What is it that propels us to go out on a limb for something we believe in? I don’t have the answers – like I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t think or believe I am a man of many or any convictions, which over time have been more of shifting goalposts than a North Star in the firmament.
Watching the movie on Jeffrey Wigand-Lowell Bergman made me wonder just what was it that pushed Wigand to do what he did. Was there some higher notion of heroism or was it just a man pushed to the wall retaliating? And was it worth it – losing not just his sanity in the process but also his family? Is that what makes the ordinary among us heroes? I wish I got the opportunity to meet Wigand in person and ask him: was it all worth it?
Wigand didn’t get a penny of the $246 billion settlement – the largest ever in US history – by the tobacco companies (I recall reading it in the papers back in the late 1990s). So what was it that pushed him – perhaps we will never know. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. And if the Hollywood portrayal is indeed true to life, heroes aren’t made of sterner stuff – they break too, but they can and do pull themselves back together.
And let’s not forget Bergman (well, as a journo, am going to be partial to my tribe, so sue me!) who staked his own reputation to back Wigand, earning a suspension in the process and then ultimately quitting. For those of us who think that only the Indian media boot-licks the corporate world, well, we surely take our inspiration from the Americans in this regard.
People like Wigand and Bergman, who get shunted into the limelight partly by design and partly by choice, are certainly not flawless or infallible. Oskar Schindler for instance, an opportunistic businessman who profited from World War 2, was given to a bohemian lifestyle that included liberal doses of wine and women and yet, risked his life in saving 1200 Jews from the holocaust. Why did he do that – he, a member of the Nazi Party? He’s been dead for far too long to answer that.
I guess it’s that little streak of rebelliousness in each one of us that in some people, like Wigand, Bergman or Schindler, flares up like a conflagration – devouring everything that dares stands in its way. But heroes too have to pay a price – sometimes, disproportionately high to the objective they achieve.
So while Wigand put on a brave face to assert that it was worth it – coming home to find your wife has walked out with your two little daughters – I am still not quite convinced by his answer.
Or, like I said, perhaps it doesn’t matter – each one of us has a destiny to fulfill. People like Wigand and Schindler perhaps played out their parts.