THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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Whistle Blowing? Just Make Sure You Don’t Blow Yourself Up!

Posted by intellisg on July 18, 2007

whistle.jpgHe saw it, he wished he didn’t, but he did (what to do?) and when you see something like that, it’s like walking through a door you didn’t know was there, a line gets rubbed out, there’s no going back now (cannot gostan! Sorry) – Besides if he doesn’t get it out of his system, he’s going to explode, he’s already got the shakes and a nervous tic is developing on his left bum cheek and its spreading to the other side even his eczema is playing up these days, so he’s like a little Krakatoa, he’s hot and smoking! Ready to spew out the mother of all truths! (cannot tahan anymore). He knows there’s no going back – yesterday, he passed the point of no return – that mythical line that simply says, from this point onwards its from here to eternity, even if it means risking reprisals from his bosses, suffering great setbacks in his career, but he’s ready to run the full length of the gauntlet – it will all be worth it, he tells himself –the moment of truth! When he peels open the whole can of worms, then they will really listen! Then they will know the error of their ways! Someone has to do it! And the great finger of providence is pointing straight at him – he’s the man of the hour…. Who is he?

The whistle blower!

There in a nutshell lies the psychology of the whistle blower – it raises the question: when is an unauthorized disclosure justifiable and when is it, unjustifiable? Some will have you believe, the onus of justification pales in comparison to having the courage to step up to the plate, that they contend is sufficient – the ideal to ‘right’ a ‘wrong.’ What a misguided lot, they should be strapped to a time machine headed off to circa Maoist China or the Salem witch trials, where I am sure after being fingered and ceremoniously paraded, tarred and feathered based on the hearsay of your nosey parker neighbor, they would probably have a change of mind rapido style.

Blowing the whistle should never be a capricious business under any circumstances; reputations are at stake along with a thousand other considerations which are worth preserving. Thus, nothing less than an iron clad justification is required before blowing the whistle and anything less just doesn’t cut any ice with me – the stakes are too high.

It also throws out the question; when someone blows the whistle – what does it impose on all of us who are witnessing the event unfold? Is the onus on us to peruse the case to establish the facts to determine whether it’s justifiable? Or do we just jump on the bandwagon without doing our due diligence? Granted, this is tough given that even if all the facts are splayed out for all, perceptions and interpretations will still differ and what really constitutes ‘justifiable’ is hardly based on any measure of objective – your definition of ‘justifiable’ may simply not accord with mine and vice- versa.

What do we do? How would we make sense of the world?

There lies the hall of mirrors for those who hear the crie de couer of the whistle blower – but before we dwell deeper into the moral and ethical locus, let’s just spend sometime exploring where he’s coming from? – the whistle blower. Is he appealing to our sense of justice? Our sensibilities of how the world should be? I really don’t have a clue to be honest, but I do know he’s hardly even appealing to our rationality as much as our collective fuzzy understanding of justice and “fairville.” Thrown in and spun a few times like a twist of lemon zest, is probably some homily sugary clap trap about honor, integrity, the loss of innocence and of course the de rigueur tag line,

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life thinking maybe I should have – my conscience is clear.’’

To add to the mystique of martyrdom most whistle blowers usually find themselves in the proverbial no-win David / Goliath situations – its one that almost guarantees a cachet of supporters from the onset for all the wrong reasons and does even less to lend a morsel of justification to the whole ethical debate.

Whether we choose to admit it openly or hide it from the world – whistle blowing remains the stuff of bed time stories and wet blankets, it’s a compelling narrative that appeals to all of us. What we fail to understand too often is the act of whistle blowing leverages on our existing beliefs and prejudices about the world – you know what I mean don’t you? The sum of all our gripes, like – we all aspire to work in an environment in which legal and ethical behavior is the norm? Haven’t we all seen those small cases of injustice meted out by the Brahmins of power only to end up making teeth sucking sounds while we just die a bit? Haven’t we all plunged another metaphoric needle into our voodoo dolls with words, ‘die, I hope you die!” (I know for a fact, some of my readers regularly do that – that could be why, I regularly suffer from mysterious aches and pains.)

Is it such a wonder when someone just comes along and opens that can of worms, we just feel, he’s verbalizing all our pent up frustrations. Some would even contend whistle-blowers remain the last bulwark of democracy, they’re like early warning radars, there to prevent avoidable tragedies, according to this erudite lot. Where would we be without them? God forbid, it would be like losing a limb! Doing away with our insurance policies, a major source of protection from bureaucratic indifference and excesses so all too often, they, the whistle blower must simply rise above the occasion where they’re feted as heroes – but hold on a second, let’s just freeze the frame on this Joan of Arc narrative and ask a few jugular questions.

For instance, has anyone really bothered to sieve through the evidence? No. Has anyone weighted the burden of proof against the allegations? Nope. Has anyone calculated the cost of it all – after all, accusations (real or imagined) produce injury, let’s not kid ourselves. Nope. Has anyone even considered how many careers hang in the balance because the whistle was blown? Or who will be posted to Russian front? What about cataloging the disruption to collegial relationships and other informal relations and networks not too mention the social cost measured in terms of public perception? No. OK so you telling me, you don’t even have two columns in you’re A4 sheet of paper where you would usually have plus and minus. In fact, you don’t **** all, do you? Not even the slightest notion of a fractional truth, let alone the uncontestable truth!

Interesting!

While it’s a palpable truth whistle blowing remains morally justifiable when the wrong exposed is very serious. To elide wholesale the above precautionary steps along with whole idea of extending ‘natural justice’ to the aggrieved party relegates the whole justification of whistle blowing as a means of righting wrongs into unmitigated diatribe. And to believe it for one moment, it can substitute for rigorous examination of the truth is pure horse shit.

Why should the burden of proof for whistle blowers be lesser to lets say – what we would usually expect and even demand in either a civil or criminal proceeding? There lies the broken shards of a very slippery road – you can’t answer that question can you?

What needs to be appreciated is whistle blowing is a form of disclosure where someone steps outside of approved organizational channels to reveal a significant moral problem – that also means the entire arena of adjudication has shifted from the private to the public domain – it raises a plethora of moral and ethical question: has anyone scrutinized the motives of the whistle blower? How sure are we it isn’t motivated by other than just righting a wrong or improving the system? Are there any personal trade off’s to be gained from blowing the whistle? Is there a conflict of interest between the whistle blower and a third party? Has the contention being sufficiently screened for malice aforethought, or is there a need for attention, revenge or is the person blowing the whistle simply a nut case? Is the whistleblower’s cause seen as legitimate and significant by trustworthy colleagues and friends? Is the whistleblower aware of the potential consequences of blowing the whistle and still willing to accept responsibility for actions taken?

You didn’t consider that did you?

Although the recent passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 suggest whistle blowing fulfils a beneficial purpose to people and planet, what needs to be appreciated is it falls short of endorsing the dawn of a new age for those who may feel justifiable for whistle blowing, if anything, employees with complaints should heed caution. According to survey results, the vast majority of whistle-blower complaints remain “unfounded” and “baseless” and only in 15% of cases are the allegations substantiated (Source; US Government Accountability Project (GAP) Survey 2006).

I especially like this set of numbers, because it puts everything into perspective. Fact: a vast majority of whistle blowing is baseless! Fact: most of them aren’t driven by altruistic goals, rather they are motivated by personal reasons!

There you have it – the broken dreams of whistle blowing, hardly the great hope its so often painted out to be by the media and spin doctors, more like the great nothing.

Above all these statistics highlight the hit and miss nature of whistle blowing as a credible means of either signaling malpractice or wrong doing’s. It suggest whistle blowing is still at best a blunt and crude instrument which brings into forefront the need to first “work through the existing processes and systems.”- potential whistleblowers would do well to give serious thought to the consequences of the disclosure before deciding to blow the whistle. I am not saying, you shouldn’t blow the whistle, if you have uncontestable proof on your side – if have proof that your pastor is driving around in a sport car he bought by dipping into the donation box by all means blow away. If your CEO demands you to shred documents which you know would shed light into malpractice, blow away and bring down the house. Only if you decide to do it, just be prepared to stand up to the plate and slug it out all the way, that’s not too much to ask especially when livelihoods, careers and reputations are at stake.

If whistle blowers don’t even see the need to abide by these minimum standards of accountability they can hardly blame others for subscribing to the belief their disclosure was unjustified, baseless and perhaps even driven by a twisted personal crusade. And we all know what happens after that, don’t we? It just blows up and instead of sounding off clean and sweet the way a whistle should.

Darkness 2007

(This has been brought to you by Aurora your friendly brotherhood controller – Darkness Whistle Blowing? Just Make Sure You Don’t Blow Yourself Up!- 2007 / Executive Summary 990394 – 2007 of Extended Piece (EP 990394 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)

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12 Responses to “Whistle Blowing? Just Make Sure You Don’t Blow Yourself Up!”

  1. OSF said

    I believe if you join [Censored], they will be more than willing to accomodate all of you. Infact, I have it under the best authority, they are willing to even make a special exception for all of you.

  2. Dr Janice Yew said

    Aurora,

    Can I please draw your attention to a very disturbing usage of language, I am very certain you were not responsible and I have every reason to believe this is another deliberate act by Bambi Bay boy Darkness. Pls refer –

    “In fact, you don’t f*ck all, do you? Not even the slightest notion of a fractional truth, let alone the uncontestable truth!”

    What is clear to me is, its pointless to engage darkness constructively. There was a time when I harbored great expectations, however he has betrayed our trust so many times and I just no longer have the energy to re-visit this issue. Aurora will you please do us all a favor and delete the offending reference. Really its so childish, besides it spoilts the whole write up. Cheers.

  3. sphgirl said

    Thought provoking, original and well researched. However, I have to agree with the doc – the gutter talk ruins it. Sorry.

  4. prima delli said

    Hi,

    The article is indeed very good. I like the way, it just levels off everything putting it all into the correct perspective. However the foul language is definitely a let down.

    I wonder why the administrators of the Intelligent Singaporean tolerate such nonsense. I would have imagined the case is pretty much settled as far as house rules are concerned. Yes, indeed very disappointing.

  5. cowboy said

    Personally, I am quite neutral abt whistle blowers. However, I agree they do voice up what the silent majority usually dont, maybe that is why they are often lauded as heroes. However, I agree it is important to keep it all in perspective.

    Very interesting article. Thanks and I would really like to see the extended piece as I am quite interested by what you refer too as natural justice.

    I dont mean to sound of as shallow but I googled it and came up with a whole lot of latin maxims, is it the same thing? Am I on the right track?

    I also like to know why this natural justice thingy seems to be repeated again and again. First in the chain of command article and now this?

    Have a nice day.

  6. shoestring said

    I’d rather read an authentic piece that conveys the writer’s underlying sentiment, unpleasant or uncultured it may be, than a censored one. Otherwise, I’d pick up a copy of the Straits Times instead.

    Good one. I am glad they are back.

  7. scb said

    The Last Para is kind of queer, whistle blowers invariably are answerable for the ‘sharp piercing’ noises they made, don’t they? And of course some were ordered to court and punished.

  8. hmmm….

    “who let the dogs out?”

  9. Aurora said

    Good afternoon girls,

    “Aurora will you please do us all a favor and delete the offending reference.”

    I really don’t have an issue with removing it, if it is alright with inspir3d. I don’t even think it’s necessary to take the matter up with darkness – if all of you feel so strongly abt it I am sure he will understand.

    Besides I have control of the com, so I am sure, he will trust my best judgment on this matter.

    Happy Reading

    Your friendly brotherhood controller

    Aurora

  10. darkness said

    Ladies,

    Let me share with you la Caminata. I know, it’s often referred too as the Spanish sultry cat walk and it probably has a bad rep in the streets, but always remember its pedigree- Tango. Don’t expect to glide right away, it never happens that way. It all begins with mastering la Caminata. Begin by embracing your partner and locking your eyes squarely with him, no need to be a coy about that’s not the way of la Caminata, leave a space between, remember the wisdom of the lute, string it too tight and it will go twang and snap, too loose and it just wouldn’t play, the tension needs to be just…..waccamacalit……ah, yes! La Caminata. And when you feel the first touch of music let it fill you first, never rush that’s not the way of la Caminata. Don’t be taken by your partner either, if he knows how to la Caminata, he knows the Tango is all about the woman, men feature only as a side piece, so remember, you’re always the piece de resistance – the prima donna, so you need to act like one and step into your “own” in la Caminata spirit, you don’t need to expect or even demand from your partner, that’s hardly Caminata. Rather feel and you are – think and you will be – and move and he must – that’s la Caminata, the art where you’re everything and he’s nothing and after that even the hardest things become easy.

  11. carmen c said

    lol.I must say, he’s very smooth, those internationale dilettante sorts usually are, unabashed, confident and unassuming even when he steps on our toes, la caminata? Really, I dont think so, certainly looks majestic, like a swan proceeding supremely along with hardly a care – only we all know it so well don’t we? He’s furiously back pedalling away from a volley of bird shot. LOL

    I shan’t give chase *yawn*

  12. lady of lake said

    Darkness boy,

    Why so serious these day, with talk of war….come and dance with us la.

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