Keith Grint has been Professor Emeritus at Warwick University since 2018. He spent 10 years working in various positions across a number of industry sectors before switching to an academic career. His first undergraduate degree (Sociology) was from the Open University in 1981, and his second (Politics) from the University of York in 1982. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1986. He was Jr. Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University between 1985 and 1986 and a Research Fellow there from 1986 to 1987. Between 1986 and 1992 he was Lecturer in Sociology at Brunel University, and between 1992 and 1998 a Fellow at Templeton College, then University Lecturer in Organizational Behaviour, at the School of Management (now Saïd Business School), Oxford University. Between 1998 and 2004 he was University Reader in Organizational Behaviour at the Saïd Business School, and Director of Research there between 2002 and 2003. From 2004 to 2006 he was Professor of Leadership Studies and Dir. of the Lancaster Leadership Centre, Lancaster University School of Management. Between 2006 and 2008 he was Professor of Defence Leadership and Deputy Principal, Shrivenham Campus, Cranfield University. He was Professor of Public Leadership at Warwick Business School from 2009 to 2018.
He is a Fellow of the International Leadership Association (ILA) and Professorial Fellow of the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM). He is also a founding co-editor with David Collinson of the journal Leadership, and co-founder of the International Studying Leadership Conference. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2012 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science Warwick University in 2013. He received the Chief Constable’s Commendation for Contribution to Police Leadership in 2018 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association in 2018.
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Scott Allen 0:00
Good afternoon. Good evening. Good morning, wherever you are in the world, everyone. Today I am honored to have Professor Keith Grint. Keith Grant has been professor emeritus at Warwick University since 2018. He spent 10 years working in various positions across a number of industry sectors before he switched to an academic career. And it's been it's been an academic career working at the highest levels. And I've noticed this Keith, many people who were in industry who switched. There are some giants out there who have both of those perspectives, which I love, but that's not part of your bio. I'm going to jump back into your bio here. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1986. And he was a junior research fellow at Nuffield College Oxford University between 85 and 86 and a research fellow there between 86 and 87. He made his way to become a university lecturer in organizational behavior at the School of Management which is now Sayyid Business School, and between 1998 in 2004, he was a University reader in organizational behavior at the side business school and Director of Research there between 2002 and 2003. From 2004 to 2006. He was a professor of Leadership Studies and director of the Lancaster Leadership Center. Our good friend and former guest, Steve Kempster, is there between 2006 and 2008. He was a professor of defense leadership and Deputy Principal Shrivenham Cranfield University. He was a professor of Public leadership at Warwick business school from 2009 to 2018. Folks, he is a fellow of the International leadership Association, a professional fellow of the Australian Institute of police management. He's a founding co-editor with David Collinson of the journal leadership and co-founder of the International studying Leadership Conference. I am so excited to get to that someday. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2012 and awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Warwick University. He has written a number of books, countless journal articles, and sir Keith, what what do what gaps Do we need to fill in? What would what else would you like listeners to know about you?
Keith Grint 2:16
What could they know about me? So I come from, I was an army kid. So I was born in Bermuda. I've lived in six different countries, 26 different homes. I got expelled from school when I was 18. It took me about 10 years to recover from that and try to work out what I was trying to do with my life. And then I discovered the Open University. And then after that, I just never stopped learning. So that's it. That's me. Thank you very much. And goodbye.
Scott Allen 2:49
Best podcast ever! I love it. Yeah. Love it. Yeah. Well, let's talk about that. So in that 10 years, what did you discover that then after discovering the Open University really kind of sparked that curiosity and that passion for learning.
Keith Grint 3:05
So, I discovered that most people's Working Lives struck me as being extraordinarily boring. I spent, I worked in factories, I worked on farms. I worked in the post office for a long time. And every single job that I did, bought the pants off me, and I began to realize if I didn't do something about my life, I'd end up just regretting everything because it was just so dull. I wasn't working at the post office in New York. Yeah, one day and an old lady a pensioner came up to claim her pension, which we paid out on a Thursday, as she came in. I remember putting my head on the counter desk and raising my date stamp that you have to stamp their books, now raised it above my head, and I shouted out very loudly - "if this is all there is to live for. I'm going to kill myself with my date stamp!" So at least people will know the exact day I died. So I sat there with my head on the counter, and my datestamp poised and the old lady pushed her pension book through to me and said "before you kill yourself, young man, could you just pay my pension." That woman saved my life. And then on that, at that lunchtime, I went out and I went to find a book to read in the bookshop. And it had a little cover, there was a little mark, which I didn't recognize. So I bought the book came back and it's and the Mark was a book for one of the set books for the Open University, huh. And I thought I'd try this. So I tried it. And then I never, I never really looked back. I left the post office or went to do my undergraduate degree and then my doctorate.
Scott Allen 4:41
So there's this initial interest in sociology and politics. And is that what brought you then to this topic of leadership?
Keith Grint 4:50
Because I'm an army kid. I've always been interested in the military. I never wanted to join the army. But I've always been interested in it and been become familiar with it, but I've always been interested in dissent and trying to respond to the fact that my father's life seemed to be one of compliance all the time. Then I went to boarding school, which was a very similarly organized institution, in terms of it being, what we call a total institution run on similar regulations. And I got increasingly resentful of the restrictions put on my life, that caused all kinds of eruptions, and eventually, they threw me out. Then I went to work in various places. And in the post office, I became one of their trade union officials, okay, they look for a volunteer, and I became a trade union official, and became involved in the union movement. And that got me interested again, in a more professional way about leadership and dissent and how you manage that. And then I went, did the Open University degree that was in really in sociology, and then I did another undergraduate degree at York University in politics. But all of those were, were focused to some extent on the issues of dissent and resistance and leadership and followership. So even though I didn't start out, wanting to look at leadership, I think that was the kind of subtext, that I was intrigued by all the time. Then I did my, my doctorate at Oxford, I got a job at Brunel University teaching organizational behavior. And then after six years, I came back to Oxford. And somebody asked me if I taught leadership because they had an executive program at Oxford, which I'd never taught executives before. And I said, Well, I don't have an executive lecture. I have an undergraduate lecture. I'm happy to do that for an hour. So I did that for an hour. And somebody came up afterward and said, that was really interesting, but I don't see the point. I said, What do you mean, you don't see the point? And he said, Well, the ideas were interesting, but I don't see how that makes a difference to the way that I might run my life in any way, shape, or form. Wow. So first of all, I was kind of resistant to that. That's your problem that you're assuming?
Scott Allen 6:53
You mean, you're telling me my session didn't just change your leg? Exactly. Yeah.
Keith Grint 6:58
Let me tell you don't go first to say that. When I thought about that and reflected on it, and then I looked into it a bit more, it became apparent that actually there wasn't there weren't very many people in the UK that were looking professionally at leadership in an academic sense. Yeah. Well, there were quite a few in the US. But they were primarily looking at business issues. There were primarily psychologists, and I was interested more in sociological or political aspects, rather than the business aspects. And because there was virtually nobody writing, I thought, well, maybe this is my niche area exam. And then I Secondly, I realized that actually, when you look at leadership, you can do anything. And everything involves leadership at some point. So that kind of massively expanded my horizons of what I could research. That was it really, I just kept going down that path.
Scott Allen 7:46
I had a guest on the show last week, he was the former dean of the College of Medicine at Dartmouth. And it was a really neat quote, and I don't I didn't ask him if it was his quote. So we'll just attribute it to him. But his name is Chip Souba. And he's an MD. And he said, "leadership is a mountain with no top." And I feel that way. Sometimes when it comes to studying or talking about this topic. It's a mountain with no top. I mean, it's just so to your point. I mean, there are just so many different directions and, and vantage points we can take on this topic. And I want to start today with this book that you wrote leadership, a very short introduction, and you do a really nice job in that text of distinguishing a few terms. You call it its leadership, followership, management, and then command. Would you help listeners think through how you think about those concepts because I think it might help set the stage for discussion, discussion on your latest work?
Keith Grint 8:49
When I first started writing, I was kind of drawn into writing about leadership and management never quite been clear if there was a division between those two or it was just a rhetorical device. And then I began to teach primary, military students at Cranfield University. So the bit of Cranfield that I worked in called the defense Academy, it's the equivalent of a Military University, it became clear to me that there was something missing in this leadership management issue. Because lots of things that the military were working on were what they call command, they weren't really to do with I mean, they, they kind of put it under a leadership heading. But to my mind, it wasn't the same thing because you could command somebody differently from the way that you might lead them. So that made me think about, well, maybe there are at least three decision modes that we need to consider. And almost simultaneously, I began to look at the tame and wicked problems material and then recognizing again, that actually there was something missing in that material that there wasn't any kind of crisis problems. There were just 10 problems or wicked problems. And if you have a crisis problem, then presumably You'd need to command that to be much more coercive than you would be if you were in the leadership mode. So I then associated leadership with wicked problems, because nobody really knows how to address a wicked problem. So you need to collaborate, you need more than one person to be able to understand this. So I call that leadership recognizing that that confuses lots of people, the critical problem was for command because you had to coerce people, but you could only really do it in a short space of time. Yeah. And then the term problems, which is what most of us do, most of the time, I regarded as a management issue, because there was a way of resolving those kinds of problems. And it was known, there were standard operating procedures, and you just have to let people get on with it, rather than what we would call, you know, work with a long screwdriver to look over their shoulders all the time. So that those are those three aspects came out. And then there's kind of a separate, separate run in here. I was asked to come and do some talks to the very first military people before I became part of Cranfield University. And they said, we've got all this leadership stuff, but they'd noticed that I'd written some work on followership, and they'd never thought about followership. Would I be interested in coming to talk about followership? So I basically used to start out by saying, if you, if you don't talk about followership, you've got no understanding of leadership, it doesn't make any kind of sense to talk about leadership without followership, because it is, by definition, a relationship issue. Yeah. So I mean, then I used to kind of make this joke about that if you look at all the competencies, and you measure me and all the competencies, I'm bloody brilliant at leadership, except when I have some followers, and that completely screws it up, because they never do what I'm hoping they're gonna do. So you can be the best, you can be the best, educated, competent leader, but it doesn't work on the ground if you don't have any kind of relationship with followers. And that and that kind of that child with a bit the very first part of the VSI book that you just mentioned, where I talked at the beginning about how I thought I knew about leadership before I'd read about it, because I, you know, I'd done this trade union leadership stuff, and I'd had some experience of that. And I knew how to do all that. And then I began to read the leadership literature, then I realized I knew absolutely nothing. The more I read, the less I understood, you have this kind of inverse correlation between the amount of knowledge and the amount of wisdom you've got, I knew nothing. And, and yeah, I thought I was great. And then I realized that actually, I was really poor. This have I understood virtually nothing, despite having read some stuff. And then I, in that VSI book, on one of my Amazon reviews, it says, I think I think most people regard it as it's quite...not a bad book. But one person has given me a one-star and said, I read to page one on this. And the author said that the more he read, the less he understood. So what was the point of me reading any further, so I didn't read any? Oh, that's brilliant. That's just exactly what you understand by this, this whole nonsense about assuming that leaders, you know, know everything. It's a bit I think this is, this kind of undermines a problem that I frequently talk about is that our confusion between competence and competence, we just follow confident people. I mean, Boris Johnson, a British Prime Minister is exactly this extraordinarily confident under any circumstance. Even with his having his leg chopped off, he'll still do it, he'll be fine. I'll be able to hop around. There won't be a problem. But in terms of competence, I think there's a lot missing.
Scott Allen 13:36
Keith you're making me think of the Is it the Black Knight in money? Python? Where Yeah, nearly a flesh wound? Yeah, exactly!
Keith Grint 13:43
Yeah. Over positivity, which is just, it's just terrible. But I think now politicians, especially those kinds of politicians, do the opposite of what they should be doing, is what Ronnie Heifetz talks about disappointing as the right pick and manage. Yeah, and that's the real hard skill of leadership. But Boris does the opposite of that he tells everybody is gonna be fantastic. What are you worrying about? Of course, there are people dying. But that's what happens.
Scott Allen 14:12
And we have about this, and I'll send this to you. But I just read a nice and it links some of the adaptive work from Heifetz to the leadership of Jacinda Arden and in New Zealand. Oh, yeah. And her approach was a little bit different and of course, in different contexts, but, but very interesting, right? I mean, it's so fascinating. And then you move into this topic and your latest book on mutinies, and to be honest with you, I really had not thought about this topic to any depth, obviously, I know what it is. And I hadn't ever come across that word and the term leadership. So I'm excited about this conversation. And there's a really cool, there's a cool phrasing that you write, "Whenever leadership emerges within a group, there will be resistance to that leadership. Discontent may manifest in a number of ways. And action will always be determined by factors such as resource numbers, time, space, and the legitimacy of the resistance. What then turns discontent into mutiny?" It's, it's like I've just read the opening of an incredibly wonderful novel. I want to learn more!
Keith Grint 15:26
Well, I'll just turn it into a novel. Yeah, so what some? What started me out on this journey, apart from the usual stuff about dissent and leadership, and all that is, is trying to work out why, why people? Why do followers put up with stuff for so long. And then all of a sudden didn't put up with stuff. So we know that it's, it's not the poverty of the conditions. It's not. It's not the fact that we know when things are bad people don't revolt, they only revolt, not just when things are bad. But when they can find a way of making it less bad when they can do something about it. So things could be incrementally terrible, but nobody will make a move until somebody says or realizes, you know what, we could do something about this? Yeah. And at that point, then you begin to think about so Who was it? Who does this? And how did they do it? And you know, what is what are the difficulties? So there? There are all kinds of examples in the book. And I try to flesh out why certain groups mutiny, and whether that's always necessarily a positive or a negative thing. I mean, there are some, there are some utilities, which you can always see everybody you can see coming like Mutiny on the Bounty. Which what you've got in the Royal Navy at that point in time is you've got people stuffed into a little ship for six months. Under terrible conditions, sometimes they get beaten. But by and large, the crew that is involved in the mutiny aren't necessarily coerced. More than other mutinies, what more than other rail Royal Navy ships cruise, but what happens is, of course, they go to Tahiti, and they've for all kinds of natural reasons, they're stuck in Tahiti for more long for longer than they should be. The consequence of that is many of the crew then start making relationships with the local women. And it's a paradise, so they have kind of nine months of their lives in a paradise not really working, just moving in with, with the local Tahitian women, and starting families. And then the captain says, oh, by the way, we're going back on this junk. And I'm gonna if you don't do what I tell you, I'm gonna beat you again. For some reason, I say I'm not so sure about that. But to be perfectly frank, I'd rather stay
Scott Allen 18:00
here, I think I think I'll pass on that, sir. Yeah.
Keith Grint 18:05
If you'd like, but I'm busy. I'm pulling this city. And so that that kind of utility is fairly obvious as to why it occurs. But there are others that start out with really small issues or appear to be small issues, and then explode, that there's one point in the early part of the 20th century in Portsmouth, which is the biggest dockyard shipyard in the UK at the time, where the Royal Navy is, and a group of sailors are coming off duty. And one of the officers stops them and tries to discipline them because they're making a bit of noise. And he calls on them to, quote, take the knee as it's kind of interesting, contemporary issue but taking the knee. Yeah, this is the opposite. This is the opposite interpretation. Because taking the knee at this point in time, is usually restricted for musket fire, you know, so you take your knee if you're the first line of the muskets, and then the other line stands above you. That's what the taking of the knee was supposed to be about. But this isn't about musket fire. This is about this particular naval officer trying to coerce and embarrass and shame these sailors by making them take the knee in front of him, but for no apparent reason. And that leads to a mutiny and there are all kinds of fallouts from that. So that there is there's a range of explanations for why mutinies occur, and some of them are just almost instantaneous. They're just, I'm not putting up with this anymore. But more likely, you get, you get mutinies that go across in a pattern. So for example, in the First World War, the biggest mysteries in the French army occur in 1917 after a terrible offensive, which goes terribly wrong and there are 1000s killed and the French army just says not putting up with this anymore. We're not going to do it. And by and large, they stopped fighting. Well, for a few weeks, it's all covered up. Quite a few of them are shot. And then they get back to work and it carries on. Whereas the British mutinies, they don't really have any immunities, except on 19, Christmas 1914, when they have the so-called Christmas truce between the British and the German troops, when they stopped fighting over the Christmas of 1914, which is actually a mutiny, because they refuse to fight. But in all the official reports, they call it a truce, because they're trying to hide the fact that they no longer have control over their troops. And the troops objective. You said we're not fighting. It's Christmas. Keep this on both sides. Yeah, both sides. Yeah, both Germans and Brits, the I think both sides, both officers realized very quickly, that was completely out of control. So they couldn't, they couldn't shoot their way back to discipline. So they just let it go for 48 hours. And then they gradually began to regain control. But actually, most of the British beauties occurred in 1990, when they're trying to demobilize after the war, and it isn't going fast enough. And the British troops are thinking if I don't get back home soon, now I've done my duty. We've beaten the Germans, I'm still in uniform. The jobs are going quickly. And now Churchill is saying things like, actually, I think we need to invade Russia because the Russians are now being taken over by the Bolsheviks. So don't demobilize yet, we'll send you over to Russia. And the British response is that that's not part of the deal. It's got the social contract. Yeah, it's about us being in the war until the Germans have been defeated, then we're all going home. And so basically, the almost the whole British army just beautifully. And in the end, the British government has to accept it. And we bet there aren't very many troops sent to Russia. And most of them are demobilize pretty quickly. So there are all kinds of explanations for why mutual is break out. But what I'm really intrigued in beyond that is, you know, how you lead one? Yes, it's a really difficult thing to do. Because we, by and large, the people that lead beauties end up being executed,
Scott Allen 22:13
I would imagine, it's not going to go well, most of the time, right?
Keith Grint 22:17
Almost never goes well. So then the question is, so why would you do that? Why would you put yourself through this, knowing that the chances of you surviving, I mean, your, your fellow mutineers might get off, but it's unlikely that you will. So I'm kind of intrigued by why people do this. And I kind of, I kind of look at the very end of the book about whether there is what sometimes called the "puer robustus," which is a kind of an awkward person, whether they are or not whether they are. Within most societies, there are awkward people. They're not necessarily left-wing or right wing, they're just awkward people. And they don't comply. And they're very recalcitrant. And it seems to me that quite often huge needs are controlled and run by these kinds of individuals, who are quite different from most of us who just do whatever boss, of course, I'll do whatever you want. And they're not like that, and they put themselves out for the greater good. And it's a really unusual thing to do. And it almost fades into the back of No, why do most people comply? It's the kind of all the other sort of experiments, for example, about Yeah, yes, compliance, most of us, under most circumstances will comply with something which isn't great. Yeah. But there's always, you know, a fifth to a third of the population who say, I'm not doing that. And I don't care what you do to me. And that's what intrigues me is, you know, where did those people come from? And why did they do this? So the book is trying to work out both the kind of social aspects of this, what are the general motivations? What are the social patterns? And at the very end, why does some individual take it on themselves to say, not only is this not right, but I'm going to put it right,
Scott Allen 24:02
Keith, are there any are there? Is there a story that comes to mind for you, of an individual who did put themselves out there? And that intrigued you as you're doing the research for this?
Keith Grint 24:16
So one of the first meetings that I looked at is, it's a pair of beauties in, in England in 1797. So 1797 is the time of the French Revolution. All right, so the whole of Europe seems to be on fire with these revolutionary ideas, the rights of man, and all the rest of it. And there are two mutinies in the British Navy, one's near Southampton, and one's further down towards London. And the Southampton one is the one that comes first. And it's, it's a real surprise to the Royal Navy. It's very well organized. There's great solidarity amongst the sailors. Well, they select their own leaders, and so each ship has two or three leaders or deputy Sometimes called. And they, they meet, they organize. And six weeks later, the Navy basically gives in to all their demands in terms of better pay better food, and conditions. They don't get everything but they get kind of three-quarters of what they want. And that is regarded as less of a mutiny and more of a strike. Okay, so the government downplay the political issues and say, Oh, no, it's just a misunderstanding. They didn't understand how nice we were if they've asked us nicely, they said yes, straight away. That's what goes on. And then almost as soon as that one ends, there's another mutiny but in down towards London, so-called the nor, and then the group is, is smaller, it's less professional. So it's newer, they've only just been recruited, but they want basically the same thing that the mutiny is and Spithead have got. But by this time, the government has now changed its mind about what's going on. It's deeply disturbed by what's happening in France, it's decided that what we're looking at now is not an industrial dispute, but a political revolution. And it sends in the Spencer, Lord Spencer, who's actually the long distant relation of Lady Spencer. And he basically goes in to destroy the mutiny. And on the other side of the mutiny, there's, um, there's one guy, who, who seems to be he's a, he's a teacher. And he seems to have decided that the only way that they can be successful is if he puts himself forward to run it is called Parker. And he tries to take over the mutiny and tries to steer it away from any kind of violence because he knows what will happen if there if violence occurs, the government will just come down on heavy on them. And ultimately, it doesn't work for the government a way to organize them is very coercive. And they could they basically restrict what the engineers can do. And the final thing really is Parker decides that the mutiny is going to fail. And he knows what will happen to him. Yeah. And he basically surrenders himself and says, Look, there have probably been some mistakes here. And I know what will happen to me, but just let it happen to me and not, not the rest of the sailors. And in the end, about 300, are charged with a mutiny. And about 100 of those a hand, including Parker, well, here's a good example of somebody who's not is not a political radical, he just decides at that point in time, that this is going to be catastrophic unless I can, I can try and shape it. So it doesn't get completely out of control. And the consequences, he loses his life. And I think there are lots of examples within the book about individuals like that, who are doing it for the better good. And often knowing that this is not very good for me, I'm going to end up swinging from something that was shot by somebody, and yet they still do it. And I think in some ways, it's a reflection of a wider social issue. But we know that social change and resistance is often based upon one individual saying, taking the knee, I am not doing this. And I know this might well ruin my career. I mean, I won't get probably won't get killed, but it will ruin my career, but I'm not putting up with it. And that that leads to other repercussions that are way outside what one individual does. So I think it's a kind of it's it's a darker reflection of those kinds of, of issues about why some individuals say, Enough is enough. I'm not putting up
Scott Allen 28:41
Keith, are there contemporary examples that you've been paying close attention to, like literally real-time in the world right now? That is what has happened in the last few years? Would you consider January 6 in the States? Would you consider that and define that as a mutiny?
Keith Grint 29:00
No. So so a mutiny in technical terms is a conspiracy by two or more people in a military situation when they refuse to comply with a legitimate order. So that would that's more of an insurrection than a mutiny because it's not an industry background. But I mean, the one that comes out of that, which is equally interesting, I think, which, which has the kind of smell of mutiny is when General Milley, who said very recently has, in the book, whose name I can't remember, said that he had talked to his junior officers in case Trump had decided to press the nuclear button. Nothing was gonna happen unless it came through him. Now, formally, since Trump is the president and was commander in chief, so this is a man whose subordinate he was going to refuse, possibly refuse a legitimate order from a superior officer, and has conspired with others to make sure that that order was not complying with interest out? In a formal sense, that might have been a mutiny, except then the question would be that so the definition of beauty is two or more people conspiring to refuse a legitimate order. Okay. But the question is, would that have been legitimate? Yeah. And I think Milly's argument would have been, it would not have been legitimate because we clearly have a deranged person who's trying to destroy large sections of the earth. And that's not a legitimate order. And that's why I refuse to comply with it. So I think even on that, I mean, that's the kind of thing that comes up over time. But I think, by and large, that what actually occurs in most of the meetings are looking at, there are big disputes about whether in fact, it is a mutiny. Yeah. Or what the intention of the mutiny is really was. And, and then you have to think about so what's the intention of the state? Or the superordinate? group? Do they want to? Do they really want to remove all these people in which case is going to be a new entity? And if they don't, they'll call it a strike or a misunderstanding?
Scott Allen 31:07
Yeah. Interesting. Because in this event, on January 6, we have the former military involved engaged. Yeah, but because they were no longer active duty it then it is classified differently. That makes sense.
Keith Grint 31:26
Yes, it's not unusual. It could be a coup. It could be all kinds of things. But it's not a mutiny in the sense that I'm talking about. And I think part of the problem is that people often use the word mutiny in a much wider sense than the Technical Center I'm talking about here. So mine's just restricted. It's all it also covers. slave ships. Because what slate, what slave ships and body and what ships in general and body is so-called sovereign power. So there's nobody else around on the ship. Yep. So so so rebellions on slave ships were always counted as beauties. Okay. Not as something else.
Scott Allen 32:02
Define coup for me. Is this just a group of people trying to take over the government? They could be military, they may not be military. Is that?
Keith Grint 32:11
Yeah, I mean, I think most schools tend to be military. But then people talk about military kids. Yeah. So then you would know it's the military involving it's possible to have a political coup, where you replace the government, but I think most coups. So there was one in which I think, Guinea, there was a coup a few months ago. And then you get so is this is a mutiny. It's a mutiny and it's secure at the same time. So most beauties are not about that, not about replacing the government system. They're about putting right a wrong as perceived by the mutineers. Okay. But there are some utilities that transfer across. So the Russian new to the in 1917, is one that leads to the end of the Russian state. And it's the same in Germany in 1918, the naval beauties in 1918, lead to the, basically the end of the Kaiser at the end of the German state, although even that mutinies, it's actually it actually occurs when the Germans sailors refused to comply with an order from their officers, for one last battle with the British. So the war is basically over the Germans have agreed to cease hostilities, but the German Navy decided it would be really heroic, for one last post-war battle. They issue orders for the Royal for the German Navy to go out and find the Royal Navy and go down all guns blazing. And the German sailors say I don't think so. We're not doing this. So they actually, they mutiny, but really, it's a mutiny against the mutiny. Yes, the German officers are mutinying against the German state, though it's a really complex issue.
Scott Allen 33:52
I feel like I'm going down the rabbit hole. Yeah. Within a mutiny, yeah. And there was a coup lurking.
Keith Grint 33:59
In the end, that was a killer. Because what, what then happens, this is a really serious point about this is because it's started because 19 eight because the end of the war starts with this German naval mutiny. And then the German armies didn't retreat. What happens is the German High Command, realizes it's all over. And they then cede power to the Social Democrats, and it's the social democrats that signed the peace treaty. which then means the German military can say and what became the Nazi Party and then say, Well, wait a minute, we never lost the war. Us social democrats that signed the peace treaty. We got stabbed in the back. You did?
Scott Allen 34:39
Yeah. And now we have our other or some of them. Yeah, right. Yeah. The group of the faction of people that we can focus on and galvanize behind disliking. Right.
Keith Grint 34:55
Yes. And that kind of, you know, even now the kind of was the Debate recently about the Australian decision to veto the Australian nuclear submarine deal and go with the American British deal as being regarded by the French as a stab in the back. And that's not a coincidental term. That's a really interesting political term because we've been here before shaman. Well, to the stab in the back is the official position that the German right used to explain why they got defeated in 1980. So then they as far as that because they've never lost the war, they would have won, and they kept fighting. But in fact, we, we all know that that was, that was not the case. But what that basically meant is that they could then they could find someone to blame. Yeah, for the German defeat. So the stab in the back became known as the kind of it's a rhetorical trope. Yeah, there's the worst kind of treason. And now, this is what the Australians are done to the French and they're talking about. So the French talking about this, in terms of this is a stab in the back I treasonable behavior, not just a commercial problem, but a treatable piece of behavior. And in the British, the British Conservative press, are now talking about this in terms of the second Trafalgar. So the Battle of Trafalgar is when the British beat the French and the Spanish navies. And this led to 100 years of British naval dominance around the globe. So all of this is wrapped around these kinds of political configurations and identities that persist across time. And about a month the whole thing about Brexit is this notion of So who is the British? You know, we used to be somebody. Yeah. And they weren't, we ended up someone like, like Denmark. Yeah, this is not right. So we need to be somebody. So let's get out of Europe. And we can become great again. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Which might lead to all kinds of interesting things. Yeah. It's a bit like,
Scott Allen 36:56
you need some Red Hats now. And you could say, yeah, it can make Britain great again, right?
Keith Grint 37:00
We need more flags. Everybody has to have a flag. And we need to start selling ships around the world and provoking the Chinese if possible.
Scott Allen 37:11
Well, Keith, it's complex, isn't it? It's so fascinating. so fascinating. This is just the North, the North route up the mountain with no top.
Keith Grint 37:26
Yeah, I think that no top thing is quite, I mean, I just, I insulted I was talking to a lot of medics. And their, their problem was they talked about being overwhelmed all the time by all these medical catastrophes and their political problems and their financial problems. And I tried to persuade them not to use the notion of the mountain with no top. But in terms of recognizing that this is what it always feels like, we know, when you get to a leadership position, you were always overwhelmed, you know, all by definition. So the trick is to recognize that as that always happens, this is what it feels like, yeah, and by this, this is not a catastrophe. So now you have to work out what you have to focus on. Yeah, and not focus on everything, or not trying to change the entire world overnight. You can't do that. All you can do is sort your little bit out. So just focus on your this is the kind of stoic philosophy, things about recognizing what you can and can't do and focus on the bits. And you can do that. I think otherwise, lots of good people end up thinking, you know what? Because I can't see the top of the mountain. I'm going to give up and go back down again.
Scott Allen 38:30
And just build a hut and stay there for the rest.
Keith Grint 38:34
Can you just play? Like just play games on whatever machine I'm using?
Scott Allen 38:42
Keith, what else have you been thinking about? I mean, obviously, this has been consuming your thought for a few years, I would imagine. Well, more than that, but the act of writing. But are there any other things that are on your mind, right now that you're contemplating that have your attention?
Keith Grint 39:00
So I'm writing this, I'm now writing a book on resistance, which will probably be my last book, it will take me about five years to write I think it's just enormous. I don't know where they're gonna get published. You're so damn big, but we'll see about that. But what I've been very reasonably intrigued by is, is the patterns in the kind of rhetorical tropes in the set, I wrote the section on the abolition of slavery. So I'm looking at slave resistance, primarily North American slave resistance, and particularly, slave resistance in the West Indies, Haiti, and Jamaica, in particular, looking at those two sites and then trying to work out the links between those kinds of arguments from the groups that are trying to continue with slavery. So on the one hand, you have the resistance movements, and sometimes they're successful as in Haiti, and sometimes they aren't as in Jamaica. But in both cases, there are groups of arguments, which are used primarily by slave owners to explain why the abolitionist movement is wrong. Yeah, so there are things like, first of all, slavery is actually not that diff not that bad. I mean, you know, we, when you, when you really go and work in the, on the plantations, you see, they get lots of food, and they have, you know, most days off, and everybody is really happy. And by comparison, when you come home to Britain, for example, look at the state of our poor industrial working classes, you know, they work in factories that don't get paid very much, they're all starving. So really, slavery is a really good idea. That's the point. That's the first one to think about. The second one is to think about in terms of, actually, as a consequence of this, most of the people who are been enslaved, are actually really happy. And they're not unhappy with slavery, they're really happy. And they, you know, if anybody tries to free them, they say, Oh, no, thank you, I'd rather be a slave. So there's that kind of trope, there is something about if we abolish slavery, the entire economy of the country will collapse, both France and Britain? Yeah. So you know, I know it's a bad idea, but you can't do this. Yep. And then there's something about so if you do this, you know, the people that you will hurt most, there'll be the poor people of Britain and France, there will be the rich people, they'll be the poor people. And that's why you need to continue. And then the fifth one is, okay, well, well, you might have a point. But you know, most of these people who have been enslaved, they're not very civilized, and they wouldn't be able to work on their own. So we need to civilize them first and do it over a long period of about maybe 20 years. And then 20 years from now, it'll probably be okay, because we'll have civilized them by them. So there are those kinds of rhetorical tropes being used by the anti-abolitionist movements. And then when you look at how that operates, in terms of things like the environmental movement, you get a similar kind of pattern. So the people arguing the risk there, actually, there is no global warming. Or if there is any global warming, it's actually good. Because you know in the UK, we're sick of all these cold winters, we're going to get some really nice winters. Okay, fantastic. And all kinds of great things, and we can grow better crops. Yeah. So it'll be fine. And if you go down this electrification of cars route, if that's what you want, you know, who you will hurt most, you will hurt the poor people, because they can't afford those kinds of cars, so they won't have any kind of transport. And that's what you get as a patterning of the defense of the status quo. Yes, it's kind of just kind of interested, intriguing, and also, worrying that you see these, these just these repetitions of arguments across time. It's a different topic. But it's the same kind of rhetorical trope. So that's what I'm, that's what I've been looking at the last couple of days.
Scott Allen 42:59
Keith, that is just that is fascinating. That's not just the last couple of days, is it?
Keith Grint 43:07
In terms of trying to get the links between the two? I'm looking at the slavery years.
Scott Allen 43:16
I was like, this man is productive!
Keith Grint 43:19
No, it's um, yeah.
Scott Allen 43:22
I think that is just fascinating. I really do. I mean, even as you were speaking, number five, the last one that you shared, I recorded an episode in the church's argument as to why that was a positive thing? Well, we have to civilize these people. Well, we have to, we have to help them better understand how civilized people live. And of course, it was tragic. And 150,000, I believe was the number of people who went through those schools and many of whom died. It's tragic, but I had another guest on and you'll love this quote, Keith, you really well, his name is Robert Livingston. He's at Harvard Kennedy School. And we had a conversation about his book called The conversation. But he has a quote in there that will just have will forever stick with me. And it went like this. When it comes to mental gymnastics. Most of us are Olympic athletes. Yeah. Right. And so even you have these horrible, horrible approaches to humanity, but somehow we engineer ourselves into justifying why. What we're doing.
Keith Grint 44:55
Yeah, no, there's a there was a conversation on Twitter. This morning that I was looking at, and it was about an American Hospital. I don't remember which one. And it was about the pandemic and about the vaccine deniers. And the argument went something like this. So I, I have visited this particular hospital, and I'm telling you, there's nobody there dying of COVID. And the emergency unit is completely empty. So this is all a conspiracy. And you shouldn't be taking any kind of vaccine or listening to any of the people that say you should. And then somebody in the hospital responded by saying, This is the official policy of the hospital, this is what's happening, and then listed all these terrible things that were happening in the hospital. And the response was, Oh, my God, I'm sorry, I just realized what I'm just what a fool I've made. The response was, Oh, my God, even the hospital is now involved in the conspiracy. This is exactly the problem that you there's almost nothing so to call popper, the Austrian philosopher of science is sometimes associated with this kind of so-called popper question, a technique to work out. So how, how can I persuade you to change your mind? You just said something, which I think is ridiculous. So what can I do? So I'm going to say to you, so Scott, what, what do I need to say to change your mind? And your answer is nothing. And now I know, there's no point in trying to argue. But if you say, Pete, if you give me these kinds of pieces of data, there might be persuaded, I now know what to look for. Yeah. And so often, we don't do that what we do is we look at you and thinking, I'll tell you what, because you don't understand, I'm going to shout at you a bit louder. It's what Brits do when they go on holiday in Europe. I mean, if you don't understand my English, I'm going to shout. And that way, it'll make more sense to you. It's that I think you get to the point where you realize, you know, there are some people just outside conventions of logic and argument. They're just their minds are made up. And that is all that that's it done. Finished.
Scott Allen 46:59
Yeah. Yep. The earth is flat. That's how it is. Yeah, well, and again, that whole, that whole process would be and I'm sure someone is studying that. But it is because you know, your identity gets wrapped up in some of those beliefs. And now, with the internet, I can build community more easily and readily in some and people with like minds, regardless of where they are in the world. And it's, it's really fascinating. Keith, what have you been reading or streaming or watching or listening to that's kept your mind active, and it could have something to do with what we've just discussed there could have nothing to do with what we've just discussed? What's come across your radar recently?
Keith Grint 47:40
I'm so looking at Afghanistan as one thing I've been looking at. So I haven't I've, I've done some stuff on the resistance movement in Iraq. I haven't done the Afghan chapter yet. I'm still gonna hesitating about that. Okay. Well, I had, I had an Afghan student, a postgraduate student a few years ago. And I remember talking to him about that. And I said, so. So do you think that the West is going to be successful in constructing an Afghan army that is able to resist and eventually defeat the Taliban? And he said, No. Well, I thought, Oh, you seem very positive Why's that? He said, because people in the West have not understood don't understand. Afghanistan, are so well. Okay. So explain it to me. He said Afghanistan isn't really a country in this in the sense that you know it. It's a series of tribes. Yeah. So I loyalties to the tribe are not the country. So there's no point in you trying to build a national army and doesn't make any kind of sense. And the only reason the Taliban last time is because you adopted local warlords, and their tribal armies, and use them against the Taliban. That's what works because they're loyal to their tribal I mean, not to they're not loyal to the state. And when the state is so corrupt, anyway, then you've got absolutely no chance. And I compare that to a list of quotes that I use in my teaching quite a lot from military officers, senior military officers, from I think about the year to have moved into Afghanistan. And every year somebody has said at the very top, without doubt, this is the final year for the Taliban. We are going to achieve a victory this year. And that just every year, a different person says the same thing. Yeah. And then any kind of outs I was kind of finish that off by thinking about a quote again from my student what which was this kid This is what the Taliban said. They say, you Americans, you have all the watches, and we have the time is a really interesting way of configuring the problem. It's just you know, we just we're just gonna wake you up. We waited the Russians out. Way to the British out twice before. So third time on Lucky for you a lot. We'll just keep waiting. And we'll end up with the same Taliban government that we're going to have 20 years ago. Yeah. Which is a terrible tragedy in terms of thinking about what's now happening, in Afghanistan, particularly to women and girls. But I think that's a pattern of misunderstanding. what it is you're dealing with. I was, I was reminded, when I was looking at Iraq, I was reminded of a friend of mine, who, who went to Iraq, and worked with the Americans. He's not an American, but he worked with the Americans. And though this is about year two, and he emailed me and said, Keith, you're your scholar at Oxford. So could you send me your contact details? For somebody in Oxford? who is an expert in Islam? I said, Well, I could do but why don't we just send the details? Is all the code because I'm working with the Americans mainly, but also the Brits. And to be frank, we haven't worked out what Islam is yet. Wow. And I thought, well, that's great, isn't...your two years in, and you're beginning to ask the questions about what are we dealing with here? As opposed to that should be before you even get that?
Scott Allen 51:21
And I believe I read a statistic the other day, it was $200 million a day for or was it $300 million a day for 20 years? I mean, it's, you know, the cost of lives, the cost financially, the costs to, to your point to the women and children who have grown up with a certain mindset, and now are caught in the middle of a horrible, terrible situation. It's It's tragic. Right?
Keith Grint 51:53
It is, I think, I think this is, it's a very, again, it's a very common problem for both our countries, in terms of their histories, is not to understand what we're getting into, to be disinterested in what we're getting into
Scott Allen 52:09
when and the hubris at times, you know, well, the French couldn't figure it out. So we'll fix Vietnam.
Keith Grint 52:17
That's exactly the case. Now, you can do it. Yeah. Yeah.
Scott Allen 52:22
And I don't mean to laugh to make light listeners, you know, is it's tragic. Yeah.
Keith Grint 52:25
I mean, those that just to have an example of that. So I currently live in the middle of nowhere in England, in a little village. We moved in about 12 years ago, and my son-in-law wanted to build a house next door. So we told over neighbors, we're going to put some drills in and dig all the concrete up, and blah, blah, blah. And on day one, somebody banged on my door, and there's this big American guy. And he absolutely went for me, and you know, swearing at me for that. It was just, it was a terrain of abuse for about five minutes, and then I just shut the door on him. Wow, God, you know, it was just terrible. So I shut the door on him. And then about half an hour later, he banged on the door again. And I thought, Okay, here we go. So I open the door a little bit carefully this time. And he said, I'm sorry, I want to apologize for what just happened. I said, Why don't you come in, and we'll you know, we'll talk about it. So he came in, and it turned out, he'd been in Vietnam. He'd been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. And the noise of the drills triggered something in his head. And he couldn't cope with the noise. Well, he was back in Vietnam, he is back and in combat, and he just lost it. And this is in the middle of nowhere in Oxford, you know, it's just extraordinary that the reverberations of those kinds of tragedies that just carry on
Scott Allen 53:46
for decades and decades and decades, right, I mean, it's, again, the word that comes to mind for me is tragic. And, and part of that, I love the fact that you're looking at these patterns and your, how you're thinking about some of this, I think is so incredibly insightful, because it's going to help us think about some of this in a different way. It's going to help inform how we, and then even further to that, how do we then address some of those thinking patterns that have been used over and over and over to....what's the word I'm looking for...influence masses of people to believe certain storylines? narratives?
Keith Grint 54:35
Yeah, I mean, ultimately, I mean, I am always I've always been interested in history historical examples because I mean, the data is easier to get hold of than contemporary data. But but but I'm not I'm not interested in history for the sake of history. I want to know, what does that say about today? Yeah. What so so what that the Haitian resistance did or didn't succeed? So what And I think what that said that under so what is so what can we learn from this in terms of things like, so how do you successfully change people's responses to the environmental catastrophe that we seem to be staring into? Yep. And sometimes the patterns from the past think, you know what? I'm not sure we can do this, but quite often you think actually, you can do it, but you need to change tack. Yep. Yep. Keith,
Scott Allen 55:27
I can't thank you enough for your time today. It's been wonderful to have this conversation with you. I hope you'll consider coming back. We can continue the dialogue. I just really appreciate your work. And I'm so thankful that people like you are in the world working on some of these very, very challenging problems, right.
Keith Grint 55:48
Yes. problems, problems, problems problems.
Scott Allen 55:53
Okay, sir. Okay. Thank you very much.
Keith Grint 55:55
See you Bye bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai