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Wakefield and Effective Whistle-Blowing

I have to believe there is room in this world to both make the world a better place, and to earn a decent living, at the same time (check out The Natural Step for a source of hope). None of us need be losers, especially those of us with the capacity to think outside the box. There also has to be room for us people to make mistakes and learn better, one way or another, as all of us have done at different times.

Andrew Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield

It isn’t always fun to have to engage with people who are a lot farther behind on that “learning better” process, or with people who have gotten stuck and stopped their growing process almost entirely. But I have been tremendously grateful (if not always at the time, when embarrassment can be foremost) for the people who have stopped to tell me, in clear and direct language, where I could do better, and how. The ones who’ve learned to do it the most kindly and directly, and the least judgmentally are the ones with whom it is most easy to laugh at myself in my own learning process, let go of my own self-judgments and defensiveness, and identify how to move forward.

It is a skill that can be learned, I’ve found, and highly worth the effort, to be able to step into that direct and non-judgmental place, both when I’m needing to learn better, and when I’m wishing to support someone else in learning better. There are books, and there are courses, and there are places to practice, and always, there are our family and friends, the people with whom we most want to be both loved for who we are, and at the same time, supported for who we can become.

Plain speaking has been used as an excuse for much unkindness, some downright rudeness, and far, far too much judgmentalism. Politeness has been used as an excuse to step aside, to not step into our responsibility towards each other in supporting each other in reaching for and striving for better. It all seems to come down to a very few questions.

  1. Are you aware that you are causing harm, and to whom?
  2. Is it really your intention to cause this harm, in striving for what you most want?
  3. Are there ways to get what you most want without causing this harm?
  4. What process is necessary to change to an action that helps everyone, with nothing harmed?
  5. Are reparations needed, for the harm that was done previously?

Corporate and bureaucratic structure seem in some ways to not only allow, but encourage the shame-blame game, where people will do anything to point the finger at anyone but themselves. As long as one doesn’t get caught, cheating is how to get ahead, making sure that rewards skirt those most deserving and cluster around those willing to harm, steal, lie, and manipulate. I can’t tell you how many white collar workers I’ve known who have outfitted their home offices and friends with paper and other office supplies from work, with the justification that “everyone else is, why shouldn’t I get the rewards, too?” It’s a bit like a grade-schooler saying, “all the other kids get to stay up past midnight”; whether it’s true or not has nothing to do with whether it is ethical, healthful, or caring.

The shame is that those most suited to make ethical decisions are often those least likely to want to participate in this game, and those most willing to step aside and allow unethical acquisition of power and resources, because to name this game is to risk the mud being flung at yourself and those you care about. Whistle-blowers are not kindly treated, and often lose the access to information and resources which allow them to blow the whistle effectively. Even in this circumstance, some refuse to be silenced, refuse to engage in the reciprocal mudslinging, and hold their course of serving the greater good.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest video by Dr. Wakefield regarding the measles outbreak in Britain, but he is a master at direct and incisive questions about nothing less than the public good, which is an inarguable benefit. I sincerely hope that more of us are able to step forward as he has, with thoughtful words and careful questions, to help all of us ‘learn better’.

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