I am used to people not understanding the metacrisis, even if it is collectively the singlemost important topic for the survival of our species. I also understand how some people cannot grasp or comprehend the hyperobject that is climate change, or its exponentialities. These things are hard for most people to ‘see’ or care about in the immediate sense. And we are all so busy and distracted and tired anyways. Someone else will ‘fix’ it. Or the market will. Or something.
But I cannot fathom how people cannot be moved by the direct evidence of the whole-scale killing of thousands of children (and women, men, the elderly) happening right now in Gaza.
I talked of this in my last museletter, and I have received a lot of support from likewise furious and exasperated friends.
I speak often of my quest to co-create a world more curious and kind. This is not just a cute statement for marketing.
Most of my work is also in leadership development. I help teams develop the capabilities needed to quest and lead amidst complexity and the unknown. This requires what we might call “negative capability”. Philosopher Tom Murray summarises negative capability aptly in his paper Knowing and Unknowing Reality:
“Poet John Keats coined the term negative capability for the skill or predisposition of tolerating, or even delighting in, uncertainty, ambiguity, unpredictability, and paradox. I.E. ‘when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts—without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’ (1817). As Keats knew, negative capability is useful well beyond the realm of poetry. Negative capability […] includes the ‘informed and active humility’ mentioned above, in which the sources of indeterminacy are better understood so that knowledge can be more adaptive and resilient. It is not enough to acknowledge that ‘the map is not the territory’ (an injunction not to confuse theories and ideals for reality), but we must understand as precisely as we can how/where/when/why our maps differ from the territory—impossible to do completely but essential nonetheless.”
Suffice to say: I am capable of being in uncertainty; I almost always allow room for doubt. Yet I have never been more clear on this: the whole-scale killing of children and civilians is an atrocity.
And that is what is happening to Palestinians right now.
In response to this not-so-gentle opinion, I have received responses and DMs from older men on LinkedIn that “it’s actually more complex” and that I don’t understand the history and that “Israel’s attack on Palestine is ‘just’” and that I am not a military expert and “war is not beautiful”.
In most instances I realised my appeal to basic compassion with these men was failing; I opted to bow out rather than feed the trolls. “But at least you get to leave this feeling like you are moral and everyone else who sees morality as context dependent as immoral,” one chap sniggered. “How comforting for you to live in a world without any moral ambiguity”.
Mate. I’m the Archwizard of Ambiguity (most fantastic). Most of my life is in ambiguity. But I am so abundantly clear on this.
The Former Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison once said:
“Every one is responsible: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work. If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it.”
The standard you walk past
is the standard you accept
Let’s take a brief moment to at least appreciate this very heartening movie from 9 years ago. “Flying Paper is the uplifting story of Palestinian children in Gaza on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown.” Please watch at least some of this first, so that you can witness the children that the Israel government is killing (with the US government’s backing).
I received this comment on my previous museletter. I don’t like that the slightly squeaky wheel gets the attention here—but I could not walk past this. And am not in the best of moods.