In this era of emotionally charged activism and hyper-sensitive victimhood nearly everybody can be offended or offensive at previously unimagined missteps that have little bearing on reality.
Increasingly we are seeing decisions for action, whether in personal, social or political matters, being made based on emotions, prejudice or group think, rather than facts.
Those acquainted with the Maturity Model for decision making outlined in my book Becoming, will recognise that such a pattern of decision-making is unsustainable. As the model shows, inevitably action based on emotion rather than fact leads to fragmentation and division with high social and financial costs, whether in relationships in families, firms, government or in communities. Recovery from such devastation is fraught and may take longer than a lifetime. Best to become informed and avoid social and financial devastation.
Being well informed about an issue, situation or person leaves us in an advantageous position to assess the best way to respond, or not. Indulging emotions may be momentarily self-gratifying, but does not augur well for downstream results.
Take the case of global protest against inaction on what privileged children believe is a coming climate catastrophe that will end the world in a matter of years. Why study for a future that won’t exist?
Not enough is being done they claim, without awareness of the facts about what is being done, how much it is costing economies and how futile the exercise is proving to be. Missing is the evidence upon which rational decisions can be made. Passion runs as high as the media profile of leaders and groups, stirring anxiety along with challenge. No proper enquiry has been made before final judgement has been reached. Context is missing, as is the courage to confront truth.
My Maturity Model shows that the situation is less sustainable than the planet. Predictably fragmentation of individuals and groups is already occurring. Cost of attending to the belief in climate catastrophe and extinction is already damaging the Australian economy in unaffordable energy prices, financially crippling the elderly, the poor and small business. Tourists are staying away from the Great Barrier Reef because of widespread alarmism that it is damaged by bleaching and runoff, as farmers and graziers face increasing regulations that are remote from scientific reality. A farmer is fined $100k in a city court for the common farming practice of knocking down mulga on his own property to feed his starving cattle. The mulga grew back before the court completed its ridiculous exercise in law.
The cost to individuals, families and businesses at the mercy of bureaucracies justifying their existence is devastating, personally, socially and financially. We have yet to count the cost of the emerging havoc of treating global child protestors for anxiety, medication, indifference to education, inability to seek out facts or context, and therefore patterns of poor decision-making.
The planet, meanwhile, has shown a remarkable capacity to revitalize and continue to produce, at the same time that mankind has shown every bit as remarkable capacity for innovation to solve problems. Of course, hope, inspiration and knowledge are necessary elements for resolving global challenges.
Feminism, institutional sexual abuse of children and the #metoo movement have each contributed to heightened social awareness of what is acceptable sexual conduct by exposing practices that had been kept pretty much under the radar in past eras.
Had perpetrators been familiar with my Maturity Model they would have realized much earlier that loading unbearable burdens onto less powerful people is not sustainable and can lead only to financial and social disintegration. Woe to you who load up a pack too heavy for (wo)man to carry. Churches are floundering financially paying compensation and members depart as a result. Powerful men are being tried and sent to jail. Moral leadership of the ‘message’ has lost out to higher virtues of conspicuous compassion and privileged pain.
Distressing as the exposure of sexual abuse has been, expectations for better behaviour in interpersonal relationships have resulted. Recognition of hurt, compensation and counselling go some way towards healing those traumatized, though can never entirely “make good” for disturbed lives.
All this is fine progress. But some individuals and media take licence and go too far, contriving sexual or physical abuse where none has occurred, often to satisfy personal agendas.
Extremes betray us
While a victim’s account of abuse is now more readily believed, as with climate catastrophe, it is wise to reserve healthy skepticism, as can be demonstrated in recent cases.
British peers and their families had their lifetime’s work and reputation destroyed by a young man who claimed he had been sexually abused by them. The accuser now is in jail for being a pedophile himself and admits to lying about those he previously accused. Fifteen minutes of fame for lives destroyed, when skepticism would have demanded more intelligent investigation!
Publication of 40 year old sexual abuse allegations against newly appointed US Supreme Court Judge, Brett Kavanagh, is a case in point. That the alleged “victim” had no recollection and was not party to the allegation seemed of little relevance to the political and career damage intended by publishing the story.
Families and reputations can too easily be devastated by allegations of sexual abuse, which are hard to disprove. When small children and improbable circumstances are involved, management of the situation is best handled quietly and directly in a way that does not cause more problems than would the initial allegation. Context is important, as is the courage to seek facts to inform the “wisdom of discernment to administer justice”. Otherwise families, lives, work and reputations can be sacrificed, quite unnecessarily and uselessly, on the altar of orchestrated emotional self-interest. Again the high social cost of intolerable burdens roll out like tsunami taking out the target and anyone else within reach.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is to be commended for persistence in pressing for a review of Family Court processes in which, under the perception of “toxic male”, women have successfully been encouraged to perjury, claiming domestic violence for higher leverage in gaining access to children and assets.
As with any lack of truth, there are consequences. Firstly a man’s reputation may be damaged forever; he is likely to lose his family, home, children and the majority of his assets; and the cost, injustice and length of such a damaging process may result in the ultimate fragmentation ending in his suicide. There is a further unfortunate consequence in that attention to genuine claims of domestic violence may be diminished.
A review of the Family Court should at least shine a light on the suitability of processes from the lived experiences of people who have been through them, including women and children who have been seriously disadvantaged. Hopefully the review can achieve a greater element of truth that would balance expectations, choice and responsibility, as shown in my Maturity Model, so that fairness will be better served by the “wisdom of discernment”, allowing people to move on more productively with their lives.
The principle of seeking enquiry before making accusation holds true.