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 24 February 2016

Men: Lost or Lost Something?

When I look around me I see young men looking lost.  I see them getting drunk, and then lashing out, fighting each other, and themselves.  Men all through the western world are the predominant perpetrators of violence, and mostly the victims of that violence.  

Not only are men violent towards other men, they are also violent towards themselves.  Even though women suffer depression more than do men, males kill themselves at a rate three times that of their female counterparts.  In western nations suicide rates amongst men ranges between 10 and 20 per 100,000 men.  For women it hovers around 5 per 100,000 women.

Men too are much more likely to harm themselves through alcoholism.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that around 5-6% of men in most western nations suffer from alcohol use disorders, whilst for women the figure is 1-2%.

What's going on?  Are men lost?  Have men lost something in the post-feminism era as some would claim?  Are men no longer sure of their role in society?  Are men wandering around without purpose, without meaning in their lives?  Have men had the ground ripped out from under them?  Do men then lash out, at other men, or take it out on themselves by seeking refuge in drink, or killing themselves to end it all?

Our cultural myths and norms tell men that we are supposed to be tough, the decision-makers, the ones in control.  Men are supposed to be tough, aggressive and powerful.  That's what makes a man a man, or at least so we are told.  But we are not.  When we find that out, what does that mean for being a man?

Do men feel lost?

How can we become not lost?  Our politico-cultural myth-makers step in and provide us with answers.  Join the job market, get ahead, become the head of a corporation, beat your competitors to the market.  Work your way to power, and maybe die in the attempt.  That's one answer.  Another may be via the various violent sports, becoming a professional boxer perhaps.  That's another answer.

Yet another answer the myth-makers tell men (and increasingly, women) is to join the armed forces. In that arena you learn to be a man: learn toughness, learn patriotism, learn discipline, earn nobility.  Maybe even become a "hero."  That's another answer.

But, none of these are really an answer at all.  If the military was one such answer, why is it that far more serving or vet soldiers kill themselves than are killed "in action."?  The Veterans Association in the US estimates that up to 18 veterans kill themselves each day in the US.  That is considerably more per year than die in combat - more than the total number of active military personnel killed in active duty over the four years between 2007 and 2010.1

Are men lost?  Or have men lost something?

When boys and then young men look at the potential role models for men, what do they mostly see?  The men who are prominently displayed are those displaying the qualities of toughness, control and power.  The leaders of most of the western-styled nations are men.  The “captains of industry” are overwhelmingly male.  The sports stars that are promenaded across TV screens and in the sports pages of daily newspapers are male.  Tough guys all of them.  And powerful.

These boys and young men go to the movies and what do they see there?  Since 1950 the incidence of violence in the movies has doubled.2  Worse still, the amount of gun-violence in movies has tripled since 1985.  Once again the violent, aggressive tough-guy is portrayed as the male-to-be.

But then these young men turn into men and discover that they are not like that, or that trying to be like that brings no joy, no satisfaction.  They’re lost.  Lost in a world in which the male map is full of tough, violent, aggressive, powerful stereotypes.  Failing, many men give up and become shells of what they could be, retreating into drink or other harmful activities.  Or completely give up, opting for suicide.

Because men feel lost some look around for something or someone to blame.  Feminism is often a convenient scapegoat.  If it hadn’t been for feminism, the fabrication goes, men would still know their place in society; the male qualities of toughness, decisiveness and power would still have credibility and would not be called into question so often.  Men would not be lost.

But feminism is not the scapegoat.  Feminism could be the answer that men are looking for and the direction towards a society in which male qualities and female qualities are balanced.  The twentieth century feminists, such as Germaine Greer, were seeking liberation, whereas what happened is that women have become more equal with men, but still operating within a patriarchal system.  Someone once quipped that “feminism aimed for liberation, but settled for equality.”  Certainly, Greer herself said that “equality is an incredibly conservative aim.”

Feminism’s aim during the 1970s and after was not to equalise the number of women within male-dominated structures, it was to turn those structures upside down.  As such, the aim of feminism could have been of immense benefit to men, because those structures were not, and still are not, beneficial to men either.

Far from being the cause of men’s depression, suicide levels or alcoholism, feminism could be an ally towards healthy manhood.  But for feminism to be an ally, men have to re-discover their real male power and work in ways that help to turn upside-down the structures that are limiting both men and women.  Two male qualities are those of action and courage.  Men can use these qualities in ways that enhance the balance of male and female.  Men can use these qualities to heal the world, to heal each other and heal the rift between not only the genders, but also between nations, cultures and religions.

Men need not be lost.  Men can re-discover what has been lost.

Note: It is possible for both men and women to have both male and female qualities, and this posting should be read with this in mind.  Carl Jung recognised the animus (male component) within women and the anima (female component) within men.

1. Nese DeBruyne and Anne Leland, American War and Military Operations Casualties; Lists and Statistics, Congressional Research Service, January 2015.
2. Brad Bushman, Patrick Jamieson, Ilana Weitz, Daniel Romer, Gun Violence Trends in Movies, PEDIATRICS: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, November 11, 2013.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Struggling and Fighting

Source: Griffiths
Social justice is a struggle against oppression.  Social justice is a struggle against racism, sexism and numerous other cases of prejudiced use of power.  Social justice is a fight for liberation, for freedom, and for equity.

Community development too, is a fight.  It is a fight for the rights of local communities to make decisions about what affects them.

Struggle!  Fight!  But is it really so?  Struggling and fighting are mechanics of organising and acting from the 20th century.

Struggling against something, or fighting for something suggest that the "something" is external to us.  We are either moving away from something, or moving towards something.

The underlying premise of this approach to social justice and community development is that of control.  The premise says that somebody or something has control.  It says that we can take control over the outcomes of the actions we take.

This premise is rooted in the Cartesian1 worldview - a view in which the laws of nature (including those of human nature) can be discovered, manipulated and used to plan, with certainty, the future.  It is a mechanistic worldview. 

A Different Paradigm

The new and growing sciences of Chaos Theory and Complexity Theory are showing that the predictability and certainty of the Cartesian worldview cannot be maintained.  None of us have any control over the ways of the world.  As individuals we have no control over climate change.  We have no control over social inequality.  We don’t even have control over how we get through our day.  We cannot predict with any certainty whether we will even get through the day.

There are two simple reasons that we do not have control.  Interconnection and complexity.  Some eastern and indigenous traditions of thought have known this for centuries and have lived their lives by the simple truths contained within.  In western thought we are only just re-discovering the truths of interconnection and complexity. 

Because of interconnection and complexity, the actions that I take where I am have an influence on future events, but then so too do the actions of hundreds and thousands of other people.  Not only do we as humans influence future events, so too do the myriad of other sentient beings upon the Earth.  So too does the fall of the rain, the ebbing and flowing of the tides, the blowing of winds or the movement of the earth below our feet.

Nor is there a final outcome.  All outcomes are nothing but a moment in the ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-emergent phenomenal world.  None of us can say that we are responsible for a definite outcome.  None of us can take credit.  None of us is responsible.  We are part of a system that is co-dependent, chaotic and emergent.

What Role Then?

If struggling and fighting is of little use, then what should we do in the face of injustice, inequity, environmental degradation, or oppression?  An understanding of of interconnection and complexity helps to answer this.  If everything is connected and complexity reigns, then that suggests that at the heart of the dynamics of change are relationships.  The manner in which we come together, work together, and play together is as important, possibly moreso, than the work we do or the games we play.

As much as we need to develop and nourish our relationships we must also seek out our personal intentions.  What are our intentions for each relationship?  Are our intentions helpful?  Are they unhelpful?  For our helpful intentions, are our behaviours and actions in harmony with those intentions?

The keys then are not so much what we are struggling against, or what we are fighting for.  The keys are between us and within us.

Note:  None of the above should be read as fatalism, or as advocating inaction.  There is much more that can be written about the efficacy of collective actions within an understanding of interconnection and complexity.  Maybe a later blog will address this.

1. Cartesian derives from RenĂ© Descarte, the 17th century French philosopher who inspired rationalism.  His Latin name, Renatus Cartesius, gives us the form by which the worldview (or paradigm) is known – Cartesian.  Together with Isaac Newton, Descartes formulated the mechanistic view of nature which became the paramount philosophical and scientific western paradigm for at least the next 200 years or more.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Power of Supply and Demand

"Self-interrogation" Dave Derrett
(used by permission)
If we know anything at all about economics we know that one of the basic ideas is that of supply and demand.  The central tenets of supply and demand feature in the discussion of climate change and what to do about it.  As we all know, the basic driver of climate change is carbon emissions, arising from our demand for and supply of – energy.

It stands to reason then that many climate change activists and others focus on energy when thinking about how to tackle climate change.  As I listen to many of these activists and others the discussion often leads to alternative, sustainable, non-fossil based energy sources.  Solar, wind, tidal and other sustainable sources are mentioned.  Switching from fossil-based sources for electricity production is definitely needed and is needed quickly.

However, such discussion and the solutions suggested, focus only on one side of the supply/demand curves so favoured by economists.  Encouraging and advocating for sustainable sources looks only at the supply side.

The problem however, is mainly one of demand.

Electricity Consumption Trends

A little over forty years ago, in 1972, the global electricity consumption per capita was 1,273 kWh per year.  In just 40 years that consumption per person had more than doubled, to 3,065 kWh in 2012.  That is per person; considering that the Earth’s population increased in that same period, it becomes obvious that our electricity consumption rapidly increased.  That’s demand, and that is where the problem really lies.

Demand is far from equal too.  Like many things in the world, the consumption of electricity is highly inequitable.  The rich nations demand and consume at a much faster rate than do poorer nations.  For example, in 2012, the per capita electricity consumption in the US was 12,954 kWh.  Australia was not far behind consuming 10,398 kWh per person. 

The Least Developed Nations1, however, consumed just 184 kWh per person.  China saw the largest growth in consumption, up a staggering 2100% in the 40 years.  At 3,475 kWh per capita, it is still consuming less than half that of the rich nations of the world though.

The problem is demand.

That demand doesn’t look like abating either.  The World Energy Council forecasts electricity demand to more than double through to the year 2050.2  If that demand is going to be met by renewable sources, then those sources will have to increase supply by more than ten times their present rate.3  Possible?  Yes!  Likely? …Mmmm…

The problem is not going to be solved on the supply side.

Consumptive Lifestyles

Attempting to solve issues such as climate change by addressing the supply side is easy in a psychological sense.  All that needs to happen is for our brightest brains to invent better, sustainable, renewable technologies, and make them affordable for people.  That, psychologically, is easy to deal with as the solutions are external to us. 

The demand side is not so easy though, is it?  To address demand we must necessarily look at ourselves.  We must look at our lifestyles, we must address our basic desires, fears, wants and needs.  We must question our consumptive lifestyles, especially those of us who live in western-styled, rich nations.  Consumption and electricity use go hand-in-hand.  The following graph charts electricity use per capita versus GDP per capita by country.4  As can easily be seen, there is a clear correlation between the two.  The higher the GDP is then the greater the electricity use (or vice versa).  It is also clear that the western-styled, rich nations (those marked with red squares) are more likely to have a greater electricity use.

It is abundantly clear.  Electricity demand is where the problem lies.  It is also where the solutions must come from.  We can continue to seek out sustainable, renewable sources – and we must – but until we take seriously the demand for electricity then we are not going to solve the problem.  That means that we must understand and address our consumption. 

Those of us in the western-styled, rich nations have to face it.  We have to get real.  We have to interrogate ourselves.  We have to make some psychologically difficult choices.  We have to not just stop consuming more, we have to reduce our consuming.  We have to do it NOW.  The longer we put it off, the harder it will be to solve the problems before the problems do it for us.

1. The Least Developed Nations are 48 countries with a combined population of over 850 million.
2. World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, World Energy Council, 2013.
3. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that 21% of electricity generation was from renewable sources in 2011.

4. Although there is discussions and research being undertaken to devise a better measure of consumption, GDP remains the most accessible and global such measure.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Group Dynamics Needs

Why do groups form?  For some it may be that there is a need for something to be done and the best way of doing so is with others.  Some people may join  groups in order to learn something.  Whatever the reason, how do groups remain together?  How do they ensure that they don’t internally combust, fall apart, and the members go their separate ways, embittered, embarrassed or exhausted.

An understanding of group dynamics can help us to hold groups together.  It is important to understand the three major actions of groups.  The first two are primary, and the third emerges as a means to balance these two.

Task Needs

Groups come together to perform tasks.  They form in order to achieve something, to reach a goal, to create something, or to learn something.

Personal Needs

Groups are composed of individuals, each with their own particular personality, ideas, experience, knowledge, and therefore needs.  Personal needs could vary from a need to belong through to a need to contribute.  Maybe there are needs to be creative, or perhaps to impart a skill.

Maintenance Needs

Holding a group together requires maintaining the balance between task needs and personal needs.  The analogy of a see-saw is helpful.  Task are at one end of the see-saw, personal needs at the other.  The fulcrum that balances these two is the Maintenance Needs of the group.  (see diag)

It is the task of the facilitator of the group to ensure that the maintenance needs of the group are met, so that the tasks of the group are kept in mind and are continually worked on, yet also ensuring that personal needs are met.  If individual personal needs are not met, then people may lose interest and drop out of the group, perhaps taking with them some important skill, knowledge or idea.  It has been said that people join a learning group in order to learn something, but that what keeps them there are the relationships that they make.  This is no different for a group that has a more external, or social change purpose.

So, what are the Maintenance Needs and how does the facilitator ensure that they are met?

Maintenance Needs and Functions

A few of the things that a facilitator needs to be aware of in order to maintain the balance between task and personal needs include:
  • Ensuring that all participants are encouraged to participate.  This means that the facilitator must be encouraging, have an open and receptive manner and is aware of equity issues.
  • Is able to maintain an open and full communication between participants, including the ability to draw out silent members.  This means being comfortable with different styles of groups working together (including individual time, pairs, small groups, interactive movement, as well as the more traditional full group discussion).
  • Being open to the full range of human expression, including feelings, emotions and intuition, as well as intellectual expression.  This may mean specifically allowing for or even promoting the expression of heart and gut “thoughts.”
  • Helping to relieve tension by recognising the importance of humour (although ensuring that the humour is not of a disrespectful nature).  The use of ice-breakers and other forms of “time out” activities can be helpful, not just to relief tension, but also to reduce the possibility of boredom or inattention.
  • Reminding the group of their goals and direction.  Being able to summarise where a group has got to and then suggesting the next steps is a useful function of a facilitator. 
  • Being able to work with disagreement or differences of opinion in a way that respects the individual needs of all yet also recognises the task needs of the group.  An understanding of techniques for doing this are useful skills for facilitators to have in their “tool box.”
  • Testing for consensus or agreements.  This helps groups to recognise when and where progress is being made.  If agreements are not reached then it may be necessary to restate the problem. issue, or concern that the group are working on.  It is then important to summarise the steps that have been made along the way, thus being able to clarify sticking points.
  • Most of all, the primary function of a facilitator is to listen.  Listen for new ideas, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, to those who are silent.  Listen for signs of restlessness, misunderstandings, or for discussion dominators.

These are just very very brief explanations of some of the roles of a facilitator who is trying to maintain the balance between task and personal needs.  Each of these roles can be expanded on and the reader is encouraged to discover some of the excellent books or on-line resources on facilitation tat are now available.