Where I stand: A declaration of values and biases

2020 is my year of doing things differently.

Of course, it is everyone’s year of doing things differently.

But in the time before the Great Entroublement, I decided that I would spend this year thinking about what I am doing, instead of running from job to job, client to client, crisis to crisis.

As part of that process, I distilled a list of mantras for my business:

  • I believe that doing the right thing is enough in itself.
  • I believe in not giving up.
  • I believe in making connections.
  • I believe in doing the work to keep my family together.
  • I believe in order and creating order.
  • I believe in helping other people to fly.
  • I believe in honesty and truth-telling.

I then got on with things, through lockdowns and masks and hand sanitisers (for the record, I hate sanitiser. But I submit to having it sprayed on my hands every time – read the first thing I believe, in the list above. I even say thank you, because that’s another mantra of mine.).

As a final piece of the puzzle, I feel I should also publicly list my positions on contentious questions. These positions inform everything I do, and since honesty is one of my mantras, it is best to be upfront about my varied biases.

‘We all have points of view’

In fact, this is something that all journalists need to do, I believe. As Nathan Robinson has written in the Guardian: “It should be obvious that there can’t be such a thing as a neutral journalist. We all have moral instincts and points of view. Those points of view will color our interpretations of the facts. The best course of action is to acknowledge where we’re coming from.”

In addition, I think all news organisations should discuss and discover their biases and prejudices and deeply held beliefs and then write those down so their readers and viewers and listeners can see what their “agenda” is. Because all publications have an agenda – and being honest about it would be a big step to building trust.. (There’s a good guide as to how to do that here.)

So here goes. These are the things I believe:

  • I am pro-science and evidence-based thinking.
  • I am pro-vaccination.
  • I am pro-choice in the matter of abortion, and I am against the death penalty.
  • I believe that we are stewards of the planet. On climate change, since I do think that some things are simply not predictable, I take the long view: time will tell. In the meanwhile, we had best do what the scientific consensus says to keep our planet habitable.
  • I subscribe to allopathic medicine (but am interested in our own power to heal ourselves). I think homeopathic medicine is quackery, and I don’t like the word “natural” applied to medical treatments.
  • I am not religious, but I do practice mindfulness meditation.
  • In matters of race, I am a white person who grew up in apartheid South Africa. That makes me responsible to check my own attitudes constantly. I cannot help but be a racist, but I can act differently now. I try to let other people talk; I try to listen; I try to ask how I can help.
  • I am a humanist. I think all people are oppressed by gender stereotypes, and we all have a responsibility to do the work we can to get out of our ghettoes, and to help others to do the same. Almost always, the place where that process starts is with the empowerment of women and girls. #MenAreBroken #WomenAreBroken #PeopleAreBroken

To put these in a business perspective: I will only take work from clients if their values and beliefs align with mine. I would, for instance, never put myself forward to edit a religious text. And if I think it necessary, I will discuss potential value clashes with prospective clients. I do that from the understanding that attacking other people’s beliefs is counter-productive, and that rational discussion does not always move people one way or another. Generally, I prefer to move on rather than argue about the issues I have touched on here.

And, in the most respectful way possible, if my values don’t gel with yours, I ask you to move on too.

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your organisational or communication needs (coaching, editing, writing, social media).

Main picture: Ashley Batz on Unsplash


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