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.

Friday 26 July 2013

Butterflies and Final Straws (A Story)

A farmer is loading hay bales onto the back of his old hay cart whilst he chews on a straw hanging from the corner of his mouth.  It’s the final gathering of the season and the farmer wants to get all the bales that he has left onto the cart.  As he pitches the last bale onto the cart he notices that the left rear wheel creaks ominously.  However, as the horses pull the cart onto the farm track it rolls along just fine.  Absently, the farmer removes the straw from his mouth and tosses it on the cart. Crash!  The rear left wheel buckles and the cart topples.

Meantime far away in another continent a butterfly emerges from it’s chrysalis.  It hangs there for awhile waiting for it’s wings to dry in the muggy heat of the jungle.  Letting o and dropping, the butterfly flaps it’s wings for the first time.  The beating wings create a small vortex in the air which slowly rises above the trees.  As it rises it meets the warm air swirling above the canopy and disturbs the motion.  The wind changes direction as a result and collides with a cooler front coming in from the ocean.  As the air competes for space thunderclouds begin to form.  Picked up by the air currents the thunderous clouds pass high above heading quickly across the continent and the oceans.  The moisture in the clouds eventually reaches a muggy heaviness and the clouds unleash a torrential downpour on the farmer and his broken cart below.

And the Point Is?

What is the point of this story?  Both metaphors (the “last straw” and the “butterfly effect”) help to explain chaos theory.

Chaos Theory has been invaluable in many of the “hard” sciences since the 1960s, beginning with meteorology and fluid mechanics.  The theory suggests an entirely different way of modelling the way the world works from that of classical Cartesian mechanics and dynamics.

However, it is not just the hard sciences in which Chaos Theory has usefulness.  the “soft” sciences also display examples of chaotic behaviour.  Indeed, the social sciences are possibly even better described by Chaos Theory than is much of the hard sciences.

Managers of social service organisations would do well to learn about Chaos Theory.  Sadly, all too often, the management of organisations and bureaucracies working within the social service fields operate as if the world moves along linear, cause-effect, pathways leading to measurable, predictable outcomes.

But the world and the people in it do not move in such an organised manner.  Far from it in fact.  A cursory understanding of history and politics would tell us this.  There are dozens of examples, here are just two.


William Wilberforce educated, campaigned and debated for more than 20 years before the British parliament finally abolished slavery in 1807.  Crucial to the success of that campaign was the vote of Charles Fox, a Whig MP who had earlier been convinced of the need for abolition.  His vote was one of the “last straws” that helped tip the balance in favour of the abolitionists.  In Chaos Theory this would be termed a discontinuity.

Live Aid

In late 1984 Bob Geldof was sitting watching a TV documentary about famine in Ethiopia.  Ordinarily he may have got up from watching the programme and gone to listen to some music or off to bed.  This time, however, a thought flashed into his mind and he wondered if he could do something about what he’d seen.  A simple thought, a simple act, but what resulted was Live Aid, the 1985 simultaneous multi-concert (venues in England, the US, Germany and Australia) that brought together hundreds of musicians from all over the world and raised over $280 million for famine relief.  This is classic “butterfly effect” – a small change in initial conditions leading to a large difference in outcome.


What can we learn from these examples and this theory?  At least two things: 1. We learn that a small act can make an enormous difference and 2. that we cannot predict the outcome of our small act, because there are many thousands of other “small acts” taking place concurrently and we cannot control them all.  So, we must continue to act in ways that are consistent with our values and hope that our “small act” will combine with thousands of other “small acts” to bring about the huge changes we desire.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

The Grandfather of Nonviolence

Mohandas K Gandhi has often been referred to as the “father of nonviolence.”  Certainly, Gandhi did much to make nonviolence a recognised and moral strategy of conflict and resistance, but he did not invent it.

Te Whiti o Rongomai
Almost half a century before Gandhi on the slopes of Taranaki (one of the highest mountains in New Zealand’s North Island) two Māori leaders, Te Whiti o  Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, were utilising nonviolent resistance methods against British colonisers.


During the 1860s New Zealand had witnessed land wars between the colonising Europeans and the indigenous owners, the Māori.  With the Māori largely militarily defeated, the government confiscated large areas of land, including land around Taranaki.

In 1867 Te Whiti and Tohu founded the village of Parihaka on land that had been “confiscated.”  They declared that they would not use weapons to hold onto the land that they had occupied for centuries before the coming of the European.  Initially this action was of no threat to the government as there were too few colonial settlers desiring land.  The village of Parihaka flourished.  Taranaki’s Medical Office visited in 1871 and described the village as having an abundance of food, no disease and that they were “the finest race of men (sic) I have ever seen in New Zealand.”

The Ploughmen

However, during the 1870s Taranaki was experiencing a surge in immigration.  In 1879 surveyors were marking out roads and plots for European settlers.  In May of that year Māori ploughmen began ploughing the fields that were supposedly “owned” by white settlers.  The government responded by arresting the ploughmen, who offered no resistance.  As soon as they were arrested others took their place.  Te Whiti encouraged them to nonviolence by exhorting
“Go put your hands to the plough.  Look not back.  If any come with guns or swords, be not afraid.  If they smite you, smite not in return.  If they rend you, be not discouraged.  Another will take up your good work.”
By August that year, over 200 ploughmen had been arrested.  Fearing that if brought to trial many would be freed the Native Minister (John Bryce) introduced a Bill to Parliament that ensured that the prisoners would be held in custody indefinitely.

The Fencers

1880 saw the government building roads in the area including one that led directly to Parihaka.  These roads were built mainly by unemployed men with the promise of free land.  The Māori response, under Te Whiti’s leadership, was to erect fences across the roads.  Again, as soon as the fences were pulled down, Māori quickly re-erected them.

With the government continuing to sell “confiscated” land in the area, Te Whiti’s followers continued to fence, plough and cultivate the lands paying no heed to survey pegs or notices of sale.


By October 1881 the New Zealand Premier (Richard Hall) with the re-imposed Minister of Native Affairs (John Bryce) completed plans to invade Parihaka.

At dawn on 5 November 1881 almost 1,600 armed constabulary and volunteers encircled Parihaka.  Although settler newspapers were claiming that Te Whiti was fortifying and arming Parihaka, the troops were met by “a line of children across the entrance… (who) sat there unmoving… even when a mounted officer galloped up.  There were skipping-parties of girls on the road.”  (first-hand account given by Colonel William Bazire Messenger)

Arriving at the centre of the village the invaders found 2,500 Māori sitting together.  The soldiers were offered food and drink by the Parihaka inhabitants.  Te Whiti and others put up no resistance to their arrest.  Te Whiti was charged, cynically, with “wickedly, maliciously and seditiously contriving and intending to disturb the peace” and held without trial.

Upon his release in 1883 Te Whiti returned to Parihaka and continued to lead nonviolent protest at colonist occupation.  He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1886 for six months.

Parihaka continued as a centre of nonviolent resistance until the death of both Te Whiti and Tohu in 1907.


Between 2001 and 2006 the New Zealand government formally apologised to four of the tribes involved in the resistance.  Redress amounting to millions of dollars was paid out.

Followers of Te Whiti and Tohu continue to meet monthly, proudly wearing the white albatross feathers – Te Whiti’s symbol.

Was Te Whiti o Rongomai the Grandfather of Nonviolence?  Perhaps he was.  There are suggestions that Gandhi was aware of Te Whiti and his teachings, via a couple of Irish journalists who had visited Parihaka and later met with Gandhi.


This blog piece was reposted on 12 June 2017 because the government of New Zealand formally apologised to the people of Parihaka and the descendants of Te Whiti, Tohu and their followers.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Why Community Workers Must Consider Growth

In 1972 a ground-breaking book was published. Limits to Growth used the newly available modelling power of the computer to try to understand what might happen to the earth and society with continuing growth.

Largely ignored or summarily dismissed by politicians, economists and policy makers of the time it did, however, resonate with a small section of society.  In New Zealand, for example, it helped spawn the World’s first green political party – the New Zealand Values Party.  In it’s 1975 election manifesto the Values Party made an audacious claim; 
“The real tragedy of New Zealand life is not that the Government is ignoring the country’s problems – it is perpetuating them.”
This, of course, was not particular to New Zealand.  It was of concern world-wide.  It (the political reality) is also one of the major reasons that community workers must understand the problems of continued faith in growth as the means to social progress.

Since those days during the 1970s some economists have begun to realise that growth is neither sustainable nor desirable.  Yet the mantra of “growth at all costs” continues to pervade political and social policy thinking.  Community workers, too, can become ensnared in the trap.

As community workers we set up job creation projects, we assist people to write their Curriculum Vitae, we mobilise communities to oppose new casino developments and a myriad of other projects.  If we do so without understanding that the underlying basis of modern economic society rests upon a fragile shell, then all we are doing is creating false hope.

We must face it.  Growth:
  • no longer creates jobs,
  • promotes environmental disasters (e.g. the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010),
  • stimulates financial collapse (e.g. the 2007-08 monetary crisis),
  • is the fundamental cause of global climate change,
  • exacerbates the gap between rich and poor,
  • concentrates economic wealth and power,
  • tramples upon indigenous peoples rights,
  • despoils natural wonders and ecosystems,
  • promotes a false sense of well-being via consumerism,
  • gives rise to resource wars,
  • rewards innovation in technology at the expense of human well-being.
The list goes on.  This blog does not have room to fully explain each of the above assertions.  However, a short bibliography of some excellent recent books is attached at the end of this post.

When the above is understood it becomes clear as to why community workers must understand the problems associated with continued growth.

Those most affected by the down-side of growth are, and will be, those with least influence, those with little or no economic pull, those who are marginalised and those who have already been dispossessed by growth’s land and resource grabs.

In short, the very communities that community workers most care for and work with and alongside.

  • Douthwaite, Richard. The Growth Illusion, 1999.
  • Hamilton, C. & Deniss, R. Affluenza, 2000
  • Heinberg, Richard. The End of Growth, 2011
  • Meadows, D & D. Randers, J. Limits to Growth: The 30-year update, 2007
  • Monbiot, George. Heat: How to stop the planet burning, 2006
  • Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A global forecast for the next 40 years, 2012
  • Schumacher, E. F. Small Is Beautiful, 1999
  • Shiva, Vandana. Making Peace With The Earth, 2012
  • Trainer, Ted. The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World. 2010.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Four Symbols of Peace, Justice & Harmony

Symbols have been with us since the time we learnt to paint on cave walls or to draw in the sand.  Here, I focus on just four contemporary symbols relating to our search for a more peaceful and more just society that is in harmony with the Earth.

The Peace symbol is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous in campaigns around the world.  Originally designed for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1958 for a march from Trafalgar Square to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in London.  The designer, Gerald Holtom, based his design on the semaphore signals for “N” and “D” indicating “Nuclear Disarmament.”  The symbol became the badge of CND and worn throughout the UK to indicate support for unilateral disarmament.  The symbol quickly became adopted by various organisations for peace and disarmament throughout the world.  There have been attempts to discredit the symbol as being an icon of the devil (witch’s foot or crow’s foot).  Irrespective of the similarity it can hardly be mistaken today for anything but the primary symbol for peace.

The Anarchist symbol is also well know, but, unfortunately, not well understood.  Anarchy is commonly thought (mistakenly) of as chaos, disorder, confusion and unruliness.  The symbol itself though is a combination of two letters – an “A” indicating anarchy or anarchism, and an “O” for the word “order.”  Not well known is that the background to combining anarchy and order is the quote “Anarchy is the mother of Order” from Proudhon (one of anarchism’s foremost theorists).  Anarchy simply suggests a social system based on mutual cooperation devoid of a ruling elite.  To elaborate further on this would require much than this blog post is able to.  The symbol is included here as the concept behind anarchism is redolent of the desire by those working in Community Development and Social Justice for empowerment and justice for those in marginalised or dispossessed communities.

Although the yin-yang symbol has it’s roots in Chinese philosophy it is now an universally recognised and used symbol.  Yin (the black side) and yang (the white side) are complimentary to one another and symbolise the harmony that comes from recognising that one without the other is not possible.  Similar to the concept of heads and tails of the same coin yin-yang recognises the interdependence of all things.  Noteworthy is that within the yin (black) side is a small white dot and within the yang (white) is a small black dot.  This symbolises that within each aspect there is the seed of the other, thus suggesting the continual  interplay between all phenomena.  The two aspects (yin and yang) then, are not opposing each other but are rather complimentary.  Each both needs the other in order to exist as well as being the source of the other.  Which is the cause and which the effect is impossible to determine.  Delving into such systems thinking and philosophy could teach us a lot about ourselves and our social relations.

The fourth symbol that is highlighted in this blog is the rainbow.  Although it has become very much identified with gay pride over the past decade or two, the rainbow has perhaps been used as a symbol for more ideas and concepts than any other symbol.  In Western culture the rainbow was a sign of hope and a promise to Noah.  The splitting of light into the seven colours of the rainbow is well known to most primary aged children.  Thus, can be seen the idea of diversity (the seven colours) contributing to unity (white light).  The rainbow is used as a symbol in many ways, here are just a few:
  • South Africa is referred to as the Rainbow Nation, a term coined by Bishop Desmond Tutu and referred to by Nelson Mandela in his first month in office as President of South Africa.  Indeed, the South African flag has 5 colours plus white.
  • The name of Greenpeace’s first ship was the Rainbow Warrior.  The Rainbow Warrior was used extensively in Greenpeace’s campaign to halt nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific.  The ship was eventually blown up by French saboteurs in Auckland Harbour in 1985.
  • Native American legend tells of the Warriors of the Rainbow who came to teach humanity how to live harmoniously so that the earth and it’s peoples could return to health following ecological and social collapse.
  • This blog site (Rainbow Juice) itself uses the rainbow as it’s symbol.
Symbols can have significant meaning for us and these are just four of those that express many of the concepts and ideas associated with social justice, sustainability and community development.