Climate Of Change

Entry by: Sirona

3rd December 2015
The garden table is strewn with the trappings of my work, books with titles like ‘Managing Change’, ‘Creating a Climate of Change’ and ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’ made colourful with page markers that ripple in the light breeze. Pinned all around me are inspirational quotes; or at least they were intended to be inspirational. So far, I am lacking in any actual inspiration as to how to persuade my colleagues to accept or indeed embrace the changes that were coming.
Perhaps it was the setting that stifled me, I thought. This garden had been such a feature of my life, the backdrop for my childhood. I had played on the grass, climbed the trees, sat cuddled on my Grandfathers knee and listened to old stories, repeated countless times. It is hard to think of change when you are in a place that anchors you so firmly to your past.
The crunch of gravel tells me my Grandfather has come to join me, I need no further excuse to abandon the idea of work for of reminiscence, his favoured occupation.
‘Hello, Grandad,’
‘Hello, Betty,’ he is the only person in the world who I allow to call me that. I am Elizabeth, or Liz to everyone else. ‘Working hard?’ he moves to the table and leans over to read the titles of the books, and my heart flinches at the stiffness of his posture, the weakness of his eyes.
‘Having trouble getting started,’ I admit.
‘Managing change?’ he muses as he shuffles away from the table and eases himself into the chair. One of the quotes catches his eye and he raises a rumpled and crooked finger to point towards it, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world. Ah, if only it were that simple.’
‘It isn’t?’ I could listen to Grandad talk all day on any subject, chats with him were always my sanctuary.
‘Oh, it’s a nice idea. Very appealing. Simplistic,’ he says, ‘but good intentions don’t really bounce around the place like free radicals.’ He snorts at his unintentional joke, ‘Radicals! Ha! Rebellious little particles! No, no, it’s not like that is it?’
‘It isn’t?’
‘Of course not, Betty. Because the cream rises to the top.’
This is what conversations with Grandad are like. He speaks a lot in metaphors, that make perfect sense when you understand them but until then can be frustrating.
‘Power. It flows from the hands of the people and up to the one percent, the very moment you put your X in that box on voting day. Like cream, floating to the top.’
I nod my understanding, ‘The elected dictatorship?’ I suggest, remembering he’d used that phrase before.
‘Just so. So, those free radicals can bounce around being whatever they like, they’ll find the higher up the bottle they get, the harder it is to get any movement. Increased viscosity. Stagnation.’
I turn towards him and smile, canting my head as I ask ‘So we need to homogenise society?’
He chuckles then, ‘Oh, you think I’m advocating socialism? Didn’t work out so well for Russia, did it?’ I’m reassured to see that his eyes are as bright as they ever where, even if his breath rattles worryingly in his chest.
‘Why do you think it failed?’ I ask him, more because I want him to continue talking than any actual curiosity.
‘Because, darling girl, we are like mouldy apples.’
I smile, because we’re back to metaphors. ‘We are?’
Oh yes. We polish the outside and we let the world see what we want them too. We claim to be socialists or liberals or compassionate conservatives, that we have everyone’s best interests at heart but that little X that we make? Even such a small amount of power corrupts, and we cast it where it will do us the most good.’
I’d love to argue with him. I’d love to tell him that everyone is altruistic and caring, that we are a new and compassionate society. Then I remember how many voted for right wing, selfish and introspective parties at the last election and I sigh. The conversation has taken a depressing turn, so I point to another sign. This one reads Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.
‘How does that fit with your theory, then?’
Grandad leans back in his chair and considers for a moment. ‘I’d say it reinforces it, Betty. The world is constantly changing, new people being born and old people like me, shuffling off this mortal coil.’
‘Not for a good while yet, Grandad.’
He smiles. ‘But in all my life, Betty, what has really been achieved? Things that really count? For all the wars and conflict, for all the advances? The four horsemen are still riding hard around this world.’
‘Life is better for us, here in England?’
He closes his eyes, resting his hands on his belly as he speaks sleepily, ‘I fought a war so that you would be free, that’s what I wanted for you. But the fat rose to the top, Betty. It stagnated. Power is a form of energy, it can’t be created or destroyed, only transformed. Corrupted and corrupting. Now it resides in the hands of Corporate CEO’s who hold governments to ransom over financial investment. You’re all mind controlled, drip fed information from media outlets owned by those same CEO’s.’
I sit upright, turning to stare at Grandad in consternation.
‘Steady on, Grandad, you’re sounding a bit tinfoil hat now!’
He smiles, and I watch the gentle rise and fall of his chest for a few moments, wondering if he has fallen asleep. I startle when he raises a hand and points to a quote without opening his eyes.
‘If nothing changed, there would be no butterflies,’ I read.
‘Just so, Betty.’
‘I don’t understand, Grandad.’
‘Ah well, darling girl. Think of this: You are not the caterpillar. You are the cabbage leaf.’
I fall back into my chair, consumed by consternation. Conversations with Grandad are always a journey, but not usually so bleak. He was the only one who encouraged me, gentle cajoling me into my potential. I had no idea of his deeper thoughts, and how much this one simple conversation would change me.
My eye falls on the last of the quotes printed out.
There are things in life we don’t want to happen but have to accept; things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we don’t want to live without, but have to let go.
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