Blog / Thoughts from the Studio

The Rational Case for Panic


Free the People- let them have their say, Free the people, let them see the light of day.
Luke Kelly with the Dubliners (1971)


A guide to our futurePaul Mason’s 2015 book ‘PostCapitalism: A Guide to our future attracted my curiosity, his central message resonates strongly with me; the 1971 song about internment in Northern Ireland combines tragic lyrics with upbeat cheerful music. The Channel 4 journalist and award winning economist traces and examines the historical, political, social and events which shaped present Capitalist Crisis; he can foresee the digital revolution as offering a way out of the impasse which has changed the world. The chorus of ‘Free the People’ song’s chorus carries the confident emotion that “we are the people and we shall overcome”. Analysis of the current global crisis in ‘Postcapitalism has a similar aspiration. For the general and painstaking reader his book fills in the details of the vast social and economic changes and ideologies that my generation and my children’s generation have quite unpredictably lived through.

The Rational Case for Panic’, is the title of Chapter 9; the case presented is scary. I flirted seriously with my default trauma position, “stop the world I want to get off”, I definitely imbibed the feeling –where attention goes energy follows, in this case depressed energy was the result. My preferred mode is the exact opposite, so for me this was serious stuff; “it’s all about getting organised – for heaven’s sake let’s get on with it” thus did a former colleague gifted with mimicry mock my leadership style, I add that we were in an affectionate and friendly setting group session and I laughed as merrily as others. Love, time and experience change everything and as 2015 progressed I reluctantly came to understand, and regret that my age-related limitations could put a dampener on my exuberant activist mode.

Notwithstanding congratulations about my recent success in self-publication and the evidence of small monthly cheques from the ebook sales of my memoir Benediction and Cosmic Dancing,  unease and growing consciousness of the dire state of the world had become background noise. I had previously fondly envisioned a transformative future. Garnering sufficient determination, I hoped to have a small part in following and strengthening positive interpretation of the paradigm shift when my first attempt at getting an article in the academic press was published! ‘Fear, panic and prosperity consciousness: developing resilience as the paradigm shifts was accepted in 2009.

My ‘visionary entrepreneurship’ intention was, as ever, concerned with changing the world but my strategic plan had never in its wildest dreams envisioned the need to address the demise of capitalism! I had again to re-adjust my thinking. Most areas of social activism are regarded as ‘single issue’ movements whereas on closer examination they are expressions of the increasingly apparent dysfunctional behaviour involving endemic social patterns. I grasped the potential of my system ‘Journey to PORT’ as a tool to enable people and organisations to adjust behaviour and usher in change. And now I realised that many of Paul Mason’s thoughts resonate with my own. That human rights and occupy movements exist and intentionally cause disruption is part of the on-going shift.

The women’s movement against violence and sexual abuse re-emerged on a liberal social agenda in the 1970’s, we were viewed negatively as an activist movement in a conservative society for opening refuges for women and children escaping violence within their homes. We sought solutions and testified to the need for a Cultural Revolution and transformation. What has been termed, “a broken society” has now become more broken. The failure of Governments to effectively address scientific warnings about carbon emissions and climate change, linked to ignoring the transformation of Commercial Banking into high stake gambling amounts to gross negligence or worse. Government imposition of ‘austerity’ on everyone except the culprits and the failure to recognise the catastrophe of incompetently policed financial regulation, caused worsening of inequality of opportunity and has exacerbated third world poverty.

The catastrophic results of the lucrative western Arms Trade testifies to massive security failure because associated polices have imperilled hundreds of thousands of innocent families caught up in age old sectarian conflict in the most obscene way imaginable. European and North African countries witness the largest migration of refugees seen since the 2nd world war and people trafficking for profit rightly appalls us -families packed onto dinghies and small boats daily face death by drowning in the Mediterranean. While the public debate is about State borders, when victims gets attention and compassion is largely through self-organising voluntary effort.

Rectifying all of this at every level involves a complex interplay of the energy and commitment of women and men, who bring their own life experience to the change. Can we produce effective leadership in the face of previously unimagined social challenge?

Socio-political movements, action research, new services and advancing technologies show different facets of collective energy; an expression of desire to change the status quo and to vastly improve the human experience for all of us. Commonality through the internet has made information available globally on a scale that was formerly unimaginable. This can, in the right circumstances, empower rebuilding the fabric of society; when imagination creates networks of people who tackle problems and in so doing model behaviour change these organizations can surely become seedbeds and growth points of action for real and lasting change.


Cultural values and Workplace learning

Evolution requires a variety of options and supportive spaces in which to work for transformation of cultural values. Volunteers and practitioners, working with refugees and migrants who are coping with the effects of trauma, torture and abuse and homelessness together need compassionate support themselves to find, emotional and psychological adjustment to their changed circumstances. Social ethics that embrace the provision of a decent humanitarian response are vital; anything less will cause further harm. Compassion fatigue, secondary trauma and exhaustion are common risks faced by all who feel called to help. In 1995 I was fortunate enough to have faced and overcome these in very good company. The women’s movement against violence and sexual abuse re-emerged on the social agenda in the 1970’s; it is among those movements that testify to a society in long term need of transformation.

Violence and abuse of women and children has very deep roots and its manifestations are not confined by geography, ethnicity, history or social class, nor are the victims of civil wars and revolutionary movements or ‘scatter gun’ attempts to control them. The challenges are not new. Change is inevitable and the seeds of renewal are always present. Recognising them in the darkness needs a special kind of illumination. From every perspective the women’s movement for change has changed lives; mine has been enriched and renewed by a lively faith in the people I have worked with, and the solutions we sought and found along the way.

People in many situations and from many backgrounds engage in similarly demanding work and share these values; in inner city youth and housing projects, in rural outreach and among teachers working at turning around ‘failing schools’. They are people whose survival means use of their creative talents, social entrepreneurs and performance artists with tough love and compassion are people who make a difference. While providing workshops drawn from praxis I have engaged intellect, insight and curiosity and fun; this has enabled me to write and help myself and others towards an understanding of energy and the art of resilience. Theories from clinical scholarship, business management and eastern and western systems of understanding physical and spiritual energy are woven together in Personal and Organisational Resilience and Transformation (PORT).

It is my belief that the process of committing ourselves to be the change our organizations and institutions will adopt a holistic approach that will promote renewal and prevent a downward spiral of energy loss. There has never been a time when the task of creating the conditions that can support restructuring society looked more urgent. New thinking is outside of the proverbial box and theoretically actions based on obsolete philosophies are ready to give way to the paradigm shift that takes account of the whole person, the whole organization and the global community. There is much evidence of this intention and belief in social media as well as occupy movements. There is, as always, room for ambiguity. My contribution to the discourse comes with hope that it may offer practical guidance for our collective journey.


“So hope for a great sea-change,

on the far side of revenge.

Believe that a further shore

Is reachable from here

Believe in miracles

And cures and healing wells”.

Seamus Heaney: ‘The Cure at Troy’


Journey to PORT (Personal, Organisational Resilience and Transformation)

My learning agenda looks towards wider and higher consciousness as cultural values which are connected to the whole range of issues facing human populations and ecology. The understanding of human energy differs in Eastern and Western culture and the Vedic 3000 years old tradition is my starting point. I began while establishing mentoring and consultancy as ‘Alpha Studio’. The structured program that has been developed since 2003 benefited from two Millennium Awards. This new model of conceptualising the organisation as an evolving, living system supports and encourages creative solutions to problem solving in any setting. The available human energy depends on everyone involved; leadership, employees and service users. Wellbeing and resilience are twin concepts; resilience is enhanced by adopting it as both a personal and organisational goal.

The uniqueness of this approach to learning introduces a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought. The human energy field and physical body becomes a template to which participants can easily identify and relate to. Practical applications of the model involve exploring the Chakra system which is widely used in complementary health circles; it draws on Hindu yogic philosophy. The value and effect of aligning this with Maslow’s hierarchy of human need and the 7 s Framework which are both western concepts, all are explored alongside Deepak Chopra’s, 7 spiritual Laws of success. An eighth level, at which people express their own self-actualisation by helping others towards self-actualisation is introduced during in my input in ‘PORT training the trainers’.

Unforeseen events or very challenging situations often lead to deep questioning of belief and expectation. When the world we know is no longer ‘making sense’ and it is now apparent to me that many people do struggle to maintain equilibrium or to re-create meaning while they are “carrying on regardless”. When changed conditions demand urgent action a sense of powerlessness is part of the complexity.   Such a change occurred as a response to the ‘housing bubble’, collapse and bailout of financial institutions that became apparent in 2009. Systems, consequences and assessments came under examination; while opinion and thought leaders are continuing to offer analysis and guidance government policy and democratic outcomes fall far short. Change of this magnitude typifies ‘paradigm shift’. I find it helpful to see this need as cultural evolution.

That the only certainty in life is change is undeniable and some people react with alarm or aggression others resonate positively to the unexpected -seeing opportunity, offering suggestions and hope, when others feels threatened in a way that engenders fear, anxiety and sometimes despair having a personal strategy is invaluable. During the millennial changeover many such events appeared on the media and public agenda; global warming, climate change, tsunamis and serious earthquakes come to mind now. The mass movement of refugees now fleeing from cataclysmic danger witness to many thousands of families exploited for profit in the wake of violent radical fundamentalist movements. None of this was foreseen. The fracture of relationship and expectations in the European Union is also a reflection of economic interests and financial consequences of the 2008-09 crisis as are diversity in value systems within states and among them in relation to austerity, migration and humanitarian support.


Managing Complexity

Many organisations across a wide spectrum are now involved in complex change that concerns what we do and how we behave, as well as what we believe. When personal, common and organisational outcomes are uncertain, optimism is a psychologically fortunate and reassuring choice. When using PORT we consider how positive action can be maintained using work place examples chosen by participants. By working with our human capacity for growing networks, thinking well and trusting the process of recognising and engaging with the shift I believe that we will be able to influence organisational direction towards the best dialogues and effective activism and avoid the worst case scenarios. Personal growth and developing consciousness brings increasing resilience in my experience. This work and my writing is one outcome from my experience within the feminist movement against violence against women and children for the last 40 years.

We know that evolution of human biology evolves more slowly than culture. Biology is thought to have changed little since Homo sapiens. (the Latin root, means the wise human person) became distinct from other genetically similar species about 200,000 years ago and began to exhibit full behavioural modernity around 50,000 years ago Human perceptions that include traditionally held views, consensual democratic social organisation and legal frameworks aligned with people’s aspirations have progressively been expected to unite us but it is also normal experience that many systems reflect and provoke deeply held divisions within and between cultures.

Understanding human energy in the context of human needs helps us to reach personal and organisational goals using PORT’s perspective organisational and human energy combine to achieve personal goals and organisational purpose; we naturally pool combined objectives goals and rewards. How we do things reflects a cultural bias. The cultural bias of unregulated capitalism and private greed in its current manifestation is only about twenty years old; of course its roots reach back to resistance to justice for labourers and trade unionism and attitudes to poor and vulnerable people. How global trade developed into the savagery of empire building has much to tell us. The more we remember, the more the transformation can progress, this involves conscious awareness of the importance of kindness to self and other.

Greater desire and intention for the protection of our planet and her environment that has, perhaps unwittingly, severely jeopardised our future through financialization, a new verb which describes the currently bloated financial sector, it distorts the economy and undermines proper management of enterprises through its undue influence. It is not necessarily illegal or corrupt but it augurs that criminality in financialization could easily become institutionalised.

Energy is the capacity of a physical system to perform tasks and work.

Writers Paul Mason, Naomi Klein, Will Hutton and others who are writing and speaking out are creating an energy wave which draws us into their economic realities. Their concerns indicate a plethora of Global issues, getting the situation into perspective means facing challenges. Ending denial by encouraging each person and organisation to open up to new possibilities could, if actioned by the majority of key players, significantly reduce the size and peril on the seas that surround the global community. Heading for PORT seems to be a good metaphor. © Angela Courtney (February 2016).


Reference Books

PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future by Paul Mason (2015)

Mason describes how we got here and discusses the existential threat posed by financialisation and deregulation.

ISBN: 9781846147388 Publisher: Allen Lane

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (August 2015)

Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing.

ISBN: 9781451697391 PublisherSimon and Schuster

How Good We Can Be: Ending the Mercenary Society and Building a Great Country by Will Hutton (1915)

For a generation we have been told the route to universal well-being is to abandon the expense of justice and equity and so allow the judgments of the market to go unobstructed

ISBN-10: 1408705311 Publisher: Little Brown Book Co

The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy (2013)

Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece, presents the root causes of both the Eurozone crisis and the global economic crisis traced back to the Great Crash of 1929, and onwards through to the 1970s to “The Minotaur’s global legacy: the dimming sun, the wounded tigers, a flighty Europa and an anxious dragon and In Ch.9 ‘A future without the Minotaur?’

Publisher: Zed Books