Some individuals do leave a legacy

One of the best things about the Re-Action collective is that it’s a broad church. Everyone works towards a better, more citizen centric world. How we get there is an open question and one that no one person has the answer to. We work towards a consensus but other opinions are available.

On Thursday evenings Gav and I go for a run together and talk. It’s like a pre Citizen Friday warm up, sharing opinions and ideas in the fresh air. If we get out of breath we slow down as it’s more about the talking than the running. The Re-Action ethos described above is always with us and frames the chat.

On our inaugural TERC outing (Tuesday Evening Running Club obvs) we talked about legacy. It was on Gav’s mind following one of his growing number of podcast appearances. The topic formed the basis for his latest article here. We ran (in the dark with head torches on) and mulled over the topic. We puffed, we panted, we agreed on some things and disagreed on others.

Sports, physical feats and legacy

We talked about the fact that the concept of legacy is often tied up with sporting or physical endeavours and that this can be problematic. The example that sprang to mind for me was the 2012 Olympics in London. So much of the lead up to the games was around the legacy the games would leave behind. The IOC argue that a positive legacy lives on. Others are less convinced that the situation on the ground lives up to the vision we were sold. On the sporting side 32 World Records were set at the games but 31 medals were also stripped due to drug violations. Relying on sporting events to get your legacy fix can result in disappointment.

Another example would be Sir Edmund Hillary. His summiting of Mount Everest serves as an example of what humans are capable of. His legacy encompasses this idea of endurance and determination as well as a charitable trust benefiting the Nepalese communities in the area. The flip side of this is that with modern equipment and enough cash, pretty much anyone can climb Everest now. Queues in the death zone, litter and 330 deaths and counting are the less inspiring part of Hillary’s legacy.

Legacy for individuals

I’m generally on board with Gav’s thinking on the sporting side of things. I do see the value in challenging accepted norms and limitations. But in the context of the change required for society though, they feel fleeting. Where I start to disagree with Gav is the idea of an individual legacy though.

Gav’s assertion is that legacy goes hand in hand with cooperation and collaboration. Hard agree from me. Look at the NHS in the UK. Nye Bevan’s vision for universal healthcare. One man’s legacy has been chipped away at by proceeding “custodians”. Regardless of the state of things, there is an important legacy there.

I’m lucky enough to have watched (and occasionally helped with) One Tree and Re-Action from the beginning . One Tree started when Gav organised an event in resort to counter some of the pessimism around the Brexit confirmation in March 2019. People repaired clothes, talked, swapped clothing and generally milled around in a Re-Action type way.

I trace the roots of Re-Action back to that one person’s decision and drive. People and organisations might have coalesced around an organisation like Re-Action anyway. But without Gav’s openness and singular views I don’t think it would have happened.

I was going to say that in times of crisis we need rallying cries and marshalling points. But on reflection I don’t think the martial imagery is appropriate here. What we need is wise matriarchs and patriarchs leading us to safe watering holes. We need shamen leading discussions around the fire pit. We need reluctant leaders to leave inadvertent legacies through bold and morally just actions.

In short

Gav’s legacy won’t be a short period working in a boot fitters. It will be the clarity and purpose he brings to what he does now and going forwards. I’m about to take a small pause in my life to find more direction and joy in what I do and how I feel. I’ve got a ready made example of how I might get a bit more of that to crib off. Maybe that’s a legacy of recent actions too, if just a small one.