Uncategorized

Don’t be afraid

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In a crisis, politicians feel they must be seen to be doing something, so assert extraordinary powers over us that curtail freedoms, life and business. Under the unknown of COVID-19 this has certainly happened. Maintaining the fear is a large part of it, though President Trump has been pilloried for trying publicly to allay panic, while actively pursuing solutions at “warp speed” throughout the country. Bureaucrats, comfortable with their secure jobs, assured salaries, salary increases and bonuses, are given the job of administering the new laws.

In Policy 101, one learns that the hardest part of policy, no matter how well intentioned, is implementation. New regulations are inevitably reinterpreted at the coal face. And over this COVID crisis haven’t we seen some doozy interpretation of the dictatorial constraints on freedom of movement, speech and borders.

Authoritarian over reach

To a person we’ve been appalled by Victorian police breaking down the door and handcuffing a young pregnant woman in her pyjamas for daring to post on Facebook an invitation to attend a peaceful, safe protest in a park in the Victorian country town of Ballarat. No cases of the virus were present there, although lockdown still pertained. Zoe Buhler now faces half a dozen charges and enormous legal expenses.

The same Victorian police were nowhere to be found when gangs of Sudanese youth ran riot through suburban streets, terrorising residents and destroying property. Go figure.

Then there are the ridiculous constraints on the Canberra resident wanting to visit her dying father and attend his funeral. Why would it take 20 days to respond to an application, when there are so many public servants (the Premier has added an extra 35,000 of them in Queensland, now over 230,000) who must have a bit of slack time between them to be able to turn around an application within 24 hours, in keeping with good business practice. The woman’s father died before she was able to cross the border. The grand concession from Queensland bureaucracy was to allow her an hour with her father’s body after the funeral. Shameful!

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, comes a story of a farmer’s indomitable good humoured spirit. The bloke farms sheep or cattle 25 miles the other side of the border and needed to feed them. When he dutifully approached bureaucrats for permission as an essential industry to cart 25 tons of feed hay to the farm to feed his animals, it was suggested he drive the hay to Sydney and fly it to Melbourne then drive it to the farm. He was shaking his head in disbelief. Imagine the cost and stupidity of undertaking such an exercise. Animals and the farmer can go heave!

There’s no question that extraordinary authority invested in the immature brings out the dictator. Even while waiting patiently in the queue for service at the Newsagent, I was chastised for being too close to the person behind me. Whatever!

In an ever increasing crescendo, the escalation of fear has brought with it an escalation of rules, which further increases fear, bringing out the dictator within. Yet were we to look to the facts, common sense would allay our fears. This advice follows recommendations for the Maturity Model in my book Becoming – to seek truth on which to make decisions to remain confident, rather than fearful.

Managing COVID Fear

Earlier in 2020 when we were just beginning to understand the threat of the China virus, a high level of concern was raised due to a lack of understanding of the nature of virus, how contagious the spread and who was most affected. Frantic footage of ICU in hospitals in Italy being overrun and the lonely deaths and funerals stirred everyone’s emotions, imagination and fear of the unknown.

We now know that COVID-19 spreads by contact, leading to the rules we know by heart: safe coughing, wearing a mask, hand santisation, keeping 1.5m distance and isolation for 14 days if in contact with a person infected or returning from an infected area.

Despite further knowledge that the majority of those severely affected by the virus are people older than 70 with co-morbidities, orchestration of anxiety has continued by governments and the media, with a focus on new cases and deaths, rather than numbers who have recovered. Deaths from COVID have been exaggerated by counting those who died with, rather than from the virus.

Businesses and schools have been closed or employees and students required to work from home. Borders have been closed and ever more rigid rules have been put in place with ever greater threats of penalties that would do the STASI proud, despite knowledge that very few will die from the virus.

Whereas the federal government has come to the aid with JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments to keep workers engaged with businesses and families with income supports, State governments have taken to heart the power to control people with threats and penalties. Original intention to “flatten the curve” to prevent ICU units being overrun morphed into “suppression” then “elimination”, without revisiting information about the virus, reworking the computer modelling and inputs (rubbish in = rubbish out), or going back to the people for consent. The virus has become political.

The facts are:

  • The number of people who died from the virus is fewer than those who would have died from the flu
  • The effect on most people younger than 70 without co-morbidities is mild
  • Children seem to have high immunity, seemingly due to their high level of T-cells
  • Treatment with existing remedies has proven effective in curing the disease and saving lives. Rejecting this because Trump suggested is not a good enough excuse to continue killing people.
  • Vaccines are being developed rapidly around the world.

No need to lock everybody up at great expense and social disruption. Most oldies are grateful for the length of life they have enjoyed and may already have restricted social contact.

Fully realising the facts, we should be able to get back to life as usual, having captured fear rather than being ruled by it. All that will be left is to pay for the disruption. Now that’s scary!

Managing Climate Fear

Though the immediate health crisis has captured our attention, the end of the world from climate catastrophe promised in 10, 20, 30 or 100 years by the various pundits has not entirely faded into the background. Occasionally little gems arise that give us hope over climate terror that has school children weeping in the streets.

Australia has been bullied by domestic and international conservation agencies about our alleged poor management of the Great Barrier Reef, causing $millions to be spent of research to prove just how bad. As a result research funding has skewed research findings. Those who challenge the veracity of outcomes have been severely castigated for daring to disrupt the populist political story that feeds the research gravy train. Professors Bob Carter and Peter Ridd suffered greatly: Carter died and Ridd was sacked by James Cook University.

Recently Professor Peter Ridd highlighted a study that showed a mere 3% of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by agricultural runoff, and that was only on shore side of the reef. Findings like this are heartening to the farmers who have bent over backwards to employ best environmental practice while being severely pilloried by the Greens, Labor, conservationists and international experts hoping to run them out of business and us out of food.

Destruction of the GBR was another reason for trying to stop development of the ADANI coal mine and half a dozen other mines mooted for the huge coal reserves in the Galilee and Carmichael basins.

Fear of destruction of the GBR demonising the two activities that keep this country prosperous (farming and mining) has been turned around on facts that have not changed, but have selectively been ignored – facts based on distance and geography.

The facts are:

  • GBR is 50-100km from the coastline, hence the limited effect of agricultural runoff
  • GBR is not one, but a series of reefs often kilometres wide.
  • GBR is 2,400km in longitude, crossing a wide range of temperature zones
  • ADANI and other coal mines from the basins are a further 400-500km inland

As with COVID, destruction of the reef has been politicised to engender fear and guilt, to attract attention and money and to destroy coal mining.

We need to seek out the facts to stay in charge of our lives, livelihoods and our money. Don’t be afraid.

Franklin D Roosevelt’s memorable message during the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, is well remembered and applies today. His message ended with the reassurance – “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needs efforts to convert retreat into advance”. Let’s go forward boldly.

Communication

Games People Play

Despite being given a bad rap these days when every child wins a prize and any tall poppy can be cut down to size, competition remains a valid and valuable developmental tool for human endeavour and personal maturity. Games and organised sport have proven important personal and community pursuits.

Occasional disputes over the rules or who has won do not invalidate the value of playing the game. In a civil society, issues at dispute can be debated and changes negotiated without resorting to violence and destruction, whether social or physical. Life can move on, improved. Respect and acceptance of the outcome will see us through if we all understand common parameters of the game and share common values.

It’s hard to be sure today, when cancel culture dominating the air waves has overturned much of what is known and understood from centuries of evolution of western civilization. Until recently in this country, it was given that all people were equal before the law and we enjoyed freedom of speech and choice, based on enlightened Judeo-Christian traditions.

Other gods

Decline in practice of religion has led to two outcomes – decline of common values and the need to fill the faith vacuum with new beliefs of other gods, perhaps even becoming a god oneself – the very thing scriptures warn against. As ever, power, money and moral superiority are the incentives. Judge not lest you too be judged we were advised.

Values have certainly become more diverse in this era of disruption and there has been a significant decline in respect for alternative perspectives. While we might try to learn from the prevailing message, it is hard to get involved when the message constantly changes, as does the game.

Take for instance the issue of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. A lot of protest, anger, hatred and destruction directed against innocent parties, even black people and businesses, often by whites claiming virtue and purpose. The game changes when underlying truths are exposed and a black person pronounces that “all lives matter”. Trolls pile in to destroy the character and standing of the “traitor” to the black cause. Rules of the game’s code are no longer understood as in the original handbook of the bible or the footy, but become fascist interpretations of whoever chooses to take offence first and fastest. Truth, history and respect have no part in the game.

Intersectional games

These days as we are divided into in identity groups (skin colour, gender, gender preference, climate change, religion) the zeitgeist can approve of our particular victim hood with empathy and feel good about it. Problems and opprobrium arise when sections are crossed.

JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame and a strong supporter of feminism found out just how badly when running afoul of the transphobic Twitterati defining woman by their gender identity and capability to menstruate. The ensuing pile-on sought to discredit Rowling and everything else she had achieved for this grievous misdemeanour according to the transgender bible of the day. Rowling’s approval for gender preference lost out on her definition of women in the intersectional game.

We have certainly come a long way in the acceptance of LGBQTI identification and gay marriage, but when innocent words, deliberately misinterpreted, can cause such a global wave of hostility in cancel culture, it makes one long for the old days when understanding of the rules of the game were simple and well understood. Unconscious bias and preferred pronouns seem so remote from those of us battling along in a COVID era, too busy to take offence.

You would think that Jacinta Price, an outspoken, articulate aboriginal woman with particular leadership qualities would attract support on gender and colour identities. Jacinta’s failing, according to the moral gods of now, is that she is honest about aboriginal on aboriginal violence and community dysfunction, challenging aborigines to greater responsibility. At the same time Jacinta acknowledges the countless, costly ways that indigenous Australians receive special support from the broader community. Because her pragmatic approach aimed at truly advancing aborigines does not comply with the accepted narratives of institutional racism, colonial exploitation and white supremacy, Jacinta suffers relentless abuse from moral arbiters.

Personal games

Yet even in our simple day to day lives we can be affected by the games people play. Take the marriage where the wife demands that unless the husband (or vice versa) improves his performance she will leave. So he gets professional advice and makes a valiant attempt to shore up the relationship by complying with her wishes. To no avail. The game changes and there are new demands to be met. She leaves anyway. He can’t win.

Or take the young mother who judged the children’s grandmother to be ‘unworthy’ because the birthday greetings and gifts were inadequate. Even the grandmother’s concerted effort to upgrade presents on a limited budget made no impact on the referee. The rules changed and the grandchildren were denied the gifts. The grandmother had no chance of scoring; ultimately refusing to participate in a “game” without respect or fairness that she could not win, even if it meant no access to grandchildren by the almighty judge.

Similar unreasonable demands can be made in a workplace, or between a contractor and consultant. Unrealistic time frames and under-resourcing put pressure on the worker who must deliver the output. The person paying holds the power of referee in the game. Where respect and fairness prevail, both parties may be satisfied. Yet it is not unknown for limitations of the “referee” being projected onto the person expected to deliver to judge the work unsatisfactory and refuse to pay, or even worse, expect payment for the inconvenience of being unreasonable. Situations like this can occur even when the parameters are spelled out clearly at the beginning of the work.

Conversely, when people understand the rules of the “game” and comply willingly, everyone can advance happily. Having moved house recently I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter fair play and experience the good cheer that accompanied it.

When movers arrived at the house, they went through what I had ordered and what was expected of them. Costs were clarified and methods of payment. Then cheerily they went about their business, two strong young blokes working in seamless tandem. On arrival at the new abode the same attitude prevailed, though they had to manage to move via a lift. Each was respectful and careful of the furniture and equipment, clarifying position and arrangement. Costs were confirmed and payment made. The difficult task of moving house was made more bearable by everyone playing the game to the rules.

I’m a bit past assembling flat pack furniture, so engaged the services of a bloke who does it well and likes doing it. His quote for assembly was confirmed or adjusted once he sighted the items before he went about his business, chatting cheerfully. When he was finished, satisfied with his work as was I, payment was gladly made and we parted ways, both enriched, until next time. We have both understood the rules and played the game.

How to play the game in future

The year 2020 has been a particularly disruptive one, not only because of constrictions brought about by COVID-19, but also because of the shake-up in understanding and values as we are challenged to grapple with a new order at so many levels. Even the footy is struggling to gain momentum after being shut down like everyone else.

Don’t be like the Palestinians who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. We can take time during disruption to reset the parameters of the way we play our “games”. Sticking to what is tried and true, respecting history and people and playing fair will ensure peace on our patch as, like the movers, we cheerily do our bit.

Child and family

Gratitude

Free to be

Every now and then something surprising pops up from an unexpected source, colouring a vision for the future. Gratitude can do that for us.

In this case the surprise came from a black African former refugee who had been granted Australian residency.  While his name escapes me at the moment, as does the television show on which he appeared, I am sure we will hear more from him.

Having spent years in a refugee camp, eventually making it to Australia, he had secured a job, accommodation and a new life. His main message to all his fellow travellers and to us was that he was no longer a refugee but a resident contributor to Australia, ever grateful for the chance of a new life this country had bestowed.

The fellow was concerned with questionable claims of racism and victimhood projected in the media by ethnic youth gangs raging across cities and suburbs. With support from his work colleagues and community he was reaching out to those of ethnicity feeling disenfranchised to undertake a similar psychological transformation – from refugee/victim to becoming free and grateful contributors.

The message that they are free – free to take charge of their lives and make of life what they choose – is being voiced by more considered media as we are being besieged by Marxist leaders and ‘useful idiots’ of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and around the world.

Western civilization is under threat from within and without. Yet even in its imperfection, democracy continues to evolve and people can have a say, unlike in Marxist/socialist cultures BLM seeks to advance. Little do they understand the irony that once achieved, the protests and riots they espouse would not be allowed. Revolutionaries tend to consume their own, as the death of 100 million over the last century attests. Perhaps knowledge of history or a visit to Marxist countries or corrupt African dictatorships would clarify whether gratitude rather than contempt should be afforded Australia and the USA for democratic, capitalist advances on the countries of origin (e.g. Africa) or ambition (communist China, Venezuela). An entirely new vision could be formed. We could be spared the wanton destruction.

Personal gratitude

The personal becomes the political, ultimately influencing a community of interest, so it is wise to reflect on how grateful we are no matter how poor or wealthy our circumstances. Alternatively we can slide into bitterness, victimhood, helplessness or greed, when, with a slight change in attitude to gratitude, like our former refugee, we could become a grateful contributor.

Saying grace before a meal may have become passé as the practice of religion has declined and family meals around a table have been replaced by a bucket of KFC or pizza in front of the TV. Yet a family I know asks all present at a meal to nominate three things for which they are grateful that day. Gratitudes mentioned may be for food, providers of the meal, minor successes, the companionship and consideration of others. Tenor of conversation changes family dynamics for the better.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough. This message is true whether one is poor on benefits, or well off, ever grasping for better home, car, assets, status and money.

Victimhood is not a healthy position for someone receiving the largesse of public housing, free healthcare and services, as well as discounts and other benefits. Gratitude to the taxpayers who fund the benefits would more likely mean the funds would be well spent.

Similarly, a healthier appreciation of the present and vision for the future could be formed with more modest aspirations flowing from a spirit of gratitude for what fills our present, than the relentless pursuit of more to advance assets and status to dull the hollowness within.

The Gift Box

In the dynamics of generosity, awareness of the gift and benefits bestowed is a prerequisite to the ability to express gratitude.

Australia’s provision of generous welfare benefits, though never enough (the poor will be with you always), can tend towards entitlement, diminishing awareness.

As mentioned in my book Becoming, when explaining the dynamics of giving under the heading of The Gift Box (p40),

Moral imperatives imposed only on the “need to give” cause imbalance when there is no concomitant expectation of appropriate response from those who “receive”, in whatever form.

The pool of productive “givers” may shrink in a selfish self-absorbed world should there be little to no evidence of the worth of giving.

Explanation of the 3rd and 4th quadrants of The Gift Box diagram cite the lack of awareness of the value of what has been received and even hostility towards the givers, whether taxpayers or “the rich”. Productive change is impeded all round.  Gratitude, the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness is the missing element.

Measured against my Maturity Model, continuous giving without change, in these circumstances, leads to loss of wholeness and maturity of both parties. The “rights” of the audience to wallow in dysfunction may be respected, along with their “rights” to wear the consequences. The generous can also choose to take their gifts elsewhere to more productive pastures.

That is why it is so refreshing and inspiring to hear the story of the African refugee who has become a grateful contributor to Australia. Our gift of residency to him has been transformed into a spirit of generativity, reaching out to influence others from the refugee community. At the same time, his gratitude has proven a dynamic gift multiplier, as his workmates and the community around him have rallied to his cause. Therein lays disparity between ingratitude and gratitude.

Let us be grateful for what we have today, the blessing of being enough.

Uncategorized

Skin in the Game

The title for this blog has been borrowed from a book of the same name by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who poses values similar to those espoused in my own book Becoming: accepting one’s own risks and responsibilities.

Having skin in the game, claims Taleb, works better than thousands of laws and regulations to even out the risk/responsibility profile in community, business and government. It is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster.

Insights offered by Taleb are pertinent to our current COVID situation, when decisions made by “expert” elites are controlling so much of our freedom of movement and operation. At the same time businesses under pressure of failing, with no choice in whether the borders are opened or operations can restart, are expected to fund decision-makers who still have their jobs and income.

Taleb offers pertinent insights such as:

  • Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
  • You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets. (We could add COVID-19, Global Warming modelling and University of Queensland’s faceless judiciary committee for its treatment of student activist Drew Pavlou).
  • Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
  • True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it. (Think Climate Change, where costs are borne by taxpayers and the poor rather than decision-makers who often benefit financially)

That Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk has no skin in the game is evident as she keeps Queensland borders closed despite the very low number of people who have the virus in this state and the trend towards suppression in other states.

Palaszczuk has lived all her life on the public teat: her father was a politician; she has worked for the Labor Party; and now heads the Queensland Labor government. The Premier has no experience in business, like Pauline Hanson in a fish and chip shop, risking all financially starting a business and employing staff. She has never had to put her hand in her own pocket to pay a worker. As Premier, Palaszczuk has found it all too easy to add another 30,000 public servants to the payroll, racking up more government debt.

 It is clear that the Premier doesn’t understand the desperation resulting from quarantine measures and border closure, especially for tourism businesses which will miss out on 40% of their usual earnings when southerners are prevented from travelling north for the winter sun and grey nomads are unable to move to warmer climes. No skin in the game! And contemptuous of those who have risked all to create business to provide goods and services, employ staff, make profits and pay tax to keep the Premier in the style to which she has become accustomed. Constitutional challenges may be necessary to change the Premier’s mind.

Strategic decision models

Strategic decision making models that respect all parties are available to the Premier and her elite advisers should they be open to other than political or ideological positions:

  • Maturity Model: Those familiar with my writing would recognise the Maturity Model which can be applied to all situations, policies and circumstances across life. Context is an important basis on which choice, responsibility and expectation are balanced. By increasing expectation and loading responsibility, as the Premier is doing by keeping the border closed, unreasonable expectation and responsibility are loaded onto people and businesses who have no choice. Financial and social fragmentation will inevitably result.
  • Cynefin Framework: (Snowden DJ and Boone ME, Harvard Business Review, November 2007) is a multi-context model that recognises approach to issues differs and different management responses are required depending on whether the situation (context) is simple, complicated, complex or chaotic. Authoritative management is necessary when a situation is chaotic, as with the onset of the pandemic. However the authors recognise the risk in authoritarian management continuing when the crisis (pandemic) is past, leading to greater problems.
  • Multiple Objective Decision Support Systems (MODSS): Values and weighs up various objectives (e.g. health, economy, health system capacity, reliability of supplies, population tolerance of restriction on freedom) to reach decision compromise that will not satisfy every criterion while allowing sensible advancement.

Any or all of the models could inform leadership decision making to achieve far better outcomes than we have received from the daily “expert” briefings.

Inners and Outers

Nowhere are Taleb’s “educated philistines” better expressed than by Matthew Lesh (Democracy in a Divided Australia), whose new elite “Inners” of the technical managerial class dominate public policy decision making in the Left, Right,  academia, bureaucracy and business. Decisions made without input from the practical “Outers” who will be most affected so often fail, yet rarely does anyone accept responsibility, even when it is their job. COVID-19 has brought focus to the disparity.

  • Pandemic modelling which began from an uncertain base predicted worst case scenario to be managed. Generally people complied with sanitation, isolation constraints and closures to enable hospital supplies to be secured. However, as the situation changed and fewer than predicted cases emerged, there’s been a distinct reluctance to revisit the ‘expert’ modelling. Scope creep meant that expert ‘Inner’ authoritarian decisions made by people in secure jobs remained, while ‘outer’ people’s jobs and businesses went to the wall.
  • Ruby Princess debacle is a classic case of having no skin in the game. Allowing 2700 passengers disembark from the cruise liner in the early hours of the morning without abiding by proper health protocols, merely shifted responsibility to the hundreds of people, their families and health workers that had to pick up the pieces in illness, death, care and cost for those who became infected by the virus. No one lost their job. A few tears from a low level operative taking the hit for NSW Health at the enquiry hardly compensates.
  • Closing the borders may have had merit for a short time. Driving local tourist businesses to the wall by extending the closure beyond necessary, while seriously inconveniencing the movement of locals demonstrates a lack of skin in the game. Shutting down normal congress is easy. Doing something constructive is more challenging.

With the intensity of recent bushfires we had already experienced how badly damaging flawed bureaucratic decisions can be when local and state governments failed to undertake recommended clearing of undergrowth causing loss of property, livelihoods, people and biodiversity running to $billions. No responsibility! No skin in the game!

Similarly with the elite policy decision to trade water in the Murray Darling Basin has meant that flows are not available to productive farmers, having already been traded to international interests who do not own land. Again $billions in actual and opportunity cost.

I am sure you all know of instances where the public have been failed by people paid to secure their safety and interest. Tell me some.

Skin in the Game

Estonia recovered from the global financial crisis by every politician and public servant taking a 10% pay cut. Front line health care responders aside, Australia’s recovery from recent crises would be helped if public servants in secure jobs could take a similar cut, to show they have some skin in the game while so many in private enterprises have lost their jobs and businesses. It would more truly show “we are all in this together”. Instead, we have a pay increase of 10% over four years for the 228,000 Queensland public servants in well-paid, secure positions, merely deferred until later in the year – closer to the October election.

While the COVID crisis presents opportunities to reset many parts of the economy, as PM Scott Morrison is attempting, let’s hope that due attention is paid to redress the “koala” protected species status of public sector employees at every level of government. Reduce the numbers, improve the efficiency and effectiveness and expect them to show initiative and responsibility as if they had some skin in the game.

Child and family

Mothers’ Day

Vibrancy of my mother Nelly Dean, super athlete, shines through in this picture.
Nelly Dean, athletic star

On Mothers’ Day, many like me find themselves reflecting on the lives of their own mother and the impact she had on our lives over and above giving us life.

My own mother, born Nelly Dean, was one of a kind who thought outside the box, was smart, vibrant, athletic, witty and capable of clear insight into people and situations. She passed on behavioural as well as biological genes.

It took discernment and effort before I could separate the accuracy of her perceptions from her volatility that left so many diminished and me embarrassed.

Over years I worked out how to express a different perspective with respect. My philosophy developed as a result, to ‘make enquiry before accusation’, invariably leads to a richer understanding of context, better information and often self-disclosure by the people in question. All parties are able to mature through the process.

Marriage and motherhood

My father, Allan Petersen and his brothers were swimming and lifesaving legends of Maroochydore Surf Lifesaving Club, the brothers often comprising the majority of members of their champion R&R team. My parents may have met at a State Surfing championship when Allan won the surf race and Nelly the beach sprint.

It was hardly a marriage made in heaven, when Allan took his city savvy bride to live on a farm in the bush. In a short space of time this athletic couple produced one son and eight daughters, as people did in those days. Black humour prevailed: we joke we were all the result of arguments, of which there were plenty, born of mum’s frustration. My mother was no farmer’s wife to be limited by petty, small town politics. Her entrepreneurial spirit tried starting a shop, marketing baby clothes and applying her sports administration expertise to involvement in the local school.

Producing children so often distracted from raising them. We children lived a free-range life roaming local water holes to swim, picnicking in the bush, boiling the billy and helping ourselves to wild fruit – mangoes, guavas, raspberries and gooseberries – all while maintaining high academic achievement. In an era of short-back-and-sides authoritarianism post WWII, our mother was an outlier. Only when our parents parted and we returned to the city did Nelly become revitalized.

Learning and applying

While some family members defaulted to learned behaviours, I knew that if another generation of brains was not to be limited, things needed to change.

In addition to learning how to manage conflictual situations more graciously, if imperfectly, I learned that raising children free range certainly produced resilience and initiative in children, though not the discipline and direction necessary to capitalise on inherent talents to become their best selves.

Conversely, authoritarianism had value in maintaining discipline and conformity, though hampered creativity and initiative essential to becoming a whole productive, contributing person capable of being responsible for one’s own life direction.

Both realisations influenced my own parenting efforts, which focused on developing autonomy: sufficient discipline to maintain reasonable order, yet scope to gain competence in making decisions to equip them for life. Furthermore, providing experiences and support for academic achievement, culture and sport broadened their outlook and expanded networks that enabled them to be comfortable in the company of people at any strata of society. To their credit, each child has picked up and run with the opportunities provided.

Those who have read my book Becoming will recognise the philosophy encapsulated in Chapter 4 Making Straight the Way and in my Maturity Model for decision making.

The Next Generation

Nelly’s spirit shines through in my five children, each of whom is bold enough to step up and ‘have a crack’ at innovation and enterprise , taking it further to convert insight into action, to plan, strive and finish – all attractive attributes in business, work and society. Thank you, Mum. And thank you family.

On Mother’s Day I also claim some credit as a mother for having enabled my offspring to advance to a higher level of performance that had not been possible for me under the stress of poverty, ill-discipline and the need to get out to work early to earn money that coloured my own youth. In comparison they have been privileged. In many ways, on countless occasions, they have shown their gratitude – treasures remembered and savoured.

Extended education and social understandings improved through post-war stability tends to encourage criticism of those who came before. Today, rapid changes in communications technology and decades of uninterrupted economic advancement have altered our understanding and appreciation of elders and their values of respect and good manners. What we have gained in wealth and technology we seem to have lost in respect, resilience and good grace.

Chronological snobbery (condescension towards earlier generations) has emerged strongly in the era of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Communications are mostly horizontal – across a peer group, leading to pooled ignorance – rather than longitudinally, across generations to glean wisdom. Misunderstandings result. Elders’ relative ineptitude with technology can often see them dismissed as not very smart, though an older person’s life experience and wisdom could add value to many family situations – if welcomed and if precious off-screen time allowed.

Diminishing the value of elders should lead today’s busy mothers (and fathers) to consider how their children may ultimately treat them.

Ties that bind

To parents and grandparents, a new baby is a source of precious wonder, joy and delight. Merely by coming into being the new baby evokes love and hope for the life to be fulfilled that helps to overcome difficulties of adjustment that must be managed on the way to a new state of family.

For mothers, love continues throughout the child’s life. Regardless of the number of children, the ups and downs of family relationships and rivalries, mothers never cease loving and wondering about the wellbeing of their offspring wherever they are in the world, as they stand willing to assist where ever they can. Hurts can be mended, reparation made and peace restored.

Celebrating Mother’s Day with a phone call, a visit or a bunch of flowers in this COVID world marks a measure of respect and gratitude for the love, loyalty and leaven that a mother has invested in family.

That is true of my mother Nelly. It is true of me. And the same love and loyalty repeats in the next generation.

May all mothers be blessed with kindness this Mothers’ Day and beyond.

Uncategorized

Learning from opportunities lost

This blog is not about broccoli but about how we develop and benefit from innovation. By reading on to find its relevance to the story, perhaps you will look at broccoli and innovation differently.

Mandelbrot[1]

Benoit Mandelbrot had an exceptional scientific record across continents, especially for creating the first-ever “theory of roughness”. He saw “roughness” in the shapes of mountains, coastlines and river basins; the structures of plants, blood vessels and lungs; the clustering of galaxies. His personal quest was to create some mathematical formula to measure the overall “roughness” of such objects in nature. Were he alive today, he may have produced a mathematical formula for COVID-19.

Fractals were seen by Mandelbrot as a form of geometric repetition, in which smaller and smaller copies of a pattern are successively nested inside each other, so that the same intricate shapes appear no matter how much you zoom in to the whole. Fern leaves and broccoli are examples to which we can relate.

What was pertinent to my discussion with Barry Jones (former Science Minister in the Hawke Labor government) was that Jones had met with Mandelbrot (possibly while Mandelbrot was researching at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he worked for 35 years to 1987). Jones recalls asking what he was working on and was advised that “they did not know”. Upon returning five years later Jones found that 40 products had been produced from Mandelbrot’s research to that point. His work, developed entirely outside mainstream research, led to modern information theory.

Which leads me to what geniuses do we have in our midst, outside mainstream research, with the capability to add value to our store of solutions were they provided the financial freedom to explore where innovation takes them. And do we have the commercial sophistication to advance their genius without impatience, greed and exploitation?

Steiner

For over 20 years I was an associate of one such genius: Dr John Steiner, an Austrian born Australian, who completed his PhD in Physical Chemistry and Instrumentation at the University of Queensland.

Much of his work involved management of gases and odour – across medical, sewerage, agriculture and energy sectors. Ever, like Mandelbrot, Steiner operated outside mainstream research. He offered simple solutions, sophisticated in execution. There are many:

  • 4DS technology for the treatment of airborne contaminants , most pertinent to COVID-19 conditions. 4DS technology could Deodorise, Disinfect, Detoxify, Decontaminate and Sterilise airborne contaminants by releasing specially designed vapour from a molecular vapour generator. At a molecular level, rather than particulate (as from a common spray can) the molecules are able to penetrate and destroy the contaminant. Steiner said he had also had success at an atomic level – i.e. atoms are smaller than molecules. 4DS technology was developed following the SARS outbreak.
  • Applications of 4DS to enclosed spaces include: hospitals, hotels, airports, high rise rubbish wells and water sanitation systems. His simple solution to dealing with dangerous hydrogen sulphide in sewerage channels was to prevent hydrogen sulphide from bonding, rather than try to manage the outcome with expensive chemical treatments.

We can see how valuable those innovations would be today.

Without a wealthy patron (like IBM for Mandelbrot), the inexorable compulsion of the innovator in John Steiner carried on under financial pressure, when he had already persevered through so much.

Early Steiner innovations

My first contact with John Steiner was at a post-graduate function looking at the commercialisation of technology, my area of interest. At that time he was involved in odour control of feedlots and off-grid septic and toilet systems.

Previously he had developed virtually instantaneous, long lasting odour control of ostomy bags. Interest was expressed from the four global producers of ostomy bags who wanted the technology but were reluctant to pay a fair price. The ostomy bag technology could have readily been converted to face masks and body bags had there been a patient financier/manufacturer willing to back John Steiner.

Since then there have been countless times, like today during COVID-19, when contaminant and odour repellent face masks and body bags could be used, as well as his 4DS technology for the decontamination of shared space.

Ever innovative, in response to demands in the 1990s, John Steiner turned his genius towards cleaner energy from coal fired power stations. Emissions, he believed, were a function of inefficient combustion. His simple solution, sophisticated in execution, was to improve the efficiency of combustion by harvesting and adding gases at high temperature and high speed during the combustion process. A further innovation was the rapid heating of fuel (coal) entering the retort, which again presented operational and environmental savings.

Timing is critical to commercial success. Changes in research funding from Energy R&D to the Australian Greenhouse Office meant research funding, though granted, became unavailable for John’s project. At the same time, corporatisation of the power stations meant that industry partners, from which government had harvested profits, had nothing left to invest in innovation.

Over the years, approaches to various energy producers, governments and financiers suffered similar fates: technical excitement at lower levels of operation and outright deprecation of the scientist by those in government and management decision-making roles. Mere minnows of scientific endeavour were ever anxious to maintain their superiority in negotiations rather than seek solutions for the good of the business, or the country. They won the day and lost the future.

All that genius came to a tragic end when Dr John Steiner was swept overboard, hit by the boom of a yacht sailing in Moreton Bay 20 December 2010. He was never seen again.

What can we learn, if we are willing

 To become a more resilient nation, it is imperative we capitalise on local enterprise. More than twenty years working in the commercialisation field has taught me a number of things. Firstly, we need more intelligent, sophisticated investors from private enterprise and government if we are to attain successful outcomes. Financiers and marketers need to be as smart in their field as the scientist, not smart-arsed as so many proved to be.

Secondly, investors need to be patient with chemical, biological or technical processes which take time to prove, if one is looking for certainty. Steiner suffered great cost and aggravation of legal wrangling from a highly influential businessman who wanted confirmation of process before it was scientifically verifiable.

Thirdly, greed is an innovation killer. A common psychological phenomenon of commercialisation of clever innovation is that a greedy investor wants to capture everything right away and eliminate the innovator. They may end up with one product/project, yet miss spin-off options that emerge from the developer’s inner compulsion to create, like Mandelbrot. Perhaps investors believe they can do it all themselves, but they do not carry the spirit of creativity that will flourish a business by staying in contact with the source and subsequent innovation.

Visiting the Walt Disney museum in San Francisco I found the same thing had happened to Walt Disney. Having developed the first ever three animated cartoons, Walt found his partner cutting him out of the business. A partner less greedy and more honourable could have benefited from the global enterprise that later emerged from Disney’s compulsive creativity that now entertains millions around the globe and employs thousands of people. The enduring message is that with patience there will be plenty for everyone.

Had John Steiner been blessed with better fortune, his innovations could be servicing us now in our hour of need, just as he intended.

Finally, scientists, engineers and innovators need to be savvy about who and how to deal with investors. John Steiner was a courteous, slow speaking person prone to engaging into technicalities. He was a poor match for the slick, fast talking, condescending investor decision-making elites, so it was hard to traverse the boundaries to reap benefits.

Today we are the worse off because of the failure of those with the largesse to pick up the opportunities to make this world a better, safer, more sustainable place. Let’s learn from missed opportunities, so all can benefit and prosper in the future.


v[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benoit_Mandelbrot

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The Spirit of Easter

Crisis

This very costly, disruptive crisis of COVID-19 cannot be wasted.  In the Spirit of Easter we have the opportunity to reframe so much in our lives, nation and world as we pause in isolation.

Permeation of the virus into our country, lives and bodies has had the effect of directing focus on survival, at the lower end of Maslow’s hierarchy. For way too long pre-eminence has been given to fake crises of self-realisation at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, as so many sought meaning and relevance by righteously pursuing moral causes of newer gods, while casting judgement and damnation on lesser mortals and denialists.

Over recent times, the ‘Palm Sunday’ parade lauding elites now must confront the grinding reality of the suffering of survival. Climate catastrophe projected in 100 years has given way to a more immanent pandemic, as have gender fluidity, identity politics, diversity, equality, colonialism, refugees and a host of other social posturing by leaders in business, academe, legal, non-profit and government agencies. Instead, these elites have had to pull in their heads to focus on their day jobs in order to contribute to the national effort to overcome the challenge. We are in this together.

Many, like me, may have wondered how long the decline in common sense that fostered false gods could prevail. (Lord here my prayer). Yet over a few weeks and months, as a result of bat soup in Wuhan, China, the ground has shifted globally to bring about an entirely new perspective. Like a butterfly stirring in the Amazon, corona virus ripples flow out across the globe in an invisible toxic mist.

The call to sacrifice

Right now is the hard part, the ‘Garden of Gethsemane’, where tears of blood may be shed in the anguish and uncertainty of what lies ahead. ‘Stay an hour with me’, may be the prayer of the isolated, the lonely and those despairing of how to manage through the tunnel of the wave of crisis as rent and mortgage need to be paid without assured income. Those in business confront multiple excruciating crises of how or whether to pay the rent, keep the business going and maintain loyal workers. A kind word or offer of help can ease the burden as we trudge forward carrying the cross of our own responsibility for doing our bit towards prevention and survival.

The call to sacrifice is being answered by so many for which we thank them: front line health care and ancillary workers have stepped up. Transport and retail workers keep grocery stores and open, stocked and orderly. First responders again put their lives on the line. Business owners and workers have become innovative to continue to service customers.

An essential element of my Maturity Model, individual responsibility, calls us to isolate, take all sanitation measures, care for self and family and work from home where feasible. Trimming back former accepted ways of living may be necessary to reduce expenses to match reduced circumstances and options. The cross of compromise may be necessary to refresh intimate relationships if they are to survive the crisis intact, if not renewed.

Challenges of the crisis call to sacrifice and adapt are numerous, yet so many have shown tremendous capacity to draw on inner strength of spirit previously untapped to respond with generosity and compassion. May that same spirit continue into the future as we deal with the aftermath of a difficult pandemic for which we are not to blame and over which we have little control beyond individual responsibility.

Death and resurrection

Loss is a very real manifestation of death on the way to dying – practice, if you like, for the ultimate. Loss needs to named and mourned if we are to move beyond grief to the prospect of the transformation of the resurrection.

There is no realistic shortcut. Our metaphorical three days in the tomb can be fruitfully used in prayer and meditation, letting go of the unnecessary, planning for a practical, more compassionate way forward, with renewed consideration in our homes and workplaces.

The pandemic crisis has become a wake-up call, not just to us as individuals, but to our national government and the world order. Relationships with China and its inexorable move to dominate the world will be challenged and changed. Just as individuals have been called upon to be more resilient and self-reliant, so has our country. That would be a good thing – a transformative resurrection.

Crisis has granted us a once in a lifetime opportunity to step out of normal routines to readjust, if painfully. Exit from crisis, according to the Whiteheads, requires assertive action. Go to it.

As our 93 year old Queen Elizabeth said from her depth of experience, “We will survive, we will meet again”.

May all of us, whether believers or not, be infused with the spirit of Easter – the solemnity and the sacrifice – so that in the coming days we will be transformed to flourish in the joy of the resurrection as life returns to a new normal.

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What we trained for

And didn’t know it

The coronavirus crisis is a classic example of how global matters have personal impacts. Even though it may not always be clear, that is why, in each blog, I try to interpret the personal implications of broader national and international policy issues that seem remote, yet affect us, by providing sound principles on which to base personal decisions and actions.

Disruptive times tend to show up how we’ve been training. It seems many of us have spent a life time training in panic and self-interest, if behaviour in the supermarkets and pharmacies is any guide. Yet the facts are that Australia produces enough food for everyone with production and delivery logistics reliable and well established. What’s to be concerned about, even if we don’t have a Mormon cupboard stocked for two years of famine?

Learn from history – use initiative

Whatever happened to Australian initiative and enterprise? Or sense of history? Or the military tenet to improvise, adapt, overcome?

It seems we’ve trained a bunch of unresilient selfish sooks who panic first.

For the like of me I can’t get my head around the dunny paper fixation and whatever it has to do with Coronavirus. I’m old enough to remember Lord Mayor Clem Jones’ commitment to sewer Brisbane City, then subject to weekly collection from the outside dunnies by Hunter Brothers; on the farm digging a hole to bury human waste from the can; cutting newspaper into squares to hang on a wire hook for essential services; gathering apple paper wrappings (much softer) for the same purpose. And what’s wrong with using water, a cloth and sanitised bucket like parents once did with cloth nappies?

Hoarding toilet paper is not new: in my youth there was an elderly miser neighbour named Bill who used to steal that awful shiny toilet paper from government buildings. His home was piled high with toilet rolls along with newspapers reaching the ceiling, with just a narrow aisle to walk through. Back then his behaviour was considered eccentric: today it is sufficiently commonplace to warrant a TV reality show.

Yet by training ourselves to take the time to glean the facts on delivery of goods from the manufacturers and shops rather than from Twitter, to understand the context and show tolerance, we can feel confident the shelves will be stocked again. In this land of plenty there will be enough for all.

The Mormons have the situation covered. Under an edict from the Prophets, Mormons are encouraged to build a store of goods to last for two years, so that they will be self-reliant during hard times. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon them to care for themselves, their family, their neighbour and their community. Something to be learned from everyone!

Olds in isolation

 “Stay at home!” is the main message to limit contagion. For many elderly, this will not be a new experience. In keeping with demographic changes where many more of us are living longer, we have been in training for this moment for some time. Busy adult children and grandchildren, sometimes separated by distance or attitude, have become consumed with work, business, sport and other activities, with little time or inclination to engage with the olds.

Where family disruption has further isolated grandparents, the olds have drawn on long-developed resilience, built their own networks and refreshed a sense of humour to maintain perspective. Digital grandchildren have become the norm, a situation which disallows latent love, wisdom and support, but what can we do? Go with what you’ve got! Having trained for this situation (however unwittingly), we are able to put obligatory isolation into practice without too much difficulty.

Furthermore, Olds have long training in being frugal from weathering wars, depression and recessions, raising children when credit was not readily available, so tightening the financial belt will be relatively easy.

Still, it was heartening to receive calls from a family member who delivered a food parcel and offered of assistance with essential errands, and to hear from a bright young colleague who was interested in my welfare. Regular communications with the outside world will keep connected olds who are abiding by the isolation edict, so that they do not monopolise life-saving equipment that might be needed by workers.

Positive training

Not all aspects of the COVID crisis are bad, though we feel for those whose livelihood, income, health and routines are being severely disrupted, as well as for the front line health professionals who daily face risks to their own health. We pray that they remain safe and feel the depth of our gratitude.

Firstly, the immediate crisis has put other putative longer term crises in perspective: the global warming/climate change catastrophe has been put on the back burner, along with Greta Thunberg, Extension Rebellion and other rabid proponents; the gender industry has faded from the headlines; colonisation and indigenous victimhood give way to the imperative of immediate survival.

Secondly, woke business leaders have to earn their huge salaries and bonuses by turning their training and talents to help the country survive economically. Paying SME suppliers on time would be a great help.

Thirdly, Public servants from key departments are being stirred into action in response to government initiatives supporting public health and incomes. Unconscious bias, gender equity, diversity and female advancement have been subsumed by overwhelming demands just to do the job – what they have been trained to do and paid for.

Relationships with key trading partners and failing global organisations like WHO and the UN taken over by China and other rogue nations will have to be reset, providing western democratic leadership is up to the challenge. And it has been a wake-up call to Australia to ensure that essential supplies are produced locally, with stocks conserved for local use.

This global pause in normal activities can be turned into positive at a personal level if we are prepared to use the time wisely to review what we have been training for. Where improvement would be beneficial (in attitude, mind or body), set our minds and our plans towards achieving just that. Make sound decisions based on facts and context and perhaps use my Maturity Model as a guide.

Communication

The Rush to Judgment

The good and bad of social media

Like all innovations, social media has both a good side and a bad side. On the good side, Facebook allows people to stay connected, to spread messages of hope and invite participation in a simple, opt-in way. On the bad side some people feel free to commit their very worst judgements to the cyber world forever, with little consideration for what this may mean for them or others down the track.

Twitter especially seems to invite expression of the very ugliest side of ourselves in 140 key strokes. President Trump has turned Twitter to his advantage, able to circumvent an adversarial media to speak directly with supporters. Not every one of his much publicised tweets has merit, though many cut directly to issues and the people. Leadership tends to be imperfect in this complex world where the Pharisaic righteous of the new moralities of climate change, right-speak and identity politics hold sway.

Old wisdom holds still

Should we care to look, wisdom for the present can be gleaned from ancient sources. When Solomon became king, he prayed, not for gold nor power, but for the ‘wisdom of discernment to administer justice’.

Wisdom of discernment seems to have dissipated with the decline in knowledge of history and the practice of Christianity. Whereas once we would have been advised ‘not to judge lest we ourselves be judged’, today people gain instant emotional gratification in tweeting horribly damning assertions against others whom they do not even know. Ill informed! Unwise! Extremely harmful – to the target in the first instance, yet also to themselves!

Social media and the impact of offence archaeology

Any online search can pull up comments made 10, 20 or 30 years ago, to be held against a person’s character today, to disadvantage them in their life and career. The same thing happens in the Family Court where actions as a teenager can be condemned by today’s adult standards of a woke society.

Take the case of Britain’s Toby Young who stuck his neck out to make a difference in educational outcomes, founding four ‘free schools’ by influencing discipline and raising expectations. His efforts were recognised and successful techniques copied, eventually leading to his appointment to several educational advisory boards.

All that proved to no avail when an offence archaeologist trawled through his personal history to find a 1987 article of his able to be quoted out of context in the fake news. As a result of the ensuing blood-crazed feeding frenzy, unwarranted attention was attracted, not just to his life and career, but also to the five organisations with which he became associated. Young resigned from all of them, weathered the storm and began a new organisation, the Free Speech Union, to support and defend others who find themselves in a similar position having their reputation, career and life destroyed in the twitter sphere and other public forums.

Then there is Alistair Stewart, an honoured forty year veteran journalist of ITV in Britain, for whom the pile-on came after a few misjudged tweets quoting a Shakespearean comparison ended his career in humiliating resignation. A mentally fragile Stewart ended his life. Meanwhile those piling on, rushing to judgement, carry on devastating the lives, reputations and careers of others unimpeded, on the way to destroying the ordinary person’s belief in a just society.

We are all familiar with similar cases within our own circle. What can be a positive medium for generating crowd funding for worthwhile causes proves devastating when used destructively against those around us.

Woe to you who load up packs too heavy for people to carry.

Attaining wisdom of discernment

My book, Becoming, invites readers to make more considered decisions than is evident in the emotional, reactive trend on Twitter and other social media. Using my Maturity Model, truth (fact) is as essential as the courage to be honest. Expectations must be reasonable otherwise responsibilities increase to cause dissension and division, with high social and financial costs. Context is crucial to sound decision-making that we can live with.

Yet even scant analysis of cases where reputable people are ‘cancelled’ (e.g. Young and Stewart) clearly shows that context is either absent or distorted, facts are optional, good humour that could provide balance is missing, as the cowardice of emotional tweeters prevails in the empire of offence taken in the rush to judgement by the righteous of the new moralities.

Yet victims of such hatred could be spared if the tweeters took a little time to reflect. In time, facts emerge that may render judgement unnecessary. A little self-reflection may reveal the contradiction of one’s own prejudice. I’ve found that allowing matters to settle often diminishes the need to make any judgement at all, allowing people, situations and hurt to pass with minimum disruption to life, as we all do or say something silly at some stage. Of course, there have been occasions when my tolerance has been misplaced and people have taken advantage of the generosity of spirit and rushed to baseless negative judgement anyway, that has cost me dearly.

Being confident and mature, understanding that context and dealing in facts certainly contributes to the wisdom of discernment that enriches lives. It just takes more than 140 keystrokes.

Reclaiming a just society

In hindsight, Toby Young recognised his naivety in believing, as do many of us, that if we do the right thing by ourselves and others, the universe would be just. I was once told by my son that what he valued in my teaching children to be decent people was these days seen as an opportunity to exploit. Through misused social media and the rush to judgement it encourages, he has been proven right. Be thou chaste as ice or pure as driven snow thou shalt not escape calumny.

Out of the crucible of suffering experienced by Young has come the foundation of the Free Speech Union. The organisation aims to counter the ‘cancel’ culture and support those wronged by campaigns of ill-informed negative judgement with countervailing campaigns on social media and email. Supporting legal advice will challenge interference in a contract when a target has been sacked as a consequence of a concerted and baseless rush to judgement.

Young’s Free Speech Union is an organisation desperately needed for the quiet, decent people trying to do the right thing by themselves, their families, community and colleagues, who are piled upon by those committed to new morality values of political correctness, identity politics, climate catastrophe, only to find their lives destroyed, quite unwittingly. In the mindless rush to wrong judgement may the Free Speech Union deliver on its purpose and may you never have to seek its support.

Where a decision must be made, judge with wisdom of discernment.

Uncategorized

Acceptance

That periods of difficult challenges and tragedies are part of life are one of the main reasons we should be nurturing in children a strong capacity for resilience, however unfashionable that may be in expert child development circles.

Of course we want to protect the vulnerable from harm, at least until they are old enough to manage difficulties themselves. However should a child reach adulthood without experiencing responsibilities and limitations, without addressing the adolescent tasks of tolerance, empathy and intuition, unable to accept life’s sometimes harsh realities, then there is a fair chance they will become a problem – for themselves, their families and the community at large. Furthermore, the personal becomes the political, regularly illustrated in intransigent demands of the various green cults and political positions demanding action by, and funding from, others.

In my book Becoming, Chapter 4 Making Straight the Way and Chapter 5 Becoming Adult outline tasks to young adulthood in greater detail. My Maturity Model for decision-making helps guide self-assessment of efforts towards personal growth through responsible decision-making.

Self-acceptance

To be effective in the world we need a healthy level of self-acceptance, regardless of what our critics may say. That may mean acceptance of our limitations and diminishments, especially as we age. After all responsibilities also decline.

Shifts in relationships with adolescents and adult children also need a high level of acceptance, particularly when their relationships struggle. Real virtue may be found in letting go of responsibility for, and involvement in, adult offsprings’ mid-life struggles, accepting only they have the ability to change their circumstances, no matter how much it pains us. The same can be said of what is happening in our grandchildren’s lives that may appear less than favourable. In this we would do well to take a leaf out of the Abdallah family’s spirit book of gracious acceptance of the unchangeable tragedies of life. Inner and outer peace may be the reward.

As a product of a poverty stricken family, it became imperative for me to strive for better outcomes, making the most of every opportunity. In many areas, success favoured me, though not everything can be changed. Similarly, efforts for justice and political change don’t always bear fruit. Peace comes from acceptance of the results, celebration of the effort and release from striving.

Democracy requires acceptance of the vote

Our freedom is based on a functioning democracy. Essential to democracy is acceptance of the outcome of majority vote. Yet recent votes in three democratic countries show how powerful insiders and media obstructed the people’s surprise choice. In each case, insiders believed they knew better than the outsiders – the deplorables, the quiet Australians. 

  • Brexit: Even though a majority of the population voted for Britain to exit the European Union, elites in government and the bureaucracies of Britain and the EU sought to confound delivery on the result, supported by a partisan media who made wrong calls. For over three years wrangling continued; the courts joined in; the Speaker of the House John Bercow defied convention by going against his party and favouring “stay”; the media piled on. Failure to accept the vote placed Britain’s whole democratic system at risk. Yet the will of the people prevailed through the election of Boris Johnson, who ultimately delivered Brexit.
  • Trump: Again, the surprise election of Donald Trump as President of the United States has not been accepted by the Democratic Party, partisan media or Hollywood celebrities. Each has used their ample platforms to discredit Trump quite malevolently. Mark Levin in his book The Unfreedom of the Press cites pages of quotes in which media called Trump everything from a demagogue, anti-Semite, threat to security, psychologically troubled, unhinged, not fit to be president, a destructive virus created by Putin, Nazi like tendencies, racist, white supremist and a liar, amongst other things. His impeachment, mooted the day of inauguration and advanced three years later, resulted in Trump’s acquittal, much to Democrat and media chagrin. Under a relentless hailstorm of slander and disruption, Trump continued to deliver on his platform, now showing stunning results in economic terms, employment, trade, life opportunities and international relations – enough to warrant another term.

Through this entire debacle Trump called out the “fake news” and spoke directly to his base via Twitter (often foolishly), yet kept focused on doing what he promised. Like him or hate him, Trump is making America and the world a better place. He is not perfect, certainly irregular, but as one of ‘the deplorables’ said in a spirit of acceptance, “I didn’t vote for him to be my Pastor”.

  • Morrison: A ‘miraculous’ electoral win by Scott Morrison was the third upset of the media and elite applecart which had expected a Shorten Labor win. Since then the pile-on has been relentless, deprecating “Scotty from Marketing”, calling “ScoMo must go”, ostensibly for: daring to take a promised few days holiday just as the fires began to accelerate; for alleged poor management of the bushfires, though services are the responsibility of the states; for failing to link the fires to climate change (for which there is no evidence); and for alleged mismanagement of the coronavirus situation.

In each case, untruths, distortions and deceit compound the inability to accept the outcome of democratic votes. When assessed against my Maturity Model, dissension and division increases, both parties become less mature and social and economic costs accrue. Whereas acceptance allows people to move on.

Consequence of non-acceptance

This blog began highlighting the grace of acceptance demonstrated by the Abdallah family in their moment of unfathomable tragedy, and the inner and outer peace flowing from that acceptance.

All of us can take a leaf out of their ‘acceptance’ book when called upon to deal with the trials and tragedies in our own lives if we are to attain a measure of inner and outer peace, avoiding long term unproductive conflict.

Likewise the elites in government, bureaucracy and media who think they know what is best for us are compelled to realise that outside their privileged bubble, beyond the goats cheese curtain, there are many deplorables and quiet Australians who think differently and who vote. De-platforming and unwarranted social media shaming restricts personal freedom on the way to totalitarian control and loss of democracy. Amongst elites the grace of acceptance of the results of the democratic vote has been missing, overtaken by the arrogance of baseless superiority.

Striving for betterment is virtuous, as is awareness of when to let go and accept the unchangeable.

Productivity, prosperity and freedom can flourish with the greatest gift of all – acceptance and forgiveness.