I have just returned from my Tuesday night 'Jewish Business Ethics' class at TI.
And I am crying.
Tonight we saw a movie about whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is usually looked on as a negative trait, an informer, a traitor to his company or his kind. But under certain conditions, when whistleblowing arises out of a desire for truth rather than spite and hatred, it is not only something good but it is heroic, something dazzling and wonderful, something that can only be reached by those who are truly motivated for the good.
We watched a movie entitled 'The Perils of Whistleblowing.' I didn't know the title at the time, but came home and looked it up. It was made by Mark Wallace, in accord with the History Channel. It is shocking.
It is more than shocking. It is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen.
What is it about?
From here, so that you may see:
- The Perils of Whistleblowing(1996) A Mike Wallace 20th century CBS program focuses on some high-profile whistleblowing incidents, including the Challenger O-ring disaster, the Brown & Williamson insider expose, GM’s surreptitious investigation of Ralph Nader, unsafe nuclear reactor situations, Silkwood, and defense analyst Fitzgeralds’ efforts to highlight fraudulent waste and overruns in the Air Force. The whistleblowers all seem credible in their charges. Virtually all of them were subjected to attempts to discredit and destroy them. Often careers were shattered. Despite a subsequent congressional whistleblowing law, the message is clear: become a whistleblower and face probable destruction of the messenger.
I never realized before.
I never realized there was a system, an actual, physical system, a way in which to unleash a smear campaign, to pour venom and hatred upon people. That people planned this. That people could lie so blatantly. That they could expend so much effort and energy in discrediting people who had been trying to tell the truth.
I have difficulty believing that there are truly evil people in the world. I want to believe- I want so much to believe- that my teachers at Templars were uninformed of all the harm they did. That it was all unintentional. That they never intended to cause me so much pain. That they truly did not and do not understand.
I want to believe in human goodness.
And to an extent, I can. To an extent, I do believe that humans have the capacity for goodness. I believe that people desire to be good.
But watching the video, seeing the enginners who knew there was a problem with the Challenger and hearing them speak...seeing that one of them had an actual memo in writing that said that if the problems were left unfixed something "catastrophic" would happen, and would result in the "loss of human life," seeing these men who have tears in their eyes as they describe how happy they felt when they saw they were wrong, that the Challenger was fine- and then seeing them describe what they felt when they saw the accident, how one of them returned to his office, closed the door, and just cried...seeing this, I feel such anger towards the needless waste of human life.
And I feel so much sadness for this man whose life was summarily ruined, for his company shunned him, his managers had nothing to do with him, he was slandered and known as the man who caused the death of the seven people on the Challenger, his children grew up hearing him persecuted and hated, he had to sell his house in Utah and leave...seeing this, I wonder at the strength of these people, and bow my head before them.
I look at the man who resigned from his job as head of a department with regard to nucler regulations, stating that at the moment Indian Point Three (the nuclear power plant) was not acting up to regulations, that he was very concerned about its performance and he felt that ultimately it would lead to disaster...seeing him, and then seeing the head of the entire company speak about the fact that this "young man should have expressed his concerns to his supervisors before making his pledge (i.e. resigning)"...and then seeing the response as the man states that he tried, he tried in every way he could, he attempted to talk to his supervisors and boss but was told to keep everything "low-key" and not to inform the public...
Or the man working at a tobacco company who unmasked the fact that they knew very well nicotine was addictive and that cigarettes caused cancer, that the company deliberately was chemically producing an effect on the cigarettes so that the nicotine would act faster and people would rely more and more on their "fix"...This man was fired, and the head of the company blatantly lied to Congress, stating that he did "not believe nicotine was addictive..." What ensued was a slander campaign, a 500 page book talking about the fact that this whistleblower was a wife beater, an abusive husband, and a shoplifter, allegations which the Wall Street Journal later said was based on "scanty and contradictory evidence." This man was hunted, his children were targeted, his name was blackened, and why? Because he had tried to tell the truth....
I had never before realized people could be so evil, so malicious, so cruel...to deliberately pretend they knew nothing, to state that their former employee was a liar and an abusive man, to drag his private life into a public case...When asked whether he (the whistleblower) would do it again, he hesitated. Sometimes he thinks he would not, because the cost was so high, but there are other times when he feels that he was compelled and would again have been compelled to tell the truth.
There is a system, an actual system at work to discredit people, to make them into liars and fools, into criminals and people looking for revenge...there is a system to abolish truth in favor of falsehood.
When I saw this movie, I was so emotionally impacted by it that I could not speak when it was time to leave. I was amazed by the seemingly careless responses of my classmates, people who did not intend to be crass or rude but who stated that the movie "was interesting" or said that "it was so sad" but then promptly forgot about it and began speaking about more interesting things, such as gossip, fashion and homework assignments.
Sad? Sad does not describe it. These people, all people who stood up for the truth, were destroyed because of what they dared to say. Painted as heroes by the media, did we defend them? Did we protect them? Or did we forget them, and hence condemn them to the miserable, haunted lives that so many of them have led?
It is difficutl to stand up for the truth, to stand alone, a figure who will not be believed, a figure who will be persecuted and hated.
And so I bow to them.
Because I realize- on a much smaller scale- how difficult this is. And because I hope that during my life I have the courage and strength to be as truthful, as strong, and as unrepentant as they are. Because I hope never to give in, never to succumb, never to be pressured into a situation where I give up my ideals, my values, and my concept of myself...because of fear.
The only one I truly fear is God. There is no man who can hurt me- unless it is me, unless I betray myself.
My father comforted me. For these men- these men who were persecuted and hated- are the men who can sleep at night. The men who know they did the right thing. These others, these vile creatures who preach falsehood and destruction, cannot rest easy with themselves. For they know- in their heart of hearts, they know. And it cannot be a pleasant knowledge.
There are so many of us who have suffered at the hands of the Orthodox Jewish educational system. And while this is small in comparison to the types of scandals and truths that the men on this video revealed, we too must do our part. We know what has happened, what has been permitted to happen. And we must, must speak. Without fear of man and his ability to take revenge. Without fear of anyone but God.
God is my judge, and He knows what I speak is true.
We must accuse. And we must tell the truth, piece by piece, slowly and carefully. Each person must speak, for one individual may take a stand, but ultimately he will fall- fall prey to the campaign against him, the "dirt" that others have dug up on him. What you have seen and what you know.
Because if we speak- if I speak- then those who are to come will not suffer the way I did, the way you did. We will have prevented a great and terrible tragedy- a tragedy that grows ever closer.
It is difficult to be a whistleblower. It is difficult to tell the truth.
I hope that I may be as worthy as these men and women were. I hope that I withstand temptation so that I too may speak. I hope that I will not fall prey to cowardice.
I bow to them. Because it is in these people- in those that speak truth, and have been ruined because of it- that we see God.