Editor’s Note: Who Are We When No One Is Looking?

It’s probably safe to assume you’re human and a member of the natural world, so it’s probably also safe to assume that you behave differently depending upon where you are and whom you’re with. I know a few individuals who do not alter their behavior and are always and forever themselves, truly never caring what others think. I like these types and often admire them, but that’s not my type and is likely a rare attribute as a percentage of the total population. 

For the rest of us, social situations require certain performances, and with some friends and groups of people, we feel more comfortable “being ourselves” (whatever that means). What interests me is what people do when no one is looking. 

When people aren’t watching, behavior is different. That’s the whole scientific conundrum: By observing behavior, we change it, as well as the outcome. We cannot peer into the deepest parts of the ocean to learn what’s there because all we’ll see are dying animals blinded by the lights on our vessel, or animals acting like they’re about to be killed (according to a book I’m reading currently, Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms around Us by Ed Yong). 

That could be a column all its own. 

This one is about why Sunshine Week is important. It reminds us of the importance of “shining the light of awareness” on the people we elect who spend our tax money and create the policies, programs and laws that govern our lives and neighborhoods. 

Sunshine Week is observed March 12-18 this year. It was launched in 2005 by the News Leaders Association (formerly the American Society of News Editors) and is now promoted in partnership with the Society of Professional Journalists. 

The initiative promotes open government, transparency and the public’s right to know. It offers ways through which everyone can encourage governmental transparency. Government officials can make sure that training is provided for government employees and elected officials to ensure compliance with existing laws mandating open records and meetings, for example. Educators can teach students about how government transparency improves our lives and makes our communities stronger.

If this light of open government is not shining, people in positions of power – and a group of people together – act differently. It’s just the laws of nature. And Sunshine Week is a good week to be reminded of this.