You, yes you!

9 01 2012

Yes, you. I’m talking to you.

Each morning I walk my dog through the golf course and past the sign that reads, “Please keep dogs on the path and on the lead at all times.” Each morning I encounter all types of dogs running freely across the fairways and greens with their owners trailing far behind. I have my dog on the lead, as requested. She is a bit skittish and other dogs bounding up, uncontrolled make her worse. The stray dog owners eventually round up their disobedient pets and utter phrases like, “he just wants to play,” “he wullnae bite” and the like. My point is that no matter how well behaved you think your dog is the sign is there for everyone.  The most well-behaved dog I know is a cross sheepdog called Mitch. His perfect behaviour didn’t stop him diving into a bush and eating a couple of peacock chicks when he was off his lead up at the big hoose. He’s a dog!  So yes. Keep dogs on the path and on the lead means you.

Later in the day I park my car in Crieff and pull up alongside the ticket meter which has a sign above saying, “Please park within the marked bays”. Despite this notice prominently displayed, I have to inch my car between a monster 4×4 with blacked out windows and a Jaguar, both of which have been parked at an angle across their own bays, with their wheels about a foot into the space I am trying to enter. I manage this, just, and have to use all of my yoga skills to snake out of the drivers seat. Had I been carrying a passenger they would have had to exit through the skylight! This is all well and good and the image of me slithering out of the car is probably mildly amusing to some but the old gentleman who had parked his car to the other side of the Jaguar wasn’t so flexible. In fact he had an artificial leg and there was no way he could squeeze into his car and was forced to wait until the driver of the Jaguar returned and moved his vehicle before he could drive his own car away. So if the sign says to park within the marked bays it means you. You might be a yogini and be able to manoevre through the smallest gap in the drivers side door but others may not be so lucky. The sign is there for everyone. It is there for you.

Every day I meet women who without exception tell me how wonderful the3rdimagazine is and what a fabulous job I’m doing. This is all very pleasant and I’m flattered. I explain that the magazine is a co-operative, that everyone can join, that everyone can get involved and that everyone will share the profits. Once more, praise from the audience follows. I explain that independence is important; that I don’t want the magazine to be sponsored and controlled by a big corporate and that I don’t want to be in that endless loop of looking for grant funding. I suggest that if women really want an independent voice then if we all contribute a small amount, just £50, then the venture will continue to grow. Without exception the business model is applauded, hailed as a fantastic way of approaching business and the perfect way for all women to collaborate in creating a business of real value. Yet fewer than 20% of the women I meet actually pay their £50 to be part of the venture. Now I appreciate that some may have been being nice to my face while really thinking that I was talking nonsense, but I think that this is a very small number as all of the women I speak to remain in contact. They post great comments on the published articles, circulate them through their own networks and connect with us on LinkedIn etc. My feeling is that most of the women I meet are happy leave it to someone else to make things happen. So, if it is you I am meeting and I say, “If all women join we will continue to be a powerful voice speaking on behalf of women in business”, I mean you. Don’t leave it to others. I am talking to you.

For the past 5 years I have walked most days through a small piece of woodland that edges the golf course. At the start of the year there was a narrow path that wove between bushes, patches of woodland flowers and mature trees. Whatever the weather the path was always dry, due to the tree canopy, fallen leaves and vegetation absorbing the rainwater. At the start of the year someone started to ride their horse through the woodland. To begin with I was surprised that a horse and rider could fit along the path but very, very quickly it became broader as vegetation became trampled and flattened to both sides of the path and overhanging branches were broken down. Parts of the path became rutted and held the water when it rained. Now the what was a narrow woodland path is now a wide, muddy scar. Tree roots are exposed and the ground in the waterlogged. In the recent high winds several trees were damaged as the wet ground provides less purchase for the roots that firm, dry ground. Now I’m not suggesting that the rider deliberately set out to ruin the path but that is the outcome. My assertion is that they just didn’t think. When you are happily perched 4 foot up on a horse, clad in Lycra, leather and the latest Barbour jacket I suspect mud doesn’t affect you. And since the mud didn’t affect them personally, in their mind, nothing has happened. By the way, there was no need to use the woodland path as there is a wide gravel path that follows a parallel track at the edge of the woods, so use of the woodland path isn’t even a short cut. The damage hasn’t affected them personally but damage has been caused that has lessened the value of the woodland for the whole community. So if you are sitting there on your horse, or driving your 4×4, you might be OK but how do your actions affect others?

And in case you think I am being more than usually grumpy or even frivolous let me finish with the story of my nephew. He was born a perfectly strong, healthy boy and welcomed into a large and adoring family. He died at just 6 weeks old. He died from whooping cough. Now whooping cough had been virtually eradicated as everyone had their child vaccinated. By creating a protected population there was no hosts in which the bacteria could grow and the illness it caused ceased to be a problem. However in the mid 1990’s lots of parents decided that they wouldn’t get their children vaccinated. They thought, erroneously, that there might be a slight risk from the combined MRS vaccine and took against vaccination in general. After all these illnesses didn’t really exist in the population any more so why bother? There is a very good reason why. It is only because we all agreed to have our children vaccinated that the whole population was protected. As soon as there were unprotected people the bacteria was able to thrive and once there were enough unprotected hosts the illness could spread. The outbreak of whooping cough that resulted from this behaviour killed my nephew.

So I’m talking to you. All of you. Don’t leave it to someone else to do the right thing. Behave well. You. Yes. YOU!

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