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 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. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Feminism: What Have Men To Fear? (Part 2)

In last weeks blog I asked whether men had anything to fear from feminism.  In that blog I proposed and briefly addressed two proposals:
  1. Feminism is misunderstood, and
  2. Feminism is not the problem.  Patriarchy is.
In this blog I intend briefly addressing the other two proposals:
     3. Feminism has not achieved its aims, and
     4. Men are also oppressed by patriarchy and stand to benefit by understanding and supporting feminism.

Feminism Has Not Achieved Its Aims

If feminism sought liberation from the patriarchal system, then it has not yet achieved that goal.  In many ways, the patriarchal system has become even more entrenched, with some women participating in it enthusiastically.  The (masculine) values of patriarchy are alive and well:
  • Aggression is still, all too often, seen as the way to achieve what we want.
  • Right and wrong, black and white, good and bad; polarities are still the way the world is portrayed.
  • Adversarial techniques are still the method of choice in our legal system, politics, the media, and our educational system.
  • Self-worth is measured (possibly increasingly so) by economic success, popularity, identification with idols (sports stars and pop idols for instance), strength, power, and influence.
Meanwhile, as patriarchy continues to thrive, the non-human parts of the planet are abused, misused, and exploited.  Other living beings that share the Earth with us are being made homeless, or worse still – extinguished.

The women's’ (and men's’) liberation movement have much to do.

Men Are Oppressed By Patriarchy

When I stated that women sought liberation from the patriarchal system, it is my contention that men could also benefit.  Why do I say that?  Consider these:
  • Under patriarchy, men’s feelings and emotions are stifled.  Most men grew up hearing phrases such as “big boys don’t cry.”  A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend whose father had been in the Australian navy during the war.  His father died young.  A friend of his father’s told him one day that he and the father came back from the war traumatised, yet were told to “go have a beer and get over it.”  Sadly, such sentiments remain today.
  • Stifling of emotion can lead many men to unhealthy coping mechanisms: alcoholism, chronic gambling, and depression to name but three.
  • Afraid to show (or even acknowledge) anything that suggests “weakness” can result in over-compensating by resorting to violence.  This is displayed in everything from schoolyard bullying, to a pub punch-up, through to domestic violence and all the way to the war in Syria.
  • Stifling of emotion is implicated in the high rate of suicide amongst men.  In may parts of the world, men kill themselves at a rate three times that of women.  In Australia, suicide and self-inflicted injury is the third highest cause of death amongst men, behind coronary heart disease and lung cancer,  It ranks higher than such causes as stroke and prostate cancer.
  • Patriarchy coerces men to disconnect from their children, families and community.  The song Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin, poignantly notes the sadness of a man trying to connect with his son late in life, only to find that “my boy had grown up just like me,” and did not have the time, nor the energy, to connect with his father.
  • Patriarchy especially discriminates against gay men, black men, young men and boys, and “weak” men.
  • Patriarchy is implicated in the phenomenon known as “toxic masculinity.”  Toxic masculinity aspires towards toughness, but is based in fear: fear of seeming or looking – soft, weak, tender, less “manly.”  It is characterised by domineering behaviour, the devaluation of women (including misogyny), and extreme self-reliance.
No, patriarchy is not good for men.  I must add a rider here.  This recognition that patriarchy oppresses men should not be read as a devaluation of the role patriarchy has in oppressing women.  The intent is to show that men have nothing to fear from feminism.

Finally:

  • NO!  Women are not the problem.
  • NO! Feminism/Women's’ Liberation is not the problem.
  • YES! Men and women can be partners and allies.
  • YES! Women and men stand to benefit by a liberation from what oppresses each gender – patriarchy.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Feminism: What Have Men To Fear?

Often I hear statements such as these from men:
  • Men don’t know who or what they are anymore because of feminism.
  • Men are oppressed by feminism.
  • Feminism says that men and women are equal, but we’re not!
These, and similar statements, suggest that feminism has been damaging to men, to families, and to relationships between men and women.

Is this so?  What follows is one man’s perspective.  I do not claim this to be truth – simply my understanding.  It is also, by necessity, simplified.

Let me begin by summarising this perspective in four proposals, which I will elaborate upon over the next two blogpieces:
  1. Feminism is misunderstood by men (and some women).
  2. Feminism is not the problem that many men make it out to be.  The problem is patriarchy.
  3. Feminism has not achieved what it set out to do.  It has been (in many instances) diverted from that goal.
  4. Men are also oppressed by patriarchy, and have something to benefit from understanding and supporting feminism.
In this blog I will elaborate upon the first two of these proposals.

Feminism Is Misunderstood

Let’s go back to the 1960s.  In that decade women began to meet together in “consciousness raising” groups.  Out of these groups a movement was born (perhaps better thought of as re-born when we think of the women’s rights movements of the 18th1 and 19th centuries.)  This movement became known as “Women's Liberation.”  Very soon, the (male) media subjected this movement to what the powerful often do – minimise and belittle, and dubbed it “Women's Lib.”  Perhaps because of this, the term “feminism” became the more popular name.  Today, the name has morphed into “gender equality.”

In that naming and renaming journey, “liberation” got dropped and was replaced by “equality.”  Indeed, one of the early feminist writers from the 1960/70s, Germaine Greer, caustically noted that “feminism aimed at liberation, but settled for equality.”  She later expanded on this by saying, “… seekers after equality clamoured to be admitted to smoke-filled male haunts.”

So – how is liberation different from equality?  Equality suggests assimilation.  Women are assimilated into male domains, in much the same way as indigenous people are assimilated into western culture.  Assimilation and equality imply getting rid of difference.  Liberation, however, asserts and celebrates difference.

Furthermore, if feminism means women becoming equal with men, then that implies that men and masculinity are the gold standard to be measured against.  Hardly liberation, and hence, not feminism in its original sense.

Feminism Is Not The Problem

… and nor (I might add) are men, per se.  The problem, according to the early feminist writers, is a system called “patriarchy.”  Patriarchy is a self-referring, self-justifying, and self-supporting system of beliefs, values and power.  Patriarchy asserts that “male” values, qualities and behaviours are paramount.  It rewards those who display and aspire to these.  Furthermore, patriarchy, like most systems, is largely invisible to those within it, because it is portrayed as being; normal, traditional, the-way-it-is, or simply “just because.”

Within the system of patriarchy the lessons we learn accumulate in our lives and we come to internalise them.  The longer this goes on, the harder it is to see that these lessons are not necessarily normal or “the truth.”  Then, not being able to see the system for what it is, it is difficult to gain distance from it.

The early feminists were right to point the finger at this oppressive system and to catalogue the range of institutions and establishments that make it up (e.g. marriage, bureaucracy, business, politics, the media, education, science, religion …)  They were also correct to note that women participating in these establishments supported these establishments, and did nothing to enhance the liberation of women (or men for that matter – but I’ll get to that.)

Two examples from politics serve to illustrate this:
  • Margaret Thatcher became “successful” and powerful because she aspired to be as domineering as men.  Indeed, she became moreso to “prove” her masculine values and abilities.
  • Julia Gillard, on the other hand, attempted to bring her “feminine” values and behaviour into the realm of politics.  She was side-lined and ridiculed within the political arena and by the media circus, and eventually tossed out of politics.2
I mentioned earlier that feminism stressed difference and diversity, rather than equality.  Patriarchy, on the other hand, promotes and exploits difference towards its own ends.  Not only in stressing the difference between men and women in order to suppress female values and qualities, but also in other arenas.  It used difference to justify slavery and to send children down mines.  Patriarchy also used difference to “transport” Britain’s “unwanted” to the penal colonies of Australia.

The next blog will expand upon the other two proposals – i.e. feminism has not achieved its goal, and men are also oppressed under patriarchy.

Notes:
1. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792.

2. Margaret Thatcher (aka the Iron Lady) was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990.  Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

What If These Words Didn't Exist?

“What an idiot.”
“You ignorant fool!”
“She’s a lazy good-for-nothing.”
“He’s an arrogant, stuck-up know-it-all.”

How many times have we heard, or said ourselves, phrases such as these?  Furthermore, there are many many many such phrases that we hear or say each and every day.  Most are much worse; more defamatory, more insulting, more degrading, or more foul-mouthed.

I wonder what our speech would be like if none of these words existed?  What if we didn’t have in our language words that insult, degrade, or abuse others?  What if we had no judgemental words?

What would we say?  How would we talk to one another?

If we had no words of judgement, what would our speech be comprised of?  Perhaps we would have to be more specific, and maybe more descriptive of what we observed.  Instead of jumping to judgemental conclusions, we might have to describe what we saw or heard. 

If we could not immediately respond with judgement, perhaps we could take a moment or two, reach inside, and discover what it is we feel about the situation.  We may become more in tune with our feelings and not confuse them with thoughts.  Then, we might find that instead of judging someone else, we might respond with how we are feeling which in turn may help us to discover the needs that previously we had not expressed.

Maybe then, just maybe, our speech and our conversations might stand a chance of being of mutual benefit.  Our conversations might become inspiring, encouraging, and even gratifying.

One of the outcomes of using judgemental speech is that we fall into the trap of separation.  We set up a distance between ourselves and others, which may end up as a barrier.
 
This is not something just to think about in terms of the conversations we have with our friends and family, or our neighbour and those we work with.  We could ask ourselves how we pass judgement upon those who we deem to be on an opposing side.  Unfortunately, politics and social causes tend to cast us into opposing camps.  And from those camps it is very easy to label those in another camp as ignorant, arrogant, or having other disparaging traits.

When that happens we are trapped.  We have created a trap and fallen into it.  In that trap, the accusations and the judgements just keep going round and round, escalating in intensity and animosity.  There seems to be no way out.

The only way out is to - stop!  Stop using judgemental words. 

Start observing what is going on.  Start identifying and expressing our feelings.  Start noting our needs.  Start hearing the feelings and needs of others.  Start empathising.  Start truly conversing.

Yes, I wonder what our conversations would be like if we didn’t have judgemental words in our language?