Ghosts or just groupthink?
I have a confession. I had to use Google to find out what was implicit in the Sleepy Hollow tag that has long been applied to the proud city of Geelong.
Naively, I was on the brink of suggesting the term Sleepy Hollow evoked a pleasant, peaceful possibly even dozy atmosphere. At worst, I thought it may suggest a town that is a little slow on the uptake, perhaps a little backward.
The reality was like a slap in the face.
According to the gospel of Wikipedia, “Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors.”
Hmm. Not so peaceful then. Not simply a good-natured dig at a country town either.
In the 13 years I’ve been actively observing perceptions around Geelong, the recurrent theme is about fixing the place. Dare I say it, there even appears to be something of an industry in addressing this ‘brokenness’.
I’ve been told by longterm locals about the “cloud that hangs over Geelong” and I don’t think I’m alone in being fed up with people saying bad news always seems to happen here.
The platitudes from the powerful tell us that this continued misfortune is why we’re all so resilient. Awful stuff keeps happening and the people of Geelong just keep getting up and pushing through.
Do we? Are we pushing through? Or are we being held down then placated? Could there be a fixation on trash-talking Geelong so that some people can jump on white horses and ride around waving their lances and spouting victory speeches?
Following on from Shane Fowles’ article in last Saturday’s Geelong Advertiser about the ‘chosen few’, it is common knowledge that there is a big end of town; a relatively few power brokers among the various member-based groups.
It is widely reported that a number of (the same) people in positions of influence meet frequently to discuss huge funding amounts and big ticket items. How many convert to anything tangible?
Only last week, I asked a Melbourne tourist about her perception of Geelong and the answer was, “It’s very pretty but my impression has always been that there is a gentrified group that runs everything and there are a lot of people struggling.” To this visitor, the town is characterised by inequity.
The picture reminded me of a bullying culture I witnessed at a workplace. It was commonly known that the culture was poor and that bullying was rife; examples were whispered about (because whispering, gossip and exclusion is critical to the power game) but people rarely called anyone on the behaviour. When they did, they were typically termed “mad” and denigrated through invisible, indefensible rumours and lies.
I referred to that workplace as Fight Club. The organisation haemorrhaged talented staff at an alarming rate and no one said anything. Everyone knew but no one seemed to resist.
The vipers in the mix, often charm personified, focused purely on holding their positions. The work was irrelevant. Sycophantic loyalty was highly rewarded.
Interestingly, I observed that a high proportion of staff suffered from neck pain and restricted head movement. In a culture of suppression, perhaps visits to the osteopath should be tax deductible.
A physiological parallel struck me when I read a description of a committee as “a cul-de-sac that lures good ideas and strangles them”.
So many inspired ideas lose momentum through pointless meetings. Brilliant concepts are compromised to please an unpleasable crowd. And good work can be smothered by antiquated committee structures, false consensus and incompetent administration.
Obviously, some level of organisation is necessary to making things happen. The good news is that by all accounts this region has the funding game sewn up. Throw in the sterling efforts of the plethora of committees in Geelong and there is surely potential to translate to big opportunities.
But are the taskforces being pulled together for political point scoring or are they planning to achieve something? Why is there usually a camera in the room?
Perhaps it’s a personal thing but I’m not sure that a roundtable discussion is always the most effective approach. No doubt it’s merry for some but ideas can go round and round with little hope of ever landing and becoming real.
This limb is about to snap, so I’ll climb back to the tree of hope. I believe anyone can do anything they put their mind to, but the minds need to be diverse, independent and free to speak without fear.
Our imaginations should be pervaded by powerful and positive thoughts; diversity studies around the world attest that this will not occur in an exclusive meeting room. Groupthink is about minimising conflict, not allowing alternative ideas or critical thinking.
For the Star Trek fans, let Geelong not be ruled by the Borg. Resistance is not futile, it’s healthy.