The fruit vendor’s rebellion

– and what we all can learn from him!

This is the story of the power each and every one of us has within ourselves to change the world.  Yes, you read that right.  So how does this relate to ethics?  By the end of this article you should be able to answer that for yourself.  The information for this story came from a segment on 60 Minutes that aired February 20, 2011.

The fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi , from a small town in Tunisia, couldn’t take the corruption any more.  A municipal official confiscated his scale, worth $100, and Bouazizi knew he’d have to pay a bribe to get it back.  He complained to the official, and the official slapped him in the face.  Bouazizi went to the government office to complain; they refused to let him in.  So Bouazizi poured gas over himself, screaming that he couldn’t take this anymore, and lit himself on fire in the middle of traffic.

That’s all it took.  All this guy wanted to do was take care of his family.  He made $10 a day and his goal was to make enough money to send his sisters to college. But it was illegal for anyone to speak out against the government or the President of Tunisia, and Bouazizi paid the ultimate price of his life for daring to speak up and complain about someone taking his own property away from him.

This is the act that started the uprisings we’re seeing throughout the Middle East right now.  People in power are scared, and I’m thinking that it’s not just people in power in the Middle East but all over the world that are scared. They have a lot to lose, people in power, don’t they?  The people who have been oppressed are finally finding the courage to stand up and say they’ve had enough abuse, corruption and suppression.  They want their freedom, their independence.

In this segment one of the people interviewed said this was like experiencing their deepest joy.  Can you remember feeling your deepest joy – and have you ever experienced something like what Tunisians must be feeling now?  Let’s face it; compared to the fruit vendor’s life, we’ve got it easy.  Sure, gas prices are skyrocketing to $4 and $5 a gallon.  Sure, prices at the grocery store are going up.  Definitely, the banks aren’t lending money to those who need it and small businesses are having cash flow challenges.  But we have the right to speak our mind, go where we want, do what we want, and we have opportunities to make more than $10 a day.  No matter who we are or what station in life we have, this country of ours gives us the opportunity that anything is possible.

All it took was one person saying enough is enough.  It was like a house of cards tumbling down – as one of the people interviewed said, that “one little bit of energy” was all it took to bring the castle down and open the doorway to freedom, independence and the richness that life holds.

In our lives in the “civilized” world we do have corruption.  We do have bribery and the hypocrisy of people who try to deny that it doesn’t exist.  We do have people in power abusing or trying to abuse their privilege.  We don’t have to fear that the military will shoot on us for gathering in the town square.  We don’t have the fear that authorities can just take what they want, confiscating our livelihoods, homes or belongings.  How much is this worth to you??

What would it take for you to stand up and “do the right thing” like the fruit vendor did?  And what price would you be willing to pay – what sacrifice would you be willing to make?  There was a study done in 2007 by the Ethics Resource Center in Washington DC that said that 56% of the people they surveyed observed unethical behavior and 58% of them did not report it.  Shocking statistic, don’t you think? Observation of misconduct went down to 49% and whistle blowing went up to 63% in their 2009 report, but the ERC explained that this happens when there are hard times and company existence may be on the line.  They called it an ethics “bubble” and expect the ethical misconduct to increase as the economy increases.   

Not good news, and the sad part is retaliation against those who reported misconduct is on the rise.  So how much are you willing to take witnessing abuse and corruption, and what would it take for you to get to the same point as the fruit vendor?  We take too much for granted here in our cushy lives.  It’s time to find the courage to speak our minds – not about what we’re entitled to, but what we want our lives to be like and what we’re willing to do to ensure that our freedom and our opportunities continue to exist.  All of us have a bit of the Tunisian fruit vendor inside ourselves.  Let’s honor his effort and continue to make our world a better place for everyone to live.

Here’s the link to the Tunisia CBS 60 Minutes video  (sorry for the ads in the middle) Feb 20, 2011;photovideo

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