Friday, May 11, 2012

"Suckers"

So you want to know why people don't trust authority anymore? Why the promises of leaders have no essential meaning?
  • Because authorities routinely make promises and lie.
  • Or mess up and blame someone else.
  • Or know about a victim's plight, but cover up for the victimizer instead.
In pre-Internet times such things were relatively easy to cover up. After all - how would somebody know about something unless they saw it, read it in a newspaper somebody else printed, heard it on a radio or TV station somebody else owned, or had it told to them directly from a witness?

Now the curtain is open - flung open - and all of us can see backstage. Victims are using the social media microphone to speak out. And they are finding solace, camaraderie, encouragement and advocates online.

And they refuse to be "suckers" anymore.

Consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The deepest yearning a person has, is to be moral.
This is especially true of children, who absorb what grownups tell them like a sponge.

Unfortunately too many children have been exploited from the youngest age. And consequently they have learned to mistrust just about everyone.

For example, religious teachers, who are in a position to take a child to the highest spiritual heights, sometimes are spiritually sick abusers. Who specifically work with children so as to target their innocent, yearning souls.

Who abuse children and then tell them they deserve the punishment.

These people are not the norm. But they exist. And unfortunately, they use their status to get respectable people to cover for them. So the child comes to hate themselves while trying to preserve the belief that their superiors (parents, teachers, religious leaders) are good and right.

Because how can everybody else be wrong?

Meanwhile the innocent souls are literally tossed out like so much trash:
"When Yoelly (pseudonym) started eighth grade, his new teacher seemed to take an immediate dislike to him, striking him almost every morning....Six months into the year, his teacher...raped the little boy (emphasis added).


"A few months later, he found the courage to tell his father what had happened. His father slapped him and told him never to mention such immodest things again."


"'That day was the worst day of my life,'" Yoelly says. 'I realized that I was all alone. There was nobody to keep me safe.'


"The teacher who raped Yoelly still teaches at that school. 


"As an adult...Yoelly sought a private audience with the grand Rebbe, or leader, of his Hasidic sect, to discuss the issue....the Rebbe said...'Get him out of here.'"


- Leah Vincent, "Victims Protest: Rabbis, Protect Our Children"
Let's count the number of betrayers here: 1) Teacher 2) Father 3) Grand Rabbi.

The story above is only one of many. It is thanks to the Internet that I know about it. The same Internet that the ultra-Orthodox rabbis want to shut down ("responsibly regulate???"), to the extent that they are willing to spend millions of dollars to protest it at Citifield in New York this May.

The (men-only) stadium event is an attempt to institutionalize censorship, as it's apparently been slow going thus far. Reports the Wall Street Journal:
"Earlier attempts by Orthodox religious leaders to ban the Internet in congregants' households have largely failed....But efforts to restrict it continue, including contracts at some religious schools requiring parents to promise that their children won't be allowed Internet access, under threat of expulsion."
One wonders why, if the rabbis are so worried about people accessing pornography online, they don't stop the sexual crimes committed right inside the boiler rooms of their own yeshivas. Which has led a number of sane Jewish people to organize in response. WSJ continues:
"'The Internet Is Not the Problem'...accuses Jewish leadership of scapegoating the Internet while avoiding a more pressing problem: child abuse. 'You can spend all the time and money protesting the Internet and you can't get worked up about child molestation?' said Ari Mandel....(who) organized the counterprotest after learning last week that a young family member had been molested."
I can rattle off a list of Jewish blogs that routinely raise people's consciousness about what's going on. Failed Messiah. Frum Satire. Unpious. And books - Unorthodox. Hush.

And this is only in a tiny little corner of the world.

Back to the bigger picture. Where distrust of (and anger at) government and even the Supreme Court have reached historic highs.
 
The mistrust is a reflection of what is going on across the board - where people are fed up with the "ordinary" and "extraordinary" betrayals of authority that take place every day at work, in the hospital, in the military, in the press, in the academy, in synagogue or church or mosque or Buddhist temple.

You would think that with all this mistrust, and with all this awareness of social media, that leaders would shift strategies accordingly. But no.

In today's day and age, one-way, self-promotional communication strategies are still the norm. In alignment with failure to take responsibility for things that are going wrong, and to fix them.

The unpunished rape of a child is such an unspeakably horrible crime that it's offensive even to compare it with the ordinary doublespeak of social institutions. I know that. But there is a common thread here that most organization's don't seem to get, fully and internally:

Communication has to actually reflect credible action on the ground.

It is offensive that:
  • Good people, from youth onward, who want to serve the institutions of which they are a part, get victimized so frequently by abusive people in power.
  • People who should be removed from power due to incompetence or corruption or both, are not. And that they squander the trust of the stakeholders who have invested in them.
It is not necessarily offensive, but it is surprising, that the vast majority of institutions and authorities today still take people for suckers. When they should know better.

The reality is - they are not. They're thinking, and reading. And they're sharing what they care about - instantly and virally.

Even the quietest person today has a smartphone in their pocket. And they're watching and listening to every word.

It's an impossibly high standard to keep, but you have to try anyway.  

That is the essence of successful communication today - an integrity in action that speaks far louder than words.

Have a good weekend everyone, and if you ever have the opportunity, please stand up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

Good luck.

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