“Avoiding active discussion, in an effort not to have to confront the more nuanced ethical implications that might emerge, is no less disingenuous”
The key to enforcing this accountability is active citizenship. Taught in schools around the world, from Canada to the United Kingdom, active citizenship means political participation at every level. It is not just a nice idea; it a dynamic and vital concept that individuals, organisations, and institutions should be putting into practice every day.
The ethos of active citizenship applies in every sphere. Speaking up about a controversial issue in a board meeting not so long ago, I felt it was important to note that I was speaking not just as a board member, but also as a person. That recognition, however trite it may sound, served as a powerful reminder of a broader lesson: that one must maintain one’s sense of right and wrong, regardless of the circumstances.
Convincing oneself that a decision is purely pragmatic, in order to avoid knotty ethical questions, is not an option. If I, as a person, believe in protecting the environment, or seek in my personal life and business to protect my own security and privacy, I cannot abandon those beliefs in the boardroom in the name of profit. Avoiding active discussion, in an effort not to have to confront the more nuanced ethical implications that might emerge, is no less disingenuous.
Being an active and engaged citizen means being authentic and empathetic. It means considering not only what an issue means for us, individually, but also how it affects others. Many have wondered why American football players, who often make millions of dollars per season, are protesting injustice. The reason is simple: active citizenship means standing up – or kneeling down – for what we believe in, whether it be a government free of corruption or law enforcement free of racism.
An ethos of personal integrity and authenticity may seem powerless in the face of unbridled greed and narcissism. And yet the difficult and trying times in which we find ourselves reflect the need to place more emphasis, not less, on the values we claim to uphold, and on devising ways to realise those values in our communities and countries.