For the last few years, I’ve been licking my wounds, lamenting and hoping for a change of political direction. A little leadership, please. I’ve been ranting to friends, bellowing into Facebook echo chambers and cancelling any contracts I have with businesses with links to you know what (starts with B.) And if I needed a reminder of how ineffective it has all been then I just need to look to the latest election here in the UK. It’s time to change tactics or just give up, step back into my silo and concentrate on my herb garden, patisserie skills or language or something. Relax a bit instead of winding myself up all the time about the state of the world. That does sound tempting but I can’t. I have the words of one of my favourite resistance heroes echoing through my head.
“Night comes — with sobs, with despair, and with rebellion. I do not accept my powerlessness” (Outwitting the Gestapo, Lucie Aubrac, 1994, p89.)
This from a woman operating as a resistance fighter in occupied France, whose husband had been arrested and sentenced to death by the Gestapo under an alias name. Had his real name been discovered and his religion his entire family (including his young child) would have been sentenced to die at a concentration camp, such was the fate of his parents. If Lucie Aubrac, at this moment of despair will not accept her powerlessness than how dare we?
So I’m declaring war on the phrase ‘it is what it is’ this year because it is what it is when we’re not driven to find solutions, it is what it is when we’ve given up and stepped back into our silo. Not this year, this year ‘it is what we make it’.
But where to even start with this world that feels so lost right now?
Where can we direct our attention and energy as individuals and businesses to bring about transformation?
I start with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and what it looks like in 2020.
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist and his pyramid, The Hierarchy of Needs has been a significant influence across psychology, wellbeing and for my part, character building in my creative writing. The hierarchy lists a set of human motivations/needs with the proposition that one can only ascend to the next level once the needs at the bottom have been satisfied. You can read about it properly here.
So, let’s take a quick look at my ideas about some of the groups on the bottom three levels.
At the very bottom of the ladder are the:
Physiological Needs; food, water, warmth and rest.
Including, but are not limited to; the stateless, refugees, animals (especially Bushfire victims), homeless, rainforests and jungles, those living by polluted water sources (thinking the US and Africa), people living in polluted areas. Those living in poverty.
I’m going to list refugees again, the 16 species on the endangered animals’ list and those living in situations of violence (domestic, state-sponsored, gang violence.)
Minorities, immigrants, extremists, those living in poverty, kids in care, people in jails, those who are excluded due to disability or a lack of finance, the working poor, disadvantaged.
That’s quite a list and if we (global society) are only as strong as our weakest link then we’re in pretty poor shape. So how to fix? Thankfully others are already working on some of these problems and can inspire us to get with the solution.
Here follow five ideas about intangible tools that we can easily develop and hone with a little willing and a lot of heart. Each idea is followed by a link to a person or project who embodies the tool.
I had this point down as imagination but curiosity is a more active trait than imagination. We can all dream but curiosity gives a dream purpose. Either way, both words keep popping up in certain mindset circles and when you combine them it gives rise to something more powerful.
Applying curiosity to any of the groups in the bottom three rungs could give way to positive change.
Take a look at what Video Games Without Borders are doing to bring language skills and training to Syrian refugee children who have been living in camps without access to education. It sounds like a mission that could have started with a question, some drive, a big what if…
“We strongly believe in digital games as part of the innovations we need to change the world for the better.”
What better partner is there to imagination than courage? Courage to question conventional wisdom, courage to take a stand, courage to stick up for someone and courage to try and fail. There are a trillion ways to be courageous and it’s not about getting rid of fear because an achievement without fear doesn’t carry the same triumph as an achievement with it.
Joseph Campbell, much-adored professor of literature and mythology stated in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces
“the cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
Imagine that applied collectively.
Gina Miller is one of my favourite example of courage. Receiving online abuse, violent threats to her office, home and against her children she never stopped holding the government to account over their attempts to bypass lawful processes.
Dear integrity. If only we could not only stand by the principles we would like applied to ourselves (ahem I’m looking at you bad payers and those looking for free time and work). None of us is perfect but we can still aspire to act with integrity. Others do.
My favourite outfit driving integrity in advertising and consumer behaviour is Stop Funding Hate (and now there’s Stop Funding Heat) which calls out companies whose adverts sit side by side tabloid hate articles. They’ve had some major traction with companies like Lego pulling their advertising from the Daily Mail. Their mission is to make hate unprofitable by leaning on companies and consumers alike to take a stand against divisive press articles.
As collaborations grow and the face of the labour market and the way we live because of technology changes humility will be a big factor in driving change. The old hierarchical management systems that dominated the previous era are going and the need to humbly work together is rising. Those who can do this will feel the true benefits of collaboration and opportunity, and those who can’t? Who wants to work with them anyway?
My favourite piece of humility pie is the story of the work of Ideate Innovation in Pakistan. I’ve been digitally stalking them since I saw a presentation at the Service Design festival last year but what a project and what a treat to hear about a process that was truly designed for the disadvantaged which included complete humility in understanding the needs of the women. Not so much the needs of the government or any private firm, or an electorate, or investors but the needs of the end-user. Do check out the case study below.
Argh, I hate that word. I’ve carried with me throughout my life romantic notions of the chaotic artist. When I moved from regular contracting into the unknown waters of creative writing I made a conscious decision to do away with routine. No more would I be woken by an alarm clock or take timekeeping seriously or stick to any of the time structures that dictated my previous life.
Did it work? Hell no, of course it didn’t and deep down I knew, I knew that my chaos theory was pure romantic fancy and a degree of laziness but now I can confirm. I need discipline.
My shoutouts here are to Cal Newport https://www.calnewport.com/, whose ‘Deep Work’ has kicked me from submission to distraction and on to better pursuits. Also to fellow Medium writers Anthony Moore and Ayodeji Awosika whose articles and training sessions have kicked me into shape, or at least to the starting line.
Like I said earlier, I don’t have all of the answers to those people/animals who exist on the bottom rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs but some of the projects listed here do and are great advocates for some of the intangible values listed above.
With godspeed citizens and good luck to us all.