The payoff of non-intervention

He’s spiralling out of control. Every day sees him a little further along the road to insanity. It distresses his wife and mother but for the sake of peace they say nothing when he gets irrational and rude.

She’s drinking to forget and it’s drowning her. Every day she loses a little more of herself. It worries her siblings and disturbs her parents but for the sake of peace they ignore her sloppy outpourings of sentimentality and loss after she’s had a few.

Your friends are looping on repeat. Every week they go to the same bar, tell the same stories, order the same drinks, get slobbering drunk and plan futures they’re doing nothing about. They’re boring and sad but for the sake of peace nobody says anything.

The family sniping is getting vicious. Every Christmas sees the invite list getting shorter. Uncle Bob’s banned cause he’s an atheist and it upsets Auntie Jean who’s in love with Jesus. Jeremy is gay and it makes cousin Rachel feel sad because she’s always had a crush on him so for the sake of peace Jeremy has agreed to spend Christmas with his partner’s family until Rachel gets married or falls in love with someone else.

The world is getting crazier by the minute. Short-sighted politicians incite war and court bloated corporates who fund their ego-driven campaigns but for the sake of peace people let it ride hoping against hope for some kind of divine intervention before the world blows up or chokes on toxic waste.

But let’s get back to our man spiralling out of control. His wife and mother have been watching his disintegration for a couple of years now. It started, they think, when he lost a contract with International Fisheries who had agreed to incorporate his environmentally sound methods of fishing until some remote CEO quashed the plan and insisted production would diminish. His methods, whilst future-proofing the industry, would see profits fall in the short-term and since business is all about making money, the contract was cancelled. The environment be damned.

He started drinking that night. A few months later he had another savage blow when his crowdfunding campaign to launch his own brand failed. His drinking increased and his bitterness formed a crusty impenetrable shell. He decided the world was against him and to ensure that nothing would ever hurt him again, he stopped trying. The world was his enemy so why save it? He went into a dark place where he could not be reached. True, he emerged from time to time, surprising and delighting his family with his old humour and valour but fearing more pain and rejection he retreated again behind his shell of bitterness, alcoholism and blame.

His mother knew that intervention was required. Having been to Al-Anon herself and survived a marriage to a fall-down drunk she knew someone had to challenge him. But intervention came with a price and a risk. If the person in question was not ready you might lose them altogether and besides, it worked best when more than one person spoke up. But his wife wouldn’t. She had enough to cope with without forcing her husband to face his demons. So, the mother stood back while the wife buried her head in the sand and he kept drinking and deteriorating.

Where do you think this ends?

Now, the world. Violence and unbridled acquisition of wealth has left a mighty chasm between rich and poor, favoured and unfavoured. But who wants another revolution? Rolling heads solve nothing. Protest takes too long.  Is it time for a bit of conscience-pricking intervention with the rich? But to whom will they listen? Or is it time to force changes to the system? Of course it is. But who dares speak up?

The pay-off of non-intervention is denial.

We cross our fingers and tell ourselves improvement requires no energy other than momentum over time. Maybe we even tell ourselves that faith is the answer. God will eventually strike and flood and rid the earth of selected infestations of wrong-doers. We should be okay as long as we find higher ground.


No matter how unfair or corrupt, no matter how justified the self-destruction we need to speak up and we need to care enough to risk loss. Nothing changes until we say enough is enough.

I have said recently that honesty takes an enormous amount of insight and energy and I would add, courage. To tell someone a truth that will save them is exhausting and brave. The status quo is the easy road. It’s signposts are clear and predictable and if you’re cruising along you may fail to notice that it just goes around in circles.

The road less travelled is unmapped and it takes us into a place where nobody has graft or advantage because corruption hasn’t had the chance to take root. Equality is possible once you turn the corner and fellow travellers are assets not rivals.

I really do understand how hard it is to intervene when someone is self-destructing. I’ve backed away more often than I care to admit and I have buried my head in the sand. True enough many people I know have managed to drag themselves out of the mire in time with no intervention at all but others have died.

We must keep trying to make a difference, even if it’s only to one other person.DSdMyy5W4AAput7



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