10 City Bridge Run
The Credit Belongs To The Man Who Errs: An Update, Part 1
After some recess from the blog, it is well time to continue this narrative.
The 10 City Bridge Run was conceived in 2010 to help address the problem faced by high child mortality. It emerged from lessons learnt following an initiative called the 9 City Bridge Run. The 9 City Bridge Run was focused on using resilience and wellbeing as a counterpoint to depression and suicide.
In many respects, the two issues faced by the 9 City Bridge Run and the 10 City Bridge Run were distinct and unrelated. At the same time, these were two issues linked by a similar thread of design and social impact.
I wrote a discussion paper after the 9 City Bridge Run. If you want a copy of an abstract from the paper, leave a comment below and I will forward you one and point you to where it is located. For a range of reasons, I thought that I had left the issue of suicide and depression behind, and was cracking on with addressing child survival as much as I was able.
It is worth noting that my efforts in both cases were well-intentioned, albeit Quixotic. What is one to do? Give up because they don’t have enough knowledge, or desist because the method chosen is not entirely workable at first?
I had sought to partner with large institutional organisations before committing to action, but I found that their capacity to embrace the sense of change I was looking to find was mired because of their obsession with messaging and fundraising.
In hindsight, it is easy for the critic to lean back in their comfortable chair and point to all of the flaws in what I chose to do. This could have been done differently, it would have been better to do that. But the journey of the 10 City Bridge Run is now in its sixth year. There has been untold and tremendous levels of heartache and sweat equity poured into this, and while it has been clumsy at time, there has been learning along the way.
Most of the financial risk was borne by myself. Essentially, this was a foolish move, and I was fortunate to receive the support from many generous people who contributed during a series of fundraising campaigns. The amount of money raised was modest, but enough to steer me through such that I would not give up.
The 10 City Bridge Run was based on a stunt: to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries inside the space of a month so as to open a conversation about improving child survival. That was 2010, and it wasn’t until a dark, wet and cold night on 3 January 2015 in New York that this running stunt was completed.
The stunt was to enable something else to occur, and that was what I had described as a series of Design Forum to open this conversation about improving the delivery of child survival. To help fund the initiative, the crowdfunding was based on the pre-sale of a book that would feature a photo-essay of 100 photos of human bridges to communicate that it was the connections between us was the greatest resource at our disposal to make change happen. What that change was and how it would occur was unanswered during this process, and is indeed the work of the Design Forum.
Here’s the thing: unless we try things, how will we know if something is going to work. Theodore Roosevelt was right in his frequently quoted address about the man in the arena:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
This has not been an easy journey, but progress is being made. Maybe the issues have yet to be impacted upon, but then again neither is the deeds in the arena complete.
Picking up this conversation again through this blog, I wanted to backtrack a little so you could know where it has come from.
The next post will talk about where the 10 City Bridge Run stands at the present.
The Lansdowne is closing.
It is a venue which much history, known to many for a thousand and more personal memorial and recollections. Memories that are often grounded in the performance of a certain band, rather than specific moment in time.
My memories are from different venues, actually multiple venues, and bands that defined a moment. As I think through the list, the memories become more and more lucid, and the list grows longer and longer. Hunters and Collectors, The Angels, Machinations, INXS, Divynals, and on and on the list grows.
Many of those venues where those memories are from are either closed, or it was so long ago that what happens there bears absolutely no semblance to what went before. The place has lost that magic from that night many moons ago. This is not about nostalgia or showing my age. Rather, it is recognising that things that went before make us who we are now, and they are very much in the past. Not to be returned to.
And so the Lansdowne is closing. And it will close. And in many respects it has already entered into that place of ‘remember when’ for many. That is not good or bad. It just is.
It will close, and something else will open. Now, we are being told that a student accommodation facility will stand in its place. It is less the sign of progress, but more the allure of profit that drives this decision.
Speaking to the staff the previous weeks, their disappointment is palpable. Their morale is shot, in part because they will be looking for new jobs, but I would say that it is more because they are grieving the loss of a friend.
My friend Fay tells her stories of being a barmaid in the Lansdowne in years before many of those staff were born. It is the same venue, and no doubt she will feel the same sense of loss knowing that the taps will be shut off and cleaned for one last night in the coming week.
But let’s make a distinction. This is something that is closing down, not a last stand.
A last stand invokes a sense of defiance. It is a gnarly expression of resistance to the inevitable, It is a critical and defining moment in time.
I had launched the 10 City Bridge Run at the Lansdowne. To be honest, the launch was pretty crappy compared to what was possible. That was my fault and no a reflection of anyone else. At the time, there was a lot of stuff going on that was distracting me from doing my best in other areas. Stuff that doesn’t need to be explained or discussed here. Just stuff.
But launch the 10 City Bridge Run we did. And without the people who attended, it would have been crappy, but they made it special. It is always the people who make it special.
When I learnt that the Lansdowne was closing I was in Seoul. It had been many months since I had concluded the 10 City Bridge Run, at the conclusion of which I was exhausted. It took a few months to make sense of what I had done. Much like the launch, many parts of the 10 City Bridge Run were also crappy, but in its entirety it made something that was worth noting.
I explored a decision to hold a ‘Last Stand’ gathering at the Lansdowne. The idea was a little half-baked, but worth pursuing. The response from people was good and supportive. The venue was receptive, although the manager seemed to be accommodating but less than enthusiastic. I considered the time I had available to me. Not enough, but I wouldn’t really know unless I tried.
Good friends who are hip hop artists were behind the idea, and willing to perform. The delay seemed to be in the response from the venue manager. I was left uncertain of some arrangements that we had emailed about. My hesitation in following up the email conversation was perhaps a reflection of the circumstances.
This was going to be an afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run. Not a wake. It was not a Last Stand.
No, this is not a Last Stand. The afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run is going to be a celebration. A celebration of the next steps ahead in our pursuit of delivering on the promise to improve child survival.
So, this is a long winded apology for a half-hearted effort to gather a performance at the Lansdowne on 10 September. It is a Thursday night, and I will be there. You are welcome to join us too, but it is likely to be a quiet night.
My secret hope is that a few people with guitars might turn up, maybe even a melodica. The stage is ours for the evening if we want it. But at this stage, I think it will be a few people sharing a few laughs around a bar that has seen better days.
There will be a long-overdue afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run on 10 October, and more details will be coming soon. It won’t be half-hearted, and won’t be crappy. And I hope you can join us as we take the first of many next steps ahead.
But for now, the Lansdowne is closing. I’ll be there on Thursday night. Join me for a beer, and to share some stories. If we can gather some interest, who knows, there might even yet be a Last Stand to be had.
It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I last posted. I didn’t check, but maybe it was back in February when I last posted. That’s a while between then and now. But since then, I have been thinking a lot about you, our supporters, and also our mission here which is to ask a question: “how might we use our networks to deliver on the promise to improve child survival?”
And it’s also been a while since I first put this idea out there on this website back in 2010. I remember that day well. It was in August, and my friend Kelley was visiting from the US. She patiently sat and listened while I explained my doubts, and after I had finished talking she told me bluntly in her best Bostonian-New York style to just do it already.
Many of you will know how the journey has progressed. I commenced a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries last September in Port Moresby and then finished the running in New York in early January this year on a cold, dark and wet night. That stunt frames the question we are going to be asking in order to help improve child survival through a series of Design Forum.
There are still a lot of uncertainties as to how the future will play out, but we are forming a good foundation to engage on this question. The hard work comes now: it is ahead of us, and I want you to be part of that journey. How that will play itself out, as well as an explanation for my recent delay, will follow in the coming days and weeks, but for now I have posted a video to check in with our supporters and let you know we are still well and truly in the game.
The video was in Luoyang, Henan Province in China. I refreshed while away, and am coming back stronger. Thanks for being part of the team. Let’s get to work.
ReThinking The Design Forum
In 2010 I had an idea to do something that would both address child survival, and at the same time show the capacity we have together for collaboration, even if the beginning of our efforts is an individual act of decision.
The plan was to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries, and at the end convene a Design Forum to somehow find ways to impact the issue.
Four years passed until I was able to commence in 2014, during which time there was frustration to be found in spades, hopes dashed, thwarting by circumstances such as injury and access to resources.
Then in mid-September 2014 I commenced the journey. It was prudent not to have commenced before then, despite the misgivings this might have created in the minds of other people. I didn’t have the resources to complete the journey, and if I had began it would have been a disaster for me personally.
Long story short, I completed the running journey late on a cold, dark and wet night in early January in New York. The running was always a stunt to frame the Design Forum. In the meantime, what I learnt was that I still needed more time to prepare for this conversation.
The running at took place at the end of last year informed the conduct of the Design Forum. Doors were opened, I saw many places, experiences shaped my thinking. It was a personal journey that was extremely instructive. And now it is time to turn attention to the Design Forum.
The Design Forum have actually commenced already. It is a series of 10 events that will occur in each of e cities where running took place to open a conversation, and this conversation will be extended into other places through the participation of others. The first Design Forum was in Osaka, and that is being extended presently by a number of teams of great people with whom I am engaged in a process of examine Human Centred Design through an introductory course from IDEO/Acumen Fund.
Until last night, I had a plan to commence the remaining Design Forums as early as next month in Port Moresby, with others following in May. If I learnt anything from my running it was that action is important now, but that good preparation beforehand will ensure that action has impact. I have been ReThinking the Design Forum as I plan out my year ahead, and now recognise that there is some personal maintenance issues I need to attend to called ‘working to earn some money’ before I can suitably commit my time and energy more fully to convening the Design Forum. Besides which, to conduct them right now would be a financial stretch. It doesn’t mean not possible, but perhaps in the immediate sense, not prudent right now.
The good news is that this gives more time for preparation. And the second (next Design Forum) is likely to be held in early August in Port Moresby. That might seem like a long time away, but there is a lot to organise before then and the time will pass quickly. Following Port Moresby, the remaining eight Design Forum will occur to conclude in Seoul towards the end of October. It will be a pretty intense period, but will also frame a particular window of activity inside of which many people can engage to help us address this question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
We are making progress, maybe not immediately like some people might expect, but we are getting there. Come August, I would expect a few other things to have been addressed to:
- Engaging with media
- Making it clear how people can get involved in the Design Forum
- Building a robust team to help with the conduct of the Design Forum
- More fully engaging with an inspiring community of practitioners who are already involved to help improve child survival
- Building support for a petition to go to Australia’s Foreign Minister The Hon Julie Bishop MP asking her to be the Official Champion for the final Design Forum to be held in Seoul
- Completing the book Life Bridge which people’s earlier contributions have helped fund as a way to enable to conduct of this epic journey. I anticipate the book might be completed and handed over to the designers/publishers in late June, aiming to have it ready for distribution after publishing by early August. That is an ambitious timeline, but also achievable.
There is always merit in ReThinking your position, not to change your mind every five minutes, but through a process of iteration to come up with a better and more workable solution.
With your help, together we can engage in these series of Design Forum and work to improve the delivery of child survival.
Details about how you can engage coming soon!
The rhythmic whirring and tapping sounds coming from the life support machines sound like a reassuring metronome. If only it was that idyllic…
The video below is self-explanatory by the comment which accompany the clip from Chris describing his bitter-sweet experience as he sings to his son Lennon following the death of his wife:
Chris Picco singing Blackbird to his son, Lennon James Picco, who was delivered by emergency C-section at 24 weeks after Chris’ wife Ashley unexpectedly and tragically passed away in her sleep. Lennon’s lack of movement and brain activity was a constant concern for the doctors and nurses at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, where he received the absolute best care available. During the pregnancy, Ashley would often feel Lennon moving to music so Chris asked if he could bring his guitar into the NICU and play for Lennon, which he did for several hours during the last days of Lennon’s precious life. One day after filming this, Lennon went to sleep in his daddy’s arms.
Can you feel that crushing blow which must have accompanied Chris through this song and for the days, weeks, and years that will follow as he remembers his wife and child?
Many child deaths are irrevocable, and in the West in developed countries this is by and large the majority of incidents of child mortality. My brother’s son Xander is one such case as this. Lennon is another. Some reading this will have a very personal connection with that too, and I write these words with much care because I know that any reminder must be hurtful for you in ways only you could understand.
But what about those in so-called developing countries where we have no visibility of their deaths through YouTube or media? The sadness shared by their parents is no less. And the figure, while diminishing because of improvements in child survival is still too great, still over 16,000 children under the age of five per day. More than 16,000 parents singing their own version of a broken-hearted Blackbird daily. And that is not to mention the large numbers of women who die while pregnant or during labour. Life is a risky business. It is a situation we hope to address through the Design Forum accompanying the 10 City Bridge Run. Join us.
10 o’clock Club
Much of my background in the Australian Army was serving in my capacity as an artillery officer. The old School of Artillery is still located up in North Fort at North Head in Manly, although the gates have long since closed after the school was moved down to Puckapunyal around 1996.
The last thing I did at the old school while it was still a military establishment was play tennis with Rob Rowe on the grass tennis court which sat on the harbour side behind the Officers’ Mess. From memory, we played barefoot, but I’m not so sure why. It probably had something to do with the bar the operated inside the Mess.
Brian the Barman had become an institution as inseparable from the identity which the Officers’ Mess had forged. He had been working behind the bar when I arrived as a young subaltern fresh out of the Royal Military College for longer than I had been alive, and knew the good, the bad and the ugly pasts of all the current generals who were also like myself young subbies when they first approached the bar and asked Brian for a beer.
Not much had changed over the 30 or 40 years that he worked at the School I suspect. Including the 10 o’clock Club. That almost never changed.
The 10 o’clock Club. Every evening at 10 pm when a course was in at the School, they would stop studying and assemble in The Blue Room of the Officers’ Mess. Some lighthearted banter would follow, and that was pretty much it. Well, maybe there was a little more to the proceedings, but that is enough for this post.
I’m bring the 10 o’clock Club back as we embark on the journey of the Design Forum, and I invite you to join in. Every (or any) evening at 10 pm, take a photo of where you are/what you are doing/who you are with and post it to Twitter with the Design Forum #hashtag which is #10cbr. Extra points for creativity and imagination.
I can’t promise to be in attendance every night, but I hope to see you there on the interwebs.
Don’t forget the #hashtag for the Design Forum! #10cbr
We lack more than we have in some regards. But that doesn’t matter so much. We have what we need, and that is enough.
How many times along this journey have I held myself back because of the embryonic state of an idea or because of the absence of resources which were needed at that time or in the future? The whole journey has been like that, and getting to Osaka and back to Sydney is no different.
Planning for something in the future without the required resources in hand makes committing to action difficult. It is moving out onto a path where there is none. Hoping the ground appears before your feet. It is a pressure and a vulnerability that is not easily shared.
Do you know that feeling? Have you had that experience? It’s easy to feel a little sheepish when you are going without. When you are beginning. When everything is fragile and vulnerable.
But that is how it all begins. Yes, we were once just fragile, vulnerable embryos. Little and tiny. And we survived.
If you ever feel defeated or trumped, go back to the beginning and give thanks for a day you don’t remember. It’s brought you this far, no matter what the situation you find yourself in now. Keep going! Now is not the time to stop!
Map Check: preamble to the Design Forum
The 10 City Bridge Run Design Forum is a series of 10 events that will be convened in the 10 cities where running took place during the 10 City Bridge Run. The entire focus of the Design Forum is to address the central question to the 10 City Bridge Run which asks: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
Making decisions, and working out how to collaborate are two key tasks which we will need to work out how to do together. There are some obvious difficulties with that: we are in different time zones, we are not in the same location, not all of us speak the same language, access and ability to use technology is not evenly distributed. But we all share one trump card that can help us overcome any challenge: our imagination is the freely available resource that will make this possible.
Success will really come down to imagination. Imagination will drive the solutions to challenges of communication, collaboration, decision making. Resource issues, access to people, gaining information and knowledge are practical challenges and very real, but will also be overcome through imagination.
How to communicate and collaborate, and the platforms we might adopt to best enable this, remains the biggest immediate question to answer.
It is not simple, but it is possible.
At the conception of this idea back in 2010, it was an impossibility at that time. Now we are closer to making it happen. And if we can come this far, how much more can we achieve that we don’t know is possible from where we stand now?
This post provides some preliminary thoughts to a framework for the Design Forum which follows in the next post. This post is like a map which we can refer to. But what is important is that we don’t confuse the map for the territory. The plan will be amended and change. Ideas will emerge that are more expansive than we know now.
There will be 10 Design Forums. Well, there may in fact be more should people take the initiative to organise their own in a location other than the 10 key locations which this post relates to. The structure and conduct of each Design Forum can be, and possibly should be, distinct from those which precede it. The length of time (in days and hours) for each Design Forum is almost unimportant. We will need ‘enough time’ to do what we need to do, and this will depend on having clarity on a desired outcome at each step of the way.
The Design Forum are a conversation. Anyone can join, at anytime. We all have busy schedules, and so it is completely expected that people might drop in and out of the conversation. It is across a duration of nine months, and many personal events will take place in that time, some good and some less so. As a community, it is reasonable to expect that we can celebrate and if needed to commiserate in the news of others. The focus is child survival, but it is also a very human experience, and we should acknowledge that too.
During the Design Forum, we will look elsewhere to learn and to model what has worked and what hasn’t worked. While the subject is ‘child survival’, examining what happens in other disciplines will also be important. Inspiration might be found in unexpected places.
Before describing the framework for the Design Forum, I want to note two unfinished or unanswered items of business to date:
- A petition has been made for submission to The Hon Julie Bishop MP, the Australian Foreign Minister, to act as the official Champion for the Design Forum. That petition stands and will be accompany the conduct of the Design Forum, and be reframed to request her to be the official Champion for the final Design Forum in Seoul towards the end of October. Regardless of events that may or not unfold in the coming weeks in Australia, she will remain the person who the petition is addressed. You can read (and share and sign!) the petition in its current draft here.
- A video request has been submitted to Bill and Melinda Gates asking them to recommend a reading list of five books that might help to frame the issue of child survival. Even with the release of their recent Annual Letter, this has merit as Bill and Melinda Gates are two individuals who through their advocacy on this issue have developed a good degree of knowledge that deserves to be more widely shared through a reading list. As far as I know at the moment, this remains an unanswered request. I do think that more could have been done to make sure the video reaches them personally, and shortly I will write directly to them with a letter asking for their consideration. You can see the video here.
The biggest failing in my performance to date is my inability to engage media. There are many reasons for that and some of them relating to computer access or the serviceability of equipment, but it is worth noting that this is something I haven’t done very well. Based on that observation, it is a fair expectation that it will remain an area which I am not well suited to managing as we move forward.
I hope you might see from reading this post that this is a big task. Even before we get to talking about the Design Forum as a series of individual events, we can identify discrete tasks that perhaps can be better shared and managed across our team. How we organise ourselves for that is a task in itself, and let’s start to leverage our collective strength by each taking up a small piece of the strain so the effort is less for all as we put our shoulders to the wheel.
Design Forum: what is it, and why does it matter?
I’m on an epic journey. It is a quest. But it is not about me. It is about us. Together.
This is about you, not me.
Only you can say that we are on this journey together. It is your decision, not mine. I’ll write more about what that journey is shortly, but first let me explain why the decision you make is important.
This is a quest.
This is a quest to make a difference. Quests come in all shapes and sizes. This one is to improve the delivery of child survival.
This is about child survival.
So let’s begin there. I have loosely defined child survival as enabling children to flourish past their fifth birthday. Not just live, because I don’t think that is enough, even though we seldom stop to think twice about the opportunities that life brings us. If you are reading this, you really are one of the fortunate on this one earth we all enjoy. You can read which means you have had the privilege of education, and you have access to a computer, which means you have access to electricity. If you have access to education, technology (a computer), and infrastructure (electricity), it probably suggests you enjoy a wide range of other benefits that a majority of the human race can only dream about. Yes really, everyone else is not just like you. You are special.
This is about building bridges.
My good mate Scott O’Brien has an idea he is working on to connect the top billion with the bottom billion on the planet. It is the ultimate bold endeavour in building bridges. There has been a lot of interplay in the ideas he and I share. And I really enjoy the challenge and inspiration that comes from hearing near ideas or having my old ideas questioned. That is how we find new horizons. It is how we make progress collectively, and it is how we grow individually.
This is about philanthropy.
My question to you is what will you do with the privileged status you have inherited. Yes, there may well be every reason to complain: job security, relationship issues, too little money, health is not where it should be, stressed to the max, and maybe even your latte arrived cold. Those are real issues. Even the latte. But compared with others, you are fortunate and special. Philanthropy is described as having a concern for human welfare, and mostly this definition is associated with giving away money. But here I want to challenge that definition. What about if we consider other resources we enjoy that we can draw upon to use to good effect to benefit human welfare? True philanthropy. Using your time, your talents, your networks, your imagination. Connecting with others so as to help address someone else’s problem in the interest of their welfare is a selfless act of generosity. It is also shown to be the best, fastest, and most reliable way to obtain a sustainable state of happiness. That is, happiness comes from working toward the betterment of others. And don’t worry, the way the world work, these things come back you you in spades. To paraphrase Churchill: “it is by giving that we get.”
This is about making a difference.
UNICEF calculate that every day more than 16,000 children under the age of five die. That figure is called child mortality. Most of those deaths occur within the first 24 hours of life. Many of these deaths are preventable. So why don’t we just prevent them? Can it be that hard? Bill and Melinda Gates have used their recent Annual Letter as a stunt to bet that this figure will fall below 8,000 in the next 15 years. That is good news and would represent the fastest rate of benefit to humanity in history. But this won’t just happen on its own. Yes, significant progress has been made across the last 10 years especially, but let’s not leave change to chance. Innovation comes about through intervention. We need to act to bring about this difference. Returning to the point about philanthropy, this is about more than just giving money. Some of us don’t have money to give. The most valuable contribution any of us can make is through the collective genius of our shared imaginations. Are you going to hold back on us?
This is about us.
This is getting to the part that I said I would come back to. This is where you need to make a decision. I am no longer on this journey alone. Together, a larger community has formed, and we are now ‘us’. The question is, are you coming with us on this journey. Many reading this post know they are. It is easy to get involved if you haven’t done so already. You just have to make a decision to join us, to make a difference together.
This is about a journey.
This is about the 10 City Bridge Run. An idea hatched by myself in 2010 to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to address an important question asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” It took a while to commence this journey, and it was far from easy. I began running in Port Moresby on 16 September last year and concluded the running late on a dark, wet and cold night in New York on 3 January this year. But the running was merely the device to get us to the beginning of this epic journey. This journey is actually marked by a series of Design Forums that will be held in all of the 10 cities where running took place as a way of addressing this question about improving the delivery of child survival. You can join at any time. You don’t need to come with us every step of the way. That is the advantage of the ‘us’. We share the labour. We call all reach the destination, and no matter the effort you could contribute, we can all say with much satisfaction “we did this together!”
This is about Design.
We are going to use a method called Design Thinking to address this question about improving child survival. Come as you are, you don’t need special qualifications. We will draw upon the wisdom of the crowd for knowledge. We need your imagination to help us in the process of designing a better future for many.
What does this look like? Read the posts which follows (and a link will be added shortly), to talk about what is involved. There is no cost. You don’t need to travel. You can do it within whatever constraints you currently have. But first you need to decide. You can watch and observe, but why not participate?
We need you to bring whatever magic that makes you special to the table. You are more than enough just as you are. Let’s see what alchemy we can create when we literally put our minds together.
Please join us on this epic quest as we prepare to embark on the Design Forum so at the end of the journey we can all look back with satisfaction at what we have achieved and say: “we did this together!”
Good News For A Change
Did you see what I did there? The heading is a pun! It can be read in two ways.
I would like to take credit for such cleverness, but that is actually the title of a book by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel. The full title is “Good News For A Change: how everyday people are helping the planet.”
It is a good book. I bought it from a bookstore which I found to be oasis in a desert of ideas when I was deployed on a temporary posting assignment to Darwin during my service as an Australian Army Officer. I was engaged in border protection duties, and we successfully repatriated a so-called ‘Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV14)’ from Australian waters back into international waters from where it then travelled back to its original port in Indonesia.
It was during a difficult time in my life for other reasons of a personal nature, and while many people might want to point the bone for my role in the government’s machinary of ‘stopping the boats’, I think that chapter of my life just goes to show the messiness of defining clean ethical boundaries inside of which we might like our lives to operate.
Just before I departed on the 10 City Bridge Run in late September last year, I posted a video on Facebook to some of my old army buddies which had been recorded by IS (the so-called Islamic State). The video showed the effect of a recoilless rifle exploding when the projectile detonated in the barrel. A recoilless rifle looks like a large tank barrel, basically because that is what it is. As an artillery officer, weapon effects and projectiles was a daily part of my life when I was in the Army. A premature detonation was an extremely rare event, and so on a professional level I shared the video. The video was pretty graphic, in that it didn’t leave much to the imagination of what might have come from the operator of the weapon.
What I didn’t count on was a friend trolling through the video and determining that from his perspective it was inappropriate content. And he made sure that was well known before defriending, and since then has never been heard from again.
So why go to the trouble of writing this story. Or talking about my role in the downfall of people who had their hopes set on settling in Australia (yes, an oblique reference there to Spike Milligan, staying with the military theme for a minute). How can that be good news? How that that bring about positive change?
Well, they aren’t and they don’t. They just are. The world can be a messy place. A lot of things happen that disgust us. This is not what we signed up for!
My point in this post is that we can decide to only see the good news. It is a pollyanaish approach to not seeing the bad. I think that is less than helpful actually, even though it fuels us with goodness and possibility.
To solve a problem, we really do need good news for a change. We need the good news both to make a change, and as a break from the relentless misery of bad news reported through the unforgiving 24 hour news cycle. But let’s also take a minute to appreciate the bad and how it created an obscene situation that at worst might be described as an abomination. We don’t need to forgive or embrace the bad. We just need to know where the rot started so that we can change for good.