Saturday, November 15, 2014

U Md "Psychologist of Morality" C.Fred Alford: re Whistling girls and crowing hens

Whistling girls and crowing hens
Always come to some bad ends.

Dr. J.Fred Alford is a political scientist who describes himself as a "moral psychologist." He is a professor of political philosophy at the University of Maryland. 

Review 1 with quotes from Alford's book, Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power
"To be a whistleblower," writes C. Fred Alford, "is to step outside the Great Chain of Being, to join not just another religion, but another world. Sometimes this other world is called the margins of society, but to the whistleblower it feels like outer space."
Alford paints a picture of the way organizations behave when confronted by an outspoken member who has observed organizational misconduct—and the rationalizations of its members who remain silent. The picture he paints is sobering, even troubling.

Alford is sceptical of the heroic accounts in which the courageous employee brings a corrupt organisation to account, benefiting society and receiving society’s gratitude. Instead, he has a much darker, more pessimistic message. Nearly all whistleblowers are destroyed. They lose their jobs, their careers, their houses, their friends, their families. But that is not the worst part. Most catastrophically, whistleblowers lose their trust in people and justice. 
For whistleblowers, the book has passages that will be illuminating but also agonising. In telling their stories, over and over, whistleblowers typically go through a sequence of events. This, Alford thinks, serves as a substitute for telling a story that has an ending and a real meaning. The problem is that whistleblowers don’t want to recognise the underlying truth, which is that there is no justice in the world and that organisations operate on the basis of power, not morality. If they recognise this truth, then their own actions become pointless. What is the use of behaving morally in a world without justice? Even when whistleblowers are later vindicated, it doesn’t really help. As Alford asks, "What is the satisfaction in being right if as a consequence one has to give up everything one believed in?" (p. 51).
When whistleblowers lose their trust in people and organisations, they enter a new sphere of meaning, or perhaps lack of meaning. "For some, the earth moves when they discover that people in authority routinely lie and that those who work for them routinely cover up. Once one knows this, or rather once one feels this knowledge in one’s bones, one lives in a new world. Some people remain aliens in the new world forever. Maybe they like it that way. Maybe they don’t have a choice." (p. 52).
Alford says that "The whistleblower is a political actor in a nonpolitical world." (p. 97). By this he means that the whistleblower acts on the basis of values within an organisation where values have no role. Within the organisation, the main rule is to do what the boss wants. Anyone who imports values into the organisation from the outside, such as public safety, fairness or honesty, is a threat to the line of command and must be expelled.
Because of the unremitting hostility of bosses to whistleblowers, laws do little to help, since ways are easily found of getting around them. In th US, there are hundreds of laws protecting whistleblowers, but they are little help. "At a conference on the legal protection of whistleblowers, every lawyer who spoke agreed that the laws do not work very well and that new laws rarely help." (p. 108). Organisations have much more money and much more time: $100,000 and ten years to run a case is commonplace. Alford says that the law makes the "autonomous ethical individual" expendable (p. 113).