“’Janet! Why shouldn’t we have a Secret Society, too?’  said Peter.”

Peter and his sister Janet have the good fortune to find themselves in the middle of Enid Blyton’s first short story about The Secret Seven. They are virtually guaranteed many summers of adventures, following skulkers and solving mysteries before the cack-handed police arrive.

And, this being an Enid Blyton book, the children are also guaranteed to hold some odd views about race, class and especially gender.

Let’s leave all that to one side with the classic Irish catch-all excuse that “ah they were different times” and acknowledge one thing about the Secret Seven: They could keep a secret. They communicate through secret notes and meet in a secret shed. Despite the efforts of others to get access to their gang, they remain steadfast.

Now it appears that no one can keep a secret. I’m not talking about Wikileaks, Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning – there are plenty of secrets that should never have been taken and certainly not kept. But in normal private life the skill of discretion seems to be evaporating. Sharing is no longer caring. It’s profoundly careless.

There’s no doubt that having a secret can be onerous. Remember the fable of The King with Donkey Years? A king had ears like a donkey. The only one who knews his secret was his barber. Over time, he could no longer bear the burden and had to tell the story to someone. He ran out and whispered it to a tree. The tree was cut down and made into a flute. The flute was played for the king and started to sing the terrible secret.  In the fable called The Woman Has Sex With Two Rugby Players, the secret was kept for precisely no time at all. There were no barbers, burdens, trees or flutes. Well there were flutes …

Gossip has always been around. Evolutionary pscychologists claim that it has performed an important function in the development of the human race. We have used it to network, to have influence on people and to form alliances. While the wildebeest and the gnus were sunning themselves, we were slagging them off and plotting their downfall. But with social media, nothing is whispered any more. It’s roared from a street-window by people with concept of volume.

The Secret Seven could not be written now. I’ve tried. Here are some excerpts from ‘The Secret Seven Go Viral’.

Janet! Why shouldn’t we have a Secret Society, too?”,  said Peter.  “We’ll need a secret place to meet and a password”, agreed Janet excitedly, furiously tapping away at her iPhone.

The very next day, Peter and Janet visited their secret hide-out. “Oh no!” cried Janet in dismay. The shed was full of hundreds of teenagers drinking shots through their eyeballs and listening to Swedish House Mafia. “I must have forgotten to set the Facebook event to private”.

To be continued …

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