Is Rotary now a ‘negative’ adjective?

As many readers of this blog will be aware, I along with many others have been becoming increasingly disillusioned by the organisation known as Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland over the last year or so – and through this blog have attempted to prompt constructive discussion regarding the bad and ugly of the association.

I have been a Rotarian for over around 10 years, having been proud to have played a role at a Club, District, National and even a short-stint at an International level – and of course the important role I undertook as a Regular Rot.

Could prospective members be influenced by the use of ‘Rotary’ as a negative adjective?

However, during this time, I have witnessed the membership decline to an all-time low.

During this time, I have perceived an increase in reluctance to embrace the workings of the modern world and a changing society.

During this time, I have witnessed and experienced a change in the way the public now perceive Rotary.

As an individual, I have been becoming increasingly concerned being associated with an organisation viewed in public as negatively-positioned to sit alongside descriptors such as, “racist pub bores”, “golf club sexists”, those who sneer at “food bank users” or physical examples where calling a female Rotarian “little girl” is viewed as acceptable by the person making it.

So it was interesting that an article in The Guardian by Paul Mason titled “A simple people’s Brexit plan can replace May’s flawed strategy” was brought to my attention due to the Rotary references contained therein.

Mr Mason is described by The Guardian online as “writer and broadcaster on economics and social justice” and although his article makes some really interesting points about the upcoming UK General Election and the issues voters may be considering such as Brexit; it is not this part upon which that I wish to focus spotlight. But more the way in which some Regular Rots (and even our National President) has reacted to the Rotary reference in the article.

You see, in his piece Paul Mason states,

“As we face the coming election, then, whose galaxy do you want to be in? What we are up against is not just the antics of the Tory negotiating team – May, Boris Johnson and David Davis – but also a galaxy of pub bores, Rotarians and golf-club sexists.

The reference to Rotary has prompted a letter to the Editor by Eve Conway, President of RotaryGBI in which she attempts to highlight the counter-position, detailing the work or Rotary and at the same time informing the Editor that the article was a “disappointing read” and not reflective of what Regular Rots stand for. Read Eve Conway’s full response here (while link is available).

Now, as one would expect – Eve Conway as National President has herself been lauded by some of social media for having stood up for the objectives of Rotary. She should be congratulated as in the main her response hits all the marks. [That said, I’m not sure I would have been as brave to try to portray the image of a diverse membership with different ages, backgrounds, cultures and viewpoints, all working together on one common ethos. I’m not sure that is as factually correct as she may think as outlined in a previous blog called, “Will the last one to leave…”]

Going back to the article itself – Paul Mason surrounds Rotary’s reference by words associated with many other attributes contrary to the accepting,  modern, multi-cultural country in which we live. And for Rotary in these islands…that should be a worry.

The problem for the Rotary establishment is that they need to urgently open their eyes as to how people ‘out there’ view the organisation. I have undertaken a fair bit of my own ‘anecdotal research’ as to where Rotary is sits in the minds of modern working people – and I am being polite when I say the responses I receive are not particularly well placed.

Well done to the National President in trying to clarify the position with her reply. She has been brave to stick her head above the parapet when other research and anecdotal evidence may easily counter to her claims.

I wonder whether this ‘word association’ with Rotary Clubs and Rotarians in these islands is one that is prompting individuals internally as well as prospective members to consider whether they wish to be associated with an organisation that is used as an adjective to describe the less socially acceptable aspects of society?

It’s definitely had an impact on me.


Images in order of appearance by R~P~M by CC