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 26 June 2013

The System Game

This is a group game that I was introduced to at a recent Buddhism/Deep Ecology retreat.  It can be used as an icebreaker, an energiser or as a learning tool.  The game is best for groups of 12 or more people.  It needs no props, just the willingness of everyone to participate.

Facilitator Instructions
  • Ask participants to randomly scatter themselves throughout the room,
  • Ask each individual to select two other people in the room, but to not indicate who those persons are,
  • Let participants know that when the facilitator says “go” each person is to attempt to continually manoeuvre themselves so that they are always equi-distant from each of the two persons they have chosen,
  • This does not mean that participants must be between the two people, so long as they are equally distant from each of them.
Allow the game to proceed for four or five minutes, then halt the game.  Ask participants to now choose two different people, again without indicating who those people are.

This time the facilitator tells the group that at some stage (once the game has begun) the facilitator will tap one person (it doesn’t matter who that is).  Once tapped, that person immediately sits down on the spot.  When other participants notice that one of the two people they are tracking sits down then they, too, are to sit down immediately.


This game can stimulate discussion around the nature of systems, with some useful questions including:
  • What happened?
  • Could your movements be predicted?
  • Were “you” a cause or an effect?
  • Is there a difference between cause and effect?
  • What happened when a small influence (one person being tapped) was introduced?
  • How does this “game” relate to real-world systems?
We live within dynamic systems every moment of our lives.  This game enables us to experience a system very intimately.  It provides a catalyst to discussion about the nature of systems and what systems-thinking means for humanity, the world and everything.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

The Youth Of Today

“The youth of today…”  How often do I hear those four words begin a bemoaning of youth.  Often in the same speech can be heard words such as “In my day…” or “When I was that age…”  So, I thought I’d find out what the image of youth is.  I did a little research into some newspaper headlines.  Here are just a few:
  1. Police Punched, Cars Kicked in Melbourne.
  2. Boy, 16, Is Caught After Jail Break.
  3. 4 teenagers Seized in Death by Kicking.
  4. Modern Youth: Morals and Short Skirts.
  5. Morals of Youth: Judge Stresses Need for Education.
  6. Youth Crime Gangs Increasing.
Nor is it limited to headlines.  Looking at a couple of editorials we find examples such as:
  1. The young are our internal enemies.
  2. (There is a) dramatic Increase in (youth) disorderly behaviour.
Yes, it seems that young people are; immoral, out of control, disrespectful, violent and in need of education.

But, before we start lamenting the past and complaining about the young of today let’s take a closer look at those headlines.

Number 1 is a headline from the Sydney Morning Herald, dated 12 November 1975.  The second comes from the New York Times on 3 July 1944.  The third, again from the New York Times, this time in August 1954.  The fourth one you might have expected to be from the 1960s, but is actually 5 December 1928 in The Advertiser (Adelaide).  The fifth headline appeared in a Rockhampton newspaper (Morning Bulletin) on 28 February 1940.  The final headline, about the increase in gang activity, is from the Examiner of 6 August 1949.

As for the two sentences from newspaper editorials, the first was written in May 1964 in the Birmingham Post (UK) about the fighting between mods and rockers.  The second comes from well over 100 years ago, a British newspaper of 1898.

So, before we (the older generation1) bemoan the youth of today, let us recall that our parents said the same of us, as did their own parents before that. 

Nor is bemoaning the youth of today a recent phenomenon.  Many of us may have come across this quote before:
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
It is attributed to Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC), although it has been given a more modern vernacular.  It sounds so up-to-date though doesn’t it?  Here are a couple of more quotes from many years ago:
"The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint... As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behaviour and dress."  - Attributed to Peter the Hermit, AD 1274
"We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect
their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently
inhabit taverns and have no self control."
That last quote is an inscription found on an Egyptian tomb, 6,000 years old!

There’s nothing new then in the older generation berating the younger generation.  Let’s step back before doing so and not be harsh on youth.  Let us recall our own youth.  Let us remember what it was like trying to live in a world created by the older generation that often doesn’t make sense.  Let us rekindle our common inter-generational humanity.

1. I am one of those “older generation” having been born in the middle of the post WW II Baby Boom.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

When Are We Going To Get It?

There is a very old saying that “all’s fair in love and war.”  It comes from the 16th century, attributed to John Lyly, an English poet and playwright, who wrote: “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.”

Although we quote it, somehow, we in the Western world seem to think that there should be some fairness in warfare and that we should be deserving of that fairness.

The recent case of the British soldier killed in the streets of London is an example.1  There has been an outpouring of emotion and grief.  Rightfully so, we all must grieve for our dead.  But amongst the outpouring has been a cry that “it’s not fair.”  Not fair?  This man was a soldier, he was a fighter in a war in Afghanistan.  Do we (in the Western nations) seriously believe that a war in which we are engaged is going to stop at the borders of the countries we are fighting in?  Do we think, as in many children’s games, that when we reach “home base” we are immune from any further attack?  Such thinking is nonsense.

When are we going to get it?

If we fight in wars, then we must accept that those we fight against are not going to play by the rules of fairness.  And, it must be admitted, when it comes to war, nor do we.

Another saying that comes to mind is that coined by Senator Hiram Warren Johnson in 1918: “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”  The second casualty, I propose, is innocence.  There is no such thing as an innocent party when it comes to war.

If we engage in warfare, no matter whether we are a private soldier, a Brigadier General or a nation state, none of us are innocent.  We continue to perpetuate the cycle of violence.  We contribute to senses of injustice (in ourselves as much as in those we fight against).

No combatant can step back from warfare and claim to be innocent of contributing to death and destruction.  None can claim innocence in perpetuating violence.

When are we going to get it?

When are we going to realise that war is not fair, that no-one is innocent?  When will we understand that participation in war only perpetuates the myth that violence solves problems?

When are we going to realise that war has no borders?  It has no geographical borders and it has no borders in our own psyches.  We cannot claim to be fighting in a war over there but not in here.

Ceasing war is not merely a case of calling a halt to hostilities.  If we truly want to halt the cycle of violence then the best place to start is at the point on the circle that we occupy.  We must come to an honest realisation that it is ourselves that we must change (and can change), not the other.

When are we going to get it?

1. On 22 May 2013 a British soldier was killed near his barracks in London.  The accused said that it was in retaliation for British soldiers killing Muslims.

Thursday 6 June 2013

The Value of Volunteers

photo: hto2008
(Creative Commons)
Community Development is one of perhaps only a few professions in which volunteers make up a large proportion of those undertaking tasks.  A volunteer is someone who donates their time, money, energy or expertise to some cause or project without the expectation of reward.  Mostly, what this means is that volunteers gift their time to a cause without pay.

Volunteers are not paid.  Someone once told me that volunteers are paid nothing, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.  So true.

A few years ago I undertook a survey of community groups into their organisational health.  I looked at a number of components, including that of the voluntary input into the organisations.  I’d like to share some of the comments from respondents regarding volunteers and the voluntary effort that they put in:
“They are an amazing team of people”
“They are GOLD!” “They are hugely impressive people prepared to make a difference.”  
“Most of our volunteers have the same or similar socio-economic background as those our services are targeted at helping - i.e. volunteering itself is considered to be one of our services; empowering people.”  
“We see our volunteers as a key role in our organisation. They are vital for us and we couldn’t do what we do without them.”  
“People learn from each other, but mostly they already have the knowledge required.” 
What the survey also showed was that most volunteers undertake the work they do from self-motivation or because of the purpose of the organisation they are working on behalf of. Many find the acknowledgement that they get from the organisations they work with also to be motivating. Whether the work they undertook was interesting was of lesser importance in terms of their motivation. This suggests that the primary motivators behind volunteers in community work are twofold: to work for something of greater importance than themselves and to be recognised as being of value by their peers.

The survey tended to dispel (in part) the myth that it is mainly older or retired people that volunteer their time. Certainly I found that the proportion of older persons volunteering was greater than their proportion in the population generally. In New Zealand, around 16% of the population are aged 50-64, yet 24% of volunteers came from that age group. For those aged 65 and over the proportions are 13% and 21% respectively. However, interestingly the survey found that the percentage of volunteers in the 25-49 year age group was just over 36%, compared to their percentage in the population of 36%. The group that are under-represented amongst those who volunteer are the under 25s. Not surprising really, considering that this group includes children, students and those trying to find work or adapting to their new role in society as adults.

Where there was a clear difference in proportions was that 61% of the volunteers were women, only 39% men. C’mon men, time to join the helping professions.

It should be pointed out that this survey was conducted within established community organisations. There are many forms of volunteering that this survey did not cover, e.g. those caring for elderly parents or those who care for children with disability, or perhaps the friendly neighbour who is always willing to lend a hand to feed the pets or clear your mail while you are away.

Yes, let’s value the volunteers.   

Tuesday 4 June 2013

The Spirit Level documentary

A couple of times on this site I have made mention of the book “The Spirit Level”1 and also the upcoming film documentary based on the book.

The content of both the book and the documentary should be something that every worker in the community development and social justice fields should be considering.

The film is well on it’s way towards being completed.  A trailer for the film has recently been published.  Here is a link to that trailer.  Please watch it and give it serious thought.

1. Wilkinson, Richard & Pickett, Kate, The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone.  Penguin, London, 2009, 2010