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 29 September 2015

Refugees: Some Perspective Needed

It is impossible these days to watch TV, read a newspaper, or even log into social media and not find a story about refugees.  Those of us in the rich, western-styled nations display two, opposing, responses.
On one hand there are those that want to reach out to refugees, who want to embrace them and welcome them into their homes and homelands.

Then there are those who want to “protect our borders,” “turn back the boats,” or “keep our country for ourselves.”

I am no expert on refugees, but it does seem that some historical perspective needs to be taken on the refugee crises.  It can be humbling and revealing to take a long-term, historical and cultural perspective on the issues.

The Word Refugee

The word refugee comes from the French refugier, meaning to take shelter or protection.  The first use of the term refugee to describe a group of people fleeing persecution is, indeed, French.  During the 17th century the Huguenots (French protestants) became increasingly persecuted by Louis XIV, with many being killed, and half a million becoming the worlds first “refugees,” fleeing France to other, more tolerant, European nations.

In 1914 the term refugee came to mean “a person fleeing home,” and was applied to thousands of civilians in Flanders escaping the atrocities of World War I and fleeing into Holland, France and elsewhere.  The second World War saw even greater mass exoduses of European people from war, starvation and persecution.

Further Back

For centuries European nations have sought to conquer lands well outside the European continent.  For almost four centuries from the 11th century onwards, nations of western Europe invaded and terrorised those of the so-called Holy Lands via the Crusades.  Many would argue that those attempts at conquest were the genesis of many of the problems in the Middle East today.

Between the 16th and 20th centuries European nations embarked upon another take-over endeavour – this time known as colonialism.  The period saw several European nations expand into and conquer lands in Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas.  The latter half of the 19th century saw massive migration of Europeans to these lands – some 40 million people.

This massive migration had a devastating effect upon the indigenous populations of those lands.  Migrants brought disease, an unthinking sense of superiority, and a destructive force that has not been repeated since.


With these understandings in mind those of us in western-styled nations would do well to reflect upon the following when considering the plight of modern-day refugees:
  • Europeans were amongst the worlds first refugees.
  • Europeans have contributed to the very conditions that many of todays refugees wish to flee from.
  • Europeans have been the largest group of migrants in the world.
  • Europeans have no moral justification for refusing modern day refugees a right to safety, dignity and freedom.
In the above, by European I include also those people who live in countries outside of Europe,1 but who trace their descent form European colonisers, conquerors or migrants.

1. The use of the word “western-styled” is deliberate.  There are many nations who are western-styled in their cultural roots, ways of life and belief systems that are not necessarily of the “west.”  These include countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Day of Peace – Oh Yeah?

Earlier this week, 21 September, marked the International Day of Peace.  Not that you would have noticed from the news that day.  Instead we had yet more images of the bombings in Syria, attacks in Somalia, and reports of domestic violence in the homes of our nations.

Although the day was established in 1981 by the United Nations you could not be blamed for not noticing it for all that the media took note.  The decade following the UN adoption of the Day of Peace was the bloodiest on record since the end of the second World War.  The highly regarded Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) notes that 2014 saw more wars than any other year since 2000.  Even on the website of SIPRI, with it’s vision of “a world in which sources of insecurity are identified and understood, conflicts are prevented or resolved, and peace is sustained,” it is difficult to find much data or information related to peace.  There is much there about military spending, arms manufacture and trading, chemical and nuclear weapons manufacture etc etc etc. 

Peace just doesn’t seem to cut it.  The newspapers rarely mention peaceful solutions, television embraces warfare, and Hollywood movies glorify the carnage and mayhem of war.  Even a search of google results in over 1.3 billion listings for “War 2015.”  A similar search under “Peace 2015” yielded less than half this number.

The nations of the world seem unable to recognise the Day of Peace.  Just two days before the Day of Peace, the Japanese upper chamber overturned Article 9 of it’s post-war Constitution.  That article stated that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes."   The new legislation now allows for Japanese forces to participate in a limited manner alongside other nations in armed conflict in other parts of the world.  Along with nations such as Switzerland, the Japanese renunciation of war as a means of resolving conflict was a beacon of hope.  That beacon now seems to have been snuffed out.

A day for peace.  Surely that is not too much to ask.  Of course, we should be aiming at a Year of Peace, and perhaps even a Decade of Peace.  but if we can’t even manage a day, do we have much hope?

So, we must start where and when we can.  We can bring peace into our daily lives.  We can embark on peace within our homes and our relationships.  We can encourage peace in our workplaces and schools.  If the leaders of the world, and those who report the news of the world, won’t encourage or promulgate peace, then we must do it ourselves. 

A Day of Peace.  Oh Yeah!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Day of Democracy

Today, 15 September, is International Day of Democracy.  The day has had this moniker since 2007 when the United Nations declared it such.  But eight years on and democracy as we know it is stumbling.  The people (demos) are disillusioned.  To paraphrase Shakespeare – there is something rotten within the State of Democracy.

Political parties are responding in the same old, tired, ways.  Less than a week before 15 September the UK Labour Party elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn – a radical left-winger that some within the party fear will mean the demise of the party.  Meanwhile just the night before the Day of Democracy, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, was challenged for his leadership by Malcolm Turnbull.  Turnbull won and so Australia now has a new Prime Minister.

This is how political parties respond to challenges and issues.  Change the leader, rearrange the cabinet, or shuffle the front bench.  But all that does is change the players, it does nothing to change the system.  Systems thinking tells us that changing the components of a system is the weakest method of bringing about the change we need.  It is akin to changing the tyres on an old, beat-up, rusty car.  You may have bright shiny new tyres but you still have the same car. 

In similar fashion our electoral representative democracy continues to give us:
  • an adversarial system where politicians often appear more interested in personal point-scoring than in dealing with the issues.
  • a parliament, or senate, or council, that is less and less representative of the diversity within the population as a whole.
  • a system that is open to manipulation by powerful and rich vested interests and lobby groups.
That’s just three of the obstacles that our present democracies are stumbling over.

It is time for us to give up our dependence upon electoral representative democracy.  It is, after all, simply a human construct.  There is nothing sacrosanct or inherently absolute about it.  It can be improved.


We could try something really simple.  We could try something really fair.  We could try something really random.  We could try selecting our representatives by lot.  As soon as this notion is suggested hands are thrown up in the air and shouts of “ludicrous,” “impossible,” or “unworkable” are heard.

But it has been done.  The very cradle of democracy, Athens, utilised the selection of decision-makers by lot more often than they did the mechanism of the vote.  This blogsite has written about the Athenian democracy previously.

More recently we have seen a couple of examples of the use of random selection (known as sortition) in politics.


The constitutional reform in Ireland that allows for same-sex marriage is now well known.  Perhaps what is less well known is the path that led to this momentous decision.

At the heart of it was sortition.  Following the 2008-09 economic crisis the Irish people called for constitutional reform.  The Irish Constitutional Convention (ICC) was established to consider eight topics for constitutional reform – marriage equality the most notable.  The membership of the ICC was made up of 100 individuals, one-third of them members of parliament, but the other two-thirds Irish citizens chosen at random.  None of these ordinary citizens were there because of vested interest, lobby groups or political affiliation.  They were there as representatives of the demos – the ordinary citizen.  And all citizens had the chance of being selected.  They did not need to be famous, rich, or great orators.

It was from the ICC that the matter of marriage equality was put on the ballot paper that Ireland then voted on.


In Belgium many senior politicians are supporting a move to introduce sortition into the Belgian Senate.  Sortition is gaining support from all sectors of the political spectrum.  A former socialist vice-prime minister, Laurette Onkelinx, contends that “traditional politics is ailing and new ways have to be considered.”  

A current member of the ruling right of centre party, the Reform Movement, notes that  “we need to go directly to the people and hear their positions – and sortition is the way.”

Peter Vanvelthoven, a former labour minister, is also supportive, noting that political decision-making needs greater diversity than it presently achieves and that “the pure democratic idea requires more participation of the citizens in decision making – beyond casting one vote in an election once every four years.”

Sortition Benefits

In those two examples we see some of the benefits that sortition can bring, and the means by which the three obstacles mentioned above can be overcome.
  • in Ireland the discussion in the ICC was of a more deliberative nature than an adversarial one.  Those chosen by lot do not bring a vested interest or party line to the table and hence, are more likely to enter into true dialogue than adversarial debate.
  • The Belgian politicians are recognising that their present Senate is not representing the populace, whereas sortition offers a means by which greater representation could be achieved.
  • The ICC achieved a high level of agreement because those chosen to be representatives arrived without pre-existing “positions” and were un-aligned to political parties, vested interests, or lobby groups.  They were there as citizens, as representatives of the demos.
We can’t keep tinkering around with the players.  We have to allow democracy to take it’s next step into the 21st century.  That step can be sortition.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Forgiving A Bomber

Fernando Pereira
In 1985 I was actively involved with the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement in Aotearoa (New Zealand).  NFIP was one of a number of organisations campaigning against nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific, along with groups such as Greenpeace, Friends Of the Earth (FOE), Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Peace Squadron and others.

On the morning of 11 July 1985 we awoke to the news that the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, had been blown up and sunk in Auckland Harbour.  I was shocked, dismayed, angry and devastated.  This was not an example of the type of world I wanted.  It quickly became apparent that this was the work of French agents and two of them, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, were caught and tried.  But another ten French agents were never captured and never brought to justice.

Now, thirty years later, one of those remaining ten agents, Jean-Luc Kister, has spoken to the French investigative organisation, Mediapart, and on New Zealand television for the first time.   In those interviews Kister said that “…it is time for me to express my profound regret and my apologies.”  He went on to say that he wanted to apologise to the family of the man (Fernando Pereira) that was killed in the blast, “especially to his daughter Marelle.”

The apology may be thirty years in the coming, but as Peter Wilcox, the captain of the Rainbow Warrior that fateful night, commented, “it seemed sincere to me.  Perhaps late in coming, but sincere.”

The question now for those of us involved in social justice issues, especially for those of us who had connections (even tenuously) with this act of state terrorism, becomes: can we accept Jean-Luc Kister's apology and can we forgive him?

Peter Wilcox remarked that he “did not think it was for me to forgive.” Certainly Wilcox did not lose a father, as Marelle did (she was 8 years old at the time), but he did lose a friend, a colleague, and he did lose a ship.  Whether Wilcox is able to forgive Kister for these loses is up to him and his conscience.

However, the bigger question is the role of forgiveness in the advocacy and activism of social justice campaigners. 

Lets first be clear about what forgiveness is not.  Bishop Desmond Tutu perhaps knows more about the act of forgiveness and the power that it has than anyone on the planet.  He oversaw the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa following the collapse of the apartheid regime.  In his book, The Book of Forgiving, written with his daughter, Mpho, he identifies five things that forgiveness is not.  Forgiveness is not: 1. forgetting, 2. weakness, 3. a subversion of justice, 4. quick, nor 5. easy.

A further misconception about forgiveness is that it is offered to the offender by a victim, and that in some way it is an exoneration of a harm committed by the offender.  Yes, forgiveness may be offered to the offender, but equally, perhaps more importantly, forgiveness is something that the victim offers to themselves.  Louise Hay said it well when she stated that:
“The act of forgiveness takes place in your own mind.  It really has nothing to do with the other person.”
To Forgive is not to neglect Justice.

Jean-Luc Kister, along with another DGSE diver, Jean Camas, planted those two bombs on the hull of the Rainbow Warrior.  They set the timers.  They knew what they were doing.  They were responsible for the sinking of the ship.  They were responsible for the murder of Fernando Pereira.  Forgiveness does not deny this, nor does it wish to subvert the course of justice.  Peter Wilcox is right to attest that “justice has not been done.”  Justice and forgiveness however, are not conflicting notions.

How many of us can forget that the Rainbow Warrior was bombed?  Marelle Pereira cannot forget that her father was murdered in an act of state terrorism.  The Greenpeace organisation cannot forget that it lost a ship and a comrade.  The people of New Zealand cannot forget that their sovereign borders were infiltrated by another nation and an act of terrorism committed in their largest harbour.  Nor should we all forget.  But forgiveness does not mean that we do so.

Desmond and Mpho Tutu claim that there is nothing that cannot be forgiven and that no-one is undeserving of forgiveness.  These are challenging claims.  Yet, those of us seeking a more just, a more peaceful, a more sustainable world need to work with these claims.  We must accept the challenge that the Tutus have given us.

The habitual response to being harmed, individually or nationally, is to seek retribution, to want to punish and do harm back to our offender.  Doing so only leads us into the vicious cycle of harm – pain – retaliation – more harm and so on …. an endless cycle.  Within that cycle we end up rejecting our common and shared humanity.  Plus, we become trapped not only within the cycle but also by the debilitating emotions of anger, resentment, bitterness and hate.

It is up to those of us campaigning for social justice to show a better way, to point to a more compassionate future.  The power of forgiveness is one way of doing that.

Can we forgive Jean-Luc Kister?  Each one of us must answer that for ourselves.  Me?  I haven’t yet, but I’m working on it.

1. DGSE: the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, the French intelligence service.

Addendum:  The French Greenpeace organisation, in response to the latest revelations, issued a statement that says “we would like to insist that French town halls, and particularly that of Paris, the capital of France’s major political decisions, that Fernando’s memory is properly and fully honoured, as it should be, with a road or a square named after him.”

Wednesday 2 September 2015

The Real Problem With Egotistical Politicians

Many of us want to accuse politicians of having large egos or being drawn to a desire for ego enhancement.  The evidence (both anecdotal and research-based) suggests that our accusations have some justification.  Egotism is at the core of psychological patterns such as narcissism, psychopathy, sociopathy or hubris.

In 2007 Jim Kouri (then vice-president of the US National Association of Chiefs of Police) wrote a brief, yet telling, article claiming that politicians share the same traits as serial killers – namely psychopathic traits.1  Whilst Kouri noted that “not all violent offenders are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are violent offenders,” he claimed that “some of the character traits exhibited by serial killers or criminals may be observed in many within the political arena.”

One of the world’s leading psychopathy experts, Dr Robert D Hare, describes psychopaths as showing the following characteristics: conscienceless yet rational, logical and manipulative, predisposed to crime, selfish, and without guilt, shame, remorse or empathy.  Other traits include: a superficial charm, glibness, and a grandiose sense of self-worth.  Does all this sound like any politicians you know?

Another psychological diagnosis that sometimes is attributed to politicians is that of Narcissistic Personality Disorder which has similar characteristics to those of psychopathy or sociopathy.  In a 1998 study2 involving four professions (university faculty, politicians, clergy and librarians) politicians scored higher than the other three professions in a test known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

Hubris is defined as insolent pride and excessive overconfidence, and this too has been studied with respect to politicians.  Dr Peter Garrard et al studied US and UK political leaders.3  Garrard noted that many of them developed what he called “Hubris Syndrome” which he defined as “a radical change in a persons outlook, style and attitude after they acquire positions of power or great influence.”  The change in those with this syndrome meant that they lost contact with reality and overestimated their competence, accomplishments or capabilities.

Sometimes politicians don’t even attempt to hide their egotism going so far as to flaunt it in the face of their electorate.  In Australia there are no less than four political groupings that include the name of the politician in the title.  Clive Palmer started the Palmer United Party, Bob Katter has Katter’s Australian Party, Nick Xenophon the Nick Xenophon Team and Jacqui Lambie (having quit from the Palmer United Party) is forming the Jacqui Lambie Network.

From this – admittedly very brief – perusal of the evidence it appears reasonable to suggest that there is a strong correlation between egotism and politicians.  What may be still in doubt is whether politicians are driven to enter politics because of their over-inflated egos or whether they acquire an excessive sense of self-worth and entitlement as a result of attaining political office.  Perhaps it is a bit of both.

Whether we use the terms narcissism, psych/sociopathy, or hubris, politicians do display a much greater inclination towards these psychologies than does the rest of the population.  Dr Hare, for instance, estimates that just 1% of the population display psychopathic traits.

Therein is the real problem with egotistical politicians.  It is not that politicians are egotistical per se, but that those with psychopathic/narcissistic/hubris tendencies are highly over-represented in our parliaments, congresses and senates.

It is easy to see why when we think of some of the traits.  Those with these traits can be charming, expert manipulators (meaning that you don’t see it coming), and have a glib way of speaking.  It is easy to vote for a charmer.  Thus we get parliaments, senates and congresses that are woefully unrepresentative of the population as a whole.  That’s the real issue.  The “typical” politician, is not “typical” of the population, hence it becomes increasingly impossible to claim that we live in a “representative” democracy.

So if our system of electoral democracy means that we are likely to end up with politicians who display far greater narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies than is usual in the population, then it is time to look for alternative democratic models.

1. Jim Kouri, Serial killers and politicians share traits, The Examiner, June 2009
2. Robert Hill & Gregory Yousey, Adaptive and Maladaptive Narcissism among University Faculty, Clergy, Politicians, and Librarians, in Nathaniel Pallone (ed) Altruism, Narcissism, Comity: Research Perspectives from Current Psychology, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, 1999.
3. Peter Garrard, Vassiliki Rentoumi, Christian Lambert, David Owen, Linguistic Biomarkers of Hubris Syndrome, 2013. available at, accessed 28 August 2015