Opinions are like bumholes (Smoke and Mirrors) by Rick Paul – Bold opening words, allow me to explain opinions are like bumholes in that everybody has one. The smoke and mirrors reference is in regards to circumstances that are around currently but also when the planet is in its normal state. The theme of this article is one of part social commentary and also part guidance, and you must decide what is pertinent to you and act accordingly.

I share a similar background to my father in law; he worked for over 20 years in the prison service, and I had 12. My father in law was a man of great action rather than a prolonged period of thinking and also like me cleared his head while out walking. During my early years in the job, I would often turn to him for advice and frequently asked how best to cope in a disciplined service. He used to tell me to look at the bigger picture: what is going on when something happens, is it genuine, or is it a distraction or to cover for something else. I will attempt to paint you a picture to illustrate my thoughts. In prison, you are in a confined space. With lots of mad, bad and dangerous people who couldn’t or wouldn’t conform to societies laws, anything and I mean anything in that volatile environment is a potential flashpoint the little spark if you will that can ignite the powder keg.

I give you this scenario: Heated words are exchanged between two parties, punches were thrown, more people get involved, and a melee ensues, this sets off a series of events and staff then become involved and attempt to de-escalate the situation. Everybody has a part to play so let’s examine the roles: Officer Junior hasn’t had a lot of time on the landings and is keen he will dive in at the point of explosion and separate the two factions. His thought process is to react, divide and conquer; he is in effect a fireman who will put out a small fire before it becomes a massive blaze. His method is simple: contain the scene and deal with what is presented: the hot incident, he takes bold, decisive action using problem-solving skills based on the experience that he has. He has done his best and sorted the potential problem or has he?. Enter senior officer who has a lot more experience and more landing time under his belt, and he sees things slightly differently. Observing the melee and allows juniors to dive in, what does senior do, well he surveys the scene from a different vantage point. What else is going on during the initial altercation, what are the fringe players doing while attention is diverted? I ask you to consider this, have I invented this narrative to embellish my story or bring you round to my way of thinking, no I have just set the scene. I saw these scenario’s play out many times over my prison service career.

Something kicks-off and a chain of events would take place, and everyone involved in the chain of events had a part to play. Now! Whether that was the main protagonists. The person who was doing the distraction, the dealer, who would take advantage to pass his stuff or even the victims or targets all were worthy of consideration. What we saw with our own eyes did it match up with what was happening: Are we drawing any parallels with current events?

People who are right in the thick of things those who react first and think later don’t have either the vision or the vantage point to see things from a neutral or more informed position, the reason being they are blinkered and focussed on sorting out the presenting problem. Senior is a better position because he is on the outskirts observing the bigger picture. I now throw in another person in this production the operator of the CCTV system he is watching things from the safety of a locked room. He is directly involved, and he is recording everything and seeing a bigger picture. Is he in a position of advantage or not? Consider there no sound; he is watching from another perspective and projects his feelings into the scene. And is powerless unless his thought process influences his interpretation of the scene. He may embellish what is going on, he is in an excellent position to observe but would the evidence he’d provide later be neutral, and without bias, to my mind, the answer is: ‘doubtful”.

Early in my career, I listened to sound advice which stays with me. It is: ‘Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see! And you will be ok’. With these word in mind, consider today’s situation is everything we read and listen to accurate?

When a prison incident finishes all involved record evidence onto a report form, the report must be completed soon as after the event because it is fresh in mind. It is written away from others so that it is your version. So when the Governor reviews the evidence, it will be neutral. The individual reports will allow him to assess the event. The crucial thing to note is he wasn’t directly involved and will be unbiased. Later he’ll present his findings from a neutral standpoint.

Allow me to become the Governor! I listen, observe, and I present my findings based on the evidence before me. I have no allegiance to any particular cause, or indeed an opinion. The desire is to see the situation dealt with fairly with the outcome of restoring the status-quo.

Current events cannot be ignored, and in the longterm many will produce evidence and statistics to support other aspects of the crisis. And I hope without bias. Another thought is: ‘Are we just being distracted so as not to see certain realities?’ The answer is your choice: we all have our opinions. For the moment, Life has hit an enforced pause button. We are in a time of isolation. My feeling is we have a fantastic opportunity to slow our lives down and reflect on what is essential. Much like the singer who does an acoustic set, we have stripped things back to its rawest parts. Hearing your thoughts clearly without the usual background noise of daily life pressures is a great gift. We can assess what is essential, what is needed, and what isn’t. There are many confusions and much time to consider them!

My future hope is people won’t need a worldwide event to make them realise what is unique to them. Review evidence with an open and overseeing mind. Be the Governor and look at things without bias and direct involvement. Imagine you are seeing events through another’s eyes and observe any possible distorted ways of thinking. What is their angle for presenting this evidence? Being neutral and in a state of neutrality is a difficult skill to master, try it and see how it works for you. Examine the players in Life’s scenario’s and ask what their role is who will benefit and who will lose out and then carefully draw your conclusions. Be prepared to be challenged if your opinion doesn’t meet with the masses approval. Free speech at times can come with a high price tag.

My spiritual Life has unfolded this way I believe to is help guide people towards self-empowerment and help them access the tools that they have been given. I will also be brave enough (some say gobby enough) to point out any misdirections or any other subtle clues that may have been missed when in that hot emotional moment. I think that being a bigger picture person has merit because it allows you to stand back and observe. Meditate in a place of calm quieten your mind and inner dialogue and consider what is and is not essential. And you will be surprised occurs after focussing on yourself

I will leave you with these thoughts: Live Life, take advantage of each day, tomorrow is only a possibility, live every day as the last. Give yourself every chance to succeed.

Thanks for reading my thoughts: Remember, you are in mine!

Rick Paul


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