Resilience has taken over leadership as the most misused, misunderstood and preachy term in the corporate sector.
What do the resilience messiahs mean when they throw the word around like a piece of wet soap?
Hoping that the soap sticks as it slides off the offending wall, leaving a smear for all to see.
Are we that offending wall, standing in the way of their triumphant social impact plan as they ride off into the sunset on their chariot of entitlement, their adoring followers throwing wilting rose petals in their wake?
And to be told to recover quickly from difficulty and be tough reminds us of a childhood some of us would like to leave in the past.
When you reach adulthood resilience becomes a given just like eating and sleeping.
We all stare down difficulty and as individuals WE choose whether to recover or submit.
Freedom of choice is the great privilege of humanity not resilience.
And the highest state of human grace is giving people the right to make their own choices even when you think they are wrong.
Society does not need more MBA posse’s telling us how we are missing out on life.
Because success in the Western capitalist system is another broken concept.
Blah, blah, blah……
And for me, last weekend was the final trigger in my brewing resilience resentment.
I had the misfortune to watch a CEO of a national foundation telling governments and communities that they had to be more resilient to mitigate disaster.
It was a lecture from someone standing on a soap box of superiority.
He preached about big thinking and forward planning.
‘That’s how we build resilient communities.’
Good ‘ole blue sky mining.
He went on and I quote with loose alacrity:
‘These communities achieve independence by collaboration and research to identify unique problems, that highlight particular solutions which alleviate vulnerability.’
It sounded wonderful as the phrase rolled off his scripted tongue.
But let me rephrase his diatribe:
White male, over educated, emotionally immature, self-indulgent dribble.
Plan for this.
Please forgive me while I swallow the bile collecting in the back of my throat.
He sounded so wise this tertiary educated CEO.
Yet his wisdom was a camouflage for elitism.
He was as inspiring as a wet bar of soap because the rarified Zoom air he lives in shields him from the reality that the communities he was lecturing to live the way they do, to avoid the social vision he is trying to sell.
There are those of us who prefer to watch the leaves rot and decay on our lawns and near our waterways. We take comfort in gravitating to the edges, and we accept the risks it entails.
Then there are those obsessed with order who blast everything away with high pressured hoses, clutching at their Gurneys like pious monks.
They seek validity in their spreadsheets and peer reviewed papers, which should be lauded, but I have observed that these peer reviewed crusaders are unfortunately the most critical.
Academic rigor does not equate to rule of law.
Or a degree to being better.
Better than who and what?
Chaos and creativity have just as much weight in a functional society.
And what has pleased me most is my concern over the resilience warriors is not isolated.
I have spoken to a significant number of professional women who share my resilience fatigue.
These women are my reality barometer.
One is my sister Margie. A daughter, wife and mother.
And a professional with a folder full of degrees.
She calls herself a ‘garden variety’ human being.
One among many.
I not only love her, I like her. A lot!
A survivor who did not seek out the influence of unwell men and faulty DNA.
We both see resilience as getting into bed at night and waking up the next day with a measure of gratitude.
And some days are better than others.
Despite the trials.
And the trials are not badges of honour but a part of life.
And we do not need to be braver or pull up our socks.
Or to be shown on a whiteboard how a resilience curve slopes critically lower if we preplan and stay focused and prepared.
As the Elephant Man so poignantly said:
‘I am not an animal.’
Anyway, my sister Margie appeared on the ABC’s Q and A last week.
I might be biased but among the feminists and female activists she displayed poise and insight.
Her questioning attempted to tease out the need for women to appear strong and resilient to be successful. And this faulty premise of female success is neither helpful or a reality for most women.
Our system needs to change for women (from the top down) not be reinforced with resilience.
Redemption through resilience is a pithy Netflix subplot, and sadly, the populist, social media version of feminism has adopted the myth.
As I researched the propaganda of success, I knew as a white male I was entering unchartered water, so I went to the source of feminist truth and in my search stumbled across the best piece of literature I have read in a few years.
Feminism and the Politics of Resilience by Angela McRobbie (2020).
Superbly referenced and a brutal truth for male and female readers.
Let me quote a piece from McRobbie’s chapter, The Profit from Feminism:
‘In so many cases the celebrity has achieved success while also dealing with much pain. It is as if the adversity becomes the mechanism for further effort and determination to succeed. This, as Robin James shows, then becomes an individually scripted but now shared pathway to resilience and recovery. Does this, to put it crudely, prepare women to expect the adversity of gender inequality and get used to the toll it takes, on the basis that with particular kinds of strivings undertaken, as demonstrated by celebrities like Lady Gaga or Lena Dunham, hardship or suffering can eventually be ‘overcome’?’
Adversity becomes the mechanism for further effort and eventually suffering can be overcome.
Just like the wealthy academics in the social impact space this philosophy is the righteous pathway to resilience and recovery.
The only pathway.
I also see the same attitude in the addiction recovery space where ‘us’ sober addicts can wear our recovery like a badge of honour, and we preach our past failures as the only way to redemption.
Pain is the sole panacea to success.
And I talked that crap for years until one day I looked in the mirror and realised I was behaving like a using addict in complete denial.
Dogma is ugly, no matter how wise and noble you might sound.
And resilience preaching is dogma.
Pure and simple.
And one last point to note.
Some individuals and communities choose to live the way they do no matter how problematic it may seem.
During my time at Wayside Chapel, I was to learn that a percentage of homeless people prefer to live on the streets. They feel safer, better supported and accepted in this exposed, dangerous community than under a charity provided roof.
And the unpalatable truth for the righteous is that some addicts would rather spend their social security allowance on alcohol and drugs than rent.
Crazy as that may sound, it is the truth.
And the truth will set us free.