In a couple of days, Scotland will decide whether it remains as part of the UK or whether it becomes an Independent Country. One small sentence cannot capture the enormity of what is being discussed and decided. The implications – of Yes, or of No – will ripple for years, generations perhaps, to come.
It feels hard to write without falling into clichés and vapidities. So much has been written and said already – what more can be added? Should I even try?
I find myself censoring and cautious – I am fearful of backlash or condemnation if I am not careful with my words. In the past weeks I have re-realised the power of words – the wit and wisdom they can be used with – the weaponry and warfare they can evoke….
The binary discourse of Yes or No is so at odds with the complexity of running a Country or holding to a democracy that I can hardly credit these are our choices..…the behaviours this Yes/No polarity generates both fascinates and repels at times…. to walk a more neutral line runs the risk of ire from either, from both, from neither.
Such is life. Such is being within a system in transition… I see the parallels clearly between my country and my work.
And I still want to say things. Despite trepidation. Despite knowing that I may be misheard… because I also may be perfectly heard and in either scenario there is the possibility to give pause – for new ideas or thoughts… for action over inaction, for inaction over action.
I want to say things because of my fear. Because at the heart of fuchsiablue work is inviting people, individually or collectively, to articulate and express what they experience or want or need – even if that is at odds with what is accepted or “true”. This is change as conversation, as realisation – and to articulate or express what you think, what you believe, what you need or what you experience is risky as all hell, often.
So I can’t invite others to speak up and not speak myself. And I can’t ask for folk to pipe down if I’m in the business of expression for the sake of Change…. of course I face the same decisions as anyone who chooses to say anything: How? How forcefully, How truthfully, How provocatively do I wish to express myself? Do I back myself up with facts? Is my experience “enough”?
And so it is this, for me: At the core of the matter in hand is the very territory I and others choose to occupy as Change Agents, as People Practitioners – this is not geographical or physical territory (although that’s part of it) it is the territory of ideals and ideas. The territory where a story is powerful. The territory where fear can be doused through possibility and hope; where certainty is undermined in just the same way. Where folk who like facts are baffled by the flagrant ignoring of that which is nailed down, quantified and simple. Where those who dream are inconvenienced by facts.
An entire Nation is discussing the terms of change.
To be in that, and at the sides of it, living with it and around it is, at times delightful and powerful and at other times overwhelming. And some of what I have noticed is this:
You experience strange things during times of transition:
Some sort of déjà vu: Local negotiations are reportedly going badly. Senior People are hurriedly deployed via plane to said Geography . Jackets off and gathering people together, these superheroes reiterate the message from the Centre. As in all organisations, the message from the Centre is interpreted in a number of ways. In the Scottish Referendum scenario there seemed to be a swooped-in leadership disinclined to hang around for too long to really grapple with the complexity of an emerging situation.. or their impact on that same situation… Was that out-of-touchness? Good advice? Bad Advice? Was it arrogance or naivety at play? As there seemed to be a dawning, an awakening of those in charge, of the complicated picture, the responses became curious to me as I watched:the appearance of certainty, the spreading of stories, the flattery….How may times have we seen this in our organisations, I wonder?
Then there are the questions: How will you vote? Have you decided? My non-Scottish counterparts asking: Why leave? What will you gain? Can you? Should You?
I have heard: Stay.
I have heard: You fools.
I have heard: You ungrateful wretches, leave now.
I have heard: I don’t blame you.
I have heard things about my identity I would wash from my ears. I have heard other things that make me ferociously proud that I hail from whence I do. I have heard arrogance, ignorance and bigotry that takes my breath away. I have heard calm careful voices speak with bravery and clarity. I have belly laughed at audacity and guid auld fashioned daftness. I have hung my head in shame at some of what I have read on social media.
I have heard “Head & Heart” metaphors used relentlessly – more binary language. Emotional knowing often seen as secondary to logical discourse – How well I recognise that old chestnut.
Ah.. but I was going to speak. This is not about the observer as recorder – I cannot be “out” of this particular scenario.
My choice is to express myself truthfully, without intending to provoke. My choice is not full disclosure, but I’m happy to talk on the subject with anyone who is up for listening. What I will say is this: I will vote in the Referendum on Thursday 18th September. I will vote because I live in a democracy, however imperfect that might be, and it matters. I will vote because I can and others can’t and I hope I never take that privilege for granted. I’m not going to bitch about my vote, how it counts or doesn’t – I have a vote that women (and men) campaigned and died for… I don’t take that lightly.
What I decide is my choice. I choose not to enter the fray on either side and add credence to either. The fence does, on occasion, cause splinters in unfortunate places, but from here I can hear both sides and, as the future of my Country is at stake, I really want to understand both sides – because this is as big as it gets.
It would go against who I am and how I am trained to be vehemently one way or another – for those who interpret this as indecisive or are exasperated with my lack of verve, be assured – I can get as exasperated with your tub thumping too…AND I suspect you will listen to me less than I to you… So please, respect me as I will you and let’s go about our business. You will not “change my mind”. My mind is mine and only I can change it. Your actions and how you conduct yourself – how you behave – are what will warm me to your point of view.
I think people should think. Really question what they are being presented with. All facts seem to be fair game here – with new “facts” coming out every day. Reading this last week from Paul Cairney helped me clarify how to pick through some of the stuff out there:
And let’s not talk about trust…
But just so we are clear on this (for those of you who are Engagement Junkies) an estimated 97% of the eligible voting population in Scotland have registered. I know there are issues about “eligible” – but the point is that we are dealing now with levels of interest, discussion and participation that most HR teams would fall over if they faced. So I would also say let’s learn from some of the lessons here – what it takes to involve people – how long it actually takes for people to pay attention and the extent to which leadership can influence what is happening at grassroots…. or vice versa.
At the heart of the matter, I’m watching the process (as much as participating in it) like the change geek that I am. These are my words, my thoughts and I share them readily for consideration or condemnation. I hope that, whatever our choices, Scotland prospers. I hope we make a good account of ourselves, as people and as a country, whatever the future.
To me, that would go a long way to success, post-referendum.