Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Prophets and Whistleblowers

Megan McArdle has an interesting analysis about whistleblowers. She notes that whistleblowers are unusual:
Whistleblowers are almost definitionally not normal people.  When the spotlight shines on their lives, the glare makes every irregularity evident.   What whistleblowers do is usually moral.  A free society depends on people who are willing to go public when they see wrongdoing.

But there are good reasons that whistleblowing behavior is actually pretty rare. 
She argues that whistleblowers are wierd:
They have to be in order to be willing to violate the trust of their group in order to protect a principle.  . . . They come off as rigid, idealistic, a bit self-righteous, and more than a little naive.  Those are not characteristics that make you fit in. 
In many ways her description of whistleblowers is similar to descriptions of Old Testament (and other) prophets. They have to go against the grain of the group in order to protect a principle. Others depict them as rigid, idealistic, self-righteous, naive. They were ostracized (think Jeremiah and Elijah) and killed (think John the Baptist).

Prophets have to be willing to be unpopular in order to point out that different actions, often taken by those in power but sometimes standard practices of the community, are wrong or evil. As a result, they cannot afford to worry about whether others like them.
After all, if he cared about people liking him as much as the rest of us do, he probably wouldn't have been able to do with [sic: what] he did.
As Jesus put it:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12)
For Christians it can, at times, seem like persecution is hardly a blessing. But Jesus also noted:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:18–19)
Whistleblowers, prophets, and Christians have to risk being hated.