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Politics and Personalities

A major problem in beekeeping

It doesn't matter what organisation you are involved in, whether it is the workplace, a tennis club or a beekeeping association, sooner or later there will be problems with a small number of people who seem to think the world revolves around them. Their attitude and antics often make things unpleasant and more difficult for others to perform their tasks, but these people are usually so selfish they don't consider that.

I have a view the problem partly comes from the modern culture, where in the workplace everyone is so concerned about losing their jobs they have to justify their existence, otherwise they may be seen as worthless and surplus to requirements. This seems much more apparent with people who work in large organisations, where they seem to acquire the habit of trying to discredit or belittle others in order to make themselves appear a lot better than they often are. I call this "big company mentality" and unfortunately this attitude is invading beekeeping.

The fear of losing their job or not getting promotion makes people say the right things and not taking risks. There is a lack of overall knowledge because they are only "trained" for certain aspects, so don't understand the fuller picture. Thinking is no longer lateral and sense is no longer common. They only subscribe to the blame culture when it is someone else's fault and the credit culture when it suits them.

This is not a rant - far from it, but a carefully thought out theory on the problems of modern day life, following a full working life, running my own business for 25 years and nearly 50 years of committee work. As a board member of three trade associations I have also seen plenty of manipulation and distorted truths.

I get around the country quite a lot, either lecturing or demonstrating, and I see and hear a lot of what is going on, or not going on. I have recently spent 3 days at the BBKA Spring Convention and saw and heard a lot. I won't mention anything that will identify anyone or a particular BKA, but there are clearly widespread problems. There were people deliberately avoiding others and complaining about other people or a committee. Sometimes I think it's justified, others I don't. There are often two sides to an issue and they are rarely the same.

If you are reading this I suspect you have had some difficult people in your own BKA. Although at Wisborough Green BKA we have a very good organisation, we have had to deal with some rather awkward people. Luckily we have usually had some strong characters who have dealt with them.

The obvious questions are why are some people awkward and why are they able to have such influence? I think it's for a number of reasons. We are all volunteers and in some cases it is seen as being powerful to dominate others. I have been in many meetings when someone has raised their voice or been offensive to others and many have backed down, not wanting any controversy. They seem incapable of winning an argument by persuasion, but by abuse, bluff and bluster. In general I find these people are inadequate in some way and very often have little real beekeeping knowledge. What they do have is usually out of books.

How many times do you see hardworking, knowledgeable and helpful people being discredited or belittled? It's often done because lesser people see them as a threat. It often results in manipulation behind the scenes by enlisting support from new people or weaker individuals. The purpose is often to marginalise someone or to prevent them being elected to a post.

Politics and personalities have always been a problem in beekeeping. Just look back in history a bit and you will find things written about people that would be repeated in court these days. Over the years I have seen many resignations of good hardworking people with sound thinking and beekeeping knowledge. They have been a loss to beekeeping, but too often the troublemakers have been allowed to survive and wait for their next victim. They are often allowed to because of the weakness of others who won't stand up to them.

I have written a lot here about a small number of troublesome people, but unfortunately some of them have weedled their way into influential positions. I see a lot of well run BKAs and there is no doubt in my mind the ability of the administrators is reflected in the knowledge and enthusiasm of the members. The poorly run BKAs often have problems of the type I have already mentioned. There are a large number of very good people doing good voluntary work that is largely appreciated, but in some cases their efforts are sabotaged by lesser people with their own agendas.

I would like to rid beekeeping of some of the nonsense I see, because it is affecting my hobby and that of a lot of other people. In my opinion we should always consider honey bees, but a few people only consider themselves. They don't see themselves as being the problem, because of course it's always someone else's fault. We must all be strong and make sure they don't get away with it.

Roger Patterson.