When I was growing up there was one thing you did not do: tell tales.
I suspect the reasoning behind it was that adults didn’t want to become embroiled in children’s squabbles.
Times have changed – and brought a greater realization of the harm done by putting secrecy (and often loyalty) above addressing wrongdoing. The recent coming to light of sex-abuse cases, going back decades, has made this explicit.
So common is the term ‘whistleblower’ today that it’s easy to forget its relative newness. It only became a household term in the 1970s, popularized by US activist Ralph Nader. Whistleblowing tends to come in waves – and it’s fair to say we are witnessing a tidal one right now. Necessary it most certainly is, as revelations show the extent to which we – the public – are being infantilized by the states that rule us and their so-called security apparatus.
All is not lost, though, as the courage of whistleblowers testifies. One of the contributors to this month’s Big Story, David Morgan, drew my attention to this poem by Emily Dickinson: We never know how high we are/Till we are asked to rise/And then if we are true to plan/Our statures touch the skies.
As usual, she says it best, with fewest words.
Also in this month’s issue, Tim Gee travels to Yasuní in Ecuador to see how local people and environmentalists are still determined to resist oil interests intent on drilling into the heart of one of the world’s most ecologically valuable troves of natural biodiversity.
And finally, Louise Gray catches up with Angélique Kidjo, the dynamic and fearless musician from Benin who makes archbishops dance and speaks truth to tyrants.
Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative.