“It is much worse than we thought!”Those are the words of Canadian Dick Pound, a member of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), while discussing the most recent report on state-sponsored doping abuses, focusing primarily on Russia. Of course, there are other countries who either cover-up or blatantly participate in athletic doping for the sole purpose of winning.
“The end justifies the means” is not merely a tired aphorism. It has been baked into the culture, and we all have our share of responsibility for the mess we are left with. Diplomacy, the preferred “talking” resolution to state-to-state conflicts, is only as feasible as the integrity and the willingness to disclose of the participants. Making available to the public disappointing information, especially when we are compiling mountains of data, is not longer just a requirement for governance; it is a mandate for all relationships. The unleashing of government scientists in Canada, following the election on October 19 in Canada, is only one of the more prominent and most recent examples of state disclosure. The release of 800 million tonnes of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River, by the city of Montreal, is the tip of a mostly secret history of neglect of public infrastructure by politicians seeking re-election and denying tax hikes, as their “end” justifying the means of refusing public disclosure.Who defines the appropriate “end” in any situation? Unfortunately, those with the information are best equipped to define or shape a public issue, in terms to their own “aggrandizement”. And the acquisition and full critical apprehension of information is a skill so integral and so monumentally important that its ownership and dissemination are essential to all healthy relationships, including the effective and healthy functioning of families, schools, organizations and corporations, as well as governments.
What does it mean that a nation’s athletes are compromised by the authorities governing their athletic ventures, for the aggrandizement of the careers of those in charge? It means that those athletes have become slaves (‘means’) to their masters’ career aspirations and goals(‘ends’).....and as Kant so eloquently and succinctly reminds us, from an ethical perspective, no one is to be the means to another’s ends.Agency, the exercise of real power, is at the core of many of our human interactions. And, all power is directed to achieving specific “ends”...partly determined and defined by the nature of the situation, including the resources available to address the situation, as perceived by those with the relevant levers of power. The most efficient exercise of power, as history demonstrates, is that of a tyrant, or a very small cadre of (historically) men, who consider themselves the ones best able to define and to execute whatever action they deem necessary to achieve their desired “end”. As part of their exercise of that agency and power, usually, is the design and execution of the dissemination of information, thereby disclosing the full degree of integrity and validity of that specific group. It is not that full disclosure always assures us of the ethical deployment of power; it is however, one of the guardians against abuse that full disclosure is significant.
In families, those who seek the truth, even if and when that truth is highly unpalatable, often incur the wrath of their parents and siblings. The more unpleasant the truth, the greater the likelihood that those involved with its perpetuation will seek to block the light from shining into the dark corners of whatever it is they seek to hide. It is not that people everywhere do not know if and when they are doing something the world would find “unacceptable”. It is more a question of the more refined calculation of whether or not the world will find out, that operates as the critical point of both the action itself, and its disclosure. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago invests considerable energy in his revenge tactics, believing he will never be discovered. It is only his wife who tells the world of his deception and the extent of his revenge, much too late.Although we all know “the truth will out”, we sometimes find ourselves in places we believe that are so difficult and painful that only through “extreme” measures (read unethical for extreme in many cases) can we tolerate the pain. Our dive into “extreme measures” can also be with or without our conscious acquiescence. In some situations, the pressure we experience to “succeed” is so profound that “success” as our end requires us to compromise on the means of its achievement. Is that the case with the Russian athletic agencies? Quite possibly. Some are ever referencing the former Soviet Union and its most base methods of control, to put the current situation into perspective.
Parents, teachers, and all professionals, including those two policemen who shot and killed a six-year-old autistic boy this week, allegedly because of a long-standing feud with his father, (still recovering from his own gunshot wounds) have to be made aware of the boundaries between their personal agendas and the requirements of their public responsibilities. And that specific exercise, to learn the deepest fears and motivations, including those that are less likely to garner public appreciation and support, like personal greed, and personal acquisition of power, and personal climbing up the career/success/status/power ladder....and only after discerning the degree to which such ambitions control us, without our conscious awareness, thereby making them fully disclosed to our conscious minds, can we exercise power/agency on behalf of others.And that piece of curriculum is too often absent from the curricula of too many schools, universities, colleges and workplace trainings.
And how many of the refusals, denials avoidances of disclosure, and of incidents for which individuals are held accountable (some criminal, some poor judgement, some the alleged abuse of power, some simply stupidity, and some vindictive) arise from the errors in judgement, values and overt abuse of institutions? Too many!
And yet, it is the individuals who have ‘crossed the line’ who have to pay, rarely the institutions or corporations or organizations. The Volkswagen debacle over software that permits diesel cars to pass emissions tests, although they are emitting toxic gases far above the permitted limit, plus the Tanaka airbag tragedies, are two examples so large and so penetrating in their impact are two examples of corporations having to pay.Recently CBC Marketplace presented a tale of cover-up of food including red meats that have passed their “best before date” and are still lying on shelves waiting for buyers, after they have been doctored to make them look “fresh”...
Once again, it was whistle-blowers who came forward to tell their ‘inside’ story.Increasingly, there is evidence, however, that reporters, while they ask thousands of questions in their obsession with making news, getting a headline and thereby achieving their real objective, a promotion and pay raise, are rarely digging behind the gloss offered by public servants, to find just how bad things really are. Of course, investigative reporters do their required digging; yet, what is the real proportion of investigative reporters to headline makers? Headlines generate ratings and thereby advertising revenue while investigative reporting often exposes corporate “friends” of the news outlet.
Of course, as expected Putin and the head of the Russian Sports federation have denounced the WADA report, claiming that it oversteps its mandate, recommending banning Russian athletes from participation in competition, and removing the credentials from the Moscow laboratory that allegedly destroyed thousands of specimens that would have proven Russian athletes used doping techniques. The Russian counter is that WADA can punish only individuals, and not a specific state, thereby obviously attempting to preserve the immunity and the impunity of the State.
It is long past time when we need to start to hold corporations, states and organizations responsible for their complicity in many of the mid-deeds of individuals who, if treated with the respect and dignity they are due, would never have committed those misdeeds in the first place. And that includes most of the athletes who used doping techniques under pressure from their “state” masters. Stopping the doping, in the Russian case, has to include the deposition of those at the head of the Russian athletic federation. And that theme is relevant and appropriate to many other misdemeanors, for which the conditions created by the institutions have never been held accountable, nor have their executives