Reality check.

There are some wellness, crystal-gazing, holistic spiritual guidance types in my disaster-hit coastal community who insist that the power of positive thinking will overcome the physical and material damages incurred by the community. They object to restrictions on road travel even though the damages caused by slips and water run-off is extensive and as of yet only stop-gap repaired. Heck, we do not even have traffic controls on our one lane muddy slip-ridden exit and entryways!

Although these self-absorbed navel gazers are a distinct minority they are very loud and bullying, with some using their historic roots in this neck of the woods as justification for shouting down everyone else. Apparently tenure (as in multigenerational living in this place as opposed to “newcomers” like me who have been here 24 years) means that they know best for all residents and their views are not be challenged. A few of these wunderkind have rarely left this isolated valley except for local forays or limited ventures further outside their co coons, giving them a somewhat limited perspective on the big bad world out there–and how to cope with unfamiliarity and difference of perspective and thought. And then there are the few that are associated with or support anti-vaccination and conspiracy theory weirdness.

However, because some are very adept at doing things like community volunteerism in between their yoga sessions and self-realization seminars, they feel they have the authority to speak over everyone else about almost everything. Democratic notions of compromise and consensus in decision-making are ignored in favor of a “our way or the highway” approach with plenty of vitriol added into the mix (which belies the “positive psychology” facade). They speak of serving the collective good–and some of them do–but they are not interested in collective input into their closed circle decision-making. There is a certain provincialism to their leadership claims and their refusal to listen to different opinions, much less opposing views. Trouble is, some also happen to well placed as cogs in our civil defense and resilience networks.

As the saying goes, times of crisis brings out the best and worst in people as well as expose the Peter Principle when it comes to levels of incompetence in public agencies. To this can be added, unfortunately, the fact that one particular skillset does not always translate easily into other fields of endeavor. In this case that fact appears to have been lost on the provincial know-it-all crowd and it now seems that these folk have crossed a line of toleration vis a vis the larger whanau with some of their obstructive and self-serving antics. This is dividing the community just as we are finally getting a semblance of normality to some parts of it (other than the roads and ruined homes). It is disappointing and discouraging because it has caused simmering divisions amongst people torn between family and friendship ties with the know-it-alls and the practical realities of the wider community’s real pressing needs..

That is where the know-it-all appeals to positive psychology fall flat. They want us to stay calm, bite our tongues and carry on following their pop psychological wellness healing Tik Tok-depth advice. In other words, everyone should think good thoughts, the contagion effect will apply, and everything will be alright.

To which I have one response.

The promise of positive psychology ends where the laws of physics begin.

Like on dangerous roads.

3 thoughts on “Reality check.

  1. Hola Pablo.. tanto tiempo!

    As usual… I will cherry pick phrases from your post then comment.

    ” They know best ”

    I understand these types of people. I have come across them in my line of work as well.

    I switch off immediately because I can’t be bothered with such people
    as I don’t want to be tainted by them.

    More than likely, They have little understanding in how to engage with other people thus no sense of civilian decency.

    Unfortunately bullies incorrectly take ones diplomatic silence as a weakness…
    and it empowers them TO CONTINUE

    Take heart from the adage ” Never ever argue with an idiot, They always drag you down to their level and they always win with prior experience “

  2. A typical kiwi response I am saddened and embarrassed to admit. “If you don’t like it go back home.” We have not, in certain sections of the community, moved beyond this reaction. I am reminded of a long ago reaction to Dutch migrants to NZ which enabled people to dislike them. They work too hard! This truly childish reaction was embraced by many Kiwis.
    My basement flat was flooded, causing quite a bit of damage. My only gripe is the never ending hassles with the insurance people. I guess I’m not alone in this.
    Barbara Matthews.

  3. Hola Eduardo,

    Nice to hear from you. In response to both your comment and that of Barbara is that in this case it appears to a small group of people, some with long-standing roots in the community, who see it as their personal fiefdom and who will brook no difference of opinion, much less dissent or opposition. They pay lip service to but have to real regard for democratic decision-making practices even if the majority is in favor of alternatives to their preferred options. I do not think that it is a Kiwi thing, but just a type of in-group behavior. You are absolutely right that diplomatic silence is taken for weakness or acquiescence and when someone voices a contrary opinion they are derided and subject to backhanded maneuvers. However, acquiescence is not equal to consent and stifling different opinions removes a vital feedback channel, so their decision-making may be subject to more forceful backlash the more errors they make or the more people that they bully.

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