Good people who see bad things and say nothing are as bad as the bad people doing them. We need people to stand up and say ‘The emperor is wearing no clothes’, writes Ruta Mave.
Quicksand is sand that behaves like liquid because it
is saturated with water but it is basically impossible to die in the way
depicted in the movies. Stepping onto quicksand it looks solid but when you
stand on it, it turns to liquid beneath you and you sink, mostly only ever up
to your waist. You can’t be in ‘up to your neck’ in it but it is very hard to
get out once you have been sucked in.
How to dig yourself out of quicksand – wriggling your
legs around creates a space through which water can flow down to loosen the
sand but it must be done slowly, if you struggle it makes it worse. You need to
stay calm and lie back. The human body is the same density of water approximately
1kg/litre. Quicksand is denser 2kg/ litre. If you remain calm and slowly work
your way around you will be able to get out.
If you stay still and do nothing the water will drain
from the sand downwards and slowly compact around you becoming as thick and
immovable as concrete leaving you vulnerable to the elements.
Work life can be like walking into quicksand. Good
people arrive into our ministries, government departments and private sectors
thinking they are on solid ground then they take a step and find all the solid
ground they thought they were on when they arrived, turns to liquid and they
start to sink.
We have been losing good guys from top positions in
finance and law early before the end of their contract for “family reasons”,
when it was for family reasons they arrived. A nice job on a tropical island where
the family could chill out and relax a little while they work to help build a
In their defense it is their struggling to bring their
departments into trustworthy status that quickens their fall. It is a lonely
and suffocating position to be in but if only they would stay long enough so
another good person can come along and together you can loosen the compacting
sand to rise above it.
The trick is to remain calm, slowly move, watch and
learn, study and observe, take notes, emails and record directives then save
them in a file. Only then can you have some leverage to get you out of the
quagmire. If you sit too long doing absolutely nothing you will be locked in
and risk dehydration – thirsty for knowledge or basic protocols; hypothermia – icy
treatment cold stares and sunstroke too hot to handle.
Remember you are not as dense as the quick-sanders
around you. Knowing this, you can eventually make changes that float to the
top. It’s Rachel Hunter’s ‘It won’t happen overnight - but it will happen’.
We can’t let them win; we are better than this. We need
to fight mediocrity and strive for greatness, not settle for turning up.
Participation awards don’t hurt your childhood feelings but it doesn’t prepare
you for the working world. You should get paid more when you do a good job not
just do the bare minimum. Good people who see bad things and say nothing are as
bad as the bad people doing them.
We need people to stand up and say ‘The emperor is
wearing no clothes’, don’t accept blindness at work or school, say something.
Be brave, break the cycle of ‘who cares not my problem’. It is your problem, it
is all our problem and we have left it so long – bad habits are concreted into
the work place as the acceptable rule of thumb.
When I spoke up about corruption in sport, they
threatened to never choose my daughter again to represent our country despite
being the fastest and winning medals. I sacrificed her to save other children
from missing out on sports funding. Truth prevailed the treasurer pleaded
guilty to theft and was convicted. Unfortunately, we live in quicksand and they
are back working in sports.
It is my third anniversary of writing this column and
if I am to judge its success in speaking up for those who can’t or won’t for
fear of retribution, then from the regular feedback I get face to face, I feel
I am doing my job.
Not that I get paid to do this, and not that I got
this opportunity because I was related or friendly with the editor at the time.
In fact, we were in a regular battle of wills. Wearing his editor’s hat, he
thought even if he didn’t agree with what I said, he felt there was a place and
need for it to be spoken.
So here I am more than 100 printed columns fighting
the good fight, fighting for what is right, writing to make things right.
Sally Wyatt on 28/11/2022
You're doing a great job Ruta, I always enjoy reading your columns and I often find myself nodding in agreement to your observations.
As for "family reasons", well, never believe what you read.