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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

IF TIME WASN'T AN ISSUE

If #time wasn’t an issue in our lives, we might:

·       Stop stressing about deadlines
·       Spend more of it with our children and other people who matter
·       Take more holidays
·       Stop rushing everywhere
·       Not make ourselves sick
·       Start appreciating everything around us, rather than filtering out the trees, flowers and birds and whatever else we consider unnecessary
·       Speak to the man in the street
·       Walk with our dogs
·       Keep ourselves healthy
·       Meditate daily
·       Think straight about the bigger picture
·       Find real meaning in our lives
·       Eat at dining room tables rather than in front of the TV
·       Connect more with others
·       Complete all the unfinished business in our lives
·       Clean out the garage
·       Tick off our bucket lists
·       Not struggle through old age

Just saying…

We might also keep writing blogs every week, but right now I have a new project on the go. I am writing a book which has occupied some of my headspace for the past 25 years and the only way to clear that is to get on and finish it. The book is consuming much of my spare time and energy in research and writing, so the reality is that I am going to be too stretched to write my blog for at least the next three months. I will be present on FB, may do the odd blog when I am moved to do so, but I won't formally be back on track with The Talking Stick blogs until I'm done.

Thank you for your support and reading of my musings up until now. I hope to have something chunky for you in the not too distant future.

Friday, 31 March 2017

ALIGNING YOUR SAY, FEEL AND DO IN SA POLITICS

A week in politics is a long time. During a week in #SouthAfrican #politics more can happen than anyone can reasonably imagine. Since Monday we've had the recall of the #FinanceMinister from an investor roadshow, the death of the extraordinary struggle stalwart, #AhmedKathrada (aka #UncleKathy), a #CabinetReshuffle, including the firing of the excellent Finance Minister Gordhan and his Deputy Jona and the inevitable abused South African Rand in freefall. I think that South Africans need to permanently on permanent Post- (and Pre-) Traumatic Stress Disorder medication and therapy.

Perhaps the highlight for me in a week of lows was the response to the eulogy at Uncle Kathy's funeral given by past-President Mothlanthe when he read extracts from an open letter written a few months ago by Kathy to President Zuma suggesting that he step down. Almost as one, the huge crown of mourners stood to give a rousing applause to Kathy's words from the grave. The crowd mostly consisted of ANC members, including numerous MP's and some Cabinet Ministers. Minister Gordhan also received a standing ovation when he was acknowledged as having the same qualities of integrity, nobleness and congruence as Uncle Kathy. There were of course some notable exceptions to the standing ovation: Deputy President Ramaphosa probably knew that he would be fired if he was seen to be standing and applauding, although the safe money would say that it took immense will-power for him to remain seated. 

Which brings me to the point of this blog.  Despite massive public and private criticism of Zuma by ANC veterans, we have nonetheless seen several failed no confidence votes in Parliament. People who openly criticise him outside of Parliament cannot bring themselves to vote with the Opposition, no matter how much they despise the man. Whether they are just plain fearful or whether they think that a vote with the Opposition labels them as not loyal to the ANC is hard to tell, but one thing is clear: those who continue to support Zuma in no confidence debates, but don't actually want him to continue raping and pillaging the country are completely out of alignment with their Say, Feel and Do, that is, their personal integrity. What they say and feel about the man is completely at odds with what they do. How must it be to be in their skins when they are so out with their personal integrity? Disturbing as the thought may be, the principle is no different from taking and carrying out orders to exterminate people, no matter how personally abhorrent it might seem.

So my hope for all of those who stood and applauded at Uncle Kathy's bidding for the President to step down is that they can grow some balls and vote with their consciences at the next, looming no confidence debate. They might just discover that their greatest fear of appearing disloyal to the ANC would in fact be proven wrong. As long as Zuma remains at the helm, the ANC is going down in the next election (in my humble opinion). Voting Zuma out of power might be the one thing that can save the ANC. It might also prove to be the most loyal thing any ANC MP can do for his or her party. 

Isn't it nice when you can both do the right thing and maintain your personal integrity. It's actually the same thing. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

THE FIRST LAW: FIND THE #TRUTH

If you haven't yet heard +Vusi Thembekwayo speak, do yourself a favour and find an opportunity to do so. I have just returned from the annual +Bowmans partners' conference at the beautiful +Zimbali Coastal Resort & Estate and heard him speak. Apart from being #charismatic, #funny, #smart, #entertaining, #eloquent and #highenergy, he is such good value in terms of the content and context he brings to the world as it is right now.

One of his messages comes from his 4 Laws for building a great business. That law is: "Find the Truth". The truth doesn't appear from a balance sheet or income statement: that is just a version of the truth based on history. Vusi says find THE truth, so the question for me is, where and how do you find THE truth, and not only in a business context, because THE truth is applicable to the way in which we live our daily lives as well?

I'm not sure that many businesses can find one big truth about themselves, but there is no question that there are many truths in businesses and Vusi is right: you can't progress unless you are working from the truth. 

If you are misleading yourself that you are the best, or the most innovative, or the biggest, or the smartest or any other superlative, you have to remember that even if there is some objective measure of proving that you are right, it is only good for today. There may also be pieces that are factually correct, but have a "so what" feel to them. "We sold more widgets than our nearest competitor last year" may be factually true, but what will you do with that information? That isn't THE truth. There is a deeper place in which we need to delve to get beneath that particular (or any) fact and establish, for instance, that THE truth might be that "We have a sales staff who are obsessed with their jobs and love the company", or else it might be that "We have a sales staff who are being driven mercilessly and they all hate what they do". The sales figures are a version of the truth, but if one of the possibilities is actually THE truth, it will inform very different strategies for what happens next. If you are #Enviroserv, THE only truth is that you are polluting the air and making thousands of people sick in pursuit of corporate profit. Your other truth is that you are out of integrity. Your truth is not that you are making lots of money, or doing your best, or that it's not you. Work from the truth and you'll fix the problem. 

So it is at a personal level: What is THE truth about you and your life. You can lie to yourself that everything is "fine" (which it rarely is), or you can tell THE truth about your fears, your dreams, your hopes, your you-ness and what is real in your life. 

Working off half-truths and downright lies will send you down the wrong path, especially if they are your reality and at some level you believe them to be true. 

THE truth is what equates to Life's reality, to Life just as it is. It isn't your reality, unless that is completely in alignment with Life's reality.

So, to find THE truth, consider how things actually and verifiably are, whether in your business or your personal life, tell, acknowledge and take ownership of THE truth and build off that. 

In other words, let's get real.



Sunday, 5 March 2017

CORPORATE IRRESPONSIBILITY: TIME TO 'FESS UP, #ENVIROSERV

I was woken the night before last at around 2.30am with the toxic stench of the #landfill 20km from our house which had come wafting into our room. This has been our reality for the past 6 weeks. For thousands of people closer to the landfill it has been their reality for the past year. For the people and staff in the immediate vicinity, they have had to live with it for 15 years. As usual, I found the fog of the stench triggering the red mist of my own rage at the fact that so many thousands of people have to endure an almost daily assault, whilst the perpetrator, does nothing but deny its responsibility.

The perpetrator is #Enviroserv, a company which has the temerity on its website to claim that it has been operating for 37 years with "total integrity" and offering "environmental peace of mind".

You need only look at the website of Upper Highway Air or the Facebook page What's that Smell, with some 9,000 members, to understand that this is not about some isolated whinging from a couple of community members, but a real and substantial problem that is causing unhappiness, pestilence and massive anger in the Upper Highway Area of KZN. A calculation using my rudimentary school maths (area of a circle = π x r^2), and assuming my house is at the outer extremity of the problem and everyone within the same radius is being chemically gassed, the area being polluted is at least a staggering 1200 square km! There are endless stories of asthma, eczema, burning eyes, upper and lower respiratory problems, rare cancers, kidney failure, joint pains, chronic fatigue and children being born with cleft palates, to name a few, which are occurring on an unprecedented scale in the area, with the higher incidences in the areas closest to the landfill. Horses in the area have unexplained bleeding noses and there is even a threat that this year's Durban July is at risk. The link is incontrovertible. There is nothing else in the area which could be the cause. The Upper Highway has its own real live Erin Brockovich calamity brewing.

And what has Enviroserv done? Deny, deny, deny, blame the Department of the Environment, blame other polluters, refuse to disclose information about what is going onto the dump (in the name of "client confidentiality") try to silence activists through the courts, vowing to fight criminal charges against them and complained about the adverse publicity losing it customers. Conveniently, the executives of Enviroserv live nowhere near the dump, so they have no physical experience of the adverse effect they are having on thousands of lives. As long as it isn't affecting them, why should they care about anything other than the profit they are making out of receiving hazardous waste, much of it suspected of being not even South African waste, but imported from around the world. Corporate greed is very expedient.

Enviroserv claims that its values include "Integrity - for its own sake and because lives and the planet are at stake" and "Quality - because lived depend on it and society deserves it". If ever there was a corporate incongruence between saying and doing, this is it, right up there with Enron and its own Code of Ethics which was so discredited years ago. Perhaps they are using the tried-and-tested Oscar strategy: if you protest your innocence enough you start believing that you actually are innocent. They are breaking fundamental tenets of good corporate governance principles by their lack of transparency, lack of stakeholder engagement, disingenuity and fundamental disrespect for the environment and everyone who is depends on clean air. 

What if Enviroserv (and other corporate delinquents) could, instead of paying homage to their bottom line, simply confess and say: "Yes, the smell comes from our dump. We are  really sorry. We goofed and we will do what it takes to restore 100% clean air, even if that means closing the landfill and taking a knock on our profits." That is what corporate responsibility is about: sucking up the consequences which come with messing up in your business, not empty platitudes on a website which are about as convincing as Trump saying he loves Jews and immigrants.

There is something about transparency, honesty and taking responsibility which gives one a sense of trust. When Pick 'n Pay had its food poisoning scare a few years ago, it came right out with it, told the public what was going on and the trust index soared. Shell did something similar when they had an oil spill in Sydney harbour some years ago: their reputation was, if not enhanced, then at least preserved. Lying, denying, fighting and not doing what it takes to fix the mess dumps reputations in the bin, especially when you're in the trash business. 

Integrity, transparency, responsibility, honesty and making good aren't just for corporates: they're for all of us. Think George Washington chopping down his father's cherry tree: whether the story is true or not, it did his eternal reputation no harm.

So, come on Enviroserv: time to 'fess up and make good. Nothing less will do.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

THE GREATEST MARITIME RESCUE EVER?

Although not in keeping with my usual "Talking Stick" genre, I thought I would share with you an article I wrote which appeared in today's @SundayTribune. At some level it speaks to the possibility of human spirit and endeavour in the face of the impossible.

"It is just over 25 years since what has been described as the greatest maritime rescue in modern history was effected. It took place a couple of miles offshore on the Wild Coast. The sea on the Transkei coastline is perilous, perhaps South Africa’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. Hundreds of ships have encountered problems in our coastal waters over the years, but a great many of those have experienced their darkest hours off the Transkei. The fast flowing Agulhas current from Mozambique current heading south, severe winds blowing in the opposite direction and the 200 fathom line on the edge of the continental shelf conspire to create huge, sometimes freak waves which can completely immerse ships and put strains on them for which they were not designed.

The MV Oceanos was a 153 meter passenger ship, built in 1952 and designed to carry 550 passengers and 250 crew. It was owned by Epirotiki Lines of Greece and chartered at the time by a South African company, TFC Tours. The notorious Master of the vessel was Captain Yiannis Avranas. In August 1991 I was a junior partner in the maritime department of a major Durban based law firm and was privileged enough to have been one of the team which investigated the sinking of the Oceanos.

The vessel had been plying the waters of the Indian Ocean during July and August of 1991. Its voyage had taken it to the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion and it was steadily making its way up the coast from Cape Town to Durban. The vessel berthed in East London and a wedding was held onboard on 2nd August. Despite appalling weather, the bride insisted that the wedding ceremony should take place at sea. The ship left the harbour and, when everyone was properly seasick and the ceremony had been performed, the vessel returned and guests partied through the night.

The next day, the vessel’s departure for Durban was delayed because of ongoing terrible weather. Eventually she set sail late in the afternoon, but passengers reported a terrible ordeal through their dinner, with plates flying off the tables and alarmingly mobile furniture.

A number of entertainers were onboard. A guitarist called Moss Hills reported that, at around 8:45 pm he saw crew members running around the vessel handing out life jackets. Moss went in search of the Cruise Director, Lorraine Betts, to eastablish what was going on. She told him that the Captain had told her there was engine trouble and they would have to abandon ship. In the meantime, the passengers had gathered in the ship’s lounge in anticipation of a 10pm show. Whilst they were there, the lights went out. Despite having no power, the entertainers conducted a singalong, to the accompaniment of furniture, crockery, cutlery and even a grand piano crashing around the ship.

Meantime, below deck in the auxiliary engine room, all was not well. Water had started pouring in through the side of the ship from the sea chest (a water intake reservoir). It is believed that a freak wave had smashed into the old vessel and a shell plate had fallen off, causing a massive leak. This is consistent with information given to us by David Gordon SC, one of South Africa’s leading maritime advocates, who, two weeks before this incident, had been on the Oceanos as a passenger when she sailed from Reunion. As the vessel was leaving the harbour, David, who was filming her departure, recorded a swirl of mud and stones under the hull of the ship. On enquiry, the Captain assured him that it was nothing: they had probably just hit an underwater buoy, but David was adamant that the hull had touched the bottom whilst leaving the harbour. He described it to me as the worst ship on which he had ever sailed.

When the water came flooding in, the engineers closed the watertight doors of the engine room (designed to prevent the ship from sinking), donned their life jackets and fled. As Capt Roy Martin, who was investigating the sinking with us commented: “When you see the ship’s engineers upstairs wearing life jackets, you can be sure that they know that the ship cannot be saved.”

Although no announcements to abandon ship were ever made and no alarms were sounded, the crew started launching life boats “as a precaution”, despite assuring everyone that the ship was not taking water. However, Moss Hills went downstairs to one of the lower decks and filmed a body of water rising slowly up the stairs.

Senior officers and crew members were seen jumping into life boats ahead of passengers and then launching the boats only half full, so eventually the ship ran out of life boats with about 200 passengers remaining onboard. The life boats themselves had been launched into mountainous seas. The Captain of a ship which helped rescue passengers later told me that the waves were 30 meters in height and the biggest he had ever seen in 33 years at sea.

In the meantime, telephone lines were buzzing at a number of air force bases around the country. At 9:30 pm Able-Seaman Paul Whyley, a navy diver based in Durban, received a call to join up with 15th Squadron and fly by helicopter to the rescue of a ship which he had been told was sinking in the Coffee Bay area. At first light, 16 helicopters from 15th and 19th Squadron set out for the Wild Coast with Paul and some other navy divers. On arrival, they saw the ship listing at 30 degrees to starboard and being battered by huge waves and a 60 knot southerly wind. The helicopters could not land on the ship, so Paul was winched onto the deck by harness. During his descent he was blown around so badly that he ended up crashing into the sloping deck and being badly gashed.

The passengers onboard, having seen Paul’s ungracious landing and bleeding face, were understandably reluctant to leave. He eventually persuaded one to return to the helicopter with him. He then returned to the ship and, with one of the passengers, Piet Niemand, Paul started cutting rigging, cables and anything else which could snag the harness or helicopters. They then started loading passengers two by two into harnesses lowered by the helicopters. The latter were flying in rotation, so as each was filled, it flew off to drop passengers at the Haven (on the nearby coastline) and the next helicopter would come onto its station. The work was dangerous, the spray forcing the helicopters to fly higher. The pilots were unsighted because of the high winds and the forward position the helicopters had to maintain in order to lower and raise the harnesses onto the ship.

To Paul’s amazement, as he was helping passengers, Captain Avranas showed up to board the second helicopter. When Paul objected, the Captain told him that he was going to coordinate rescue efforts from the shore. So much for traditions of “women and children first” and the Captain goes down with his ship! Captain Avranas wasn’t hanging around and probably became a role model for the Captain of the Costa Concordia. That left the entertainers to coordinate the rescue onboard the ship, try and summon help using the ship’s radio and generally maintain morale.

Eventually, the helicopters had to head back to Umtata to re-fuel. As the sky emptied, Paul Whyley went through the vessel looking for passengers who might have been trapped or for some reason had not left their cabins. He only found one passenger, who was apparently sitting drinking himself into a stupor. What he did notice, however, was that all of the showers were running.

He and another diver then tried to launch the rubber ducks from the ship. Two boats were crushed by the heaving vessel in the water, but a third survived. His task was then to try and persuade people to jump into the sea and swim to the rubber duck. Understandably, no one was particularly enthusiastic about this. Eventually, one of the rescue ships in the area, the MV Nedlloyd Mauritius, courageously launched its own life boats to come and pick up passengers.

When the helicopters returned Paul reported that “the sky was again black with choppers”. Whilst he was loading passengers, one of them flailed his arms, which a helicopter mistook as a signal to heave, and in the heaving the passenger fell out of the harness, slid down the deck and fell into the black and boiling sea. Paul immediately dived in after him, and with the guidance of passengers on the Oceanos, finally managed to surf down a wave, find the passenger still alive in a trough and haul them both back onboard. He continued until the last passenger was evacuated and, as he himself boarded an overloaded helicopter, he watched the Oceanos tip up onto its nose and then topple over and sink.

In the meantime, several commercial cargo ships and fishing vessels had, in response to mayday calls from the entertainers and the Silvermine Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, gathered around the stricken Oceanos to rescue people. This mission was itself perilous, with life boats crashing into the sides of the rescue ships, some of them narrowly escaping the spinning propellers of the rescue ships, passengers falling into the water and being plucked out again and then having to climb up the sides of ships on ladders in howling wind. One passenger, Gail Adamson, was the mother of 3 children. I met her when she was disembarking from a rescue ship which had arrived in Durban at 3:00 am on the morning of 5th August carrying survivors. She walked off the MV Great Nancy carrying her 17 day old baby and accompanied by her other two young children. She told me that each had been placed in a bucket lowered to the lifeboat by the Chinese crew of the Great Nancy, clothes were stuffed on top of them and the crew hauled each child up the side of the ship. Gail then had to climb a rope ladder in howling winds. Miracles happened that day.

What actually caused the vessel to sink? It was a mystery for some time why she sank despite the watertight doors having being closed after the initial leak. However, investigations revealed that, at the time when the water came flooding into the auxiliary engine room, the crew had been working on a valve on the sewage system. The water came in with such force and so quickly that they did not have time to close the valve. Instead, they fled and sealed the engine room doors, but knew that the water would flood back through the sewage system and eventually sink the ship. This was consistent with Paul Whiley’s observation that the showers were running. One clue which we kept hearing reported by passengers was that there was a funny smell onboard before the ship sank. We didn’t know what to do with that information, but when the true cause of the sinking was revealed, we finally understood that everyone (quite aptly) was smelling poop before the ship went down.

As the pipes leading through the watertight bulkheads of the engine room were relatively small, it took a long time for the water to flood through to the rest of the ship. The fact that it took 18 hours for the ship to sink after the first breach allowed time for every last person on the ship to be saved.

There are numerous other stories that emerged at the time: stories of heroism, cowardice, greed, cheating and a host of intrigue. Space does not permit me to share these right now, but what was extraordinary was the heroic effort of the entertainers, the Air Force and the navy divers. Many aircrew and divers were given bravery awards. Paul Whyley received the Honoris Crux Gold, of which only 6 were ever awarded in history. Were it not for those heroes and the selfless response of the ships which came to the rescue, almost certainly hundreds of lives would have been lost. Instead, despite the crew and Captain’s cowardice, the rescue was a triumph and, in my view, the greatest maritime rescue ever."
             
 

Andrew Pike is a partner in the Shipping and Logistics practice group at Bowmans. He is the author of two books, “People Risks: A people-based strategy for business success” and “The Talking Stick: Exploring Life’s Possibilities”, as well as a weekly blog at www.andrewpikecoaching.com. He is currently writing a full length book on the sinking of the Oceanos. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

IF YOU'RE GOING TO ACKNOWLEDGE ME, DO IT NOW!

The last two weeks have been emotionally draining. Three friends have died and the 12 year old daughter of our other friends also passed three days ago. With all this news and especially after the memorial I attended yesterday, I'm feeling raw, as if someone has sliced me open with one of those cheap tin openers which has a blade and hook on it and you kind of carve your way around the tin - except it feels like my chest got carved open and my pulpy tender heart got exposed.

It doesn't really matter what they all died from. The fact is, they passed, and in every case they were someone somehow connected to me, but more importantly someone else's precious father, son, brother, sister, daughter, uncle, niece, in-law, business partner or best friend. And when they passed, whether they had time to say goodbye to anyone or not, they were gone. Maybe not in their essence, or their legacy, or their photographs, but physically they will no longer be around to hug, hold, kiss, play, make love, share a joke, discuss things that matter, go out to dinner, interact, love, give advice, touch, create or do the myriad of things they did.

We attended Stuart Wilson's memorial two weeks ago, I missed Guy Muller's service as it was in Honduras, but exchanged  many wonderful reminiscing messages with all of our mutual friends and mini-memorials were set up in Johannesburg and Cape Town by some of our other rowing friends. Yesterday we went to the memorial of Chick Flack. Next week will be a service for little Annabelle Ireland. That may prove the most challenging.

Other than the losses, what has struck me so forcefully - not for the first time of course, but more so having been in memorial mode for the past few weeks - is the huge outpouring during speeches at funerals and memorials and on social media of acknowledgment of the deceased and sorrow for his or her departure. 

Yesterday we heard a beautiful web of interwoven tributes to Chick which eloquently and sometimes tearfully described what an extraordinary man he was. I've known Chick and his wonderful family for about 10 years, but still learnt so much about the essence of the man. We heard of his loyalty, his extraordinary 50-plus year love affair with Danna, his devotion to his family, his doggedness, single-mindedness to make things happen, generosity, kindness, ability to make everyone around him and whom he met feel as if they truly mattered, the legacy he created and left, his impatience with fools and slow drivers and a plethora of other qualities and eccentricities. 

And whilst I sat there feeling and properly understanding the depth and extent of the loss experienced by his family and friends, I kept on thinking: I wish Chick could have heard all of this.

I don't doubt that he knew a lot of what was shared yesterday - for instance, some words were read out which had been written by Danna to Chick on occasions of past wedding anniversaries - and he had more than an inkling of how much he was loved by his family and friends, but I wonder if he knew just how much people saw and appreciated in and about him. And I wondered how much of a difference it might have made to him before he passed knowing just how big a mark he had left on planet Earth.

All of us go about our lives doing the best we can, but often have no real idea whether we are making a difference, how other people see us or whether what we do is in any way noticed or appreciated. Which is not to say that we must do things to get acknowledgment - that has a narcissistic feel to it - but given that we don't always see ourselves as we truly are, wouldn't it be nice for people to say from time to time: I see you.

Perhaps some of his friends and family didn't know exactly what Chick thought about or saw in them. What if there was more he could have said before he passed which would have made the parting a little easier for everyone? 

As I draw to the end of my musing, the piece that I wanted to share is that we have a daily opportunity to share with people what we know and appreciate about them, and however anathema that might be to some people, I don't know a better way of enhancing connections and ensuring completeness with people when they finally pass out of our lives. I also don't know a clearer route to regret than waiting to share your piece with the other, and then he dies with the piece left unsaid.

So, I'm not asking for (and don't need acknowledgment), but if there is anything you want me (or indeed anyone else) to know, please don't wait until my (their) funeral to share it with a bunch of other people who aren't me (them).

Sunday, 5 February 2017

THE #POWER OF #COMMUNITY: #TOXICTREK

Perhaps not exactly an #ArabSpring, but yesterday morning the good people of #Hillcrest #KZN and surrounds came out in their thousands to march against the toxic smell which has pervaded their neighbourhood for the past year. This was #peoplepower at its best. The waste management company, #EnviroServ, has been fingered for illegally dumping of #toxicwaste on the local landfill and causing respiratory illnesses (and probably much worse) to everyone in the area. Needless to say, EnviroServ deny everything, but as @molefepontsho tweeted: "We're sick and tired of being sick and tired."

What was so inspiring to see was this huge community pulling together for its greater good when local government has, until this week, failed to intervene. With the thousands of marchers came a large group of HOG riders, community water tables, medical facilities to deal with any heat stroke casualties, an army of volunteer marshals and a parade of local police vehicles. There were posters, chanting, people, a memorandum of demands and a motor parade to the offending dump, all underpinned by a social media campaign (see Upper Highway - What's that Smell?) and a reaching out to the mainstream media. The bottom line is that this was a superbly organised and coordinated wider community effort.  And it's going to keep on going.

EnviroServ can hardly feel un-embarrassed by this show of people power. The build-up to Saturday's crescendo has led to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) threatening to suspend EnviroServ's licence. That's what people power did before Saturday's march. The pressure on the DEA to deal with this now is immense and the pressure on EnviroServ to start acting in a responsible manner is enormous. Their reputation is in ruins and no matter how much they protest their innocence, their business will never be the same again.

Now let's head out of parochial pastures of Hillcrest across the Atlantic to America and, indeed to dozens of other countries around the world. In response to Donald Trump's misogyny, Muslim ban and host of other socially unacceptable policies, we have seen the biggest protest marches in history. That seems like a pretty poor start to the career of a United States president... well, any president really, but especially the so-called leader of the Free World. Far from showing his greatness as a leader, he has simply managed to unleash the fury of people around the world. Who knows where the protests will lead, but if Mr Trump sees out a full term of office, I'll be surprised.

The Arab Spring brought about fundamental change in all the countries it touched, the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall came crashing down under the pressure of people power and apartheid finally crumbled when the South African government could no longer bear the internal and external heat.


We may think we as individuals are powerless against the unscrupulous corporates and abusive presidents of this world, but give enough people a common purpose for the greater good and it eventually becomes possible to triumph over any evil.



Saturday, 21 January 2017

HOW IS YOUR #BEHAVIOUR SERVING YOU?

So #DT is #President of the #UnitedStates and the question is whether he is in that position because of or despite his #behaviour. The answer is probably both. He has behaved abominably at one level: #lying to the #electorate, #discriminating against #Blacks and #minorities, #harassing and #abusing #women, #belittling, #attacking and #insulting all who might have impeded his progress. (And those are only the things we know about.) You might be forgiven for thinking that any of that behaviour makes him unfit to govern the United States, let alone all of it.

On the other hand, he has in fact been elected as President (despite losing the popular vote by 3 million or so votes), so something in his behaviour has served him to the point where enough people have been willing to look past his ethics - or lack thereof - to enable him to become President. Here is what has served him:

  • His single-minded purpose to become President at any cost to himself and anyone else who got in his way
  • His ruthless pursuit of the job with no regard to or respect for any of the rules of fair play
  • His canny strategic approach to his election campaign, targeting and manipulating the poor, the unemployed and those who want a change - any change - in their desperation
  • His compelling ability and willingness to tell lies and half-truths with both conviction and persuasion
  • His strategic use and understanding of the weakness of the rules of the game by seeking his support in so-called "swing States" which could make a difference, rather than by appealing to the wider electorate
  • His willingness to sacrifice ethics and decency at the altar of power
He has played the ultimate game of "Survivor" and has out-witted, out-played and out-lasted his opponents, and that has served him to attain his ultimate goal, but it comes at a cost.

More than half of his own countrymen didn't want him, don't like him and many can better be described as hating him. Women around the world are protesting against his election as I write this. Comedians around the world are rejoicing at the idea that they are now guaranteed another 4 years of material to discredit and make him the laughing stock of much of the world. Foreign governments such as China, Germany and Mexico have taken serious umbrage at some of his offensive comments about them and are likely to compound the division and separation which DT is fostering. In his resentment for the outgoing administration, and to try and meet campaign promises which were made simply to ensure his election, he has already started the process of depriving 20 million Americans - probably mostly those who supported him - of affordable healthcare with nothing to offer which is better than Obamacare.

If the truth be told, today the United States is more disunited than ever, the world is less connected than ever and the potential for further international disconnection, dysfunctionality, war, radical terrorism and suffering has probably escalated exponentially since Mr Trump's election campaign and yesterday's subsequent inauguration.

So, yes, his unethical and self-serving behaviour has achieved  a particular goal which would appeal to the average narcissist and even more so to a super- and unrehabitabitable narcissist, but it comes with the price tag he has attracted of widespread resentment and hatred towards him and more division in the world.

In the context of reaping what you sow, Donald Trump's behaviour has served naked ambition, but not the greater good, not any ethical standards by which the world might wish to live and in my view will not serve any part of America other than those benefiting from his patriarchy. I hope I am wrong, but time will tell.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: when you behave in a certain way, how does it serve you and how does it serve the greater good? If those two don't align, I want to suggest that you reconsider how you do things.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

#TRANSITIONING FROM GOOD TO BAD, FROM #BEST TO #WORST

Next Friday, January 20, #America transitions from the #President who (in my personal opinion) was the best, most gracious, #trustworthy and #statesmanlike who has served during my lifetime to one who (again, in my opinion) so far shows all the potential to be the worst, most ungracious, unethical and unpresidential in our lifetimes. In fact, #DonaldTrump could be as much of a #disruptor to U.S. and global politics as #Uber, #AirBnB and #Bitcoin have been to their particular industries, save that their disruption was generally for the greater good. I feel anxious about the possibilities of #isolationism, increased #separatism, #divisiveness, accelerated #climate_change, rising #radicalism and an assault on the world's #trade_agreements and #economy, to say nothing of #xenophobia, #sexism, #racism, and, and....I don't believe I am alone with my fears and concerns.

We all undergo #change in our lives and need to transition, sometimes from what we perceive as good to what we perceive as bad. The perception derives from our own reality and meaning that we put on the event. For example #Trump's ascendancy is a nightmare for Mexicans, but a God-send for Southern rednecks. The #Obamas' departure from the #White_House is a matter of sadness for many of us, but glee for the #Republicans.

Whatever, we think however, Life's reality remains the same: Trump is in, Obama is out, and we're stuck with the former for the next four years at least (barring an impeachment, which is not inconceivable). How do those of us seeing this as a change from best to worst transition? How do we not be fearful, how do we stay optimistic and above all, how do we live our lives?

Answer: why must anything change at all? Something else in the world has changed, but within ourselves we are not called on to make any change at all, if we choose not to do so. If we were happy and optimistic pre-Trump, we can remain happy and optimistic post-Trump. If we are suddenly fearful, depressed and resentful because of Trump, who has the power? Donald Trump, of course! We are allowing his boorishness, dishonest and narcissistic behavior determine how our lives should now be. As long as we feel resentful or hateful towards him, who is getting eaten up by the resentment? We are, of course! Trump doesn't know how we feel and, even if he did, he wouldn't give a monkey's.

So that's the first lesson of transition: don't give any power to the new circumstance in the change. Own your own power, feelings and capacity to address the change.

The second lesson is not to feel and act helpless and powerless in the face of the new circumstance. Just because trade deals could be torn up and climate change accelerated does not mean that we have no power of our own to forge links and effect climate saving measures, no matter how small they may seem at an individual level. On a consolidated joint level they become significant.

The third lesson is to live in a way which is congruent, aligns with the truth, good morals and everything else which is the opposite of what you find abhorrent about the new order. Just because the new situation is oozing evil and runs contrary to everything we hold dear in our lives does not mean we must become a part of the new normal for American Presidents (or whatever else happens to have changed and be bothering us). If sufficient people in the world stand by and actively live for what is good and right, we reach a moral tipping point which becomes irresistible to the forces of evil: think Berlin Wall, Arab Spring and Apartheid.

Finally, based on educated and thoughtful research and logic (not reactive fearfulness), make such changes to your personal affairs as will meet any new prospective risks arising from the new circumstance. If you can see the risk quite clearly for what it actually is, determine its potential impact on you and the likelihood of it arising, then you can take some steps to try and mitigate the impact if you think it's pretty likely to occur. Like move your house away from the shoreline, for instance, or start trading in Bitcoins.

There is so much we can do in times of change, but above all else we are called to stay real and true.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

SUSPEND YOUR #DISBELIEFS - AND YOUR #BELIEFS

I am told that I exited my latest #Saturn return on my birthday last year. I don't really know what that means, but I am given to understand that when one is in a Saturn return period (which seems to happen every 28 years or so and can last for at least two years), you can expect Life to really give it to you. Challenges abound and you are called to deal with tough life lessons in a way which will launch you onto a new path in your life. Or something like that. In any event, to put it into more understandable language, it can be quite a crap time for a couple of years in your life. 

I have no idea whether any of that is true or not. I think I disbelieve it. (I don't disbelieve that you can face more challenges than you especially want in your life over a long period, just that Saturn has anything to do with it.) In fact, it could be a complete crock. However, if I were to suspend my disbelief and simply accept that it were so, the question is whether I would then try and live my life some other how during the time of my Saturn return. The tricky premise is that whatever happens to you during that time (indeed during any time) is somehow pre-ordained by the stars. So, suspending my disbelief would open me up to accepting that whatever crap Life delivers to me during the time of my Saturn return is simply offering another big Life lesson to be learnt. (This is also known as an 'AFGO' - Another F*ing Growth Opportunity.) By suspending the disbelief, I might then approach all AFGO's from that very point of view: not that something awful is happening to me and I should be angry/ sad/ despondent, mad at G-O-D or whatever, but rather that there is a piece for me to learn about myself, or Life or others.

The point here is that, by suspending disbelief, we can always open up the realm of possibility. For instance, what if atheists could suspend their disbelief in God for a while? What might be available to them then? Maybe nothing, but maybe a different experience of their lives. What if racists could suspend their disbelief that coloured people can be honest, compassionate, empathetic and engaging? Or, looking at it from another perspective, what if Trump supporters could suspend their beliefs that Mexicans are rapists and murderers, or that Muslims are terrorists, or that Democrats at some level represent the anti-Christ. How might people then start connecting with each other? What if we could suspend beliefs that if we tell the truth we might hurt the feelings of others, or that we have to be a certain way in order for people to keep liking us? We might then actually start telling the truth and behaving authentically and congruently. 

The point is a simple one: if we cannot (or do not) test our beliefs against verifiable facts, we cannot ever know if they are true or not, so if we simply suspend our disbelief or beliefs, we then open up to all sorts of other possibilities, because disbelief and belief keep us stuck in boxes which are defined by our beliefs. 

So that is the invitation: unless you categorically and verifiably know that what you believe is true or untrue, suspend your disbelief, suspend your beliefs and see what possibilities open up.

For the meantime, good luck for your next Saturn return...