Help me address an ethical conflict in an activist group
March 11, 2013 8:53 AM Subscribe
I coordinate a successful group of activists. Now, the family of our most active member has been implicated in a scandal. The group wants to work on the scandal; the member says he'll quit if we do. Is there a way to balance on this tightrope?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I live in a screwed up, corrupt country, with one injustice perpetrated by the state after the next.
A while ago I assembled some people to try to address the situation. The team grew and today we have lots of activists and have become quite well-known, working on a wide variety of issues.
A large part of the success of the team is thanks to a guy, who we’ll call R., who is also a personal friend of mine. He has been very proactive and motivated for the causes of the team.
Although I coordinate the team, we take decisions democratically. The next issue we could be dealing with - let’s call it the Scandal - is something that has been brewing for some time, and something that all members of the team feel particularly strongly about and want us to act on - although we haven’t voted on it yet.
Everyone, that is, except R, for a simple reason: his family is deeply involved in the Scandal. Only a handful of other team members know about his family connection, and have kept quiet about it since I asked them to do so months ago before the Scandal broke (I didn't want to rock the boat, since this is a very judgemental and cynical country, and if people knew about R.’s connection they may quit the group.)
R. claims that his family is being wronged, that has access to information that would support his family’s side of the story… but can’t publish it since it was obtained illegally. I suspect this is an excuse, and that he (understandably) can’t be objective about the Scandal, but is too proud to admit it.
The Scandal has quickly become the elephant in the room at our meetings. The reasons I've given for why we shouldn't tackle the Scandal (that there isn’t enough concrete information today to go on) have been justified so far… but with every passing day the need for us to address it grows.
Whenever one of the other members that know about R’s family connection has suggested to R. that we address it, R. has exploded. Now, R. has told me, petulantly, he will quit the group if we act on the scandal, since he ‘doesn’t want to be a part of anything that I know is a lie’. R. knows very well his value to the group, and I know this is blackmail of sorts.
I’m conflicted. On one side, the success of the group would indeed be threatened if R. quit, since he is one of its most active members. But on the other, I’m compromising my ethics - and probably the ethics of the group - by not disclosing R's personal link to the Scandal... and if the team discovered the truth, they would understandably be very upset with me personally.
I would also like R. to present all his facts on the Scandal to the group, so we can make an informed judgement... but this seems to be a no-go.
What should I do? How should I handle it?