Where did all the adults go?

The New York Times asked why people put all the gory details of their relationships onto Instagram. They asked what it was for. I happily supplied the answer:

I can’t be arsed to wade through the article or its advertisements, but the answer your question about why is simple: Validation.

Since everyone these days seems to have a mental age of 13, validation is very important. It is vital to be seen to be a caring, humane, complete person. Far more important, of course, to be seen to be one than actually be one. Being seen to be grown-up enough to be in a relationship is a vital part of that.

“Admire my maturity! It’s all on social media for you to see. Wonder at my complex life as I lurch from self-made crisis to self-made crisis with all the grace and style of a fish on a dockside…”

So desperate are these simple-minded folk for approbation, applause and approval that they miss the point by a country mile. The only people noticing their desperate narcissism are others with similar stunted growth. People who think that reality television is real. People who define themselves by the reactions of others. People who live and die by the “Oxygen of the Click”.

This self-propelled circle jerk of inanity is great for the low-end advertisers who prey on these people, and it’s also great for everyone else out here because it stops these irritating little people talking to us. “Have you seen my Instagram page?” “No.” End of conversation.

I work in a public space, so I get to view close-up the behaviour patterns of flocks of humans. A large group of several dozen waddled past a couple of days ago, every one of them glued to their phone screen. One specimen even had two – no exaggeration.

A quick check online confirmed my fear – it’s Pokémon time again and the Pokémorons are all out in force, hunting the little collections of coloured dots that exist only on their screens and in their minds.

Several years ago, I realised that this planet’s most intelligent species was manufactured by Apple and Samsung and it is carried around by its dumbest.

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Grenfell: Hillsborough II

Huffington Post reported about the Grenfell fire inquiry that ‘It is increasingly obvious to most of our community that this inquiry is unlikely to deliver the things we want, namely the truth, accountability and change.’

I have a horrible feeling that this is going to be another Hillsborough where they held enquiry after enquiry and finally got so sick and tired of the constant whining that they held a pretend enquiry that just said everything the protesters wanted it to say just as a final desperate attempt at shutting them up.

What on Earth do they want to be told that they don’t already know?

Yes, the cladding was substandard, no it shouldn’t have been used, yes the builders should have used better cladding, no the result of this enquiry or any other one isn’t going to bring the dead back to life, no you’re not going to get wealthy on any compensation deal, yes the families should have been rehoused by now and would have been if they’d accepted any of the offered homes, yes it would have been better if it hadn’t happened, no there isn’t some massive national conspiracy to hide anything, yes it’s getting unhealthy to keep raking through the ashes of the disaster, yes the tragedy is shamelessly being used as a political football, yes it’s time to think about moving on…

When did we as a country arrive at the default state that we automatically have to care about everything? As a substitute for thinking about it, perhaps, because after all, thinking is a lot harder than caring and you have to be able to rationalise and explain that. When you care about something you just have to shout a lot, point and maybe use a lot of emojis on social media.

The word “community” gets banded around so much these days that it has, like “anti-semitic” become a meaningless porridge phrase. What, exactly, is a “community”? Because it isn’t just the people directly affected by this event, far from it. It has grown to include all the hangers-on, the hand-wringers, the parasites gathering around the event like crowds at an execution, saying how terrible it all is while jostling for the best viewing position.

We’ve become a nation of professional victims using events like this as tragedy porn and I hate it.

Where did all the adults go?

Uber boss playing the crowd on diversity

Über’s Chief Brand Officer said that “White men need to make more noise about diversity.” Sounds a bit racist to me, but okay. I’m a white man. Here’s my noise:

I want to look around a company and know that the best people for each job are the ones there doing that job.

I don’t give a toss about their racial heritage, how many ovaries or testes they have, who they like to have sex with or whether they walk or wheel themselves around the place. I would want the best people.

If that means having more of one flavour of people than another then that’s the way it goes. Deal with it.

Like it or not, life is a meritocracy and all this tokenism and artificial discrimination biased towards less-able people purely because of their skin colour, gender, orientation or disability is regressive not progressive.

You want to do well in life? Get good at something or get out of the way.

Diversity is great. It’s just not a good enough reason for employment.

International Women’s Day

Yay! It’s that most glorious of festivals, “International Patronise a Woman Day.”

What fun will be had! The media gets to trot out stories of token women “achieving” perfectly ordinary things or behaving as arrogantly and ignorantly as men, or bragging about their lifestyle choices… <sigh>

Women account for over 50% of the population. Why isn’t every elected official in every public body up to and including Parliament female? Why aren’t men the gender fighting for equality? We hear time and time and time again that women can do everything a man can, at least on an intellectual level.

So what, for hundreds of years, has stopped them? Why have they failed so miserably to achieve superiority? Laziness? Indifference? Incompetence? I really don’t know.

Yes, it’s true that we live in a patriarchy. That’s is obvious to the point of being a truism.

But who gave men that power? They took it – yes, that’s also true. But it’s only half the story. For less than 50% of the population to have such a stranglehold over the remainder, they also have to be given the power by the rest. Perhaps it suited women not to do the job? Again, I really don’t know.

Today does, I suppose, give sycophantic beta males a chance to use feminism as their mating strategy. It’s good that they get a look-in once a year.

I think it is completely demeaning, but if all this begging for attention makes you feel better, if it validates your sense of professional victimhood, if it gives you a chance to moan to a disinterested world, you go for it. Enjoy your day of patronisation.

Happy International Woman’s Day.

Yes, drunk women do put themselves at risk.

Kelly Brook is under fire for saying that drunk women put themselves at risk. She’s being accused by the usual motorgobs of victim-blaming.

Kaye Adams in response said that she was wrong and that you have to start from a position of trust.

Adams is wrong and Brook is right. It would be the other way round if we lived in a perfect world and the only consequences of getting blind drunk were a hangover and a big bar bill.

Feel free to provide evidence to the contrary, but it would be my strong assertion that we do not live in a perfect world. It would be lovely if we did, but we don’t.

Therefore, in any aspect of living, not just this, everything becomes a matter of risk management. We have to ask ourselves if what we are doing puts us at a higher level of risk than we find acceptable.

Again, I am happy to listen to evidence to the contrary, but it would be my assertion that young women getting blind drunk then heading home by themselves are putting themselves at a (far) higher risk than they would ordinarily consider acceptable. Because we do *not* live in a perfect world and there *are* nasty and dangerous people out there.

Starting from a position of trust is naïve and a luxury we cannot yet afford.

So yes, Brook is right. It’s a shame that she is right, but that does not make her any less right.

Volunteering and Team Leadership

A Facebook group of which I used to be a member was gearing up for a major sports event, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on the difficult task of team leadership…

If I might be so bold – a few thoughts on team leading…

I have over the years seen some awful examples of team leading and, on occasion, made the same mistakes myself. I have no idea what the team leader training involves this time around, but may I offer a few words of advice to those of us who have been asked to team lead or who have aspirations in that direction

The key is in the job title. Team leader. Not team manager. A leader leads from the front, not manages from the rear. We are not the paramilitary wing of the 2017 event! I have seen some terrible team leaders who try to schedule everything down to the last second. They invariably failed and just came across as patronising, condescending, ineffective and out of their depth.

A good team leader know that they have only one real job to do – to keep their team working effectively. This means that you have to make sure your team is happy, feels safe and secure, know that you are constantly monitoring their wellbeing and can deal with any issues they give to you. But it also means that you recognise that they are adults, not children, and are able and willing to make decisions of their own about how best to perform their role.

There should be no member of a team that walks further during a shift than the team leader as you constantly visit each team member to make sure they’re okay. If it’s a long shift, make sure that you rotate individuals around various positions during that time – there is nothing more disheartening to a volunteer than being put somewhere and then left there like a slowly sinking, forgotten boat in the corner of a harbour.

Breaks and refreshment are vital. Loo breaks are up to volunteers to manage themselves, this isn’t an area that benefits from micromanagement, trust me! Be clear in your briefing about this. Make sure the volunteers know what to do about getting water. Food and mid-shift breaks will need a bit of a scheduling effort, but it is my experience that if you tell people how you would like it managed, it generally looks after itself. If you simply tell people that, for example, their positions must remain occupied during breaks and that breaks must be no more than a certain length, so please can they arrange within their local volunteer groups to go in such a way that it happens that way, the vast majority will be glad of the flexibility. It is not necessary to schedule breaks to the minute. That just causes resentment. On your first walk-around, check that each group has sorted this out. If not, remind them to.

2017, like all big events these days, strives to be as inclusive as possible. It is likely that you will have a few team members with requirements that differ from average. You need to make sure that you identify these right at the beginning of the shift and without patronising the volunteers, make allowances and adjust processes to make sure that they get the same enjoyable experience everyone else does. Remember that disabilities are not limited to mobility issues. It’s a lot more complex than that.

The key to dealing with this well as a team leader is the briefing at the beginning. This is your chance to set the tone for the shift and to give the team some confidence that you know what you’re doing and that you have their welfare foremost in your mind. Be clear about their roles, gather any exception information like special needs or requirements, tell them what you will be doing and how they can get in touch with you. Really emphasise that your job is to look after them and that they are to call you if they have any problems.

A distant or invisible team leader is of no use whatsoever. Tell them that you plan to visit them several times during the shift. Tell them what your plan is to rotate them around your areas. But also tell them that from time to time, things don’t go to plan and since we are dealing with the Great British Public, we should also expect the unexpected.Above all, don’t micromanage! If you’re doing that, it means you’re not focussed on being a team leader. Your job isn’t to do your volunteers job, it’s to make sure that they are happy doing the job they signed-up to.

Things won’t always go smoothly. Don’t expect it to. But don’t panic when your carefully-constructed mental picture of how your shift will run goes right out of the window. Just prioritise and deal with it, delegating if necessary (upwards is usually the best way). But never lose sight of what your team’s needs are.

Too many people who have been professional managers in their work life sign up to be team leaders thinking that it is going to be the same. It isn’t. There are far too many really bad managers out there in the commercial world who are focussed on the company not on their team. A volunteer team leader’s focus has to be the other way around and the transition from one to the other is never easy. (Of course, if you’re a good commercial manager, it will be seamless because you’re doing it right in the first place).

By the same token, you will get the occasional nightmare volunteer. The professional complainer, the star-struck selfie addict, the wannabe team leader that “knows better than you”, the rampant media whore – they come in all shapes and sizes. Sadly, they can be far more time-consuming to deal with than their contribution warrants. But don’t forget that you have the final say. If they are disrupting your team, send them home. Never be afraid to do that.

So, in summary: Be clear in your own mind what your job is. Brief well but keep it light. Manage expectations and be clear about exceptions. Be positive and up-beat, make sure that your team knows you want them to have a good time and double, triple-check that they know how to find you at any time. Tell them you want to know about any issues immediately and that after the shift is too late to sort out a problem. And most of all, be visible to everyone on your team, always.

This seemed to go down quite well with the group membership. One asked about volunteering itself, to which I responded..

I could probably write a PhD dissertation on an analysis of volunteer motivation! 

Over the years working with teams of volunteers on the Olympic Park and as part of Team London, I have come across so many different types of people and different styles of working as volunteers. I listed what I consider to be the worst attributes above in the nightmare volunteers bit – and I have known (and fallen out with!) examples of each.

The best ones are the opposite of those. The best ones are the ones that know that it is important that their efforts contribute to a better experience for other people rather than themselves, who get their reward from seeing someone else’s day improved through their efforts rather than any direct glory for themselves, who know that they are a small part of a big team and it’s how the whole team works together that makes the difference.

The best volunteers adapt and change to dynamic circumstances rather than let things fall apart around them but at the same time when something isn’t going right are not afraid to ask for advice or assistance. The best volunteers are those that take time before working on an event to familiarise themselves with where they’re going to be working, have read and re-read their training notes and who listen to their pre-shift briefings. Those people hit the ground running and do a great job right from the first shift.

I don’t know how others feel about new volunteering experiences, but I always get very nervous before starting something new, and the bigger the role or event the worse that is. I still get twitchy thinking about the Lumiére event from early last year. I always find that spending a few hours in Wikipedia or looking online at maps or browsing through organisers’ web sites and so on is time very well spent. 

A couple of the volunteers I work with regularly carry little notebooks with them, and this is a brilliant idea. A lady I’m working with on Monday does this. In those notebooks they put all the stuff that caught their eye in their preparation, any key briefing points for that day and interesting or relevant stuff that occurs during their shift. That level of preparation means that they are already tuned-into what they need for their day so they can enjoy it all the more. I certainly plan to do that for these athletics events. 

Give me ten well-prepared, adaptable and properly-motivated volunteers any day over a hundred “alpha volunteers” who have been doing it for years and “know best”. If a volunteer is doing their role looking for praise, applause, attention or to stalk some celebrity somewhere, then they need to re-examine their motivation. Because people like that drag an event down when they should be building it up. I have no time at all for “queen bee” volunteers who think they are the most important person there.

I suppose it’s about perspective. Yes, we’re all volunteers because we get something out of it. Of course we are, that’s perfectly normal and right. If that something is the satisfaction of being a valuable part of something bigger than you, that works as well as it possibly can and that contributes in a positive way to society as a whole and the visiting and watching public in particular then that is absolutely spot-on.

If you’re in it for the glory, then go and be a politician, because volunteering isn’t for you.

Successful volunteering is about getting the small things right. If at the end of a shift you can think of a handful of occasions when someone has headed away from you being grateful and with a smile on their face, or able to do something they didn’t think they could do, then that is a good shift. If someone heads away after you’ve helped them and they’re excited about being here and are sharing your enthusiasm and positivity about their day, then that is a good shift. If people, tired but happy, head home after a busy day and quietly think to themselves “those volunteers were bloody good”, then that is a good shift.

Because it’s about them, not us, in the end.

All, of course, just my opinion! 🙂 

Truth and Post-truth

Bloody hellfire! – “Truth” – a movie I’ve not come across before, that hubby spotted on the Sky menu and recorded for me. Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett and a host of others for whom my respect has grown enormously. The story about how CBS’s 60 Minutes programme uncovered President George W. Gump’s Texas National Guard scam to get out of serving in Vietnam and how, ultimately, wealth and power corrupted and destroyed the people, including Dan Rather, who tried to tell the story. 

You can always – always – tell when a story has got to me so much, made me so angry, so downright fucking pissed off, that I sit through the whole credits trying to catch my breath and I still need more time. There have been a few movies that have done that in recent years: Inside Job, Spotlight, The Insider, The Big Short, The Imitation Game and Margin Call to name six others. Then, of course, there’s Newsroom and Making a Murderer on tv. 

They are, for me, all about the same thing: disappointment. When people and organisations and systems and even whole countries, just don’t live up to what they could be. They’re all about little people trying to do things right, or correct things that are wrong, and being smashed aside by stronger forces than honesty, truth and natural justice. 

As we enter the post-truth age (a cliché, I know, but ever wonder how it so quickly got labeled as a cliché?) stories like this one really, really resonate. Because these days, when so much power is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, they seem almost nostalgic in their innocence.

In “Truth”, Bush and Viacom are the bad guys. But these days, they’re minnows. With the likes of Murdoch, the Koch brothers, assorted Russian asset-thief billionaires like Putin and a few others making all the decisions and choosing what is true and what isn’t, these small stories seem almost insignificant against the global scope and ambitions of the new elite with their new truths.

I really believe that we have to all intents and purposes entered the end of days. The last chances that we ever had to work for the common good have gone. Trump, the ultimate liar and moron’s moron, is about to occupy the second most powerful seat on the planet, and his best friend, master and fellow multibillionaire Vladimir is in the most powerful. 

The media is controlled by a few people whose best interests are served by keeping people like them in place; the UK is about to piss off the largest trading bloc of countries on the planet, and our government is cutting social care budgets while campaigning to increase them all the while lying about how much of our money they’re spending.

And the voting fuckwits believe it all. They actually think that at the end of it all, they will be happier, wealthier and more secure. They think they will have more control without having the first idea what that word means. 

The cannon fodder is actually smiling as it’s being rammed home.

The whole of humanity has turned into a massive Whitehall Farce. Except it’s not funny any more. It’s Animal Farm, or 1984, but a thousand times worse.

After all, it’s not oppression if the people vote for it, is it?

Not a bang, but a wimper…