Do you have weeks where it feels like the universe is trying to send you a message?
For me, last week the message was that we need to be uncomfortable. Because if we’re not, then at best we’re not developing for the better and, at worst, we are perpetuating our own privilege to the disadvantage of someone else.
It started with a Brené Brown podcast. This episode was with Aiko Bethea and Ruchika Tulshyan, whose careers focus on removing the barriers for inclusion in the workplace, particularly for racial diversity. They were discussing how equity, inclusion and diversity had to enter the workplace dressed as a business case, to make the people they were working with comfortable with the topic. They summarised that “the privilege of comfort is a great enemy to all the work we do”, in contrast to the “psychological courage” it takes to hold ourselves and others accountable for delivering lesser versions of ourselves and the world we live in.
The privilege of comfort stayed with me as a phrase as I went on to speak that week at Anthropy, a conference, hosted at the Eden Project, to facilitate “re-assess[ing] as a nation what we value and what values we will embrace to create new thinking and tackle long-standing challenges”.
Prior to my session, I went to one on female leadership, where an executive described how, as a tech entrepreneur in her 20s, she had to hire two male actors to go with her to meetings so that people would feel comfortable funding her project because if she went as a lone female, she didn’t get funding.
In my own conference session, on the links between farming and the crises of our age, chief executive of the Soil Association, Helen Browning, stressed that farming needs to grit its teeth and get through the drastic challenges currently being thrust on it by big political events, if we’re to make the changes we need for a more sustainable future.
I realise I see every day how we all try desperately to maintain the privilege of our own comfort. We deny the impacts of climate change. We refuse to evolve our own habits, even if it might generate positive results, because of the humility, effort or uncertainty required. We decline to understand the perspective of others for fear we may find ourselves reflecting uncomfortably on our own actions or beliefs.
It can’t have escaped your notice that COP27 is in full swing, with two weeks for global leaders to make politically uncomfortable commitments to try and limit climate catastrophe. At this critical time, my own psychological courage zone would be joining protestors who are taking the more extreme actions and risking their own imprisonment.
To stop admiring from the side-lines all those famous individuals of the last century who sacrificed their own freedom for the privileges many of us enjoy today and join their contemporaries, whether that’s XR, Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain or someone else. But I’ll admit, I’m still not sure I’m that brave.
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