Showing Up

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

A little less conversation, a little more action, please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark

Elvis Presley

It strikes me that right now, getting to conversation would be a start. We have become chronic abstractors, conveying opinions, complaints and ideas via, depending on our resources, social media, “think tanks” or official enquiries. Anything to make a noise, but avoiding showing up and taking responsibility. We seem to have become so fragmented and individualistic that we sacrifice our agency in order to avoid the difficult issues. In two days time, there are local elections here in the U.K. and all the indications are turnout will be low, based on voters disillusion with the options they are being offered. The emotions are understandable – the options are for the most part stale, hackneyed and lack credibility – but nonetheless, democracy requires that we show up, or sacrifice it.

These thoughts were triggered by an observation on a Zoom conversation I attended on Tuesday morning on the work of Gregory Bateson. It had excellent speakers, an important focal topic, and was free. And yet, many of those who had signed up didn’t show up. They will wait for the recording and listen to it at leisure, or more likely, on the way into work. They will not have participated. They will consume, not converse. The same is true I suspect of many of the excellent podcasts that are out there; they have become “fast media” items to consume and forget.

If we cannot get to conversation, then any form of action is a daydream, and the danger is we sink into disillusion, disdain and disengagement. This, of course, suits those in power as they pass the time free of meaningful oversight and forego the hard work of absorbing feedback or engaging in face to face conversation with those whose lives they affect.

And when recent events prompt the Speaker of the House of Commons to propose radical reform, the definition of radical will be at best muted and more likely ignored. Find some lessons to be learned, document them over a couple of years, then ignore them and move on. The head office and Westminster “bubbles” turn into mutually supporting reinforced bunkers.

If we are unhappy with what is happening around us, at work or in society, we are going to have to show up. Vote, engage in conversations, risk an opinion but above all create as much as consume. Find a voice, and people to listen to who will listen right back. In whatever small way, lead a little.

At work and in society allowing ourselves to be subjects to incompetent power is a decision we make every day. Acting as mindless consumers in a shallow, unsustainable lifestyle economy. Stepping up and becoming a creative, contributing citizen is hard work, and fraught with challenges, but is what is needed to restore community and a sense of contribution.

Don’t just consume, converse about the dreams, fears and ideas you have with people you know, and even better, with people you don’t. Don’t just like on social media – comment, propose, challenge, and engage with purpose.

At heart, it’s a mindset issue. Eking out the rations whilst hoping to be rescued, or venturing out is search of sustenance. Learned helplessness versus societal growth. Much as we may despair of it, we are going to have to participate in and manage our deeply flawed and neglected process even whilst we work to build something better.

The choices we make will have consequences we are accountable to our children for.


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