“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― Ernst F. Schumacher
The UK has recently seen an increase in youth violence, with claims being made that London’s murder rate now exceeds that of New York City. As usual, media pundits are quick to point to the “causes” of this increase, but it looks to me like that many of these so-called causes are in fact symptoms of a deeper cause. We saw a similar scenario in August 2011, following the riots that broke out in London that month. Here’s an excerpt from my book, CLARITY (©2013 Jamie Smart, published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd):
“Behind the London riots a multitude of causes…”
The Euronews headline from August 9, 2011 attempted to make sense of the riots that had started that week in London, then spread to other cities in the UK. The TV and newspapers were awash with people (ranging from local teenagers to police and government ministers) giving their opinions on what had caused the riots. The “causes” they identified included:
● the tragic shooting of Mark Duggan by police marksmen
● budget cuts and the removal of social programs
● economic and social inequality
● gangs and gang culture
● poor parenting
● social media and mobile phone technology
● moral breakdown
● poor police response
● a criminal underclass
In response to this litany of causes came a variety of proposed solutions. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised an “all-out war on gangs and gang culture.” Police responded by arresting 200 gang leaders; but the strategy backfired, creating a dangerous power vacuum. Younger, more volatile gang-members stepped in to fill their shoes, leading to an increase in violence, mayhem and chaos.
But what if this dizzying array of societal, family and individual “causes” were actually not causes, but effects; the emergent properties of a single, underlying cause?
The Lime Solution
During the early 1800s, countless women were dying of puerperal fever, a bacterial infection contracted during childbirth. At the time, the illness was attributed to a mind-boggling variety of causes (ranging from bad smells and “atmospheres” to overcrowding, posture during labour and psychological factors), with an equally wide variety of measures taken to try and prevent its spread.
In the 1840s, a Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, noticed that women who gave birth at home, in the midwives’ ward or even in the street had a much lower incidence of puerperal fever than those who gave birth in the doctors’ ward of his hospital. He had a sudden insight: the illness was being spread by something that couldn’t be seen; something on the hands and instruments of the doctors.
In May of 1847, Semmelweis ordered that all doctors in his hospital wash their hands in a chlorinated lime solution before contact with the patients. The rate of puerperal fever fell from 18% to less than 3%.
The theories of the day had identified dozens of “causes,” but there was in fact just one cause: germs and bacteria on the unwashed hands and instruments of the doctors.
Today, every doctor knows the importance of “scrubbing up,” wearing correct surgical attire and sterilizing their instruments. One of the legacies of Semmelweis’ discovery is that most people today survive routine surgery most of the time.
Semmelweis was less fortunate; despite the massive success of the pro- cedures he instituted, his discoveries disagreed with the medical theo- ries of the day. The medical orthodoxy thought Semmelweis’ discovery was too simplistic, lacking in credibility and offending their sensibilities (the doctors didn’t like the implication that their hands were dirty). He was at first ridiculed, then violently opposed, losing his job and being committed to a mental asylum where he died in 1865 of septicaemia. Semmelweis’ practice of hand-washing didn’t become widespread until after his death.
Today, “the Semmelweis reflex” is the name given to the knee-jerk rejection of new information because it disagrees with an existing or- thodoxy, belief-set or paradigm.
First ridicule… then violent opposition… followed by widespread acceptance.
But is it truly credible that a single cause is responsible for the London riots, just as a single cause was responsible for puerperal fever? If so, what could possibly explain such a diverse and complex array of effects?
A superstition. A misunderstanding. The misguided belief that we’re feeling something other than Thought. Think about it: when a person believes they live in an outside-in world, they’re confused about where their feelings come from.
● If a person thinks their security, happiness and well-being comes from amassing money and wealth, then they’re likely to become greedy.
● If a person thinks their agitated feelings are caused by other people, then they’re likely to experience resentment, hostility and other relationship problems.
● If a person’s habitual thinking is standing between them and their deeper feelings of peace and well-being, then they’re likely to be unhappy.
● If a person doesn’t understand that 100% of their feelings are coming from their thinking in the moment, then stress is a strong possibility.
● If a person thinks their security comes from money, and their money supply starts looking unstable, then anxiety and needi- ness are understandable responses.
● If a person doesn’t realize that they have a source of wisdom within them, and makes important decisions when they’re clouded with superstitious thinking, they’re going to make some bad decisions.
● If a person doesn’t realize that they are profoundly resilient, and they see trouble on the horizon, then they’re likely to worry.
It doesn’t take a huge leap of creativity to trace most of the day’s news topics to a small number of culprits: neediness, greed, anxiety, stress, anger, resentment and lack of wisdom. And all these culprits are symptoms of a single problem: superstitious thinking springing from the outside-in misunderstanding.
The theories of the day had identified dozens of “causes,” but there was in fact just one cause…
It looks to me like this one cause – a misunderstanding about where our experience is coming from and who we really are – is behind the rise in youth violence. It’s behind the violent actions of the young people themselves, and behind the short-sighted decisions that have created the conditions for that violence.
The massive changes sweeping our globe are having unexpected consequences. We’re facing a humanitarian crisis of mental health, and the increase in youth violence is a consequence of it.
In the face of this, I’m excited to announce the first collaborative project of the Clarity Foundation and the UPLIFT Foundation: Resolving the Roots of Youth Violence.
I’m collaborating with Clarity Coaches in-training, Dorothy Kolomeisky and Robin Lockhart to support youth-workers in finding a solution to youth violence and antisocial behaviour problems that are deteriorating our communities. In response to the rise of knife-related youth crime in London over the past year, and the anti-knife campaign kicked off in December 2017, we’re ready to work together to make a massive difference in the lives of young people both in London and across the globe.
Resolving the Roots of Youth Violence is a 2-day pilot program for professionals working with youth with the vision of transforming violence, and other antisocial behaviour into peace and cooperation. We’re looking for a small group of heart-centered people to take part in exploring a new approach that could change everything. This project may be a great fit for you if:
• You’re a teacher, teacher trainer, or youth leader, and want to be part of the solution.
• You feel punitive and top-down approaches aren’t working.
• You’re interested in focusing on the capabilities and innate wellbeing of the young people you work with.
• You’re open-minded and willing to experiment with a new approach.
• You feel respect and compassion for the young people you work with—no matter how troubled their behavior may seem.
• You’re open to the possibility of taking a leadership role in offering a new solution to the epidemic of youth violence and social issues.
Resolving the Roots of Youth Violence will help you:
• Explore how to make positive connections with even the hardest to reach youth.
• Anchor solid relationships—even in the most challenging situations.
• Inspire conversations with youth that will help them shift their mind-set and begin to see new choices.
• Turn conflict into understanding.
• Eliminate stress in your own life—both at work and home.
• Gain access to a clear and calm mind when everyone around you may be reactive.
• Gain access to your own inner guidance system.
• Help you to cultivate a Trusted Advisor status with the youth you serve.
• Listen deeply to what someone is really expressing beyond the words.
• Help youth clear limiting beliefs and habitual behavior patterns.
• Help youth build resilience and motivation—by beginning to realize their own value.
• Gain understanding of a new solution that has the power to transform any situation.
• Create life-changing value for the population you’re serving.
The dates are 13-14 June at Regents University London and participation is free. To hold your place a deposit of £75 will be required, as spaces are extremely limited. However, your deposit will be fully refunded when you attend the event. Selected candidates will be required to attend both days and invited to join our new community for youth workers that will offer support, connection and resources.
We are also offering live-video streaming, which will include participation and inclusion in the discussions and breakout sessions for those who can’t attend in person (this is a great option for anyone not living in London).
If you attend in-person, you will be responsible for covering your own accommodations, meal costs and transport.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, and you’d like to explore involvement in the project, please click on the link below and fill out a short application.
Sunday Times Bestselling Author, Speaker and Executive Coach
PLUS: Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you get the clarity and results that matter to you:
1. Hire me to speak at your event
If you want an entertaining and impactful keynote speech or breakout session for your conference, offsite or town hall meeting, click here
2. Join the Profitable Coaches Group
Join the Profitable Coaches Professional Group and connect with the growing community of like-minded transformation professionals who are passionate about exponentially increasing their grounding, impact and their livelihood. You can join for free here
3. Join Chip Chipman, Jan Chipman and me in Tenerife
Each year, my team and I head off to the Canary Islands for a week with my dear friends, colleagues and mentors Jan and Chip Chipman for the Clarity Life Transformation Retreat. We spend 5 days diving deep into the principles behind clarity, and lives transform in the process. If you’d like to find out more about it, go to https://www.jamiesmart.com/clarity-retreat/
4. The Thriving Coaches Blueprint
We’re putting together a new practice-building case study group at The Thriving Coaches Blueprint at the end of the summer. If you’d like to work with me and my team on growing your practice, you can find out more here: https://www.jamiesmart.com/thriving/
PLUS: check these out :
Get your free Profitable Coaches Scorecard book here
Listen to the Results Mindset Podcast here
Listen to The Profitable Coaches Podcast here
Read the first 2 chapters of my Sunday Times Bestseller RESULTS: Think Less, Achieve More here