This is based on real events. Why do decent people cooperate with corruption? Why are whistle blowers so demonized?
What I remember is the smile, a great smile, a smile made for a toothpaste commercial. The smile hovers in my memory still, like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. The smile was great-but his eyes never joined in.
Still when someone offers you your dream job, unsmiling eyes are easily dismissed. He said I was perfect for the job; he had high hopes that my unique set of skills would be an asset, yada, yada, yada.
The work was demanding, the paycheck outstanding. Sure, there were some questionable practices. I even cranked up the courage to point these out now and then. He smiled and said it was standard operating procedure in that field; everyone did it, and besides, if I did not do these things, someone else would. “We’re not like other people, we sit at the dining table while they just stand outside pressing their snotty noses against the window.” He said this as if it was a joke, and so I laughed.
He had the same hypnotic effect on almost everyone. Now and then some troublemaker resisted him. He cut her off at the knees, using his network to destroy her career, impoverish her and then he took it a step further. He spread nasty rumors about her-she was sexually perverted, mentally ill or an embezzler. Amazing how effective that was, how easy it was to plant a lie and watch it germinate and spread like a poison ivy vine.
His victim had been “right,” but right and wrong became more and more blurry as time went on until there was no difference, really. “Antiquated concepts, right and wrong,” is how he explained it. We had evolved far beyond such trivialities.
I would be there still if he had not asked me to sign off on that fraudulent budget. Money was being siphoned from many regular people, the snotty-nosed people, and being diverted to the insiders. Why should I care? Why could I not sign it? We met in private. Oh, we would fix everything at the next meeting; yes, we would straighten the whole thing out. We had our reputation to consider. “Thank you for bringing it to my attention,” he said.
I knew I was now a troublemaker. I made copies of all the pertinent documents and communications and took them home. Predictably, at the next meeting, he turned on me and his cohorts backed him up. It was obvious they had planned all this ahead of time. But I had my little plan, too. Most of the Board were clueless, nice people, actually. Before the meeting adjourned I found a pretext to hand packages of evidence to all the Board members and mentioned that I had copies of my own tucked securely away.
His cohorts looked a bit panicky at this turn of events, but not him. He smiled his perfect smile, his eyes not joining in. I was through, of course, it did not even need to be stated. I was on the outside but at least he would not destroy me; simply because it was not expedient this time to do so. Nor would I expose him, though the clueless Board members might ask a question or two. Most likely, he would charm and lie his way around them.
“I’ll look into it right away,” he would say to them, “Thank you for bringing it to my attention.”
And he would smile when he said it, but his eyes would not join in.
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From the Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”