Through a glass darkly

Open and transparent. That’s the Word Up code of small business conduct. Simples.

And in these fevered post-General Election times, transparency is top of the charts, and not just for small fry like me. As a micro-business, my entrepreneurial empire operates at the tiddly widdly, teensy weensy end of the business spectrum, but I am certainly not alone in claiming to be totally transparent in wheeling, dealing and transactions. Nope, everyone’s at it. Well, just about everyone, there’s no claims of transparency whatsoever from the teflon-coated Sepp Blatter

Transparency’s become a mantra, innit? A mantra to be trotted forth from the great, and the (not necessarily) good. We are an open book for all to see, they claim, we’ve got nothing to hide, no skeletons at all, not even a cupboard. Och, yer arse. C’mon, big boys and girls of the corporate, civic, governmental and judicial worlds, that transparency looks kinda murky to me. More through a glass darkly, methinks. This week alone bears witness to the depth of opacity going on around us, all of the time. I refer you again to a certain worldwide football authority, and to further exploits from artful tax dodgers.

Despite operating as an interested assessor of skulduggery and citizen journalist, I’m still not a paid up member of any branch of the conspiracy theory club, just an occasional visitor. But honestly, who’s kidding who when it comes to transparency? Real truth, openness and honesty, no matter which sector claims those lofty ideals, is as rare as an admission of complicity from Monsieur Blatter. As recently as January, the UK Government were assessed as being the most open and transparent in the world by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s digital outfit The World Wide Web Foundation, but peer just a little further into that transparency, and you’ll discover that while the data is there, you’d need a crack team of top end decoders and analysts to translate the info into anything even approaching clarity. And don’t get me started on bankers.

Of course, I’m not running the country (not yet, anyway), so my definition of transparency is a whole electromagnetic spectrum away from that of, say, the CEO of a leading international bank. Or a Whitehall mandarin. Or an energy company MD. I don’t operate on that level, and just as well – I just don’t have it in me to be economical with the truth about how I trade, and frankly, I’m rubbish at power plays and politco-fiscal manoeuvring. Frank Underwood, I ain’t. Nah, I’m not skilled in Machiavellian machinations and dark deeds, but then again, I’m not in thrall to the insatiable appetites of stakeholders, or subject to the ever-changing mood of the electorate.

Ergo, it’s pretty easy for micro-business me to be a bit of an open book. But that’s just the way we roll at Word Up. Touch wood, my small outfit will never be tarnished with the term “toxic brand”. But BTW – the big boys have got a lot to learn from lil ol’ sole traders like me. Not least because there’s lots of us. Lots and lots. And what’s more, we just don’t believe you, suckers.

So, powerful people, in case you think the little folk like me don’t matter too much, think again. After all, we’re the ones with spending power, savvy, and growing skills when it comes uncovering dark dealings. So when we say we want true transparency from business, government and institutions, we mean it.

Time to clean up your toxic act, fellas.