How to Not Kill the Next Harmabe.


Gorillas aren’t people. However much they look like us, they are not us.

And that means they won’t always understand the noises we make, and we won’t always understand the actions they take.

I know a bit about animal behaviour – I started out learning about canine and equine behaviour, because I worked with horses and dogs, and moved on to study feline behaviour, because I lived with cats. Then it was lupine (wolf) behaviour, because I’ve always been fascinated by wolves, which led on to the behaviour of the great apes.

I don’t claim to be an expert, but it was clear that what was going on while the child was in Harambe’s enclosure was protection – the gorilla, frightened by the humans screaming (screaming is what gorillas do when they’re about to attack, by the way), took steps to prevent harm coming to the child.  Yes, silverback gorillas can, do, and have killed young gorillas that weren’t their own offspring – but, had Harambe intended to do this, the boy would have been dead in seconds. Gorillas are literally that powerful.

Gorillas – in common with many predators – don’t like water. It’s fine for drinking and cooling off, but it’s not usually somewhere they’ll spend a lot of time.  For Harmabe to enter the moat, and stay there long enough to pull the boy out, means he had put that child before himself – something humans could benefit from learning how to do.

“But he was dragging him!” Gorillas are not humans. Their “hands” don’t work the same way ours do. We get confused, because they look so much like us, but the act of picking up a child, natural to us, is not natural to a gorilla – mainly because they spend most of their time walking on all fours, and so will typically pick up their young one-handed, to keep their balance. This gorilla was picking up a young boy the way he would have picked up one of his own offspring. He meant him no harm.

Large animals, apes particularly, don’t respond well to tranquilisers – sadly, a tranquilising shot would have probably resulted in the boy’s death, as, in the few minutes it takes to take effect, Harambe would have become extremely agitated and distressed – something which never ends well in an animal of that size and strength.

Did Harambe, since he couldn’t be safely tranquilised, need to be shot?

No.  What needed to happen was for the screaming humans to be moved out of the way – out of sight, out of earshot – and for an experienced keeper known to Harambe to enter the enclosure, and wait at a distance while the gorilla got the boy to safety – recognising his keeper, Harambe would have most likely offered the boy straight to him, the way I’ve seen apes in captivity offer a favoured toy, or some food.

What needs to happen to ensure that no beautiful animal, already critically endangered, already forced to live out its life in protective confinement because humans can’t be trusted, should ever have to be killed because of human misunderstanding again is a difficult question, more so since humans can’t be trusted enough to move into a future without zoos, where animals could live out their lives in their natural, wild habitats.

While human greed and stupidity forces us to have zoos, so that humans can be taught why shooting anything that moves isn’t a good idea, perhaps we need to restrict direct access to the enclosures to small groups of those over 16, who can (mostly) be trusted to behave sensibly – six to eight people at a time, accompanied by a knowledgeable keeper, close enough for photographs, to really see the animals, and to have them, their lives, and their needs explained. To ask questions. To work towards understanding.

For everyone else, perhaps a “zoo visit” should involve nothing more than several large rooms, themed for various habitats – mountains, rainforests, savannahs, oceans – with live-feeds from well-designed, roomy, comfortable, stimulating enclosures playing out over the walls,interactive “learn more” consoles,  a gift shop and cafe.

The animals would be less stressed, those just looking for “an easy day out” would probably be perfectly satisfied, and those who genuinely respected animals, and wanted to see them up close, wanted to learn more, would have that option. People would probably get to see more of the animals, more of their natural behaviours, as, without a teeming mass of humans hollering in their faces, the animals would be more relaxed.



Is Negativity REALLY Business?

The short answer is – “Yes.”

Over at LinkedIn, one of the most popular accounts is Liz Ryan’s. Liz is a career and lifestyle coach, and her single, core piece of advice for getting the job you want is to write a “pain letter” (or, more likely these days, email.)  This isn’t about your pain – how hard it is being unemployed, how little you get on welfare, all the things your friends are enjoying that you can’t afford – it’s about the company’s pain, and how you, with your skills, knowledge, and experience, can take that pain away.

You know the company is in pain because they’ve spent hundreds of pounds (sorry, I’m British – it’s pounds in my world!) placing the advert that attracted your attention.

You know they’re in pain because management are taking time out of their very busy schedules to deal with interviews, which nobody really likes. (I’ve spoken to enough people who’ve been honest about how they feel around leading an interview, and have interviewed people myself, on two occasions so far – believe me, paperwork, awkward phone calls – they’re all much more desirable than trying to ask the right questions of someone who could end up being a very expensive mistake.

You know they’re in pain because they’re hiring. Hiring is a risk, and most established companies are risk-averse.

So, you look in, round and through the job ad, the person specification, the job description. You “backwards engineer” creative negativity to discover the “negative” that caused them to advertise the position.

And then you get creative, and tell them all about their pain, and how you can make that pain go away.

It may not always work – life is like that, sometimes – but it’ll get you noticed over the 101 other applications that are thinly veiled cries for help.

It’s Here!

Negative: Charge! The book (Amazon UK)


Negative: Charge! The book (Amazon US)

Looks like CreateSpace are working at triple-speed at the moment! Already up on Amazon (follow whichever of the  links relates to your country.)

This is a short, succinct book that aims to provide a basic introduction to the concept of creative negativity – it’s ideal for time-pushed executives, or those who like their literature to get straight to the point.

It’s also FREE for EVERY participant on speaking engagements, training, and consultancy services.  Email to discuss your needs, or to book. Currently availability from 6th June, any day except Fridays, including weekends and evenings.

Hopefully there’ll soon be a Skype service, so that non-UK clients can be taken on, and also so that smaller companies, charities, etc, can benefit from reduced rates.

Creative Negativity Is Out There!

Positivity says “It doesn’t matter that I don’t have money – I have passion, and I can use that to secure investment!” (read, debt.)

Traditional negativity says “If I don’t have capital, there’s no point even trying – there’s plenty of people out there with money coming out of their ears – they’ll always have the jump on me.”

Creative negativity says “Okay, I don’t have money…that means I can’t risk getting into debt…so, what do I have to do to make money in as low-risk a way as possible?”


Daymond John has been practicing the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn t-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had to come up with out-of-the box ways to promote his products. Luckily, desperation breeds innovation, and so he hatched an idea for a creative […]

via The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage — The Millionaire’s Digest

Three Decades On

I recently turned 30 – that truly “awkward” age, when you’re too old to be a “young adult”, and too young to have “the benefit of experience.”

If you haven’t got your life sorted out by the time you’re 30 – tough. Expect to be dismissed, negated, unemployed and hopelessly unemployable, because there’s no mileage, tax breaks, or kudos in anyone helping you. Grow up, and start taking responsibility, dammit!

A friend of mine also turned 30 this year, another friend turned 30 last September (I’m typically friends with older people, so it’s nice to have a peer group I’m aware of!) All three of us found ourselves doing the navel-gazing “Thirty years, and I haven’t achieved anything.” (The friend who turned 30 last year does actually have 4 children that she’s raised to be very personable “small humans”, and a marriage that is stable and loving – but, of course, society doesn’t value such things, so they don’t “count.”)

Instead of racing forward to “Oh, but here’s all the things I have done, and here’s what I’ve got to look forward to!” I’ll do my usual “creatively negative” thing.

.I am not being paid for the “work” that I do, and am therefore considered a “drain on society”, as – since my wife is unable to work at the moment owing to health issues, we rely on State support to pay bills, eat, and – ironically – pursue employment opportunities.

.I do not, and will never have, children.

.I haven’t “made a name” for myself in any particular sphere.

These things are all true. They are all unalterable facts of a pretty miserable life. Also, going by my family history, I’m most likely almost halfway through my natural span – my father’s side of the family tend to take that final journey between the ages of 59-63 (my father passed away three years ago next month, at the age of 62, his cousin passed away 11years ago at the age of 59, both of their fathers died in their early 60s) – and a couple of members of my mother’s family, including my maternal grandmother, have passed away in their early-mid 60s (and one member of my mother’s family died in her thirties, but that was by suicide.)

It’s a pretty bleak picture.

But so is a snowscape, and yet there’s a strange, haunting, transient beauty in such a scene; the knowledge that you can create something beautiful – snow angels, for instance, or a snowman, or an igloo – that will be there only for a very short time, and will leave no trace of it, or its creator, behind.

It’s strangely freeing when you realise that your life is a snowscape, not a sculpture park. When you realise that you don’t have to create something immortal and eternal – you just have to create something.

Looking at it in that light, I’ve created a marriage – it’s in its first year, still, but we seem to be getting along alright.  I’ve created a business. I’ve created articles, books, and anecdotes. I’ve created experience of working in a variety of sectors, from admin to finance to youth work. I’ve created a self-initiated, self-run project. I’ve created competition wins, friendships, and photographs. I’ve created ideas, jokes, and conversations.

I’ve created all of these, at a time when, for my first 18 years, I was beholden to others – so technically, I’ve created all of this in 12 years.

Even if I don’t make it much beyond my early 60s, I’ve got the chance to do almost three times as much as I’ve already done – to create almost three times as many things that don’t have to last, that don’t have to stand as a monument to myself and my abilities, because they are created in a snowscape, which renders them transient, and existing in expectation of non-existence.

Other people live in sculpture parks, where their creations stand as permanent monuments. Some live in forests, where, periodically, wild fire destroys everything it took them years to grow. And some of us live in snowscapes, where nothing we do will last.

Nowhere is “better”, and they all have their challenges.

What about you? Where do you live?

Lazy Self-Worth

Sometimes, I swear I’m only on LinkedIn (Ashley Ford-McAllister, picture shows me in a red waistcoat at my wedding, if you’re interested) to find things to be annoyed about.

Other times, I treat it as the balance to Facebook (you can follow Negative Is Also A Charge over there, too.)

I’ve somehow ended up following mostly left-wing folk on FB, and mostly right-wing on LI – maybe it’s just the nature of the kind of people who are drawn to each site.

My problem is…I’m a social capitalist. Capitalism works, it allows a society to make a profit, which allows that society to invest in its people and its infrastructure…but it needs to be tempered with a non-judgmental concern for all others, which can only arise from a stable, secure, sustainable sense of self-worth.

I have worked in school holidays, during college, and as much of the time as I was able to find someone to employ me once I left formal education. I have walked dogs (and picked up their crap) for £5 an hour when there was nothing else. I’ve set up, run, and lost a business, and I’ve started again. I’ve offered free advice to others, in the hope that they’ll engage me for pay in the future – and seen my ideas allow them to take off, while they don’t even mention me in dispatches.  I’ve been homeless and destitute, too, and considered both sex work and suicide. (As a not-particularly attractive Asexual male, the sex work considerations never really got out of the starting blocks.)

I see so many people, working their arses off, living lives of quiet desperation – and then getting accused of being “lazy” and “entitled” by people whose self-worth depends utterly on others being “lesser” – and the world knowing those people are “lesser” by the very visible marker of their being paid less.

If a burger flipper is getting $15 an hour, then the office manager DESERVES at least $30 an hour…if the office manager is getting $30 an hour, the CEO DESERVES at least $90 an hour…if the CEO is getting $90 an hour, the surgeon who saved another CEO’s life following a heart attack DESERVES at least $200…. And, meanwhile, the burger flipper is “lazy” because “they could have chosen to work harder at school, and get a better job.”

I left school with high grades across the board. I took A-Levels,and only didn’t go to University because mental health issues got in the way. My A-Levels were all at strong grades, too.  I have vocational qualifications which I passed with merit or distinction. I did work hard – and, in everyone’s eyes, including my own, sometimes, I’m still “worthless.”

I remember one job, in corporate insolvency – my salary worked out to £7.20 an hour. Clients were billed £25 an hour for my time. Which is it that I’m worth? £7..20 an hour, or £25 an hour?

This – spiraling wage costs because people can’t get a grip and develop a genuine sense of self-worth, and instead take the “lazy self-worth” option of going “but I earn more money than those people, so I’m a better person than them” – is going to be the spark that sets the next recession off.  Businesses can’t afford to keep placating your insecurities with more and more money – because they’ll have to put up their prices, not to cover a “living wage” that doesn’t really allow you to live in most capitalist economies, but to cover the “But if they’re getting X, I  deserve Y, because my job is more valuable than theirs!” shrieks and demands. Once they’ve put up prices, fewer people will be able to buy their products – but they’re still having to placate their workforce’s insecurities, still having to buy people the sense of self-worth they were too lazy to develop for themselves.

Where does my self-worth come from? It comes from knowing that, even if they won’t pay for it, people want my advice. It comes from knowing – as I proved within 15mins of waking up, at 7.15am this morning – that I can turn around a solid 500 word piece in half an hour (I’d been away without internet for the past couple of days, during which time I’d had an email asking me to submit for a vacancy screening that was taking place TODAY). I may well never get paid for that, either. It comes from knowing that I can survive with literally nothing, because I’ve done so before.

It doesn’t come – doesn’t need to come – from the pathetic merry-go-round of being paid more than someone else.

And that corporate insolvency job I mentioned? I’d say my work was worth about £10 an hour – a little more than I was being paid, especially since I was the only person in that office happy to do “forensic accounting”, and the most capable at it – but not as much as the clients were being billed.

Call In The (Creatively Negative) Cavalry!

Negative Charge Book Cover(Animalia Designs)

This is the cover photo for NEGATIVE: CHARGE!, a light-hearted, not-quite-self-help book that offers a short introduction to the art of creative negativity.

The book should be available June/July time – so, perfect for summer holiday reading! – and will be available to purchase from Amazon.

Pre-orders are welcome; £5 per copy, inc UK p&p.  Bulk orders also welcome, £45 (inc p&p) per 10 copies.

For those who live outside the UK, or who prefer not to shop with Amazon, PDFs are available for just £2.

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