Sometimes you have to merge...

I’ve really been struggling to think of something to write about this month. Not because there is any shortage of things to think and talk about, but I have struggled with how to tie it all back into gym life and what I do and keep it “fitness” and “health” related. It’s quite practical when you’re writing an opinion piece to stay in your lane, as you should know what you’re talking about in your own area of expertise.

But recently, I’ve had more thought and inclination that this isn’t always the best thing in all situations. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, even if you are numb to the pandemic still raging on. More than ever, we also have instant access to all of the things on our screen which lives in our pockets and we feel naked if we don’t have it. The anger and sadness that resulted from the George Floyd murder exploded onto the worldwide news cycle and resulted in world wide action (or a call for action in the form of protests, as yet I’m not sure if much has really been done and as I write this the news feed is full of hot takes and reactions to another unarmed, non threatening black man being shot…in the back…7 times…in front of his kids).

This has all happened before but it seems like this time there is a lot more groundswell and the flag is being flown by people who can actually affect policy change…large corporations. Corporations are financial entities and are, by and large, in it to return profits to keep everyone happy, theoretically. That’s probably a more rosy outlook than my more jaded view of a lot of corporations but the fact is, they wield enormous power and many are too big to fail meaning that when they want something, they have the ability to put serious pressure on the powers that be to make it happen. There’s a reason Australia has third world levels of deforestation, approves new mines every 15 minutes and is trying to spruik gas as the best alternative to coal. There are some big time players that want it this way and they have made it happen. Lobbying, political donations, appointing certain people to certain positions and having major news outlets position stories to influence public opinion. Those with the power have many tools to keep it, and seem to prioritise that over pretty much anything else.

To circle back to the original point however, this time it seems like many corporations are getting on board. Why have they suddenly developed a conscience? Well, the cynical, and my own, view is that they haven’t. They have observed a change in the majority of public opinion and don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. They want to be seen to be leading the charge. It’s very bad PR to be the last one clinging to outdated and discriminatory values. These corporations have done the math. Previously it made more sense to keep quiet, vaguely take a stand on good values but really toe the line of those in power. Now, the protests are too big and too loud and it makes far more sense to be seen to be on the side of “systemic change”. Right outcome, at least. This has lead to some practical changes already. Big companies have pulled sponsorship and refused to sell merchandise for one of the NFL teams, who have had to change their name and are simply the Washington Football Team while they rebrand (I did that recently and I think it went quite well, I hope they reach out to me, I’d be happy to help). Other products have removed what is perceived as discriminatory packaging, messaging and names to show their commitment to ending systemic discrimination. This is all good as if we can change the “white noise” level of discrimination (I am aware this is not the best phrase to use) then it will make a difference in the long term. Now there are lots of detractors to this who say it’s PC Police gone mad, soon we won’t be able to say anything, everyone is so sensitive these days (ignoring of course the irony of someone getting worked up about a product name change that affects them completely peripherally and in no tangible way). And this is where I come to a crossroads.

You may already have noticed which path I chose to take at this crossroad, but I’ll spell it out anyway, because word count. One of the companies who I support, when the George Floyd fallout was occurring, came out and said, paraphrasing: “Our product is for everyone, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you don’t stand for equality and the respect of your peers and don’t like this message, well, we won’t miss you.” This is a fairly bold thing for a company to say, as it inevitably will alienate a large portion of your consumer base who, as well as being consumers, are jerks. Which is what it did. I noticed a YouTube commentator pick up on this and attempt to start his own movement and bombard the company with emails to the extent of “You shouldn’t be political, just sell your product and shut up so those of us with different opinions can enjoy it too. Please retract your statement.” Naturally a lot of people, who love to disguise a right to free speech (which is not even guaranteed in Australia, we have had an implied right since 1997) as a right to discriminate based on gut feel, resonated with this and the company did get bombarded with emails, which they roundly ignored, which was the right thing to do. I am sure this stance cost the company sales. It was never going to put them on struggle street, they are wildly profitable, but saying nothing was not going to cost them any customers and saying something was. They chose to take a moral stance knowing there was financial implications to it. That’s huge progress in my eyes.

Getting back to me for a moment here. I am not wildly profitable and taking a stance on important issues where there is a divide in public opinion is a decision that could have financial implications also. I hope it wouldn’t, but the reality is it very well could. I have received a lot of advice not to wade in and to stay in my lane and keep things gym focused and if possible up-beat and also to dump a lot of keywords in for the search engines (#fitness#gym#amplify#fitnessfunfriends#blacklivesmatter). But I don’t really want to do that anymore. What I believe in is important. What I believe in is also in the kind, equal and altruistic potential of humans to create a sustainable, environmentally conscious world where every human (and ideally animal…but I’m still evolving there, I’m a bit of a hypocrite) has an equal chance at the life they want and at worst, has a comfortable standard of living devoid of poverty, famine, thirst, violence and discrimination. Will it happen in my lifetime (or ever)? Almost certainly not. Can we move the needle? Absolutely.

So it’s no longer enough to just believe that and think I’m doing my share. When I see blatant discrimination near me, I have an obligation which I owe the strong conviction I have to my beliefs to ask the question, why are you doing this? To condemn poor behaviour and actions (not people). To engage and stand up for what I believe in. Simply holding a view is not enough. If I want to see the world I want, I have to stand up for it and go in to bat for it, even if there is a price to pay for it. The stakes are now too high and it’s 5 minutes to midnight on a lot of these issues. We need drastic action 30 years ago to save the planet so we might as well start today. Edmund Burke has been quoted by everyone as saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This has stuck with me as well. So has another quote by Elie Weisel: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

So in conclusion. I am not writing about fitness today but I am instead writing so that you know what my views are, and that I stand up for them proudly and from now on, loudly. If anyone chooses to leave or pass over Amplify because of these fundamental and basic views on human dignity then I join all the others who say: You will not be missed.

For everyone else, I can feel Sally coming back sometime soon… #sallysquats#sallypushups#frogsgame