Apologies it’s been one big breathe between inhales & exhales, since I last unwound the words, the thoughts & unpacked. I’ve missed everyone of my writers therapy sessions for the past year or so, missed mentors & even missed those delicious vegan Monte Carlos; missed good friends out doing what is write…..ooops was that right? I’ve never really ever understood why anyone could look the other way in a know what’s wrong & choose to do something other than what is right sort of thing; operationalise the behaviour yes, analyse & present a paper on it can do; but fundamentally as a human being, to the core of whatever it is that neuroscientists are suggesting is beyond the human body, creates an energy that connects, sends our signals energetically from our powerful minuscule neurons, to the neurons of those around us, seeking to understand the humanity between us, sort of way sometimes does my head in just processing it.
Why be silent if you have a voice or hands to write it down? You could paint it out, sing it, dance, act or be the change you need to see, but, yes it’s a but (I hear you and still think differently), when I began to unpack this in my normal Google all this patterns & histories of its occurrence (my data nerd kicked in) I discovered it’s not something which seems to be decreasing, in fact as our population increases so does the rate of stupidity, ignorance, crime, ignorance to suffering. That’s not to say there are not good people out there screaming even at the top of their lungs to make a difference or ordinary people doing extraordinary stuff to raise awareness both as individuals or on mass. Yet let me just say to you…Trump & Boris, need we say more. It would appear on mass popularity means a whole lot more & it’s not all good. When the best seller “How not to give a F***” came out, surely, those out there enjoying the pages of the F bomb could see, it wasn’t about not giving a F about the things that matter, it was about smiling & waving to the nonsense out there, about wasting your energy & time, your voice on the crap, the bullsh**, the things people say about you, the stuff that holds you back from being the best you there can be. It was about aparigrapha in yogi terms, non-attachment to the voices of your ego & most certainly wasn’t suggesting you be silent about the things that matter.
Sometimes silence is a blessing; preferable to 2am when your dog wants to go outside, 3am when someone needs a glass of water & thinks its better you brave the cold than them. Silence is not OK when there is suffering involved. When you tilt your chin towards your chest, lower your eyes, even close them, think something else so your ears tune out & keep walking. There are times when silence is the foundation of that bulls**. The more we know, the more choices we have to do something about suffering, to raise awareness, to speak out, stand up & speak loud about the things that matter. We have choices, every single one of us, to not be silent about the things that matter or choose to do absolutely nothing.
There are certain times I advocate for the blessings & self awareness that comes from being alone, silence has a purpose, however just like the westernisation of many of the good things we have & can do as human beings, even silence has been turned into something harmful. Silence is great when you meditate, are in the present moment, trying to hear your thoughts, unpack the ego, yes I love meditation too, an opportunity to inhale the good stuff & exhale the rest. When I’m weathered by the storms of imperfection, the words & thoughts of others, their expectations & attempts to fit my unique shape into the square pegs & round holes, meditation keeps me grounded both feet on the ground I share with billions of others.
Lately that moment, presence in the moment has been a life-saver, has allowed me to absorb the good stuff & let go of some not so great human failings, been boosted by the special people my life, who remind me to stay true to myself, to be the change I want to see, as different & as hard as that often is. Somedays it can take one simple email “you are amazing, the best leader we’ve ever had” to reassure you, even when you question & doubt yourself, wonder if you are actually losing your mind, remind you to go back to the facts, to stay on the path, to look ahead & never be silent about the things that matter, to look that fear of not being understood in the face & tell it to get the hell out of your way, you are coming through.
If I had never believed my thoughts in the present moment or had the benefit of support around me a decade or two ago or both, I’d never have raised awareness, never spoken out at large gatherings, never written that letter or the other one, that statement or my version of the truth; never sat with my shaking words or hands in that witness box, or let go of a career & envision another. With each step I took, every corner I changed direction, ever time I adjusted the sails I’d meet another person, a friend, a mentor, a colleague, the one in a million who thought differently, who gave me the courage to keep going & believe that if there was change to be had, it started with yourself. I learned how to keep my eyes forward, to embrace the opportunities of like-minded people, who cared about vulnerable people, who gave a sh** about the impact their choices could have on the lives of those either in their micro or macro systems.
I wouldn’t have believed I could be the change, with my soft little voice the one someone once told me was too soft to speak over the phone or in meetings or to parent! Yep someone once told me that. Funny how that same person now has grown adults going down a path they never imagined possible & feared, mine are kicking goals one after the other as I can now smile & wave to the ignorance. The more I learn about behaviour, the more I see behaviour in individuals, the more I know verbal behaviour may take you only so far, if you want to make a difference, if you want to parent effectively, to change the world you see, then it starts with you, changing your behaviour; it begins the day you decide you are the change that is needed. As Margaret Mead once said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.
When I first read that quote, I started collecting her work, every book. I’d never heard the title ‘anthropologist’ before, I didn’t know you could study cultures, I never entertained the thought there were other communities out there living so vastly different other than what they eat, the language they speak etc, improved, kind, compassionate people & cultures, parenting differently, supporting each other; I was young & thought like so many what went on around me was all there really was, that basically didn’t all people behave just like us?
It was around the same time I received my first penpal, yep those were a ‘thing’ back then. No emails, no snapchat or iMessage, just a pen, paper, scissors for cutting & pasting your stories to each other & someone miles away waiting weeks for that stamped envelope to arrive in the mail. I learned about a wall that surrounded a city to keep people in & others out first hand from those who experienced it. I learned about classical music, playing the violin, orchestras & ice skating, as I sweated through the dry western summers & small mindedness those letters were a world I was yet to see. It was those letters which gave rise to my passion for travel, to dreams of one day going to this place & exchanging the memories of those letters through our childhoods. It was also the earliest memories I have of being a writer, not a very good one (just like today), just one that spoke about the things that mattered, shared stories, raised awareness, made a difference in a community bulging in racism, ignorance & mental illness, alcoholism, drugs, family violence, sexual abuse & cycles of silence.
I realised I didn’t have to be a good writer, I just had to write, to tell the stories to make a change. It wasn’t too long after that I boarded my first plane, visited my first overseas city, I think I was 18 or so, where I began to see a whole different world outside of the textbooks of education.
I stood a few rows back from Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu on stage at a Free Nelson Mandela rally, still incarcerated at that time; it was the first time I learned the term ‘soap box’ & completely inspired by the bravery of someone bold enough to stand up & speak out about the things that mattered to them (even if some of it was weird & humorous). It was the first time I voluntarily stepped outside my comfort zone for more than just entertainment or travel, to win a prize or score a mark; joining friends for drinks at an underground bar & listened to stories from the victims of apartheid somewhere near Covent Garden, beneath a quaint little bookstore, where I made friends with Vincent, a from Africa, whose dream was to cycle home via the Sahara & nearly had me convinced I could do it as well, if it wasn’t for picking up work in the Cotswolds. I was convinced, sparked by the idea, I too could have dreams so big, so challenging & so unimaginable, they were actually possible, I could do anything I just had to choose it. Wow that could have been a whole different lifetime had I not taken that different turn. When I think of all the experiences I can remember, I wonder about the ones I now forget, the ones MS steals & yet part of me contemplates if my brain is exhausted most of the time because I have had so many incredible experiences to learn from, maybe it is just too full; imagine if I could remember it all!
I guess I’ve always loved writing, telling stories, deconstructing human behaviour, why we do what we do & say what we say, realising I didn’t have to be even good at it, just want to give it a shot, one experience began to lead to another, suffering became opportunity & resilience grew from the pages, stories, events in-between. Whether it was the lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song, the words of Shakespeare or inventing my own, there was something incredibly powerful about putting words to paper, the power of the pen being mightier than the sword. Yet just as intriguing are those accounts of history, tales of injustice, stories of amazing human being or passionate songwriters changing our thinking, so many stories to be told, shared, to inspire & change our evolution. I began to open my eyes to a whole side of humanity through both experience & observation, discover the suffering that comes from hurt people, hurting people, the ignorance & antecedents leading to the behaviours of those who not only inflict harm on others, those who stand by & do nothing while it occurs.
I listened to the words of people who lived through the isolation, the oppression and abuse of apartheid, something I knew so little of despite receiving 13 years of Australian schooling & although I had spent most of my childhood in regional NSW, new so little of our indigenous history at that time, realised the version I had been given was so far from the true history, discovered how ignorance shapes the stories people tell in order to fit in; however, things changed from that moment, something uneasy stirred. Maybe it was the recognition that I too had felt that oppression from gender & vulnerability, from being new in a small town, female & isolated. Maybe it was my particular experience of being vulnerable, of having no voice or a voice that was silenced, wasn’t there when I needed it or maybe it was the events of discovering that courage was not about doing what was comfortable, it was doing what was right when it was uncomfortable. Those feelings that arise, of lack of control over the direction of your life, having to make a choice in a split second, realising right now in this moment you can go one of two ways, you could change the direction of someone else’s life, to empower the disempowered, to be a voice for those who are silenced. Maybe it was the pain of raw skin peeling off that bone, laying it bare & feeling that fear of standing alone with your truth, hitting home & finding a single light switch in the dark as you stumble through the mess of human beings doing nothing, your own struggle to see a way forward despite how scary & uncertain it was, to survive in order to reach the person you may be today, knowing that even the impossible is possible, realising the very word says ‘I’m possible’.
Maybe you could call it ignorance or maybe opportunity or lack of, to know the truth as it is & was, I continued to find myself with opportunities to learn the extent to which human beings can & will do whatever it takes to do what they think they must do to appease their own ego;, as misguided, as hurtful, as unashamedly unjust as they do, there remains so many others out there speaking out & speaking up – we actually have a choice. Fancy that, you can choose to make a difference or not. You can choose comfort over leadership, you can choose to define what it means to be a good person.
So I made mine, a choice, a clear, decisive, passionate choice in the darkness of that bar, somewhere in London; to never be silent about the things that truly matter, when it came to the basic rights of each person, regardless of the colour of our skin, our age, ability or gender, to speak up, speak loud & say sometimes what no one else will say, not because it was born from self righteousness, because what is sometimes unpopular is right, just because more people say it’s true doesn’t mean it is. Think of dictators, of abuses of human rights, of the power of individuals throughout history who have tortured, murdered, committed atrocities yet had the power to influence the masses. To be self-assured so much that I would never feel alone because I always had myself, what I had to say was another way of seeing what was happening. So I took a few detours along the way, I found her again, that quiet voice & passionate heart, after many more experiences & stories, information & data gathering & still dream of being that anthropologist someday in retirement, to write meaningful, purpose filled stories that inspire change from those who actually create it.
Although it was a long time before I realised suffering could be made into the foundation I would build a life upon & despite telling my story at different times throughout my life, the whole truth & nothing but the truth is still a non-fiction novel yet to published, a saving it for a rainy day & more time edition opportunity maybe I’ll finish that book in the cabin not far from the sea, in the silence & comfort of work being only what I’m passionate about. The more I lose my mind to MS, the more it is re-shaped from tea loving to coffee snob, from red wine to whiskey shots, from needing to belong to not giving a sh*t about expectations of what I should & shouldn’t do, wear or shouldn’t wear, how I mean’t to be behave or fit in & choosing to give that energy to the things that matter, the more I come home to the place I longed for all those years ago, the friend I wish I had, the adult I needed to protect me from harm, the voice I wish had spoken up & stood up when I was too small to do so, the more I feel myself than at any other time in my lifetime of 50 years.
Each brick that was thrown, every scar, hurt, pain; I soon realised I had the opportunity to create another layer with those bricks, that I could stand taller, my voice despite being soft would be louder the higher I took myself, if I learned how to use it. I became more aware I had the power all along to choose to let go of whatever did not serve a purpose, I had choices, oh my f**** goodness I actually could choose a different path & I made them, every single one since. Yoga gave me insight into giving myself permission to come home to myself, allowing others to do the same. The more decisions I made, the changes in direction I took, I soon realised I was also opening up a consciousness to how power, ignorance & greed controlled the choices of others.
I was called & labelled idealistic, advised never to work for a Government department as I’d be frustrated by the lack of change, the staleness of human beings following a path of little progress, by the fitting in & lack of standing out; told idealistic people can’t change systems, laughed at, even from the nicest of people & continue to see the misguided belief that when I raise a concern, when I’m the only one speaking up, saying what no one else has the courage to say, then something must be wrong with me, if I could identify injustice in places where no one believed it would occur, then it must not be occurring at all if the person I’m telling can’t see it too.
Then a mentor & well respected professional advised me to take a different career path, if I was to be the change, if I really wanted to make a difference, one person at a time, it started with me; I had to think differently, strategically, to keep my eyes on the ball or the prize or whatever damn vision I created, collect the data & join the dots. I needed conscious choices, not unconscious reactions to my environment. I began to see if it was to be, then what mattered was up to me. I also became acutely aware, despite how tall I had become on those bricks, my voice was still soft & never going to be loud enough from where I was standing. I was going to wear myself out banging my growing yet trauma influenced brain against those brick walls, I had to come up with a different plan & required putting on different gloves. I was encouraged to read about those who had made a difference, those who were disempowered & silenced, the paths they took, who changed the world one word at a time, to keep my eyes open, my heart higher than my head, yet still ensure my head was along for the ride. That change did not have to be massive & only when I took on learning about behavioural science did I first hear the term, to change the culture we must first change the behaviour, change, real change, starts with just one person. I looked for stories, began to believe in the impossible, even dreamed in places where not one person was brave enough to do what was right, that someone could be that change. Even now I still prefer to listen to stories of people being the change they want to see, about overcoming suffering, being stronger than they imagined possible, movers & shakers, even called ‘the crazy ones’. I much prefer following their path than watching some desensitising brain numbing series which contributes zero to extending my knowledge or purpose.
I started to imagine that despite the unpopular, making hard choices could result in change, even if I doubted what I had to say, holding back wouldn’t change anything so it was better of to get it off my chest; even when it seemed those who chose to fit in rather than stand out had more power & persuasion.
I began to identify every opportunity to build relationships with those who had the power to make change, to see different directions, become an academic, even this was a long distant vision, the possibilities from gathering, documenting the evidence & be a voice through words, take risks & speak up, to never be silent about the things that matter & to be the change I want to see.
I learned to sit somewhere different on every day of a conference or opportunity to meet people, you never know what opportunities arise. I would speak my truth next to leaders, Directors, journalists, victims & listen intently; absorb the chance to see things differently or to speak my truth, to create a meaning, a purpose to get up everyday, a direction forward. I studied writing, made friends with people just like me, filled with a passion for making a difference despite the personal cost; from book launches of horrific suffering, I took opportunities I never dreamed I’d have, spoke my truth & began studying hard, one foot in front of the other, community rallies, public events, even a tv talk show, one layer at a time, one foot in front of the other, with not one event or opportunity being more important than the other, just doing it, learning, being as crazy as someone thought it was, to speak the hard truth from my little soap box.
As I sip my resveratrol filled glass of wine tonight & the flame flickering winter fire keeps my toes warm enough to make my fingers move, I find a little more clarity from those who know the difference between the truth, I revisit old ways of lifting those feelings of frustration, catch up with a few old friend’s still telling it how it is, being the change they want to see. I’m reminded of a good hug I had today, of younger voices going through the same struggles I had all those years ago & explore the gratitude I feel for a whole lot of love I’m blessed with & rational thinking about justice, of doing what is right, feeling so lucky to have so many good people in my life, from the person who makes my world a better place everyday, the loves of my life who give me purpose despite my sometimes leap before I check the depth wild, crazy behaviours & remember the commitment I made all those years ago when I didn’t even know behaviour was a science, when words & the truth could be the only choice you have, yet it is still a choice. I renew that vow to never be silent about the things that matter. Even when my voice shakes, despite what people will say, whether it makes sense or is interpreted as emotional, I will still say it & to whoever it going to listen. It maybe on paper, it may have a paper trail leading all the way to that hole people dig when they do the wrong thing, yet I will still say it regardless of the personal cost.
Living with a brain disease, a brain continually being reshaped may have created a vulnerability I never imagined I’d carry. It may have even developed a sensitivity to choosing a less confrontational path, an easier, less painful choice. Yet as I revisit those stories of the ones who made a difference, I stay up all night trying to understand why people chose to look the other way, I go back through my origins, with each page I turn & remember the catalyst for the direction I took, I’m reminded there is no meaning to existing unless we have purpose, whether you consider yourself a good Christian, a passionate advocate, get paid to make hard choices, you undermine the meaning your life has – when you sell out, look the other way, stay silent, while people suffer, when you choose against what is right to do, for what is easy, how can that possibly be the actions of a good person?
As a behavioural scientist humanity continues to amaze me, how groups, communities, masses follow what is popular, despite the destruction, the hate or corruption that underpins the motivating operations or their MO. How a socially awkward male, known for hurting animals as a child, could convince a church full of people to move, set up a whole new community & then take their own lives because he told them to (Jonestown). Of the 1,000 US church followers & their community, only 33 survived the cult leaders instructions. How could so many educated, knowledgeable people notice the signs, could see this occurring & said nothing, leaving their intervention until it was too late, until children & adults lost their lives? How many lives could have been saved?Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Germany, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Gadafi, just because a mass of people follow & chose to ignore the power of an authority, it does not make it right!
When we are silent about the things that matter, the things that matter suffer.
It’s not something that happens off shore or somewhere else, so if you are reading this from the same land as I stand upon, Australia has it’s own history & present day turning the blind eye occurrence. You don’t have to tell yourself it’s someone else or over there, to imagine ‘not in my backyard’, our communities are littered with histories of suffering.
In the mid-1960’s The family, a cult following, where a yoga teacher come leader Hamilton-Byrne convinced well educated & financially secure families to surrender 14 of their infants/children to psychologically & physical abuse without question. Well educated professionals believed her words, families surrendered their children, no-one questioned her motivations or the stories she sold & even today I see the same ignorance, schools, institutions, organisations, departments, ignorance is alive & well. It was many years before the truth came out about the abuse occurring & not without a lot of suffering in between, not before the only brave souls to tell the truth were the young victims, not the powers paid to protect them from harm.
On Friday February 12th 1993, James Bulger a 2.5 yr old boy was abducted by 2 ten year old boys in the UK, they walked around the city of Liverpool for at least 2 hours, passing many, many people, before little James was murdered. Adults who witnessed, observed a terrified little boy & did absolutely nothing. Good people maybe, ignorant none the less & people who could have prevented the tragic loss of life of that little boy. Then even little James was let down by his community, before many tragedies across the world, was the widely discussed Kitty Genovese story of 1964 in New York, where 38 witnesses ignored her cries for help “please help me, please help me, please” as she was raped & murdered in a park, where her cries for someone, anyone to stand up, speak out, hell even make a phone call if they didn’t feel brave enough to go towards her cries, yet they did nothing, absolutely bloody nothing, later stating they did not want to get involved. Those horrified about the behaviour which prevents people from intervening, where supposed good people do nothing leading to suffering, began to study this tragedy, hypothesising a theory many still refer to today, widely known as the bystander paradigm, where so-called good people do nothing & why. When I was first aware of this theory I wanted to know where are the stories of those who do something, those who step up & speak out?
Every day across our country children disappear, lives are taken, family violence occurs, corruption, deceit and opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerable continue to be reinforced not by the perpetrators or those who commit crimes, their behaviours are strengthened by those who know something & do nothing, by the lack of consequences for their behaviours. Good people, can and will do nothing, then go to their homes, churches or peers & tell themselves a justified sanitised version of why they couldn’t, shouldn’t & didn’t.
If I am to understand why, if we are to move beyond the paradigm’s defining this behaviour, if we are to ever prevent suffering, then more must be done to positively reinforce those who do something, to better understand not only what prevents people from speaking up, what are the motivating operations of those who do! Behaviour goes where reinforcement flows & its way, way, far from a point where that reinforcement needs to flow following the behaviours of those who speak up when thousands remain silent.
The Age in 2013, stated the State of Victoria’s police and politicians had the worst corruption within Australia, they were not alone or was it isolated, it included political figures, Department heads, it wasn’t restricted to people with no power, it was rooted in those who were given the power & authority to make a difference, they did, just to benefit themselves, journalists suggested the state of Victoria had become “a dirty State”, a cesspool of abuse of power and opportunity. How many people can you imagine knew of these behaviours, witnessed or were victims of crimes, of corruption, of abuse of power & did nothing & how clean is this once dirty State today?
History is littered with tragic, horrific & unbelievable stories of human suffering at the hands of other human beings. The Bystander Effect as it is known, suggests human beings are more likely to intervene as a stand alone individual, just one person, that an act of justice is more likely to be a solo act than a group of people who have the capacity to raise awareness, to ring the bell; less likely to ever be an organisation, a sporting club, a community or authority, throughout history there many, many stories of these same groups of people brought together by values or employment, doing absolutely nothing. Science says we are shaped by our environments, the people we become, the behaviours, our responses, what matters, cultures only thrive on individual behaviours, groups of people fear being outside the group, saying something different or uncomfortable, they choose comfort over courage. Therefore I guess it goes without saying, if we are to change a culture, it will take beginning with individual behaviours & if those behaviours are filtered down the lead, role-modelled by those who do nothing, then individuals don’t stand a chance, unless they pour cement down their spines & grab a megaphone or speak to those who have the power to do something.
It’s estimated over 20,000 Aboriginal families, individuals, lost their lives during the Colonial Wars, Australia has a history of doing nothing when it comes to suffering. Of the estimates, approximately 250,000 Aboriginal people living in Australia when it was first settled or at first contact, only 60,000 remained by 1920. Massacres, murders & generations of families were killed because a majority of people did nothing to stop it. Even today we still have streets, parks, electorates named after mass murderers.
The suffering continued well into the present day. However, along our historical path, to our shores our nation has also been shaped by passionate, courageous people who have braved the ignorant masses and authorities who should do something & do nothing.
The likes of Margaret Humphries from the UK, a social worker from Nottingham Shire Council, in child protection and adoption services, in 1987 investigated the British Government program of Home Children, who later brought her passion to Australia, who was the changed needed for thousands of children. The forcible removal of thousands of British children across the Commonwealth nations, including Australia, who willingly participated. Up to 100,000 children were taken, their parents lied to, moved across the world, separated from their families, 7,000 of these children were re-settled in Australia, in institutions and homes where many were abused. Saving money was apparently the motivating operation behind the program, because it was far cheaper to move them than to provide support to struggling & vulnerable families. It was costing the UK government at the time 5 pounds a day to care for children, whereas it was 10% that cost in Australia. So they (the British & Australian governments) lied to the people, lied to their parents, lied to the children & put babies & young people on ships to Australia. Humphries voice was the catalyst for the Child Migrant Trust, offices opened in Melbourne & Perth, the suffering was publicly shamed, it became the story behind the movie Oranges & Sunshine, educate yourself & be inspired to do something different.
Despite our history of suffering, of silence when suffering occurs to our most vulnerable; our statistics tell the story of slow & little change, of systems which continue to fail our most vulnerable. In 2017 1 in 5 or 1.7 million Australians had reportedly been sexually assaulted or threatened since the age of 15 (based on those who reported these crimes); intimate violence accounts for more deaths than any other risk factor for women between 25-44, with 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men violently assaulted or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner since age 15 (ABS 2017). The financial cost of this to Australia is over $22 billion. If it doesn’t make moral sense to protect children & those suffering, then it damn well makes financial sense. The cost of doing nothing might create jobs, yet it burdens society by creating so little change. Imagine how different our societies could be if we could reduce suffering, when we know better & actually do better, how advanced our species could be if we took all the energy, resources & money it takes to attend to crime & suffering & we were able to redirect into advancing humanity & saving the planet?
During May 2013 and and November 2017, the Royal Commission into Child Abuse in Australia heard from 16,953 survivors who contacted the Commission re their terms of reference, of these 7,981 accounts of child sexual abuse, 2,562 referred to Police and these were the individuals who courageously came forward to tell of the horrific traumas of their abuse; 58.1% assaults took place in institutions, 32.5% in government run institutions and 10.5% in non-government. Good people were employed in these services, good people did nothing, good people kept silent, looked the other way, went home, poured themselves a glass of wine & pretended it didn’t happen. Children suffered, lives were destroyed, people lost their lives. Suffering occurs when good people do nothing. We need to study more the behaviours of leaders who do something, to positively reinforce, acknowledge & highlight those who do something.
When I heard this data, our history of failing to protect our most vulnerable amidst a crowd of passionate professionals at the International Trauma conference some time ago & listened to the words of young people who had spent the first 17 years of their life in OOHC, with up to 70 moves from place to place, I couldn’t help but wonder where we are today & why, what was behind the lack of change, how could intelligent, educated, powerful people continue to allow this to happen. The experiences I’ve had in various roles, in children’s lives; what is difference we are making if we remain silent about the things that matter. How many people heard, could see, feel & sense what was going on & kept quiet in those institutions? How many lives were hurt, traumas inflicted, if we continue to react by protecting ourselves, instead of act? Are we really evolving at all?
Many years ago I witnessed this first hand, what people are prepared to do, sell their soul if you call it that, turn a blind eye & today wonder, maybe people who are prepared to lie, cheat, deceive and manipulate from their positions of power, those who know it is wrong & do nothing, are they really good people after all? I’ll leave you to think about that.
“I have a dream” Martin Luther King, JR said to the masses, so many of us do, passionate, kind people have dreams of equality, empowering those whose voices are silent, bring consequences which change behaviours, prevent harm from occurring, to those who use their power & excuses to hurt others. Last weekend as I spent days hanging with the best in the behaviour analyst world in Australia & took time out walking through Melbourne, I realised I’m more tired than I’ve ever been before of those who do nothing & it isn’t just because my brain has little white lesions splattered across it, human suffering is exhausting to be aware of & it feels powerless. The streets of one of our beautiful cities, lined with expensive stores & bad coffee (sorry Melbourne, it’s really hard to get a good coffee!), also with people sleeping rough in winter, homelessness in a society of wealth, really, how is that possible? People passing by those sleeping in the cold, by people in suits with notes in their wallets, can’t afford to donate a few yet can drive a car that costs more than a house. Despite practicing non-attachment every day, it still bothers me that the suffering in the world is not just the people who inflict pain & suffering on others, it’s the nothingness that is done when organisations, individuals, families stand by & do nothing about preventing or ignore the need for consequences to prevent suffering, who promote themselves as giving a sh**, as doing something, when really they too are desperate to fit in, to be liked, to receive more financial support & this responsibility often means doing nothing; it makes one want to sell up, pull up digs & move to somewhere remote & peaceful, plant a garden, talk to the birds, somewhere without reminders of the suffering inflicted onto others when we could do something about it. However that would mean being part of the problem, not a solution.
When humans fail, when they stumble, when our society turns the other way to injustice it falls hard, like glass to concrete from a height. I cried through ‘When they see us’ and it tells me a lot about those who have since told me they couldn’t stand to watch the entire series, it was too difficult to watch, to imagine that 5 young men could be convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, how our systems could get it so wrong.
In the spring of 1989, I was 20 years old, yet I don’t remember this story, I certainly won’t forget it now. A group 30 teenagers were out in a park in NY city, of which were 5 boys when a crime occurred, a woman was raped & murdered. These same 5 boys were wrongly convicted & spent from 5 to 15 years in jail for a crime they didn’t commit, named the Central Park Five, this story epitomises the injustices which continue to occur today. Just consider for one moment how many people, how many professionals with power & authority it must have taken from the time of the suggestion of those boys, through the arrest, the manipulation of the evidence, the justice system, to the abuse in the prisons they endured, where still today it is not just one person, it takes a system of ignorance for injustice to occur. Just think about the number of people in paid positions, people employed to uphold the law, to administer the law, to bring justice to those who commit crimes, who are so hell bent on believing their own bullshit, their own egocentric, racist views, their own self appointed ignorance, who have the capacity to convict 5 innocent young men of a crime they never committed & take from them the lives & opportunities our basic human rights say they deserve. The fact that I am not surprised is concerning, that I hear so many of these stories time & time again about the lengths people will go to ignore, save their jobs, prioritise money over justice, save their backsides, make their life easier despite the pain & suffering those choices inflict on others, is tiring & nauseating, frustrating & confusing, sometimes even disempowering & begs further understanding to prevent more of it in the future.
Right now, somewhere, someone is losing their life, someone is suffering, millions if we are more accurate & you are welcome to tell yourself, lie if you must, we are evolving, we know more & we are doing more. You would be of course, lying to yourself, because the data doesn’t lie. In June 2017, there were 47,915 children living in OOHC in Australia. Given all children have at least two biological parents, even if they are not actively parenting, the data is suggesting nearly 100,000 parents’ behaviour is so irreversible, so adverse to risk of harm, with all our science and interventions, our medical & scientific technology, our societies & authorities deem they cannot have their children in their care – how is it possible if we are evolving? If our system is working, changing, improving? Because guess what? Is someone not asking the obvious here?
Tell yourself it’s not your problem, look the other way, be more concerned about Netflix ‘big pharma’ docos about making money of prescribing drugs you don’t need or thinking you are making a difference by not using plastic straws or a better human being because you don’t use a plastic bag. Feel free to get up everyday & your inner dialogue is a narrative that says you continue to be a good person because you use natural products to clean your home or maybe your vegan like me, maybe you ride a bike instead of driving a car or you give that $2 per week to a child somewhere in a country you don’t even know the history of, let alone want to know more about the organisation taking your money & administering it. You tell yourself you a wellness or wellbeing guru, you run classes or courses to heal others from their own ignorance, because you alone have all the answers. You have choices just like me, the choice to choose to make a difference in anyway you decide, your choice is to ignore suffering, to focus on building your fortress or bank account. Yet ask yourself in your silence, in those quiet moments, what difference are you really making? If the data says something completely different? It doesn’t mean we give up or stop trying it just means we need to be far more critical about what is working & isn’t, to own our role in the legacy we leave our children.
Of these statistics of vulnerable children, 601 were under 1 year of age, most at birth (2017), another 785 1 to 4 years of age and that is just in the State of Victoria. Statistics out of AIHW suggest 75% of referred families, to Victoria’s CP each year, are the same families the following year, that’s a 25% change to the problem of parent behaviours causing harm. You don’t need to be a behavioural scientist to know, where reinforcement goes, behaviours continue. Something is not changing, something is actually increasing these behaviours & making them more likely to occur. Maybe it’s the system, maybe it’s the workers, maybe it’s the lack of justice, we need to be willing to ask the hard questions, to speak up when it’s not working & do something to make this change direction. There is no denying it isn’t working.
We have a system which doesn’t even require a degree or qualification in understanding children to assess the needs of children before placing them into the care of strangers, a system advising parents how to parent, with not an ounce of knowledge, skill or education in parenting by so many professionals who take a few weeks to know how to complete a form, assess risk & develop an inability to recognise their own unconscious bias before inflicting further suffering on families. This is not to say anyone in those categories doesn’t have a capacity to do good work – it comes down to choices!! When we know more we have the capacity to do more, I see good people, kind, compassionate, well meaning people doing incredibly great work & qualified experienced people doing the opposite. We have a historical reference point for abuse of power, of neglect, of systematic abuse & the answer appears to be more money, however, less change. While we have a system motivated by escape & avoid behaviours & the reality of what is actually occurring, excuses of overworked, underpaid staff; however increases in both areas, little change occurs, present & previous solutions are designed to do nothing except stick band-aids on problematic behaviours causing harm, so we are destined to continue with the same consequences.
If we stay silent about the things that matter, the behaviour continues, it becomes stronger & more persistent, just as persistent as the ignorance, the apathy, the relationship building which overrides our capacity to be the change our communities need. If there is to be change, we need more people passionate about change, more people speaking up, speaking loud, standing on the bricks & understanding, identifying, the system as it is, not always, although often failing & doing something different. I for one prefer to reinforce those doing the right thing than those actively working against what is just. I prefer to use my energy to reinforce passionate individuals regardless of their qualifications, knowledge or skill, who have true compassion, real empathy, whose motivations are to prevent harm from occurring. These are the people we need more of, where our reinforcement needs to flood in & change humanities trajectory.
Brave doers, courageous movers & shakers, people not caught up in niceties & silenced by egos & maintaining a system of historical & present day suffering. People who are willing to stick their whole body out, not just a neck or two, people who are the change we need in our communities. People who may be part of the system designed to protect us all from harm, yet will not give their consent to behaviours which continue to inflict suffering on others. People who stay true to their word & values.
I’m not saying it is going to be easy, just that our future, the real legacy we leave our children, the leadership it requires, will be a path for future generations to be proud of, to celebrate how we evolved as a species, knowing we are doing better than before, we are actually make a huge difference, how we made the time & effort, looked critically at our errors in judgement, our self-centred motivating operations & did something different.
When good people took the data, implemented change, did something completely outside the square of fitting in, because their goal was not to save their arse, it was to prevent suffering, it was to make a difference, to be the change they want to see in the world.
Now those are the values worth living by. xo TJG