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 29 July 2015

Who Does The Pope Think He Is?

Since the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter On Care For Our Common Home there have been two primary commentaries.  One has been enthusiasm that the leader of the Catholic Church has placed climate change, and a concern for those suffering it’s affects, firmly within the realm of religious interest.  The other commentary boils down to variations on the theme of “who does the Pope think he is?”

I have no answer to that question, nor do I intend to pursue it.  However, the question does raise a more fundamental one: Does religion have a place within the dialogue around climate change?

At the heart of the question about the Pope’s ontology is the assertion that religion should have no place in the politics of climate change.  Therein lies the critical mistake.  Action on climate change is not a political debate.

Nor is climate change a scientific debate, or an economic one.  It is not an ethical or moral debate.  Placing climate change within any of these human domains is topsy-turvy.  Climate change embraces all of these domains; politics, religion, science, economics, ethics, morals, and more.  Each of these brings it’s own observations and understandings to the climate change dialogue.

Science brings the understanding of the dynamics of climate change.  It brings the data and scientific analysis.  It brings the facts and figures.

Economics brings the financial constraints and opportunities that lie ahead and  seeks answers to questions such as: how much will this cost?  Can we afford it? Can we afford to do nothing?  Do we have the economic resources, and how are they to be distributed?

Politics brings the mechanism of public decision-making.  It brings together the competing interests and priorities from within the public, social and national fields.  Furthermore, climate change forces us to think politically at an international level.

Religion brings the history of our human place within the cosmos.  It asks us to think about our spiritual connection with the earth and all that live in it.  Religion asks us to consider our connection with each other and with the earth.

Morals and Ethics bring a series of questions relating to how we should act, individually and socially.  Morals and ethics ask questions such as: what state should we leave the world in for future generations? what right do humans have to hold dominion over other sentient beings?

(Note.  I have distinguished morals and ethics from that of religion.  This is deliberate.  One does not need to be religiously inclined in order to have a strong moral and ethical compass.)

All of these spheres of human endeavour have a place in the dialogue around climate change.  There is no room for nit-picking and playing games of “religion has no place in politics,” or “science is unequivocal, morals don’t enter into it.”  The dialogue around climate change must embrace all, because climate change embraces all.  None of us is immune.  None of us can truly claim to be solely scientists, politicians, economists or religious adherents.

Who does the Pope think he is?  I guess he would answer that he is a religious leader.  Certainly, in terms of climate change he claims that:

“I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.”1

As a religious leader he must be welcomed to the dialogue.

1. Pope Francis, encyclical letter “On Care For Our Common Home,” 2015, para 3.
Disclaimer:  I am not, and never have been, a member of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

7 Myths About Civil Disobedience

Some of the world’s most revered social justice campaigners have been advocates of Civil Disobedience.  Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Vaclav Havel, Emmeline Pankhurst, Henry David Thoreau, Lech Walesa: all of them practised civil disobedience.  Yet civil disobedience remains largely misunderstood within the general population.  Even within social justice and other movements myths abound.  Here are just seven of those myths.

1. Civil Disobedience is unlawful.  Civil disobedience in and of itself is not unlawful.  Those practising civil disobedience may be charged with offences (eg disturbing the peace, trespass, damaging property etc) but civil disobedience is not a crime.  Indeed, some of the world’s most influential proponents of legal systems note that disobedience may be necessary in order to propel a government or other agency towards socially just policies.

2. Civil disobedience activists disregard the law.  Au contraire.  Oftentimes those undertaking a civil disobedience action are well aware of the law and the consequences of breaking it.  The difference between a civil disobedience activist and a criminal is that the former acknowledges that by their act they are willing to be charged and may be jailed as a result.  The latter does not.

3. Civil Disobedience should be a “last resort” action.  The obvious difficulty with this myth is defining the point at which all other possibilities have been exhausted.  For instance, can it be claimed that the Women’ Suffragist Movement had exhausted all legal channels open to them before they chained themselves to the fences around Parliament?  Yet, few would now claim that their actions were unwarranted. 

The argument that civil disobedience should be a “last resort” action can mean prolonging injustice, environmental destruction or repression.  Martin Luther King said it best with his pithy dictum that “justice delayed is justice denied.”

4. Civil Disobedience is divisive.  Civil disobedience is no more divisive than are the issues for which civil disobedience activists undertake their actions, indeed, often less so.  For example, American society, especially in the south, was divisive long before Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and others initiated the Civil Rights Movement.

5. Civil Disobedience is violent.  Civil disobedience can take on violent forms, that is true.  However, civil disobedience is more often associated with non-violent forms of protest.  So much so that often the two terms, Non Violent Action and Civil Disobedience, are seen as interchangeable.  Social activists have moved away from the motto that “the ends justifies the mean,”  which held sway in many activists minds up until the latter half of last century.  Activists moved towards an understanding that means and ends had to be in harmony.  Beyond that, many now recognise that means are ends and vice versa.  Hence, civil disobedience activists appreciate that if it is a world of peace, justice, fairness and equity that they desire, then it is these same qualities that they must display in their actions to achieve it.

6. Civil Disobedience is undemocratic.  The role of civil disobedience within  democratic societies has been thoroughly analysed and theorised about.  Thoreau for example, noted that a government only exists because of the power delegated to it by free individuals.  Therefore, he claimed, free individuals can decide to stand aside from the law.1  Martin Luther King suggested that if the channels of change, though open in theory, are closed or obstructed then civil disobedience becomes necessary.

Democratic theory is underpinned by the notion of the “social contract” whereby citizens tacitly consent to the law by being residents of the State.  Consequently, according to this myth, civil disobedience is undemocratic because it’s adherents reject the “social contract.”  (This argument is addressed in 2 above.)  Furthermore, the myth assumes that the State always and continuously upholds it’s side of the contract.  It doesn’t!

7. Civil Disobedience encourages lawlessness.  Aside from the fact that this myth has no empirical evidence to support it, it can be argued that obedience to some laws and governmental actions would cause more harm than would disobedience.  Many civil disobedience activists understand the implications of breaking the law and do not attempt to “get away with” breaking the law, but rather, deliberately face the consequences.  Gandhi, for instance, took upon himself the brutality of the police, and he accepted being arrested and punished.

Other theorists note that, rather than encouraging lawlessness, civil disobedience can actually help stabilise a society by “nudging (it) closer to it’s shared vision of justice.”1

Civil disobedience is not for every social justice advocate, community development worker or environmental campaigner.  However, civil disobedience should not be dismissed.  It is a valid, useful and tactical tool in the struggle for a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

1. Peter Suber, Civil Disobedience, in Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopedia, (edited by Christopher Gray), Garland Publishers, 1999.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Question, question, question

There is a saying from a Buddhist master that goes like this:
“Great questioning, great enlightenment.  Little questioning, little enlightenment.  No questioning, no enlightenment.”
How do we come up with great questions?  Sometimes the role of a facilitator is to prompt people to come up with good questions.  How?  That is what this exercise is designed to do.

1.  Working alone, have people spend a few minutes thinking about and writing down a number of questions that they have in their own life or the life of their community.  Ensure that the questions are personal.  For example, how do I get publicity for this cause?  Not: “what is the local government going to do about this issue?”

2. Ask people to choose one of their questions and then to write down the feelings that they have about that question.

3. Still working individually ask people to think about their question and to reflect upon their life with respect to that question.  Is there an experience in their life that has prompted that particular question?  There may be more than one experience.   Ask them to reflect on that experience and to write down their memories and feelings from that experience.

4.  In pairs, people then share their question and their experience.  The listener then remarks upon their responses to the story and the question and makes suggestions if they have any.

5.  Again working individually, each person tries to improve their question.  Do new thoughts, feelings and experiences come to mind in doing so?

6.  As a whole group ask people to share their final question and the feelings surrounding it.

We can learn a lot from each other by sharing our answers to questions.  We might learn even more by sharing our questions and the feelings we have about them.  Furthermore, questions are the “critical starting point of problem-solving and innovation.”1  Anyone working within the fields of community development, social justice or sustainability will recognise this.

Warren Berger1 notes that “society does it’s best to discourage questioning, but those that ignore that and remain inquisitive often end up running our most creative and successful businesses while coming up with game changing ideas.”

It is those game changing ideas that society desperately needs, and they begin with good questions.

1. Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Thursday 9 July 2015

The Fourth Revolution

Homo Sapiens has undergone at least three major revolutions.  Some 10,000 years ago much of the
world witnessed the first of these – the Agrarian Revolution.  We humans moved from being nomads and wanderers, from being hunters and gathers, to become settled agriculturalists.

Then, beginning in Great Britain, and quickly spreading to Western Europe and North America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the Industrial Revolution upset the established agricultural patterns.  We began to move off farms, away from rural lifestyles, and into cities and factories.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw many revolutions, yet the most significant occurred in the latter half of the 20th century, and exploded with the introduction of the world wide web in 1991 – the Information Revolution.

But information, data, facts and figures have not stemmed the onset of numerous global problems; climate change, war/terrorism, species extinction and many other inter-connected problems.

We need a Fourth Revolution.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (pictured above), still a teenager, has eloquently suggested what that revolution might entail.  Martinez is the youth director of Earth Guardians, an international movement hoping to wake the world up from it’s stupor.  Repeating themes that others (such as Krishnamurti, Vaclev Havel and Ervin Lazslo) have previously espoused, Martinez calls for a Consciousness Revolution.

Many of those studying the phenomenon of consciousness and those actively seeking a collective appreciation of consciousness note that for much of the human race there is a defeatist idea that we are “just along for the ride” with little control over our destiny.1  There are, however, signs that this is changing.  Many people are becoming conscious that the inter-connected crises are real and pose a threat.  That’s a start.

Building on the First Three

We can use the first Three Revolutions to give an impetus to the Fourth.  For example:
  • We have enough food to feed everyone on the planet (albeit very poorly distributed), thanks to the First Revolution.
  • We have the technology that would enable us to use sustainable energy resources, thanks to the Second Revolution.
  • We have all the facts and figures and information that we need to inform us about the crises we face, thanks to the Third Revolution.
  • We need to shift our individual and collective consciousness; the Fourth Revolution.
How do we do that?   The first step is to acknowledge that our focus on a mechanistic system, based on separation is unhelpful.  We need a consciousness that recognises that the world is a self-organising, living system.   We need a consciousness that recognises wholeness and connection.  We need a consciousness that bases human interactions on caring and sustainability.

And to do that we need to listen.  We need a threefold listening process.  We must learn to listen to our heart and to our deepest inner selves.  This is at odds with placing our faith in leaders who, more often than not, wish to remain wedded to old notions of hierarchy and control.  Second, we must learn to listen to one another.  That is not as simple as listening to our spouse, parents or children.  It is learning to listen to the “stranger” - those who are different.  Plus, it is time that those of us in the older generations listened to the young, those like Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.  It is their future that we condemn by not doing so.

This listening challenges much of our current ways of thinking and behaving.  That is why it is a revolution – the Fourth Revolution.

1. Paul von Ward, Worldviews and Evolution of Human Consciousness, in Spanda Journal, July/December 2014, pp 65-73

Thursday 2 July 2015

Community Development Jigsaw

It can be a frustrating task when it comes to defining or trying to explain what community development is.  There is a very good reason for that frustration.  Community development does not fit within nice, logical, rational boxes that can be defined.  Community development can be applied within most human endeavours: social, artistic, economic, spiritual, cultural, environmental, sporting….  “But, what is it’s purpose?” can often be heard by those operating within a managerial or bureaucratic paradigm.  “Well… it doesn’t really have one,” can seem a very unhelpful, even lame, answer.

But the truth is: community development doesn’t have a purpose in the sense that it doesn’t set out a grand design or political objective.  There is no Grand Narrative that is the Community Development Project.  It is not capitalist, it is not communist.  It is not Democrat, it is not Republican.  It cannot even claim to be Green.  It does have goals though, albeit fairly global ones like justice for all, equity, sustainability etc etc.

What community development is, though, is a journey.  It is a mutual journey of discovery and shared experience.  Community development workers may have a map, but the exact choice of route between one point and the next is discovered by setting out on the journey rather than sitting with the map and plotting a course from “here” to “there.”  Furthermore, as communities work and journey together they may discover that the map needs updating.

So, what is the purpose of community development?  Many years ago, a fellow community development worker and I grappled with a way of explaining this rather ephemeral concept to those who may be just beginning the journey or those who had a more managerial approach to “community.”  We came up with the idea of a jigsaw.  Each piece in the jigsaw represented a vision, value, method or role that community development embodied.

© Bruce Meder, Jane Parret 2007

The jigsaw became a very useful metaphor.  The pieces - although in one sense unique, identifiable elements - had to fit with other elements to allow the jigsaw to be pieced together.  There is no box-top picture to guide us in putting the jigsaw together.  The picture becomes apparent as you put the pieces together.  This symbolises community development’s emphasis on process rather than outcome.

Community development is an evolving process, emerging from, and reacting to, the changing social conditions of the times.  Hence, it is unbounded, symbolised by there being no straight edges to this jigsaw.  The edges allow for extra pieces to be added.  Consequently, you will also notice that there is no piece in this jigsaw that is labelled “outcome focused.”

Before it looks as if I am suggesting that community development is the panacea to all the social ills and a vehicle for bringing every potential to its fullest, let me say that it is not.  The community development jigsaw is only part of the bigger puzzle.  But, it is an important one, because it recognises the importance of relationships and  that people are people first.  People are not consumers, they are not assets, they are not objects.  People are also not individuals, people become who they are because of the families, neighbourhoods, communities, cultures that they live in.  The analogy of the jigsaw recognises these links and relationships.

Of course, like any good jigsaw, the community development jigsaw can be pulled apart and reassembled.  What is unique about the community development jigsaw though is that the pieces can be put back together in a different configuration, yet still fitting together to show a community picture when done so.

Right, back to putting the pieces together…

Note: The piece labelled "Treaty of Waitangi"refers to the 1840 document signed between the indigenous peoples of New Zealand - the Maori, and the British crown.