Hearing voices


The tradition of gently backing away from those who ‘hear voices’ may help explain why it’s taken so long to ‘hear what’s said’. This seems pertinent in virtue of Sir Robert Francis’ report, published today, Freedom to Speak Up in the NHS.

That which prevents people from speaking up to highlight … let’s call them … irritations in whatever sphere of life is fear, on both sides; of reprisals. Of course people hear what’s said: they just don’t respond in virtue of the impact on them. And whistle-blowing in the wind is a lonely practice.

Bullies, recognizable by their absence of stature, try to shrink others to fit them. Declining to submit to threats by little people will strengthen and might inspire others to follow suit. Surely life’s too short to bother with fear? It is nothing but “anticipation of evil” [from Plato’s dialogue, Protagoras], or “a pain arising from anticipation of evil” as his pupil, Aristotle, opined.