What would you do?

Imagine you had an elder brother or sister in your family. (S)He is stronger than you, both physically, and trained in martial arts, and you have not. Recently (s)he started to behave weirdly. What would you do? When would you speak up?

You started to worry about your sibling for the first time, when you found your sister/brother reaching for your mother’s wallet, and taking out 200 Euros from her. Of course your mother eventually found out, and asked you whether you had taken money from her. You had told her that you didn’t do anything, but later overheard the same conversation between your sibling and your mother where your sister/brother told your mother, that (s)he suspected you of taking the money from you. This has been just the starting point of your worries, though.

What would you do? When would you speak up?

But that all just got your worries started. Quite recently your mother celebrated her 60th birthday, and had everybody invited over. Your sister/brother showed up, got into a fight with your uncle over him not offering his house for your sister’s/brother’s family, and left the birthday party early to “meet with friends” after having had a verbal conflict with almost any guest of your mother.

What would you do? When would you speak up?

Then your sister/brother got into a fight her/his significant other. You only heard parts of the verbal fight between them, but in general it appeared, that your sister/brother had a side-affair with someone else. Your brother-/sister-in-law was visibly furious, but your sister/brother denied all of it. Your in-law claimed (s)he had spoken to the side-affair in the supermarket, but from the overheard parts of the conversation, you couldn’t figure out what the problem was.

What would you do? When would you speak up?

Then lately, your sister/brother appeared to have a new group of friends, that clearly did not have the best influence on her/him. You noticed that by her/his statements at family celebrations. For example, over Christmas (s)he said that beating up your kids for educational purposes would be the right thing to do, and her/his rants about the new neighbors from a ethnic sub-group were devaluing the neighborhood and value of her/his estate.

What would you do? When would you speak up? When would you no longer invite your sister/brother to your birthday?

Then you heard this other thing. Your sister/brother is harassing co-workers to trade them their lunch boxes, or they wouldn’t get a raise. You happen to work for the same company, and you noticed that this left the atmosphere at work in a very weird state. Co-workers are talking about your sister/brother behind her/his back, and recently you even noticed co-workers shutting down their conversation even when you enter the room. Some co-worker you used to hang around with even had lots of excuses when you asked them whether they’d be open for some drinks in the bar later that night – and even few are actively avoiding any contact with you.

What would you do? When would you speak up? When would you no longer invite your sister/brother to your birthday?

And then quite recently there have been rumors about some weird stuff happening in your neighborhood. Some neighbor kids disappeared altogether and the worried parents hang flyers all around the neighborhood looking for their children. You could swear that you heard children’s cries and voices near your sister’s/brother’s home when you passed by it the last time, but you know (s)he does not have kids on her own. And then there was this one neighbor family where their child was finally found dead. The outcry of that family was heard for days, with neighbors sending thoughts, and prayers, and flowers. Just after the funeral ceremony, you saw a jacket with blood marks in one trashcan that just looked like the one your sister/brother used to wear in the past year. That picture just keeps on nagging on your mind, that (s)he might have something to do with all of this.

What would you do? When would you speak up? When would you no longer invite your sister/brother to your birthday?

Now, if you clicked on any of the links in the paragraphs, you may already have figured out that I’m not discussing a fictional family here, or a family at all. Usually I try to leave out political views on my personal blog, but decided lately to change that to start becoming more vocally about the things happening in the world around us.

This is a allegory about the things happening in the world that we get a slight insight through the news media. That said, your sister/brother in this allegory are the United States of America, and I urge to re-read the above text in this light whether you clicked on any link above or not, and review what is or might be happening, and answer the following questions:

What would you do? When would you speak up? When would you no longer invite your sister/brother to your birthday? When would you abandon your sister/brother completely?

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One thought on “What would you do?”

  1. Over the past couple of years as I’ve become more involved with the testing community as a whole is that I’ve noticed a greater willingness to discuss matters that are of wider interest to testers as employees and as citizens. We were discussing this at a meetup last night and we agreed that this was the natural progression from providing a safe space to debate technical matters where opinions may vary, towards voicing concerns about problems that affect testers everywhere but which aren’t directly about testing. Mostly these have been about workplace issues – stress, job hunting and so on – but those issues have expanded in the past year to cover more concerning problems such as diversity, equality and the sort of behaviours that we may encounter in any workplace, anywhere.

    In a previous existence, I was twenty years a workplace trade union representative in the UK Civil Service. In a changing world, we found it hard to recruit younger members in our particular organisation, which was very knowledge-based and had a lot of younger professionals who seemed to have the idea that “we are Professionals, we don’t need this sort of old-fashioned workplace organising – that’s for a generation that’s dying out”. So I now find it ironic that the sort of issues we were campaigning on twenty years ago are the ones that are being discussed so keenly in meetups, at conferences and in testing blogs.

    Of course, this is a Good Thing. I and the other workplace union representatives don’t really care how or even (to some extent) why these subjects are getting discussed; we just are pleased that these issues are being discussed, even if we do sometimes allow ourselves a privately raised eyebrow and an unvoiced “yeah, we were saying that back in the 1990s – welcome to our world”. More publicly, those of us who are left in roles where we can contribute are doing what we can, within the constraints that we can.

    Where does this fit your argument? Well, something else the trade union movement has always done is to embrace internationalism. Partly this is the Marxist cry of “Workers of the world, unite!”; partly this is the broader, softer ideal of solidarity and the unity of workers everywhere and “an assault on one is an assault on all”. And partly this is about simple human concern over injustice. Bringing this closer to home, there’s a degree of enlightened self-interest in drawing parallels with the treatment of workers and citizens in other countries to our own experience. And as IT is an international business, with an important need for people working in IT to embrace internationalism because the projects and products we work on can be seen and used by anyone, anywhere, it is important and necessary for us to look up from our keyboards from time to time and to take notice of what is happening elsewhere.

    What would you do? What, indeed? Even though we have more contact with people on the other wide of the world than ever before, it is in the nature of social media that we will not change deeply-held views in the majority of cases. Only once a swell of voices reaches a certain level do governments act; and they usually do too little, too late. I think it was Winston Churchill who once said “You can always rely on the Americans to do the right thing – once they have exhausted all the other alternatives”.

    Beyond that, as individuals, there is little we can do except to vote with our feet and our wallets. And to hold true to what we believe is right and to make what difference we can, when we can. Because, as someone else once said, “in order for evil to succeed, it only requires those of good will to do nothing”.

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