Fenner Brockway was a man prepared to meet the personal cost of speaking out to uphold personal principles and 2015 will mark 30 years since his death. In the UK, today, the appalling treatment of NHS whistleblowers is in the news. I know from personal experience that this is the tip of the iceberg, hiding the much wider scale of staff abuse within the so-called ‘care industry’.
From my own perspective, voicing concerns comes from a conscious willingness to hold to account those who make promises without ever having any honest intention of meeting them, combined with an innate, autistic naive belief that they really want to hear constructive criticism and make things right.
Management teams are often supported by systems designed to help them maintain the pretence that all is as it should be while the vulnerable they are charged with protecting are left bereft at the realisation that those they trusted will silence their concerns. It can take a while to make that discovery and for the most vulnerable, it may never happen.
So, if these management teams are so proud of their work, they will have no fear of staff approaching them with concerns about common practices and staff will have no fear of fulfilling their duty in reporting these concerns. Grievance procedures will be followed with integrity and monitored by an independent observer and local politics will play no part in proceedings.
The NHS would save a fortune through not having to deal with the stress plaguing a nation paying for the mistakes of the management now and in the recent – and not so recent – past. These are the same people putting in the leg-work to get us all through the mire left for us by the experts and self-professed professionals. We’ve seen flashes of revolt over the last few years but these are largely quelled using smokescreens and keeping quiet the detractors.
Now the Scottish Government is seeking to jump onto the most current bandwagon of decrying austerity programmes, having ditched plans to emulate Iceland or build our future based on oil revenues, it will be interesting to observe whether they can actually lead with original ideas and sincerity in promoting real people power. It will be even more interesting to see the volume of individuals willing to depart the silent majority to create a vocal majority instead of complaining into their tea cups and being thankful of colleagues who raise widely held concerns. Will these people make a stand or just remain content for someone else to take the fall in the echo of their background noises of support?
Probably the latter. But let’s remain thankful for the few who do stand up and speak out. It’s not about personal glory or having a statue erected in your honour and being rediscovered years later as an interesting story. It’s about being able to live, and live with yourself now. It’s about putting what you know to a useful end for the general good.
The peace of a ‘quiet life’ can only be achieved by doing so, even with the outward antagonism and dispute of quite reasonable differences in viewpoint, otherwise you know you’re condemned to living the lies that make you despise other people. That does not bring any quietness in life, just eternal inward justification and self deceit, and the situation goes on while you wither and die.
Fenner Brockway had controversial views during incendiary times but to be fulfilled as a man and as a human, he raised his concerns and aired his views and faced the consequences. Ironic that a humanist should achieve inner peace and metaphoric immortality when you look around the world at the awful things people are doing for much the same end. Be it suicide bombers seeking misguided martyrdom or those we allow to remain in power mucking up our society and our lives with misguided justifications of interpretations of right and wrong. There’s no requirement for right and wrong to be interpreted. It’s just there and when you meet it next, you’ll have the choice of which to go with. It’s your true self or the crowd.