It was just over 10 days ago that breaking news unleashed a royal frenzy of global discussion and debate around a subject, a couple, that continue to inspire media madness like no other across the globe today: HRHs the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. This time it was serious.
Through their personal website they had expressed desire to step away from royal duties. They wish for a financially, logistically and emotionally independent life for their family, away from the UK (part of the year) and away from the heat of the royal spotlight. https://sussexroyal.com/about/ The news very soon gave birth to a new social media hashtag with a loudly beating heart: #MEGXIT
And then came the damning discussions and debates around the Royals’ wish, and right, to make such a move. Across the globe comments, critiques, questions and general craziness turned the story into a top trending area of focus, often eclipsing the fact that the US and Iran were risking a dangerous face-off, Australians were facing Mother Nature’s fiery fury like never before, a beyond fiction escape had taken place in Japan by a corporate automotive industry leader once celebrated and now sought out for criminal activity, a passenger airline was shot down by a missile, and one of our world’s most trusted aviation manufacturers has seen its credibility and confidence come crashing down.
How could they do this?
How can they do this?
Her Majesty the Queen was clear – a clear plan of action was to be agreed, swiftly and smoothly. As different options are explored by the immediate family, different nationalities, societies and cultures are openly sharing diverse opinions on how this royal crisis should be resolved. Different perspectives, with different contexts and linkages to the Commonwealth and generations of Royalists, are weighing in.
For all of the frenzy, and differing opinions and offered solutions out there, these perspectives need to be respected.
That said, keeping this in perspective is critical if peaceful resolution is to happen.
First and foremost, this was not a constitutional crisis nor challenge of the Monarchy, it was a family crisis. HRH Prince Harry was 6th in line for the throne. It was highly unlikely he would ever wear the crown. Expectations of him were profoundly different to those of his brother. As too are the wounds of his childhood loss, and the way these now impact his peace of mind and heart as a husband, and as a father.
Still, crisis was unfolding within the Palace. Why all of the public fury?
Central to the crisis was not the WHAT and the WHY – the desire fo the Duke and Duchess to have a separate, independent, out of the Royal spotlight life with their young son, is completely understandable.
The crisis was in the HOW – the declared shock of the Palace as the desires of the Duke and Duchess were announced publicly, without pre-discussion, pre-agreement and pre-consideration for Her Majesty the Queen – HRH’s grandmother. Taking even the Palace by surprise by the method and haste of the Sussex’s public announcement with presumptive new, hybrid ways of working as a Royal, shockwaves were felt, especially in the UK by literally millions who are innately protective of their Queen and actively exposed to royal ways of working.
Again, it was not the WHAT and WHY that caused such shock, it is the HOW – the HOW that broke bonds, and broke hearts.
This, the HOW, is the essence of diplomacy: the art of succeeding in achieving a desired outcome, especially in times of conflict, while taking great care to ensure no loss of face, and no loss of faith.
It is about discreetly assessing a situation, identifying its key roleplayers, and establishing a way of mobilising desired change in attitudes, actions, whatever the case may be. It is about recognising sensitivities in time, place, people, that must be worked around to ensure no (unintentional) crossing of wires or stepping on toes that may risk momentum or even end goal. It is about appreciating the power of optics – including invisibility. And it is about recognising likely response, carefully managing process to ensure optimum reaction to outcome when the time comes. It is about ensuring all parties come out of a situation feeling stronger, more secure and more respected for their participation. What is not desired to be exposed is simply not seen, not known, by those not at work behind the velvet curtain.
Often, so often, diplomacy is looked at as a wasteful exercise, that which is seen seemingly ineffective, its practices of protocol deemed pointless. One must say what they want to say, do what they want to do, whether others like it or not.
Across the world, across political structures, across cultures, across generations, protocol is pervasive. And must be respected. That includes royal protocol – centuries old traditions of upholding a nation’s identity and values to itself. Crossing international borders and ideologies, royal systems may not make sense, centuries old traditions may test relevance today. Its role, however, is critical – a system of communication and conduct that has, for many centuries and many reason, been in effect to enable the effectiveness. Part of this effectiveness is the way in which monarchies work for the people of nations over which they lead.
As writing, a final agreement has now been reached, breaking news from the Palace revealing that HRHs are ‘HRH’ in title no longer, their roles as working Royals no more, a firm position taken by The Firm that there is no hybrid role that will be acceptable. HRH Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge will, in the main, take on many of the Sussex’s responsibilities. They must adjust, stay calm and carry on. Silence says it all.
Speed. Solidity. Sadness. These are the words that will always be ascribed to Her Majesty’s approach to addressing this family crisis, and ultimate evolution of Royal structure. While these ten days have been unprecedented in their events and outcomes, still, and sadly, this time marks a profound shift in how a Grandmother will look at her Grandson, how a Brother will look at his Brother, how the Commonwealth will look at their young Prince, how the world will look at the institution of the British Monarchy.
It has been a powerful lesson in diplomacy – the impact of disrespecting the HOW, even if the WHAT and WHY of one’s actions are understood.
Time will pass. Roles will be redefined. History and legacy will be rewritten. And hopefully, hopefully, brotherly bonds will be restored.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020
The last days, the last hours, and soon the year is done. Another year is gone. A new canvas is being unfolded as one, covered in colours, is ready to be rolled up.
In the midst of year-end busyness it is so, so easy for these last days, last hours, to fly past – a busy blur of festive season meetings and greetings…and eatings. Friends, families, feasts, fun and celebration of good fortune overwhelm calm and quiet.
Balance is easily & happily thrown out.
To enter into a new year all abuzz has its benefits: a bounce in one’s step a positive, joyful way to enter the year anew. Through the temptation to do so, this is also the perfect, absolutely perfect, time to pause, be quiet, be inward, be still.
But still, finding the right place to be still, not physically but in one’s head and heart, can be so challenging. Which is why, as happens when the universe wishes to have it, the gift of timeous messengers of precious messages, is inspiring a whispered prayer of thanks for one of 2019’s finest films – one of the most touching prompts for this invaluable pause: Netflix’s “THE TWO POPES”
A masterful, intimate look into time shared between two of the world’s most powerful messengers of faith, in a brief period of transition at a time when our shared world is in a period of prolonged challenge of faith, focus and fortitude, this film cannot but provoke one’s own thoughts regarding personal beliefs. And the actions they take as a result.
Importantly, it speaks to the potential presence and influence of a greater force blowing from behind, pushing one forward, even when one is uncertain of what lies ahead and why they should head in the direction of such powerful winds.
While focused on two popes, in so many ways THE TWO POPES is not about the church. Instead, it is about what one pursues, and why. Hence its perfect timing. Hence the feeling of exhale when its central characters, its text, releases tears that feel so right in falling, right now, as in no time at all today, 2019, will turn to tomorrow, 2020+.
“You know the hardest thing is to listen. To hear his voice. God’s voice”
Whatever one’s religion, however one looks for answers, at this time of year it is invaluable to stop and simply ask the questions:
- What is one’s predisposition: Idealism? Realism? Optimism? Pessimism? And how does this impact one’s sense of place in the world, here and now?
- What does one feel to be one’s purpose? And how is this served?
- What hope does one hold for the future right ahead of us? And how will this lens through which one views the world impact how one chooses to live in the world?
Overly-analytical? Perhaps. But when is pausing to question purpose ever a bad thing?
So valuable are these questions, always. And yet so often there is so little time to honour them. Especially now, when it feels as though in so many places, policies, positions and principles, we as a global community are failing one another.
Deeply stirring in this regard, in the closing chapter of the film, a montage is shown of genuine 2019 crises currently impacting our world – the impact of a crisis of confidence, compassion and courage spreading across the global community – ranging from human displacement that continues to unnaturally devastate lives and livelihoods across the globe, to Mother Nature’s fury unleashed across and destroying our natural world. In hushed words yet with rasor sharpness, words of truth are then spoken by His Holiness Pope Francis as he made clear that care, concern and a call to action are not for the few in public office – it is all of us who must decide if one is to stand up and step forward, or walk away: “When no one is to blame, everyone is to blame”
As the final hours of 2019 unfold, may your mind and heart find a quiet moment to whisper a quiet prayer of clarity, hope and faith in all that is ahead in 2020, infusing your heart with a feeling of centeredness and confidence. And may you feel loved.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019
The quest is not new. Gender Equality has been a part of business agendas, and government mandates, for years – a desire to step-change the numbers of women in leadership positions, women in the workplace, women as active members of society, on equal terms. The desire has endured decades of good intentions.
Desire, however, has now turned into demands to make good on promises made. A significant push can be felt across borders, across boardrooms, pushing harder and harder to ensure that gender equality is no longer an initiative within business strategies and government mandates. It must now be an imperative – an essential part of the DNA that is going to reshape a more balanced, equitable, accountable and responsible society. Rhetoric is no longer enough.
How did this sharpening of focus occur? Who, or what, changed the lens through which we looked at this issue?
Interestingly, this is not a result of simply increased interest. Quite the contrary. It has happened because of increased interventions. The call to action has become louder, the volume of the conversation turned up, especially the base.
Markers on this evolving movement are clear, two in particular being defining lines, and dividing lines:
- In 2015, the United Nations embedded Gender Equality as a vital part of our global community’s ability to establish a shared ecosystem for sustained global development. SDG#5 seeks to ensure that we work to shape a more fair, equitable, inclusive and participative world towards 2030. Policies to put new programmes and practices in place, pushing the percentages higher, are part of the plan of action. Yet many leaders are arguing the policies are already in place. Policies activated as a part of strategic decision-making is what is now needed.
- And then in 2017, a hashtag pulled back the curtain on institutionalised inequality, revealing painfully both active and passive ways in which gender imbalances were allowing for abuse of women in the workplace, across all sectors, across the globe. #METOO became a cry for help, a rallying cry heard around the world.
The former made the case – the latter took the case to court. The message was clear, the volume was getting higher and higher, the notes were getting sharper and sharper, the softer treble notes drowned out by the deeper and more dramatic base notes. Time was up, the waiting for action was done.
Professionally and personally, in both private and public places, with colleagues and with friends, the shift could be felt. Caution in action and words have created new normals. Opportunities for access and appreciation are being created and activated. Efforts are being made. Percentages are increasing in the right direction.
Yet still something just isn’t adding up.
Recent on-stage engagement with top-level political leaders, leaders who happened to be women, put a spotlight on a critical component of achieving equality: accurate math.
To establish a quota of 20% women in leadership, 30% women in the workforce, 40%, whatever the number may be, is not equality if it is below 50%. For there to be equality it must be 50%. Anything below is creating an inequality baseline drawn too low.
As importantly, if we look at the issue of equality, efforts must ensure they are executed in a way that recognises all involved, 100%. This is where the equation becomes very interesting. And this is where being focused on the problem must shift to begin part of the solution, everyone.
Achieving genuine balance is not simply about plugging people into org charts. It is not simply about making policies that indicate a number without the ability to make it happen, for the long-term. There are many elements that are required for true gender equality – equal opportunity, equal access, equal recognition and reward. Absolutely.
And yet, there is one critical enabler to sustainable equality that is so often forgotten: equal respect.
The only way the equality equation will be accurate is if all involved are recognised and respected, 100%. Women, and men.
There needs to be 100% respect for the women working to be a fully active participants in the country, in the society, in the community that they call home. Opportunity without dignity, accountability and stability pulls away essential scaffolding in the psychological development critical to professional development.
But the calculus does not stop there. We need to remember one vital roleplayer and stakeholder in the quest for equality, an essential part of the equation: men. 100% respect for the men, and the efforts they are making to be facilitate changes to get the balance right in gender equality. Champions, change-makers, mentors, mediators.
Everyone needs to shift to the side of the solution, recognising that the most sustainable changes happen when the solution is designed, mobilised, managed and measured from the inside. External anger and aggression do not inspire sincere, sustainable action. They inspire avoiding eye contact. A critical part of the equation to gender equality is the equal opportunity for men to be supported and appreciated in supporting women to create the change. Our shared world is shifting towards the opening of attitudes, the opening up of aspirations, the opening up of the desire to make a difference openly.
The journey to 2030 and beyond is a long one, with solution required that enable success for the long-term. Each step of the way, walking side by side is the only way.
Because to achieve 50%, genuine equality, only 100% will do.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019
It is incredible how smile-inducing it can be. And connecting.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, excitedly, conversations spark: a stranger in an elevator wearing a national team jacket, a fellow passenger with the accent of the opposition, those all around with a desperate look of knowing as clearly distracted in their here & now because of something so exciting happening right then yet elsewhere, on the field…followed by complete looks at one another tinged with “Can you believe what just happened?”
Sport. It creates the opportunity for complete strangers to talk, to smile, to growl, to cry, to hug. That is the power of sport! And right here, right now, it’s all about the Rugby!
The 2019 Rugby World Cup – global rugby and competitive sport’s celebration of remarkable physical and psychological prowess – is in its last days. In less than a handful of sleeps the 2019 winners will be crowned following a month of matches where heroes were discovered, warriors fell, sure-wins lost, and who-would-have-thoughts rose closer and closer to the top. It is truly, intoxicatingly incredible how a global event like the rugby world cup can energise, unite and focus literally millions across the globe, dissolving boundaries, finding a common language, all because of the agnostic phenomena that is the collective spirit of sport.
That is the magic. What happens on the field is one thing. What happens off the field is another. Ultimately, through sport, people of different backgrounds, with different stories of different geographies, different ideologies, different religions and different races, share common ground. Ultimately, at the end of the day, everyone is focusing on the same field in the same field. And it feels really, really good.
It’s all about the agnostic, unfiltered, unedited, unexpected excitement that anything can happen, no matter what the scores were in the past, no matter what the performance stats have been to present, no matter what the hopes are for the future. It comes down to a moment of truth when two teams need to face off and find out who in the moment is going to be victorious.
This unifying energy pulls people together, and it does it in a way that goes so far beyond nationalities, so far beyond passports, and thankfully, so far beyond politics. Importantly, however, sustaining the energy rush, sense of unity, and pure spirit of blessing in being a part of it all is not just about the play on the field. Interestingly, and so often, it is the host country that eclipses all sportsmen and women to be the hero of the competition.
Such has been the case with RWC 2019. And the people of the host nation, JAPAN – each and every one a Brave Blossom in their own humble, dignified, deeply touching way.
The stats of RWC 2019 stand tall as the host nation has broken records in national and global participation. Official numbers tell a powerful story:
- More than 1.8 million tickets sold across all 48 matches
- More than 864,000 fans attend official Fanzones
not to mention:
- Brave Blossoms win hearts around the world
- Broadcast records smashed
- Close matches, unexpected results have characterised pool stage
- Monumental effort to get matches on at the weekend
Every mega-event is history-making, the team taking home the crown inscribed in sporting history books for time memorial. And yet what do people remember most with their hearts, not just their heads? It is the backstories – those impacting and impacted by the time and place of one of the greatest sports shows on Earth.
In 2019, of all characters to make a defining impression on the RWC, it was Mother Nature. What host nation in the world has had to build in contingency, emergency, and recovery plans for a Typhoon? Japan.
Midway through the competition, as storms started brewing between teams convinced they were destined for the final rounds, storms brewed off the coast of Japan with a gameplan for clear, concentrated attack on cities across the map, including RWC venue cities.Players and fans were warned to take cover, matches were re-configured to take cognisance of the importance of tournament momentum. And then Typhoon 19 hit.
After millions were implored to evacuate, and finally Typhoon Hagibis had moved on, over 60 lives were lost, and countless left homeless. Millions, millions were left speechless.Everyone, absolutely everyone linked to the RWC, grieved…tears becoming the glue to rebuild a heartbroken nation.
Without a doubt, this shared sense of loss is part of what RWC athletes and followers will take home once the tournament is over, whomever the winners. To state this is not purely romanticised rhetoric. The impact of the shared tragedy, and respect for host nation suffering the most profoundly, is visible in bowed heads, and audible in silence, with every match.
Case in point: the Semi-Finals.
On both occasions, once anthems were played, and as the electricity in the stadiums became overpowering, a pause occurred – the entire stadium hushed for a moment of prayer to make sure that no matter what the excitement in the moment, moments recently passed with Typhoon 19 do not become an overlooked, undervalued part of history. Instead, these moments become a shared prayer, a shared bond, unifying the sporting world with the people of Japan. That is sporting class at its best!
And now, finally, the Finals are upon us.
History is a mere matter of hours from being made, especially if the Springboks, with their first Black Captain, prove to be the world’s finest once more, a nation once again recalibrated through sport, champions once more.
And yet, as nations like South Africa know well, rugby victory is not simply about sporting prowess – it is about national prowess. Whatever the outcome, whatever the colours of the Kings of the competition, for all participating in the 2019 RWC – on and off field – it is the Brave Blossoms, as over-performing athletes on the RWC Field and over 126 million courageous people of Japan, who won our 2019 RWC hearts.
With a simple, childish smile, with hope in heart that the Finals prove to be a final, unifying force for the rainbow of nationals supporting the Springboks, one cannot but feel an instinctive, thoughtful, deeply grateful bow to the people of Japan – the enduring heroes of the 2019 RWC.
Loving, sincere arigatōgozaimashita.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019
There’s something very different about an attraction versus a place of pilgrimage.
Yes, both can be icons immediately identifying a place, a people.
Yes, both attract visitors, often numbering in their millions.
Yes, both require preplanning, often involving tour guides and groups to be able to gain access, to get around.
Yes, both have the potential to be powerful source of valuable tourist dollars, or pounds, or rupees, or rubles, or any other currency.
And yes, both have the ability to offer visitors invaluable insights through rich storytelling – their reason for being, their well disguised yet profoundly important details, their role in the greater scheme of things.
Which is why as a traveller it is so easy to get busy booking a visit to an attraction, the thought of logistics distracting from what is lingering so close below the surface – its power as a sacred place. Until one comes face to face with one of these places. The number in the world is few, yet when seen, when felt, there is no question about its unique classification.
Case in point: the DMZ – the still active, 38th parallel, 200km long and 2km wide demilitarised zone between North and South Korea – the world’s last remnant of the Cold War, and front line of enduring threat of conflict yet prayers for peace.
Less than a two hour drive from the Republic of Korea’s capital city, the significance and seriousness of a visit to the DMZ begins to set in before leaving Seoul. The list of ‘must’ s and ‘must not’s is short, but clear: passports are a must, respectable clothing is a must, signing off a waiver in case of unexpected cross-border hostilities or contact with mines is a must, restrained communication is a must, photos in military zones are a must not unless given the all-clear. Careless, politically associated hand gestures and comments are a must not. Wandering off is a must not. Taking the direction of Security Escorts is a must. These are not tour guides, they are UN-assigned, conflict trained, armed officers. Respect is a must.
Suddenly, visibly and audibly, the chemistry of the group changes. Driving into the DMZ, passing through well reinforced security gates manned by well-armed officers, only the sound of the official UN bus engine can be heard. The quiet is broken only by injections of information by the Security Escort: how far we are from the border of North Korea, how many people work in the DMZ, how many pre-war descendant families live in the DMZ, how many hectares of rice fields farmers are given if they live in the DMZ compared to those outside (17 vs 2), how many mines still lay hidden in the deep grasses around us (thousands).
And then we arrive. Ground zero: JSA – the Joint Security Area.
Sacred has a colour: Hex #5b92e5, also known as UN Blue.
Sacred stirs a reaction, an almost primal reaction. Hussssssshhhhhhh.
Suddenly the spirit of entitlement that tourists often have having paid for the right to control the where, what, when and how of travel evaporates. The ‘here & now’ transcends all else. There is nothing else that matters.
Because here it is, here, right in front of us – the line that marks separation between the two Koreas. The place where, 66 years ago, where the UN overlooked an armistice signed by North and South Korea which ended the Korean War. The place where, months ago, the leaders of the two Koreas shook hands in hopes of denuclearisation and unification. The place where the sight of UN Blue symbolises enduring hope that the history books may one day, hopefully one day, write a final chapter of peace, unity and forgiveness.
To see the place seen so many times before on a television or mobile screen, to reflect on its detail, is one thing. To feel it, however, is quite another. To try to describe it is to realise one has lost their ability to speak. There are no words – only sounds, only tears.
Humility mutes all conversation. It’s haunting. And it’s disturbing, in a really good way. Here is where history was, and continues to be, made. Here is where horror and hurt, hardship and hunger, healing and hope all collide. Here is where we are reminded, vividly and voicelessly, the blessing that we have of being able to see completely different world that reveals to us, raw and real-time, the gift of peace.
This is what separates an attraction from a place of pilgrimage.
The intensity of the meaning of this place of pilgrimage is made clear by the fact that, in these times of selfies and see-me-here, photographs actually don’t matter. Vivid captures are embossed in mind and heart while standing still in silence, knowing that you can’t actually capture what you’re seeing and feeling with a simple frame.
It’s about standing in the sun on a dry wooden blue bridge the one that connects North and South Korea shutting your eyes and just listening to the sound of crickets somewhere nearby. It’s about feeling the warmth of the Fall sun showering down, noticing tiny little droplets of water on overgrown grasses that once, only 50 years ago, hid soldiers still in their teens, ready to die for love of country. It’s the smell of pine trees. Here is where learning rises above leverage, where respect rises above rights, where silence rises above soundbytes and selfies.
The same is felt standing at the door of cell 46664 on Robben Island. The same is felt at the `Door of No Return’ in Ghana. The same is felt in but a handful of locations across the globe – places where meaning means more than holiday memories.
These are the moments when tourism becomes sacred, and when sustainability is about protecting and sustaining the spiritual value of a place, not just its economic, social, cultural, or environmental.
Because while one can put tourism infrastructure and policies in place to maximise the commercial opportunity of attractions, there are some places where commerce has no place.
Their power, their richness, is in the husssssshhhhhhhhh.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019