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Hero or Victim

Jordan PetersonTo many Jordan Peterson is a hero, to others a villain. As Professor of Psychology at Toronto University, Peterson came to public prominence when he refused to abide by the University’s edict to use gendered pronouns, which he described as “compelled speech” reminiscent of totalitarian states. In doing so he belled political correctness prevalent in Canada and other western nations that inhibit the airing of ideas to debate and resolution in the public square, in case they offend the precious sensibilities of those of particular identity (race, gender, religion).

Peterson’s following grew when he began recording his course lectures and putting them on YouTube. As a consequence of the extraordinary following, he published books Maps of Meaning and 12 Rules for Life: an antidote to chaos. The latter has sold over 2 million copies in the west and is about to be translated into 50 languages. Sellout tours have been conducted all around Australia and many other countries. To many young men he has become a hero who has given them hope, direction and purpose, filling the void of absent fathers and reassuring them as their masculinity comes under attack. That his messages are so enthusiastically received is indicative of a gap in moral leadership being met.

Much of what Peterson has to say, in his quiet, thoughtful manner, is a bit “old fashioned”, like the moral, inspiring stories in the school readers of the past. Chapters in his book are indicative of lessons grandparents of old would have passed on, with titles: Stand up straight with your shoulders back; Tell the truth – or at least don’t lie; Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them; Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient). I can remember my father saying shoulders back! (he was tall with very straight posture) and eat your veggies! Though grandchildren did retort you become what you eat!

More than anything Peterson challenges people to take up individual responsibility, in truth, to deal with what is a grueling life. Those who have read my book Becoming, will recall that responsibility and truth are critical elements of my Maturity Model for making confident decisions. When reading Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, I find many similar topics are covered – his more erudite psychology; mine more applied, especially around matters of women and family, better encompassing what the demographic changes in longer life mean for each of us.

Though Peterson has become a hero to some, he has also been a reluctant victim of many who have misrepresented him, labelled as racist, Nazi, homophobe and much worse, for simply stating enduring truths. As a victim he should be lauded by those who clothe themselves in glory defending the “downtrodden”. Yet as a (now) wealthy white male, he is pilloried as an oppressor by the mob.

Snowflake victims abound in ever more narrowing identity groups, be they illegal immigrants, the bullied, abused children, Aborigines, Queers, Muslims, women or ethnic minorities. Each identity attracts organisations providing oversight and support, all with their hands in the taxpayers’ pocket. Without diminishing the impact on victims, they are heralded as heroes, given prominence, consolation and compensation. Taxpayer money is thrown at the problem. Yet ultimately they have to pick up their own bed and walk – i.e. own responsibility for making the best of themselves in this life, regardless of the challenges. A spirit of gratitude for benefits bestowed would be a start. After all, life is tough for all of us and as each is imperfect, so will be the circumstances dealt us.

It may be that the generous, sympathetic taxpayer also becomes a victim of decisions to tax beyond their capacity to pay and care for themselves and their family, as well as prepare for their own future.

Peterson’s popularity emerges when moral leadership from our churches and government has lost credibility. Parenting skills have deteriorated over 50 years and school teachers report increased bullying and physical violence from students and parents. Respect and deference are all but gone. Education funding has increased as standards have declined, historical knowledge replaced by depressing social activism based on ideological absolutes, rather than inspiring stories of heroism: global warming/climate change catastrophe; animal rights, colonization of Aborigines, refugee sympathies, gender fluidity, destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, stop Adani. Where is there space in a crowded curriculum for facts anyway, after all the various ideologies of the day have been grafted into every lesson? And why bother learning when the world is going to end in 12 years?

Dogmatic pursuit of ideologies through the institutions makes victims of us all, especially the children falsely indoctrinated. Truth and balance are absent factors. What is missing is knowledge of the outstanding record of achievement of this country, western civilisation and its institutions that have produced a prosperous, advanced society: respect for the individual, separation of powers, freedom of speech and ownership. Nothing is mentioned of the benefits that have accrued to each of us; only contempt for what is imperfect, bolstered by misrepresentation and untruths.

Peterson asks, “Are you better off than your grandparents?” Twice recently I have heard of children telling their grandparents it was time they “dropped off” and left all their hard earned assets to them. No understanding of the history of toil involved in assembling the assets, nor the institutions that helped make it possible; just entitlement!

Billions of people have been brought out of poverty by liberal democratic market economies. Outside China’s centrally controlled command economy (success of which depends heavily on trade and technology from democratic USA); it is hard to name a country that has done as well as those in the west.

While the global impact may represent mere news items flashing across our screens, Jordan Peterson, hero and victim, brings life down to manageable proportions with suggestions: make you bed, look after your family, do your job. What’s not to like?

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Back to School

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Significance of Australia Day

Celebration of Australia Day occurs around the same time as students return to school. Both raise similar hoary issues subject to political activism.

The chosen date for celebration on 26 January acknowledges the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Philip, with nine ships of marines, convicts and supplies, landed in Sydney Cove and laid the foundations of one of the world’s most successful liberal democracies. According to detailed records of the first fleet documented by Trent Dalton, Philip was charged with a mandate to establish a colony based on equality of all under the law, in keeping with the tenets of western civilization.

Despite human imperfections in the process, Philip and those who followed have been largely successful. Unprecedented levels of personal freedom and social equality since achieved continue to attract people from over the world.

For instance, we don’t see illegal immigrants setting off on dangerous journeys in small boats to settle in restrictive dictatorships where there is no separation of powers between the ruling elite and the law, no freedom of speech, thought, religion or movement. For that we have to thank the Enlightenment and the constantly refining traditions of western civilization. That is worth celebrating, regardless of the rewriting of history. First Australians have been presented with opportunity to step up and join the world, as many already have.

Let’s leave the self-loathing behind to acknowledge and celebrate our achievements, however imperfect. Have a happy Australia Day!

Beware the curriculum

Parents need to be aware of, and able to counter, the post-modern leftist themes of class, race and gender that, with climate change, permeate virtually every curriculum. History especially is being rewritten through the prism of political activism rather than linear facts and knowledge.

According to Bella d’Abrera,[1] we need to examine the way Australian history is being taught if we are to understand the self-loathing narrative pushed onto us by some Australians about the date of our national day.

D’Abrera draws a direct correlation between the version of our history taught in our universities and the story trotted out to Australians in the lead up to 26 January. Themes based on class, race and gender are all pervasive according to Australian History’s Last Stand, an audit of Australian history teaching at universities conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs. The report found that of 147 subjects taught across 35 universities last year, a total of 102 either focus on, or make reference to class, race and gender, ensuring our past is viewed through the lens of identity politics.

Historical evidence, objective truth and knowledge have been overtaken by political activist academics and social commentators, self-proclaimed champions of empowering minorities and the oppressed by rewriting history. In doing so, history is distorted to advance contemporary political agendas, or worse, ignored completely. D’Abrera found that the story of our success as a modern nation based on the ideas of liberalism is almost absent from the university curriculum and completely omitted from the narrative being pushed by the anti-Australia Day lobbyists.

Parental knowledge and responsibility

The issue for those returning to school is that they are likely to be taught historical distortions. Parents need to know differently if they are to present a countervailing point of view that enables students to be proud of what has been achieved in this country, yet still prepared to work on continuous improvements.

And parents are up for the task. A recent poll undertaken by the Institute of Public Affairs shows a significant divide between elite academics and commentators and the rest of mainstream Australia. Results showed that 75% of Australians want to keep Australia Day on 26 January; 76% are proud of Australia’s history; and 88% are proud to be Australian. Moreover, 92% think freedom of speech is important and 77% believe freedom of religion to be an important value.

Anyway it won’t be too long before the self-loathing elites turn their disdain to Anzac Day, pollute the hearts and minds of children pushing onto all the notion of gender fluidity that affects only a small percentage; traffic environmental falsehoods on climate change, the Great Barrier Reef and Adani; seek to deny protection for religious freedom; and violently punish through social media anyone choosing to exercise freedom of speech by presenting a different point of view to the elite gender, race, class and environment themes of the left.

Deciphering it all to become confident in our beliefs requires effort, especially in this year of disruption. But it can be done by seeking sound knowledge and challenging political activism.

It’s not going to be easy though. Makes one hanker somewhat for the “old days”. Back then the simple pleasure of the whiff of a new exercise book and a sharpened pencil were enough to stir excitement in anticipation of a new year of knowledge acquisition.

The effort will be worth it, as the politicisation of the learning of history, short on facts and devoid of humour, betrays our children, their education and their future.

Happy Australia Day! And best wishes for the year of learning ahead.

 

[1] Director of Foundations of Western Civilisation at the Institute of Public Affairs

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Towards a Happy New Year 2019

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Let’s ensure that 2019 is a great year for us and our country. At election time we can do this by making sound rational decisions, rather than emotional ones about an issue, a person or a party. Alternatively, failing to make a decision means that decisions will be made that may not be to our liking, especially when Australia is signatory to international agreements that can all too readily rob us of choice at home.

Impact of international agreements

Our politicians compelled to make decisions on matters on our behalf, tend to be swayed by emotional activism of selective compassion. Look no further than the following examples:

  • Paris agreement on Climate Change that makes high demands of some countries and relieves others of responsibility, while handing over $billions from compliant nations into the bottomless pit of corruption;
  • Migration agreement which opens up borders for the free flow of human traffic, denying local sovereignty over who, and how, people may come to a country, regardless of the cost to us in settling them and stumping up for legal action that clogs our courts;
  • Human Rights agreements that seem to apply only to compliant nations who are judged by countries abusing Human Rights like Saudi Arabia;
  • Family Law which places international law of the Hague Convention above the interests of Australian children; and
  • Environmental laws which forever pillory Australia for its conservation efforts regarding the Great Barrier Reef crossing 2,400 km latitude, linking its survival with a coal mine 600 km away.

The importance of our vote can be understood when we realise Australia’s participation in these agreements has been driven by local activism by individuals, groups and green/left-leaning media (as in their ABC), all of whom operate in an emotional, fact-free environment. Action here drives global decisions that often impose inordinate costs upon those least able to carry them. For instance, pursuit of renewable energy under the Global Warming/Climate Change agreements has increased the cost of energy and reduced reliability of supply, hurting the poor and business, as more power is disconnected for inability to pay the bills on time.

The Maturity Model for decision-making

Those who have read my book Becoming: the ordinary person’s road map to life’s big decisions will know that Choice, Expectation and Responsibility are three elements of decision making that help clarify a sustainable pathway to good personal and policy decision-making.

My Maturity Model clearly shows in visual form that when expectations increase by one party or parties, responsibilities increase on others, whose choice is diminished. In a democracy, this poor outcome is unsustainable. Eventually both parties become less mature and the potential for dissension and division increases, with attendant high social and economic costs. The model applies at a personal relationship level, as well as in a work situation or policy setting.

Policy outcomes of global decisions

In addition to unaffordable and unreliable electricity here, a clear example of such a policy outcome is demonstrated in the “yellow vests” protests in France against the high costs of fuel. Virtue signaling by President Macron increasing taxes on fuel that ‘outsiders’ of the population cannot afford, led to riots and destruction for weeks, and eventual back down by Macron. High social and economic costs were expected to be paid by people without a choice in the decisions affecting them.

Similar imposition of taxes on transport and herd reduction in agriculture is coming our way as the global compact on climate change reaches further into our economy to reduce CO2 emissions in those sectors. Destruction of people’s livelihoods and the economy are mere sacrifices to be made on the altar of the great ‘religion’ of climate change.

Yet the science of global warming is not settled and costly action is taken fact free because politicians face the wrath of the electorate stirred emotionally to “do something” about climate change without accounting for the high, useless cost of doing so. The folly of it all can be put in perspective when we confront the reality of Australia’s minuscule 1.3% contribution to CO2 emissions and the even more minuscule amount 0.04% of CO2 trace gas in the global atmosphere, only 3% of which is contributed by humans, the rest by nature. Emotional virtue signaling rules and we all pay, whether we like it or not. Dare to question or deny and you are likely to be trolled on social media or sacked from your job like Professor Peter Ridd. Play the game, as in socially controlled China, if you wish to prosper in this post-truth society. No wonder politicians fall for it, or at best, take an each way bet.

Our electoral decisions

In the current situation, the importance and value of our vote at the coming elections become clear if we are to make 2019 a happy new year in which we overcome disruption and set upon the path to continued prosperity.

To do that we need to take a more considered approach to voting for candidates who stand to represent us. Respect the candidate who does what we don’t have the courage to do. Seek facts about the person and policies. Truth is another element of the Maturity Model for decision-making.

Look beyond emotion and selfish interests to the national interest. Should both interests coincide, then great. Increasing benefits and subsidies may appeal to those dependent on government, but someone must pay for them. How much do we take from the major tax contributors before they no longer invest here, especially when treated with such contempt as evil by a large section of the community? We would then be in a declining position to afford essentials like health care and education.

Make a rational choice, rather than and emotional one at the last minute as you walk past the sausage sizzle on the way to the booth. Don’t be lazy by lodging a donkey vote. Value the privilege you have in this country to have a say in the outcome of the election and future policies, especially when the conduct is relatively civil, without bloodshed.

On a train between New York and Jacksonville I sat next to an African American woman of my own vintage and asked if she would be voting in the coming (2016) election. “Never miss,” was her answer, “the right to vote was too hard won!”

Learn from history. Socialism is a failed experiment that claimed generations of lives. Creeping socialism where ever more people are dependent on government, means the government intrudes further into everyone’s lives. Individual responsibility is relinquished to unelected bureaucratic power – in Australia, Europe and the failed United Nations.

As mentioned, responsibility is another element of the Maturity Model that calls each of us to step up in truth to make the very best decisions in our own lives, especially as we vote. And we should do so in a spirit of willingness and gratitude.

Make it a Happy New Year!

 

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Hope at Christmas

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I love the end-of-year children’s performances – the massed choir and orchestra, glorious music and singing, the polished dances, glittering costumes and shining faces of children, excited to be involved showcasing the year’s efforts. For a grandparent, delight is manifold: there is at once joy in the moment, affirmation of the value of life and hope and promise in the future – an exemplar of Christmas.

Hope in Crises

Experiences such as these are invaluable in restoring hope at a time when so many countries lurch towards crisis, a tipping point – for the countries, for democracy, for freedom of speech, religious freedom, parental rights, as the 30% expert elite insiders try to assert their will over the 70% of we outsiders.

Author Mathew Lesh in his book Democracy in a Divided Australia, shows how this country (and others) is no longer divided politically between left and right, Labor and Coalition, but across parties between the educated elite, powerful insiders in government and institutions, and the powerless “outsiders” who tend to be subject to every more narrowing regulation leaving little freedom or choice. Satisfaction of the needs at the lower level of the Maslow hierarchy achieved through growing prosperity and comfort seems to have stirred ambitions in the faithless. Self-actualization at higher levels of Mazlow’s hierarchy are sought by doing zealous work for new age ‘moral’ causes and make-work schemes that impinge upon the daily lives of people merely trying to go about their business.

For instance, British who voted for Brexit see democracy betrayed by the deal with unelected European bureaucrats, who refuse to return control to the British people. For weeks ‘yellow shirts’ in Paris protested the high cost of fuel as a result of the virtue signaling President Macron’s climate change tax not voted for, which they cannot afford. Ukraine struggles under the yoke of an invasive Russia, which once more must fence off people to “win” loyalty, land and water. China draws a long bow to assert towards global dominance by stifling democracy and dissent at home and encroaching upon the lives and opinions of Chinese abroad by buying power, land theft, direct intrusion and menace to relatives at home. The failed bureaucracy of the United Nations appears to have become merely a platform for failed states, forever berating and punishing democracies trying to do the right thing by accepted global rules.

Need for hope in Australia

What has all this to do with us in Australia? You might ask. Quite a bit, when the same pervasive patterns of behaviour also infect our bureaucracies and agencies, especially those tied to international bodies like the UN, or protocols and threats of catastrophes on migration and what is now known as Climate Change (as distinct from previous brand iterations as “environment”, “greenhouse”, then “global warming”, evolving for better marketing as alarming catastrophes prove baseless).

In the same way failed bureaucracies at home beat up on people trying to do the right thing.  Why, for instance, would a farmer be fined a $million for building too wide a fire break, when recent Queensland fires were said to be caused by failure to affect adequate clearing.

As well we have our own failed bureaucracies that are supposed to protect and support people like us, our families and our assets. This year’s Royal Commission into financial services in Australia revealed banks and insurance companies’ appalling contempt for customers in the ripping off of their savings, overcharging, even of the dead. Furthermore agencies like ASIC and APRA dismally failed in their job of oversight. Again in the financial sector, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has shown contempt for business in the way it handles alleged debt, sending to the wall many firms who do not have the resources to fight the weight of government, even when the government is wrong.

In every instance the cost of bureaucrats failing to do their job properly runs to $billions. We could balance the budget in an instant if they all performed to reasonable standards as expected by the taxpayers and customers.

Expert intrusion

As if these non-performances were not enough, ordinary Australian outsiders are daily assailed by the ‘insider’ expert class who believe they know what’s best for us. Predictably, though same sex marriage passed into law a year ago allowing those of the LGBQTI community to marry the person they love, it is not enough. The law has been taken as licence to intrude into the minds, bodies, classrooms and families with advocacy for gender fluidity. Ninety-nine percent of the population must be subjugated to the 1% of those of indeterminate or fluid gender or be charged with criminal offence. Sex is no longer male or female but transient to be assigned as one wishes at any stage of life. Good luck with that!

Despite the efforts of many dedicated teachers, schools have become propaganda factories through which to push elitist theory, as shown by the children’s political demonstrations on populist topics of climate change, anti-Adani and refugees. Add to these the “black armband” history of colonization that demonises western civilisation. Truth, the only factor on which a future can be built, is sadly missing in this capture of young minds. There is little hope when young people are being terrorised and fearful.

Is there a need for God?

As Australia has become more secular, the Judaeo –Christian traditions on which our culture, civilization and prosperity have been built are trashed in favour of failed socialism that cost over 100 million lives in recent history.

Democracy is imperfect because we are imperfect. Yet as a system of governance it towers above dictatorships that rely for survival on crushing, starving and limiting its people. God of faith is supplanted by an all-powerful supreme being who must be adulated. Think Kim Jong Un, Putin.

In Australia the faithless elite assume the power of God (or Kim Jong Un) on issues of climate change, refugees, Adani, gender and aborigines, claiming the high moral ground, virtue signaling, demanding adherence to the “faith” and shaming and de-platforming anyone daring to pose a different perspective, even within their own family.

With so many contending for honours, it seems people do need a God in secular Australia. Pity the new versions have none of the truth, love, respect, good will or hope offered by the traditional One, especially at Christmas.

That is why hope for the future shines through in the gleaming, excited faces of children who have worked hard (with their parents) all year to achieve so much. Congratulations and best Christmas wishes to you all! You have done your job faithfully and deserve the rewards. Peace and joy be with you.

 

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The Changing Meaning of Words

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Letters from the front during WWI were scribed in beautiful copperplate handwriting in sensible sentences expressing love, thoughtfulness and yearning for home, tinged with a strong sense of duty, selflessness, of honour.

Prosperity and diversity since have brought changes in values and language, so that today, from the trenches of privilege, text and emoji may be the ultimate expression of emotional depth.

Yet language is constantly evolving: Macquarie Dictionary annually introduces new words or phrases that have become part of the lexicon of Australia. Decline in moral leadership in government, major institutions and churches has left a vacuum willingly filled by people pursuing particular causes, reframing morality and virtue as they go. As a result, some significant changes in the meaning of words often reflect a change in “insider” morality imposed upon us by those trumpeting their virtues. At the same time those who have lived and remember history, are condemned for holding values that stood us in good stead in earlier times.

Honour

Nowhere is the divergence of the meaning of the word “honour” more evident than in the Bourke Street terrorist attack. To the attacker acting according to his Koranic edicts, honour meant slaying “infidels”, never mind that they were people merely going about their business in a country that had welcomed and supported the immigrant in need. To us there is no honour in such violence and ingratitude. The victim was also responding to his inner values of honour, going out of his way to help someone who appeared to be in trouble. The outcome is something to ponder: as our values and the meaning of our words are challenged, how alert must we be to potential harm to us and our community?

Virtue

In a more homogeneous society, when Judaeo/Christian leadership informed our legislature and way of life, we knew what virtue was: kindness, caring, doing the right thing by your neighbour, children and your parents, being honest, sexual propriety, obeying the laws of the land. Now the moral vacuum has been filled by the faithless, who nevertheless, play God, signalling their own virtue while denouncing publicly and widely through social and any other media, alleged sins of those who may merely have a different opinion on issues such as: race, aboriginality, refugee placement, climate change, energy generation, gender preference, religious freedom, marriage and family and the contribution of western civilisation. Without allowing into the debate the countervailing influence of alternative opinions, we could find ourselves on the way to totalitarianism similar to that defeated by the brave, pragmatic defence personnel a hundred years ago. Lest we forget!

Judgemental virtue signalling has replaced the essence and meaning of virtue.  As our basic needs at the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy have been met, thanks to hard work that achieved greater prosperity for us, powerful “insiders” seek self-realisation in the promotion of self in virtue – in seeking to do something wonderful for the planet, refugees, women, LGBTQI community. Denunciation and de-platforming of others of differing opinion goes hand in hand with self-promoting virtue signalling. Misrepresentation and sensitivity to offence is rife. After all, the privileged elite know what’s good for the rest of us.

Always there is the contradiction in their words and action. Whether or not they are astute enough to realise it, in a totalitarian state there would be no freedom to express their emotional, irrational views. Furthermore, hatred is a multiplier that too easily can become self-consuming, as demonstrated in a longitudinal example in Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life that ended in self destruction of the passionate pursuer of fruitless “worthy” causes.

Love given also has the power to be a multiplier, a truth the compassionate virtue signallers would realise had they more knowledge and experience of history of western civilisation and valued the Judaeo/Christian contribution to it. Original sin has been replaced by original virtue.

Truth

Even truth has taken a battering in this post-truth world. For instance, how hard is it to work out whether the planet is warming and if we are to blame, or whether the failure of the climate to correlate with sophisticated computer modelling is a function of poor science, failed hypotheses, or hoary virtue signalling. Be assured that money, power and greed are contributors to the groundswell of opinion. Just ask scientists on the funding gravy train, Al Gore, John Hewson and others adept at riding financial waves, how they have surfed to prosperity on the backs of ordinary people, the outsiders without a say.

Most of us just want to pay a fair price for the essential service of reliable power. Simple as that! Bureaucratic and government interference has clouded the market on behalf of the global Gaia on the corruption merry-go-round: corrupted science that feeds corrupt global bureaucrats to transfer money and power to corrupt failed states. Go figure! One of the worst things about this state of play is the troublesome inversion of truth and virtue. Challengers (deniers) and countries/people trying to do the right the by the planet are pilloried as evil. They lose their jobs like Bob Carr and Professor Peter Ridd who dared to challenge scientists to prove their hypotheses. Where is the truth in that? If we want to conserve a clean planet, we might ask the violent, feral left whether they make their bed and dispose of their rubbish properly. Just for starters!

Love

‘Love is love’, or so we were told during the lead up to the referendum on same sex marriage. Seems to me that the love professed does not extend to others who hold a more traditional view of marriage, as it should in the Christian tradition of “loving their neighbour as thyself”. Though SSM has since been embedded in legislation, latent hatred manages to find expression in attempts to demonise and neutralize any position adopted by “outsiders” holding true to known and proven traditions, by which they choose to live and raise their children. That is not to pass judgement on those who have successfully captured the words ‘gay’, ‘pride’ and ‘rainbow’ as brands – their choice should be respected, as should others who choose differently.  Get the pattern? Only one point of view (theirs) is allowed and without the context that might introduce reason. Lest we forget the horror of totalitarianism!

 Political correctness

Overlaying these distortions of language is political correctness fuelled by the grievance industry. I wonder what the WWI soldiers slogging it out in the trenches would think of today’s humourless snowflakes who are ever ready to be offended. Certainly pervasive PC has coerced us generally into becoming a more respectful, tolerant and welcoming society, careful to watch our Ps and Qs in discourse with others. There is no harm in that. However, like all good things taken too far, the virtue of intent becomes harmful under control of the emotionally incontinent disconnected from the real world.

Having achieved so much already, of necessity they must look for ever more ways to control the ignorant “outsiders” by creating make-work bureaucratic schemes that engorge the state.  “Unconscious bias” when recruiting; the decline in merit and reward for effort when diversity is the priority over competence; the amount of sugar, fat, drugs and alcohol consumed; how much exercise we do; adherence to, and payment for utopian “green” schemes; blame for inevitable colonisation 240 years too late, for which we must be forever sorry, unable to move forward to take advantage of 21st century benefits; forever ingratiating and apologetic to those self-invited immigrants who prefer to adhere to the laws and values of the country of origin rather than enter into the spirit of this country that has given them succour. Gratitude is one word that appears lost on all those sensitive souls demanding others to behave in a PC way. Nothing is perfect. Best if those trolls standing in judgement on we mere mortals showed some appreciation for how far we have come, practised the respect and tolerance they demand of others. Lest we forget how!

Sense of humour

Perhaps one of the most outstanding characteristics of the WWI diggers was their sense of humour.  In the grimmest of circumstances, they were able to make light of the pommy officers and the desperate situation as they worked together to get the job of winning our freedom done. Perhaps we need to conscript that spirit today, a century on, to spare us from the horrors of infinite regression into pervasive totalitarianism that has distorted our language and threatens to diminish our freedoms. Lest we forget!

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Simplify life – just do your job

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We all yearn for the simple life that seems ever elusive. Owning responsibility for doing your job would help.

A statement like this may appear extraneous at a time of job descriptions, key performance indicators, chains of command and performance review. However, all too often those stretching the boundaries of acceptability seem to get away with it, while others are left to carry the burden of responsibility for management inaction (not responsible for doing the job).

Working

Take the case of Karen, a theatre sister working shifts in a major hospital. For over a decade, Karen and other co-workers were hassled by a lazy co-worker who did not do his job and was serially abusive to his colleagues, making the workplace toxic. Unacceptable behaviour continued because he knew he could get away with it. Though reported repeatedly to the manager, no action was taken. His run ended when the manager was replaced and he was sacked.

Similarly I had first-hand experience of a bureaucrat who did the same, quite vindictively destroying people, careers, valuable projects and reputations. Not only did she not do her own job, she actively hindered the productivity of others doing theirs. Complaints about her piled high in the grievance unit without action being taken despite all the so-called checks and balances. One worker had to take legal action to protect his career and financial future from her malevolence. Eventually it did end when an outsider took charge and facilitated her speedy exit.

A relationship between a high-end hairdresser and her employee ended unpleasantly when the employee failed to do the agreed job of servicing existing clients well and fostering new ones. The employee left to take a position with lower expectations, rather than step up in the interests of her career and that of the business.

Parenting

Similar stories abound – from family, business, government and bureaucracy.  Most parents try to do the right thing disciplining their children so that they might eventually be productive, contributing citizens. Doesn’t it rankle when ill-disciplined children run riot, without regard for person or property, without manners or respect. Dare to say something and you are likely to be attacked by a parent who does not own responsibility for the authority vested in him/her. Like the workplace examples above, the expectation is that others are willing to bear the brunt any harm that might occur.

Policing

As I write, a news story appears about 100 or so youths of African appearance disrupting a train service, terrorizing passengers and others as they took over the station and a nearby park. It has been reported that 12 police cars turned up. No one was arrested or charged. The pattern has been repeated in many other incidents involving home invasion, car stealing, personal violence, burglary of homes and business, trashing of public and private property. The youths now openly flout both the law and the law-abiding public with claims of being untouchable while slinging insults towards ‘white trash’. Policing is a tough gig and I am full of admiration and gratitude for those who put themselves on the line to protect people. It is almost certain that the ‘go slow’ on African youth is an order from above. The Victorian public is entitled to ask ‘Is the government doing its job to protect citizens and property?’

Consulting

The work of a consultant can also be fraught, depending, as it does, on common understandings being reached between the parties about the scope of work and responsibilities of each. Stories abound about the difficulties that emerge when one or other of the parties fails to do their job. In some instances it may be the well-established consultant being too cavalier about affording due respect, time, effort and attention to the job in hand.

On the other hand, it may be the client who fails to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract, either in attending to their end of the deal in a timely way or in failing to pay – on time, or not at all. Consequently, unless the consultant is on the ball, client failure to do their job hinders progress towards meeting the client’s needs. Contracts with government can fall into this category. Authority of the bureaucracy often fails the responsibility challenge, largely because of the said lack of respect and understanding of business – a reason rather than an excuse. Not doing their job has a flow on effect on the service provider. In keeping with my Maturity Model, serial failures result in immaturity of the parties, fragmentation of the individuals and high social and financial costs.

Financial institutions

The Royal Commissions into financial institutions has exposed the latent greed inherent in the banking and insurance industries, largely devoid of good practice or consideration for what that meant for customers. Most of all it has revealed how highly paid executives in both business and the regulating agencies, APRA and ASIC, did not do the job they were paid handsomely to do.  As a result, many people lost their properties, their savings and their wellbeing.  No shame! The criminal charges likely to be laid will not bring back prosperity and trust lost.

Do enough

While exhorting readers just to do their job to make life simpler and easier to be able move on in peace and harmony, caution is urged not to do too much. Doing too much can also be a trap that enables others to avoid their responsibilities. One of my mother’s sayings was, “all you have to do is act dumb and someone will do it for you”. Some people are quite accomplished at ‘acting dumb’ to win attention, service and conspicuous compassion.  Repetition of their ‘story’ of need or helplessness builds a psychological barrier that prevents them from ever becoming a contributor.

In this complicated world, in order to keep our lives as simple as possible, it is best not to enter into a pattern of doing the work of others that will lead to our own fragmentation, although it is okay to help out. A message for many elderly who are accustomed to giving service is that their main priority in later years is to care for themselves. Doing so challenges others to grow up, if they have not already done so.

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A sense of humour

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Statues in English Bay, Vancouver, BC, Canada

A fine sense of humour is one of the defining characteristics of highly evolved, civilized human beings. Cartoonists have these characteristics in spades, yet often pay dearly for honest insight and depiction of people and situations that entertain us.

Cartoonists’ dare

Danish cartoonists depicting Mohammed resulted in deaths of other unrelated people around the world: twelve people at Charlie Hebdo were murdered by terrorists; cartoonist Bill Leak was hounded to death by the Australian Human Rights Commission for his penetratingly honest depiction of Indigenous; and now we have Walkley Award winning Mark Knight being globally pilloried by the rich, powerful and emotional, who have chosen to read racism and sexism into a cartoon on the bad sportsmanship of a privileged champion.

Knight’s cartoon didn’t raise hackles in Australia until taken up by the US and other international media. Australians generally still have enough of the larrikin in them to enjoy the joke and call out a bad sport as it is. Unlike the USA partisan tennis audience, Williams’ behaviour on our patch would more likely be heckled and booed. She would have been urged to get on with it.

Caricature and satire are of critical importance to good cartooning, requiring exceptional draughtsmanship, wit and deep humanity. Cartoonists dare us to see what is true and use humour to do so. What’s to be offended about?

Progressives

By contrast, so called “progressivism” springs from emotion or magical, wishful thinking that has a feel good air about it. The progressive follows a false and seductive “feel good” doctrine that has no means of weighing costs to some people against benefits to others. No reality. No limiting principles. Creeping totalitarianism is on full display in the outrage industry.

Social media has become a powerful force for promoting moral outrage and tribalistic sentiment. As such the pursuit of prevailing progressive themes through social media provides a form of therapy for the faithless. They can feel good about bolstering a cause, about asserting power over others, about passing damning judgement, regardless of how damaging the cause may be to individuals or the broader community, or how much they distort reality and values.

Caution about pursuing the “progressive” outrage line can be found in at least two historical factors at personal and tribal level. Jordan Peterson in his book 12 Rules for Life, details a story of his personal friend who, over many years, passionately pursued various worthy environmental causes under threat of catastrophe. Overcome with powerlessness and exhaustion, the friend ultimately destroyed himself, showing it is much better to focus on the positive while taking action on real issues.

The second caution is the creeping totalitarianism of the outrage industry that, whipped up through social media without any basis in reality, inherently apes Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Social media enthusiasts whose education has failed them, may not be aware of the tens of millions of innocent people who were killed and the many more sent to country re-education camps as a consequence of the tribalistic totalitarianism of China’s Cultural Revolution. No alternative voice was allowed regardless of reality. Sound familiar? Often this is the case today, when those with an alternative position are accused of being racists, homophobic, sexist, Nazis or worse. Reality is disallowed under post-truth conditions as truth speakers are “de-platformed”.

Pursuing “progressive” causes can be the most regressive thing a person can do for themselves and their community.

Truth and reason

Progressive calls tend to be couched in moral terms of the prevailing “faith”. Dissenters or deniers (think global warming) are “outside the church” of tribally accepted norms and are to be denounced, publicly and with vigour, reminiscent of the stocks of old. Any progress in law, such as Habeas Corpus or right to self-defence, is obliterated in childish demonization of the person rather than a rational discussion of issues. Furthermore, anyone remotely associated with the target (family, associate or business) can unwittingly be sucked into the maelstrom of malevolence, self-interest, self-indulgence and threats of violence and death. Truth and reason go out the back door.

Yet truth is the only thing that can be built upon for a better present and satisfying future. Emotion, magical, wishful thinking and tribalism won’t do it, regardless of how self-satisfying (elating even) that tribalist action for a cause may have on a person.

As articulated in my book Becoming, truth requires courage, a seemingly vanishing attribute. A general lack of backbone is evident when US university students need comfort puppies to deal with day-to-day realities (Trump won the election) that offend their sensitivities. Root cause may be found in parenting and professionals who, for a couple of generations, have sought to protect children from reality, spare their hurt feelings and make a life-long career for themselves in the process. Note the exponential growth in experts, bureaucrats and blamed parents.

Pride of sensitivity

Becoming also focuses on pride of sensitivity as limiting good decision making. In particular, pride of sensitivity is pre-eminent in the outrage industry, making it virtually impossible to hold a rational conversation on any topic with someone who is always offended. In effect, the pride of sensitivity is a highly emotional function intended to limit free speech, for which it has proved quite successful. Visiting speakers of alternative positions and their audiences are bullied, harassed and threatened, as are the venues in which they speak. In a climate of intense political correctness, ordinary people are constantly on notice as to whether what they say, do, or intend, will offend another, resulting in the heavy hand of the law, or worse the maelstrom of social media.

The outcome is that parties fail to mature, fail to deal with realities they block from penetrating their wall of safe, if false, beliefs. Ultimately, the precious fail to contribute meaningfully to dialogue or life. Pride of sensitivity is the humourless predisposition of people who badly need to lighten up, deal with reality however painful, and give themselves and everyone else a break.

A sense of humour

From my origin in a large dysfunctional family I learned that incisive black humour provided lightness amongst darkness in dire life experiences. Difficulties were not ignored or glossed over; just not perennially fertilised. Offence given soon passed; grudges were not held for long; and each of us learned to suck it up and get on with it as should have Serena Williams.

In no way were we as privileged and feted as Serena, though we could teach her a lesson or two – in gratitude, rather than offence; and how to laugh at yourself when a cartoonist like Mark Knight has created images so accurately depicting your behaviour. Especially when it is the truth!

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Getting the big picture

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Just how important small things are to the big picture can be demonstrated by Rudi Guliani’s experience. When he took over as Mayor of New York, Rudi Guiliani had the job in front of him. The big Apple had become a dangerous place to live and work as crime seemed out of control, much like the situation now present in Melbourne with African youth violence and crime.

New York police are appointed by the City, so Guiliani set them about getting tough on minor crimes that might otherwise be passed over as not worthy of too much attention, but which made NY a less attractive place – graffiti, vandalism, fare hopping, etc. What he found was that those committing the minor crimes were also guilty of much larger crimes. Dealing with the small stuff ultimately led to control of much bigger crimes and the result is better, though not perfect, livability in NY.

Personal level

Raising children from birth to 18 years (when they are considered by law to be adult) can seem like a long and onerous stretch on a day to day basis. The pace seems to pick up once they enter high school. A real challenge is balancing the need to address daily behaviour issues with the big picture expectation of a productive, civilized adult turning out at 18 years ready to assume responsibility for his/her life.

In the small scale of family, poor behaviour of the indulged and over-affirmed child is tolerated. In the bigger picture of life, competition with peers may find abilities wanting, resilience absent and behaviour rebuked as the community challenges the young adult to grow up to own responsibility for their decisions in life. Similarly, when poor conduct goes unchecked in a small child, when respect for others and property is dismissed, when there is no expectation of gratitude or manners, the whole community loses out and prospects for the child are diminished until such time as ‘life’ teaches differently.

We have learned that giving into screen and phone use early, even relying on devices to placate and occupy a child can too readily lend to enduring negative physical, social and behavioural patterns. Withdrawal from co-dependencies that produce the same high as any drug, raises the spectre of mental turmoil that would not be wished on anybody.

How the big picture can easily get out of hand is clearly illustrated in mismanagement of African youth gangs in Victoria. Any criticism of burglary, property destruction, personal violence and theft is considered by elites as racist. Youth have been emboldened, misinterpreting racial tolerance as weakness, as they flaunt their ‘untouchable’ status amongst unwilling ‘white trash’ resident victims. What should have been nipped in the bud at first signs, has become a major social, economic and political issue.

Political level

Despite around 26 years of economic growth in Australia many households struggle to pay the electricity bill on time. This is a huge issue for ordinary people for whom wage growth has not kept up with costs.

In the big picture, power and fuel supply and pricing have been captured by national and international elites bent more on profit and redistribution than service. Under nearly two decades of “green” regulation, prices have been pushed up and reliability reduced as investment in “renewables” made investment unattractive for more assured coal or gas fired power. From having a major national comparative advantage of the cheapest fuel on the planet, we have become the country with the most expensive. It costs us all dearly every day in many ways.

Once reason ruled; now it’s some global Gaia to which we are compelled to pay homage. We have been inveigled to sign up to saving the planet through the Paris Accord when so many of us find it hard to bin our take-away packaging, if road-side litter is any indication. In reality it has turned out to be a global financial transfer scheme from responsible countries to the irresponsible.

All this big picture stuff is determined by the “lanyard brigade” – the bureaucrats, politicians and NGOs (non-government organisations) – who strut the world, spend taxpayer dollars, rub shoulders with other elites in talkfests to decide what’s best for we ‘deplorables’, who, of course, must pay.

It was not always so. The United Nations was started by a war-weary world, keen to prevent another outbreak of hostilities. Who would have envisaged that within a few decades the simple concept would become such a grand amoeba of bureaucracy that has grown and spread, along with the cost, in direct proportion to how ineffectual and biased it has become. Yet history repeats itself in the European Union: unelected bureaucrats, left, green and politically correct, seek to lecture and impose how nation states should behave and who should pay. Brexit shows that when ordinary people find their voice, votes can change circumstances, to reclaim control in our own backyard.

Bureaucracy

One of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome is the might and power of bureaucracy, which has become accountable primarily to itself, rather than the taxpayer and customer who funds the internal largesse. I’m not talking about the front line nurses, doctors, police, firemen and defence personnel serving us dutifully in all places near and far. I mean the back office bureaucrats, whose numbers and benefits swell, thanks to the strength of misleading political messages and the power of public sector unions. Did those of us casting our valuable vote at the last Queensland election do so on a self-indulgent emotional, reactionary level  ‘to teach someone a lesson’, without looking at the big picture of ballooning debt ($80 billion and rising) and bureaucracy (over 20,000 more)?

Context

Those who have read my book Becoming realise how important context is in making sound decisions. Sometimes while attending to our immediate necessities, it is helpful to envision them in the context of our family, state and nation, to see how our actions or inaction will achieve the best long-term outcome.

Firm discipline early in a child’s life, however much objected to, offers the best hope of raising a productive adult in the big picture of life.

Financial discipline early in a government may mean reducing the bureaucracy in the short term, leaving front-line workers to do their job, at the same time as minimizing costs to the taxpayer, as well as future debt burden.

Disposing of our own rubbish properly represents better care for the planet than high octane travel around the globe by the lanyard brigade to stitch us up with meaningless obligations at great cost that will make no difference to climate change, global warming or whatever the current brand may be.

Take time occasionally to get the big picture on the small things.

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What we leave behind

Most of us would like to leave a legacy of some sort that recognises our time on the planet has been meaningful. Thinking people want to leave the world a better place – either through successful, contributing children, improvements to the planet’s environment, towering monuments, advances in performance, social order or technology that make living more enjoyable for many.

Exits may take the form of the grand obituary of a state funeral or a modest plaque honoured by loving family. Rarely do the words conveyed on such occasions touch on, or reach into, the daily reality of the bequest in social pathology. Nor do they mention the challenge to become aware of the extent of deficit and the difficulty in actioning measures to overcome and avoid passing negative traits onto the third and fourth generation as scripture presciently predicts, with all the inherent disadvantages and dysfunction.

For wealthy (and not so wealthy) law-abiding families’ behaviours in complying with social norms, paying their way and becoming prosperous are learned implicitly, through day-to-day conduct, and explicitly, by direct learning and experience. Families like these, though imperfect as are we all, become the backbone of our society, social and economic multipliers spreading benefits more widely, down through generations.

Not everyone is so fortunate, though productive behaviours and prosperity must start somewhere. To break through from dysfunction and disadvantage takes four steps:

  • awareness that all is not well and could be different;
  • a strong desire for a better way of life;
  • knowledge and the openness and willingness to learn how to go about achieving the goal; and
  • action to break through for change that requires courage, drive, perseverance and commitment.

Mindful people cheer on such courageous efforts. Mindless others may be threatened. On the pathway to breakthrough success many impediments arise, especially from dysfunctional others for whom your progress raises a challenge to do likewise. The status quo may have reassurance of numbers. Courage and commitment are needed to drive through the nay-sayers and under-miners to reach out for the chosen goal. Greater confidence in your decision for action can be helped by using my Maturity Model to reaffirm the rightness of the choice for you.

It’s worthwhile looking at intergenerational behaviours that affect those who come after in order to gain an understanding of where and how a breakthrough is necessary.

Epigenetics of social pathology

Nature or nurture is a question commonly raised when considering negative behaviours. Science is beginning to understand the genetic predisposition of some to addiction, anxiety, depression and fear conditioning. That said, nurture has tremendous potential to modify adverse genetic traits and certainly influence more productive behaviours that would leave us better off. The jury may still be out on whether social pathology is transmitted through nature or nurture.

Co-dependencies

Roslyn Saunders counselling and book Emotional Sobriety: Finding raw courage to recover from Codependency, has gained in relevance as the list of co-dependencies grows, along with the rapid adoption of digital technology. Where once addiction to alcohol or smoking were the primary co-dependencies, now drugs, gambling, pornography, sex, gaming and screen addictions, facilitated by the rapid escalation of digital technology and services, consumes time and relationships, distorting reality and bodies alike, to our detriment. Where parents have no digital disciplines themselves, setting parameters for children’s use is hollow, bequeathing mindless capture to virtual reality.

A teacher reported student accessing lunchtime porn was a common pursuit, colouring students’ perception of the sexual roles of women, men, intimacy and respect. Overlong preoccupation with online activities is known to change synapses in the brain. Youth so consumed spending night after night online, unable to get up in the morning to go about ordinary activities, may emerge sapped of energy and physically and socially under-developed. Not what was envisaged when a beautiful whole child was born.

Hording

Early deprivation can lead to continuous acquisition and hording to overcome fear of scarcity Inability to ‘let go’ compounds to become a hazard. Hording is another form of co-dependency. Most of what is acquired is of little use or value. To take the antidote of having a few purposeful things that can be well used needs one to deal with the reality that deprivation has passed. Tackling the hierarchy of awareness, desire, knowledge and action is a pathway forward. Yet failure to address the issues means that we bequeath to our offspring similar mindless lack of discipline and awareness, at the same time as limiting our enjoyment and other’s enjoyment of us. What is sad is that hording habits may have been learned from our own parents and are likely to be repeated in our children.

Divisiveness, hatred and indifference

Divisiveness, hatred and indifference are a function of failure to adolesce that too easily becomes multi-generational. Seeking power and control over others by misrepresentation and manipulation has been shown to create divisive patterns of behaviour passed on through generations. Whereas had the great-grandparent chosen to develop, in adolescence, the enduring resources of intimacy and mutuality, tolerance, respect and flexibility, harmony down four generations of people would be much better, as it would for those drawn into the net. Breaking out of patterns needs awareness not found in power and control.

Similarly irrational hatred of a family member targeted by a parent can become a default position down the generations, even when the parent had passed on and the original cause forgotten. A reason is not needed, mindless slavery to habit will do.

It is ever so easy for busy professionals to assume indifference towards their elders. They may merely be emulating a father’s attitude towards the mother who had cared for him diligently for so much of his life. How one cares for elders as people, rather than problems, is a mark of adult maturity. Failure to do so is a sad bequest.

Lying

Those who habitually tell lies don’t have the courage to deal with reality – the only basis upon which personal, social and financial improvement can be made. Neither do they trust others with the truth. Patterns of lying and misrepresentation appear to become ingrained, often to make the teller seem greater or more important than they are in reality. Yet the very respect to which the liar aspires becomes elusive the more others become aware.

Dependency

We are now dealing with multi-generational welfare dependency where for so many no one in the family has been employed for generations. It is a sad bequest of tragic unrealised potential. People in this situation may believe they do not have job skills, yet they are talented workers of Centrelink systems, ensuring maximum benefits are derived at every point. Because we have failed to expect contribution from them, they remain unaware of the contribution of others, who get up each day, go to work and pay taxes that support them. Ingratitude is rife.

For a child born into such an environment, it is doubly difficult to break through psychologically from enculturated patterns of welfare dependency to becoming a contributor. Educators and organisations are available with the knowledge how, should the awareness and desire be there to be nurtured. The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and the Smith Family have had considerable success in helping realise the goals of disadvantaged young Australians.

In our hearts

The best of what we leave behind is that which is in our hearts – the courage to be honest about how good or bad a life/situation is and the willingness to have a crack at breaking through, out of inherited patterns of behaviour, to become our best selves and seeing our dreams realised in those who come after. Good luck with that!

Child and family, Communication

A little more conversation

(Photo and pottery by Jan Hammond: janhammond1941@gmail.com)

The Oxford dictionary definition of conversation is:

“A talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged”

Late Middle English (in the sense ‘live among, be familiar with’): from Old French converser, from Latin conversari ‘keep company (with’), from con– ‘with’ + versare, frequentative of vertere ‘to turn’.

Even from the 17th Century derivative, conversation is understood as being “with” others, engaged in an “exchange” of news and ideas. Implicit in our understanding, in order to engage in conversation, we would necessarily be “present” to another, aware, listening and open to exchange, able to be influenced. In effect, a true understanding of what is conversation presumes we have become accomplished in the enduring young adult competencies of intimacy and mutuality. Can this be achieved through Facebook, Text or Twitter?

The speed of social change has been so dramatic, we have not yet had time to step back to assess what the rapid change in technology means in our lives. Seeking personal affirmation from the virtual world in the number of Facebook “friends”, “likes”, shares and retweets, while satisfying in the short-term, may have longer term implications for our ability to deal with the difficulties and the possibilities of the real world.

Young adult tasks for all

Technology aside, for beneficial conversation we still need to develop competency in the young adult resources of intimacy and mutuality. Refreshing those skills from time to time helps draw us out of patterns of self-absorption and righteous authority as we get older and relationships change.

In their book, Christian Life Patterns, EE and JD Whitehead say flexibility and tolerance are important in developing and strengthening the resources of intimacy in the broader social context of close friendship, group solidarity, sexual love, social experiences of cooperation and competition, combative relationships, inspiring encounters with others and the experience of intuition from within oneself. Intimacy, the Whiteheads say, involves an overlapping of space, a willingness to be influenced and openness to the possibility of change. There is a risk in sharing. Only a strong and flexible identity can move towards true intimacy.

In developing competence in intimacy, we confront the need to reconcile the risk of being changed as we are drawn towards self-disclosure, perhaps coming to a different awareness of ourselves. Should we maintain a rigidly defined identity prone to isolation, mutuality essential to good conversation, becomes unlikely. Premature “identity foreclosure” of either too diffuse or too rigid personal identity leaves little room for self-exploration essential to achieving competence in intimacy required in a mature adult.

Information can be shared easily on Facebook, text and email. True enriching engagement with others, especially others beyond immediate peers, requires deeper personal development to enrich the present by drawing from elders and others to create a vision for the future and avoid errors of the past.

Millennials

Conversation is more difficult in a post-truth world inhabited by Millenials, where communication is horizontal between peers, disconnected from less technically competent olds, who struggle to gain a level of competence with the iPads, emails and smart phones. Nowhere is post truth malaise more evident as in a study showing 62% Millennials believe socialism to be a preferable form of governance, as found in a recent in-depth survey of those born between the 1980’s to 2000.

Quite unbelievably few Millennials surveyed were aware of dictatorial communist and socialist leaders and their impact – Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Stalin and Pol Pot. Ignorance may be a function of educational focus on global warming, gender fluidity, #me and black arm band virtue signaling. Yet, rule under ‘fairer’ socialist ideals cost the lives of over 100 million people in the 20th Century, destroying the fabric of families, communities, economies and countries. Negative outcomes from socialism are recent enough for older people to remember the horrors, never to be revisited, despite the limitations of democracy and capitalism.

Socialism is merely one area Millennials’ might and power of communication competence tends to override the wisdom of previous experience. Rigid unwillingness to be open to the truth, limits growth to maturity and capacity for true engagement in meaningful conversation.

The Essentials

Not all conversations are deep and meaningful: casual exchange of information and arrangements form the bulk of conversations. However most of us have had the experience of coming away from a conversation disillusioned, disheartened or dismayed and wondered why, what happened?

For a conversation to be beneficial, elements that come into play to some degree include, and are not limited to:

  • Presence – Participants in a conversation need to be present to one another, i.e. open and aware of others, rather than preoccupied with a particular device as in the illustration above, or impatient to get back to it. A woman who went to considerable effort to prepare a home cooked meal for her extended family swore “no more” after everyone attending was consumed with their devices and none showed interest in, or appreciation for, the meal or for each other. Co-dependence on technology has major negative impact on relationship quality and meaningfulness.
  • Listening – It’s important to be predisposed to hear what others may have to say, open to hearing the end of the comment before jumping in with whatever may be on our mind.
  • Honesty – Good communication builds on honesty and trust. We need to be humble and courageous enough to be honest, even if it means owning up to our own limitations.
  • Pride – Pride of sensitivity tends to be affirmed as virtuous by the prevailing outrage industry, yet those who are easily offended suffer poor self-esteem, making it difficult to have a one-to-one conversation, unconsciously controlling what may be said to them and how. Those imbued with pride of authority tend to discourage alternative points of view that might be enlightening and enriching. Being the sole authority is hardly conducive to lively conversation. I have been turned off by people who have been unnecessarily accusing and bullying.

Reflecting on conversation’s essentials, we can see the importance of achieving competence in the young adult tasks of intimacy and mutuality, as well as refreshing those resources at other stages of life, if we are to be enriched in communication with others, technology aside.

Enrichment

We are all social beings who have an inborn need to mix with others. How well we do that depends on how well we converse, so it is worth putting some effort and consideration into improvement.

Respect for others also helps, regardless of their age, as everyone has a story.  Fun, Friendship and Fellowship over 40 Years, a book produced by Di Perkins, proves as much. Di interviewed the remaining 40 women of a group of 80, who began meeting once a week 40 years ago. While at first the women were reluctant to share, Di’s willingness to listen carefully enabled gems of life stories to be captured that otherwise would have disappeared. Having been listened to and have their stories and precious photos brought to print has been an enriching and cohesive experience for them, even after so many years.

Others develop rules for enriching relationships. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban maintain the spirit of their relationship by choosing not to text each other. All conversations are person-to-person, by phone or skin-to-skin, underpinning the importance of being present and truly listening.

Technology has also enriched our lives in so many ways. We are still trying to work out how to capitalise on the advantages while fostering healthy relationships and conversation. For technology to become a valuable servant, rather than a means of enslavement and co-dependence, we may need to marry the wisdom of the olds with the technical competence of the young. Conversation will help.