I’m just back from walking my top-dog Stella.
It is bank holiday Monday which led to a later than usual getting up and out.
There was poop about.
Last night I watched the new Alexei Navalny BBC documentary with my partner Annie.
Not only was the documentary incredible, serious, funny, tragic, absorbing, it also touched on a central element of Navalny’s philosophy – beyond the realisation that the FSB* tried to kill him by lacing his pants with Novichok**.
Towards the end, when Navalny was running a piece-to-camera he described a principle which motivates him, that being, the behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept.
And, it struck me that beyond this being a cliché, it is an incredibly profound critique of our lives. Mine and yours.
In many respects the planet is falling to pieces, whether through climate change, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots, the war in Ukraine, microparticles of plastic lodged in my lungs and circulating in my blood, lying, philandering politicians, an NHS on the brink of not being able to attend to its basic founding principles, I could go on.
If you want more, Google, ‘Guardian Newspaper’*** and read a few headlines.
It is bleak stuff.
And, how much of it relates directly to your or my behaviour?
It is more a chaotic butterfly of cause an effect, a stochastic randomness that nudges the world in a certain direction.
The Monarchs are disappearing too.
I mentioned Annie at the beginning. She has always struggled to walk past dog-poop.
I’d better explain.
Annie and I are dog walkers.
We walk around with pockets stuffed with poo-bags.
If ever our dogs poop, we are standing above them, bags at the ready as their perineum relaxes; down we swoop.
Not all dog walkers are as diligent.
Some places I go there is shit everywhere.
When you see a dog shit you have three options.
You can ignore it, you can walk past and say, ‘There is dog shit everywhere,’ or you can reach in your pocket and acknowledge that the poop is not yours, not your dogs, but pick it up anyway and pop into a bin.
I am sure we have all been in this situation.
This morning there were two non-Stella poops. The first had been on our walk for a couple of days; someone had tied it in a bag and left it by the path, the other was fresh, lying in the open.
I removed them both.
‘Big deal, poop mover,’ you say. Well, it’s not that simple, as anyone who collects poop knows. Sometimes the bags burst. Sometimes it gets on your hands, and, your own dog’s poop on your hands is one thing, an unknown dog’s, well, that is a different matter.
On Saturday I wrote about a meeting run by our director of HR Steve. He talked about oxygen masks and ensuring your physical and mental health is OK before reaching out to help another.
Another management aphorism which he alluded to, and which I recently covered myself relates to the Navalny quote about the behaviour you walk past. If your see a colleague, a doctor or a nurse behaving in an uncivil way (towards a colleague, patient, relative), it is down to you to challenge. Walk past it, look the other way, and the poop is on you as much as it’s on the bully.
Sometimes the connections in life are odd. Unpredictable. Unexpected.
I’d thought the age of the great leaders had passed.
Like most of my readers, when younger I followed the experiences of Mandela, I thought the days of Obama were behind us, a falling a way to mediocrity.
Navalny demonstrated that there are still people out there who won’t just walk past, but stick their necks out. Volodymyr Zelensky is one. Navalny is another. I’m not sure what it is about the Ukrainian/Russian spirit that inspires this bravery. Maybe it’s the weather, the same cold that blew through Dostoevsky, Chekov and Gogol.
The wind might not have found me, although I commit to more poop scooping.
*FSB – Federalnaya Sluzhba Bzopasnoti
**Novichok – Russian for ‘newbie or newcomer’ – the FSB’s nerve agent of choice.
***Death of the forest moths, Rwanda asylum, Dentists deserting the NHS, PPE scandal, police blocking cycle paths, sewage in the rivers, cataclysmic ocean extinction, 30,000 waiting for cancer treatment, raw sewage in the sea…