australia is entrusted with a vital part of the Deaf community’s heritage yet communication only happened when it became clear that damage control was necessary. The secrecy served only to create mistrust and suspicion. Like the American Government and the Atomic Bomb Deaf Children Australia told the Deaf Community what they thought they NEEDED to know. Commercial interest came first, the Deaf communities needs and views were very much secondary. What was the consequence?  Clearly the consequence is mistrust and a very angry Deaf community.

Currently there is a campaign going on to throw out the new caption system that cinemas want to introduce, Captiview.  Many Deaf and hearing impaired people have voiced displeasure with the system and asked for the Captiview  roll-out to be ceased and a new system be introduced. Consensus seems to be that research and trialling is needed. The research and trials must involve Deaf and hearing impaired customers in selecting suitable technology. Under nocircumstances should any technology be introduced without consumer input.

It’s no secret what Deaf and hearing impaired people want. It’s no secret that feedback on Captiview is that it is rubbish and the Deaf community and many hearing impaired people want it gone. But what is secret is what is going on behind closed doors to address our feedback and needs. Well if the Deaf Children Australia land sale saga is anything to go by secrecy serves no purpose other than to put Deaf and hearing impaired consumers, the very people that matter, offside.

Here is hoping that our advocates can be truthful, accountable and up-front about what is happening.  There can be a time and a place for secrecy but when it is about us, NEVER! Let’s learn from mistakes of the past, people matter – Nothing about us without us!