Whenever one of my children came home and spoke of an incident they had endured that day in or outside school that went beyond casual or minor injustice or harassment, I instantly felt the need to do something about it. To expose the wrongdoing; to right the wrong. That is possibly due in part to my having spent five years in my twenties working in the legal profession, which often only righted wrongs for those who could afford to hire the services of the expensive knights in shining armour of the legal profession.
Even as a child I struggled to shrug off injustice as part of life’s many brickbats and as a result got into endless trouble. My children eventually stopped telling me stuff because they knew I would feel compelled to ‘do something about it’ and we all know how embarrassing that can be, for heaven’s sake.
So I am predisposed by nature as well as experience to support the notion of whistle-blowers. The culture of members of any profession covering for and assimilating the wrongdoings or incompetence of co-workers may seem appealing in principle – solidarity, ‘all for one and one for all’ and all that.
But in practice hospitals, police stations, pharmaceutical companies, public authorities and private companies alike all benefit ultimately if they are seen to listen to and act upon those uncomfortable revelations from within.
The demonising of those whose conscience compels them to bring into the light things that others would prefer to conceal serves only to confirm what many fear – that no-one really cares about anything much outside their own well-being and a quiet life.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” may not have been the exact words written by Edmund Burke as often quoted but they have never been more true than today in a world of adversarial politics and mega corporation world dominance.
Can it really be true that no-one suspected what Savile and Glitter were doing? Of course not, but no-one was prepared to risk their careers by exposing the repellent creatures for what they were.
I am not suggesting we all report our friends for speeding, illegal parking or minor infringements but when hospital patients, the vulnerable, children or old people are being maltreated or ill served, we should all speak up without hesitation.