Take a trip back with me to those halcyon days of 2002. Back when I was in
5th grade a game would come out that would set the template for an great number
of copy cat titles. That game is Medal of Honor
Allied Assault. Fear not though, this post is not about this game. It is a
great game no doubt, with a number of high quality sequels (although the
further out you get from the original the worse they get). No this post is
really about the game’s intro. Take a gander at it here. Did you catch the last
Can one man truly make a difference?
Normally we can all just roll our eyes at the omission of both genders, but
that oversight is kind of a big deal here because I want to apply that question
this article. Our protagonist is Alayne Fleischmann, who was employed by
JPMorgan Chase during the recent financial crisis. Her story is a good one so I
suggest you read the whole article before continuing.
Having read that, let us take stock of the results:
- Mrs. Fleischmann told people at JPMorgan what they were doing was
- JPMorgan laid her off.
- JPMorgan paid the government 9 billion partially due to her testimony.
- No executives were charged.
By some accounting, yes she did make a difference. JPMorgan was so afraid of
her testimony that they worked very hard to pay off penalties so she could not
testify. But I am going to postulate that no, she did not make a difference.
Show me the executives who lost their jobs, show me that JPMorgan does business
fundamentally differently, show me the laws that enforce greater oversight
Granted, It is a bit unfair to look at these complex organizations and judge
their interactions to find a clear difference in operation. I get that, but I
doubt it provides any solace to Mrs. Fleischmann, who lost her job, who dealt
with the legal fallout for years, and who is unemployed according to Wikipedia. Show me she
made a difference.
It is a shame right? She ought to have something to show for it, something
should have changed? And here we arrive at the point: acting to your
ideals is the only reward you deserve. It is great when things work
out. Wrongs are righted, justice is delivered, lifetime movies are made, the
works. Plenty of times though you act expecting the cherry and get the pit. You
can be exiled from your
country, you can be on the losing side, you can even die. The
only reward these people deserve is the satisfaction of acting to their ideals.
After that nothing else is guaranteed.
In a way it is depressing to think this, that you can do good and nothing
can change. I would instead postulate a different analysis, that understanding
this is the way of things is liberating. I do not need good things to happen,
the universe does not owe me a reward for being on my best behavior. I just
need to be true to myself and I can be content with the outcome.
This is why I am so happy people like Mrs. Fleischmann exist. She acted
against her own financial interest knowing the outcome was in doubt because her
morals were so strong, such a core part of her being that to not act would have
changed her. It would have made her something she did not want to be.
She did make a difference, for herself. She was tested, her morality was
tested, and she made a choice to be true to herself. You only need one person
to do that.