On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
The Other Side Of The Coin
Spoiler Alert: This is another dream-induced chronicle entry that emanates from the undigested sludge of the cesspool thoughts of the Footloose Forester. There are various ways that its random contents might be analyzed, for example: as a kiss-and-tell vignette; as an episode of finger-pointing; a back-stabbing exposé; a vindictive screed; etc. But to dispel the notion that the Footloose Forester is, or was, a bitter person during his working life, he chose the arbitrary and clichéd euphemistic phrase “the other side of the coin.”
The common expression, “the other side of the coin” innocuously suggests that almost any issue may have a few, often opposing aspects as germane but legitimate components of a complete and fair description and understanding of that issue. In other words, there are at least two sides to every coin…and an edge that is in no way similar to the flat sides.
Everyone knows that every coin has two sides, but we won't know what the other side looks like...unless we turn it over.
The unrequited desire to describe and to explain the other side of many past coins of professional or personal interactions is the main reason for this present chronicle. Since the stink of the undigested sludge of the cesspool of his mind sometimes disturbs his sleep, and never satisfactorily dissolves, the Footloose Forester is resigned to labeling the thoughts as dream-related. Mild nightmares, actually; but dream derived, nonetheless. As such, he may someday organize such chronicles into the dream category. Editorial devices such as tags and computer word searches should help the casual reader to understand how and why some Chronicles of a Footloose Forester stories link to other stories and be thus able to find related stories by conducting word searches with keywords. Researchers used to relate to such linking constructs as cross-references. Most direct and apropos keywords are the authors’ names; specific subject matter; and date(s) of publication.
The reason for mentioning the “keyword” search and use of tags is to alert anyone to the possible existence of related information pertaining to opposing viewpoints that may exist….the other side of the coin, as it were. Furthermore, anyone reading any of the 490+ chronicles of the Footloose Forester and wishing to read more will discover that he often introduces themes that sometimes recur in other chronicle entries. That is why he encourages the use of cross-referencing and keyword searches. Admittedly, he seeks to use keywords and phrases as one way to short-circuit his own cross-referencing activities.
In an ideal prototype of keyword searching technology and its applications, the keywords should limit the search but inevitably find enough relevant examples to make the point that the Footloose Forester, for example, is not of a single mind about any issue. He believes profoundly that there are at least two sides to every coin; and that people should look closely at both sides before they express an opinion on important matters. By doing that, it leads the observer to develop the habit of weighing in with an informed opinion, as opposed to uninformed opinions.
Although his professional colleagues seldom stood firmly with him regarding policy or procedural issues (in the opinion of the Footloose Forester) it may have been partly because the Footloose Forester deliberately used the SWOT analysis method of forming his opinions. A successful word search for SWOT should turn up the description for, “an analytical technique that mandates inclusively employing a listing (and) descriptions of the known and presumed Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a proposed action, prior to the implementation of that action."
Another reason for this present chronicle is to lead into a segue about those cesspool thoughts that refuse to be deodorized. It is an attempt to turn a few coins over and describe them without seeming to come off as bitter about the past. As part of his legacy, the Footloose Forester hopes to be remembered as an admitted iconoclast, a pragmatist, and as a critical thinker, but without being smug about it. Most important, he hopes that he will not be judged as a pessimist with mostly negative viewpoints.
There are valid reasons why he believes that many professional colleagues and even casual acquaintances, over the years, judged him as having a negative personality. Those personal interpretations are integral components of the cesspool sludge of his innermost thoughts that emanate from his nightmares. Since former colleagues far more often criticized him than supported him, he had to decide for himself how he presented himself. It was never going to be as a back slapper operative with job security as a potential payoff, and never as a Yes Man. On the other hand, one remembered comment from a Training Division colleague in RMK-BRJ Corporation in Viet Nam was that “although you are critical of some things in our program, you (the Footloose Forester) present issues as constructive criticism.” That was one compliment that will always be remembered fondly, coming as it did from a senior manager who had recently retired as a US Navy officer.
This longish segue leads to a few concrete and specific examples of examining “the other side of the coin.” There are plenty of them, but this is a start.
Because most colleagues did not use critical analysis in any recognizable form, in designing their proposed projects or forming their plans of action, the Footloose Forester was very often alone in his criticism. Perhaps foremost in his memory was about the proposed publication of an environmental policy manual under the auspices of the Agency For International Development (USAID). The Footloose Forester was asked to comment on the 110+ page draft of that document, prior to its printing as an official publication of USAID.
The Footloose Forester objected to several of its purported findings and proposed implementation methodologies. A few senior-level people from USAID Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; and from representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs); in return, objected to his objections. Some 40 organizations had been solicited to review the draft and to make comments, and all (presumably) had approved of the document. None of them had anything but minor criticism about the draft document, according to USAID. The Footloose Forester, on the other hand, submitted a long list of comments and objections and dispatched his critique to USAID, Washington by e-mail. No one supported his “other side of the coin” analysis and critique. Was that episode labeled by them as one of his latest rants? a screed? a shameless kiss-and-tell?
In another case, The Footloose Forester was mortified by the hostile reaction he got directly from a team of investigators who, after spending over two years on a study that spanned a wide range of USAID policy issues regarding Management of Personal Service Contractors; and purportedly deduced their conclusions from findings obtained in at least three different countries in Asia, South America, and/or Africa. They also objected to his objections and point of view about their findings. In general terms, the Footloose Forester verbalized in their presence, that he could not support their findings as being generally true, especially for the class of USAID contracted employees known as Personal Service Contractors (PSCs) who were the main subjects of the report.
Although remaining hostile to his objections, they were not able to refute or successfully challenge any of his listed 26 exceptions to their findings. That episode smarted, and is one likely reason that the Footloose Forester probably became a persona non grata who was bound for early retirement as a USAID consultant. By the way, that episode and others can be found in another Chronicles of a Footloose Forester story entitled, “Nobody Likes A Critic.” Writing things down and recording them for posterity is one way he chose to set the record straight, or at least attempting to describe something on the other side of the coin and to duly note what was discovered.
Being willing to examine the other side of the coin, and having the purported right to do so, is only one reason that alleged criminals are entitled to legal counsel as defendants in court cases. Such is not a given in the world of USAID, in the opinion of the Footloose Forester. Nor was using known analytical techniques such as SWOT analysis of the matter, while looking at the other side of the coin.
If legacy matters, the Footloose Forester hopes that he is remembered fondly, but above all—fairly. And if that takes a self-effacing individual to write his own legacy entries, the ends seem to justify the means. If we won’t stand up for ourselves, who will? And why should they? Hardly anyone in his own family ever asked, or cared, about his travel stories from over 100 countries. And as a self-described iconoclast, the Footloose Forester never wanted to speak openly about his accomplishments. In addition to the fact that nobody likes a critic, the Footloose Forester believes that nobody likes a braggart. However, and nonetheless; if we know the story and want to share it with others, it is our own responsibility to make some form of attempt.