A currency of visions not a currency of force.Thank *** we live in the 21st century!

Masculine cultures are not about ‘guys’ – they are about force

Yesterday, I heard two female politicians bickering on BBC Radio 4 – talking over each other as the male moderator said amiably. A tedious, wearisome listen.

This ‘spectacle’ (what is the auditory equivalent?) neatly illustrates the point that masculine cultures are not to do with ‘guys’.  Masculine cultures are to do with the currency of force.

Britain’s masculine culture

Britain has long had a masculine culture.  Though smooth and very often, very witty, British culture is not so much controlled as controlling. When it is relaxed and funny, as it often is on BBC Radio 4, it is also complacent.   The funny people live in the certain knowledge that their status in the world is not being challenged, let alone threatened.

Watch how they react if they have to account for themselves! That is the test of a culture.  How do we respond to the huge variety of visions in the world – and our need to fit our visions into the visions of others?  What do we do when people long-ignored want room to pursue their visions?

Sadly, we often move to defend “our right” to live as a law unto ourselves.  We often demand that the newly-enfranchised make room for us, even though we have never made room for them, and certainly don’t intend to start now.

Britain’s masculine culture in the literature and film

The masculine culture of Britain is an old story and is often told in literature and film.   For utter complacency, read P.G. Woodehouse and the relationship between Bertie and his butler Jeeves.  For the ongoing struggle, read Rumpole stories and his manouvering around institutionalized class in the legal system.

And for an alternative to a ‘masculine culture’, find yourself a copy of Goodbye Mr Chips -the old musical or the modern version with Martin Clues – both are great.  Settle down for a charming 1.5 hours and the better possibilities a feminine culture.

I am so glad to be living in the 21st century!

What a relief!   Not least for guys who must be heartily sick of the pushing-and-shoving they have been required to endure.

In the 21st century, our currency will be less of force and more of visions.

Masculine cultures into social media don’t go

A regular trickle of visitors are looking for information on masculine cultures.  It took me a long time to understand this strange term – “masculine culture.”  So what do I understand it to mean?

What “masculine culture” is not

  • It is not an attack on men. Norway has a feminine culture and there is nothing wrong with their men.
  • It also does not mean non-sexist, or even matrilineal. Much of Africa has a feminine culture but much of Africa is assuredly sexist, patrilineal, or both.

What “masculine culture” is

Masculine cultures are based on pecking order.

We all interested in our status, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just that masculine cultures are obsessed by status.   The jostling and thumping of small boys – you have it in one.

It’s not that boys don’t play together. It’s just they find it hard until they’ve sorted out who is “top dog”. And they put everything second to that goal – compassion, beauty, intelligence . . . it all goes by the board.

You can see that women can also have a masculine culture. It is not the preserve of men. Nor is it always bad. It is just very narrowing when everything comes down to pecking order.

Anyway, why does a positive psychologists working in social media write about masculine cultures?

1.  Masculine cultures aren’t positive.

We can get good at winning a race. But the easiest way to win a race is to rig the competition or some other way cheat. We are on a downward spiral.

When we ask the question another way, and ask how quickly we can run, or how quickly we can get everyone over the line, we find more challenge, on many levels.

Life opens up. That is the essence of positive psychology. Does life open up?

2. Social media is about working with others.

Masculine cultures are about individuals or small groups beating other small groups.

My cultural test of the world of social media

I have my new MOO cards now and I am going to repeat my picture test.

Subscribe to my feed (side right column) because I will post the results as I get them over the next two months.

Is my salvation yours?

And who sat next to me?

Many years ago, I was flying from Harare to Johannesburg and I sat, by providence, next to Dr Shahidul Alam, who I was to discover is a very well known photographer and activist from Bangladesh.  In those days, email newsletters were quite the rage, and overtime of course, we have updated to blogs and RSS feeds.

I use Pageflakes as my feedreeder and I have a page for the feeds I check first thing in the morning, a page for UK blogs linked to my profession, another page for non-UK links in my profession, a page for venture capital, etc.  And I have a page for Evening where I feed blogs like Shahidul’s from Drik Gallery in Dhaka. Whether you like to be informed about events around the world, or whether you just like good photography, I recommend it.

Today, I stumbled upon an article about the 1971 generation, Bangladeshi men and women who were disappointed by the outcomes of Bangladesh’s Independence.  Dashed hopes are sadly quite common when we have worked long and hard for change.

Is your liberation, also mine?

Today’s post began with a quotation from an Aboriginal activist group from Australia.

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

It is attributed variously to Lila Watson and the Aboriginal Activist’s Group Queensland 1970’s

This is a sentiment I learned growing up in southern Africa with all its inherited problems.

When we are sufficiently well off, we often approach a conflict as if we have nothing to gain from its resolution.  Our patronising attitude is very irritating to the other side.  We may be surprised to find that what we think is good will on our part is generating  considerable contempt.  We may be shocked to hear that we are regarded less positively than people who are downright aggressive.

The alternative takes a lot of courage.  Can we approach conflict resolution and negotiation without any preconditions, and in particular without commitment to being a senior partner?

It is amazing how often we refuse to engage if we are not guaranteed a superior position in advance.  It is also amazing how often we project this stance onto others when they are just calling us on our unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.

So many of the world’s intractable conflicts would be resolved in an instance if we could only get down from our high horse.  And this is true too, in business.

Examples in business

For example, think of the typical networking event when people introduce themselves.  There is little discussion of common goals.  I say what I do (hoping it sounds important).   Others listen, not for something they could do for me, but for something I can do for them, pretending all the while that they want to help me!  Such social contortions!

Imagine if the atmosphere were different and we could say openly, in the next year I want to achieve X?  How many of us would dare?  How many of us listen with and offer “I can help you from there to there” without trying to be important?  I have seen it done but it is so rare that it stands out!

Think too of the typical job advertisment looking for people who are ‘the best’.  And think of the tension that implies.  I want the best but I am recruiting from the open market.   I do not employ the best? Nor I am able to train them?  Ow!  I am really very dependent on the applicants for their skills but I cannot contenance admitting that!

Imagine again phrasing a job advertisment honestly.  This is what we want to achieve this year.  Who believes they can help us?  Please reply stating how we can help you in return.

So why do we get involved with this posturing?

The simple answer is that predicating everything on a pecking order is the central characteristic of  masculine cultures. Britain and most English-speaking countries are very masculine.  And when every one else is attending to the pecking order, to neglect it is dangerous.

Other cultures though, and to some extent the culture we have bred in our midst, Gen Y, are less attached to the pecking order culture.  They are often amazed at our shenanigans and they find our collegial skills somewhat lacking.

Towards an unexpectedly prosperous 2009?

Are we able to abandon the premise that some people are more important than others?  Are we able to abandon the act, that I am safe and OK, and this negotiation affects only your position and not mine?  Do we have the courage to define our future collectively?

It may be important during 2009.

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A masculine culture

Sociologists sometimes write of a masculine culture. Hofstede writes of masculine and feminine cultures.

The ‘prep’ scene in Goodbye Mr Chips illustrates this point. A pupil slams down a books while Mr Chips’ back is turned. This pupil has already challenged Mr Chips successfully on two occasions: mimicking his walk behind his back and disrupting his class spectacularly.

At first, Mr Chips does not know who is making the noise. He cunningly uses the glass of a large picture as a mirror and calls on the boy without giving away how he knows who is the culprit. Then luck would have it that the boy’s name is “collie” and he is able to humiliate the boy by suggesting that is the name of a dog. And so it goes on.

This is a masculine culture. It is based on pecking order, domination and humiliation.

We aren’t being rude about guys. Why should you put up with it either? The story line in Goodbye Mr Chips is that guys were challenging this way of life in 1910, one hundred years ago.

The alternative

If you want the alternative, look at the scene where Mrs Chips challenges the headmaster. The challenge is based on reason, persuasion, and persistence. Not domination and subjugation. The headmaster deftly avoids the challenge. He rejects an unfamiliar idea, which would be alright in its own terms. He rejects it, though, to restore his domination. Later, in the dance scene, being a wise man, he concedes the validity of the new idea (and validates it by including it in the hierarchy!)

Does life has to be a series of battles? Can we not trade visions? Can we not have Eureka moments when we learn something unexpected? Can we not do the equivalent of come up to a crest of a hill and be amazed by the vista in from of us?

If the 21st century will be about anything, it will be about a currency of visions rather than the currency of force.

Law of attraction, positive thinking . . . how old is it?

A long back story

I took out Goodbye Mr Chips from my local library thinking it would be nice to relax for a couple of hours with this gentle, slightly sentimental, very inspirational movie. For non-Brits, this is a classic pygmalion, teacher story with romance thrown in. Think To Sir With Love, History Boys and Freedom Writers. I think when Yanks write pygmalion stories they are typically about basketball coaches. Britain has teacher stories.

Goodbye Mr Chips is a double-pygmalion story. Mr Chipping is an awkward “Latin master” in a “public school”.  If you are non-Brit, read exclusive private school (or prep school in Americanese – a prep school here preps you to go to public school which takes you to the army academy or university).

Mr Chipping has two mentors. A charming relaxed fellow teacher and his wife. They are the catalysts in allowing Mr Chipping, or Chips as he comes to be called, to incorporate the softer side of his nature in his teaching style, reform the rugged-masculine-bullying culture of the school, and to encourage boy-after-boy, and their sons after them, to blend the feminine sides of their nature with the masculine demands of their school and obligations to country.

I thought I was borrowing the musical version with Peter O’Toole from the library.   When I got home, I discovered I a new version with Martin Clunes, the star of the TV show, Doc Martin. He makes a marvellous Mr Chips with the mixture of clumsiness and kindness that we also see in Doc Martin. (He doesn’t sing btw, and nor do we hear the boys singing which we did in the earlier version).

The story seems slightly different too – but so be it. After this long back story, this is the quote I wanted to give you.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Positive psychology is more than positive thinking

This is the concept which takes positive psychology far beyond positive thinking. It has echoes of the pygmalion effect, popularized in the musical My Fair Lady in which a flower girl becomes a lady. It includes the Galatea effect, ably researched by Dov Eden, who also researches the pygmalion effect in work settings. Basically, the Pygmalion effect is the effect of other people’s expectations on us. So a teacher creates clever pupils by expecting more of them. A teacher creates dull pupils by expecting failure and subtly communicating doubts and restricting the resources and time we need to learn. The Galatea effect works the other way around. It is the effect of our own self-perception.  It is not that seeing is believing. But that, believing is seeing.

Is this new?

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion 100 years ago. 150 years ago Goethe wrote:

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Goethe

The idea that we shape the future is so new to us in the west. The idea that the universe comes to us sounds a little new age.

Of course, we cannot do anything. We don’t want to do anything.

But there are some things, we want to do. And if we can imagine those things, if we believe in them deeply without effort, if they make sense, if they seem right in themselves, if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

then the universe conspires to help us.

Skeptical?

This is tautological, of course. It will work because it is right and it is right because it works.

Ask only whether what you want is right, and why you would want anything that doesn’t work!