Howdy folks, J-Day – the day we head to the Jamboree is fast approaching. Matty and I are only 8 days from flying out to the USA to start our Jamboree journey, and most of the rest of the IST are less than a week behind us. I don’t know the exact date that the Participants fly, but you must be at two weeks or there abouts.

I’m soon to be leaving on a jet plane!

I’m writing another vaguely serious one today, and it’s about how we behave whilst we’re at the Jamboree and/or HoHo and/or city adventures. Not necessarily a “follow the rules” type post, though there is a bit of this.

If you’ll indulge a diversion into classical Physics, Newton’s Third Law of motion states “Every Action has an equal and opposite reaction”. This is as true in real life as it is in classical Newtonian physics. (Trust me, I’m a Rocket Scientist, no really…). It may be better, in our case, put as:

“Everything you say or do will have a consequence”

These consequences may be positive – new international friendships that last a lifetime, really rewarding swap of a badge, invitations to visit a country and stay with members of your patrol, *that* night in Ottawa…

These consequences may be negative – irritation of a certain person, international relations plummet, global nuclear annihilation, *that* night in Ottawa…

I would like to advise you to think before you act.

I want to stress that we are ambassadors for Scouts (and Guides) in the UK. Each and every one of us will be representing our parent organisation at the Jamboree and further afield. Our actions, our words will influence how people think about Scouting and Guiding in the UK.

Beyond that, we’re representing our home. Whether you consider that as the UK or Scotland/England/Wales/Northern Ireland/Various BSO Countries, or a particular Region or a town/city village. There is a very good chance that some of the people you will meet will have never met someone from the UK, let alone your specific region. How you represent yourself will lead to folk forming lasting impressions.

Now, this post is one that I’d been planning for a while, but was somewhat inspired by an article I found on the BBC News as I ate my breakfast this morning. For those who don’t wish to read it, it’s about the people of Iceland growing fed up of tourists who are in search of the perfect instagram picture. This caused me to remember something I wrote about in the run up to the Moot in Iceland.

Shortly before the Moot in 2017, there were two News Stories reported, not only locally in Iceland but Globally through the BBC, of Scout Groups who got into difficulty and required rescued by the Icelandic emergency services.

In once case I vaguely remember that a party of Scouts decided to swim across a river to an island. Not in itself a silly idea, I’ve done something similar as a Scout (many moons ago), except in this case, the body of water was glacial melt, and as a result, very, very cold. One French Scout required airlifting to safety. There was another reported incident where, despite signs saying not to swim, a group of Scouts went into the Sea.

No Swimming in the glacial melt! Just in case you thought it was a good idea?

Both of those situations could have quite easily been much worse and resulted in serious injuries or fatalities – let that sink in.

Those situations could also have been easily avoided by thinking sensibly before the group acted. (Or you know, observing the signs that state, quite clearly “no swimming”).

I can’t remember the name of the theory or the model, but as humans, how we think is influenced by the people we’re around. As individuals, we are very risk aware, and even to a degree, risk adverse. In the above situation, I’m almost certain that alone, none of those Scouts would have entered the water and put themselves, and their rescuers, at risk.

But as part of a group, even as small as two people, our brains start running slightly differently, and we’re more likely to take risks or exhibit behaviours that are not normally us. Groups thrive off each other and encourage people to do things, then the way our brains are wired we do things to seek approval of the group.

I’ve seen it happen. A lot of folk would consider me fairly sensible (I did say fairly). But I’ve also been in situations where a group mentality has taken over and I’ve done things that in hindsight were stupid and put me and others at risk.

As an extreme example, during the 2011 London Riots, a student found himself caught up in the moment. By all media accounts, he was fairly sensible, quiet and normally, as they say, wouldn’t say boo to a goose. He definitely wasn’t some sort of hardened thug or even considered a revolutionary of any sorts. But, driven by the group mentality of the mob he found himself in, he began vandalising stuff and throwing stuff from roofs. He was caught on CCTV and was handed in by his own mother. He was handed a prison sentence, a fine and has to explain the gap in his education records and the criminal record to future employers.

Stock Image of the 2011 London Riots for those who don’t remember them

This particular story sticks with me because the Young Man in question is the same age as me, and I found myself wondering if that could have been me in a similar circumstance.

That example is probably about as extreme as it gets. But it does demonstrate the point. I’m not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I find the phenomenon where individual thought merges with the Group fascinating (hence why I’m writing about it…)

If you find yourself in a situation you’re individually not comfortable with this, you need to put yourself, and your own safety, first. Walk away if it’s safe to do so. Never do anything you’re uncomfortable with, even if you feel like you’ll loose some sort of approval within the Group your in. Frankly,

If you believe people are at risk, tell someone. Participants, tell your Leaders or nearby IST (or any functioning adult!). IST, look for someone not involved, if Security need to step in, alert them.

Your safety has to be paramount. I’ve spoken at length about looking after yourself. Please keep this in mind as you go along.

Part of Chaos Theory (not the Levellers Album – although that is pretty amazing, go check it out!) is known as the Butterfly Effect. Here it is proposed that the action of a butterfly flapping its wings in America could cause a hurricane in Asia.


In short, the tiniest actions can have massive consequences.

So, think about what you’re doing, what you’re saying and be aware, through cultural, societal, social differences what you think may be light hearted banter etc. could be deeply upsetting.

There is a fantastic scene in one of the Mr. Bean films where he gives a thumbs-up to an American Biker, who flips him a middle finger. He interprets this as a casual greeting in response to his, and then drives around LA giving the finger to every passing motorist.

This is a simple miscommunication (used for comic effect in the film), but I’ve seen similar things. Some European cultures greet each other by kissing on the cheek, other cultures abhor physical contact and are very uncomfortable being kissed in public.

Overall, what I’m trying to say is simply “think before you act”. What might seem like a good idea at the time could in fact be a very bad one. We’re all going to the Jamboree to have a good time, make sure what you’re saying/doing is not going to spoil it for other people.

One final thing. Participants and Unit Leaders. Remember the IST have paid an obscene sum of money to go and work for two weeks. If you’re being told to do something, there is probably a reason behind it, and more often than not it’s because someone higher up the food chain has told that IST to say it. By arguing or being aggressive, you just spoil the Jamboree for that IST. Trust me, I’ve been on the receiving end.

I found the below image on a quick Google search. Speaking as someone who’s worked Security at these events before, sometimes it’s not appropriate, but for the most part, try and keep this in mind and it will make everyone’s Jamboree that little bit better…

2 Replies to “Think!”

  1. The piece bit about greeting each other by kissing on the cheek – not not…

    Reminds me of WSJ 2007. I hosted a solidarity patrol from Mauritania in North Africa. In their culture, shaking with your left hand is a big no – It is the hand you wipe your bum with.

    I was briefed before hand about this. Their leader had been briefed about UK Scouts shaking with their left hand.

    When we met fir the first time – I offered my right hand, he offered his left. We both quickly swapped the offered hand, and then swapped back, and back again. We both then grasped both hands with both hands ans shook hands like that, while laughing out loud.

    For the rest of the Jamboree, shaking hands with both hands together is how we greeted each other.

    1. For the most part as Scouts (and Guides), I’ve never seen anyone be gravely offended by a clash of cultures, but it is worth bearing in mind. More often than not it does lead to these really amusing stories. I would bet if you ever met that leader again, you’d shake with both hands and have a good laugh about it all over again!

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