Thursday, July 27, 2017

SAA 2017: the importance of professional ethics

Dragonfly at rest, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon, 26 July 2017.
Greetings from Portland, Oregon, the host city of the 2017 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). It's late (at least by the standards of my internal clock, which is loosely set to Eastern Daylight Time) and I'm headed to bed in a few minutes. However, I'm feeling the need to share just one thing that plenary speaker Greg Eow (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) highlighted this afternoon. It's a quote from historian Timothy Snyder's new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, and it should be of interest to any archivist or records manager who is alarmed by recent developments in numerous nations:
Professions can create forms of ethical conversation that are impossible between a lonely individual and a distant government. If members of a profession think of themselves as groups with common interests, with norms and rules that oblige them at all times, then they can gain confidence and indeed a certain kind of power.
Eow didn't include in his presentation the two sentences that immediately follow the above quote, but they, too, warrant consideration:
Professional ethics must guide us precisely when we are told that the situation is exceptional. Then there is no such thing as "just following orders."
Good night.

Update, 28 July 2016: post title changed to reflect content of post. ("Day one" is not a compelling title.)

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