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.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

We're All In This Together

Eastern spirituality has known this for millennia.  Some aspects of western spirituality have also acknowledged it.  Since the beginning of the 20th century a few branches of science (notably quantum physics and Complexity science) have begun to understand it.  A few proponents of change have also expressed the idea.  Some within the social change movements have also spoken of it.  What is it?

It is this simple truth: we are all in this together.

We are all part and parcel of the same phenomenon.  We are not separate.  I am you am I, and together we are we.

Although this truth may be acknowledged, expressed and referred to, the full implications of its meaning and significance are still to be made manifest.  We (especially those of us living in western styled societies) remain locked into the myth of separation.  This myth proclaims that: I am separate from everyone else, and I am also separate from nature.  This idea of separation is a cultural myth – perhaps our deepest cultural myth.  Being such a deep cultural myth it informs everything we do, say or think.  And… we often don’t realise it.

If we were to fully accept our connectedness then we would realise that however we treat another person, or nature, then we treat ourselves the same way.  Thus, if we ridicule another, mock another, mistreat another, or do violence to another; then we ridicule, mock, mistreat, or do violence to ourselves.

We may not think we do so, but at a deep level, often unconscious, within ourselves we are doing so.  We become our thoughts.  There is a saying, often attributed to the Buddha, but in truth, lost in anonymity. However, it contains immense wisdom:
“The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care;
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.”
When we fully accept the truth of these words and the notion of non-separation then we change who we are, we change our way of being, and in doing that, we change our way of acting.  Significantly too, we change the way we see others and the world.  We begin to see the world through an entirely different lens.

Instead of problems, we begin to see opportunities.  Instead of enemies, we begin to see people with the same needs, desires, hopes and dreams as us.  When we view the world in this way we find that the world begins to change. 

And, when we do that, we look at social change through entirely different eyes.  We realise that the only real change is in ourselves and in our everyday interactions with those around us, including those with whom we may have disagreements, even those we may have even thought of as enemies.


Yes, we are all in this together. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Sometimes I Just Sits

This week I want to revisit a post from a few years ago, because I still think it is relevant and important for us to remember.  In a complex and chaotic world we can get seduced into thinking we need to do something, or that we need to fix something.  Sometimes, we just needs to sit.

So, sit back and enjoy this short video.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Lighten Up

How many of us have experienced the discomfort of doing something, or acting in a way which contradicts our ideas, values, or beliefs?  I would guess that most of us have experienced this discomfort, and possibly done so many times.  In psychology it is called cognitive dissonance.  We can experience a similar discomfort when we are confronted with information that contradicts our values or beliefs.  It is uncomfortable, and we will often do anything to overcome the pain and remove the contradiction.

In classic psychology, we attempt to remove the contradiction (or dissonance) in one of three ways:
  1. We can change our actions  or our beliefs so as to conform with the new information,
  2. We can seek new information that conforms to our present beliefs and so eliminates the contradictory information.
  3. We can lessen the importance of the contradiction, so that it does not bother us.
We could think of these three mechanisms as: change, justify, or downplay. 

From my experience, the first of these is the one we are least likely to do.  Why?  Because of belief systems.  We all live within a set of beliefs that interconnect and enhance one another to build a whole system of beliefs.  Most of us, as we grow up, come to adopt the prevailing belief systems of our parents, our schooling, our friends, our work colleagues, our church, our political affiliation, or whatever.  At a macro level, we tend to adopt the belief system of our culture. 

Our cultural belief system includes the outwardly showing phenomena of sports, architecture, music, literature, and the other things we associate with culture.  Our cultural belief system, however, also includes the sometimes hidden aspects of things such as: our attitude to elders, children, strangers; our notions of time and space; whether we are competitive or cooperative; what we think of death and dying; manners and courtesy; how we define beauty or ugliness.

Our belief systems are extremely powerful, to a large extent because we are often unaware of them.  It has been suggested that asking a person to describe their culture is rather like asking a fish to describe water.  Our belief systems surround us, contain us, and direct us, mostly without us noticing.

So it is that when we are confronted with information that contradicts our beliefs, we are extremely unlikely to change our actions or beliefs because of that new information.  Furthermore, our belief systems are how we come to see ourselves, how we define ourselves, and hence, become a means by which we portray ourselves in the world.  In short, our belief systems help define our sense of self.  And, changing who we are and our sense of self is something we are very reluctant to want to do.

So, what do we do?  We resort to one or both of the other two mechanisms.  Justify or downplay.

Justification is easy.  We can all find information or research which seems to confirm the beliefs or values we already hold, even when the weight of contradictory information would suggest otherwise.  Again, psychology has a term for this as well – confirmation bias.  This bias is especially strong when we are faced with emotionally charged situations or issues, or when the contradictory information is at odds with deeply held beliefs.

It is little wonder then that in social justice work, or other similar work, we can often see polarisation occurring. 

Now, here’s the crunch.  What if we - those of us seeking social justice, or a more sustainable world – are experiencing cognitive dissonance and are justifying our own beliefs and values through a process of confirmation bias?  Do we ever stop to consider that?  Or do we simply believe we are right, we are correct in our ideas and beliefs?

If the world is to become more compassionate, more respectful, more peaceful, then all of us need to hold our beliefs and belief systems lightly.  This is at odds with much of the western approach to social change, wherein the social change activist is exhorted to “hold tight to your values or dreams.”

Holding lightly, however, means not being attached to our belief systems in such away that we cannot relate with other people, other cultures, or other belief systems.  This does not imply rejecting our belief systems – we need these in order to navigate healthily in the world.  Its about recognising that all of us can be subject to cognitive dissonance, and that all of us can find ways to confirm our own beliefs.  All we need, as some would say is to – lighten up.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Back To Basics

Graphic by gratuit
(www.freeimages.co.uk)
Some say the world is in a terrible mess.  Some say that we are on the brink of catastrophe.  Some point to disaster after disaster. 

Others look at the beauty of the world and see a rosy future.  Others are optimistic about the future of the human race.

Some point fingers at our political leaders and say that they are not doing the jobs for which they were elected.  Our political leaders are not facing up to the realities of the world. 

Others start campaigns and join groups to fight against; corruption, big business, pollution, poverty, hunger … you name it, there will be a campaign to oppose it.

No matter what view you have or what your political leanings are, all of this basically comes back to how we make collective decisions.  No matter whether you worry about the disasters befalling us, or whether you seek harmony, peace, and prosperity, the question remains: how do we make collective decisions?  How do we collectively make decisions for our “social” welfare?
 
This is the realm of politics.  Before moving much further, let me refresh our memories as to the origin of the word politic.  The word comes from the Greek polis, meaning a city.  Polis then provided the Greeks with the word politikos (πολιτικός) – meaning “of citizens, or pertaining to public life.”  Politic then, in its most basic meaning, is about how we come together as citizens to make decisions for our common good and welfare.

This is at the base of all of the above.  If you see the messiness of the world then at the base of that mess is how we make collective decisions.  If you are otherwise inclined, and wish to disregard the disasters, and seek positivity, then how do we make the decisions to bring that about in our public and collective spaces?

Irrespective of your worldview or philosophical stance, our present public and collective decision-making structures do not allow this to happen.  Politics has come to mean government by elected representatives over the past few centuries, particularly in western-influenced nations.  However, this system has run its course, it no longer – if it ever did – provides a mechanism for collective decision-making.  It fails for one very good reason.

It is not representative.

Take a good look at your parliaments, senates, congresses and council chambers.  How many “representatives” come from amongst the common citizenry?   When was the last time the plumber, the hairdresser, the garbage disposal worker, or unemployed person, got to represent us?  Very rarely.

Our “representative” democracy has become less and less … representative.  The representativeness of governments has become highly contracted and restricted.  Indeed, we no longer have representative government – we have restrictive government.

This lack of representativeness is not only a diminishment of fairness, it also seriously restricts our capacity to make wise and informed decisions.  Why?  Simply, because we no longer gain the benefits of diversity and “common” sense.  Yet, these benefits are exactly what we need in a world of growing complexity.

A Systems View

If we step back and take a look at democracy from a systems approach, particularly using the insights of Chaos Theory, then it is possible to discern a change coming in our public and collective decision-making systems.

Chaos Theory tells us that a dynamic system is self-organising, unpredictable and spontaneous.  The theory also tells us that prior to change in a system the system will undergo fluctuations, sometimes enormous fluctuations. 

Looking around our political and governmental systems, this is what we see – fluctuations.  Think of Brexit, the Trump presidency, the calls for independence in Catalonia, the rise of extremism in political parties throughout Europe.  All examples of chaotic fluctuation.  If you look closely within your own communities you may even see such fluctuations occurring at local or regional levels.


So, maybe within the so-called chaos of the world we can glimpse some hope for a new form of democracy that allows for full representation, and one that utilises our collective diversity, wisdom and common sense.  We just have to see the chaos for what it truly is – Chaos Theory playing out in our most basic social system of how we make collective decisions.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

What Came First: Word, World, or Worldview?

According to the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word.”  Translated from the Greek word,  λόγος (logos), many consider the “word” here to mean God.  However, the Greek logos can also be translated as thought or meaning.

What does come first?  Do we create words to describe the world we see?  Do the words we use influence our perception of the world?  Or perhaps, the way in which we understand the world (our worldview) shapes the way we view the world, and hence, the words we choose to describe it?  No matter which come first, we cannot deny that each influences and is influenced by the other two.

Sometimes we forget this, and when we do we can slip into a ego-centric or culture-centric viewpoint.  Let me use an example to illustrate what I mean.

Consider the western view of past and future.  In the western cultural worldview the past as viewed as being behind us, whereas the future is in front of us.  So, we say things like: put the past behind you, look to the future, don’t look back, leave the past behind.  Yet, not all cultures see things in this way.  I can think of at least one language in which the word for past is the same as the word for in front of, and the word for future is the same as the word for behind.1  Hence, in this worldview, the past is in front of us, and the future is behind.  Thus, it is easy to see the past – its right there in front of us.  And the future is somewhat murky – its behind us after all.

So, the question remains:  In the western cultural setting, did we think of the past being behind us before we came up with the words past and behind, or did we have the words and then the words shaped our thinking of where past and future lay in relation to us?

This may be a simple example, yet we are consistently applying our language to the world we see, and creating our worldview from that, and then our worldview shapes the way we think of the world and the words we use.

What is the point of this?  Dr Wayne Dyer put it succinctly when he noted that when you “change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  This has important implications for our work for social justice or community development.  For example, if we think of people as victims, needy, or disadvantaged, or even as clients or customers, then that is what we will see.  We will miss seeing the person with skills, knowledge and wisdom.  Yet, if we change that thinking (worldview) then we will be surprised at what opportunities can arise or emerge from our interactions with others.  Not only will creative opportunities emerge, but the interaction itself will be healthier, more respectful, and enjoyable for all concerned. 

Becoming more aware of how we use words to describe our world and in turn how that influences our worldview can help us become more conscious of the limitations of our beliefs and cultural patterns, habits and mores.

Notes:

1. The Māori language.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Let's Try Something Different

How long have we been giving away our decision-making power?  How long have we thought that others have more ability to make decisions?  How long have we negated out own expertise?

In the western world we have been doing all this for centuries.  Over one thousand years ago feudalism in Europe began to impose its rule over common folk.  Feudalism morphed into the system of royalty – the supposed “divine right” of kings and queens to rule.  Under these systems, the power of common folk to make their own decisions was wrested from them, often brutally.

Around 2,500 years ago, in the bottom right hand corner of Europe, a different form of public decision-making was being tried out.  Athens and other Greek city states created the world’s first democracies – literally rule of the people.  The Roman Empire saw democracy being tested and eventually done away with.

The Middle Ages saw some small pockets of democratic experimentation.  In 1215 the Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin for Great Charter of the Liberties) paved the way for the establishment of the English parliament.  Democracy was given another go.

Following the American Revolution the United States Constitution of 1787 provided for an elected government.  Two years later, Revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens, and set up the short-lived National Convention.

Modern democracy has evolved from these various experiments into the representative democracy that many of us know today.  Representative democracy owes many of its features to Athenian democracy, although, arguably, more to the Roman Republic.

The representative democracy of today has morphed yet again into a beast that steals our decision-making power yet again.  Certainly, we get to vote in elections.  But, can we truly say that a tick or cross next to a name on a ballot paper once every three or four years is a satisfactory level of engagement in our collective decision-making?  No wonder many around the world are withdrawing from the voting process.  Even in Australia, the 2016 federal election saw fewer people cast a vote than in 1925, when it became compulsory to vote.  In the US which portrays itself as the guardian of democracy, voter turnout for the Presidential election is less than 60%.  Although the past couple of years have seen the trend bucked slightly, voter turnout in Canada, the UK, and New Zealand has been declining since the 1980s.

A measure of dissatisfaction can be found also in the Brexit vote in the UK, or the claims by Catalans for independence from Spain.

Even once we have cast our vote, do we really believe that it is our voices which get listened to in the parliaments, senates and congresses of the world?  The voices that get heard and acted on are those of the trans-national corporations and their lobbyists.  In her 2015 book1, Beasts and Gods, Roslyn Fuller showed that the more money someone spent on a political campaign the greater their chance of being elected.  In other words – money buys political power.

Yet, we persist in thinking that our vote will change things.  We persist in thinking that if we elect a new set of politicians then we will get better decisions.  It is a little like Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, lets stop this insanity.  Lets try something different.

Lets ignore politicians.  Lets ignore elections.  Lets ignore political parties. 

Lets try direct democracy.  If we need to find a representative group to make public decisions, then lets try selecting them by lot (see here, here, and here for some posts about this process).  Lets hold onto our personal and collective decision-making power.  Lets explore together ways to utilise and optimise our decision making power.  We certainly could not do worse than the decisions that currently come out of the parliaments, senates and congresses of the world.

Lets try.

Notes
1. Roslyn Fuller, Beasts and Gods: How democracy changed it’s meaning and lost it’s purpose, Zed Books, London, 2015

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Model Making

Buckminster Fuller and geodesic dome
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
So Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller is quoted as saying in 1999.  Bucky Fuller was a remarkable man, an architect and systems thinker, who coined the term “Spaceship Earth,” and popularised the geodesic dome, amongst other things.  Concomitantly, more than sixty years earlier he had advise, “don’t fight forces, use them.” 

Fuller’s observations remain as relevant today as when they were uttered.  I watch as activists fight against systems, rally for causes, or decry the public decision-makers (a.k.a. politicians).  Yet, things don’t change, at least not greatly.  Are we falling into the trap that Fuller warns against?  I suggest we have.

If we step away from fighting the existing reality, then what sort of model do we want to build?  Perhaps, more importantly, how do we build it?

Perhaps the first thing to discover about a new model is that it looks nothing like the one we presently have.  Therefore, we may not even know what it will look like when we have finished building it.  Indeed, we will never finish building it.  Or, if we do, it will then become the model that future generations will want to make obsolete.

This new model will be something like putting together a jigsaw.  There is no Master Jigsaw Director.  I remember sitting around a table with the rest of my family putting a jigsaw together.  No-one directed how the pieces were fitted together.  Each of us picked up a piece and attempted to find a place for it to fit.  If we found that place, we would combine it with the pieces already there.  If we could not find a place, we didn’t despair, we just put that piece aside and picked up another piece.

It didn’t matter if one person worked on the sky, another on the people in the foreground, and yet another on the hills in the distance.  As we progressed the jigsaw came together, piece by piece.

I suspect that a process like that will be how the new model gets built.  All of us have a piece to offer, all of us have a part to play.  No-one can be shut out of the process.  If we stop to think of how this new model is to be built, we will discover some features of the process, including:
  • a tolerance for all those involved in building the model,
  • recognising that all of us have skills, ideas, knowledge, and understandings to offer,
  • creating non-hierarchical decision-making processes,
  • focusing clearly on what we do want, not what we don’t want,
  • being present and accepting what is happening here and now,
  • practising creative listening skills,
  • being willing to engage with those with differing views,
  • perseverance, building the model simply because it seems the right thing to do.

That’s just a few.  I would be keen to hear from readers what else would be involved in how we build the model.