Injustice

I had a new project this week, which was to document my everyday life. Every 15 minutes (or more frequently, if I saw something interesting), I would take a photo of whatever I was doing or whatever was near. This has resulted in some annoyed co-workers, some really boring photos, and some really cool ones.

Maybe because of this, or maybe completely unrelated, the week has seemed kind of crazy busy! We have no fewer than three market research projects kicking into high swing this week, so making sure we get the objectives and plans right on those is critical. It was also frustrating in a way because I spent so much time making sure everyone else was happy and productive that I had no time for my own work. And doing my own work in the evening and on weekends is not going to work long term. Oh, and on Thursday I was cooking lunch for the office for Nca Thursday. A fully paleo meal, complete with chocolate cake (a meal on which I lost money, sadly … yeah I’m still a little bitter about that, not the money but the principle of the thing). But cooking also consumed a lot of work time, so I was wondering where my entire day had gotten to.

There was also a good amount of time out of the office this week: Monday afternoon at a World Café (with the founder of the World Café methodology David Isaacs) on the subject of active citizenry in South Africa, Wednesday morning breakfast introducing some new small business trading platform then a meeting with a tutoring company in Rondebosch. I found the World Café distinctly underwhelming … talk, talk, talk, with absolutely nothing concrete as a result. It’s weird, because the World Café format can definitely be used to generate concrete results, but it wasn’t in this case. Frustrating may be a better word.

Monday night featured a lecture on positive psychology by Kevin Money, a professor at Henley in the UK. As frequent readers of this blog will know, whenever Kevin comes to town we get drunk. It’s kind of a tradition. Actually a bit of a shame because he’s such a smart dude that I should really spend more time talking to him while sober so I can remember more of the conversation. On this occasion I was far too drunk to drive home so he kindly let me sleep in his hotel room. I was so bleary-eyed that I don’t think I fully woke up until I was nearly home!

In terms of learnings out of the lecture … I didn’t really have many because I have spent a lot of time thinking into these topics. To pass along some key learnings though: it is important to focus on the positives and not just the negatives, build people up, put aces in their places, and for leaders to build teams around themselves that complement their own weaknesses. Oh, one thing I did learn: apparently research shows that if we don’t admit our weaknesses, people invent weaknesses for us that are worse than any weaknesses we do have. Hey, nobody’s perfect. It’s also interesting that research actually shows that people literally put on an act when they get to work and shut down pieces of their personality that they don’t think are appropriate for their role/job function. Interesting; not really surprising, but I guess I have never really done that. Maybe explains my mixed levels of success.

I’m not at all sure HOW, but somehow I was feeling totally fine by Tuesday evening so I went to train. We were doing Helen, which is 3 rounds for time of run 400m, 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pullups. We did this in the gym, which involved each 400m interval consisting of running in a tight circle 12 times. As a result, this was more of an obstacle course Helen as I had to pass other runners and cut some corners and run other ones wide in an attempt to even it up. If memory serves, my time was still a 2-second PR. 

Wednesday’s workout was a bit more disappointing. I had been feeling a bit under the weather but I forgot about that, went to train, and only remembered after the workout that I hadn’t been feeling so hot. Oops. Explains why I wasn’t pushing myself 100% though, even though I realized it throughout the workout. Still managed to improve my time on the workout from 6:35 to 5:10. I was more annoyed that I was 15 seconds off the #2 time in the gym (Honorata), and only 4 seconds behind the #4 time (Lynda). Next time I’ll kill it.

I redeemed myself Thursday, however, with two near muscle-ups (my transition isn’t quite there so I get to nearly the right position, muscle myself into the deep dip but then I’m too tired to push up). Getting there: taping the rings so I could actually not lose my grip helped tremendously. I’ll admit, I was scared for some weeks to practice these but I’ve made tremendous progress in the last week or so. One good effect of my stubborn nature, I suppose. Then we did a team workout of filthy 100s. 100 reps of 10 different exercises. Hectic, to say the least, but it was quite fun!

Had some quite cool meals: Tuesday night at Headquarters with Ray, and Wednesday lunch at Bread with Hollie. Ray and I expounded on the merits of butter, were amused by our vegan waiter who wanted to try CrossFit (!), and just generally had a good time. We had a lot of catching up to do. Next time we meet it’s going to be at my meat restaurant of choice. He claims he can eat a whole t-bone by himself. He probably could, actually. Hollie is a new intern with us, she is from the UK, and is going to be working as a fundraiser. She’s a super cool girl, and it was great to get to know her a little bit better!

But on to what I really want to write about, which is injustice. People never cease to amaze me in the amazing power we have to do wonderful things, and in the depths to which we can stoop. Earlier this week I read an article about Martin Luther King. I had no idea of this, actually. I can imagine, in my own way, the horror of living in constant terror of a beating, a lynching, a rape, just because my skin was the wrong color. I mean, I can understand it in some sort of way but not really, not now and probably not ever because of the color of my skin. It makes me angry to the depths of my being, however, that people of any skin color could treat people of another that way. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes it or ever made it ok to rape or maim or kill for fun, or because you can. Of course it’s still going on today: see such places as Darfur and Somalia. Oh, and Burma. I’ll stop now for fear I might say something I don’t really mean.

It’s something I do reflect on pretty often: how brave would I really be if my body or freedoms were on the line? Honestly, I hope I never find out. I’m all bark and no bite, I suspect (and I mean this in more ways than one).

Then on Wednesday the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis. This is a case I had been pretty involved in back in the day. To me it speaks to so many things that are wrong with the world. First of all, I fundamentally find the death penalty to be barbaric. I get the whole federal issue states’ rights thing, and yes George Ryan turned out to be a crook, but ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ is first of all not a high enough standard for me when it comes to killing someone.

Secondly, humans are fallible and the level of policing and lawyering and the people sitting on juries … well, again, not to put too fine a point on it but if you throw a couple of idiots in there and you can kill the wrong person.

Thirdly, it’s been argued many times before but actually going through with killing a death row inmate costs the state more than life imprisonment (legal fees, mainly, I think. I don’t know the facts, so I probably shouldn’t go blathering on about them. But oh well, I’m on a roll).

Fourthly, there is the politics involved. How many people in how many places could have put a stop to this but were scared, for whatever reason. This is the reason I am actually really glad that Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley a few years back. And Troy Davis is just a very public example. How many others are there like him?

Last but not least, killing the person who killed someone else doesn’t actually help anything. An eye for an eye doesn’t bring the eye back. South Africa would be a very different place right now if the likes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu hadn’t understood this very point. I didn’t fully appreciate this the first time I read Tutu’s No Future Without Forgiveness. I think part of it was the way he phrased his argument. But I think now I can appreciate just a little bit more.

Now this isn’t a proper essay on what’s wrong with the death penalty. Actually, I seem to recall having written one at Harvard years ago. The more things change, huh? But I’m sure it’s been done many times before by people more articulate people than I who are more passionate on the subject, and with more data. But suffice to say that for me, this Troy Davis case is a source of extreme anger and sadness all combined into one powerful feeling of illness in the pit of my stomach. But as I was just saying last blog post or so, I’m a glass half-full type person and I’m not falling into a pit of morose “humanity doesn’t deserve to exist” self-loathing.

However, sometimes we just SUCK. For every wisdom of crowds (a concept most people sadly don’t even understand properly … for the love of God, read Surowiecki’s book if you’re interested in the subject), there is mob mentality and groupthink.

One thing I have to say is that karma’s a bitch. I’m amazed at how some people can rationalise their inappropriate behaviours. Or say one thing and do just the opposite. But what goes around comes around, and the one time when my bite exceeds my bark is when I see something that I perceive as unjust. No further comment there. At least I’m not feeling sorry for myself any more like I was last week (except that my wrists are developing a great bruise from the false grip).

Speaking of my body, I can’t believe it but my knee has healed amazingly! It isn’t all the way there yet but the doctor was saying no running, jumping, etc for at least a week. That was Friday. I was running with no pain by Tuesday, squatting Wednesday, and jumping, lunging, squatting, and doing double-unders by Thursday. It is literally unrecognizable as the Halloween-costume injury of a week ago. I mean, I heal fast but this is amazing. A couple different things I’ve done, but I primarily thank my diet, healthy, fish oil, and the fact that my body took me completely out of commission last weekend to heal. The body is smart, if we only listen to it.

I don’t really have anything snappy or meaningful to say to end this blog post, other than maybe that I should step back and reflect on some positives for a little while. Nah, hell with that, I’m angry right now and I’m going to let my emotions play out as they will. I think Kevin was saying something about that: emotions are neither good nor bad, but are merely markers to help us figure out how we should react to the situations in which we find ourselves.

 • “Well, no, that’s not ‘just how it goes.’ He’s an idiot. He should have jumped at the chance.” – Sam
 • “You don’t want to be with a man where you have to wear the pants in the relationship.” – Sam
 • “Yeah but you haven’t been impressed with anything since you got here.” “That’s true, actually.” – Nicole & Christoph
 • “Onto what? A spiked stick?” – Jon (it was funnier the first time)
 • “South Africans do love to talk.” – Chris
 • “What if we create armies of social change?” – Nathan
 • “What if we could live a lifestyle of what ifs?” – overheard at World Cafe
 • “It requires humility as a leader to admit what you don’t know.” – David
 • “Well obviously, we Googled.” – Henley MBA students
 • “You can’t do everything yourself.” – Kevin
 • “Oh, you’re the American Kevin was not so subtly making fun of!” – Justin
 • “Neither have I. Oh, wait, yes I have.” [met David Cameron] – Kevin
 • “Here’s to doing everything.” – Kevin
 • “I’m not training tomorrow, am I?” “No, but I’m not sorry.” – Ellie & Kevin
 • “Between cooking, talking, and drinking, cooking only gets a third of the time. And I can drink A LOT.” – Jacques
 • “Jaco’s not very good at planning parties. He’s good at partying.” – Jacques
 • “What do you mean, shame?” “I’ve been to a braai at Jaco’s place!” – Ellie & Pete
 • “I’m sorry I even mentioned price elasticity of demand.” – Ellie • “Onto what? A meat grinder?” – Ray (and funnier the first and second times …)
 • “I’m starving! I just did Helen! …. Oh God that sounds bad.” – Ellie
 • “The worst thing in life is having a girlfriend.” – Ray
 • “Why did I say that? Cecil!” – Ray
 • “Wishing people were different does not make it so.” – Ellie
 • “Shame, Ellie, you shouldn’t make the people work so hard.” – Jacques
 • “The NGO sector is hectic buddy. It was safer in the army.” – Jacques
 • “Yeah but you’re a girl, Ellie!” – Rob
 • “You work. And you work. And you come here. And you train. And you get injured, and you heal really quickly. That’s about it.” – Jobst
 • “That’s why I was asking if you are ok. Because I can see that you are not ok.” – Catherine
 • “Too true.” – Herby

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