Whistleblowers. Adult version of being a tattletale. We all grew up being told that “tattling” was a bad thing. Every one of us had a tattletale in their classroom and these people were, systematically, pushed away. Placed in Coventry. We all learn, at a very early age, that being a tattletale is social suicide.
As we grow up, the label “tattletale” is left behind with our crayons and colouring books – tattletale is given a new name, equally loaded with negative connotations, “whistle blowing.” The consequences of “whistleblowing” become even more serious. Coventry would be a vacation compared to the assaults committed against those who have chosen to stand up and say “THIS ISN’T RIGHT!!” I think the most powerful illustration of what can happen to a whistleblower would be the nefarious attacks by the most terrifying of foes – the U.S. government – against the participants in Wikileaks; Ed Snowden and Julian Assange. Snowden has been sent to Coventry and should he emerge, he will be spend his life in jail for standing up against the biggest of all bullies and turning to the entire world saying “THIS ISN’T RIGHT!!”
Both men have placed themselves in suicidal positions by having the gall to tell the rest of us what we already knew but refused to see.
Margaret Heffernan is right and spot on in her video (posted below).
We aren’t free unless we use that freedom. Freedom, unfortunately, exacts a heavy price. We have only to look at the public reaction to revelations that an entertainment icon with a smiling face, and the ability to make us laugh, hid the soul of a serial rapist. In Canada we have Ghomeshi; the women who had been victimized and came forward, were, initially vilified but when more and more of them came forward and the theme proved to be, eerily, similar – society had no choice but to force itself to see. And we hate that – the victimization of the women who came forward is not over. Society will ensure that we all learn the lesson of what happens to tattletales.
Monica Lewinsky. Labeled a slut, a tramp, of being a bottom feeder (no pun intended) while the man who used his power to seduce her is, to this day, treated like some sort of hero. The man was married, Lewinsky wasn’t; the man was elected with a societal expectation that his behaviour would be above reproach and reflect society’s mores. Evidence surfaced of more marital infidelities but willful blind eyes were turned his way. Who was the more culpable, yet who suffered at the hands of the media and society in general? Ms. Lewinsky.
I blew a whistle years ago, I kept blowing it because “something wasn’t right” in my place of employment. I was harassed and threatened. I kept on and then, my family was threatened and yes, I threw in the towel. I quit my job. Years later, the perpetrator of the threats was fired and the company ended up paying a large sum to get rid of him before he did his own whistleblowing.
We all see things that “aren’t right” but before blowing that whistle – make sure that your freedom is worth the price. Personally? I believe it is. Men and women have died to protect our freedom. Our moral imperative to call out the wrongdoers may exact personal coast but the cost to our sense of self and the standards to which we hold freedom will be compromised forever if we do not. Blow that whistle – tattle that tale – if someone may be harmed by a behaviour, by a policy, by a decision – blow that damned whistle! Freedom is not a noun, it is a verb. Action that word.