Thursday, May 16, 2019

Police: Head, Heart, & 'Graduation Day'

Legendary Australian singer-songwriter John Schumann has penned a new anthem, this time dedicated to our nation’s police.

Schumann is most famous for his song written for Vietnam veterans, I Was Only 19.

He released a new track, Graduation Day, a look into the lives of the men and women who hold ‘the thin blue line’.

Graduation Day comes off the back of a landmark Beyond Blue report that showed extremely disturbing levels of mental illness among emergency services personnel.

Proceeds from the song are being directed to the National Police Foundation to assist police officers and their families who are in need.

It is a brilliant song, however, a part of the chorus struck a cord with me given my research and writing of a book about understanding our natural and learned responses to a threat. A chapter in that book looks at the separation between passion and reason, emotion and cognition, feeling and thinking, heart and head.

Chorus #1: 'Head says run, heart says stay.'

Chorus #2: 'Heart says go, head says stay.'

Chorus #3: 'Head says run, heart says stay.'

The essence of courage is commonly described as being the use of willpower to overcome fear.

Fear is the principal emotion that is evoked in response to a perceived threat and its action tendency is flight.

'Heart says go' = perceived threat > fear (heart) > flight (go). 'Head says stay' = reason/intellect/cognition (head) > stay = courage.

I can understand the heart-head explanation of the second chorus, but what of the first and third where the head and heart are telling the officer to do the opposite? Did Schumann make a mistake in these choruses, or is he trying to say something more?

When I discussed this with my partner, she rounded on me asking why I had to over analyse/over think things and ruin a brilliant song.

I raised the issue with my 15yo stepdaughter the next morning as I drove her to school. She didn't round on me and actually gave me the answer. It is true that children often see to the heart of things and are not influenced by preconceptions.

She used an example of an injured child to explain the first chorus ... which is exactly the scenario being sung about before the first chorus. I will take some credit because I often share my work with her as I drive her too and from her various activities.

The officer cradles the body of a young boy who died in a car crash (injuries are not accidents; injury science mantra; chapter in book #1, The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques). It is a horrible, confronting, traumatic scene and his head is telling him to leave but his compassion tells him to stay. It's a similar scenario for the third chorus. The second chorus is singing about the courage shown by officers in response to life-threat.

It is a brilliant piece of song writing. An understanding of this nuance illustrates the brilliance, AND, it illustrates the emotional minefield (mindfield) that police officers have to traverse. Heart often being stimulated and head being used to control the urges of the heart.

Listen to the song with a great appreciation of both the song writing and the work our police officers engage in which often have a toll on both mind and body.

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Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.