Good People

When good remain silent in the face of their neighbour’s oppression, they stop being good people.

Wow. I wrote that. Who the hell do I think I am? Really? Why must I speak publicly? Why can I not simply work quietly behind the scenes at trying to make change?

You can do both.

Here’s the thing – when you stand up and become publicly accountable in support of an oppressed group or people you are noticed. If 10,000 people hate you for it but one isolated member of that group gains a fraction of hope it is worth it.

We, all of us, look for rays of light in the dark. That must be us. That must especially be our leaders. We have no right to conveniently hide behind a job or a position if we can do anything to lessen the burden on others. We must. Silence, as Wiesel, Bonhoeffer and many other have said, is not an option.

Of course, sadly, it is an option. In the real world. That world where we fear what people think of us; that world where we have been taught that compassion is weakness; that any suggestion we might be doing something wring sends us into fits of defensiveness; that world where we are told to “MAN UP”, “SUCK IT UP”, “GET OVER IT” etc. You know the world. It’s the world where you are told to shut up and move one.

Change is hard. Oppression is harder. Hate is hardest.

Leadership: The Burden

There are moments in a leader’s life…sometimes only one moment…where they are called upon to cast off fear and speak publicly about an issue of morality and ethics. Most do not, rationalizing silence as “not interfering” etc. The world will move on but the leader must live with the burden of either having stood up as an example for others or, having remained silent – still as an example to others.

lizard

my lizard sheds her old skin
and comes out bright and renewed;
she consumes her dead self
to nourish the one she has become,
and the past is a thing to be discarded
like an old coat worn through to the wind

beautiful

once, her shed stuck round her eyes
and every shed after grew thick
til she was blind, infected and starving;
but we worked on her with love
and a ready, steady hand of care
until one day the scales fell away
and she could see.

i know so many,
the blind and infected people,
they roam the world around us
unable to shed their old ideas,
walking like death
while their eyes close up
like the myopic moles they are
digging into the grave-dark earth
to keep their views safe and sound
beneath their desecated bones.

To Be Woke or not to be Woke?

That is the question…

It seems to be that, more and more, content creators, young professions, social media influencers, young businesses and corporations, young managers and leaders are being more open with their morality and ethics in the public space and work bubble.

There was a time (and still is in many places) when you did not speak about politics, ethics, morality, justice etc. in a professional environment.

As a bloggers/Youtuber I have been watching just said “as I used to think that as a food blogger I should just ‘stay in my lane’ and not talk about these things on my channel. That is ridiculous because we’re all human beings. I am sorry for not using my platform to support social justice.”

Wonderful.

These artificial boxes we have created where certain things are allowed to be talked about are not in keeping with the messy complexity of our humaness. When we create unatural conditions for our existence we create stress and anxiety because these are not normal for us.

The irony of course is that we create these boundaries because we are seeking to avoid conflict which creates stress and anxiety in our lives.

“DON’T TALK ABOUT RACIAL JUSTICE AT WORK!”

Odd. Do you want to work with racists? Do you want to enable inequality?

“AS LONG AS IT EARNS REVENUE!!!” (mouth beings to lather).

Ok..it is true that there is a time and place for some conversations. You need a somewhat receptive audience to converse about certain things. It’s difficult to talk about the Black Lives Matter #BLM movement whilst selling a car.

However good corporate citizenship needs to incorporate ethics and morality beyond the simplistic “do not lie” approach.

Corporations and businesses should express the morality of their humans. They should sponsor positive initiatives, speak up about human rights and equality issues, and partner accordingly. In reverse they should distance themselves from people, sponsorships or business partners that support racial inequality and oppression.

“YEAH WELL IF YER GONNA TALK ABOUT THIS KIND OF SHIT I AIN’T BUYIN NOTHIN FROM YOU.”

Hey that’s actually ok. If we allow revenue/salary/money to influece our morality and ethics we are diminished.

Honestly I think fear of losing power, money and influence are the greatest drivers of silence in our society, especially in business.

Anyhow back to young influencers – kudos to you for not wanting to divorce yourself from your principles and morality in your work life – you are a more complete human for it and a hopeful example.

A remembrance of loss

“He would have wept if he could have, watching the young couple enjoy their meal. He had forgotten so much after more than two thousand years. He had forgotten the embrace of the warm sun on his skin, he had forgotten the softness of his wife’s lips pressed against his own; and in the intervening centuries of the sharp, metallic splash of blood across his tongue he realized with a pang that he had forgotten the taste of spring wine. Yes, if he could have wept, he would have done so for days upon end… such loss. “

The Pressure to Silence

In your life you will meet many people. You will form relationships despite your best efforts because this is part of how we, humans, are wired.

People form biomes – interconnected, interdependent networks of emotion and physicality.

There will be times when you encounter grief and conflict with one or more of your wonderful fellow people. Often these are avoidable and mutually contributed to. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes you have injustice perpetrated upon you or you perpetrate upon another. Either way a rift forms.

The best advice is to move on. When you have been willfully hurt it is appropriate to pursue justice. Vengeance on the other hand hurts the vengeful as much (and sometimes more) than the one upon whom it is wreaked. One should avoid vengeance at all costs.

Should you be the one who perpetrated the injustice the best way forward is to acknowledge it, apologize sincerely and accept the justice that must be laid upon you.

More often than not we do not accept any of these things. Those who perpetrate injustuce find ways of making it seem they are the victims; victims become consumed with thoughts of vengeance.

Throughout all of this lines are drawn and teams are expected. “You are either for me or against me…there is no other option“. It is the rise of the terrible choice, the false dichotomy that says:

If you choose to continue to associate with Person A whom I now despise than I will despise you.”

The psychology behind this mindset is simplistic and emotionally driven. It is based on the idea that if my friend(s) continue to connect with the person who hurt me they either A. do not believe I was really hurt or B. assume I deserved to be hurt.

These options fail to recognize that relational breakdowns are frequently complex and filled with shades of grey and mutual responsibility. These options also suggest that the hurt individual, when they cannot directly affect the perpetrator will instead attack others associated with the person by proxy.

It is a radically unhealthy cycle that never ends well (if it ends at all).

It is also radically unfair.

There are many times when a relational breakdowns occur. There is no evil one and there is no good one in most of these circumstances despite our passionate and somewhat horrible desire for their to be such.

To hold your friends and family to new requirements that they no longer associate with the one you now despise is unrealistic and will create relational stresses for yourself that could lead to grim isolation.

While you may feel that other’s association with your new found nemesis is a judgement on you; that somehow people assume you are lying or they do not trust you; in reality your friends have not had your experience and never will. It is selfish to hold the people around you to your relational experiences.

Of course where there is physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse one would hope our friends would surround us and leave the perpetrator to justice.

However where there is a mutual falling out between two people – they may choose to walk separate paths but how other mutual acquaintances interact with these two is up to them – no one else.

When the windows go dark

When the windows go dark and transmissions cease; when questions meet silence and walls increase; this is how the trouble started; this is the end of knowledge imparted; it is the rise of paranoia and suspician; it is the increase of absence and ommission…

We have all seen the signs in our lives. A family endures tragedy, a business changes hands, a community or country sees new leadership rise.

Then slowly, in the wake of these changes small things begin to happen. The blinds are lowered a little each day. The doors are locked more often than unlocked. Eventually the windows go dark, communication stops and lights remain off more than they remain on. The door stops getting answered, the mail piles up and the message is clear – “GO AWAY! Leave us to our isolation, our small duma, our tight circle that gets ever tighter.

Even the best of us, when we scorn community and the team, begin to corrode. When left to the thunderous echo of our own thoughts boucing around inside our ever suspicious skulls, perhaps amplified by poisonous whispers escaping the odd Iago from time to time, we begin to fall into ourselves like a black hole from which nothing escapes.

When people look at us they see absence and darkness and a thing they wish to avoid.

Eventually even our staunchest allies lose hope and wander off to which we reply “good riddance! I can work better alone and in silence” which is the terrible myth we often fall prey to.

The antidote to such dis-ease is trust. Trust not earned but freely given. Trust borne out of need and hope that reaching out and allowing others in is not a weakness but the greatest of strengths.

When we lose trust we lose everything.

dirty old cottonwood

the dirty old cottonwood

across my sun-scorched street

sheds branches like a snake sheds skin

in the fattened unhinged heat

of summer’s storm-warning wind

never diminishing its grandiose girth

as though sprouting arms in the eve

like hell-bent hydra regrows heads

to threaten unwary cars

and careless landscapers

who wander into its siren shade