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, 18 October 2017

Raising Children

When do we know enough to pass our knowledge on to our children?  When are we wise enough to raise a child?  These questions are not often asked in contemporary western societies.  Perhaps they are not asked because the answers seem self-evident.  We pass on our knowledge to our children from the time they are born.

Yet, the questions are useful to ask.  Indeed, there are prior questions that need to be asked.  When do we become wise?  Do we become wise when we reach the age of 21?  Do we become wise with the birth of our first child?  I would humbly suggest that the answer to these last two questions is: No.  No, we do not become wise just because we attain a certain age, nor do we become wise just because a baby has been born to us.

Into this mix, let me throw another observation.  There is much talk today of the ageing population, and especially, how the economy and society is going to  support these elders.

Could there be a link between the two observations? 

For centuries, in western civilisation at least, the ages at which we give birth to children has been the same as the ages that we raise children.  In other words: those that give birth to children also raise them.

Yet, for many indigenous societies, this arrangement is not the norm.  For many such societies, children are raised by the elders of the community, not by the birth parents, even thought the birth parents may be closely associated.  There is a famous African saying, oft quoted:
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
This concept is at odds with the present-day western view, whereby a child is raised primarily by its birth parents.

The effect of condensing the role of raising a child to that of just its birth parents is that the knowledge, values, ideas, and identities are shaped by those who themselves are often still discovering who they are, what they believe, and what their values are.

Yet, there is a whole sector of society who are ideally situated to raise children, and this sector is largely excluded from society, ignored, told they are no longer productive elements in the cultural economy.  They are the elders. 

Although it would be a mistake to claim that because someone has attained a elder age they are therefor wise; that they have lived for a lengthy period of time has usually endowed them with much life experience.

Perhaps western society needs to re-look at how children are raised.  If it was the elders of society who had greater responsibility for raising children then the benefits of that would be spread amongst the whole of society.  All would benefit.  The children would benefit from being raised by those with a long life experience and who have gained insight and wisdom along the way.  Birth parents would benefit from having greater time to devote to their economic roles as well as their own discovery of who they are.  Elders would benefit by remaining productive and valued members of society, as well as having the joy of passing on the wisdom they have gained.

Western culture has looked at indigenous culture all around the world, and often labelled those cultures “backward,” or “primitive.”  Yet, these cultures have a greater understanding of the full journey of life and the roles that each generation can play within that.  In this respect, indigenous cultures are progressive, life-affirming, and respectful of all members of society.


Western society has a lot to learn from indigenous societies.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Cooperating For The Fun Of It

Many years ago I undertook study for a Certificate in Community Education.  One of the concepts that stuck in my mind from then was this: people may come along to a community course to learn something, but what keeps them there is often the connection they make with other participants.  This simple observation is not just true of education.  It applies in many aspects of human endeavour.

We cooperate with others because we enjoy their company, because we want to share with them – we want to share good times, we want to share happiness, we want to share our humanity.

We may think that we cooperate in order to achieve something, or to accomplish goals; but if we dig further, we find something else going on in the human psyche.  We cooperate because we want to cooperate – it’s as simple as that.

One of the reasons we want to cooperate is because it makes us happy.  In research studies, neuroscientists have found that when participants cooperate, then the part of their brains that generate good feelings are activated.

We are also more inclined to remember people with whom we have shared pleasant, happy, and rewarding times, rather than those who have treated us badly.

Cooperation is also why we have survived.  Although many contemporary ideologies tell us that progress is achieved through competition, it is our cooperative tendencies that have allowed us to survive and evolve.  The diminutive saying that supposedly summarises Darwin’s theories – survival of the fittest – is a misunderstanding and misreading of Darwin.  Not only did Darwin not utter that phrase, neither did he mean “fit” in the sense of fastest, toughest, strongest.  He meant it in the same sense that a jigsaw piece “fits” into a total picture.1

Yes, it seems we cooperate for the fun of it.

Leaders and facilitators of groups do well to remember this.  If groups, communities, or societies are coerced to focus on goals and accomplishments and admonished to cooperate to do so, then those groups, communities, and societies, will begin to lose their zest for life. 

So, let us remember that by cooperating we find our happiness, and this is a greater motivator than are goals or targets.

Notes:

1.  See an earlier blog for a more thorough discussion of “survival of the fittest.”

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Simply Start With People





Community Development has a tradition of starting where the people are.  Lao Tzu said it some 2,000 years ago:

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will
say 'We have done this ourselves.”

Many have followed his advice and have stated similar concepts over and over.  The great American radical educator, Myles Horton, recognised that
“you can’t want to change society if you don’t love people, there’s no point in it.” 
All too often as I look around at social service agencies I see references to: outcomes, KPIs, targets, goals, and perhaps worst of all, clients.  It is as if the purpose of community is not people at all, but recipients of services – clients.

Its back-to-front.  When people are listened to, when people are trusted, when people are respected, then some creative, sometimes amazing, things can happen.  When they are not, it is just the same, tired old programs that are placed in front of them, rather like limp cabbage on a dinner plate.

Start with people.  That should be the mantra of all community development workers, social service providers, and social justice advocates.  What’s more – its simple.  There is no need to make things complicated.  There is no need for jargon.  There is no need for projecting into the future and devising spreadsheets with rows and columns of what is to be achieved or what has been achieved.

Just – go to the people, as Lao Tzu said.

The simplicity of this suggests to me that the most important skills that a community development worker, social justice advocate, or any social service provider can acquire are the skills of:
  • Listening with an openness that does not impose one’s own beliefs or judgements.
  • Empathising with the emotional content of what the other is saying.
  • Showing respect and trust.
  • Being patient with ourselves so that full stories can be explained and fully heard.
  • Recognising our own thoughts, judgements, feelings, and belief systems.  Then getting out of our own way.
Simple really.  Start with people.

There is a famous, and oft quoted axiom in the land of my birth – Aotearoa (New Zealand).  It comes from the indigenous people of that land, the Māori.
He aha te mea nui?  He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing?  It is people, it is people, it is people.

So true, so simple.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Have We Lit The Explosive Fuse?

In conversation with a friend today he remarked that people often change only in response to pain, or at least, because they are dissatisfied with something.  Disenchanting as that may be, he may have a point.

Could the same be claimed for society as a whole?  Do we, collectively, need to experience pain and anguish before we make needed change?  Do hurricanes and tornadoes need to become bigger and more frequent before we change?  Do floods and bushfires have to become more severe before we make change?  Do our seas have to warm further, or our summers to become even hotter, before we make change?

If an individual plays with matches they will probably burn their fingers at some stage.  With burnt fingers, they may decide that playing with matches is a harmful thing to do.  So, with the benefit of pain, the individual changes their behaviour.  What if, instead of burning their fingers, the individual uses that lit match to light the fuse of an explosive device?  Boom!  No chance for change in behaviour after that.

Perhaps, collectively, we haven’t burnt our fingers enough and have already lit the fuse on the explosive that will condemn us all? 

All systems, especially natural systems, have time lags.  Global warming is no different.  We can experience this lag in our day to day living.  The hottest time of day is often about three hours after midday, when the sun is at its zenith.  Similarly, the hottest days of summer are about two months after the summer solstice.  This simple observation should warn us that global warming will continue to rise – even if we stopped pumping carbon into the atmosphere today.

Indeed, the science tells us that if we did stop completely (yes, completely) emitting carbon into the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature would rise by 0.6 degrees C.  That is unlikely – it is more likely to be well beyond that.  Simply by living, we humans will pump carbon into the atmosphere.  Even if we cut back, the likely scenario is that the Earth’s temperature will rise by 4 – 6 degrees C.

James Hansen, the NASA climatologist, warned that in order to avoid the most devastating consequences of climate change we would need to maintain carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.  In 2013 carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million, and earlier this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the level at 405.1 parts per million – well beyond Hansen’s warning level. 

A term has even been coined for this new age – the Sixth Mass Extinction or the Holocene Extinction.  In the earth’s 4.5 billion year life there have been five previous mass extinctions.  This sixth one (sometimes called Anthropocene) is human-induced, and we humans may be the victims of our own behaviours.

I repeat:  Collectively, have we already lit the fuse on the explosive that will condemn us all?  Furthermore, we may not be able to defuse it.

If so, what do we do?  Some, like Paul Kingsnorth,1 reject trying to “save the earth,” and ask us to think about what is possible.  “The only hope I have given up,” he asserts, “is false hope.” 

Perhaps the words of Vaclav Havel2 may be worth listening to: “Hope, in the deep and meaningful sense … is an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”

What is good?  Surely, what is good about our lives is the connections we make with one another, the sharing of love and beauty, the opportunity to dance and sing.  What is good is to bring joy to the world, and to share compassion and understanding.

Maybe Kingsnorth and Havel are saying the same thing. 

Focus on what is possible and what is good – here and now.

Notes:
1. In his younger years Paul Kingsnorth was a very active environmentalist and a former editor of The Ecologist magazine.  In 2009, he and other artists and environmentalists formed Dark Mountain Project, a group seeking to discover what is possible without relying on “false hope.” 
2. Vaclav Havel was the last President of Czechoslovakia and the first of the Czech Republic.  A writer, poet, humanitarian, environmentalist and proponent of direct democracy.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

How Close To Climate Crisis Are We?

How close to climate crisis are we?  Some argue, like Paul Kingsnorth, that we have already passed the tipping point and that the best we can do is to hold a wake.  Once an environmental activist, Kingsnorth now refrains from talking about “saving the planet,” focusing instead on what we can do in the face of the crisis.  Others remain firmly of the belief that things will get better, that we can retreat from the impending crisis.  Both of these perspectives suggest we are very close to climate crisis – one believing the crisis has happened, the other that it is near.

There is another way of asking, and answering the question: how close to climate crisis are we?  That is to ask it from the perspective of our individual and collective psychology.

Perhaps the first book (and research) to be published alerting the world to the limits to growth was -The Limits to Growth,1 published in 1972.  Tellingly, the first figure in that book (on p19 of more than 200 pages) was one that looked like the following:

People’s concerns lie somewhere in this time/space continuum.  For most people their concerns are close to home; for their family, friends, and perhaps local community.  Their concerns are for the near future; getting the kids to school today, or next months annual holiday.  The further out from the immediate local environment we go, the less the number of people with concerns.  Similarly, the further into the future we venture, the less the number of people concerned.

This understanding is pertinent to climate change activism.  Climate change, for many people, is not near at hand, it is screened onto our TV from elsewhere in the world.  Climate change is also seen as being off in the future.  Climate change for many is not here and now.

For those concerned about climate change, this perspective is of concern.  Climate change dialogue, activism, policies, and research is mostly situated in the upper right hand corner of the time/space continuum, as pictured below:


Hence, the key question for those concerned about climate change must be: how do we shift the debate from the upper right hand corner to the lower left hand sector, where most people are?  

I do not know the answers to that question.  However, there are some psychological understandings that may be worth looking at when attempting answers.
  • When people are faced with a crisis that they can see no way of preventing, they will tend to withdraw and stop thinking about it.
  • People tend to try to prevent present suffering without regard to long-term consequences.
  • People are often more concerned about something concrete, rather than abstract.
  • People will tend towards the social norm.  People are influenced by the behaviour of those close to them.
  • When faced with bad news, or something scary (e.g. climate crisis) there is a tendency towards the classic fight or flight.  Thus, faced with activism, people will either turn away or will oppose vigorously.
What does all this suggest?

Those concerned with climate crisis need to think about:
  • how to work with established neighbourhoods, communities, and networks,
  • speak to local issues and local concerns,
  • work towards an empathic approach to those in opposition (they may be “fighting” from fear),
  • bring the possibilities of change into the here and now – focus less on UN agreements and global summits.  Make the concerns “real,” and not far off in other times and other places.
Well, I said I didn’t have the answers.  Perhaps I have stimulated some questions though.

Notes:

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

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

6 Male Archetypes To Reclaim

Most cultures have used story, metaphor, myth, and archetypes to understand and explain who we are and how we relate to one another and the world.  Western culture is no different.

Throughout western history there have been many such stories: the Celtic myths, the Greek heroic stories, the “fairy tales” of Hans Christian Andersen, or the plays of Shakespeare.  With the birth of psychology in the early 20th century attention was focused on how these stories and archetypes play out in our psychological make-up.  One of the first to explore archetypes from a psychological perspective was Carl Jung.  A disciple of Jung’s, James Hillman, in the 1970s, initiated the movement known as archetypal psychology.  Many others since then, have expanded and refined the ideas contained in that movement.

Out of this has come the notions of male and female archetypes.  In some circles, these are referred to as the sacred male/female archetypes.  As a male, I do not intend discussing the female archetypes, and will concentrate on the male archetypes.

6 Sacred Male Archetypes

Depending on who, or what, you read, you may find reference to anywhere between 4 to 12 sacred male archetypes.  Here, I will discuss briefly 6 key ones: God, King, Priest (Shaman), Warrior, Lover, Sage.

God.  This is the archetype of transcendence, the man seeking for the highest expression of who he is.  The God expresses unconditional love and is at one with all there is.

King.  The King is the benevolent nurturer and supporter of those around him.  He combines strength with wisdom and is the material agent of the God archetype.

Priest (Shaman).  The Priest holds knowledge of the unknown and bears witness to that knowledge.  He connects the material and spiritual worlds.

Warrior.  This is the archetypal protector, in service to humanity and the highest good of all, including those who are vulnerable.  He undertakes this service with courage, even if it may mean at a personal cost.  The Warrior is a collaborative player.

Lover.  The Lover is the sensual aspect; passionate, creative, playful, and vivacious.  The Lover seeks to bond and unite, and looks for beauty.  The Lover enjoys movement of the body, in sex, yoga, dance, or other celebrations of the body.  The Lover is comfortable with “being,” rather than “performing.”

Sage.  Picture a grey-bearded man sitting cross-legged with a serene look on his face and you’ll get the idea of the Sage.  He is observant and uses wisdom to guide “right action.”  He supports the wisdom of others.  He is grounded and earth-centred (you could say Gaia-centred). 

6 Grotesque Masks

If there are 6 sacred male archetypes, then you may have, as I did, noticed something puzzling:  Where are they in today's world?  A very good question.  They’re there, often hidden behind 6 grotesque masks that are distortions of the 6 sacred male archetypes.

Instead of the God, we have the Devil.  Instead of unconditional love we see hatred and intolerance.

Instead of the King, we have the Dictator.  Instead of benevolence we see meanness and animosity.

Instead of the Priest/Shaman, we get the Satanist.  Instead of connecting the material with the spiritual, the Satanist is bent on disconnecting us.

Instead of the Warrior, we find the Conqueror t work in the world.  Instead of service to the highest good of all, we see self-serving Conquerors, who, far from protecting, are murdering and putting at risk thousands, even millions, of people.

Instead of the Lover, we have the Rapist.  Far from being creative and playful, the Rapist exploits others, including the earth,  Instead of looking for beauty, the Rapist is intent upon destroying it.

Instead of the Sage,  we get the Smartass, or Know-It-All.  Instead of using wisdom to guide “right action,” the Smartass thinks they know-it-all and can use this knowledge in the pursuit of actions that may destroy us.


Men – let us rip off the 6 grotesque masks and reveal the sacred male archetypes that hide behind.

There are men all over the world who are re-discovering the 6 sacred male archetypes.  Let us continue to do so.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

If We Can Imagine The Future...

I do not know how the minds of other creatures on this planet work, I’m not a neuro-biologist.  I do know that we humans have the quite remarkable capacity to do two things with our minds.  We can remember the past, and we can imagine the future.

Not only is this remarkable, it is also incredibly useful.  By remembering the past we can learn, we can adapt, we can do things differently than we did in the past. 

If we can imagine the future, then we can see our next step. 

What is this future we can imagine?  Some humans will envision a dystopian, apocalyptic, nightmarish future in which the world is a bleak, nasty and brutal one.  Not me, and I guess, not many of those who are working in community development or social justice fields.  The future we imagine is a rosy, utopian one.  Most of us will no doubt be imagining a world of peace and harmony.  We project a world in which our friends, family and community are living happily, and where our children can play safely.  In this future society everyone has access to education, health, shelter, food, and ample leisure time to pursue their dreams.  It is a world of tolerance, diversity, compassion and forgiveness.

Yes, I’m sure most of us have dreamt of this future world.  We may have even participated in visioning exercises designed to get us to think of what this world will look and feel like.

There is a third aspect that is remarkable about our minds.  Not only can we remember and imagine, we can also centre and ground ourselves in the present moment.  Moment by moment we take step by step (literally and figuratively).

If we can imagine the future then we can see that next step, we can feel that next moment.

When we fully realise the power of this third aspect of our minds then we truly can change the world.  And isn’t that what we dream of – changing the world?

Taking the next step is an incredibly simple task:  we act, here and now.  We co-act, and co-create, with whomever we are with and with whatever is existing right now.  We create the next step.  Our next step does not happen by chance, we consciously take it.  We step towards our future.

If we can imagine the future then our next step becomes our future.  In taking that step we act peacefully and in harmony.  Into that step we take with us tolerance, diversity, compassion and forgiveness.

Our future is our next step, our next step is our future.

The paradox of such a state of mind and being is that we no longer need to imagine what the future will look and feel like.  Our future is already here and now. 


This all sounds so simple that it is almost laughable.  Yet, wait – think about it.  Why wait for our imagined rosy, utopian, future?  Why not act our future now?  We can do it.  All we need is the conscious intent.