Why do we find it difficult to stand up and speak out? - Veterinary Practice
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Why do we find it difficult to stand up and speak out?

The Mercury Column, in which a guest columnist takes the temperature of the profession – and the world around

WITH an election on the not so
distant horizon, we should brace
ourselves for a silly season of
politics when structured reason
gives way to impending farce in the
run-up to the big day.

If, this time, things go as they have
in the past we can expect mild-
mannered back-benchers to turn into
Silverback gorillas and heaven only
knows which analogy we might seek
for ministers.

Inevitably, the Government will
find hitherto untapped hoards of
gelt to promise us in return for
another chance to finish the job
and the Opposition will find a
miraculous cure for amnesia.

Like most people, I will find
myself carried along, at least in
part, with the rhetoric and the
transient euphoria of a fresh start. In
the end, I suspect that this will all
come down to trust and, after the last
few years, it will be fascinating to see
just how much trust the general public
can dredge up from its collective and
battered psyche.

Changing governments

There was a time when the Italian
people changed their governments
with roughly the same frequency as
their underwear and, given the
political history that led up to the
challenges of the 1990s, perhaps it is
no wonder that the Italian electorate
became completely blasé about their

Maybe that’s not a problem
anyway as, since the satirical cartoons
of the 1800s which united voters to
change the face of European history
in one direction or the other,
politicians have occupied the
basement of public opinion together
with estate agents and now,
presumably, bankers.

Estate agents found their place in
the pantheon of public mistrust
largely because they earned the
reputation of saying whatever it took
to get the sale and, despite the fact
that if that sale were on our behalf
and we might have profited handsomely from it, we largely found
it easier to accord the murky downside
of any financial derring-do to a
professional body whose occupation
equipped them with the necessary
depth of dermis.

Of course, estate agents don’t
need a professional qualification to ply
their trade because, historically, that
hasn’t been a requirement and, rather
like politicians and celebrities, they
exist because we put them there. This,
of course, takes us rather closer to the water’s edge than we might care for
because, in all the sordid revelations
of the last few years, we’ve not only
watched politicians, senior police
officers, bankers, media moguls,
celebrities and, heaven forfend,
members of the Church get away with
it time and time again.

We clearly find it difficult,
collectively or singly, to stand up and
speak out in a society that would
appear not only to have lost its moral
compass but to have buried it under
tons of excrement.

Ours is the society that ridiculed
Mary Whitehouse, the teacher from
Nuneaton, whose long-term campaign
against the permissive society and the
BBC and outspoken opposition to
social liberalism earned her a CBE but
also, eventually, the derision of the
nation in another campaign
orchestrated by the media to whom
she was implacably opposed. No
wonder that we find it difficult to
stand up to be counted.

A bouncing ball

Recent years have seen Silvio
Berlusconi bounce like a squash ball
through the Italian state, until finally,
late in 2013, the Italian Senate
managed to expel him. While Il
Cavalieri may be no more, Italy’s
government has, yet again, been tainted with corruption and
single-handedly, Berlusconi has
set back the cause of Italian
women by decades.

On one day in January,
the majority of national
UK TV news was given
over to stories of sexual
predation on the part of
parents, groups of Asian
men, internet paedophilia
sites commanded from the
UK, abuse in children’s homes
run by the Church and the sordid
antics of a clutch of celebrities.

Bizarrely, I find myself happily
concurring with the prosecution of
some celebrities while wanting to find
that others have been maligned and
were never guilty of such a crime. Is it
that I too have been duped by the
projected personae of those whom I
want to be innocent or have they been
framed in a flurry of opportunistic

Continuum of change

Probably, the truth lies somewhere
along a continuum of social change.
For those of us who lived through the
1960s-1970s, social liberalism was a
way of life and while I cannot
remember objecting to it at the time,
looking back, it wasn’t that great!

The expectation of individuals was
hugely different, bullying at work was
commonplace and the institutional
bigotry of The Sweeney or Life On Mars
was a normal occurrence. While society didn’t set too much store in respect for
individuals by individuals,
there was a widespread
respect for authority
which is why the anti-
government protests in
the US and in parts of
Europe were so

Not only was sexual
equality non-existent,
there was very little
equality anywhere, so
much of the journey that
we’ve undertaken over the
last 50 years has been worthwhile.

Now, in today’s liberated society,
we’ve embraced equality between
gender, ethnicity, age and ability and
enshrined it in statute.

Rather like European states
enacting orders from Brussels, we seem
happy to accept equality in a rather
piecemeal fashion and, while we
disguise respect behind political
correctness, one can see that until very
recently, we have been happy to turn a blind eye to a number of dinosaurs
along that road.

Where does that leave us today?
Perplexed might be a good term but
are we motivated to change things? I
suspect that human nature being what
it is, we will collectively expect others
to do that for us as we watch with
varying degrees of prurience from the

One major consequence of this
journey has been an increasing hunger
for trust among consumers. It may be
that their behaviour has discouraged
many practitioners from wanting to go
the extra mile just to find that many
clients’ loyalty has been paper thin but
2014 will undoubtedly hold further
revelations in the run-up to the election
and public trust will become a major
issue in the process.

As practitioners, we still enjoy a
significant level of trust and we should
resist the temptation to cut corners in
client service or to seek too eagerly to
recoup costs as the economy, and the
state of each client’s wallet, improves.

For years we have
been advocating a
paradigm shift from
supporting elections
as one-off
community events to
supporting the entire
electoral cycle – from
the design of a
country’s legal
framework to the
implementation of an election and
through to
subsequent reform

Perhaps the good news behind all
the bad news is that our society is
undergoing a reform, not least in the
standards with which it chooses to
delineate itself. If that is true, the
public trust which we enjoy will be
utterly priceless.

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