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“Anonymous was a Woman”…

…and still is – far too often.

This book was a gift from a friend back in the 80s when I was learning to quilt.

I treasured it and gave copies to a cadre of good friends with whom I shared a passion for ‘antiquing’ – or rather scavenging the markets of Lancaster County.

A quick read of this review on Goodreads reflects my experience of it:

“This book is beautifully illustrated with women’s folk art spanning the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s.

The pages are adorned with lovely poetic journal entries of common-day women and girls who created not for prestige or money (mostly unheard of in those days) but to quench the true thirst of the heart.

I found the book endearing and recommend to anyone interested in women artists, folk art, and women’s studies.”

And then there was this one:  “Silly title, very good book.”

Which made me think the reviewer didn’t appreciate what I and my scavenging friends had often speculated about when considering the relative value of “women’s work”.

 

Exceptional pair of redheads, Shang Wheeler, Stratford, Connecticut. Sold for $27,500 via Guyette & Deeter (November 2015).

Men’s work was far more highly valued.

Case and point: Duck decoys!

We’d marvel at the prices – and the dissimilar numbers reflecting hundreds of hours spent stitching vs. carving.

It may well be related to the anonymity of the craftswomen.

Their works, art, painting, poetry, pottery and crafts are almost always unsigned.

The work of men was usually signed.

Women’s art was more often an outgrowth or consequence of meeting the needs of daily life. Men’s handicrafts were more exceptional – taken on in leisure time in pursuit of a passion or pleasure.

It’s not an observation to be judged – it was once the way of the world.

And some women’s handiwork has garnered well-deserved recognition.

Perhaps that’s best illustrated by this mid-19th century quilt – now at home in the Smithsonian Institution.

Ellen Harding Baker (1847–1886) used the quilt – seven years in the making – to illustrate her astronomy lessons while teaching in rural Iowa.

So let me leave you with a request – tell me about an otherwise anonymous craftswoman you know. Let’s celebrate her – and let’s name her.

And let’s all follow the example of Tara Prendergast founder of The Biscuit Marketplace and become a supportive champion of creatives wherever you live.

#CatalysingConnections, #DontGoItAlone

And thank you to the trailblazing founders & early adopters of the Cooley Connect Well initiative for inspiring this post!

For a fascinating read about Ellen Harding Baker – who was born in the same year as Maria Mitchell,  America’s first professional female astronomer – I highly recommend Cosmic Threads: A Solar System Quilt from 1876

And for more on needlework, stitching & astronomy –

Stitching the Stars: Trailblazing Astronomer Maria Mitchell on the Needle as a Double-Edged Instrument of the Mind and Why Women Are Better Suited for Astronomy Than Men

 

 




Coffee Klatches, Consciousness-Raising & Water Coolers…

So what do they have in common? They remind us that there really is “nothing new under the sun”.

And the sentiment itself is ancient – Ecclesiastes 1:9 – written nearly a thousand years BCE.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Coffee klatches, consciousness-raising groups and water coolers were among the favoured gathering places in my lifetime. Humans are social animals, we thrive in community and whither in isolation.

And conversations drive change- whether it’s personal, professional or civic.

The gatherings haven’t changed much – but they have reflected changing times.

In my 1950s and ’60s childhood, there was the ‘Coffee Klatch“. Women gathered around kitchen tables with a comfortable camaraderie that helped them overcome the isolation of suburban lives. And while klatch literally translates into gossip, it was more than that. Problems were solved, wisdom was shared and comfort provided.

And lest you think that the amity of “kitchen table’ gatherings was the sole purview of women, ‘kitchen cabinet‘ was used to describe the informal group advising an American president a century earlier.

In the ’70s, coffee klatches evolved into living room gatherings – and consciousness-raising groups emerged. Those conversations made way for the second wave of feminism.

In the ’80s and ’90s, industrial psychologists described the “water-cooler effect” as though realising the benefits of engaging with colleagues and coworkers was a new phenomenon. By the early 2000s formalising this type of employee engagement was seen as beneficial – and cutting-edge.

Yet an 1850 Melville novel about life on a warship described a place where informal communication and rumour abounded. The “scuttle-butt” was the site of the freshwater pump and casks of ale where sailors of every rank would gather.

The 21st Century gathering places have changed. We’re spoiled for choice. Coffee shops abound along with coworking and other ‘3rd spaces’. The kitchens are gone – but the tables and the intimacy remain.

Our challenge is to imagine a new way of gathering. We’ve toyed with networks and platforms that serve the commercial interests of others. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter etc – are great for connecting. But they fail when it comes to relationship building.

So what is next?

Well – watch this space – and if you’re interested in joining a dynamic community of changemakers at the next level of cutting-edge – get in touch!

 

 




Communication, Confusion & Irish-isms

The author, a fellow blow-in, and I have often discussed the challenges of understanding and being understood – even though before my arrival from America and his from England via Israel – we’d thought of English as our first language.

Lest you think we exaggerate – I refer you to this “So You’ve Got an Irish Passport Because of Brexit…” article.  My favourite observation by author, comic and playwright Mary Bourke is-

If you ask an Irish person to do something and they reply, “I will, yeah” with a downward inflection this is their polite way of saying “No”. Irish people never say what they mean because we always need a latex membrane of euphemism between us and the truth. This isn’t lying; it’s called being charming.

IRISH-ISMS

Many Irish people share a powerful belief that they are the world’s best communicators. While foreign visitors are encouraged to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle if they wish to become more eloquent, the Irish are reputed to have a natural way with words and a natural gift of the gab.

But do they?

As a veteran 20-year blow-in, I have noticed a distinct gap between what many Irish people say, what they really mean, and what the listener interprets.

For example,

  • if you are told that you are “brutally efficient,” you are not being given a compliment. It is being intimated to you that your efficiency is putting others to shame.
  • if you are told that you are very decisive, do not be tempted into believing that you have just been complimented. You are being told that you are too pushy.
  • if you are told in a meeting that you should feel free to ask further questions, be careful. The real message is that you shouldn’t ask any annoying or embarrassing questions.
  • if someone giving a presentation asks for honest feedback, your honest opinion is the last thing they want to hear. All they are asking is for you to go easy on them. And
  • if someone describes your presentation as “desperate,” it does not mean that the presenter was in despair. It means that the presenter was rubbish.
  • Be careful when someone tells you “I am a little disappointed.” What they mean is that they are mightily disappointed.

You have to learn to interpret what might sound like encouraging feedback.

“I’m interested in your idea,” “Could you please expand on your idea?” and “The jury is still out on this” all indicate that the other person thinks that your idea is rubbish.

When someone says to you, “I didn’t understand”, don’t make the mistake of believing that they did not understand. You are being told categorically that you don’t understand.

You might be tempted to interpret “Don’t get ahead of yourself” as advice to slow down. In truth, you are being told not to be such a big-head.

If someone is being described as “bold”, the intention is not to praise that person’s bravery. It is to indicate that the person is brazen and cheeky.

And do not be confused when someone asks you, “What’s the story?” or “Anything strange?” All they are asking is “How’s things?

If you are told that something is grand, do not expect anything large to appear. It’s the Irish way of saying that “everything is fine”.

And do not expect a technician to come around to check your gas meter when you hear that someone is a “gas man”. It simply means he is funny.

“Oh, stop!” is not, as it sounds, a request to stop talking or to stop what you are doing. It simple means “Don’t go there”.

If a person is described as thick, it is not their physical girth but their (lack of) mental faculties that are being described.

And if you hear someone being described as giving out, do not wait around to receive a free lunch or a free anything else. It means that the person likes to complain.

A person who is described as being on the pig’s back is not participating in a strange race, and a person sucking diesel is not really indulging in this dangerous pastime. Both expressions mean that a person is doing very well.

My examples so far involve possible misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

But there are also plenty of Irish-isms where the visitor has no inkling of what the other person is saying.

It is quite a stretch of the imagination to realise that an eejit is an idiot, that the jacks means the bathroom, that banjaxed means ruined and that ‘a cute hoor‘ is ‘a chancer‘ or someone Americans would say was “unqualified” or “pushing his luck

My favourite impenetrable Irishism has to do with compliments.

Most people in Ireland do not know how to take a compliment. It makes them uncomfortable. Often the body language that follows is to actually push it away.

If you compliment a woman on the dress she is wearing, the stock response you are likely to receive is, “I got it at Penny’s.”

Instead of simply saying thank you.

The wearer will ward off the compliment by claiming that the garment was purchased at discount clothes retailer Penny’s.

What follows is comical – if not sad: A newcomer to Ireland, and to English – anxious to sound like the locals, was told that her hair looked nice. She answered, proudly primping the new do and responded: “Penny’s”.

In addition to authoring business books and articles- Yanky is available for training – for both corporates and individuals new to Ireland in both our nuanced language and our comfort and facility with “Constructive Ambiguity”.

Yanky Fachler is a copywriter, author, corporate trainer. He has written literally millions of words for his clients, thousands of blog posts, ads and articles. He has authored and ghostwritten dozens of books; 200 business book reviews, speeches, articles and newsletters. His way with words also extends to the spoken word: he has made dozens of appearances on TV and radio; he gives motivational talks and keynote speeches; he delivers communications skills training, and he has given over 100 history talks. Yanky’s speaking engagements outside Ireland have taken him to the USA, UK, Poland, Canada, Israel and the Czech Republic. Yanky brings oodles of imagination and his own brand of infectious enthusiasm to everything he does.




Why we tell these stories…

Because nothing changes until we cease to view our neighbours as them and we as us.

Take for example the aftermath of one hearing before the Orieachtas.

Padraic Kissane – the gently determined, brave and caring Financial Advisor who encouraged four of his tracker mortgage clients to step forward and testify before the Finance Committee.

This was critical – a watershed moment in Ireland. The tracker mortgage abuses were well known to members of the finance committee, to the bankers and to journalists – but it was not until we had four human faces and stories – that any thing was done.

In a quiet moment, that afternoon, I witnessed a colleague ask him:

“But how did the banks think they would get away with it?”

His response:

“They used our Irishness against us.”

And for nearly a decade it worked. And to some degree it is still working. They had counted on us to be too ashamed to come forward.

And beyond shame, we are ill-informed. While the rest of the world worries about “fake news” – here in Ireland, we suffer “no news”.

And a predisposition to “willfull blindness“.

The absence of a free and vigorous press undermines any hope for accountability from government.

We have few choices.

  • The state owned and operated RTE carries little to ‘out’ anything but historic wrongs (justice here requires a 30 year fermentation process). And we roll out coverage of long forgotten scandals every time we wish to distract from a current political embarrassment. Let’s roll out the long acknowledged adoption scandal to distract from disclosures tribunal, and let’s celebrate a reunion of Magdalene Laundry survivors to take some of the heat off the Cervical Check scandal. Any wonder we have a well used hashtag in Ireland – #NoCountryforWomen
  • The (not very) Independent News & Media PLC has an editorial policy of having it’s reporters “get with the programme”. Theirs. Summed up simply – if it’s good for big business report it. If it’s troublesome to our friends and allies – don’t.
  • Everything you need to know about a free and fair press can be found in the unapologetic way both the Taosieah and the press embraced the idea of a “strategic communications office”. And there is precedent. It’s best illustrated by a headline: The deValera Divine Right to Rule the Irish Press

And lest you think this reflects the work of conspiracy theorists, a well organised group of bankers, academics, lawyers, and professionals worked together for 4 years – coming together with a piece of legislation to be introduced in 2017 when the Dail came back into session.

In an effort to garner attention and support for the bill – over 200 press releases went out in the late spring.  Individual reporters and PR professionals received it well and wrote plenty of copy. None of which got past the editors desk for publication.

Undaunted – they had their press conference – in Ireland’s – 33rd County. Irish Central covered the launch of the bill at the famine memorial in Manhattan. Given that…

..it caters to 34 million Irish Americans and 70 million Irish diaspora and receives 3.5 million unique visitors per month.  It has a large and quickly growing social media following, including 500k Facebook followers, 33k Twitter followers, and 13k followers on Instagram.  The website also enjoys a newsletter subscriber base of 250k.

The Irish press finally picked it up.

Church and State have colluded to maintain power by silencing citizens. And it works. Shame has kept us collectively quiet and accepting of the unacceptable. We have been afraid to rise up and take charge.

So here are some of the unreported stories I’ve experienced alongside beleaguered friends and colleagues:

  • Litigant told by judge – I paraphrase – “You are right, this falls into the spirit of the law – but since the law is so poorly written I cannot rule in your favour”
  • Banks claim to be negotiating – I know 2 cases where new property valuations come in- at let’s say €500k. Owner offers it. Offer rejected.
    Keep in mind, no matter the original debt – all the bank or #vulture it is to be sold on to – will get for it is “market value”. To make the sale of tranches to #vulturefunds attractive – these properties need to be included – there are too few good faith negotiations.
  • Owner scraping by, has two properties, one mortgage. Wants to sell one – can’t afford the tax for the “on paper” capital gain. Worse – one, a Dublin property would be an excellent first home- but can’t come to market because it’s rental income secures the debt – she wouldn’t have on the second property if one could sell the first and pay it down.

These are just three of the stories people are afraid to tell – and to what end would one stand up and be counted?

The press doesn’t cover them anyway. And look what happened to Jonathan Sugarman and Maurice McCable. Stand up speak out and they’ll besmirch your reputation – or worse. This is no country for truth-tellers or whistleblowers.

People paying €600-€1500 a month in good faith – agreed amounts on account of their distressed loans – are typical of the ones whose loans are now being sold. These are not deadbeats vacationing in Spain – as we’ve been led to believe.

I highly recommend Margaret Heffernan’s TED talks on Wilful Blindness and her closing from the second –

Dare to Disagree

The fact is that most of the biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden.
It comes from information that is freely available and out there, but that we are willfully blind to, because we can’t handle, don’t want to handle, the conflict that it provokes.
But when we dare to break that silence, or when we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking.
Open information is fantastic, open networks are essential.
But the truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.
Openness isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

Please – find your voice, tell your story and be willing to listen to and engage with your neighbours – whose stories need to heard and understood.

We welcome your feedback and submissions. Relevant academic articles and examples of best practice elsewhere are of particular interest.

Tell us your story via video, voice memo or the written word. Unedited or unpolished is fine. Send your copy, video links or audio files to info@eveearley.com.

 

 




Dear Daddy…

I miss you. And Happy Father’s Day.

I miss your sense of humor, your wisdom and the very un-Irish, Talmudic way you drove home your messages, with questions.

And yet, even selfishly, I’m not inclined to “wish you were here”. The world you imagined has not yet materialized.

How lovely it would have been had your story neatly concluded as did Judy Collins’ My Father story in her song.

Remember telling my 5, 6 & 7 year old self all about the natural world?

All about Five Acres and Independence?

You’ll be pleased to know it’s still in print. Good thing too – because while it was meant to teach subsistence living to a post-depression generation – there are a few generations coming who will likely need it.

More on the economics of that why, another time.

mde

Recently, I found a musty old copy of “The Silent Spring” which looks a lot like this one here.

Though a funny thing happened as I re-read it. I heard your voice. Not while reading Rachael Carson’s words – but in remembering all your asides. You know – the ones where you imagined that I’d live in a house with a rainwater cistern built into the plumbing or irrigating the garden. Where the sun and wind would contribute to my energy usage. And where I’d be using grey water from the dishwasher and washer to flush the toilets.

Sadly though, not yet. And likely not even in my lifetime.

Do you remember telling me that the oil embargo in ’73 was a good thing? We were going to drive smaller cars, rely less on fossil fuel and run cars on electricity. Electric cars took another 40 years and they’ve still not caught on. Cars only stayed small until we forgot. Less than a decade on.

We recycle now, as you said we would. Though not universally. Landfills overflow, and the oceans are full of plastic. A dead whale was found in Thailand with 17 lbs. of plastic in its gut. Even fresh water streams are polluted with micro beads of plastic from the synthetic clothes we wash.

And while the bald eagle is back, I’m afraid the last male Northern White Rhino died this year. Few seem to notice that we’re losing about 150 plant, insect, bird and mammal species every day.

I remembered another lesson recently, on encyclicals, labor and social justice.

I was six.

How much did you think I could understand? Did you know we wouldn’t have enough years to talk about these things when I was grown? Or was it just the heady, optimistic times in which we lived?

I can still hear your belly laugh when I came home from First Grade with the campaign rhyme –

Kennedy in the White House talking on the phone, Nixon in the doghouse chewing on a bone.

And then he won. An upstart Catholic in the White House! You were sure that meant there would be attention paid to social justice. Sure wasn’t that why the “Power Elite” fought so hard against “the papist”?

And it was John XXIII’s time. I can still here the passion and faith with which you explained why you’d been an organizer, why labor unions were so important and how it had been the words of Pious XIII’s Rerem Novarum which inspired all that in you. You explained it all in my Communion year. You wanted me to understand the significance of a that year’s Papal Directive on Christianity and Social Progress.

For what it’s worth – the only part that really sunk into my young brain was the point you made about my uncles, your brothers. They were steel workers. You said they worked harder at back breaking work, than you did at a desk. You could do your job to 65 or 70 or beyond – but their bodies wouldn’t last to pension age. That was why a balance between labor and capital – as well as respect for the difference in an earned vs. an unearned dollar – was important.

How did you know that I’d remember enough?

Is that why you went on at great length about social justice, job provision and social safety nets? By then I was 10, 11 and 12. I loved the long drives and the stories you told during our Sunday visits – touring through the reservoirs, parks and forests built by the CCC workers. I remember well your stories that their lives in those camps, bleak though it was, offered the only homes and work available.

I remember all the buildings we visited – most artfully embellished with friezes and sculptures owed to the New Deal’s WPA architects. Pragmatism born of desperate times, enhanced by a respect for the creative.

Often I recall your awe for the power of what the public and private sector could accomplish in the sheer depth and breadth of the infrastructure projects, iconic skyscrapers and the monuments you’d point out in our drives around New York City, upstate New York and New England.

I live in Ireland now.

We visit and I giggle most Saturdays mornings in all but July and August. It’s then that I bring in wood and peat for the stoves. It makes me recall your beleaguered expression and shaking head when you described life in Ireland on return from Grandpa’s funeral here. You always began with – “Kiss the American ground you were born on…” followed by vivid and unattractive descriptions of the third world country Ireland was then.

With each filled basket, I can conjure the look. Your loving eyes are firmly fixed on me from over the top of your glasses. I hear you exclaim, “You silly witch, did your grandfather not see to it that we were born in a world of boilers and indoor plumbing?”

And so he did.

But clearly there was a circle in need of closing.

I returned a century after he left. Nearly 50 years after he died. I wasn’t actually aiming for ‘his Ireland’, though I find myself stuck in it. As penance for some as yet undetermined failing, I work at telling your stories, sharing your wisdom and hoping that as America has abandoned its promise, moving forward, Ireland can adopt it.

The call to ‘my Ireland’ came after years on an annual course. The week-long events were set in Sligo, Cavan, Antrim, Donegal, Down and Mayo studying Jung and archetypal psychology.  Here I met Bridget, Grace and Maeve – in a place where feminine characters and the land dominate in myth. That divine feminine is what called me and where my hope for this place resides.

Here I experience the ancient and natural worlds as you shared them. Living close to the land demands a respect for riotous springs, abundant harvests and the work of just showing up for the hard labor in between.

It invites us to celebrate the seasons.

I closed a circle with that as well. I am at home with an agrarian, eight season calendar. I felt it while rearing your granddaughters in a faith tied to festivals like Imbolc and Lughnasa known to them as Tu Bishvat and Sukkot.

And I live in medial space.

Literally. On the border of Ulster – just beyond the Pale. And not far from Mary Gale Earley’s home place. Her journey informs so much of my understanding here. From Ireland to America, Protestant to Catholic, who could have imagined that a quote from John Henry Newmans faith journey printed on her memorial card, would serve as insight into my struggle to understand this land of them-uns and us-uns?

And figuratively. I live as you did. Devout in your faith, and excommunicated nonetheless. Neither in nor out of Rome’s good graces. I too, live as the other – an American neither Catholic nor Protestant neither in or out of communion with my neighbors.

And always, I carry with me your good humored observation that –

We’ll get there, by degrees. The way an Irishman goes to heaven.

And while ‘we’ll’ not get where you thought we were going in my lifetime, I’ve every confidence that your granddaughters will move the world in the direction of your dreams.

They made those very same road trips, they heard you marveling at those miracles of social and economic progress albeit through my voice, and learned the optimism and sense of possibility that your “Greatest Generation” brought to the world. And I’m reminding them here.

I offer every 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 year old too much information, enthusiastically – knowing that something will come of it. Even if it takes a generation or two.

And because, it’s been 38 of these June Sundays without you – I’m reminded of another song from the sixties, Who knows where the time goes?

So for now –

Good-night; ensured release,
Imperishable peace,
Have these for yours,
While sea abides, and land,
And earth’s foundations stand,
And heaven endures.

When earth’s foundations flee,
Nor sky nor land nor sea
At all is found,
Content you, let them burn:
It is not your concern;
Sleep on, sleep sound.

Reciting Parta Quies comforts me.

And makes me smile remembering another look over the top of your glasses, with a beleaguered expression and shaking head. All while lamenting over your lot to have had a daughter who favored the work of Houseman over Yeats, Joyce and countless other Irish poets.

He was, in your words, “That drunken, gay, Brit”.

Sleep on, Daddy, sleep sound.




“Where will you be five years from today?”

The question is posed by author and creativity consultant, Dan ZadraHis book has the look and feel of a child’s book, which leaves us open, available and curious.

This book celebrates the “want to’s”, the “choose to’s” and the “I can’t wait to’s” in your life”. Whether you’re just finishing school, starting a new venture, celebrating a milestone or envisioning your retirement, you are the hero of this story.

It’s less a work-book than a play-book.

Random list-making exercises invite us to explore what we value.

“Live your life on purpose” is a call to action – and we’re encouraged to write a personal mission statement.

It’s a book of motivation and inspiration. This isn’t a to-do list – it’s a road map.  And a training manual.

“You are the hero of this story”

…and you’re thinking – “Who me? There’s not a heroic bone in my body!”

So, let’s make “hero” a bit less intimidating.

First, throw off the superhero images. Just showing up and being available is Job #1.

Accepting the challenge to live life more purposefully, to imagine a new future and to lay the foundation for a new life stage – is what we in the storytelling business call – “The Hero’s Journey”.

It was described by Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth.

Myths give external explanations and stories for internal strifes. Slaying monsters is slaying the dark things inside of you. If you’re telling yourself “oh no! I couldn’t do that! I couldn’t be a writer!” that’s the dragon inside of you, and you have to slay it.

Simply stated – our heroic journey begins with saving ourselves.

And then:

“Strong people stand up for themselves. Stronger people stand up for others”  Chris Gardner

And #DontGoItAlone – get in touch if you think I can help.

Not familiar with Joseph Campbell’s work?

Hollywood film development director, Christopher Vogler summarises it brilliantly.

 

Here’s what we know about heroes, they-

  • are usually reluctant
  • are often resistant
  • will have to face down fear
  • will survive, wiser for the experience

 

 

For more on the power of storytelling – join me here.




A Failure of Leadership – Ireland 2018

On Housing and Homelessness

Who is Yvonne Walsh and why does she matter? Think of her as the canary in the coal mine.

Thank you, Caroline Lennon-Nally

#YvonneWalsh, the poster child of everything that is wrong about home repossession in Ireland.

Yvonne’s efforts to engage with the government approved Vulture Funds, to protect her home and children, were undermined and short-circuited by a technicality. As a result, Yvonne has refused to back down on the charge of contempt; and her children can stay in their home as long as she’s kept in prison on the contempt charge.  Whilst the detail is complex, the situation is not. Under no circumstances should any woman, in this modern age, be sitting in prison on a contempt charge defending her home.

The National Housing Agency has no suitable options as is the case for thousands of other families defending their position.

This situation needs to be recognised and resolved by the Irish Government. Yvonne, innocent of crime, incarcerated and degraded, needs to be released from prison to rerurn home to her children.

This entire issue of forced homelessness for families and children needs a National solution and Yvonne needs our full and immediate support. Let us not forget that Yvonne is representing a vast number of women and mothers right across the social structure in Ireland.

The Irish Government has a number of solutions at their disposal. Yvonne must be released now.



On Social Change in Ireland, “We’ll get there…”

In 2012, I closed a TEDxBelfastWomen talk with “We’ll get there”.

In 2018, I find we may actually be ‘there’.

It referenced my call to throw off the adaptive behaviours common to many on this island – our silence, passivity, self deprecation and shaming ways, in order to take our place on a global stage.

In 2010, I co-founded a coworking space in Newry. The intention was to support the emergence of a more dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem outside of Dublin and Belfast, on the border. Our contention was that the “peace process” had gone as far as it could go. What was then and now required for Ireland is a “prosperity process”.

That required culture change. And for us to share a different vision of Ireland.

From my vantage point on Carlingford Lough and the border, both Northern Ireland and the Republic were, as C.S. Lewis depicted them, a magical, medial place. A space in-between and one where opportunity abounds.

Culture change is a tall order!

It has been a hard road. Yet, the interesting thing about having a vision, setting an intention – and even failing from time to time, is that when you fail – you fall forward in the direction of your dream.

So imagine my delight in 2016 – when the Centre for Cross Border Studies added this tag line to their Cross Border Social Innovation Conference – “Lagan to the Liffey”.

The Emerald Valley facility had by then closed – but “from the Lagan to the Liffey” – our carefully chosen turn of phrase was designed, where innovation was concerned, to render the border invisible – and it lived on. We’d  fallen forward.

This week, I had notice of an event in Belfast focused on telling Northern Ireland’s story. Two things were heartening. I self-describe as an evangelist for Northern Ireland – both economically and civically.

Economically in trying to drive home-grown innovation and inward investment by highlighting our opportunities and accomplishments. Civically in both America and the Republic of Ireland – in efforts to drive a change in both attitude and language.

We are nearly 20  years on from the peace process – but nonetheless, many in both places remain unreconciled to it.

Control, Alt, Delete: Resetting How We Tell Northern Ireland’s Story 
sounds remarkably like this 2015 blog post:
Ireland 2.0 – America, try ‘Ctrl, Alt, Delete’ .

The journalists on this panel will, undoubtedly, be less impatient than the tone taken with my American readers, out of touch with what Northern Ireland looks like 25, 50 & 100 years after their families emigrated.

My point in these illustrations is not “I told you so”. It is to encourage. I’ve not been alone in writing and repeating these sentiments, and it’s not been to win hearts and minds. It was to support people who clearly felt the same way. To let them know they were not alone. And in time, to make it safe for them to speak up.

Failing and falling forward was worth it!

Robert Reich, Berkley Professor and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton has opened a series of lectures to the public. The course is called, In Focus: How to Ignite Social Change.

This slide speaks to “The Three Elements” it takes to reach the tipping point at which social change happens. Thankfully, in Ireland we have reached that point!

In Northern Ireland with the collapse of the Stormont executive and no devolved government for over a year and in the Republic with an ineffective government, as evidenced by crisis after crisis in Health Care, Housing, Homelessness, and a scandal ridden An Garda Síochána, there is, undeniably, a –

  • Widening gap between ideal and reality
  • Broad public knowledge of that gap

And what of the third?

  • Widespread sense of efficacy  ability to narrow the gap

“Ah sure, you’ll never change it” was the language of hopelessness that had undermined us.

But the last decade has offered proof that citizens could achieve a sense of efficacy – 

The populist genie was out of the bottle. Activism could clearly drive change.

Inspired, in the summer of 2017, a group of activists sent out over 200 press releases, yet couldn’t get media coverage for a “National Housing Cooperative Bill” to be introduced on Dáil Éirann’s return in September.

Undaunted, they then held a press conference at the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City – the proverbial “33rd county”. They were joined by Cornell University Law Professor Robert Hockett and got the attention of homeless and housing activists there, academics, politicians, philanthropists and investors. And won their hearts, as in true Irish fashion, when the formalities had passed, music ensued. Imagine visitors to the memorial serenaded with an impromptu rendition of “I’ll Tell My Ma When I Go Home.

The Irish Central – a digital newspaper with a reach of 3.5 million unique views a month covered the story, and the media in Ireland took note.

More and more stories began to surface here, “broad public knowledge” of “the gap between the ideal and real” led four brave individuals to join Financial Advisor Padraig Kissane in testimony before the Oireachtas Finance Committee – ultimately breaking the news of what is now estimated to be 33,000 tracker mortgage holders cheated by their banks.

When Mr. Kissane was asked how the banks got away with it for so long, he responded: “They used our Irishness against us.”

Clearly the banks were counting on our silence, passivity and shame. No longer.

Housing rights advocates and financial reformers are on the move. New legislation is to be introduced and the Oireachtas Finance Committee and it’s Chair TD John McGuinness are holding banks to account.  He and TD Pearse Doherty have called on Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe to support class action legislation because “the culture won’t change until the banks are prosecuted” – even though Ireland does not yet have a mechanism to bring one.

Watch this space!

Back to the subject of “getting there” –  my Irish-American father favoured an expression I am only now beginning to appreciate:

“We’ll get there, by degrees, the way an Irishman gets to heaven.”

Alongside wisdom I have always embraced:

Ours is not to complete the task, but neither may we desist from the labour.

For more on activism in Ireland, On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values

 




Nothing changes until we do!

In a recent LinkedIn article, Ready for a Change? – I made the case for choosing change. On one level it’s selfish – I work with people and small businesses when they’re ready for a change.

On another level it’s in service to those clients, neighbours and friends who require change in their wider worlds. More on that later.

Navigating change, personally, professionally or systemically, requires safe spaces.

So whether that involves creating a safe space personally – by throwing off old habits, distancing yourself from the crazy-makers in your life or quieting your undermining self-talk (all three?) – the work begins when we make up our minds that the pain of changing outweighs the pain of staying stuck.

Or more eloquently – as pictured, it’s time to blossom.

Change in our work lives is no different, although creating this safe place is somewhat more fraught. It requires us to bring equal parts of self-confidence and humility to the process.

Unsafe at work may look like

  • the boss is mad
  • the workplace is intimidating
  • I’m a payday away from disaster

Let’s accept that every situation is “out of our control” and all we can control is our reaction to it.

What if we agree that-

  • the boss is mad! We might ask ourselves: Am I bringing my best self to each encounter? Am I consciously or unconsciously pushing his/her buttons? Have I even asked what they might be?
  • the workplace is intimidating! Does my demeanour (fear, lack of confidence, reticence) inadvertently contribute to the dynamic? What changes in my response might change my experience of it?
  •  am a payday away from disaster! How can I manage money more mindfully, get out of debt and expand my options?

These questions encourage a kind of archeology. Or as it’s called in 12 step rooms –  a searching and fearless inventory. We’re not judging or chastising, we’re observing our patterns. Not for anyone else’s purposes – just our own.

Because-

  • Every insight is power
  • Every repaired or rejected relationship emboldens us
  • Every safe place we create empowers us

Empowers us personally, professionally and should we choose to widen that sphere of influence – civically.

Back to what I meant by service.

Typically my clients (and often I) am stressed by failures in systems meant to support.

  • Caregivers waste time, energy and resources navigating the social service and health care delivery systems. Should it require a whole day off to take you ageing mother or child to the doctor, or for a scan? Should you have to go on a day that suits the health service or on an appointment day of your choosing?
  • Healthcare professionals are faced with uprooting themselves and their families while retraining or emigrating because working conditions have become too stressful, chaotic and in many cases dangerous.
  • Financial institutions insistent that they “owe no duty of care” to their clients – exacerbate homeowners attempts to renegotiate indebtedness – causing unimaginable pressures on families.
  • A culture of silence renders workplaces and schools inherently unsafe. Our default to, “sure you can’t change that”, “it’s always been that way” – allows for bullying, sexual harassment and exploitation.

Collectively more confident, we would be willing to speak out against systemic ills – without worrying about being labelled bold or cheeky.

Choose change, find your voice and take care to create safe spaces for yourself. Ask for help if you need to – just don’t go it alone!

Finding our voices simply means we willing to tell the truth. For more on what that would look like, I’ve profiled some ordinary citizen-activists doing just that in a blog post On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values.

The systemic abuses I was addressing were unique to the Republic of Ireland. The call to action is equally relevant to my Northern Irish, British and American colleagues where we face different, but equally concerning failures of leadership and governance.

Change is hard, #DontGoItAlone.

If supportive peer groups, workshops to help you gain clarity personally or professionally – learn more.

If you are passionate about driving civic and political change in service of the common good – get in touch.

 




On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values…

My hope/wish/prayer for 2018 is that Ireland will be a safe place for a #Whistleblower and an increasingly unsafe place for politicians who take cover with “it’s what’s legal” vs. “it’s what is ethical, proactive and kind”.

A government that is far more congruent with Irish values.

To create that Ireland, we need to find our voices. We need to speak up, shout out and demand better leadership. Our silence serves only those who would lie to us, steal from us, and oppress. That individual and collective behaviour in law it is called ‘willful blindness’ and it is actionable.

Action requires embracing our entitlement to a ‘legitimate sense of outrage’. Or call it ‘righteous indignation’ over our leadership’s major failures and small slights.

Major failures among which are:

  1. closing rural Post Offices and locating a new Children’s Hospital in the centre of Dublin (a 5 hour drive from Donegal, 4 hrs from Kerry)
  2. ignoring a tri-city/county regional economic development approach to Cork/Limerick/Galway by continuing to drive Foreign Direct Investment primarily to Dublin
  3. failing to gear up for the additional housing required by post Brexit growth of financial service sector jobs relocating from London – creating more upward pressure on housing costs

…and only one of many small slights

  • a citizenry that accepts that it’s okay for taxpayer-funded RTE to make you wait over 1 minute through advertising to hear an RTE Player broadcast of newsmakers interviewed on all the above

The bold texts links to articles or videos of interest; for more information on the work of ordinary citizen activists –

Homelessness – @Right2Homes; Website; Founder, Brian J Reilly
Healthcare – @Bumbleance; Website; Founders, Mary & Tony Heffernan
Transparency & Accountability; @I_S_B_A, Seamus Maye, Ireland, Democracy or Corpocracy
Corruption in Banking – @WhistleIrl; Website; Jonathan Sugarman
Legislative Oversight & Abuse of Powers – @ChangeisUptoYou; Website, Founder, Tom Darcy

For perspective and an insight into how things get so bad – and what we can change – I encourage you to consider –Willful Blindness – @M_Heffernan In her book and TED talk

Not one person here is in it for the glory! Most are reluctant activists, they have worked individually and collectively, doggedly determined, while cajoled, undermined, harassed and in some cases bankrupted, to speak up and give voice to others.

Pick a cause, focus and support their efforts. Each has made great strides, advanced new agendas and empowered change. Follow, engage and if it resonates, support their efforts. Or bring forward your own.

*David McWilliams’ testimony references findings published in his 2005 book The Pope’s Children.