A digital association, a double moral standard and a lack of proper rules in a crisis

Imagine there is a large digital association. Somewhere in the world. We can call it Moktib. It has many members. Large and small. Regional and global players. Start-ups and international corporations. Important and not so important. Then there is a war. In Europe. Against international law. The aggressor is the Putin regime. The association is highly displeased. The industry is too. With good reason. Blue and yellow flags are being raised. In solidarity. You have to take a stand in these times.

Then there is a member. A medium-sized company in that country. Part of an international corporation. Active in cyber security. The holding company is registered in London/UK. So far, a valued member. An active member. A value-oriented member. However, the CEO of the group is a Russian citizen. In addition, the company bears his name. What to do? Now that there is a war?

The best thing to do for the association is to suspend immediately! To suspend all membership rights and obligations immediately and until further notice. To immediately block all employees of the member from accessing the membership portal. To remove contacts from all mailing lists. Temporarily. At the appropriate time, the Executive Committee and the Executive Board can discuss the termination of the suspension.

The imperative is not to talk to that member. The second imperative is not to give that member the opportunity to state his position. Not during the war! No transparency, no transparency at all, is imperative number three. That prevents quick decisions. That is what is needed when the association membership of this very company is of particular importance for the purposes and tasks of the association. This is how you re-establish the trusting exchange between members.

A modern fairy tale or a true story? And if it is a true story, where did it take place? Hardly in Germany. Here we are value-oriented, fair, democratic and transparent.

I am wet and sweaty when I woke up the next morning. Fortunately, I woke up. Was this a nightmare? Or did I actually experience this? But first things first: My cell phone rang. The number was not stored on my smartphone. I answered it. Bernherus Kochstoff answered. He is the CEO of a digital association somewhere in the world. Let us call it Moktib. Kochstoff gets straight to the point: The association has decided to exclude the company that I proudly represent. Because of the war.

However, Kochstoff continues, there would also be a more elegant solution. It would not raise any dust. We should cancel. Retrospectively cancel. Retrospectively by the end of 2021. Then everything would go smoothly, without press and so on. If not, Moktib would expel us, Kochstoff says energetically.

I have to gulp. I feel a churning in my stomach. Nevertheless, my thoughts remain clear. We are an honorable member, an ethical member, an active member. For what reason should we cancel, I tell myself. Then I say the same thing. To Kochstoff. And he replies: „Then we will start the expulsion procedure”. But his sentence was interrupted by the ringing melody of my alarm clock. Beethoven’s 9th! Fortunately. It was a dream.

Or did I experience it? And if so, where? Hardly in Germany. Here, we are value-oriented, treat each other fairly, are democratic and act transparently.

A few weeks later, I was surprised by this e-mail: „The Executive Board and the Presidium have unanimously decided that your company’s membership with regard to all membership rights and obligations is suspended with immediate effect until further notice. The Executive Committee will decide on the termination of the suspension at the appropriate time. In implementation of this decision, we have blocked access to the member portal for all your company’s employees and temporarily removed contacts from all mailing lists.“

No justification. No explanation. No reference to any provisions of the Moktib statutes. Sent to me by a guy named Wallach, Carolus Wallach. He heads membership services in a digital association, somewhere in the world. We can call it Moktib. I was speechless. Good thing you type responses to emails. I was not without words. Therefore, I typed in and asked Wallach, Carolus Wallach. (…) In addition, I called him one day later. Asked him what we are accused of? What we have done wrong? Which provisions of the statutes we have violated? Why we were being excluded as an ethically acting, committed member?

Gasping (breathing disorder with long pauses interrupted by intermittent gasps for breath) … then silence … then gasping … I should not take it personally, he eventually manages to say.

After some time, I receive an answer by e-mail: „Formally, the decision to suspend was made by the Executive Committee on the basis of the decision of the Executive Board. The Executive Board has determined that the question of your company’s membership in the current situation of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, which is contrary to international law, is of particular importance for the purposes and tasks of the Association pursuant to Article F of the Articles of Association and must therefore be finally decided by the Executive Board [see in detail Article XX Item 449c)]. The Presidium then took the decision of suspension in order to restore the purpose of the Statutes – to enable a trustful exchange between the members.“

„Aah“, I think to myself. I did not know that we have such an influence in this so big association with so many, so important members. Be of such importance. Indeed, have decisive relevance for the purposes and tasks of that association. And now, when there is war, that we prevent a trustful exchange between the members.

Fortunately, there was Jojachin Gebirge. He is the president of the digital association, somewhere in the world. Let us call it Moktib. In response to my expressed lack of understanding, he informed me, „I will discuss this again with the executive board. However, the sentiment was unfortunately very clear. A pause in membership in the current situation was unanimously proposed in the committee.“

„I see,“ I think to myself. „If that is the case. Then we are welcome to mutually agree. On a level playing field. As is the way in a partnership. That would be purposeful, a reasonable solution.“ I communicate this to Wallach and Gebirge. Send a draft of a mutual waiver.

Since then, I have been waiting. For an answer. More than five weeks now, I am waiting for an answer. From a digital association, somewhere in the world. We can call it Moktib. Will it still come, the answer? Or will I wait in vain? It depends, I think to myself.

In Germany, I will not wait in vain. I am sure of that. The two tramps Estragon and Wladimir did not wait in vain in Germany for an answer from Godot. At least as far as I know. At least they got to see a servant of Godot twice. He informed them in each case that Godot will not come today, but certainly tomorrow. In Germany, I would get an answer, I am sure of that. Here, we are value-oriented, treat each other fairly, are democratic and act transparently. Or do we have a double moral system after all?

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