The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Mediocre Democracy

Let’s face it.  Most of us are mediocre.  Most of us lie within two standard deviations of the mean (average).  Most of us reside in the middle of the classic bell shaped distribution curve so beloved of statisticians.  That means most of us have an IQ of between 70 and 130.  Most of us, too, have average EQs (Emotional Quotients).

Our elected politicians are also mediocre.  The reality of this hasn’t really occurred to us, though.

For example, most politicians believe themselves to be way above mediocre, or at least, act as if they are.  But, who can blame them?  When we vote for them, we have an expectation that they are above mediocre, and are able to make decisions that are better than mediocre.

Yes, we have higher expectations of elected politicians.  We expect them to be more than mediocre.  Then, we get disappointed, or frustrated, when they don’t meet this high expectation – when they act and make decisions that are mediocre.

Mediocre comes from Latin roots.  Medius meaning middle, and ocris – a jagged mountain.  So, we could metaphorically consider ourselves, along with our politicians, to be part way up a jagged mountain.

Yes, most of us are mediocre, just like our politicians.  Except in one crucial sense.  Our politicians are not representative of the general, average, citizenry.  If we look closely at our politicians, we will find that most of them come from privileged backgrounds and with a narrow range of experience.  There are financial advisers, teachers, business managers, academics, or the occasional celebrity.  How many plumbers, hairdressers, posties, bank tellers, or caregivers are there?  How many common folk are there?  Very few.

The common folk – the commoners – are little represented.  Commoners are the mediocrity of society, and in this sense, are not represented in our parliaments, senates and congresses.  These institutions are more and more unrepresentative, and in doing so, becoming less and less “mediocre” – or “common.”

Beyond Mediocre Politics

Therein, lies the issue at the heart of democracy – our elected politicians are not commoners, they are not representative of the mediocrity.

Yet, we should not despair.  Mediocre has a lot going for it.  If we think of mediocre as being a synonym for common, then let us go back over one hundred years to a story of a country fair and a retired English statistician and hereditary scientist, Francis Galton.  When he walked to his local county fair, Galton, then in his 80s, had spent his life attempting to prove that most people did not have enough intelligence to lead society.  Wandering around the fair he came across a competition to guess the weight of an ox.  Amongst the entrants, there were a few cattle breeders, butchers, and farmers who, Galton surmised, would be expert (better than mediocre)enough to guess fairly accurately the weight of the ox.  However, most of the almost 800 punters were common folk, with no apparent expertise in ox-weighing.  After the competition had ended and the prize-winner announced, Galton obtained all the winning entries from the organisers.

Being the statistician that he was, Galton calculated the average guessed weight. Before doing so, Galton hypothesised that this average guess would be a long way from the true weight because most of the punters were non-experts (simply mediocre commoners).  However, what Galton discovered staggered him and challenged him to re-think his ideas about expertise and “common” knowledge.  The true weight of the ox was 1,198 pounds – the average vote turned out to be 1,197 pounds. This average was closer than that of any of the individual “experts” who had entered the competition.

On that day in Plymouth, 1906, Galton discovered what has since come to be known as “the wisdom of crowds.”  Since Galton’s time, many researchers and activists have sought to discover what can happen when a group of ordinary, common (mediocre) people are brought together for some specific purpose.  These activities and experiments have suggested that Galton had only scratched the surface of the “wisdom of crowds” phenomenon.

How do we tap into this wisdom of crowds?  How do we discover the expertise lying in wait amongst the mediocre?  How do we bring commoner-sense into our collective decision making?  How do commoners become involved and represented in our public decision-making bodies? 

Elections, voting, and so-called “representative democracy” are not answering those questions. 
The simplest way of tapping into that wisdom, and enabling common-folk, is to use random selection.  Yes, randomly select decision-makers from amongst the mediocre.

Wait, don’t dismiss this option too quickly.  It has been used many times throughout history, most notably in the very birthplace of democracy – Athens.  Athenian democracy used voting only in special cases.  Most of their public decision-making bodies were made up of randomly selected commoners.  This method is known as sortition.  I will not go into further depth in this blog, as I have written much on this in past blogs.  Readers interested in searching further may wish to search this site using the keyword sortition.

Perhaps mediocre democracy has a future. 
 
 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

How Many Planets Are There? (video)

This post was originally published four years ago.  I decided to revisit it and turn it into a short video - about 3 minutes.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Consciousness Emerging?

Readers of this blog and of my book (Opportunities Emerging: Social Change in a Complex World1will know that I am interested in the phenomenon of emergence.  Emergence says that when the component parts of something are combined, then the resultant properties cannot be predicted by an understanding of the individual elements that make it up. 

For example, take the very simple molecule of water (H2O): can the physical aspects of water be predicted from an understanding of hydrogen and oxygen alone?  What do we know of each element on its own?  Hydrogen is bitter, sour smelling, and explosive.  Oxygen is tasteless and odourless.  At normal temperatures, hydrogen is a gas.  So, too, is oxygen.  Yet, when combined as the molecule H2O at normal temperature we get the liquid substance we know as water – the life giver.   Yet, both oxygen and hydrogen on their own only become liquid at extremely low temperatures.  How is that possible?  Scientists call it emergence.

As yet (as far as I am aware) no-one has come up with a scientific theory to explain the process of emergence.2

What About Consciousness

In the past few decades neuroscientists and others have been pondering the question of consciousness.  There is general agreement that consciousness is not synonymous with the brain.  But there does seem to be the assumption that consciousness and the brain are connected.  Furthermore, many assume that consciousness arises from the brain.  This assumption suggests that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.

But is it?

How about this as a conjecture?  Consciousness is the power/energy/process/vibration which informs the process of emergence.  Western science has been catching up on eastern thought since the 18th century, when the French mathematician, Jean Fourier, recognised the importance of information in how our world is made manifest.  Fourier’s insights have been expanded on massively since then and now information is understood as more critical than space, time, matter, or even energy.  But, “information” in the scientific world is not the assemblage of crude data devoid of meaning or context that we usually associate with the word information.  When the inter-relatedness and inter-connections between data is understood, then we have information – literally in-formation.  That is, when there is form to the data then we can start to see and understand patterns, and with that, we gain knowledge.

Is this in-formation what we also understand as consciousness?  This idea is not as far-fetched or outlandish as it may sound.  Many scientists and institutions around the world are delving into this area of knowledge and discovering some amazing insights.  These insights turn our accepted view of the world on its head.

Foremost amongst these insights is that consciousness does not emerge or arise from our brain.  Our brain, just as our body, is immersed in a vast sea of consciousness, or information if you prefer.  The second major insight from this research is that we can, and do, tap into this consciousness and create and co-create the world.  We become both the creator and the creation.

And, those insights change everything.  It may be that we need to shift our idea that “seeing is believing” to one of “believing is seeing.”  Or, as Dr Wayne Dyer stated, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Just think.  What if we fully accepted this way of looking at things?  What if we discovered how this works and worked with it, instead of against it?  What could we achieve?  Could we really move from a focus on emergency to working with consciousness and being open to what emerges.

Notes:
1. meder, bruce, Opportunities Emerging: Social Change in a Complex World, Rainbow Juice Publishing, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 2017.  This is available in paperback or eBook form from www.lulu.com

2. If I am wrong, then I would appreciate readers alerting me.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Gratitude For What's To Come

Gratitude.  Most dictionary definitions define gratitude as being an act of appreciation or thankfulness for something that has already happened, or towards someone who has done something of benefit or kindness towards us.  Dictionary definitions suggest gratitude as being an act that is focused on what has happened, on the past.

Yet, this is a very limited understanding of gratitude.  Gratitude in its fullest sense is a state of being that is forward thinking, focused on the present and the future, on the next moment. 

Gratitude holds within it the twin ideas of appreciation and contentment.  Appreciation for what is, and being content with whatever situation one finds oneself in.  These two notions suggest being fully present in the here and now.

Certainly, there can be a sense of gratefulness towards someone for what they may have done for you.  There may be a sense of gratefulness for something that has already happened – the beautiful sunrise you witnessed at dawn for instance, or perhaps the smile of the person across the aisle in the bus as you travelled to work.

Anticipatory gratitude, however, is a state of mind that approaches life with joy, love and contentment.  Indeed, the etymological root of the word content suggests this.  It comes from two Latin words; com meaning with or together, and tenere, meaning to hold.  Perhaps this is where we get the phrase “hold it together,” which has the idea of being at ease with the situation, or accepting things as they are without reacting inappropriately, or unhelpfully.

Hence, if we approach life with this sense of gratitude, then we may just find that our anticipation, even expectation, that life is enjoyable, abundant, and fulfilling will be exactly that.  We will get what we look forward to.  We will get what we show gratitude for.

Easy said – or written.  How do we do this?  How do we practise gratitude before the event or situation?  There are many suggestions out there on how to do this, here are just a few:

  • Watch for the things we take for granted, then notice how amazing these really are.
  • Approach others with an expectation that the interaction will be helpful to both.
  • Look for the opportunity in every situation to find joy, happiness, or a new learning.
  • Become content.  We all experience sadness, as well as happiness.  It is possible to be content whether it is sadness or happiness we are experiencing at that moment.
  • Keep a journal dedicated to gratefulness.  The more you notice and record what you are grateful for, the more your mind, and soul, will take on anticipatory gratitude.
  • Smile at and with others.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Men Have Nothing To Fear From Feminism (post-script)

Last month I posted two blogs (here and here) about feminism, patriarchy and masculinity.  Since
then I have come across a couple of items that add to or expand on those themes.  I would like to share them here.  One is a cartoon about "toxic masculinity" and the other is a short video about feminism, patriarchy and gender equality in Iceland.

In the cartoon, the artist (Luke Humphris) outlines succinctly how patriarchy can lead to a condition known as "toxic masculinity" which is particularly damaging to men and those around them.

In the video, the presenter/interviewer (Liz Plank) takes us to Iceland where she interviews a group of men who state clearly that feminism has been of benefit to men and that there is nothing to fear from feminism.  (For those who want to jump ahead to this segment of the video, go to 2 min 55 seconds in).


The cartoon strip can be accessed here.https://thenib.com/toxic-masculinity

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Forgetting How To Walk

For most of us, we are born with two legs and feet.  The anatomical purpose of these is to allow us to stand upright and to walk.  However, we seem to be in danger of using our legs and feet only to manipulate the pedals in a car.

In the nineteenth century it was not uncommon for people to walk up to twenty miles (30+ km) to visit friends and family or to attend a show or spectacle they were interested in.  Within just a generation the number of hours spent walking by children has decreased from 1.5 hours to a little over an hour.  How many children walk to school in today's world?

Amongst adults too the amount of walking is minimal.  For most in the western world the daily average is around 3 to 4 km per day.  And remember, this figure includes walking around the home: to and from the bathroom, the kitchen or the car garage.  It includes walking out to the post box or to put the rubbish bin out.  It is not much.

On the other hand, around one-in-five household car trips in the western world are less than 2km in length, and fully two-thirds are less than 6km in length.

Are we forgetting how to walk?

This forgetting comes at a price.
  • The proportion of people who are overweight or obese is surging ever higher.
  • Air pollution from motor vehicles contributes to the premature deaths of hundreds of people each year.
  • Motor vehicles are a major contributor to atmospheric carbon emissions.
  • Interaction between neighbours and communities is limited when we forget how to walk.
  • Contact with nature is also reduced by spending our time inside vehicles and not walking.
  • One and a quarter million people are killed worldwide each year in road deaths.
Ironically, many attempt to get fit or lose weight by going to a gym and exercising on a treadmill.  During the 19th century being put on a treadmill was a form of punishment.  One famous victim of this form of punishment was Oscar Wilde who was sentenced to imprisonment in 1895 for his sexual orientation.  He wrote of this experience in The Ballad of Reading Gaol:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns
And sweated on the mill,
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.”
Is the modern form of the treadmill an improvement on that terror?  It is a treadmill, it is not walking.

This world is a wonderful place, full of beauty and splendour.  What better way to experience it than by walking on a beach, in the bush, along a leafy forest trail, amongst a glade of wild flowers, or in the local park.

Lets do so, before we forget how.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Risk Perception

Sometimes our psychology gets in the way of what is in our best interests.  We are prone to giving our attention to what is immediate in time and space.  Events or situations that are in the long-term future or on the other side of the world can be put out of mind and ignored.  Yet, these events and situations may be of greater importance (positive or negative) to us.  We may be ignoring them at our peril.

What do I mean?

In the ground-breaking study – Limits to Growth1 – published in 1972, the authors understood this to be a crucial factor in how we approach environmental and social issues.  So much so, that they addressed it early in the book, with a figure similar to that below being the first in the book.


In the figure they plotted the level of concern people had for an event or situation dependent upon how close in time and space it was to them.  As can be seen, there is a concentrated cluster in the bottom left with levels of concern becoming less further away.

Another factor in terms of our level of concern is that we are less concerned about something if it takes a long time to play out, and highly concerned if the duration is short lived.  A graph such as that below illustrates this. 

 

When Limits to Growth was published the terms and concepts of climate change and terrorism were almost unheard of.  Global warming was just beginning to be talked about.  Terror attacks in Europe were still low, although they spiked in the late 1970s through groups like the Irish based IRA, the Basque ETA and the Italian Red Brigade.

Climate change and terrorism are very good examples of the psychology mentioned here.  Climate change seems to many to be a series of events to come (in the future) and for many the consequences are seen in other parts of the world (from our TV screens.)  Climate change is also something that evolves over a number of years.  Terrorism, however, is an immediate event.  One minute all is normal and serene.  The next moment, a bomb explodes, or a truck slams into a crowd, and all is chaos, carnage, screams and pain.

Today, terrorism is viewed as a massive threat and nations around the world are acting (and spending huge amounts of money) to reduce the risks.

Yet, we may ask: what is the risk?

The number of terrorist attacks in Europe peaked in the late 1970s with over 1,000 attacks in 1979 and for the next two decades averaged around 10 attacks per week!  Since then, the number of attacks has actually decreased.  So too, have the number of deaths.  Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s the number of deaths in Europe because of terrorist attacks averaged around 300 per year.  Over the last two decades the number of deaths has plummeted to an average of less than 100.

We know what happened in 2001 though.  The US was the victim of a terror attack and suddenly terrorism is seen as a major threat on the world stage.  No wonder really.  The US is the home of six of the largest news media outlets in the world.  And, as the saying goes: if the US sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold.

The risk is low, yet the perception of risk is high.

Climate change, on the other hand, is often perceived as being something that takes place over a long time frame and will happen in the future.  The catastrophe here is that this perception increases the risk, rather than reducing it.  In the late 1980s NASA scientist, James Hansen, warned that the earth could be approaching  a tipping point in its climate, and spoke of a need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm).  Three weeks ago (5 March 2018) Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced that the amount of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere reached 408.35 ppm in February.

The risk is high, yet the perception of risk is low.

The message from these two examples is that we need to become aware of how our perception of risk and actual risk can be skewed.  That skewering is the real risk. 

Note

1. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens III, The Limits to Growth, Universe Books, New York, 1972.