Taking a break part one

The blog is taking a break…..but, in the meantime….

Kipling as prophet

Reading a review by Jonathan Barnes in the TLS of a new edition of Rudyard Kipling’s On the Orient, a collection of his travel writings, the blog was struck by some of the Kipling quotes which are remarkably apposite today. He speaks of never-satisfied dilettante travellers and describes them in turns which capture not only his contemporaries but also the boring comments of those who post on TripAdvisor today. But what seemed most apposite is a comment on the Hong Kong markets. Asking a passer- by “how is it that everything smells of money?” he is told “it is because everything the island is going ahead mightily. Because everything pays….it is not a boom. It is genuine. Nearly every many you meet in these parts is a broker and he floats companies.” Not apposite, of course directly to Hong Kong which is, when compared with Chinese markets, relatively sedate but very much to current Chinese markets. It’s good to know booms and bust are always with us.

Maurras and the Abbott Government

Reading Stanley Meisler’s Shocking Paris the other day the blog was struck by a passage about Charles Maurras and the parallels it suggested with the Abbott Government Ministers’ approach to truth and apologies when they are caught red-handed.

Maurras was, as well as the founder of Action Francaise, a prominent anti-Dreyfusard. When it was revealed that the evidence Major Hubert-Joseph Henry produced ‘proving’ Dreyfus’s ‘guilt’ was forged Maurras leapt to Henry’s defence and called it a “patriotic forgery” and described Henry’s suicide as a martyrdom and his forgery as “among your best acts of war.”

Today, when the Abbott Government faces any accusation the immediate response is denial. When – inevitably in cases such as spying on a Senator, not giving a letter to the A-G from a murderer to an inquiry etc etc etc etc ad infinitum – the truth comes out no apology is ever forthcoming. Just more attack on accusers and denial of the truth just as Maurras did with Dreyfus and Henry.

Why do they do it?  Maurras was deep in the French anti-Semitic movement and effectively led it in literary terms during the 1930s. The Abbott Government is clearly neither fascist nor anti-Semitic but it does favour the authoritarian approach to shutting down debate and vilifying critics supported by sections of the media who also do a good line in both.

Conservatives – from Howard to Blair and George W. – constantly appeal to the lessons of Munich. But there are other lessons from the 1930s which may be more apposite to 21st century authoritarian actions which fall a bit short of the Munich analogy. Indeed, if today you take some of the things anti-Semites were saying in the 1930s and substituted the word Muslim for Jews the sentences would be almost identical to much modern anti-Muslim propaganda in Europe and Australia. If one looks, for instance, at Oswald Mosley’s denials of anti-Semitism and calls for ‘good Jews’ to prove that they “set the interests of Britain before racial passion” it doesn’t take much word substitution to find an almost identical quote about Australian Muslims by some Australian politicians and media commentators.

….and Meisler gives us reasons not to be complacent about this, and things like Reclaim Australia riots, when he reminds us that in 1936 one Yiddish newspaper in France said “that survivors of the Russian pogroms looked on the young Jewish-hating toughs as ‘untalented shlemazels’.


Professor Anne Gregory of Huddersfield University and Global Alliance Chair, was in Australia recently and gave a presentation – Communicating with Conscience – in Sydney.

Anne highlighted the fact that worldwide NGOs, business and media were all suffering an ‘evaporation of trust.’ NGOs were still more trusted than the other three but between 2014 and 2015 trust levels decline from 66% to 53%; business went from 59% to 57%; media from 53%; while government actually crawled up from 45% to 48% trust levels. In case Australians get enthusiastic: Australian government went against the trend with trust levels declining above the average; and, the decline in business, median and NGO trust was also greater than the international average. This data was derived from the Edelman trust barometer.

Anne identified the top trends in the community around the world as (in order) growing inequality, persistent jobless growth, lack of leadership, rising geostrategic competition, the weakening of representative democracy, rising pollution in the developing world, increasing occurrence of severe weather events, intensifying nationalism, increasing water stress and the growing importance of health in the economy. Thanks heavens Australia is showing leadership in all these areas!

She made the distinction between overt accountability for organisations – obeying the rules; and covert accountability which goes beyond legal compliance to values, behaviour and relations with stakeholder. In terms of the latter she cited the Melbourne Mandate communications approach (from a conference in Melbourne in 2012) which emphasised values, leadership (the subject of the blog’s new book being written with his comrade from South Vietnam, Nick Jans) and culture. As Anne said how you behave is the key to legitimacy. And as the blog has said: the most important thing for organisations to do is to build trust by demonstrating authenticity and practising transparency. For the Melbourne Mandate see http://melbournemandate.globalalliancepr.org/