28 Mar 2024

Backstage: PEOPLE – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by John O’Brien

You are a person. I am a person too. We people are equal parts fun, interesting, intriguing and frustrating. We succeed. We fail. As all people do. How we respond to these events defines what kind of a person we are. Our true colours are shown when we interact with other people.

The best people enjoy their success with humility. The best people acknowledge their failures and learn from them. These folk are generally wise.

Bad people gloat about their successes, yet keep repeating their mistakes, regardless of the cost to them or others.


The worst of the worst rub their successes in your face. They won, you lost. And they like to keep reminding you too. These selfish fools deny their failures or construct fantastical alternate worlds around them. Here’s looking at you, scary orange manbaby and serial loser – please don’t ruin the world for the sake of your fragile ego.

Two weeks ago, my partner and I met at the neighbourhood Rec Hall to feed 60 or so locals with pizza for dinner. For many years, this has happened weekly all through summer in our town. We most certainly didn’t do it alone, with another six bodies required to prep, cook and clean. Then two more to staff the bar. All 10 of us volunteered, and not for either the first or last time. Because we are all good people who go out of their way to help others, without expecting anything in return.

The previous week, a punter walked into the kitchen, saw furiously busy cooks yet still had the temerity to complain that they couldn’t get the exact style of pizza they were after. We patiently explained that we only had access to the ingredients in front of us and several more custom pizzas in the cue before we could even look at it.


Well, Princess Karen huffed off to whinge to her friends. It took me a very deep breath to go over and calmly outline that this whole event is volunteer run, and we do the best with what we have got. If she, or anyone else, wants a different type of service, they are more than welcome to put their hands up to help out. They haven’t yet returned, but I’m figuring that is more their loss than anything.

Sorry to all the nice Karens out there. 🙂

Bad people only help themselves. “What’s in it for me?” they cry. If they want deep dish, stuffed crust, ‘just like Domino’s’, they can jump in the car and drive the one hour each way to the nearest franchise. I can guarantee that their disc of death won’t even be remotely warm by the time they get it home. Whether their heart ever warms is up to them.

That same night, another new punter witnessed the above exchange. She was mortified that someone could be so selfish and rude, then offered immediately to help. Sleeves rolled up, dough and flour flying, Lisa wasn’t much chop at rolling pizza bases, but the banter made up for any lack of expertise. That’s a good people attitude. She is very welcome to return and probably will.

I have surrounded myself with good people. There is an element of luck but much is by design. Life is too short to waste time on pandering to fools. Everyone gets a few chances to establish where they fit on the selflessness scale. The ugly ones don’t take long to show their lack of worth, the bad ones get slowly sifted out and I then make an effort to encourage relationships with the good ones.

These good eggs care for more than just themselves. They have the inner strength to realise that their ego is no more important than anyone else’s. They know there is great joy in giving freely.

Greedy people, selfish people, narcissists, and takers in general are often unhappy underneath. I’ve dealt professionally with a lot of high-net-worth individuals, and a great many were miserable, angry or worse. They might have all the outgoing trappings of success, but their daily existence seemed bleak and tortured. What kind of a life is that? Who cares how many Ferraris you have when you have no true friends, your family disrespects you and you fear that the whole world is after your toy chest?

Trust me, I’m a baker

Our weekly pizza nights take a fair collective effort to organise and stage. None of us are remunerated in any financial sense. In fact, it takes us all away from income producing opportunities.

That is not the point. The real reason we all give to this venture is to see our community getting together, bonding over a shared experience, knowing that we are not alone, all while crossing demographic or political boundaries that would otherwise keep us apart. It gets hermits like me out the gate. It builds great bonds. It is an excellent way for newcomers or through travellers to meet a few locals.

When everyone got locked down, we had a much easier experience here in the country. I don’t even have a shop within 10kms, so travel restrictions were arbitrary. I could go for daily 1-2 hour walks and not see a single soul. And it was easy to bunker down in a place designed for just that – our pantry is extensive and always well stocked. We have space and time for veggie production. Eggs and meat are easily bartered for. But my biggest personal loss was the weekly pizza and beer gathering, which was cancelled for two seasons. Maybe that sounds trite in the context of much harsher restrictions and losses elsewhere, but I hadn’t realised how much I valued it until it wasn’t there.

Slowly, I got to plotting and planning. The committee responsible for the bar and its license had been somewhat dysfunctional for a long time. Most of the members were jaded and worn down after a long battle with the council over poorly implemented renovations to the venue (which they own). These building upgrades were sorely needed but locked us out of the venue for a second summer. With the Shire even more unstable (having Councillors recently replaced by an administrator and 65% annual staff turnover), I was surprised when, out of the blue, they passed a motion to dissolve the Hall management committee and elect a new one.

Cool. Time to press go. I’ve built enough trust and respect in the region to have a good crack at this. Duly elected as chair of the new committee, the hard work has now only just begun. We’ve got a good collection of skills, attitudes and age groups in this bunch and we are all keen to see things progress by fixing some of the logjams that have held the venue back.

Bound as we are by the bureaucratic inefficiencies of interactions with any civic body, this will require some degree of diplomacy – both within the group and in dealings with the Shire. My people skills will be tested, but I haven’t come in blind. I am very aware that this is a key part of the role. As are patience and persistence.

Will I succeed or fail in this venture? Unless a major tragedy hits, I am going full on for success. Setbacks are inevitable, but these junctures can be learning moments. The biggest win will be if other people succeed through this too. After all, that’s where I get my greatest reward. The ultimate arbiter of success will be seeing how many good people shine, individually and collectively. Plus, we get to share some great tucker and laughs over a glass of fine local beer or wine.

the view


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