Have you noticed something huge is happening? Can you feel how secrets are being revealed around us this very moment? And more importantly, do you feel relief and joy at the new justice and freedom such revelations bring to life, or are you scared that you might lose something you cherish?
By the looks of the Julien Assange news footage yesterday, in which a number of men drag him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, it’s probably safe to say that a lot of people in high places are very nervous about what might be lost or destroyed by the revelations Assange and Wikileaks continue to spill onto the internet. Leaving aside the important political questions for now, such as “why now?” and “Who stands to gain?” the ongoing Assange saga is relevant to all of us in some way — as a culture of transparency continues to bring secrets into the light.
Two stories attracted my interest this week. Because I’m half Irish, half Spanish, one of them is in English, and one of them is in Spanish, but bear with me, “all will be revealed.”
It’s funny, but it’s also very serious. The first story was published by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. What most struck me was how very well she described the parents’ whatever-it-takes attitude in the college admissions scandal. She was so funny and smart with her words that it also hurt inside to realize how extensive this attitude has become on a global level. Friends who work in excellent private schools tell me how intensely competitive life has become for children.
The second story is a journalistic bombshell dropped by the ex-editor of El Mundo, one of Spain’s leading newspapers. David Jimenez was a news correspondent who had managed to keep a distance between himself and the secretive, politically-tainted newspaper to which he contributed — until he rose to the position of editor. It was then that he encountered hypocrisy, cowardice and back-stabbing from his colleagues, driven by secretive agendas that aimed to paint certain political and corporate favorites in a good light.
“Power had stopped fearing the media and now it was the media who feared power,” he says in his book.
In the interview and video published about his new book, he confessed that it was much harder to confront pressure from the establishment around falling in line with their secretive agendas than it was “being pursued by the Taliban in Afghanistan!”
Dirty secrets are being revealed on a scale I’ve never seen before. People are coming out with secrets that many knew about for decades, but did nothing about. Each individual was trapped by the secrecy of power. Fear was the glue that held these secrets together. Fear kept the light out and shutters closed because, for a long time, anyone who dared to confront the status quo was viciously attacked by ignorant mobs. Ironically such mobs were managed by elites in power and the establishment that ate from the hand of power.
One more thing touched me deeply this week. I was invited to attend St. John’s Passion by Bach in the National Auditorium in Madrid. It’s a lengthy concert of baroque music. Many executives abandoned the hall during the interval because it’s a tough exercise in concentration, especially after a long day’s work. At the outset I was handed a transcript of the entire rendition, in German and Spanish, so that I could follow the narrative throughout the concert.
I was reading along as I listened to the beautiful music and cried the whole way through. What religion I subscribe to is beside the point here. St. John’s Passion is a story of somebody who dared defy the establishment — to tell the truth as he perceived it. The beauty of Bach’s music underscores many situations we have all witnessed or even survived in our professional lives: angry mobs acting viciously, helpless whistleblowers sticking to their stories while asking why: “Why am I being put through such a terrible test?”
St. John’s Passion is a religious text, and it’s full of efforts to understand and explain the meaning of grief and pain. Every gruesome scene of torture and humiliation is followed by a heavenly explosion of joyful voices that sing of hope, truth, and worthiness. Although we have become a highly-educated and fact-based society on a global level, we still desire a reason or explanation to help us live through the injustices that we see around us every day.
In my job as an executive coach, I spend many hours explaining to people why they’ve paid the price they did as children, and later as adults, to get where they did in life. Why a headhunter is killing herself at work while a mediocre male gets the promotions she deserves. Why an expert negotiator in a German multinational is torn to pieces by his loyalty to the previous owner and his duty to follow the new CEO’s orders. There is a reason for all the pain and drama, and it’s got to do with dignity. It always has been. I know this from my own life story and I see it every day in others.
So, if you feel fear at all the things being uncovered — be it sexual abuse, exploitation of children or all the other types of abuse that exists to try and win that stupid rat race we all play among ourselves — you are probably right to feel this way. Chances are, you are about to lose control over things you thought you were entitled to own forever.
But being brave is not about the absence of fear. It’s about acting, despite the cold sweat running down your back. It’s about knowing that if you don’t step up, you will never forgive yourself for not doing so. It’s a magical opportunity to overcome your own small needs to serve something bigger than yourself. Once you find yourself walking this path of helpless, frightening courage, you will develop a new feeling of dignity, worthiness, and peace in your heart — that others only dream of.
And it’s contagious. You inspire others, and you feel inspired by them when they do what you have done. Here we are, riding this wonderful, dangerous wave of global revelation, where ugly secrets of injustice will hopefully dissolve. Where many will pay a terrible price for others to have a fairer chance at this game of life.
Keep breathing. Let it move you. It’s going to become awful before it becomes fun. Until, it becomes the most exciting, worthwhile adventure of human growth you could have dreamed of. That, my friend, is a story worth telling!