I travelled to Sydney to have a chat with my mate Mike.
Chatting all things Just Be Nice Project, looking after each other, and some other more personal-slightly strange things.
A few good laughs and hopefully a few good insights into the work that we do at the Just Be Nice Project.
Also available on Spotify here: open.spotify.com/episode/1BXVEJUEkjQ2ISHNsOnboa?si=FM0hL3j4Siy4zh1cbYms0A
Check it out, like subscribe and comment! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Have you noticed lately, how mad everyone is? Angry, hurt, frustrated and vocal. Anger that ranges from casually inconvenienced to visceral rage, from all strata of society, throughout much of the Western world. I cannot speak to the East, because I don’t hear so much from the second and third world, it certainly seems though, that the privilege of first world habitation brings with it a desire or inclination to be whipped into a frenzy.
‘Road Rage’. Literally anger at THE ROAD. “HOW DARE YOU NOT DO THE 20km/hr OVER THE SPEED LIMIT THAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO RIGHT NOW…. GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!! ARGHHHHH”
‘Race Rage’. Exaggerating differences and the impact of these differences, causing various pockets of us and them. The Us invariably being denied opportunity due to the ever-present spectre of Them.
How so many people can reconcile in their heads that the problems caused in an entire country can be attributed to the smallest percentage, lowest socio-economic groups is beyond me, but it is certainly easy to whip people into a rage about it.
This anger has somehow lead to a shift in leadership across the world. In the Philippines death squads have killed thousands of people without trial, while allowing the President unprecedented approval ratings from an enraged population. In the United States, a President who lives in a GOLD TOWER somehow was elected on a platform that he understands the needs and lives of every day (angry) Americans. They are rallying around Confederate and Nazi flags and literally CARRYING BURNING TORCHES! In Great Britain voters approved a Brexit scheme that had no real details, and are now staring down the barrel of economic uncertainty off the back of voters that believed a small minority of immigrants were the reason they were denied personal opportunities and falling behind economically. In Australia, people are mad. I don’t actually even know what for. Mad at renewable energy, mad at incarcerated minors, mad at boats filled with desperate asylum seekers, as though a boat with 20 people on it will cause the economic destruction of our entire way of life. Mad at same sex marriage, mad at politicians with dual citizenship, mad at renewable energy and coal. It seems like people are angry wherever they possibly can be.
Politicians speak about where we are, and why that’s terrible. About the ‘mess they have been left with’, deflecting anger to people and parties that have long since lost their power. Encouraging people to rage at the past, as though that somehow improves the present, or absolves them of the responsibility of how things are now not how they were.
Newspaper headlines have rage inducing headlines splashed across them every day.
SOMEONE DID SOMETHING.
A PERSON SAID SOMETHING.
PEOPLE WHO LOOK DIFFERENT TO YOU DID SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULDN’T DO.
BE SCARED OF THIS THING.
BE MAD AT THIS OTHER THING.
It’s not that we are simply being incited to rage, we have our rage and our anxieties pointed down all the time. Pointed at people we don’t know, pointed at things we don’t understand, pointed at people who are down the chain from us. The upper class rage at the middle class, the middle class rage at the lower middle class, the lower middle class rage at the lower class, everyone rages at the unemployed, uneducated, freshy emigrated, incarcerated and disadvantaged.
Surely these unknown elements are the source of all our problems…. Or maybe they aren’t.
When I was a teenager, we were warned about Asians. Vietnamese Gangs. Cambodian Gangs. Truth be told, as a teen I was chased by some of these gangs, brandishing knives, samurai swords, trolley poles (the handles from shopping carts)… Alongside the Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant kids there were as many Caucasian kids in the gangs too. In fact, in the case of almost every gang ever, you can just refer to them as ‘Disenfranchised teenagers, who lack support, vision and encouragement, building their self-esteem and self-worth through a community of similarly difficult teens’.
Nowadays I couldn’t pin all the problems we face in society on Vietnamese… Their cuisine is too delicious, I can get it on Uber eats and Menulog for Gods sake! Most of us know a Vietnamese person and can vouch that ‘they’re ok’. The same goes for the Greeks and Italians that we all know and love. It’s hard to be mad at Italian immigrants when I look forward to the next opportunity to be fed to the point of bursting by my mates Nonna. There was a time though when they too bore the brunt of a country’s anger and spite.
How many of us know Sudanese kids? APEX is the gang du jour. The newest and most significant threat to our safety and way of life. Just like the Vietnamese, the Italians and the Chinese were at some point in time. How many of us know Muslims? They make up less than 2% of the population, but somehow they are ruining the very fabric of our society? Those newest to our country? Not the entrenched, the powerful and wealthy, the people who make decisions that decide whether we have access to welfare, healthcare and infrastructure?
Why do we allow these views and opinions to proliferate our social fabric?
Perhaps it is because people are blinded by anger, and enlightened by truth. Blind people are easier to lead, more inclined to give up their autonomy of direction.
One seeks the truth, making them harder to lead. If you are seeking, then by definition you must have some control over where you go looking. Being angry requires nothing more than just your own internal dissatisfaction. I don’t need facts to know I am angry about something, I just know that I feel mad about it.
Anger allows you to shift responsibility to the person or situation that ‘made you mad’. Never mind your choice to allow yourself to be enraged by things that make little logical sense, or that have no real impact on your life or even basis in fact. You can be mad. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Be mad at the person who got it.
Didn’t leave enough time to get where you were going? Be mad at traffic.
Can’t afford a house, or earn enough in your job? Get mad at refugees, who are obviously the reason housing prices have inflated astronomically in the past 30 years, even though the ones you are mad at they have only been arriving in the last 15 years.
Being mad at each other advances nothing, solves nothing and puts blinkers on society to the real things that oppress us. Looking down at the very small and the few things we do not understand prevents us from seeing the great problems that lie above us. Seek the truth, and look for reasons to help and solve problems rather than reasons to be mad.
With your eyes open, you will be harder to lead astray. I am no conspiracy theorist, but look to the actions of those in charge, look beyond the words and fear mongering. Look beyond the headlines and labels given to things we do not understand. The more you know, the harder you are to trick, just like the more you appreciate, the harder it is to be enraged.
Make an effort to understand. Make an effort to appreciate. Make an effort to Just Be Nice. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to create extraordinary positive change.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Julie Ann on the Mere Mortals podcast, based in the US!
Talking about how to pay more attention and give people better help.
How to incorporate the Just Be Nice principles into your life or organisation.
How to approach conversations around helping people.
The original link to the page is HERE
To subscribe to the Mere Mortals Podcast on iTunes check it out HERE
Have a listen, share, subscribe or like it on iTunes and feel free to pop some comments below!
Purpose, Happiness and Impact - VLOG
Purpose, Happiness and Impact.
Words that get thrown around a lot lacking clarity of definition. How can we attain things that we cannot define or describe?
This VLOG looks at what a good impact looks like, and what we need to do if we are to improve the ways that we help others achieve an equality of opportunity.
We’re Leaving Them In Harm’s Way.
We use language in interesting ways. We use it to gloss over problems, overstate impacts, diminish responsibility. We use language to promote and sell, to obstruct and impede.
Language is everywhere, used and abused, contained and unrestrained and it colours our whole world in shades of grey, black, purple and orange. Our language, our history, our future, they are intertwined all across the world. For instance, I’ve heard stories of indigenous tribes that have no word for ‘surrender’. Surely living in a context where surrender is literally not an option impacts the way that you see the world. If you live somewhere without a word for ‘thank you’ is it because you are an ingrate? Or that you live in an environment where it is a foregone conclusion that what is for one, is for everyone. A society of unparalleled sharing and appreciation of one another.
I can’t help but notice every day, the language that we use informs the way we treat each other, and I thought, what if we could change the language. Even the internal language among ourselves.
What if we changed the way we speak about people in need, from being language around their problems to being language around our responsibilities.
People are no longer ‘homeless’, as in, being without a home.
They are In Harm’s Way.
We are no longer talking about victims of domestic violence.
We are talking about people who are In Harm’s Way.
When we are talking about people who are uneducated, unemployable and of poor mental health. We are talking about people that have been left In Harm’s Way.
Leaving people in harm’s way. Shifting the language from what disadvantaged haven’t got, or haven’t done, to what we haven’t done, or what we do by leaving them unassisted might start to humanise the problems, to change the understanding and empathy of others.
We are not simply ignoring ‘illegal immigrants’, we are leaving them In Harm’s Way.
Think to your family, think of yourself. Think of people you know and people you don’t. Do you see any reason to leave people in harm’s way? It’s not about handouts, queue jumping, dole bludging, it’s about recognising a basic need for us to recognise harm and remove people from its influence
Over the coming weeks, every time you see an article or hear someone refer to a ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘homeless person’, ‘drug addict’ consider not only their problems, or the cause of their problems, but their situation as it is right now.
Regardless of fault, before we consider whether or not we are bestowing outrageous and gratuitous privilege on people, before we get upset on the impact of the most disadvantaged people on the rest of the world, we need to first ask ourselves;
Are we leaving them in harm’s way?
Changing attitudes is a long path, battling against a long history of language that speaks down to people in need, but by changing the language of responsibility and taking some of it on board for ourselves, surely we can start the slow journey to a real equality of opportunity.
Take the time to change your inner monologue, take the time to change the words you use to the people you know, and as always, just be nice.
Today was a sad day in my opinion. It was the day Barack Obama made his final speech as the President of the United States. Without commenting too much on what the future holds or what it might look like under the incoming administration, I can’t help but feel that the world is going to be down one wonderful leader as of today.
Barack to me has always embodied so many things that I respect in a leader and a man. Intelligent, well presented, well rounded, active, funny, self-depreciating but confident, a family man, kind and understanding, a great mixture of real world experience and brains. The divides that run through the United States run deep, but there is no doubt in my mind that Barack is one of the rare, special kinds of leaders. It is a shame that in the field of ‘world leading’ (as in leading the world), we don’t have dozens of heads of state to look up to, but apparently it is difficult to be the person you want to be the whole way to the top without pandering to party lines, popularity contests and special interests.
Facing a hostile congress for 8 years, watching Barack stay strong on his message and do everything in his power to improve the equality of opportunity for Americans was inspiring, and I certainly hope that one day I will have the opportunity to tell him so to his face.
I can’t speak to how hard that must have been, being the most powerful man in the world but being hamstrung at every turn by people who seem to defy science and logic. Trying to improve the lives of others but being slammed by people with overt special external interests, and conflicting ideologies of what it means to help people. I have often wondered aloud what it must have been like, getting into bed at night with Michelle, and talking about what crazy counter-argument was brought into congress during the day to knock down a bill.
Which brings me to one of the real standouts about the life of Barack Obama.
The way he looks at Michelle.
Michelle Obama, in her own right, is an amazing woman. Smart, composed, stately, friendly with an air of accessibility and no airs of superiority about her at all. Clearly a beautiful woman Barack has joked that she appears to have not aged a day in the last two terms, while his hair has changed from the full black hair of a young president to the salt and pepper bristle of the older statesman.
For 8 years, the world has watched the most powerful man in the world, and his unwavering loving gaze toward his wife.
I’m not insane, I am sure that they have disagreements and all the fun things that go along with relationships of any kind. I do, however, know one thing. That if you are looking at someone the way Barack looks at Michelle, and Michelle looks at Barack, you need to understand that you are in the middle of something very special.
I can’t think of too many more stressful situations than all the lifestyle demands that are put on the President and First Lady, and yet to handle themselves so well together is inspiring.
Now in this case, I am not even going to pretend to know how this happens! I don’t know what the steps to this kind of relationship are, I don’t know what goes into keeping a love like that so visible… I mean, it is possible that they were hamming it up for the cameras, but really, I don’t believe that to be the case.
To see a couple who are so gracious, generous in their support for one another and so adoring of each other is a wonderful thing to see anywhere. Let alone the President of the United States and the First Lady.
Barack has shown that it is possible to remain human and full of heart while juggling the most stressful and demanding job on the planet, which surely can give hope to all of us who are ‘too busy’ to find someone like that in their own lives. Rather than take anything away, the two of them are greater than the sum of their parts, and I think that is something that remains inspiring long after the dust settles on his tenure.
As much as Barack has inspired me as man, Michelle has inspired so many women to see that with the right person, supporting your partners goals is not a passive activity that requires you to give up your own potential. By allowing each other to become the best versions of themselves, the Obamas have been the ultimate celebrity couple, for all the reasons that we usually ignore.
So cheers to Barack, cheers to Michelle, and cheers to one of the good guys getting ahead. Here’s to the good examples, the ones who stick to their guns, the men big enough to accept the love and give it back, the women amazing enough to keep kicking ass and getting amongst it even when their husbands are the President. Here is to the strong women, the family men, the good mothers, fathers, husbands and wives. Because if the Obamas can do it, surely there is some hope for the rest of us!
Really this blog was just to say that if I am ever fortunate enough to be looking at someone like that, someone let me know that I’m on a winner. I don’t know how that comes to pass, but I feel like we spend too much time pouring over divorces and celebrity disasters and not enough time celebrating those who do it for each other. Because it’s just bloody nice.
-Josh Reid Jones
When you don’t stand for anything, you fall for everything. The 2016 Presidential Election.
Well today I didn’t see that coming. Honestly I thought it was terrifying enough that Trump had become 50% of the presidential candidates with a shot at the United States Presidency. It’s not even because he had been sexist, racist and xenophobic. In Australia we have had heads of state that share similar sentiments, we regularly hear about people wanting to ‘Stop the Boats’ here, which is our equivalent of wanting to build a wall I suppose.
The problem for me was that he just wasn’t good enough. Hardly presidential, completely uninformed, unprepared, easily upset. A name calling, impatient and at time childish fully grown man, with a very wonky grasp on facts ranging from mistruths to outright lies on a scale that boggled my mind coming from a man that is making speeches in public and running for the office termed ‘leader of the free world’.
Then, today, Donald Trump won.
Upon reflection, I can see how this has come to pass. Taking a look around at the kinds of things I see every day it’s not hard to see how often we laud and support and let Trump-like things in our own society.
We have become a society that applauds average. We applaud fraud. We applaud small doses of even criminal activity, depending on who does it. No longer is it important to BE an expert, you simply have to SAY you are an expert. People attend university less to acquire knowledge, and more to acquire ‘a piece of paper’. You can be paid simply for what your Instagram looks like, rather than the things you are doing. We have business coaches that don’t know how to run businesses promising 7-figure profits, fitness experts promising expedited results to get a certain body type, everything quicker, easier, simpler. People often want to hear your ‘pitch’ they don’t want to know what you are up to.
We are forgetting the art of mastery. We are spending so much time and energy looking like something, that we are forgetting to actually BE that something.
We now have the biggest scale outcome possible from this environment where substance no longer matters. Truth no longer matters. Hype matters. Saying things matters, even if they aren’t true. Pitch matters. We are electing slogans and not actions. The time you have put into actually developing yourself doesn’t matter.
It is the same environment that allows equal amounts of media coverage to climate change denial as it does for the actual facts that human-induced climate change is really happening, right now. Expertise counts less now than it ever did. with volume counting for more than truth. The loudest voice in the room wins, not the person who is actually speaking truth.
Trump has pitched the world’s biggest and best, ‘Get Rich Quick’ scheme to millions of disaffected Americans, and they have responded according to the environment they are accustomed to. Like all good ‘Quick’ schemes, it is low on the details, and high on emotion and ‘Huge, Tremendous’ claims… believe me.
We are chasing celebrity, appearances and a façade of success and happiness over intelligence and integrity in every other aspect of our lives, so now I can see how we have ended up with a President of the USA that ticks those boxes. Who can offer us a body in a two week challenge, six figure incomes within a month and who can fix our country in ten simple steps that will be enacted within a week of taking office?
Forget the fact that science, evidence and truth will all indicate that these things are impossible, the fact is we buy these pitches every, single, day. It was only a matter of time before the will and actions of the people filtered up to their representatives.
As long as we make celebrities out of actors and athletes who’s behaviour would make us cringe, as long as the only barrier to entry into claiming to be an expert in a certain field is the number of characters you are allowed to use in an Instagram bio, and as long as we keep failing to demand the best out of ourselves and others, the leadership of countries that stand for nothing, will continue to represent the people.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, be better, demand better and as always, Just Be Nice.
The last time was not the first time.
Our kitchen and dining room was tiled, at the back of the house, and there was an island bench in the middle of the rooms running between the sink and kitchen bench and the large glass sliding doors to the back yard.
Only one door into the kitchen from the hallway.
We had a cheap old table, and cheap green chairs, small metal legs with little rubber ends on them, chairs made out of plastic moulds which I think now I haven’t seen for decades since.
The tiled floor is significant; Mum was in the kitchen making cordial for us, so when she was thrown to the floor by my father, the cordial was spilled everywhere. The tiled floor was wet, slightly sticky. The messy liquid was spread across the floor into the dining room as she was dragged around the island bench. Screaming to stop, kicking, thrashing around in an attempt to free her arms. I heard the screams and ran down the hallway to find my father trying to do what I assumed was break both Mums arms off, and slam her face into the floor.
It’s strange what you remember when you reflect on these moments. I remember the wet floor, I remember thinking that I should grab a knife so once mum had been dragged around the kitchen on the floor I could run past and grab a knife and jam it into my fathers back… But I thought he could take it off me and use it on Mum, or me… After all, I’m just a kid.
I’m yelling, Mum’s yelling. Paul's* eyes are black.
You don’t forget that look. I had seen it before, picked up by the throat and slammed into a wall, before being slapped across the wall by the face. I had seen it before. Sitting on my parents bed once before, I saw the blackness as I got an open hand across the face that sent me flying off the bed and into the doorway of the bedroom in one go. I saw the blackness as my father choked my mum in the same bed after she yelled at him for trying to knock my head off. I had seen it before many times. The blackness of the normally brown eyes is firmly etched into my brain, and will be forever I have no doubt.
The black eyes didn’t even barely look at me as he swatted me away the first time I went in to help mum. I didn’t get close. My father was a strong and powerful man in his right mind, let alone in the middle of a rage. So I did the only thing I could think to do after that, and I jumped on his back, trying to choke or pull him off or something. I was only 9 or something, so he pulled me off his back and threw me towards the large glass rear doors. I remember grabbing the chair to stop from flying through the window. I remember sliding in the liquid on the tiled floor. I remember seeing mum still on the floor, and as I hit the window, slowed by the chair, Paul opened the sliding door and threw Mum out.
I wanted to tell him he was a f*#king idiot. To tell him to f*#k off, to yell and scream, but I was terrified that something would happen, all I could manage was to yell at him that he was an idiot.
I remember all of that with such clarity, that it seems odd that I don’t remember how we all got out. I remember running down the hallway and getting my younger brother and sister to go out, and I remember being in our shitty little car ready to go, before mum went in to grab our dressing gowns because it was after dinner time and we were in our pyjamas.
If I go back into my mind’s eye for that time however, there are some details I left out. While I am deciding what to do, whether I will grab a knife, or jump on my fathers back, or scream or yell… My little brother and sister are in the doorway to the kitchen, crying and screaming. My baby brothers little face, chubby, crying, yelling. My little sisters little curls wild and all over her red, wet face, wild bits sticking to her face..
They are both being held back by a man.
Two of my father’s friends were there that night.
I don’t remember their names now, maybe one was Steve, maybe one wasn’t. But there were two of them. Two of Paul's latest drinking buddies. The drinking buddies changed fairly regularly, Paul liked the adulation of hangers on, and so he changed them regularly. I remember that that night they had brought a large, odd shaped bottle of a yellow liquor. I think now, upon reflection that it was some kind of home brew.
I remember the bottle, because one of the men was holding onto it, keeping it out of the way, as he stood in the kitchen just saying something like “Paul, Paul”. I remember he grabbed the bottle so it wouldn’t get knocked off the table during the violence.
I remember the other man taking my little brother and sister to the front of the house where the lounge room was. Away from the beating that was going on in the kitchen.
There were two men in my house that night.
Grown men, who watched someone try to beat my mother up. Grown men who watched another grown man attempt to throw his son through a window.
Often times, when we recount these stories or hear about them, the comment threads encourage people to ‘bash these weak bastards’ or ‘this guy should have his arms broken off’, things of that nature. Violence, for me, is not the answer to undo violence. I have come to a place of peace, by letting go any notion that a beating in any direction, to anybody, will undo the beating that I witnessed.
I think that perhaps in the macho-talk about how we should beat these guys up we miss the message that we should just do something. I don’t know anyone who thinks that what happened is ok, under any circumstance. There might be people who don’t know how to deal with it.
I am glad that I don’t have to walk around as one of the Unpolished men. These two men did nothing to get in the way, nothing to stop what was happening. They might not have been able to beat Paul into a pulp, or follow through on the tough talk that I see on the internet… but I can’t help but feel that they could have done something.
If you are going to be a polished man, if you are going to raise awareness, make sure that you are ready to raise a polished hand in the event that circumstances call on you to do it. Awareness is nothing without being able to speak up, call people out or get in the way of violence against children.
Don’t stand idly by.
Don’t walk around knowing that you should have stepped in, that you should have done more.
Don’t leave a child with the memory of your indifferent observation.
If you see the situation, help first, worry about what happens after.
Not be a hero. Not go in with the intention of beating a ‘child basher’ or a ‘woman basher’, and teaching them a lesson. Just get the people who need help away. Bravery is about doing the right thing, not the big thing. You don’t need to serve ‘justice’ on the spot, you simply need to help. In some way. In whatever capacity you can, depending on the situation and the circumstance.
It’s ok to be scared. The black eyes of a man in a rage are terrifying to everyone. You don’t have to confront them in a way that goes over and above removing the person who needs help from harm’s way. Just do the removing.
Be a Polished Man. Be a Good Man, and always, always Just Be Nice.
*name has been changed
Edit* Thank you to all who donated to my Polished Man Campaign page to raise awareness and funds to prevent violence against children.
For further information on how you can help if you witness or suspect domestic violence, visit www.dvrc.org.au
Please don't hesitate to share this blog if you feel like some people you know might get something out of a conversation like this, and thank you in advance.
Do you remember being a child, and getting something from your parents, only to swiftly be followed up with a “Say Thank You”.
I remember always thinking… I was going to say it! Now it doesn’t mean anything, because you’ve told me to do it.
Have you ever seen someone on the street rattling a tin for a charity, or trying to sign people up to some cause, and think, “I already do things for several other causes, but now I feel awkward saying I’m not interested because I already picked the things I help with”.
That is how I feel about this trend of starting a hashtag, or a ‘tag some friends’ post that has to be a ‘call to action’ or that we have to share to ‘raise awareness’ and usually we have to post it with some kind of video of ourselves or something where we ask everyone else to do something whether or not we actually do the thing ourselves.
There is a brilliant quote from Tolstoy that reads “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
To make change, you have to make change. Make, the verb. Making is a doing word. To make change, is not to tell everyone else to do something for someone else, it is to lead by example.
You might not get as many likes on Facebook, you might not get as many encouraging comments on social media, but if you actually live your life by example, you will most certainly have a much bigger impact than simply asking everyone else to go and do something. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”, ask yourself, if I have just learned a thing today, am I really qualified to then tell everyone else to do it? If I have just lifted weights for the first time, should I then go out and tell everyone that they should now go out and lift weights?
We see these things take off on social media based on inaccurate statistics sometimes. I understand that you would like to do some good, but if you can’t take the time to even check the facts of the cause you are talking about, how can you tell me to care about it as well? How much actual ‘care’ is involved in those instances.
There are so many things that are worth discussing, many with equal merit. People have thousands of diseases that need cures, there are so many levels of disadvantage, homelessness, addiction, people who just struggle in day to day life, people have internal mental battles with depression and anxiety. Sometimes people just have shitty days.
Starting with appreciating your own life, you can open up many opportunities to learn about the struggles of others. Once you are aware of the struggles, you can make a decision to DO something about the struggles you feel comfortable with helping.
Exactly zero percent of the conversations that I have had in my life that have made a difference have come from a post with a hashtag in it. The conversations come from people who LIVE the lives of good and caring people all the time. The amazing thing about making a difference too is not in the questions we ask, but in the way that we listen. The real change in how we look at helping should come from listening, understanding and educating.
Complexity and noise are barriers to understanding. Additional duplications of causes or outcomes create this barrier, in the same way that duplications of charities, create complexity and noise that hinder understanding.
RUOK Day is a great example, and the original educational opportunity through social media, for understanding how to approach conversations with people struggling with mental health issues. #RUOK still exists, and the organisation exists to educate people on how to have effective conversations and listen to people who might need a friendly ear.
For people who really care about improving the quality of that conversation, let’s not compete. Let’s not confuse the message. Let’s not create more unnecessary noise, rather enhance the message which already exists. Listen. Be there. Be there offline and online. Be there for people in any capacity you can.
Look past awareness as the sole outcome of what you are trying to achieve, awareness is nothing without action that supports the people in need. With that in mind, make sure that you are taking the action that you are asking others to do. A great example of that is Jamie Milne, running to raise awareness for Alzheimers Australia, off the back of raising much needed funds for their research! Awareness becomes the by-product of the action that actually makes a difference.
Educate people and allow them to make their own choices about where they would like to help, and what they are comfortable with. Some people will want to help animals, some will be passionate about race relations, others, particular diseases that have affected their families.
Understand that effecting lasting change is a long term process, that doesn’t need something to go viral so that it is in everyone’s consciousness for a brief second only to disappear once we have shared a post. Give people space and information over time to learn to care about the things you care about.
Try share more about what others are doing, rather than demand that they do the things you are doing. Focusing on the good work that other people do is a great way to encourage people to keep on doing it! Hashtags are a great way to spread information, but use them wisely. Take some care to care. Check the facts, do some investigation, make sure if you are going to ask people to do something, that you have at least made sure that you actually know why.
Put some time in. Authority is built by expertise and effort. You might ‘care’ the same as someone who has been doing something a long time, but you will not have the same authority as they do. If you see an issue, educate yourself, put some time in.
Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” – not “Make the hashtag that you want everyone to use when referring to a change that you’d like to see in the world”.
Start with you. Start with your actions. Start by Just Being Nice.
Before someone gets started, white privilege is a thing. It just is. It affords those of us fortunate to be born white (and for people like me, straight and male) with better educational opportunities, better jobs, better pay, longer life expectancies and a million other advantages.
On the flipside of privilege, there is disadvantage. Disadvantage for those of different skin colours, different religious affiliations, low socio-economic background, different gender and different sexual orientation, among many other things.
I am the beneficiary of many privileges courtesy of the ovarian lottery that gave me a skin colour, sexual orientation and sex that is preferable in the society I live in. I had no choice in any of these things, but I have and will continue to have, many advantages over those who were born with different characteristics.
One privilege that we (and by me, I mean others who won the ovarian lottery alongside me), need to give up, is the privilege to say “Because I did it, you can do it too” or to say “Because I have seen someone from a different background achieve success, so everyone from that background should forfeit their right to complain.”
Disadvantage occurs at the starting line of life, comparing the finish lines of success between those of privilege and those of disadvantage is giving false positives to the opportunities available to those who experience disadvantage.
The path to outrageous success is paved with hard work. There is little doubt that to achieve great things and have success, even as a white, heterosexual man, you need to work hard.
We desperately need to acknowledge however, that the paths look very different.
My path to success, is wider, there are cracks, but they are manageable, there are hills, but I can get up them with a bit of grit and focus, there is room for me, and those like me to walk beside each other and help each other along. It’s not necessarily an easy path, but it is one that has been carved out by generations of white privilege before me, and is well trodden. Guidelines are available at certain points, as well as maps. We have seen plenty of examples of people like us going forward ahead of us, and we know what to expect. The people we meet along the way have opportunity to help us, and some are inclined to help us get to the pinnacle of success.
Some of us, despite our privilege will stop en-route to the top. Happy with being high enough, happy with having walked far enough. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, while still being comfortable and supported. We have peers lining the path at every level of success, to join us and help us find a space wherever we may decide to stay. If we decide down the track to make our way up a bit further, the wide, well-trodden path affords us this opportunity.
The path to success for those of disadvantage looks very different. It is narrow. It is not well trodden, often there are no maps, and very few people to help along the way. There are many, many opportunities to fall, and often it runs under the paths of the privileged who intentionally and unintentionally dislodge rocks to fall onto the paths of those below them. You start from further away, and often take the toughest routes to the top. Sometimes you do it without shoes, without ropes, without jackets and without food. The path to the top for those at a disadvantage looks very, very different. There aren’t lots of places to stop, and settle down. If you don’t make it to a certain point, your only option is to head back down, if you do make it to a point where you might like to settle, on your way to the top, there may not be much room. You might not have any company. You might be isolated, on your own, a community of one.
The top of the mountain, the point of success, looks much the same for everyone. Those of us with privilege need to recognize the path well-trodden as being that, well-trodden. It is still work. It still takes time and effort to get to the top, but realise the path to the top for a person like me, looks a lot different to a female, indigenous, lesbian woman in Australia.
This is the privilege we need to acknowledge. We don’t need to look to the top for examples of equality and opportunity, we need to look to the paths. We don’t need to look at individual success as the measure of equality, but at the opportunities afforded to others from the same situations.
Standing at the top, we could probably find some kind of representation from every walk of life. There are women, people of colour, people of different ethnicities, religious affiliations, socio-economic backgrounds and levels of education, but there are far less of them.
Looking to the paths that got as all there, we will see nothing but outrageous disparity. The width, quality, difficulty and availability of the different paths to the top are the reason why we need to acknowledge our privilege.
There are log jams at the top, where limited spaces for women prevent others from getting to the top. There are log jams at various stages of the climb where indigenous Australians are stuck because they cannot read and write. People are jammed at the very beginning, where refugees aren’t even able to get onto any path at all because we have them, men women and children, locked up in detention.
The most dangerous execution of this belief of the privileged is to make the path MORE difficult for those of disadvantage. For example, shaming individuals on welfare, claiming they are all ‘bludgers’ and threatening to take away support, rather than add more, is akin to removing their shoes and jackets, and driving them further from the starting line, all while demanding they get closer to the pinnacles of success and self-reliance. We lock people into unsupported communities and wonder why they feel and act isolated. We allow talk of suspending the rights of people of certain religions, forcing them onto different, more difficult paths, then demand that they don’t complain. We pay women less, and tell them it is their responsibility to get to the top, with less support, and less resources as a result of pay inequality. These things are dangerous, and only further degrade the paths to the top for people who are already at disadvantage through no fault of their own.
I am obsessed with improving the equality of opportunity for people who aren’t lucky enough to experience the privilege I did nothing to get. There is, and always has been limited space at the very top, equality of outcome is an impossibility.
We can however, improve the paths for everyone, and give space to people to find their niche on the way up, without having to sink back to the bottom because no one is waiting for them at any point along their journey. We can use our privilege to lend a hand, and bring someone onto our path, rather than leave them to climb the path less travelled, or build their own path as they go.
We are all climbing the ‘Ladder of success’, but our ladders all look different. Let’s tidy up the ladders of those who need help, and do away with the privileged notion that
“Because I did it, you can too, so I don’t want to hear your complaints”.
“I’m sick of hearing (insert disadvantaged group of people here) complaining, (Successful person of this background) made it, they just need to work harder.”
Disadvantage should be assessed at the starting line, not the finish, and people of privilege need to do a better job of understanding that. We also need to do a better job of fixing it. Bringing more people to our starting line, and improving the conditions and quality of the paths that exist for people of disadvantage.
It certainly won’t happen overnight, but it can happen over time. We simply need to give up the privilege from the top of the pile, telling those below us that because we are here, they could be too.
Remember to be grateful of your privilege and mindful of those who aren’t fortunate to have it, and as always Just Be Nice.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports