A matter of definition

If a country has a corrupt political system, a corrupt judiciary, and a corrupt president plus its government blatantly and continually attacks the media, teargasses peaceful protesters, withdraws from widely recognised and accepted world bodies, such as WHO and UNESCO, directly targets members of the ICC and refuses to be held accountable for war crimes, is it a ‘Rogue State’?

Just asking…

Truth versus certainty

Bertrand Russell seemed to be on the money when he said “What men (he did say it quite a while ago…) really want is not knowledge but certainty.

Politicians and conspiracy theorists seem to understand this well. Not knowing, or simple randomness, can be quite unsettling which makes a solid statement rather attractive.

An uncivil society

A conversation with a friend alerted me to the situation regarding the proliferation of gated communities in the US (and elsewhere), in particular, large gated communities

Even in relatively small gated communities there are strict rules regarding what you can and cannot do, items such as the mowing of lawns, house maintenance, parking of cars, access, security requirements and so on. And, the rules seem to become more intrusive as the wealth increases.

Within these communities live the wealthy and privileged, those who likely value their individual rights, resent the intrusion of the state and the paying of (what they see as) excessive taxes. They have chosen to opt out of the day to day happenings that influence the lives of the majority of people so as to create a miniature world of their own.

Curiously, a large number of US citizens actively work to ‘minimise the intrusion of the state into their daily lives’ while, at the same time willingly submitting to gated community contractual arrangements that allow for very close intrusion into their everyday living.

These communities comprise like-minded people who have agreed to operate in a certain way for the greater good of the whole community – they enter into a sort of social contract. So, what do they see as the difficulty in applying the same concept on a grander scale?

Perhaps these communities could be expanded to include a group of people willingly occupying a country in which everyone agrees to abide by a set of rules that offer security, comfort and shared resources for everyone in exchange for the agreed loss of some personal freedoms.

Gated communities, coupled with private health care, private security, and the occupants’ desire to pay the least possible in the way of taxes are an expression of people opting out of their obligation to the wider community in terms of providing health care, roading, security, parks, inter-state highways and other facilities that benefit everyone – including themselves!

In short, people living in gated communities are eating away at the underpinnings of civil society.

Are women better communicators?

At leadership workshops (usually quietly and to one side of the main discussion), I have been asked “Do you think women are better communicators than men?”

Meeting - blog 3

As you may well imagine, even at the best of times, straying into this area by expressing an opinion one way or the other would be fraught with danger. However, the questions led me to think back to the many people with whom I have worked in leadership programmes and the many stories that have been related to me about workplace and personal situations.

After pondering the question I came to the conclusion that I could not say whether women, as a group, were better (or worse) than men. Furthermore, I realised that many men were far better communicators than many women and that many women were far better communicators than many men. Put another way, I came to the general conclusion that the differences within each gender are greater than the differences between them.

Focusing on the differences within each gender being greater than those between the genders takes the potential heat out of discussions by shifting the focus onto individual action – with the possible bonus that the effort required to change your viewpoint is probably less than that required to change your gender.

Short story: ‘The difference within… ’ approach can be usefully applied to any situation in which you want to move the focus from the stereotype to the individual.


Reject dependency

Some time ago, I got a shock when I visited a friend who used to be my boss many many years before but was now living in a resthome.

In those early days of working, I was well down the food chain and my friend (then my boss) was generally regarded as a substitute, if not replacement for, God: except that he had more power and authority than God.

It was a spur of the moment decision for my wife and I to go and see him and, in the event, he wasn’t there. However, during the visit, we ended up in the resthome lounge (yes, the archetypal resthome lounge) with the inmates seated in comfy chairs around the room perimeter staring into space or sleeping. Reflecting on my ex boss’s  changed situation set me thinking about the radical shifts each of these peoples’ lives had taken compared to their earlier years in which most would have likely exercised varying degrees of independence: independence that was now considerably reduced.

Over the years, I have spent a fair bit of time visiting rest homes but, for some reason, this visit knocked me between the eyes. It was a classic place, very nice with staff who were both helpful and attentive, and the food was good. But, what I found scary was the realisation that, if I somehow found myself in such a place, it could be so easy to be drawn into their (the home’s) routines and needs and become one of the people sitting around staring into space.

For my part, I was staring into a possible future and thinking ‘Hell, is this what it could hold’. The experience brought to the fore my principle of never placing responsibility for my well-being in the hands of others, no matter how well-meaning they are, unless I absolutely have to: resist to the last possible moment. It was a powerful experience.

When I got home I went for a long walk around the hills and next morning, hit the gym with a vengeance.

I have always hoped that as time progresses, I will ultimately be fortunate enough that, in great physical and mental shape, I will exit the planet by falling off a cliff (or the medical equivalent in terms of speed) thereby avoiding the rest-home scenario.

This may all sound a bit morbid but I do question how we treat the aged and, much earlier on in our lives, ourselves. Someone once said ‘If you treat a person as an eagle they will probably behave like one’ and the reverse applies.

Notwithstanding that life is capricious, if we accept being treated as becoming increasingly dependent on others while being nicely and benignly pressured into fitting the routines and needs of others, we set ourselves up for whatever comes next.

Increased ‘comfort ‘ in a rest-home is not necessarily the answer because by then it is too late to fundamentally alter our quality of life. I suspect that most times, the damage is incremental, starts much earlier, and depends on how well we evolve our attitude towards maintaining our mental and physical health, our choice of role-models and how fiercely we protect and evolve our autonomy.

My experience also raised the matter of whether, as we age, we should just give in or strive for eternal youth. My view is that neither position is useful: striving for eternal youth is bound to end in tears and ‘giving in’, as with the resthome observations, limits our potential to fully enjoy what life has to offer. However, the majority of people (taking a chance here) do little to enhance their old age, particularly with regard to maintaining their health, and accept what they see as the inevitable – ‘it’s how it is’!

But the question is, ‘For how many of the residents was their predicament inevitable?

Short story – Do something! Act now!