‘Okay, with that kind of thing, one of two things will eventually happen. First, we’ll realize that whatever behavior we’re talking about is so widespread and harmless that it needn’t be secret. If we demystify it, if we admit that it’s something we all do, then it loses its power to shock. We move toward honesty, and we move away from shame. Or second, and even better, if we all, as a society, decide that this is behavior we’d rather not engage in, the fact that everyone knows, or has the power to know who’s doing it, this would prevent the behavior from being engaged in. This is just as you said–you wouldn’t have stolen if you knew you were being watched’ (244).
Eamon Bailey, one of the three “Wise Men,” explains to Mae the benefits of exposing everything all the time, of going transparent. She wonders about those things that cause us shame, or are too intimate or personal to share, and he responds with the above. First, he says, putting everything out in the open makes it not shocking anymore! If everyone poops, has non-vanilla sex, and eats like a glutton, we’ll know that those behaviors are widespread, and there will be no reason to persecute them anymore. Like his (oddly oversimplified) example of “gays” (word choice, Bailey…), once many people identify their queer sexual identities, living as a queer person becomes more recognized as a socially-legitimate lifestyle, behavior, and identity.
On the other hand, though, “even better,” society gains the ability to watch all behaviors and hold people accountable for those that “we all, as a society,” decide are wrong. Society gains the ability to directly police behaviors in order to assimilate them to hegemonic ideals. If society decides that eating junk food is bad for you, Mae doesn’t grab that candy bar. But, if society decides that having sex at a young age is wrong, teenagers can be monitored and given corrective assistance. If society decides that childhood masturbation, “perversions,” and, even, homosexuality is wrong, those behaviors can be watched, modified. Most likely, things wouldn’t need to even go so far though. Soon, once those social morals are entrenched in every person, once they know that they might be being watched (panopticon), and once they internalize that it is wrong, they become “good citizens,” who do right, uncritically. Transparency doesn’t just simulate the confessional or the classroom or the panopticon, it actively silences dissent from an absolute “right” way, it actively interpolates as subjects of The Circle.