As much as the last few months have been trying on a global scale, the ante is clearly upped if you’re an essential worker. Even more so if you’re in a job where you’re laid off and can’t afford rent let alone healthcare. Black Americans find themselves at the forefront - less access to healthcare, higher loss of jobs, higher chance of being a front-line worker. This week has been awful.
A woman phoned the police claiming she is being attacked after a black man asks her to leash her dog. A young black man George Floyd is arrested (graphic) and killed by a police officer whilst in custody. Riots break out in Minneapolis in protest, and reporter on-scene Omar Jimenez is arrested live on air whilst other white CNN reports are not. To reemphasise, this is just this week! Head to March and we remember Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man attacked and killed by two white men. Ahmaud was out for a jog. In 2014 riots break out in Ferguson after unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by the police. In 2015 Freddie Gray dies in custody in Baltimore. In 2016 Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte.
I write a lot about leadership, which essentially means leading by example. You want your kids to not swear? Well, as a parent, refraining from eff-ing and blinding around the house is a great start. You want your kids to not smoke? Give up the cigarettes. It’s pretty simple. Leadership involves behaviour-setting for the betterment of self and those around you. Which is why the above stinks. Watch this: Chris Cuomo on CNN. It’s 6 minutes, who hasn’t got 6 minutes?
Let’s switch tack: we talk about equality of women in the workplace and in the top jobs, and all we’re really saying is that given the general view of population (roughly 50%) women should, on average, make half of the workforce. They don’t. Extend that out across society and you see what this is about. Despite making up 12% of the total US population, African-Americans make up 34% of the prison populace. Front-line jobs are held by the poorer population, and those workers are generally the minorities. The impact? From the Harvard Business Review: “In Chicago, where blacks are 30% of the population, they comprise 70% of those killed by Covid-19”.
White males run the show, whether we like it or not: we have the top jobs; we have the best access to education; we make the laws; we police the police. It’s our responsibility to mount the charge. As a white man, I have the confidence to walk the streets at almost any hour, approach police or stop passers-by to ask for directions. In all circumstances, I expect nothing but co-operation, civility and kindness. And this isn’t just in Australia, but almost anywhere in the world. It’s carte-blanche, effectively. The world isn’t like that for everyone, and it should be. To quote Jane Elliot when addressing an auditorium, ‘to the white folks here – if you want to be treated the same way as black folks in this society, stand up . . . no one is standing here. That says plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you . . . yet why are you so willing for it happen to others?” When you see inequality, speak out, educate friends and family, lead by example. The standard you walk by is the standard you accept.
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Well, it isn’t me, let’s get that out of the way. ‘Women and children first’ may not be that good an idea either. And before you write to my mum and complain, let me elaborate: this is how they choose whether you get a hospital bed or ventilator.
Now, at the moment we have a pandemic yadda yadda, I know, you’re bored of it. Yet, when anyone gets really sick, hospitals have to consider a multitude of factors. How intelligent, good-looking and humble I am doesn’t matter, thank god! And if you’re thinking that sick people should get saved based on a first-come, first-served basis, then you’re a bucktoothed knuckle-dragging baboon. And you’re also me. In fact, the first-come, first-served strategy is probably the worst, according to those wonderful Freakonomics people speaking to professionals in the industry. So how do we prioritise? Well . . . the short of it is that I’m of no value whatsoever, very much first against the wall. I’d be hugging the anchor of the titanic for comfort, basically, my tears coalescing into heavy icicles, the weight of which won’t help my situation. The longer version is thus:
We currently hear a great deal about reciprocity: those that heal the sick are the first to be treated. In our current lives, an essential worker. So, take a doctor for example vs some slack-jawed twat of a human being. I don’t know, name a politician, basically. The doctor gets chosen, or bloody should do. So far, so easy. Then there is the theory of ‘quality-adjusted life years’ to consider i.e. the number of years left at full-health. Let’s consider two people get sick and there is only one hospital bed. If one of them is much older, the youth gets preference. Now let’s re-frame: two people of the same age are sick, but one of them additionally has the misfortune to have an auto-immune disease or is hideously stupid (take the British Prime Minster, for example). Their quality of life score will be lower despite being of the same age, and therefore they don’t get the hospital bed.
Other considerations are instrumental and intrinsic value for example, explained here, yet I like to think of this as social utility i.e. your contribution to the betterment of society. A doctor, a teacher, a policeman, you know, jobs of value, are important. I had a conversation along the same lines many years ago with a lovely human being, Shaun, that subsequently jacked in his salesman life for a job in the police force. He’s never looked back, even when arresting innocents. That’s a joke! He’s never looked back. As I said, I’ll be first against the wall. Where do you think you sit? Apart from ‘uncomfortably’ . . .
This week’s listening: Tim Ferriss’ podcast with the Grandad Jim Demther on life and love. Am a huge fan of Tim, but you can sense he’s feeling the feels on this one, a terrific listen.
This week’s reading: I finished Dumas' classic The Man in the Iron Mask last night - sooooo wildly different to the film! The book is available for free on the Gutenberg press, and I picked up Jem Demther’s 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership for this week thanks to Tim's podcast.
Take care of yourselves,
And then a plague of locusts arrived on top of a world already wracked with murder hornets and Elon Musk. Were the Kashmiri goat overlords taking over Welsh towns not enough???!!! You can almost hear God yelling to the human race, "Say Uncle!!!"
Good news though, football is back! Huzzaaaahh!! Whooop whoop!! Closed stadiums, disinfected balls, footballs also cleaned to within an inch of their lives . . . but it’s back, baby! But in Germany alone, so there. Despite fans across the world eager to see sack-loads of cash kicked around in the return of mighty moneybags Premier League, there has been a mixed reception from players. Danny Rose, the Tottenham left-back, has been quoted saying “people’s lives are at risk” and that he doesn’t “give a fuck about the nation’s morale.” Footballers can be so nuanced, can’t they? May well be the first time I genuinely like a Tottenham player.
But sometimes all you can do is just sit back and watch the world burn, reaching for marshmallows and a long stick. I picked up Dumas’ The Man In The Iron Mask this week, an excellent tome of a man locked away alone far from the reach of society and his family. Sounds idyllic, given the circumstances, and he gets brought food. And talking of people that should be locked up, the UK and US leadership in the last few weeks have been leading the way, again being beacons of light for governments and peoples around the world. At least, beacons of light that make you scream, ‘stay away from the fucking light!’
The British Prime Minister, taking a break from having affairs and talking rubbish, has decided to concentrate all his efforts on talking rubbish full-time in a national address to alter the tensions of a people still exalting over the good old days of only worrying about Brexit. From concerned they are now utterly worried and confused. Fresh from recovering from COVID himself, the PM has rushed to implement a radical fourteen-days isolation policy for incoming air-passengers, two months after many other countries did the same. It’s like advocating the sanctity of family then having six children with three different women. Only one of which you’ve married. #StayAtHome #SaveLives #MakeLives And if you’re thinking, ‘well, at least they’ve done the right thing finally after letting in 100,000 people since the March!’ you’d be wrong. They haven’t actually implemented the policy. Instead, they’ve talked about implementing it, ‘putting the world on notice’. I think the world has already had enough notice, don’t you? Not even trumped up trumpeter in chief D Trumpeton has been that colossally stupid. Actually he has, I take that back, as he advocates ‘inner light’ to tackle the virus. Perhaps my marshmallows can be toasted using my inner flames?
Well if I thought one-minute cold showers was emasculating in producing considerable shrinking of ego, then ten minutes produced ungodly results. The stuff of nightmares! But surprisingly it’s not the cold that kills, it’s the boredom. Three or four-minute showers are the norm in Chez Reed, ten minutes and I was running out of body parts to wash. If anything, the cold made for less surface area to clean. Still, when starting the program I never thought I’d be doing perfectly balanced headstands without tipping on my ass, so there are positives to the Wim Hof Method exercises.
The tome this week is Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, identifying how a product, idea or indeed infection become a pandemic. Alas, he doesn’t cover headstands. The expansive book even covers the evolution of mammalian brain size. Not all mammals, clearly. Robin Dunbar postulates it’s due to social grouping volume: humans live in significant communities, needing to form complex social relationships with not only twenty people, for example, but also how those twenty others interact with one another. In effect, our society demands more processing power. So, if your entire interactions for the last eight weeks amount to exchanging conversation with a succulent about cold showers, like mine have, chances are shrinkage is happening on multiple levels.
Given a busy week at the office, expectations were dialled down this weekend. Activities wholly involved some reading, falling asleep on the couch, waking myself up dribbling (hold yourself back, ladies!) and some walking around the neighbourhood so my belly doesn’t look like I’ve swallowed a cabbage. Or rather, less so. Avoiding the general public remains a hobby. Then of course it’s Week 5 of Wim Hof! I think my flexibility has improved, even if my drawing hasn't. That succulent looks like a hairy biscuit in a cup of tea. Oh, my Christ! I’ve just seen that next week I’m due for ten minutes of cold shower every day. Oooooofff!! I may as well just lop my bits off now.
Favourite Quote this week – “It’s all good talking about staying at home, but we need to start walking the walk. But at home” Colbert.
‘We are all going to die.’ Uplifting, no? Is that buzzing sound positivity zinging through your veins? Oh right, it’s just buzzing. Moving on. Reading affirmations of mortality is shocking, yet hearing it being yelled on an aeroplane by a friend laughing his head off as we try to ‘land’ in horrendous weather will stay with me for eternity. And yes, if you’re wondering, I peeled them off and threw them away afterwards, they were just too soiled to be recoverable.
The truth in the above however has nothing whatsoever to do with the current climate (apart from the buzzing, that’s got plenty to do with it). Our impermanence is inevitable. Far from being negative though, this should be a release, an unbridling of inhibitions that sets you free from restraint. You can do anything! Apart from meet people, or hold hands, or drink in a pub. But anything else! Wearing trackies for weeks at a time? Having a shower once a month whether you need it or not? Live that dream! COVID has launched a resurgence of self-improvement, of people rekindling simple loves like drawing, fitness, reading books you didn’t even know you owned, helping neighbours by giving back all that shit you borrowed over the years. We’re also spending more time with family and making sure we get valuable exercise outside. Naysayers may point to those two being interrelated, reminiscent of Captain Oates’ “I may be some time” and just never returning.
The outpouring of emotion seen across the world, the ‘we’re in this together’ pact is wonderful, albeit mostly ‘together’ in the same house. Far from shutting down, we have become a more caring race, showing compassion and empathy. Well apart from this guy, who remains an epic weapon. For every buck-toothed dribbling baboon of a President there is a counter-balance such as leaders we most want running our own country like Jacinda Ardern and legends like Colonel Tom Moore, fundraising at one hundred years old to raise £30million for the NHS. Let’s put aside the fact he’s raising money for a nationally funded entity bereft of cash, equipment, adequate testing or adequately paid staff, and instead concentrate on the fact he’s captured the hearts and minds worldwide. Leading through example, even at a hundred.
I’ll end with this, from the ludicrously good Sam Harris’ End of Faith which inspired this blog post:
“Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today (within social distancing guidelines), is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”
Writing and writing...