When you leave your door open? Opportunity or threat?
The man was small but with the attitude of a boy of bravado –You have met the type: Knowing all the answers without ever having to stand up and take responsibility for the consequences of answers made.
He had an arrogance, the false confidence of a person who had always found the door open for him and his confidence had tipped over to be the self-importance of one who dare not turn his back. The type of person for whom the adage be nice to people on the way up as you’ll meet them on your way downis written. He stepped forward and made the statement as if he had been in every war zone, and had threats flow past his ears on a weekly basis. The lips twisted upwards and he made his statement:
‘So you are too scared to go to Mogadishu’
It was not a question but a statement. A statement to highlight how he was a better person and willing to take the dangers of flying in with a United Nations aircraft, sit in a United Nations container and pretend to be in mortal danger like the journalists regularly painted pictures of. Or how increasing numbers of organisations are marketing themselves with carefully posed pictures showing how they are ‘fully integrated’.
Sadly, as journalist were forced to move closer to the dangers; their lives are being put on the line with the inevitable results. Lives lost alongside the truth becoming ever more elusive. The organisations marketing themselves as fully inclusive are being shown to be taking quick trips to pose pictures; the substance was apparent to those who knew even a milligram more of the realities.
For those people sitting behind bank accounts stuffed fat by allowances, there was no real danger. Plenty of anxiety but no real danger as standoff distances increased and the likelihood of actually meeting a Somali was very low. A real Somali, someone seeking to make a living whilst having to look around anxiously as to how best to keep their families safe.
The statement made it did not require engagement, the truth lay with the actions of those who had been there, done it and have others recount how to deal with a death threat with no thousand soldier guard standing around working out whether best to buy a flat screen television from the supposed enemy or throw a hand grenade in the direction of where a shadow had moved to threaten the status quo.
The statement did not bother, carrying the wounds, mental and physical, of being engaged in places where the only defence was wit and wisdom I had already moved on from snide comments of those with only coffee table crap for experience. Travelled with boys with guns with similar attitudes of arrogance to this boy. Big men keep wars going playing on the arrogance, false hopes and superficial knowledge of such boys; keeping all the boys happy in their own little worlds of ignorance and hate. They live in their own closed, little, worlds where windows on to the World are few and opening of doors controlled as they try to limit the infux of truth disrupting their egotism.
The door would remain open, never going to close doors as enjoy people adding to experience and knowledge and can deal with the arrogance of those yet to gather knowledge and life skills. How? ‘See this chair?’ ‘Yes’ the boy answered the smile playing but a querulous glaze slipping across his face. ‘I am here for another month. You can have the chair when I have gone, but, for now, get out and don’t bother me again unless you something positive to add to what we have been trying to do since long before you came’. If you are not adding to the efforts of a team where doors do not exist, then go and live in your own little World. At some stage, we all find doors are made to open, be it by free will or force, and the hash realities will barge their way in to challenge any selfish interests.
The mind goes back to a previous time when we had major issues of people trying to stop us from seeing, hearing and experiencing the realities ‘in-the-field’. We were told we could not travel from the district and regional capital to many of the villages where we were delivering food. First step, listen to villagers coming to town. This open door policy swiftly found those saying they were village elders were nothing of the sort; they were middlemen. We banned all travel with the food deliveries going out to the villages. Protests, the odd death threat but rapidly the weight of people seeing benefits had them cut out the charlatans themselves.
After some time of making sure we had changed the culture through changing the behaviour, we started to let people travel — truck owners could make some extra money and people needed to move. Two gentlemen came to say they wanted to get back to Rabdhure, a long way off down roads to be experienced. I had made the trip three or four times and gave permission for them to travel (We had taken contracts away from truck owners conniving with middlemen).
The rains were starting to come and we loaded the trucks through the night so they could be away before call for prayer, dawn. The distribution teams would leave shortly after, catch and pass the trucks and then do the distribution straight off the backs of the trucks. Five or so hours driving and with people involved in equitable distributions, a couple of hours work getting sacks of corn and cans of oil out to the women heads of households. And then the drive back. Hoping there would be water so the dirt could be peeled back from blistered skin.
The two gentlemen were told to be at the warehouse 4:30, as people came to life to pray or, in the case of the loaders, look to finish and get paid enough to keep body and soul together for another day. The trucks were ready to roll but these two guys were nowhere to be seen. I asked one of the guys to drive up to the little guesthouse, about the only building in the town at the time with steps up to a second floor. Up the steps, along an outside corridor. Knocked on the door indicated. No response. Knocked a little harder, and then announced who was standing outside. I was impolitely told to clear off. Looked at the guesthouse owner, he looked at me, could see my eyes were glowing; no breakfast combines with people looking for favours and then being ungrateful. The door was planking not substantial. I hammered this time and told them we were there so they could get their ride to Rabdhure. Told to wait. I am not the waiting kind when people are clearly holding up an awful lot of other people and, more importantly, food for families.
Pulled back my boot, bequeathed me by a French marine captain before he left for NATO training at Shrivenham, and opened the door without a key and with some brute force. Stepped into the room where two stunned gentlemen now realised 4:30 meant 4:30. Behind me, the driver was laughing his head off as these two scurried around pulling together their clothes and twisting their macawiiss (A Somali form of the sarong) so their dignity was saved a little. I raged making it plain there was no pulling out of commitments just because they wanted to sleep a little more. Language was no barrier; my actions and their reading my face in the semi darkness traversed any linguistic shortcomings.
Would we give them a lift to the truck? No, was my first answer, start walking. Fast. And they did, they started to move as they realised this guy was on an emotional power trip in a very small room still dark with the night as well as malevolent mood. They were unsure whether I was some pink demon or their darkest nightmare.
I apologised to the guesthouse owner, asked if there was any damage. He assured me nothing — he had also enjoyed door-bursting time keeping from the real guest in town. I had been accepted as one of the people as far as anyone so different could ever be accepted. My open door policy paying dividends in how my team and me engaged with people? Being open, wearing your emotions builds relationships with real people could be something to take forward in this age (now) of people hiding behind technology.
We found the two gentlemen hurrying along the road toward the warehouse. Picked them up dropped them to the truck and shook hands with two men who were chastened and going to enjoy the ride out to Rabdhure.
Are there lessons from these anecdotes?
Selflessness is always the way forward — always be open with people
As with the Japanese, openness is the best defence — see, hear, and feel, what is around you.
Experience the environment and savour the experiences; a reputation, possibly future safety, is built on doors being open. Or opened.