There are those amongst us who fight the tidal wave of conformity and blaze their own trail. Oftentimes, these folks march along, largely anonymous, living fulfilled lives. But sometimes, these folks, annoy key people – and then they truly get noticed and, oftentimes, attacked with a vengeance.
Nowadays, we call these folks “whistle-blowers.” In my old neighborhood we called them “snitches” or “tattle-tales.” Sadly, I think the work these folks do is often still labeled as such.
But, as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) struggles to respond to questions on how it spends our funds or why it appears to have targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status with extra-scrutiny. And, as Attorney General Eric Holder is forced to fight to retain his job in the wake of the Justice Department’s handling of national security leak investigations, it seems we need whistle-blowers more than ever.
Of course, I may be in the minority here. I find it incredible that many of my peers either know very little about the brewing controversies or tell me they think the people coming forward should just “button their lips and leave it all alone.”
I believe this disconnect is born of the apathy that sets in when you feel you can’t really do anything about anything. Maybe it comes from the inflated image I worry we have of ourselves.
In his recently released book Rumsfeld Rules , former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld discusses this change. He noticed people who filled important jobs started mistaking the importance of the job with their own importance. He points out it is the job that is important. You, the person filling that job, can be replaced and, one day, will; sooner if you perform poorly.
This idea has some interesting relevance to the important jobs we fill in the parks and recreation world. We manage large budgets and large staffs. We plan and deliver important services to our community. And, ultimately, we shoulder lots of responsibility.
I can see how easy it would be to over-state our importance to the community -- forgetting that someone was doing this job before us and somebody will sure as heck be doing it after we leave.
I can also see how forgetting to keep things in perspective can lead to bad decisions and, ultimately, the attention of a whistle-blower.
Back on Capitol Hill, those that have yet to understand this are looking Washington committee members in the eyes and saying, “Well that was not an area I was informed about.”
Even now, they don’t seem to understand. Their job as designated leader was to seek out information, investigate how their department was running, get answers, and get to the bottom of things. They are clearing their conscience by saying it wasn’t their responsibility. But in doing so, they admit they clearly feel it is all about them, and not about performing the job they were hired to do.
Here’s to hoping we in parks and recreation don’t make the same mistake. After all, if we live the truth, whistle-blowing won’t be necessary.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.