Eyal Press’ book, Beautiful Souls, shows that, when life faces people with especially difficult challenges and moral conflicts, there are those who will stand against whatever it might be (i.e. one’s personal gains, money, the law, one’s society, social standing, etc.) to do what they believe is right. He tells stories of people who decide to face the consequences.
Among others, one story tells of a Swiss chief of police in one coastal region of Switzerland. He and fellow police chiefs are ordered to not accept Jewish refugees any longer (this was near the beginning of WWII). This police chief, however, decided to risk his position in office, his income, his social standing, and severe punishment to take in Jewish refugees. He would have the refugees come into his office upon landing on Swiss soil, and, instead of telling them that they must return from whence they came, he made arrangements for them to find a job and worked out for them places to stay. In this, this police chief saved hundreds of Jews from the rising Nazi terror. He, however, was caught eventually, tried, and punished.
Mr. Press, in his lecture at Northwestern School of Law, gave more examples of people who demonstrated their “Beautiful Souls.” Among these was a woman who figured out, by a number of different resources, that she had been working, for a few months, for a fraudulent company. This company did not want anyone to know, obviously, that they were a fraud, and they gave grand bonuses to their employees, simply for working for them and the salary was high. Having just been offered a higher position with a pay of $750,000/year, plus a $2.5 million bonus, this woman started telling her costumers that they were buying a sketchy product. She then quit her job and went to the press. Being the only one who figured this out, no one believed her, but after the issue was pressed further, the company was caught and went to trial. This woman received no thanks from anyone, and instead, even now, she gets criticism from her former employers who were quite happy with their old jobs, fraudulent or not. She, however, gave up many riches that were promised her for the good of many other people and even to this day, and receives no thanks.
In the question/answer section of the lecture, a question came up about Edward Snowden. This controversial news source on injustices committed by the CIA is no new news to any of us, but did we thank him? The response of the American people was far from grateful. I, myself, was a bit upset at him for leaking confidential information; finding out about injustices is great but would this guy really be considered a hero? By some, yes. To me, not really. He swore multiple oaths to the government stating that leaks like this would never happen. He is a TRAITOR! However, 35 years down the road, we may all be thanking him. We may look back and say, “How is it possible that we lived in denial for so long? Could you imagine if Snowden didn’t come a to our rescue and save us all?” I guess, in a sense, we are like the workers at that fraudulent company who just didn’t want a change in the status quo. Snowden, however, being so recent, still bears some heat. He went to the press not too long ago saying, “Will the government please stop treating me as a traitor?” Will we end up thanking him later in life?
Only time will tell.