An Australian nurse, [[Toni Hoffman]], received the 2006 Australian of the Year Local Hero Award. Her deed? Informing a local politician of unheeded concerns voiced about an otherwise respected surgeon. Inquiries followed regarding unnecessary surgeries and other practice issues, but by the time someone listened, a number of deaths could be attributed to not investigating from the start.
But negligence or malpractice wasn’t the high crime, nor the reason for her status as heroine. It was the persecution she endured by raising her voice, an attitude and abuse by which countless acts throughout the world every day go on without accountability or remediation.
I don’t use the word abuse here casually or metaphorically, but psychologically. She was told she was the problem. She was sent for “counselling” to deal with “her” issue. She was expected to blame herself, since anyone else being responsible was not acceptable. This is all too familiar to anyone who has been in an abusive job, relationship, even religion. Some experienced it in POW camps or other “re-education” facilities. It has even been dogmatized as a cornerstone of New Age thinking, where no one is allowed to be a “victim” and blame is never justified — even when to sane people it clearly is.
It’s an interesting thing when psychology and ethics interplay like this. And it’s a sad state of affairs when the accuser is summarily counselled as a perpetrator before any real investigation — that’s bad psychology AND ethics. Such backwards constructs of policy are created by people who have a social control mentality, where truth is determined by authority (sometimes unconsciously due to their own personality and experiences; sometimes intentional to the point of criminality). On another level, they are perhaps either protecting themselves from possible scrutiny, or are justifying decisions they made in the past to hide someone else’s transgressions.
What is more telling is that someone might be paying their karma forward by taking strong offense to whistle-blowers, assuming guilt of the accuser as a first, however irrational, response. Every crowd I’ve been in has one or more people like this, and it’s scary that whole groups can be preened into this mentality, such as some corporate cultures, dysfunctional families, and cults. In fact, the person who inspired this article was a [[cyberstalker]] on a newsgroup, an apologist for all things Machiavellian, including the Church of Scientology (he was a former member) and the many unethical practices of the offshoot cult discussed there. The very thought an accuser wasn’t the guilty party in any and all situations was anathema to him — an attitude indoctrinated heavily into adherents of such groups.
He was appalled by Toni Hoffman’s compassionate and courageous actions.
When subtly internalized, such groups can maintain tremendous control (or at least protect its leaders) with the appearance there is no authority or effort to control at all. One’s buying into it is simply crafted “loyalty” or “integrity” or some other euphamism. Every member then becomes a guardian against criticism on behalf of the leaders, making the leaders’ desire for secrecy, unaccountability, or sometimes even infallibility a personal identity used by the member — and the strong association between the leadership and membership though demanding a strong alignment of purpose creates the belief in the member that an attack on the leadership is an attack on the group, its idealogy and even themselves personally. And it’s all rationalized or even completely unconscious, depending on the person.
Fortunately, not everyone responds well to this indoctrination when in a group that does this. Some ignore it or have the fortitude to preach against it, risking being outcast and/or labeled all sorts of things. Sadly, a few inevitably become fanatics. Those in the middle either accept the belief without discretion but don’t take on the personality, or may do so without realizing it but not in the extreme.
Where do you fit in?