Acting in the Aftermath

So, the referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU is over – the result, by a very narrow margin, was for Britain to leave the EU.

And the immediate results were ugly.

A Prime Minister resigning – meaning that people who voted “for democracy”, as well as everyone else, will be stuck with a leader they didn’t choose.

A surge in racist violence, racist language, and racial hatred generally – meaning that British people who were born here with a different skin tone, a different accent, people who have lived and worked here happily for years, who proudly called Britain “home”, are now fearful.

A groundswell of young people talking of emigrating – meaning that the workforce could be decimated, that immigration would HAVE to continue to fill the gap – in a society where people not of white British descent may very well NOT want to come to Britain to take up those jobs, preferring, instead, to go to countries that aren’t publicly and loudly expressing racist views. Meaning that those jobs would go undone – necessary jobs; service sector jobs, healthcare jobs, jobs in the “future industries” of, for example, technology.

And a hell of a lot of anger.

I was one of the people getting angry – very angry, in fact.

The immediate anger was reactionary, dysfunctional, emotional anger – it needed to be expressed, it needed to be acknowledged, both by those who were feeling it, and by those it was directed at, but, by its very nature, it can’t sustain itself for long. It will – is already starting to – burn out, slow down, fizzle to a fade.

What is left – the rose beyond the thorns of all that negative, dysfunctional rage – is the calm, logic-informed, rational, but no less intense, functional anger that gets things done. The anger that says “I will not be cruel, insulting, or dishonest in my anger – but nor will I stand for the continuation of that which made me angry in the first place.” Opposing functional angers can clash, and will cause creative destruction – breaking things, yes, but co-operating in putting the pieces back together in a way that creates something enduring, and acceptable to all parties.

Over at The Writer Cliveson, where I throw up my more personal writing, I discuss a bit about how functional anger relies on knowing what you – you the individual, you the company, you the nation – actually want, rather than simply what you don’t want, and how you have to accept that Utopia probably isn’t possible, but look at it, and through it, to find the parts of it that are achievable.

For me, the “achievable” parts of my Utopia were respect and dialogue. Those are the aims I will channel my (now) functional anger towards.

 

Making Difficult Decisions

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Today, the UK votes on whether to remain as a member of the European Union, or not.

Now, the important thing is, this is only a referendum – in UK law, the government doesn’t have to act on what the people decide.  And, in politics and business, that’s how it should be.

“The masses”, to use a sometimes insulting colloquialism, be they grass-roots employees or the average Joe on the street at a time of political upheaval, are like the proverbial blind man feeling an elephant – they will only ever have partial information, through no fault of their own, usually.

However, the “powers that be”, to use another sometimes insulting colloquialism, can, and often do, suffer from “Ivory Tower Syndrome” – they get so caught up in their experiences, they forget those experiences are not universal. They take their knowledge of a situation for granted, forgetting that not everyone else will be privy to it. They fail to realise that other people, in other circumstances, may not share their priorities.

On any issue, you will always end up with various groups, all of whom are only partially informed.

The people who will be responsible for leading the organisation/country through the results and attendant changes of any decision will be the people at the top, while the grassroots folks will be the ones directly affected. (Power, and the wealth that frequently comes with it, protect people from consequences to an extent that is rarely fully appreciated.)  Therefore, it is VITAL that these two groups enter into a respectful, helpful, logical dialogue. Emotion can, and should, have a place in that dialogue, but it shouldn’t dominate.

However, once the dialogue is done, the decision still has to be made – and it is right and proper that those who have the experience to lead people through the impact of that decision are the ones, ultimately, to make it.

The British public may vote to leave the EU – but they may not comprehend the complexity of Britain’s agreements with the EU, the legalities surrounding a withdrawal, or the political consequences in respect to other, binding, international agreements, or the societal impact to Britain’s position and reputation in the world’s eyes.

They may vote to Remain in the EU – but not be privy to information regarding current tensions, the current balance of power, or the direction the EU may be heading in.

Those who, it would be hoped, have better knowledge and experience than “the man on the street”, or “the woman at the bus stop”, who are aware of the full gamut of existing and potential threats, opportunities, and impacts of leaving, or remaining within, the EU, should be the ones who – with input from those whose lives will be directly affected – make the final decision.

Democratic? Not really.

Best for everyone? Almost certainly.  If people were more able to put their emotions, personal concerns, and prejudices aside, if they were granted access to the full facts of a matter, if genuine, intelligent debate prior to the making of an important decision were encouraged and engaged with, then, perhaps, the people could be left to decide.

Until then, while it is right and proper that everyone be given the opportunity to have their opinion heard, I would prefer that lasting, irreversible decisions are made by people with full access to facts, not those subject to fear, prejudice, and assumption.

This isn’t just about Britain as a country – this is about business, groups of individuals, the world.

This isn’t just about the EU referendum – this is about every important decision, whether it is one faced by a country, a company, or a family.

Everyone has the right to an opinion, and the right to have that opinion taken into account – but only those in full possession of the facts of the matter, from all sides of it, should have the right – and the responsibility – to make the decision.

It is nothing short of abuse to delegate important, strategic decisions to those who have not been trained or equipped to appreciate their seriousness, or the impact of each and every possible decision.

So Much Negative – Where’s the Charge?

The shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The shooting, in the UK, of MP Jo Cox.

The divisive, hostile language of debate in the run up to the referendum on whether Britain remains as a member of the EU.

It’s all too easy to look around and think “there can’t be any kind of ‘charge’ here.”  It’s easy to become overwhelmed, exhausted, to believe that nothing good can ever come from any of this.

I’ve been finding it hard to write, recently – I’ve been dealing with a mental health flare that the shootings in Orlando and the shooting of Jo Cox haven’t helped. I’ve been finding it hard to want to carry on.

I can’t yet manage a long, elaborate essay, but I think I can manage taking things piece by piece.

The Orlando shootings have stirred up the LGBTQ community against the gun lobby in America. The same community that brought about a societal shift that many at the time would have said was impossible. The same community that, facing death on a daily basis, have lost their fear of “things not working out.” They’ll take the risk that they can’t defeat the gun lobby, because it’s less than the risks. they’re already facing.  If the gun lobby can be wounded by Orlando, even, then there is a charge attached to its negativity. Something good will come from it.  If they can be shut down entirely – well, then, negativity will have been the charge that makes history.

The shooting of MP Jo Cox made both sides of the “Brexit/Bremain” debate stop and think about the language they were using, the way they were conducting their campaigns. They ceased campaigning following the shooting, which gave members of the public a chance to realise how divisive and childish the campaigns had been to date.  If a paradigm shift in the way Britain conducts itself politically comes from the death of Jo Cox, then there is a charge attached to that negativity, a charge that will move us forward to a place of lasting good.

There are a lot of thorns at the moment, and we will, inevitably, be hurt by them – but that should never stop us reaching through them, and finding the light in the darkness, the charge in the negativity.

Depression, or “Deep Rest Option”?

Depression isn’t glamorous.

Losing your temper with everyone and everything around you because you can barely think straight, realising you’re crying without knowing why, feeling the bubbles – hot and acrid, or ice-cold – of rage over who knows what overwhelming you, drowning you, isn’t glamorous.

Hating yourself, planning your death, isn’t glamorous.

Not showering for days at a time isn’t glamorous.

Barely remembering how to eat, because your hunger isn’t for food, isn’t glamorous.

Depression isn’t glamorous. But, sometimes, it’s what you need.

You need to be shut off from everything that had previously distracted you, made to focus on your pain, so that your brain is forced to focus on a solution to that pain.

Most of us go through life never knowing what it actually is that hurts – and yet it’s what hurts that, once we harness it and address it directly – is most likely to lead us to the life we want.

Few people ever got rich without solving a problem: depression forces you to focus solely on the problem, to live the problem – you just have to stay with it long enough for the immediate agony to pass, and the problem to become apparent.

If you have any other way of identifying the pain that will become your potential – take that way. Depression is a rough, half-forgotten path in country where you find yourself rapidly running out of oxygen, cut, bruised, and frequently lost. If you can find a paved road, clearly signposted – for the love of all, sacred and profane, take that road.

But, if it has to be depression, remember – sometimes, you’ve just been shunted on to the “deep rest option” of life, and, if you can survive it, something lasting will come of it.

It takes time – I’ve suffered from serious, debilitating depression for about half as long as I’ve been alive, and I’m only just beginning to glimpse the potential in the pain. Fifteen years on. A decade and a half, and a half dozen times I’ve nearly walked away.

It may take me another five years to fully grasp and begin to address the potential in the pain. It may take me another fifteen to realise my version of “success.”

I just have to hold on, and do all I can to make sure I have that time – I have to allow depression to be a “negative charge”, instead of just a negative.

 

Less Is More?

When you’re broke, you focus on every possible way to make even a bit of money – because, when you’re broke, every little really does help.

When you don’t know anyone in an area, you make an effort to go to pubs, cafes, and bars – not necessarily to get to know people, but in the hopes of overhearing conversations that give you a clue as to what’s going on, where you should be, what you should avoid, etc.

When you don’t have much, the things with which you surround yourself hold meaning, value, and stories.

And, when you don’t have a lot of time, you focus your energy and attention on getting what needs to be done, done. It’s why so many people report working better in the 48hrs or less before a deadline falls due, than in the entire six weeks (or six months) they’ve had to complete the project.

At Curveball Media, they’re throwing a literal “curveball” into the “accepted” Anglo-American way of working – the long hours, always-on, 24-7 availability demands that cause family breakdowns, mental health issues, and the petty resentments that lead to high staff turnover and low motivation.

They’re shortening the working day to six hours, introducing “core-hours-flexitime”, and generally recognising the fact that people have lives outside of the office. (I know – inconvenient or what?!)

And…

It’s working. They’re getting more out of their staff, avoiding the “3pm slump”, seeing fewer “time wasting” activities (those aimless walks around the office, 20mins spent making a couple of cups of coffee, etc) because people know that they’re there to get things done, and that, if things get done, they get rewarded. Unlike in the typical working hours arrangement, where, if things get done, you get… more things to do.

Creative negativity and minimalism go quite nicely together – like rum and coke, apple and elderflower, and ice cream and the beach.

Anger As Grounding

It genuinely is only when you allow yourself to be angry that you are able to be kind – when you deny anger, it builds and finds expression through a series of petty resentments, petty jealousies, petty ways you hurt relatively innocent people.

Be angry.

Be angry, so that you are able, when you need to, to stop being angry.

Great piece from Gnoostic:

 

Every right to be…. angry. sure. fine. screwed over. but what do I do instead? lay low and wait, ANGER(the great grounding mechanism) true what do you think buddha did in some of his alone time? what do you think Christ did in the desert? They got grounded(yes, sometimes(I would say often) they let anger […]

via ANGER: the great grounding force — Gnoostic