Not long ago a message appeared in my work email inbox. It was from a man named Nigel Smythe*, and the subject was “Create unity for Bowen therapy in Australia - Bowen Association of Australia”. The gist of the email was that he had started a petition that he was hoping to get support for, which he could then present to the Bowen Association of Australia (BAA) saying how unhappy Bowen therapists are in Australia with the current practitioner associations, of which BAA is one and the other is the Bowen Therapists’ Federation Australia (BTFA). His goal (I think) was to get the associations to merge and become one unifying body for Bowen therapists in Australia. He hoped that I held the same vision as he, and many others, did and encouraged me to sign the petition.
Now, I don’t know Nigel. And it’s quite obvious he doesn’t know me either. Because if he did, he would know that I am the president of the BAA and that something like this email would cause me not only to not sign the petition, but to do everything I can to educate others not to sign it because instead of seeking to create unity within the Bowen community, he is actually encouraging division and fear and misunderstanding. And honestly, enough is enough.
When I first read the petition it made me kind of laugh. I thought, who would buy this line of reasoning? But then, who thought Trump would be elected president of the US? It’s obvious there is discord in what is occurring in our industry but is this really the time to be divisive? Shouldn’t we really be working together?
The whole thing has brought to mind the quote about the man in the arena made famous by Teddy Roosevelt during his talk at the Sorbonne in Paris**. If you’re familiar with it, you’ll know what I mean; but if not it is essentially saying that those on the outside of the arena - the critics - are not the ones who matter. It’s the people actually inside the arena, fighting for what they believe in; getting their hands dirty trying to make the world a better place. And basically, if you’re not in the arena, then your opinion and criticism and words don’t matter. Either get inside the arena with those fighting, or shut up.
Mr Smythe isn’t a member of the BAA. He’s never been on the BAA committee. And as far as I know, during my years on the committee, he has never once contacted us to talk about his concerns or ideas. So I find it intriguing that he is seeking to undermine and dismantle something he actually knows nothing about. He’s on the outside of the arena and he’s never made any attempt to come join those of us on the committees making sure our industry remains relevant and viable. Along with spending sometimes 20-30+ (volunteer) hours a week on BAA business, we all also run our own clinics. This being in the arena isn’t for the fainthearted. It takes work and dedication and love of what we do. We are okay with criticism; if our members aren’t happy we want them to let us know. What we aren’t okay with is unfounded and ignorant criticism about something the critic knows nothing about.
You see, the thing about the critics is they are experts at pointing out problems. What they’re not so good at, though, is offering solutions. We, on the committees, are well aware of the problems and issues that exist in our industry and industry bodies. And not just because they are being shouted at us from the sidelines. We are aware of what could be better and instead of criticising from the crowd, we have actually stepped into the arena to come up with solutions. We know there are better ways we could be doing things and we are actively working on finding solutions that work for the majority. This takes time and effort and consideration and compromise.
If Nigel Smythe had ever spent time on an industry committee he might have some idea of what it takes to run such an organisation. I’m curious about a few things: who does he envision would run this new amalgamated association? Would he have it up and running before pulling apart two already working associations? How would he fund it? Is he willing to put in the volunteer hours the rest of us put in for no financial reward and little recognition?
He also thinks that the BAA are looking after themselves and Bowtech Bowen because we don’t accept non-Bowtech Continuing Education Units (CEUs). If he bothered to ask us about it, we could tell him it’s not because we are being self-serving. It’s because it’s in our constitution. We are the association for Bowtech Bowen practitioners. We know the quality of teaching our instructors undertake. We can vouch for what our members learn. How, and why, is that seen as such a negative? We don’t say members can’t do other training; it’s only that we require them to do 8 hours of practical Bowtech training, out of 20 total CEUs, in a 12 month period. Honestly, that’s hardly onerous. Is he upset that Bowtech is a business and this is actually a good business model? Mind you, this is coming from a man who, in response to the announcement of government cutting rebates for natural therapies to health funds, is proposing to start a course teaching Bowen but calling it massage so therapists from this course can continue to offer health fund rebates to their clients. Think that sounds like a good idea? Wonder what the big deal is? Well, it’s actually bad form, and considered fraudulent behaviour by health funds, to provide one service and bill it as another. Is that a good business model? How is this okay and our constitutional requirements not okay? Also, we have worked long and hard to get Bowen Therapy accepted as its own stand-alone modality. This idea to hide it within massage is defeating the point of why we exist and why we are fighting to maintain our relevance.
And then there’s the bit about the BAA and BTFA being at odds. While this myth continues to be perpetuated by people like Nigel Smythe, people like me are working with their committee members to educate the public about Bowen Therapy and how it can help them. We are in the arena together. We don’t need to spend more time assuaging our critics’ egos. We have more important work to do.
I am angry about what is happening in social media regarding Bowen Therapy. I am tired of the critics and bullies calling from the sidelines while some of us are in the arena fighting for what matters - helping people and getting Bowen better, and more widely, known. Let us get on with our work. Either step into the arena with us or step aside. The seeds of division Mr Smythe sows are dangerous and not what our industry needs. So, no, I do not share his vision. And I will not be signing his petition.
Nigel Smythe is not the real name of the man not in the arena.
** Here is the famous quote referred to:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
© Susan Marte 2018