A sea of humanity with just one message

A sea of humanity with just one message

Interesting times, interesting times.

Some time ago a guy called Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about what he called black swan events.  Putting it into my own language, it’s about an event that appears to come out of nowhere and bites you on the arse.  Okay, okay, he didn’t put it quite like that, he was far more elegant, but you get the picture.  Post event, those impacted by the black swan rationalise why it was bound to happen and invariably say  ‘we should have seen that coming.’  Black swans invariably lead to tipping points when things take a completely different direction to what existed before.

I’ve used the ‘black swan’ term myself in the past when working with those involved in an offshore incident. In the main, folk sensed something wasn’t quite right but due to operational imperatives, lack of time or resources didn’t do anything about it and carried on.  Then the black swan swooped down and landed, (apparently out of nowhere), and all hell was let loose – and their arse was bitten.  A tipping point was created.

Here are some figures for you: in the UK young black men are nine times more likely to be jailed than young white men;  three times more likely to be tasered;  six to nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.  Oh, and whilst black people account for just three percent of the UK population, they make up 12% of the prison population. 

In the US, African Americans have it even worse, the most recent killing being a case in point – George Floyd, killed on 25 May by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin.  That the current occupant of the White House has added fuel to the fire is no surprise.  This is the man described by former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow on BBC Any Questions recently, as ‘The most rancid, racist and repellant occupant of the White House in my lifetime.’  Couldn’t have put it better myself.

As for police killing black men in the US. Just put that into a web search, the numbers may not surprise you.

Now, Floyd’s killing by Chauvin was videoed. It went viral. The oxygen thief in the WH must have thought it would soon blow over.  Many others in his circle would have felt the same.  And this is where the black swan element comes in – it didn’t blow over.  The black swan landed.  A tipping point.  In landing, the black swan uncorked a rage, a fury that was intense in its feeling of justice denied. 

I’m reminded of a quote from former slave Frederik Douglass, (1817 – 1895): ‘Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’ published in 1845 is well worth reading.  It still resonates as do many of his quotes. Look up, ‘What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?’  The rest of the quote is searing, to put it mildly. And justified. And relevant – to those disenfranchised by society due to the colour of their skin; their belief system; sexual orientation; race; poverty; education, and so on and so on…

This particular black swan has been circling for decades.  There have been times when it appears to have landed due to the killing of a black man by the police, but it merely continued to circle.  So when Officer Chauvin killed George Floyd, perhaps those who are equally rancid, racist and repellant thought nothing would come of it.  How wrong they were.  It landed.  One can only hope that a tipping point has been created that will unleash the change that is so necessary.

The heading of this blog says it all, there is a sea of humanity with just one message – enough now, enough now. For those who believe this will blow over, I will merely quote a verse of Maya Angelou’s ’Still I rise’.

You may shoot me with your words,


You may cut me with your eyes,


You may kill me with your hatefulness,


But still, like air,

I’ll rise.’

J J Mitchell
No one left behind

On the generosity of other writers.

On the generosity of other writers.

In my last blog I wrote about the generosity of other writers.  There are so many who are willing to share their points of view, what they’ve learned and how others can learn from their mistakes.  I like that.  

Currently I’m setting the scene for a battle between the good guys and the bad guys.  The thing here is that you simply can’t just launch into something and say, battle ensued.  Where’s the context?  Where’s the development of expectation?  Where’s the satisfaction when battle does commence and your bad-ass good guys go against the bad-ass bad guys? Read more

‘We the People’ and ‘Three Beautiful Human Minutes’ – the power of the moving word, the power of the moving picture

‘We the People’ and ‘Three Beautiful Human Minutes’ – the power of the moving word, the power of the moving picture

Isn’t it fascinating how people can be moved by, and act on, a belief they have imbibed since birth.  As a writer, this intrigues me.  In the United States, the Constitution comes to mind.  The separation of powers: legislative, executive and judicial.  It begins, ‘We the People…’ and so it should.  It was written to prevent the taking over of the country by someone who felt they had a royal prerogative to rule in their own interests and those of their ‘friends’ to the detriment of everyone else. 

I also find the power of the moving picture to move people interesting.  I was prompted to write this due to an intensely effecting video I saw recently.  It’s three minutes long and called, you guessed it, ‘Three Beautiful Human Minutes’.  Directed by Asger Leth you can see it here.   A simple concept that takes a disparate group of people and… well, have a look at it to see what I mean.  You’ll get the picture, (pun intended).  Hopefully, you’ll also get the idea.   We’re united by a common humanity no matter our background, belief systems, or race.  Or whatever…

We need to keep that in mind at the moment, don’t we?  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

There are times when a picture does say it all…

There are times when a picture does say it all…

Y’know, as a writer I look around me at the worlds of business, politics and finance and think, ‘I couldn’t make this up.’  

This was reinforced for me when the love of my life and I were at the Edinburgh Book Festival recently and saw James Oswald and Gunnar Staalesen.  These are two authors who seriously know their stuff.  Not only are they incredibly successful, (multiple books published, films, TV, and in one case, a statue in the town in which the main character lives), but they are also delightful, funny and insightful human beings.  In sum, and to put it mildly, they do good stuff.  Obviously I am not envious, (he lied.)  

Anyway, to continue, one thing that particularly struck me was the answer to the question of where did they get their ideas from.  The reply was that it was less of a problem of not knowing what to write, but more what not to write about. 

‘There’s so much around you, all you have to do is look.’  

I understand and agree with this wholeheartedly.  

The reason for this train of thought is a recent picture I came across.  It’s by Norman Rockwell and called ‘The Golden Rule’.  The picture appeared on the cover of the The Saturday Evening Post, 1 April, 1961, and can be seen, along with the article, here:  http://bit.ly/18KaXyg 

I think that what attracted me to the picture is its simple belief, powerfully depicted, in our common humanity. The common humanity he identifies so well remains, although you’d maybe think otherwise if you were fed only on a diet of Fox News, an oxymoron if ever I saw one, or believe the ranting of the blowhards within the political and financial elites.  I look around and see how so many with a vested interest in the status quo try to prevent change. I see hatred being stirred up for political reasons, setting our humanity against each other for the benefit of those creating this dissonance, this wasteful emotion.  I see many decent people being exhorted, goaded, to turn against each other.  They do this not realising the ‘nudge’ they’re being given by the media, the moguls that control it, and the vested interests that support and thus gain by it.  It takes a simple picture, printed over 55 years ago to remind us that our humanity is a constant.  

We forget that at our peril. 

Have a look at the picture, it really does say it all…  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

Letting go of the tiger’s tail…

Letting go of the tiger’s tail…

My last blog was about how easy it is to create hate.  I still feel the same.  In fact, looking at the media in the intervening period we are now seeing a ratcheting up of emotions in the political arena.  In the US there have been fist fights, fortunately nothing more than that at the moment, (one can only hope this remains the case), but the anger and hatred between people is being increased. Being played upon.  Being used.  In sum, the body politic is becoming venomous.  Unhealthily so. 

Then let’s add the media to the mix. When one has a media that cites ‘in the public interest’ and lambasts those who cannot protect themselves, (the poor and the powerless), and then hides the misdeeds of those with power;  when one has a media that relies on advertising revenue to make money for the oligarchs that own them;  when one has an elite and a political process that only allow those with money, (or the ability to obtain it with promises of future benefit), to aim for power, then you have a powder keg in the making.  And it’s becoming dangerously hot.  

As an observer of human behaviour I have noted this simmering resentment for the last eight years or so.  It became a tad more obvious when the fiscal meltdown occurred in 2008.  It was exacerbated further when those whose greed and irresponsible behaviour caused the crash were able to escape any penalty.  Interestingly, now I’m hearing that we might be on the verge of another fiscal earthquake.  And those who initiated this before?  Well, they’re the ones who remain in power, have retained their uber rich benefits, and the media machine continues to pump out, ‘in the public interest’.  Really?  What interest do / should we have in the ‘meedja’ wannabes whose outrageous behaviour makes them click-bait.  Ah, the marketing arm that’s involved in maximising revenue.  

So, the reason for this blog.  Currently we have a world where those trying to escape being killed are vilified; those whose race, creed or colour differ from the blowhards spouting their hatred are termed an ‘enemy’ and, slowly but surely, one can see that the tiger is beginning to stride towards the centre of our world. 

Finally, when these blowhards achieve power, what are they going to do then?  Will they change their tone?  Will they be able to? Or will they see the tiger padding towards them? 

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’