It is that really going to work? The ups and downs of cynicism

Over the weekend I was sent a business plan for a new initiative being set up in remote Australia to address significant and complex issues including health, school retention and employment for Aboriginal Australians. The business plan was well researched, incredibly detailed and I’m sure very compelling to most readers and investors. The catch was that I was immediately struck with this overwhelming cynicism around whether it would work.

This automatic reaction surprised me. Who have I become? I recall a number of years ago I was working on a project where a collaborator accused me of being blindly optimistic (as if optimism is a bad thing). He couldn’t believe that I had such an unwavering belief that what we were working on would work. Meanwhile, his default position was what I described as ‘willful pessimism’. It was willful as we were responding to the same inputs, but with very different reactions. For me the situation was not pessimistic, it was his willful response that was.

Pessimism and cynicism are different of course. Read more

I know what I know: change through art vs politics

On Friday I managed to catch an incredible documentary: “Under African Skies”. It followed Paul Simon as he journeyed back to South Africa to reunite with the musicians he collaborated with to produce the Graceland album. The film had such an impact on me, bringing me to tears on a number of occasions.

This album was very special to me. It came out when I was 10 years old and we had a cassette of it that was played almost until it could play no more. The songs have been a soundtrack for my life. My family have jammed the whole album over the years, me picking up piano accordion for renditions of “You Can Call Me Al”, and playing “Diamonds on the Souls of her Shoes” at my brother’s wedding.

It was through Graceland that I first connected to Africa. The rhythms of “Gumboots” and the deep a capella of “Homeless” somehow took me to a place that I had not experienced before. In listening to this music it seemed as if it was part of me. The idea of having a past life in southern Africa is about the only Read more