“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”
Doing what we know is right isn’t always easy, and we all know that.
If you’ve ever watched Scent of a Woman, you could probably hear Al Pacino’s famous speech ringing in your ears, when he said, “I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. Because it was too damn hard.”
You might have heard about the Milgram experiment, where the participants were instructed to inflict high-voltage electric shocks to an actor — showing that we tend to obey authoritative figures, even if we know their instructions are downright unethical, or that we might harm other people in doing so.
But it’s not just our obedience to authority that makes it difficult to do the right thing. There’s also peer pressure — what would your friends say or think about you if you choose not to do what they’re doing?
As hard as it is, we must stand up for what is right. It’s an internal — and at worst an external struggle too — but it’s all worth it when you think about the greater good.
Think about the Holocaust for a moment. You might be surprised to learn that in Poland, the people who were responsible for the mass shootings and roundups of Jews weren’t fanatical Nazis, but unassuming police officers. They were simple middle-aged and middle-class family men who were too old and unfit to join the German army. Yet, the lot of them either turned into bloodthirsty murderers, or reliable machines that killed only upon instruction.
Only less than 20% of them were brave enough to voice out about how wrong the whole thing was, or at least refuse to participate in the killings. These were the men who felt the same gravitational pull of peer pressure and obedience to authority, but were courageous enough to stand their ground. To them, being shunned as “cowards” and “shitheads” were a small price to pay for being human.
Never underestimate the impact that a single courageous person can have on the whole world.
In 2013 Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the US government’s mass surveillance system which he himself had helped design. With this technology, they could have access to everything that we do and every conversation we have through the gadgets that we use daily.
Knowing that this violated the people’s constitutional rights, Snowden chose to leak this information. He was exiled from his own country, but the whole world now knows that mass surveillance is a real thing that’s going on, that it’s no longer a mere subject of sci-fi novels.
As he wrote in his memoir, “I used to work for the government, but now I work for the public.” He also remarked that “the best account that someone can ever give of themselves is not a statement but a pledge — a pledge to the principles they value, and to the vision of the person they hope to become.”
Be that leader who doesn’t compromise, who opposes what she knows is wrong, and stands up for what she knows is right. Fight to become the person that you hope to be.
As the Qur’an reminds us, “Those who believed and did good deeds, verily We shall not let such good deeds go unrewarded.” (18:30)