Managing Discrepancy – Schalk Holloway

My parents stayed in a small town on the Gold Coast of Queensland Australia for a couple of years. As is customary when visiting another country one quickly gets around to chatting about everything that’s different and strange from what you are used to. One of the first things they told me was about how different pedestrian crossings were to South Africa (where I reside and where we all come from). Apparently vehicle drivers in their own and the surrounding towns always give way to pedestrians. As in always. This sounded unbelievable as in South Africa you really have to watch your ass when crossing roads. Being my usual sceptical self I decided to check it out for the six weeks that I visited.

First thing I noticed was that the pedestrians there don’t even look before crossing. Initially it freaked me out. Every time I saw a pedestrian just going for it I would imagine them getting ploughed down by oncoming traffic. Never happened though. Vehicles just magically stop for pedestrians. It was crazy. They just assume all vehicles are going to stop. And they do. Interesting thing is that it is law that vehicles should give way for pedestrians in both countries. So technically – that’s what it should be like in South Africa as well. But it isn’t.

There’s a discrepancy between what is and what we believe should be.

I got into a tangle with a couple of ladies a while ago for sharing an article from Mashable where Mashable responded to a statement made by Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She was quoted saying the following on a radio show

I know it’s controversial, but for your program, I’m going to stand up and be counted and, like I do in the book, be very honest. I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman and a man or two men or two women, but I talk right now about woman and man, can be in bed together, Diane, and at one time, naked, and at one time, he or she — most of the time they think she can say, I changed my mind. No such thing is possible. ¹

I thought “wow, that’s good advice.” Got riled big time though by the girls. They felt that this idea is oppressive by nature. Their argument is that they should be able to do pretty much what they want to with their bodies without any fear of any type abuse. I agree.

But there is currently a discrepancy between what is and what we believe should be.

That discrepancy is conflicting by nature. In both the anecdotes that I have shared I am presupposing that what we believe should be is truth. Coming to this position is also a necessary process but it is not the focus of this article. This article is focused on the discrepancy and managing that discrepancy.

The first principle of managing the discrepancy is mutual acceptance of both positions.

Those on the side of what is needs to be honest about whether change or movement is necessary. Is what should be honestly and objectively healthier for all involved? If so, are we willing to accept that? If not why not? Those on the side of what we believe should be should at least acknowledge, if not accept, the reality of what currently is. If what is really is then we need to work from there to here.

I shared the first anecdote with the ladies from the second anecdote. Why? My argument is the following: If I, as a loving father, have to teach my children about pedestrian crossings, what do I teach? Do I just teach what is (South African experience)? Do I just teach what should be (Australian experience)? Or do I teach both? Which approach is best equated with my position as a loving father?

For me, it would obviously be to teach both. Advocates of what should be say that I should just teach my child that YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO CROSS THE ROAD WHENEVER YOU WANT TO WITHOUT FEAR OF MOVING VEHICLES. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO STOP FOR YOU! But that would be silly because the current reality of what is is that they don’t always stop. So I teach both. I teach something along the lines of “remember, vehicles are supposed to stop, and when you drive try to be aware and always stop. But still, before crossing, check, because they don’t always stop.”

So why not teach my daughter that yes, her body is hers and she should be able to do with it what she wants, but also, that yes, the world DOES NOT CURRENTLY WORK LIKE THAT, so maybe it’s not the wisest thing to jump naked into bed if you’re not planning on having sex (and yes, I, as her father, would talk to my daughter about that).

The ladies agreed to this line of thinking. If they did not, I would seriously have wondered why.

The second principle of managing the discrepancy is accepting that it is a process.

Getting from there to here will have to be a process.

If we have to put should be as position 10 on a line of 1 to 10 and is as position 1 as follows


0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

and we are serious about getting from what is to what should be then we need to acknowledge that is is a distance away. There has to be a process. If you are not willing to acknowledge this principle of process – why not?

The third principle of managing the discrepancy is allowing the two positions to compliment each other.

This principle should actually be the first principle.

However, in highly polarized or aggressive environments it’s not possible to see the complimentary potential until the first two principles have been established. Thinking about different words to describe the two groups we can possibly go with realists for the what is camp and visionaries for the should be camp.

My wife and I fall broadly into these two categories. I’m the realist. She’s the visionary. She essentially creates a lot of energy for movement by consistently helping us to see where we should be going. I get us moving effectively because I’ve got a good handle on where we are and what would be good first steps. This is great. Energy and effectivity. We compliment each other. And I think it serves as a good (albeit simplistic) analogy for what can be possible once we start to see the worth that each of the groups bring to the situation.


Maintaining Balance – Ashtad Rustomji

In almost every field of study or work, there are various areas with focus on different aspects of that subject. These areas are meant to achieve a specific purpose in a specific aspect of that subject.

For example, what comes to your mind when I say ‘Fitness’? Now when I say ‘Self-Defense‘ ‘Self-Protection‘ ’Conflict Management‘ etc. what areas of studies come to your mind? Does one specific thing come to your mind or more than one? There are many other similar fields of study like physics and engineering that focus on various areas of those subjects.

Now, let’s take fitness for example, it’s not just about lifting weights or “just”  running or “just” yoga, stretching, etc. No, in biological terms, Fitness is an organism‘s ability to survive in a particular environment. Of course it can also be described as being competent enough to fulfill a particular task. It also can be described as a condition of being physically strong, athletic and healthy.

There is no one aspect of fitness, it consists of combining different areas that focus on improving your physical abilities. The main areas include Cardio, Calisthenics, Weight training and along with them an equally important aspect would be; Diet and Nutrition. Of course there are sub-categories of the above mentioned areas that focus on and specialize in different aspects like Endurance, Stamina, Dexterity, Reflexes and Flexibility, Strength, Speed, Durability, Conditioning, but doing only one of these, won‘t mean that you have achieved physical fitness, it would only mean that you‘re not totally out of shape. Only by training every aspect, understanding it as a whole and applying the knowledge practically will you achieve a certain level of fitness and you will progress further from there. The thing is, fitness doesn’t end on the physical level, but extends to a psychological level too, there are exercises that help you be more focused, improve concentration, etc. When you train on both levels with dedication and persistence, you achieve total fitness.

Same goes with Conflict Management, Self Protection, Self Defense, etc. They’re not just one thing, they’re composed of many different aspects that address all the necessary requirements to survive violence. Focusing on just one of those aspects will not help you prepare for what you think you are preparing for, instead it‘ll just give you a false sense of security that will be destroyed when you face something you weren’t even aware was a part of it.

There are many who tend to focus on just one aspect of those subjects, resulting in an incomplete analysis of what they truly consist of, therefore not achieving effective solutions to the problems they‘re claiming to solve.

Same goes for the training balance between SD and Martial Arts. They’re not the same. Simply put, SD doesn’t take a lifetime to learn, it’s a legal term used when you need to justify your violent actions during an attack in the court of law. You simply cannot pile them together, there has to be a balance between what you train for violence and what you train as an art or as part of a skill development routine.

When learning and training in subjects like CM, SD, SP, a lot of different areas need to be focused on. They are;











These areas give an overall understanding of violence dynamics. While it is a broad subject, the physical aspects are given the most preference than any other by most. There is no balance in training for violence, it’s all about fighting for many.

But without the balance in training, the knowledge and preparation required to face and survive violence is not gained resulting in an incomplete understanding of the subject matter. When that happens the individuals involved in the violent incident have to face harsh Consequences of their actions. They don’t know when to avoid and back-off (Strategic) and they don’t know how to prevent it (Tactical), they’re not aware of the Legal, Moral or Societal Consequences of their actions, so they resort directly to (what is supposed to be) the last option, I.e. the Physical part of the subject without considering the Environment they‘re in, which either leads to them landing in more trouble than they imagined and more damaged than they expected (or didn‘t expect), not to mention the Psychological issues that occur in the aftermath of violence.

Same goes for Martial Arts too. Too many get too focused on the punching and kicking rather than focus on the responsibilities that come with being a Martial Artist and the in-depth knowledge required to actually be competent enough to utilize the techniques taught as practically as possible in the appropriate environment and to know when and how to translate them to various situations.

I’ve heard Martial Artists say that Martial Arts is a journey and yes, they’re absolutely correct, it’s just that sometimes, some Martial Artists forget where their journey is supposed to lead them, there is no destination for their journey, and a journey without a destination is just wandering around aimlessly.

Most of them just follow “What their instructors once told them“, rather than think for themselves and try to understand what the instructor meant by what they said or even question whether what they said made any sense at all in the first place. All the while forgetting to maintain the required balance between the physical aspect of Martial Arts and the non-physical ones, which in MA’s case, includes an unique aspect of; Philosophy. Many know it as ‘Budo’. Of course, it’s a Japanese term, but the philosophy itself is applied in virtually all of traditional and classical Martial Arts. It encompasses much more than physical techniques and violence, it includes self-control, self-discipline, respecting others, understanding your art in not just width, but in depth. These things, the principles, they transcend the physical aspect of Martial Arts. They’re what help a Martial Artist maintain the balance in their training.

In conclusion, Balance is a simple principle that applies to just about everything. Without balance, the desired results will not only be difficult to achieve, but almost impossible.

It doesn‘t matter how hard you train in one area of the subject, not unlike a machine, without all of the components, the knowledge will not be fully functional and effective.

Of course, I’ll add this, I’m obviously no “expert” on any of the subjects above. What I wrote, are just my opinions based on my experiences and research, you (the reader) will have to test things out for yourself to check and see if I’m b.s’ing or if these things are indeed true. After all, what good is information if you don’t test it and put it into action, right?

Well, that’s all. Thank you for reading.


Garden Club Ladies – Kathy Jackson

This article is about and for Garden Club Ladies. You almost certainly know one; perhaps she’s your mother, your aunt, your sister, your grandmother. Perhaps she’s even yourself.

When I described this demographic to a friend and asked if they were a part of her culture too, she instantly responded: “Oh, yes. The matriarchy is alive and well here.” As my friend understands, Garden Club Ladies run the world. Oh, not unassisted, of course: it also takes farmers and carpenters and plumbers and shopkeepers and investors and more, to keep the wheels of our modern culture spinning along at pace. But Garden Club Ladies run their communities, and no doubt about it.

A Garden Club Lady in America drives a luxury SUV – a four wheel drive Lexus or BMW, perhaps even a Mercedes. She’s a retired professional woman, or a lifelong housewife married to an executive or successful business owner. She uses the SUV to haul her pedigreed pup to dog shows and agility trials, or to haul hay for her horses and other pasture pets. She likes her vehicle because it has enough room to conveniently carry her golf bag to her country club, where she plays once a week with a friend before their committee meeting for the charity pro-am golf tournament. She also uses it to collect boxes of clothing for the back-to-school donation drive she organizes every fall, and of course she enjoys having enough room in the back to keep a pair of weeding gloves and a few trowels for her volunteer work at the senior center. In the spring, you’ll find her busy helping the local parks get spruced up before the first big wave of tourism hits, and summer finds her watching over several of the exhibits at the county fair.

She’s a key member of the local Friends of the Public Library and other service organizations like the Elks or Kiwanis or Rotary Club. If her town has a Farmers’ Market, she was among the first to help get it organized and you’ll find her there every Tuesday morning helping to set up. One of her pets is a certified therapy dog, so on Wednesdays she’s busy at the nursing home visiting the old folks, and she spends Saturday afternoons at the public library so hesitant young learners can read out loud to her dog. She and her friends also organize meals for anyone they know who might be in trouble or in need, and they provide the endless succession of casseroles and three-bean salads that grace every potluck from one end of the country to the other.

The details might change. The Garden Club Ladies never do. They might be as young as 45 or as old as 85, but however old or young they are, they share several key characteristics:

  • They are wealthy by the standards of their communities.
  • They look wealthy: they drive luxury cars, wear expensive clothes, and like to be seen sporting the diamond tennis bracelets and other fancy jewelry they’ve amassed over the years.
  • They spend most of their waking hours in public. They are the first to arrive to set up local festivals, and the last to leave after dark when the event is over.
  • They are not young (except in their thinking).
  • They are female.

What do the Garden Club Ladies have to do with us, you wonder? I’m glad you asked! This demographic – female, older, wealthy and community-involved – is a prime victim group for muggers and home invasion robberies. They’re attractive targets for this type of crime because of their obvious wealth, their public visibility, and their age and gender.  

Despite these factors, we don’t find many Garden Club Ladies working out in crossfit gyms. The very idea of one of these women joining an MMA or Krav Maga class brings a wry smile. They’re not going to show up for a Critically Dynamic Tactical Operators Carbine class or a training evolution of Extreme Close Quarters Handgun Battle Concepts. So it’s easy to write them off as defensive students. Since Garden Club Ladies won’t take “serious” classes, we think, they can’t possibly be serious about self-defense.

It’s a rare self-defense trainer who spends a moment’s thought about getting Garden Club Ladies into class, or who works at providing any classes that might meet their needs. After all, there’s no glory in teaching 60-year-old women how to defend themselves. There’s no glory in it because no matter what you teach these women or how well you do it, they are not going to make you look good by being a beast in the MMA cage, slaughtering the opposition on the competition mat, or dominating all the USPSA events at the shooting club for the next ten years. At best, they’ll still have the bodies and minds of 60-year-old women, though they may stand a little taller and look a little more alert as they carry cookies and juice into the building where the Red Cross blood drive is being held. Where’s the glory in that?

Let’s bring this home to where I live in the firearms training world. If you’re not into firearms, or if they’re prohibited in your neck of the woods, you’ll have to translate this stuff into your own terms. All I can do is tell you a little bit about my own experiences within my own style, and let you take it from there.

The conventional wisdom is that Garden Club Ladies don’t take classes because they aren’t interested in protecting themselves, or because they don’t realize that their lifestyles put them at risk for some types of violent crime. This is not true. Garden Club Ladies experience the same low-level, back of the mind fear of violent crime that nearly all women share, and they cope with it in a variety of ways.

When Garden Club Ladies purchase handguns, their stated purpose is more often self defense than any other reason. But they’re still unlikely to take a class focused on self defense. That’s outside their culture.

Fortunately, that’s changing. Slowly, but it’s changing. It happens sometimes that a group of Garden Club Ladies decides to take a class together. As an instructor, I’ve found myself fascinated by the group dynamics that drive such classes.

For instance, Garden Club Ladies love to feed each other and those around them. Food provides a shared human experience, and it’s often how these women share their love for others. They’re sometimes uncomfortable in venues where people eat together without sharing the burden of providing at least some elements of the meal for each other. I’ve found that whenever I teach a class that includes a lot of women and I tell students to bring a sack lunch, the first GCL who hears the plan will immediately offer to organize either a potluck or a catered lunch for the class. If the plan is to provide a catered meal, that woman and several of her friends will bring homemade cookies or another dessert to share. It’s almost the first thing they want to know about a weekend class: what’s the plan for meals?

When we hear something like this, it’s tempting to believe that these women – focused on frivolities like food! – therefore cannot possibly be serious about learning the skills offered in the class. That’s not actually the dynamic at work here. What these women are doing is helping to create an event that fits into their lifestyles, that meshes with their existing values and personal images rather than clashing with them. They’re not interested in changing their entire lifestyles to accommodate self-defense, but this doesn’t mean they’re uninterested in self defense. It simply means that they’re looking for ways to make learning about self defense fit into the lifestyle they already live and love.

When we reject these efforts to make the learning experience more closely match our students’ lived experiences, we’re actually rejecting the students themselves. We’re saying that it’s not enough for Garden Club Ladies to learn how to defend themselves as the people they are; they have to instead become someone else entirely. That’s not an attractive proposition, so it’s hardly surprising when potential students aren’t much attracted to it. Instead of fighting the Garden Club Ladies’ social expectations, how much better it would be to leverage their existing culture into a powerful force to drive these students to attend good training and practice together after class.

What else helps and hinders Garden Club Ladies and their willingness to attend serious training classes? Of course, one thing that keeps these students away is the usual excuse common to all students: money and time. Let’s examine those more closely.

Garden Club Ladies have a great deal of disposable income, and they spend it freely on products and events that are important to them. We can see by the clothes they wear that they’re as willing to spend their money on themselves as on other people. These women like to feel good about their purchases, and they feel good when they buy things praised by their peer group. This is true whether those things are tangible goods they can show off, or intangibles such as donations to charity events with public recognition. When the local GCL culture decides that training in self-defense is a socially laudable endeavor, Garden Club Ladies cheerfully invest in it.

Time is a paradox for Garden Club Ladies. Retired or working part-time volunteer jobs, they usually have plenty of opportunity to arrange their schedules around important events. But because they are so involved in their communities and charity work, finding time to attend a firearms training class can be a big deal. Plans have to be made a long time in advance, and should not conflict with the Garden Club’s annual tour of homes that raises funds for cancer research or with any other big local fundraiser. (Alternatively, the class should be scheduled on a weekend that coincides with the charity event, and donate a percentage of proceeds to it. Ask a Garden Club Lady to figure out the logistics that will make that work, then stand back as she mobilizes the matriarchal army to make it so.)

When a GCL says she doesn’t have enough time or money for a training class, it means she doesn’t believe she’ll receive enough value from the event to offset her investment. This demographic does understand the worth of both money and time. They won’t waste either one on anything that doesn’t provide an equal amount of value. “Value” here is measured in social status as well as in more tangible factors such as transportation or nutrition. Keep that in mind; when someone in this demographic suggests something you might consider frivolous as an addition to the class, they’re often trying to provide more value as measured by their culture’s standard of value.

When we do get these women into classes, we’re often tempted not to take them as seriously as other students. They’re usually more social and more chatty than fits into the regimented teaching style of most defensive handgun classes. We see them talking with the students around them, visiting with each other and paying attention to each other’s needs rather than grimly focusing on their own targets. We hear them talking and laughing on the breaks, and we think maybe they aren’t taking it as seriously as they ought. Again, this isn’t quite the dynamic that’s happening here.

Some time ago, I was working with students in a women’s shooting class that had around fifteen or twenty students in it. The students were each partnered with another student who would coach them as they fired. Another instructor and I were behind the line along with other trained instructors, all of us ready to help where needed. As we watched the students work together, the other instructor turned to me and gestured toward one particularly animated pair of students. “Those girls aren’t serious!” she hissed. “They’ve been laughing this whole time. Maybe we should break them up so they’ll learn something here.” And indeed, those two students were chatty and laughing, joking about their ability to hit the target and giggling about their errors together. But what my fellow instructor didn’t know was that one of those two women had been violently assaulted just a few weeks before class. She hadn’t come to class to trade jokes with her friend; she had come for the deadly serious purpose of learning how to save her own life, as she had tearfully explained in a heart wrenching conversation we’d had a few days before class started. She and her compassionate friend were doing everything in their power to make it possible for her to learn the material without falling apart.

Instead of fighting the social dynamic, it helps to move with it and use it. By pairing the students, we improved the instructor/student ratio and had the ability to leverage the students’ social instincts to help each other. When the class becomes too chatty or too loud for some students to focus, we can use the same social dynamic in a different way by challenging students to reach a specific goal. Garden Club Ladies want reasons to root for each other and cheer each other on. Setting competitive goals often helps achieve this, and works best with partners or teams competing together. Individual competitions often fall flat because they work against the social dynamic rather than with it, but shared competitions often do the trick.

That brings us to one common accusation leveled at women’s classes in general, which may be even more tempting to apply to classes where Garden Club Ladies attend: they’re too comfortable, with standards too low and no real bar of achievement to earn. Of course, that depends more on the instructor than on any one of the students. If a class full of GCLs fails to bring out each students’ full potential, that’s a failure of instruction and not the fault of the students.

As students, Garden Club Ladies don’t want to be treated like children, don’t want anything dumbed down, don’t want to be condescended to or laughed at (who does?). They do want standards. They do want the standards to be tough and fair and achievable. They want everyone around them to experience success so that they can celebrate their success together, but they want to celebrate it as an earned success – not a sinecure, not a pat on the head of a child, not a participants’ ribbon. They want to earn recognition for skills they’ve worked hard to achieve.

Personally, I believe that if a student has invested the time and money to come to class, they’re serious students no matter what demographic they belong to. Whether they remain so … well, that’s almost entirely up to me as their instructor, and what I do to help keep them engaged with the material and learning more.

Garden Club Ladies aren’t the easiest demographic to teach. Although they aren’t couch potatoes (far from it!), they also aren’t trained athletes or experienced martial artists who understand how to move their bodies for good results in class. They’re sometimes confused by the mechanics of manipulating the gun, and they’ll talk everything over – endlessly! – if you let them. They can be frustrating students and there’s very little glory in teaching them within the macho culture of the self-defense community as it stands today.

But if you’re teaching because you want to help real people learn to protect themselves from violent crime, there’s nothing like the satisfaction that comes from working with this demographic.

And the food is usually excellent.


Reading the Signs, Part III – Garry Smith

No, it is not advice on washing your latest new shirt, skirt or other piece of clothing. The cry, ‘These colours do not run’, beloved of the English football hooligan abroad. ‘Colours’ are large brocade and embroidery flags which were originally carried into battle so that soldiers of a particular unit could see where the rest of their unit was located at all times and used as a rallying point during the course of the battle. The infantry units of the British army each have two Colours: the Queen’s Colour, which is a union flag and symbolises the regiment’s loyalty to the Crown, and a regimental Colour which has all the unit’s battle honours inscribed on it. (

Loss of the colours was not acceptable, indeed it would be a disgrace to the regiment so they must be defended at all times. The colours are not carried in modern warfare and are now used for ceremonial purposes, nevertheless, brave men died protecting a piece of cloth.

The thing is they were not protecting the piece of cloth but the meaning imbued in it. Every country has its flag, separate regions, states and counties have theirs, Vexillology is the “scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags, flags are popular things.

We wave them to celebrate, we burn them to protest. One persons symbol of freedom is another persons symbol of oppression. For most nations the flag represents us, it is what we rally around when we get together, in September (12th) my brother is hosting a Last Night of the Proms ( party and I expect there to be flags and bunting as we engage in this particularly British tradition. The Union Jack will be the main flag as it represents  Britain. It is so called because it combines the crosses of the three countries united under one Sovereign. The Union flag consists of three heraldic crosses, the cross of St George is a red cross on a white ground, the cross saltire of St Andrew is a diagonal white cross on a blue ground and the cross saltire of St Patrick is a diagonal red cross on a white ground.

And here comes a teaser, the Union flag is the flag of the Monarchy but has come to represent Britain, the flag of St George represents England, as I am English which is my flag? Well I prefer the flag of St George over the Union flag as I am not a monarchist. The problem is that some of us English do not see why St George should be the patron saint (if we need one at all let it be St Edmund) and why share him and his flag, why do we need a possibly Palestinian born Roman soldier as an English icon? It does not make sense. We English have our own identity and source of pride, our Anglo Saxon origins.

So for me, the flag I will be taking to the last night of the proms party will be the flag of the White Dragon of our Anglo Saxon ancestors. OK, the origins of the White Dragon as the battle flag of the nascent English, the Englisc as they first called themselves, is shrouded in mystery, mythology and numerous pieces of archaeological evidence. But for me it represents my roots, my identity as English better than some 19th century political coming together of separate nations or a foreign saint.

For me you pay your money and you make your choice. Fly your flag, I will fly mine. The flag you fly will say a lot about you, it will not say everything, but it may just reflect your core values and who you identify as. Flags are made to wave, they are made to show the world who we are, which tribe we belong to. My flag, the White Dragon, represents who I am, the tribe I identify with. That is it. I am lucky enough to have friends of many nationalities and I welcome them all and their flags.

I spent a week in a hotel in Greece a few years back whilst the European Football Championships were on, at night the place came alive with the supporters from Holland, France, Germany, Italy and England all donning their respective football shirts and colours and bringing out their flags, rallying around their colours. It was a mini celebration and the vibe was fantastic. Members of different tribes hoisting their colours in an air of mutual respect. Not as opposing camps about to go to war but as fellow travellers differing with each other but respecting the others beliefs and traditions, a healthy form of patriotism. These were not the hooligans for whom football is a vehicle for violence which is like the false patriotism referred to be Samuel Johnson when he said “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

I do not have time for flag burners. For me it is a sign in itself when that point is reached, a sign that the burner cannot articulate and so resorts to desecrate. Flags as icons really do come to represent the sacred and the profane and polarise peoples. That star spangled banner represents freedom to many in the world but is the shadow of repression for some. Recent events in the USA over the Confederate flag and the Star and Stripes highlight the increasing political divisions in American society as highlighted in Jonathan Heidt’s excellent book ‘Righteous Minds’.  

The rainbow flag of the gay pride movement and the black flag of Islamic State both arouse passions that cross boundaries of nation, religion and morality in a multitude of ways. Both proclaim to the world the identities of those who gather under them and their allies who attach themselves, to me they are almost diametric opposites in both visual representations and values presented.

Stark contrast? You bet. Often it is the starkness of the contrast that helps us to see. So reading the signs is pretty easy with flags, they are obvious symbols who’s principle use is to express the identity of the group. Now earlier I said I was English, of Anglo Saxon descent, but I am also a Yorkshireman, hailing from gods own county itself…… So for me, alongside the  White Dragon I also will hoist the White Rose of Yorkshire. Does this mean that I must never tread foot in that hell hole that is Lancashire? Of course not, I love a good hotpot and a pint of Boddies, but I do love some of the banter and long may it last, raise your banners, if you feel the need proclaim to the world who you are, there is nothing wrong with that but do not get ants in your pants when somebody else does the same, especially somebody different, with a different flag, of different colours with a different identity, because that, as we English will tell you, is bad form.

So reading the signs is important, some are obvious like flags waving in the breeze, bright and brazen, others are less so and require a more practised eye to spot them. The thing is we humans fill our world with signs and symbols, letters and numbers being just that though they take on a life of their own when we use them so often. These are more or less universal symbols but every tribe has its own symbols with which it interacts and identifies itself and sets its boundaries. Know them, learn to read them, respect them and you will stay that much safer.