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 26 July 2016

The Ideology Trap

When South Africa began to dismantle the apartheid system in the early 1990s many around the world feared that the nation would descend into a bloodbath, with native Africans out for revenge, and white settlers taking up arms to protect what they saw as theirs.  The prevailing ideological solution within much of Africa at the time was to look to African values, a set of undefined values that many African rulers claimed meant solidarity against the west.  But, Nelson Mandela, newly freed after 27 years imprisoned by the apartheid state, said “no.”  Mandela espoused values of human rights, democracy and freedom of speech.  He did not want to be trapped in the ideology that was prevalent at the time throughout the continent.

Mandela also had the historic model of the Nuremberg Trials as an example of achieving justice – retributive justice.  Retributive justice was, and still is the predominant model of state justice systems worldwide.  Retributive justice is an ideology that brings together a collection of beliefs surrounding the criminal mind, community standards, the role of the state, cause and effect, plus not the least, a desire for revenge.  Many western leaders exhorted Mandela to use this model.

Mandela could have clung to the African values ideology or he could have been swayed by the retributive justice ideology.  Instead, he walked away from both of the traps that he could have stepped into.  He proposed something radically different to either of these approaches.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he set up sought a new solution.  Mandela appointed Bishop Desmond Tutu (an outspoken Anglican cleric of the apartheid system) to be the Chairman.  Bishop Tutu describes what happened:1
“When, at last, our leaders were released from prison, it was feared that our transition to democracy would become a bloodbath of revenge and retaliation. Miraculously we chose another future. We chose forgiveness. At the time, we knew that telling the truth and healing our history was the only way to save our country from certain destruction. We did not know where this choice would lead us. The process we embarked on through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was, as all real growth proves to be, astoundingly painful and profoundly beautiful.”
Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, and many others decided not to blinker themselves with ideology.  By not doing so, they were able to discover and explore another opportunity.

We too, can very easily, miss opportunities because of our entrenched views and positions.  Even community development workers can be caught in this trap by clinging onto a particular model of community development.

An ideology is simply a connected set of beliefs about how things should be and the methods by which they can be obtained.  It is possible to have political ideologies, religious ideologies, social ideologies.  We can have psychological ideologies, human growth, and community development ideologies.  Ideologies come in a wide variety of guises: socialism, capitalism, liberalism, progressivism, federalism, separatism, communism are just some of the “big” political ideologies.

We can also hold onto what could be called “small” ideologies, e.g. fight fire with fire, or turn the other cheek are two that represent conflicting ideas of how to solve conflict.

When we come across a new idea that does not fit our ideological views then one option is to reject it because it does not conform to how we think the world should be or the method by which our view of the world should be achieved.  That is a mistake.  It is a trap.  We enter the trap simply by being unwilling to consider any other method than those that fit within our ideology.  In many ways our ideology has become our comfort zone.  We need to be able to step beyond that comfort zone in order to recognise the opportunity that lies outside.

The above should not be read as suggesting that all models, worldviews, ideologies should be rejected.  To begin with it is not possible to do so.  We construct our view of reality in our minds, and that allows us to operate in the world.  In order to not miss opportunities, though, we need to hold our views and ideologies lightly.  We cannot allow them to define us.

Here’s a question that you might like to consider: how many opportunities have you missed because of clinging to a particular ideology or perception of the world?

1. Desmond and Mpho Tutu, The Book of Forgiving, William Collins, London, 2014

Tuesday 19 July 2016

6 Reasons to Quit Work

In the early 1800s Robert Owen, a social reformer, began using the catch-call “8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest.”  Two hundred years later we still work roughly the same amount of time.  Work has been the way in which we customarily spend our day, from 9 to 5.  Work is what we do.  Work is who we are.  Work defines us.

But, does it have to be this way?  The work ethic needs to be questioned.  Note that this is not intended to be read as suggesting that any one individual should quit their job.  But, as a culture, we do need to question our belief in work.  There are at least six reasons for doing so.

1. Work is Boring

A Gallup survey in 2013 covering 142 countries found that just 13% of employees were “engaged” in their work.  A further 63% were “not engaged” and fully one-in-four (24%) were “actively disengaged.”  These disengaged employees (seven out of every eight) lacked motivation and were less likely to invest added effort towards organisational goals or outcomes.  Amongst the reasons for disengagement are: feeling ignored, inability to be creative, a lack of purpose, inflexible work schedules, and a feeling of not making a difference.

2. Work is Damaging the Planet and Others

The amount of time we spend working contributes directly to our carbon footprint.  We work in order to earn, and earn in order to consume.  Consumption is the leading human contributor to carbon emissions.  Because we spend so much time working we do not have the time to stop to reflect upon how we could live more sustainably and cheaply.

When we stop to think about it, it is easy to name the industries that are damaging the earth’s environment: mining and ore processing, lead-acid battery production and recycling, lead smelting, chemical manufacturing, the dye industry, and tannery operations, and many more.

Nor does it take much research to discover how much of work exploits others: children, peasant farmers, sweat-shop workers, the poor and dispossessed.

3. Work is Unnecessary

Work in pre-colonisation indigenous societies took up much less time than it does today.  It has been estimated that in many such societies just eighteen hours per week was needed by each person to provide for food and shelter.  Even in western culture the amount of time spent working prior to the Industrial Revolution was much less than we work today.  In the 13th and 14th centuries in the UK the average peasant or labourer spent between 1400 to 1600 hours working per year.1  The average annual working hours per worker throughout most of the OECD today ranges between 1600 and 1800 hours.

Recently the new economics foundation in the UK estimated that a 21 hour working week is sufficient to enable the economy to be maintained, provide for our needs and allow for greater equity in employment.2  Over a year that would mean working for approximately 1000 hours – a reduction of 40% from our present norm.

4. Work Does Not Define Who I Am

One of the prevailing justifications for work is that it provides us with an identity and with meaning.  Certainly, meaning and self-identity are two of the fundamental needs that we have.  But to state, unequivocally,  that work gives them to us is to make the mistake of confusing needs with strategies.  Work may be a strategy for obtaining identity, but it is only that – a strategy, not the strategy.  If you stop to think about what the need is that you have and then think of strategies to achieve that; I am certain that a number of other strategies will come to mind.

Work does not define us.  Nor should we allow others to define us by our work.  One of the most pernicious questions that we ask of others when we first meet is “what do you do?” meaning what is your work?   This question is grounded in defining a persons worth.  The job defines how worthy or otherwise the person is.  It is demeaning.

5. Work Makes it Difficult to Retire

Retirement is now recognised as a significant contributor to the risk of men (women much less so) becoming clinically depressed and/or suicidal.  Research in the US suggests that retirement increases the risk of depression in men by 40%.  Self-help and support programs are now in place to help men adjust to retirement, but the causes of these depressions are created much earlier - in the work ethic.  For the previous 40 years of their lives men have been goaded, exhorted, encouraged, even coerced into work.  “Get a job,” “climb the corporate ladder,” “get a better job” are just some of the messages that men are bombarded with, many even before they enter the work force.  Much of the education system can be critiqued as being nothing much more than a training ground for future employees.

So, it is no wonder that with retirement comes depression.  Men have not learnt how to live a full, rewarding, satisfying, or contributing life during those 40 years.  All men know is how to work, except for a couple of weeks each year when they can relax.  Relaxation is only one aspect of living.  A couple of weeks is insufficient to learn the pleasures of all the other aspects of life.

Surely it would be much better for us individually, and collectively, to learn about work-life balance and apply it throughout our lives rather than work 40 years, retire, and then live 20 more years in a depressed state.  Its insane.

6 Work is a Con-Job

Max Weber wrote his seminal book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1904 and 1905.  In it Weber traced the beginnings of the protestant work ethic to the Reformation of the 16th century, with possible antecedents to the Middle Ages.  Weber’s thesis was that peoples salvation prior to the Reformation lay in accepting the authority of the (Catholic) church.  However, the Reformation undermined these assurances and salvation came to be understood as lying in one’s works.

By the time Weber wrote his book though, the religious connection with work had largely gone and work became viewed within the capitalist mode that pervaded western societies.

This work ethic remains embedded within the capitalist approach and within our western cultures.  But it is nothing more than a belief.  We still live under the shackle of the protestant work ethic belief.

Summing Up

We live in a society in which we have, in abundance, all the skills, resources, and connections that we need in order to live lives of fulfilment, security, and contentment,  We can do this without having to work 40 hours per week.  We can do this without having to damage the earth.  We can do this without having to exploit others.

1. Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Basic Books, New York, 1992

2. Anna Coote, Jane Franklin and Andrew Simms, 21 Hours: Why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century, new economics foundation (nef) 2010.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

The Paradox of Personal Choice

One of the prevailing mantras of our time is that we all have choices, and that if we make the right choices then our lives will evolve accordingly. As with many things in life this is both right and wrong.  It is true and untrue.  The reality lies somewhere in the murky haze between correct and incorrect.

We do have choices, and we are able to make them every moment of our lives.  Our choices are based on what we know at the time, what our past experience has been and whether we are in a frame of mind to keep making the same choice as previously or whether we wish to try something different.  Some choices are conscious, others less so.  All our actions are based on choices, whether we realise it or not.

However, the mantra of personal choice is a paradox.  We have personal choice, but we do not have control over our reality.  The “I have choices, I create my reality” mantra has at least two shortcomings.  1. It needs to acknowledge our inter-connection with others, and 2.  It needs to understand that we cannot control outcomes.  Both of these shortcomings are connected.


When we think that our choices can create our reality we ignore the fact that every other being (human and otherwise) is also making choices.  When we encounter someone we may choose to encounter that person with cheerfulness and the desire to enter into an harmonious discussion.  But, he or she, may not be in such a receptive mood and their choice may be to ignore you, or worse still, punch you.  I know that this is a pretty dismal example, but the extremity of it is used to show the problem with believing that we create our reality entirely through our own individual choices.  In this case, you may walk away from the encounter still with your cheerfulness intact.  However, you may now also have a bloody nose, and that is possibly not the reality you wished to create.  But you chose.  So did the other person.  And in the moment of contact between the two of you reality was created.

As human beings we are intimately connected, none of us is completely self-enclosed, self-determining, self-sufficient.  The choices that each and every one of us are making throughout our lives can be thought of as small sources of energy.  Collectively, those sources of energy go towards creating the wondrous and emergent reality that is our world.  None of us can take sole credit for any part of it.  Nor can we blame any one person for those aspects that we don’t like or don’t want.  The reality we live and breathe arises from the continuous interplay of all our individual choices.  We could call it the Dance of Life.

Furthermore, we ignore the fact that non-sentient matter and energy is also “making choices.”  What do I mean by that?  Think of something as simple as the weather.  Every day when we arise in the morning the weather has already “decided” what it is going to do.  It may have “decided” to rain, it may have “decided” to be blustery.  Maybe the “decision” is to be a beautiful, clear, warm, sunny day.  Whatever the weather is, that has already affected the decisions we make.  Do we put on warm clothing?  Do we take an umbrella and raincoat with us? 

The Ego and Control

Our ego wants to be in control, or at least think that it is in control.  Freud likened the ego to “a man (sic) on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse,” with the horse being the id.

Of course we need our ego in order to function as human beings, but we need also to realise when the ego gets in the way of our understanding how things work and how much control we really have.  I create  my reality is often another way of saying I control my destiny.  The difficulty comes in the “I.”  In many ways there is no inseparable, self-contained “I.”  The “I” is a self-referring construction of our own mind and ignores the inter-connection between everything as discussed above.

The desire for control can arguably be viewed as the source of many of the problems that we face both individually and collectively.  We learn this misguided lesson early in life.  How many of us grew up within families where there were very definite control mechanisms playing out.  Father controlled the finances.  Mother controlled what was eaten.  Teachers controlled what was taught.  Older siblings controlled what was being played.  The clock on the wall “controlled” what time we went to bed.  These examples should not be read as having inherent rights or wrongs – only that the concept of control is instilled in us from a very early age.

We must transcend our desire for control.

Making Butterfly Choices

Does this mean that we resign ourselves to fatalism?  Does it mean that our personal choices are worthless?  Not at all.  All that this discussion is attempting to suggest is that reality is co-created, and that each and every one of us have an unique, even vital, role in that co-creation.  We are all like butterflies, flapping our wings over the Amazonian jungle.  None of us can ever know whether it is our flapping wings that set off the thunderstorm over Tokyo.1

Chaos Theory tells us that massive outcomes can be set off by the smallest of inputs.  Our individual choice may be one of those small inputs.  Equally, it may not be.  But let us not fall into the ego trap of believing that the outcomes of our individual choices are not influenced by hundreds (possibly thousands) of other people, other sentient beings, and our environment.  We must learn to live with the paradox.


1. This is a reference to the Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory.  The Butterfly Effect says that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can set off a thunderstorm in another part of the world.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Twenty Years of Nuclear Weapons Inaction

Seal of the International Court of Justice
(The Hague, Netherlands)
This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the landmark International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons.  On 8 July 1996 the court declared that
There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
The campaign that enabled that declaration to be made was a long and, at times, arduous one.  Nations of the Pacific Ocean were to the forefront.  Japan, as we know, was the first (and thankfully, only) nation to experience the devastation of nuclear weapons in 1945.  Following the end of WW II the Pacific Ocean and many of its inhabitants became either guinea pigs, or were forcibly evicted from their lands, to enable nuclear weapons testing.  The US, UK, and France all conducted atmospheric or underground nuclear testing in the Pacific.

In 1946 the residents of Bikini Atoll (in the Marshall Islands) were the first to be relocated to allow the US to undertake 23 nuclear weapons tests.  Within just a few years the people of the Marshall Islands began to show signs of nuclear diseases and even now are still awaiting compensation from the (US) Nuclear Claims Tribunal.

During the 1950s the United Kingdom detonated a series of nine high atmosphere tests at Kiritimati (Christmas Island) and other nearby islands.  A 2005 study showed that sailors from the UK, New Zealand and Fiji who had observed these tests had suffered health effects due to radioactive fallout in either themselves or their children.  A class action was begun against the UK Ministry of Defence as a result of this study.  In 2012 British veterans were denied the opportunity to sue the Ministry of Defence on the grounds that too much time had elapsed between the testing and them becoming aware of their illnesses.

France then joined the nuclear party in 1966 with testing at Mururoa Atoll despite objections from the Polynesian Territorial Assembly.  Over three decades France tested at least 175 nuclear devices, initially in the atmosphere and then, after 1974, underground.  According to doctors in the area, people living close to Mururoa experience higher than normal thyroid and cancer problems.  French scientists have collected extensive data on water, food, births, deaths and other demographics in the area for study on the effects of nuclear radiation.  The results have never been made public.

Opposition Mounts

Opposition to nuclear weapons testing was mounting.  Indigenous leaders were joined by activists in Australia, New Zealand and other nations around and in the Pacific.  Led initially by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) – begun in the UK – a number of grass-roots organisations were making it clear to the nuclear powers that the Pacific did not want their weapons testing.

By the 1970s these groups had formed a large and increasingly active opposition movement.  Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were by now organising ships and yachts to sail into Mururoa waters in protest to the testing occurring there.  Even the New Zealand government took part - sending two of its naval frigates to Mururoa.  The French government was becoming exasperated.  Protest yachts were boarded by French commandoes and their crews assaulted, arrested and held without trial.

By the 1980s nuclear powered and/or armed warships from the US were being blockaded by hundreds of yachts, kayaks and other small craft from entering New Zealand ports.  In a knee-jerk reaction to the effectiveness of opposition the French government ordered the bombing and sinking of the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland Harbour on 10 July 1985.  The New Zealand Prime Minister at the time, David Lange, called the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior “…a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism.”  Lange’s government had already banned nuclear warships from entering New Zealand waters and in 1987 enacted the Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act, one of the world's first legislated such zones.  Palau (another Pacific nation) had established the world’s first nuclear free constitution in 1979.

From Opposition to Illegality

In 1973 Australia and New Zealand took France to the International Court to test the legality of French nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific.  The French ignored the Court's ruling to desist.

The action inspired Harold Evans, a retired magistrate from New Zealand, to begin lobbying for the International Court to be approached to declare on the legality of nuclear weapons.  Evans and others initiated the World Court Project.  BY 1995 the Project was able to present over 40 declarations, the signatures of more than 11,000 lawyers and the backing of several globally prominent citizens (including Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev and Nobel laureates) to the International Court’s registrar.

Oral submissions by 22 countries were presented to the Court in November 1995.  On 8 July 1996 the 14 judges of the International Court  – all from 14 different countries - gave their decision on seven points (one of which, passed unanimously) is quoted at the beginning of this post.

Twenty Years On

The Court’s declaration to bring about nuclear disarmament has yet to be fulfilled.  At the time of the declaration (1996) there were around 27,700 nuclear warheads world-wide.  The number was dropping (it had peaked in 1986 at over 70,000) and today stands at over 15,000 – 93% of those being held by the US and Russia.  In 1996 six states had nuclear weapons capability (the US, Russia, UK, France, China, India), but three more have been added since then (Pakistan, Israel, North Korea). 

Under the NATO agreement the US has “shared” nuclear weapons with Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey.  It is thought that a similar agreement exists between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Todays nuclear weapons are significantly more powerful than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Just one of todays bombs could wipe out Hiroshima plus 50 more similar sized cities.  The world still has over 15,000 of these!  Whether it is 70,000 or 15,000 makes no difference.  The number needs to be zero.

The destructive power of these weapons of mass destruction should be enough to make them illegal.  When the waste of money that is spent developing and deploying them is added into the equation the case against nuclear weapons becomes abundantly obvious.  Global annual spending on nuclear weapons is estimated at over US$100 billion.  That's $11.4 million every hour of every day!  Surely, in a world of starvation, poor health outcomes, unsanitary conditions and a number of other human tragedies, that is unjustifiable in any language.

Twenty years on and we still have a long way to go.