Being assaulted | How to run a hospice; metaverse and Caryl Churchill
Anoushka on being assaulted. COO on running hospices + COVID. My next show: How We Die (Nov 26th, Theatre Deli). Philosopher, Jo Wolff, on social model of disablity; ESG jobs
If you only have time for one blog this week I recommend, Claire Montagu on running hospices, COVID and being a SPAD. Let me know if you are interested in an OpenSpace Business as Force for Good workshop. Thoughts this week:
Claire Montagu on running hospices, COVID and being a SPAD
OpenSpace Work Shop: Business as Force for Good
Philosopher, Jo Wolff, on social model of disablity
LSE students - thanks for coming to listen to ESG
Alex Edmans - listening to his book launch, Grow The Pie
ESG and sustainablity jobs (at end will need to scroll/download full messgae)
Links of the week
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What song(s) would you want played at your funeral? Let me know. Long-time readers may recall I asked this a while ago as part of my on-going preparation for a performance piece on death.
Using the strategy of “creating in public” to push myself to make and do, I am putting out my scratch of Thinking Bigly: How We Die. For those outside London or with other responsibilities and accessibility needs, we will be live streaming the performance! That’s right the technology used by gamers and the National Theatre is coming to a computer near you. I’m also committing to considering all my performances to be “relaxed” this means if you want to come and go, stand or wiggle, or whatever - feel free.
What’s the best way for Ben to die? Shape his story. Plan his funeral. An interactive show where you help Ben have his best death.
There will also be a mingle afterwards for those who just want a chat and drink. Come and let’s talk about death (and so life), baby.
This idea of learning by doing may have roots from my drawing and making practise starting roughly as a teenager. It continues into my podcasting. I don’t have any single solid reason for either creating my performance-lecture or for reaching out to people and asking them on a podcast but it does happen to be fantastic way to learn deeply. You don’t want to talk to a philosopher or epidemiologist without covering the work of said philosopher or epidemiologist.
This week: Surprised-not-surprised that economists disagree on what is happening with inflation, how important it is (or not) and to what extent behavioural factors (or supply and demand) are drivers. It ends up being confusing for decision makers and the woman in the street. It differs by country, but my own personal reading is that while “wages” are increasing (see truck drivers) much if not all of this is cancelled out because the cost of many goods/ services are increasing.
The so-called “real wage” is flat. Other subtle impacts such as choice is also down. For a variety of complex reasons, world-wide energy prices are likely to remain high for at least 6 months until April. Complex systems are hard, if not near impossible to predict well, but to the extent you can, I’d probably consider running longer into building “resilience” into your life. That means at the margin, I’d not be buying a bitcoin but giving your life some stronger cushioning.
In some ways that’s typically what some risk thinkers often suggest. For instance, Nassim Taleb on his ideas of being anti-fragile. From the arcivie here’s Taleb’s commencent address in 2016.
Neither Clare Montagu or myself are famous. In one way only is this a shame - more people need to hear her insightful and fascinating account of running a London hospice group as COVID hit.
What was it like running a hospice in London when COVID struck? “It was really horrible… COVID was not the way that we would choose people to die. There was a sort of myth that people were all going to die anyway. Not true. We had patients dying of COVID.
Both people in the community and people in our hospice beds. Staff were themselves getting sick either from within the community or outside it. Although, we don't think we had much transmitted within the hospice, but staff were getting sick. We had operational problems with staff shortages. We immediately had real problems with access to PPE, particularly masks.
Guidance was changing daily. Challenging to keep up with national guidance where you had to order PPE, from what PPE you were supposed to wear, how you were supposed to manage COVID, how you dealt with staff. Because at the time there was no testing.
We had staff who were often very nervous, very scared, patients who were dying, no one really knew what was going on and no national guidance really that we could work towards. So there was this real sense of being completely out of control with a kind of wrestling with an octopus that you just had no idea when it was going to end and how it was going to end.
The death industry was also starting to stockpile and we had a mortuary at the hospice and suddenly you couldn't get body bags. ...And there was one day at the end of March when we had been promised a drop of PPE, we were running low on masks and we had two days where the PPE hadn't come and we had less than 24 hour supply of masks. And we just didn't know what to do because we were going to run out - it's laughable now, we were Googling what you could do with incontinence pants and masking tape - On the same day funeral directors were not picking people up from our mortuary and the mortuary was full.
So I started to ring around, does anyone know what the kind of London resilience plan, because this fundamentally is a sort of public health issue and there must be, I don't know, the army gets involved or something because you can't have people who are dead not being managed …. And again, everyone I spoke to in the NHS or funeral directors, no one seemed to know what were the arrangements for managing people who were dead.
Clare also has some funny stories from her time as a government special adviser. Transcipt and video here. Podcast below.
And a teaser for next podcast from epidemiologist Meaghan Kall:
Benjamin Yeoh @benyeohben@kallmemeg Here's a teaser for fun. This is @kallmemeg Meaghan's career life advice 👇👇👇 (needs sounds on sorry no captions). It was super awesome to have such an insightful + engaging chat. Back catalogue while we await post production if you wish to peruse: https://t.co/m4tJvJjVvE https://t.co/Fo6HM5RjHf
Thinking about the social model of disability which I reference at the start of the letter. It’s an idea that philosopher Jo Wolff explains well here:
"...You change the world rather than trying to change or assist the person. Once you understand that, once you try to change the world to accommodate more people that means things like disability become less stigmatizing. That you don't have to identify in order to be helped, for example. If it's about redistribution, you have to identify as a disabled person to claim your benefits. If we've rearranged the world so that being a disabled person in that respect is no longer a disadvantage, then no one even has to think about it. ...You just get on with your life, right? Now this is an inspiring vision that disability helps us think through. I normally don't like to do this ideal world theory but I think in disability cases, it's very interesting to think, how would we have constructed the world differently if we took people with disabilities seriously from the start. Because what we've done is construct a world for the 80% who aren't disabled and have made small adjustments around the edges for the other 20%. If we had started from the point of view that the world is a diverse place with people with different mental and physical attributes, how would we've done things differently? I think now that is a great thought experiment that can be quite inspiring to policy. So do I think a disabled life is less valuable than a non-disabled life? No, I don't. I think we may have constructed the world so some lives are much more difficult for people than other lives. Some people face much more obstacles in their life than others. Certainly some people can do more than others. Certainly some people are in more pain and discomfort and lack of mobility than others. So there are differences. ...But it's the only life that the person has got..." More in the full interview.
I’m helping Improbable with promoting their Open Space work. If you or your organisation are interested in unconferences, openspace and participatory work then we are running a workshop on afternoon 28 October. Let me know.
LSE students, thanks for coming to listen to me on ESG. My host told me I was on the same stage that Muhammed Ali was on 40+ years go… I spoke about the importance of thinking about the extra-financial capitals: human capital, natural capital, intellectual capital…
Those new readers fron LSE. There’s a similar type of presentation with a few more technicals that I did for the CFA.
After Alex Edman’s response to Tariq Fancy, it was good to hear him speak on his book in a delayed launch.
Edmans makes the case for a pie-growing mindset. Acknowledging the challenges and trade-offs in pie-splitting, Edmans argues that pie-growing creates the most welfare for the most people.
Core ideas Edmans argues for (along with pie-growing) are:
-the importance of “omission errors”,
-the multiplication principles,
-the importance of materiality judgements,
-and comparative advantage.
If I were to pick out two other principles that weave throughout the densely argued book, they would be the ideas of personal agency and a reliance on fact-based evidence over ideology.
Interspersed with lively stories and backed by evidence, it makes for better reading than a dry academic text. However, it is still packed with references to studies and data that makes the book dense reading and above the one-shot idea business books that line airport bookshops.
Edmans moves on from the theory to articulate three principles to use when judging value creation. These are:
Multiplication: An activity should have social benefits that exceed its private costs
Comparative Advantage: Social benefit should outweigh social costs
Materiality: Activity should benefit material stakeholders (a firm is not all things, to all people)
I await book two!
Link to Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3mu3GdH.
April 2020 webinar: https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/16035/396482
Reflections on seeing the latest Caryl Churchill play, What If If Only
I view Churchill as one of our greatest playwrights
My thoughts cross through the multiverse and death
Passing through children, Tyler Cowen and OpenSpace participatory meetings
Death is on my mind. So is the multiverse.
Death is on my mind as I recently talked to Clare Montagu about what it is like to run a hospice through COVID.*
How we should speak plainly on death.
Death is on my mind as Anoushka has reflected that death has challenged the thinking of my autistic 12 year old son* and my youngest questioned death early.
Death is on my mind as my latest performance piece is about How We Die.*
Death seems to be on the mind of SOMEONE in Caryl Churchill’s play, What If If Only.
Even more than death the play asks What If … ?
This is a question humans ask ourselves.
My 9 year old embodies this when asking and debating the multiverse.
What if What if What if …?
It’s not only the Marvel superhero multiverse (and the recent series What If… starring the Watcher). Consequentialist philosophers and the like think through the implications of What Ifs. The small changes that might mean, for instance, Hitler was never born. Before the big splashy Marvel multiverse, we had Sliding Doors in popular culture. A 1998 film that might have escaped today’s 20 somethings, but probably not Churchill.
This fantasy and science fiction tends to teach to be wary of tampering the timeline.
A podcast host, Auren Hoffman, asks* in the year 2021
…what advice do you wish you could have told your younger self?
Tyler Cowen answers
That when I get to be older, don't give me any advice. Because look, for me, things have gone pretty well. So there's always the risk with advice. Even if you make a local improvement, you'll screw up the global path. Things have gone well, of course, you could have done better. But again, type one and type two error. Let's let that one sit. So no advice.
…advice is dangerous, how well can you predict other people's paths? Advice maybe is overrated.
I think a lot of advice is a placebo. The person asks for advice because they want the feeling they've done everything possible, before doing what they're going to do anyway. No, I don't mind that. But once you realize that it's like advice, I don't necessarily think advice is advice, it’s helping the person process their own mental and emotional state.
SOMEONE meditates on death - whines morosely - and conjures the FUTURE.
The FUTURE declares
I’m a ghost of a dead future
Dont Dont Dont let them all in. Of course there's so many so many features that didn't happen like drops of rain grains of sand atoms in your heart. You’ll have no peace if they all come after you and I'm the best I'm a brilliant Future and I could easily have happened but stupid stupid caps choosing the wrong things and let me die. I'm a future you'd really like, everyone would have like me if I happened.
SOMEONE Because you're what?
Equality and cake and no bad bits at all and I've been glimpsed I've been died for in China and Russia and South America and here here in little country's history long ago people wanted me they want me over and over and forty fifty years ago I had friends I really nearly and my enemy say I'm utopia and nowhere place and I'm not I needn't be perfect but better better than what and I never happened and if I had happened this nasty desk wouldn't have I'm the one why wouldn't I promise and you've got to make me real you got to make me a real live
In calling to the dead, SOMEONE is activating the problems of the multiverse
Of wishful thinking.
Aside. Note Churchill’s use of words. Not the extreme truncation of certain previous works. No “ / “ notation. But a careful use of punctuation, repetition - poetic - in that condensed use of language, words and sound. This gives a hint on the page of how an actor transforms this.
In Top Girls, Churchill poses questions on the role of women through history.
In Serious Money, Churchill satires finance and our relationship with money.
In A Number, she provokes on identity, genetics and cloning.
In Blue Heart the very form of the play speaks to the impossibility of completion and understanding.
Churchill takes human concepts and ideas and embodies them in theatre.
For me (I suppose I can only speak for me, and then am I even sure?) What If If Only meditates on death, crosses the multiverse and ends up
With PRESENT and FUTURE with SOMEONE stuck not quite letting go of the past
“gone but I can’t quite stop talking to you yet”
Says SOMEONE in the second last speech in the play.
As the CHILD FUTURE declares
I’m going to happen.
In an Open Space meeting we are guided*
Whoever comes are the right people.
Wherever it happens is the right place.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Whenever it starts is the right time.
When it is over, it is over.
I’m left with this reflection
When it comes to death and what ifs
Speak plainly and let go.
This makes me so sad and angry still, and I feel blind still to all the assault and harrassment women undergo.
Anoushka being assaulted:
I lay on the floor exactly as I had fallen, trying to work out what damage had been done. My knee throbbed and my cheekbone rang like a struck cymbal. I should get up, I thought. But I didn’t. I lay for a moment longer while the adrenalin ebbed away. What an oblivious, diamond-wearing fool I was. Be aware of your surroundings. Isn’t that always the first tip in those ‘Safety Advice for Women’ articles? How had I not known he was behind me? How had I allowed this to happen?
“Where’s your bag?”, he demanded, in a low, hard voice.
It had fallen from my shoulder. I tried to answer but the glove muffled my reply. I gestured but the movement was hampered by his body leaning against mine. He towered above me. I knew instinctively that he must have been more than 6’ 5”. A university flatmate of mine, David, was a similar height, a gentle giant.
“Where’s the bag?”, the stranger repeated impatiently.
There was nothing benign about him.
Our subconsciousness lags only milliseconds behind actual events. The lag being the time it takes to transfer stimuli to our conscious perception. But my mind had been oddly slow on the uptake, lurching from irritation to confusion. Now, it caught up and panic washed through me. I was beginning to struggle to breathe around the padded nylon glove covering my nose and mouth. It pressed my head painfully against the wall, keeping me still. I reached up and pulled at his hand,
“I can’t breathe.”
Sustainability ESG Jobs…investment, corporate, academic…
(There’s a lot out in sustainablity world, hard to keep up. Bloomberg ESG team also looking.)
Lots from Katie Kross…
An awaiting disaster: