- How much life long learning means to me (With a huge shout out to the Open University!),
- Why reading for pleasure matters... A LOT!
- The importance of trying to "Connect the Dots" and "Trust the Currents"
- Taking chances is no more risky than sticking with the status quo... and
- How the status quo for the most marginalised remains unchanged. Despite #TheAttainmentGap
"Mr Trump caused Micheal Cohen to follow a path of darkness rather than light" and saw him sentenced to a 3 year prison sentence for paying porn stars off, lying to congress about talks with Russia and tax evasion.
The whole Brexit shambles that people like Boris Johnston, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage supported.
Teacher recruitment remaining a problem and literacy rates higher in affluent areas Vs deprived areas in Scotland.
Theresa May saying that Tech companies need to do more as Eastwood High School student Ben Mckenzie commits suicide because of bullying.
If anyone thinks that these 'Leaders' have the answers, I'm afraid to say that I can't help thinking that you're in for a shock.
And if you think that the systems that are supposed to be in place to support people when they need it... Stay tuned on this blog, BOY! Do I have some stories for you!!
My Week... and My Year
2018 has been a year of stress, challenge and loss. In spite of this from Feb-Oct I played a significant role in making an idea I had and project I have been working on since 2015 to life... Regardless of what others say about how the idea all came together in a couple of months etc etc.
To prevent further loss I had to do what I came to see as the modern day equivalent of what Cinderella Man's Jim Braddock did when he went cap in hand to the Boxing association as I was desperate to prevent the losses from going any further.
I've helped others with their crowdfund efforts, and I've had no problem with the concept when it's been helping others out... However, it felt a lot different when it was myself asking for help, I wonder if it was because it was a personal appeal Vs for a professional purpose.
"You just don't want folks to see you down is all" Joe Gould, Cinderella Man
But following the costs of, a funeral, it was the only option... and it worked! We've spent the last week with boxes all over the place... and I've told the boys about the 23 people who helped us out at such a distressing time. Much gratitude to each and every one of you!!
Over the last few years I've known exactly what I've been trying to achieve... but simply didn't appreciate the time that it would take, the losses that would be incurred (Optimism Bias), the role geography would have and - not for the first time - how little "The System" and people who are supposed to be there to help would be so completely MIA.
But, as Seth Godin highlights, we are in a Race to the Bottom... What's the bigger risk today?
1) Being involved in Scotland's retail, call centre industry or cold calling people with calls no one wants for products that are undifferentiated... Or
2) Taking the time to re-skill.
Earlier in the week I was asked to write my own job description and send it over and applied for a #Cmgr role for a job where I've got some hard fought for experience and am already an active member of that particular community?
So I guess time will tell which was the greatest risk.. I fear that a lot of people who stayed with the status quo is about to experience some of what we have gone through.
The Christmas break is always a great time for reflection for most people, given the losses that stacked up I reflected beyond the minutiae of day-to-day life and asked myself:
"What's Really Important?"
What's really important out of all those boxes in storage that were at risk?
All the photos and my Books... was the answer.
What's really important in life, if there was one single thing that I achieved in life, what would it be?
It's what I tell my kids regularly - to 'Find their place in the world' and never stop til they find it (The Alchemist is among one of my all time faviourite books that all 3 boys have read).
I am reading The Alchemist as a bed time story to my 8 year old son... So understand that it's always darkest just before dawn.
I've also read Ceohlo's latest book Hippie and if you want some of my fav examples of how this counter culture changed the world check these articles out.
The Epic Saga of The Well
1960s rebels - Stewart Brand Tech Visionary
I also picked up Dexter Dias' 'The Ten Types of Human' last week and simply could not put it down!
If you subscribe to Myers-Briggs my personality type is INFJ and this 10 Secrets of INFJ's article highlights that:
"It’s not unusual for INFJs to absorb other people’s emotions. They don’t just sense the emotions of others — sometimes they actually feel them in their own bodies"
...And some of the case studies sure felt draining and I was not able to sleep thinking of some of those people.
In no small part due to the impact that Dexter's book had on me - and having all those wonderful resources that were a few short weeks ago, at risk of being lost to us - I also updated my Goodreads page.
Through Dawn Faizey Webster and her awesome 'Tamer of Terror' example (Check out this Could you Blink your Way Through a Degree video) and the books on my faviourtes goodreads collection I was reminded of how much my Open University Human Geography course meant to me.
I hardly picked up a book outside of school work when I was younger, that changed when I was 29 and signed up for an Open University course and Natures Metropolis and The Life and Death of Great American Cities was recommended reading as preparation for DD304.
Dexter's book reminded me of both books and, in particular, the potential that we have within us:
"When Jimmy Rogan fell through a plate-glass window (he was separating some scuffling friends) and almost lost his arm, a stranger in an old T shirt emerged from a bar, swiftly applied an expert tourniquet, and, according to the hospital’s emergency staff, saved Jimmy’s life. Nobody remembered seeing the man before and no one has seen him since. The hospital was called in this way: a woman sitting on the steps next to the accident ran over to the bus stop, wordlessly snatched the dime from the hand of a stranger who was waiting with his fifteen-cent fare ready, and raced into the Ideal’s phone booth. The stranger raced after her to offer the nickel too. Nobody remembered seeing him before, and nobody has seen him since" Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of Great American Cities
This book would make an appearance again as it appeared in a #Cmgr recommended reading book and the amazing story of the early online community via Katie Hafner's book The Well and the communities Founder Stewart Brand with his 'How Building's Learn'
The examples of how areas successfully 'Unslummed' were of particular interest... as was Andrew Mawson's experiences in Bromley-in-Bow.
An inconvenient comment for policy makers in this book is the following:
"The real tragedy is that, broadly speaking, the areas of deprivation in the UK have not shifted a great deal since Dickens Day, and any talk of a new approach of the kind I fervently believe would work has led to nothing but lots of strategizing, meetings, papers, conferences, seminars, websites...and when the money runs out, there is nothing left to show, no tangible results and so, of course, the show moves on." Andrew Mawson, The Social Entrepreneur
The SNP, who in case you need reminded, have been in power for over a decade... and in the (cheap seat) view that I have, I don't see them making a dent in the #AttainmentGap... as 59 of the UK's most deprived areas are in Glasgow.
Which leads nicely onto another book that had a huge impact on me was Theodore Dalrympole's 'Life at the Bottom' and his assessment in the Lost in the Ghetto chapter that:
I wonder if people like Anthony & Michael or Patrice & Saira or Vasily & Lena who we meet in 'The Ten Types of Human' would agree? Their stories certainly helped put my own troubles into sharp focus.
I may have my troubles but at least I didn't need to sell a child into slavery to try to make ends meet, or get duped into accepting a job in Moscow only to find that my 'Employer' was selling me into the sex trade.
(For any Ayn Rand fans out there I challenge you to read about Vasily & Lena and not think about 'We the Living)
But Dalrympole also highlights that the suicide rates decline when there are world events on... Whether it be the Iraq War or the World Cup. Would more exposure to these people's stories and a lot less Trump, Farage etc 'othering' help to put our own problems into perspective and lead to more tolerance and empathy.
Given our obsession with "Strictly" instead of celebrities looking to revive their career, perhaps we could have refugees telling their stories and people can vote whether they'd give them refuge or not.
Or instead "I'm a Celeb" being set in the Australian jungle, perhaps we could have 'I'm a Celeb get me off the refugee boat" and see if they change their far-right hate speech after the experience.
The Desert & Diamonds
In The Alchemist young Santiago lease his native Spain and crosses the desert to Egypt in search of his treasure, only to find his treasure is a little closer to home.
In The Ten Types of Humans we hear about the impact treasure and diamonds is having in the Central Republic of Africa... and how much easier (and more welcome) the diamonds are Vs people like Saira (Who's father told her 'Anything is Possible')
"Is it true what they say? That the Europeans don't want us to come? That they hate us?"
"Many. Not everyone"
"I love my country. But they try to kill me there"
And that is the tragedy of the refugee from chaos: both loving their home and needing to flee human aggression.
"Do you have any idea how you will cross the Mediterranean?"
"It must be boat...The desert... Even worse"
I flew out of Yaounde on Air France for Paris. The flight map showed that we were heading right over the heart of the Sahara... in a safe sanitised cabin in a couple of hours. It would likely take Patrice and Saira many weeks or months to do the same.
...I snatch from my pouch in front of me Air France's Madame Magazine... almost every other ad is for Jewellery. I hadn't noticed the sheer extent of it before - From Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels at the front, through Buccellati, Chaumet, Chopard, Boucheron, Piaget, Bulgari, Pasquale Bruni, to Chanel's full page back cover, all of them - Diamonds" Dexter Dias (P375)
ACEing Made to Stick
In New Power one of the only Scottish examples was how school girl Asqa Mahmood was an ISIS recruiter who was running rings round US Counter Terrorists and I questioned the lack of any 'Sense of Belonging' would have led to this.
Glasgow flourished from the slave trade, not something that can be said of Haiti
"The islanders warmly greeted Columbus and his troop of newly arrived Europeans. As Columbus himself wrote:
'They have no steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well built people of handsome stature, because they are wonderous timid... Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts.'
There are a number of contemporary reports about what subsequently happened after Columbus's 'discovery'. One comes from Bartolome de las Casas...and like Columbus, was struck by the very particular character of the indigenous inhabitants.
'Now of the infinite multitude of humanity these are the most innocent simple guileless, most devoid of malice... and live without the least thirst after revenge, laying aside all rancour, commotion and hatred.'
De las Casas was given a royal grant of land and documented carefully what he witnessed, later publishing his account back in Spain. In due course it would be banned. He wrote that his European countrymen began to
'Carry our massacres and strange cruelties. They attacked the towns and spared neither children, nor the aged, nor pregnant women, nor women in child bed' and observed that among his fellow Spaniards 'It was a general rule to be cruel; not just cruel, but extraordinarily cruel so that harsh and bitter treatment would prevent Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings'
Consequently, the native population of Hispaniola was either killed or enslaved or died from the disease the Europeans carried.
...Haiti was a tremendously lucrative slave colony. Perhaps the most profitable. Dexter Dias (P396)
Little People who together make Big Changes
Susan Cain's work, with examples from Rosa Parks, Dr Seuss and Steve Wozniak continue to have a huge impact on us.
Obviously Dr Who visited Montgomery in a memorable episode... I was able to introduce Rosa Parks to our kids from a super young age thanks to Dr Seuss and a Little Turtle named Mack, who coughed.
Check out how these formidable women took on the 'Tribes' that formed after the Haiti earthquake:
Tented cities appeared. There were no communities. There were no streets. There were only fragments of families left.
The world was new. How would people live? People in Haiti did what humans have probably always done: They formed groups. That part of us that is very old surfaced anew. Very quickly there were new associations between people with old ways gone. A new Them, a new Us - New tribes. Some people gave food to strangers, to people who had in common with them the gift - the small miracle - of having survived. But there were others - Looters. Looters would kill for anything, for a bag of rice in your hand. They dragged people out of cars. Shot the driver. Took the vehicle. Some were former neighbours, but there was no longer anything resembling a neighbourhood. The world this side of Hispaniola was new.
The looters carrier sticks, machetes, iron bars, sharpened pieces of wood, anything. Some shop owners armed themselves... Gangs formed along roads and created roadblocks. They demanded money for passage. They instituted a new form of taxation. Sometimes bodies were piled up to form roadblocks.
How quickly it happens. But predictably? What was coming out? Gangs of thieves and looters were arriving from outside the capital. But many were already there. The main prison collapsed. All 4,000 prisoners were able to escape.
Sex became a currency. People - men - with keys to stores demanded payment. What was a desperate young mother to do? Or a teenage daughter with a father dead and a young mother dying from her crushing injuries? The world divided anew. Two tribes: the haves and have-nots.
"When the quake hit us the world, it ended" says Madam Phisline "There was no safety, no fence, everyone crammed together in a small area. You can't stop the bad guys getting in, running around everywhere. I never before understood how valuable this is... How precious a thing is a door. A lot of girls who got attacked were attacked going to the bathroom at night. The men were watching. They were waiting...One minute I had a house, my own home, and I loved it, and then I was in a tent. How are people supposed to live in tents? Suddenly there was no rich and poor, everyone was in tents.
The earthquake happened on Tuesday. The men came out on Thursday. So quickly all this badness comes out. You see, people were saying 'beware, beware, the walls of the prison have fallen.' Hundred of prisons had escaped...For these men there were two groups: them and their victims. Everything had been reduced to that.
...When you live in a camp, you don't know who your neighbour i. It could be anyone, everyone, a gang member, a rapist, a drug addict, a crazy person, anyone. But what could we do? We decided to do something about it. To fight back. One of the things we did was to get whistles. Most of the latrines were outside the camp. We gave women training, told them the whistle was not a toy but a tool, a weapon - our weapon... I once took a CNN crew to one of the camps and blew my whistle. So many women came running, the film crew couldn't believe it.
'Women's groups organised themselves. They got people who knew martial arts to train them. Women watched over the camps at night. They worked hard to during the day to earn money to buy torches and whistles. At night, they fought off the men waiting to attack the girls. They began to fight back. There was noone there to protect them, so they thought they'd help themselves. What else can you do? (P408)
The Well, Be More Pirate, New Power all show us what small but committed groups are capable of...
If you take the time to read 'Fire and Fury' you'll get an idea of just how much a small group of unlikely underdogs can get done.
I don't agree with his policies at all, but Steve Bannon saw an opportunity that few others did and took full advantage of it... where were the 'Good Guys' to dispel the 'Fake News' and rise of the neo Nazis and 'Othering' of people who are different.
The same place that the SNP leadership was on the weekend following the #IndyRef result: Missing. This saw the good natured and good humoured #VoteYes banter being turned into Tommy Sheridan's angry 'Hope Over Fear' #Cybernat boycotters.
The Wild West of the Internet
Politicans like to throw about comments like 'The Wild West of the Internet' and
"Tech Companies need to do more about online abuse"
Especially when it's tragic cases like suicide because of bullying... I'll take the contrarian view (Something that I will go into more depth in a separate post thanks to Dexter's book), that schools need to do more to ensure that people have a sense of belonging in the schools that they run and do more to prevent the pain from feeling ostracised.
The suicide rate of young people in the UK is shocking... especially when we consider how tough it is elsewhere compared to whatever issues we are facing.
I wrote a post where I wished that politicans ate their own dog food, they are unlikely to do that.
I have been told that I am articulate and well connected and that makes me worth listening to... even by the 'Good and the Great,' and that among some of the issues that I have is that the ideas are 12 months+ ahead of their time.
The Scottish Government have seen their cult celebrity status go from an all time high on social media and at the polls to having a Cybernat problem and big losses during #GE2017... Because of the books I read I accurately predicted it all at the time.
I know that the Pirates of Seventeeth Century helped influence a number of areas including the Cooperative movement and that Anne Bonny might be related to Lady Liberty.
I know that I might be pretty close to 'Life at the Bottom' and that I don't have a voice.
...But I sure as heck know what's important and have ideas on how to make them happen! I've read the books...it's just a shame that myself and a few of the other true innovators I know who live in Scotland don't get the support that the need... Never mind that, they don't even get the support they are SUPPOSED to?!