Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #25

Clay Shirky wrote, in 2008, a book called Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. I fell in love with it straight away and was so inspired about what social media might offer to organising and community development.

The promise of organising without organisations is here and now more than a decade later from his prophetic work, organisations that neglect the power of the people, may find themselves failing the pub test.  His work on digital engagement and collaboration set the scene for sharing on line which is so insidious now we do not even realise it is an act of collaboration and movement building. He identified the principle of synchronisation and continual reiterations until a whole project reached the next level through combined efforts (think Wikipedia). He also pointed to something he thought might happen in the future – collective action. This is of course we now know a familiar experience from a President tweeting to incite rebellion, to a hashtag like #metoo or #blacklivesmatter #fridaysforfuture radically bringing change. You do not need an organisation to organise – a hash tag might just do it.

This brings me to the idea of integrity. Those hash tags work because there is some kind of integrity about them. We can trust the meaning, they hold space, they drive action, give comfort.

The completeness of how everything holds together well and there is no fraying about the edges or internal collapse, is how you know something has integrity. When the wheels fall off, there is visible discomfort or edges losing their distinction as a boundary, they are all useful indicators of a lack of integrity, or perhaps just a piece missing that is needed to hold what ever it is, altogether.

I have been fascinated to watch how a collective decision this week, while following due process, getting highly paid and high-level professional advice and made no doubt with good intentions, completely failed to read the room. I have been wondering how, and more importantly, why, this happened.

Recently our nation has been subject to what I consider collective gas-lighting. Core values around gender justice, climate justice, racial justice have been shaken and we are in a period now of re-adjustment. There is a correction going on. As this correction takes shape, we are more able to hear, see and feel what perhaps we could not so easily hear, see or feel previously.

It makes complete sense to have the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Island Flag in view with the national flag at the podium when an elected official speaks … yet it has only been a couple of weeks … and if they were taken away, we would all be able to easily recognise our flag integrity had been compromised.  And so, it is with this recent challenge in my community.

An elected body have appointed a person to be the CEO of the largest council in my State. A highly paid team of consultants set about the recruitment process with a detailed and thoughtful brief. They no doubt would have done their due diligence checking referees, past performance, observed behaviour, scanned social media, done a personality test.

I do not actually know what they did in the screening and preparation process to get candidates ready to present to the elected members for choice, but this is a reasonable guess as I have been involved in such processes from both a candidate and employer perspective and been subject to all those processes myself. 

I do know part of the goal in these kinds of decisions is to pass what we like to call in Australia, the pub test. So what are failures to pass pub tests? Maybe using a car for inappropriate and non-work-related purposes, or, spending money on gifts for family and friends instead of employees, or, staying in accommodation that is expensive on the public purse … these are the actions typically fail the pub test. Choosing a leader who called an Australian of the Year, who endured years of sexual abuse, a spoilt brat, to lead a community where childhood sexual abuse is being tackled with courage and determination, on many fronts … fails the pub test. Digital footprints reveal attitudes and behaviours and this person’s case you can see some that are out of step with community standards and expectations, so I am perplexed at the decision.

I wonder about the integrity of the process when a decision like this made. I start to look for invisible threads and reasons behind the decision. Perhaps they are out of touch, perhaps the recruitment agency did not do all the due diligence required, perhaps there are invisible reasons that will not ever be known? 

So now community members are asking questions of their elected officials and some are rallying. No doubt there will be staff who will be packing their bags not wanting to hang around, there will be allies and friends who will feel shocked by the decision and choose to no longer collaborate with the City, and there will be those who hold Grace Tame up as a role model, who will be triggered once again and feel alienated and hurt once again – because this is how systems work. Systems like patriarchy and colonisation are designed to work for those who receive the benefits of those systems.

What is invisible about these systems, becomes visible when they lose their integrity.

March 15, 2021

Authorised by M Were PO Box 7 Sellicks Beach 5174

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