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 30 November 2016

The Brexit and Trump Eddies

The Brexit and Trump votes have thrown progressive thinkers into a tizz.  What does it all mean?  How did this happen?  The social and humane progress of humanity has been shoved backward, according to many.

Yes, what does it all mean?  Sometimes when we consider nature we can find some insights.  One that comes to mind is the flow of a river.  If we sit and watch a river carefully for long enough we will notice a number of things.  We will notice that the river is not consistent – it changes from moment to moment.  We will notice that at one time it can be flowing quite smoothly, yet at other times turbulently.  It may be cold, or warm.  Sometimes there will be nothing upon the surface, and other times there will be a steady stream of tree branches or leaves.

Then there are the eddies and whirlpools.  Looking closely at these we notice that within them there are some sections that are moving contrary to the prevailing current, some sideways to it and others in a parallel movement.  Yet, it is all part of the same river.

A kayaker paddling down the river needs to be aware of these eddies and whirlpools.  The kayaker may try to avoid them but, if they get caught in one, they know that the worst thing to do is to fight against the eddy. 

The Brexit and Trump votes are the eddies and whirlpools in the political flow.  And, similar to the kayaker and the river eddies, fighting against them is unhelpful, and possibly even dangerous.  It is far better to discover the nature of the eddy.  How did this eddy occur?  Is there an energy within it that may help us get out?

Lets ask ourselves how the Brexit and Trump eddies came into being.  A quick glance at the voting demographics of each is telling.  In each case the vote to leave the EU and the vote for Trump showed one overwhelming similarity.  The sectors of society that mostly supported Brexit/Trump were those with lower educational and income levels.1  Following these two demographics the next similarity was that older white men tended to vote for Brexit and Trump.

These groups are highly representative of those parts of society that have been left behind by neo-liberal globalisation over the past three decades.  Neo-liberalism rests on two major tenets: privatisation and deregulation.  Both have been disasters for those who were already in the lower socio-economic sectors of society.  The benefits have gone more and more to those who already benefit immensely from the social and economic structures that exist.  The wealth of the richest 62 people on earth is now greater than that of half of the world’s population.  Of the total global income growth between 1988 and 2011 the top 10% garnered almost half of it (46%).2

So what is it that the eddies of Brexit and Trump are telling us?

Both Brexit and Trump played to the worries of those most affected by neo-liberalism.  Both talked of the loss of jobs.  Both referred to a lowering of economic well-being.  In doing so, both tapped into the fears of those who have been badly affected by the globalisation project.  Brexit and Trump asked some questions that these sectors of society wanted to hear.  Brexit and Trump also supplied some answers; and therein is the real issue – they are false answers.

But to claim that people were duped would be a mistake.  People are rightly asking some questions and, largely, the only ones answering them are those like Trump.  Labour and progressive governments around the world have embraced neo-liberalism almost as much as have conservative governments.  In doing so they have abandoned those who in previous eras have depended on these governments to assist them.  The backlash was always going to come.  Now that it has, it is a pointless exercise attempting to blame the voter.

One thing that we can learn from the Brexit/Trump eddies is that we have to ask some fundamental questions.  Foremost amongst those is: is the neo-liberal project of universal benefit?  We can also ask: who benefits from neo-liberalism?  These questions have to be asked in the workplaces of the world, in the communities and neighbourhoods of those suffering the downside of globalisation.
Interestingly, of those who voted to leave in the Brexit vote, 69% said that they thought globalisation was a “force for ill,”  whereas only 31% of those voting to remain did so.  It seems that there is a tacit understanding of what is happening.

Finally, it is worth noting the irony in all this.  The neo-liberal globalisation project was ushered in by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Regan in the US.  It is these two nations who have now supplied the backlash. 

Are we going to fight against the eddies, or are we going to use the current in them to arrive at some useful insights?

1. Two-thirds of white people without a college degree voted for Trump.  More than 60% of those with a university degree or higher voted to remain in the EU – the opposite to those who ended education at secondary school ore earlier.

2. Oxfam Briefing Paper, 18 January 2016.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

What to do when Technology is Inefficient?

In the 1970s an explosion took place.  The modern environmental movement was kick started with some seminal works: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring brought an awareness to the damaging effects of insecticides, herbicides and other such technologies.  E.F. Schumacher wrote Small Is Beautiful that helped us understand the costs of continuing on the same technological path and offered an alternative that had less impact.  Limits to Growth placed before us an array of scenarios for the future, one of which (the business-as-usual scenario) we continue to stubbornly follow today.  Limits to Growth has been shown more than 40 years later to have been uncannily accurate in its scene-setting.  All of these works are still highly relevant, mainly because we have learnt so little from them, and even less from the experience of forty years of history in the interim, particularly in the western-styled culture.

One further offering from the 1970s was a simple equation that has been largely forgotten in the debates on climate change, environmental degradation, soil and forest depletion and species extinction.  Simple it may be, yet it is extremely powerful in providing a fuller understanding of what is going on the world, particularly when we try to understand the impact we humans are having upon the world.  Here it is, in its simplest form:
What does it mean?  The equation expresses the human impact (I) upon the planet as a function of population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T).   Thus, our impact will increase if the population increases, or if our affluence and consumption increase.  If we can make technology (T) more efficient then that will have a lessening effect upon our impact according to this equation.

During the 1970s there was a lot of talk about the P component of this equation with zero population growth being discussed.  Today, most of the discussion centres on T – the technological component.  Increasingly efficient technological solutions are being produced and promoted everywhere.  Solar and wind power, hybrid cars, energy efficient light-bulbs and whiteware with 5-star energy ratings are all being  heralded as the technological breakthroughs that will reduce our collective impact.

In the 1970s there was little talk of the A component of the equation.  Today there is even less discussion of the A component.  Yet, it is becoming clear that the A (affluence) component is of great importance, possibly of fundamental significance.  It is becoming more and more so partly because the efficiency of technology does not translate into a lessening of impact as we would like to think it does.  That is because of the Jevon’s Effect  (also known as the Rebound Effect) – the phenomenon whereby when something is made more efficient it is consumed in greater amounts so that the possible advantage of greater efficiency is wiped out.  Much of modern technology shows this detrimental side to increasing efficiency.  Take these three examples for instance:

Undeniably the efficiency of modern cars is much greater than those built twenty or thirty years ago.  Yet this increased efficiency has had no impact upon energy consumption in total nor in per capita terms.  Indeed, energy consumption has increased dramatically, partly because the number of passenger-kilometres increased by 30% between 1990 and 2005 in affluent nations, with cars accounting for 87% of this.2  In Australia the number of passenger vehicles increased from 153 per 1,000 people in 1995 to 568 per 1,000 in 2013 – an almost four-fold increase in less than twenty years.  Statistics from the UK show a similar trend.  In the sixty years after the 1950s the number of households with at least one car jumped from just 14% to 75%.  These are all cases of the Jevons Effect.

Perhaps the biggest expansion in technological efficiency this century has come in the telecommunications field.  The spread of technologies such as iPhones, Smart Phones, tablets has been like wildfire upon the human landscape.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and other social media technologies are ubiquitous.  The efficiency of communication has grown enormously.  Meanwhile, though, something else has grown in our social milieu – the rates of depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation in many western nations have increased.  We may be able to more efficiently “communicate” on one level, but on the level where it most matters, we are hopelessly losing it.

Renewable sources of electricity are becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to come by.  This should be good news shouldn’t it?  Yes, and no.  Yes – if we kept our consumption at the same level, or reduced it.  No – if it means that we consume more and more electricity.  Unfortunately, it appears that it is the latter scenario that is playing out.  The amount of electricity used in the world tripled between 1980 and 2015.  Per capita electricity consumption is expected to increase world-wide by 2030 with much of this being in the emerging nations of India and China, although no area of the world is exempt from this increase.3  This increased consumption comes at the same time as we are gaining efficiency via renewable energy sources.  Stanley Jevons would be saying “I told you so.”

This all points to an uncomfortable truth.  We have to do something about our affluence, and we have to do it soon.  We cannot continue having more and more.  We cannot continue to put our faith in technological solutions.  We cannot continue thinking that science or technology will save us.

That means taking a good, long, hard, look at the A component in the equation: I = PAT.  That’s uncomfortable isn’t it?  Because by taking that hard look we find that it means having to reach into our psyches and discover who we are.  We have to ask ourselves: who am I? who are we? what are we doing here? what is my purpose here?  Uncomfortable – maybe.  Difficult – definitely.  Fulfilling – yes (if we are willing to be honest with ourselves and each other).

1. In 1865 Stanley Jevons wrote The Coal Question showed that when the amount of coal needed to produce a ton of iron was reduced by over two-thirds the total consumption increased ten-fold between the years 1830 and 1863 in Scotland.  The effect has been known as the Jevons Effect ever since.
2. Worldwide Trends in Energy Use and Efficiency, International Energy Agency, 2008.

3. Source: International Energy Agency.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

What is...?

Remember the child-hood game of saying the first thing that comes into mind in response to a word
provided by someone else?  Well, here is a technique that utilises that idea and takes it a bit further.  It can be used as an ice-breaker or an introduction game.  It can be used to tease out meanings and nuances of concepts and notions, or it can be used to explore some of our deeper beliefs and views.  I’ll outline the technique and then provide some examples for different settings.


Group members pair off with one of the pair designated A the other B.  Person A is the questioner, person B the responder.  Person A asks person B a question.  Person B responds with the first thing that comes to mind, in just a word or a few.  Person B is not answering with a whole story.  The response is simply the first brief thought or feeling that comes, without any restriction.  Person A then says “thank you” and proceeds to ask exactly the same question again.  Person B responds again with the first thing that comes to mind, again not elaborating or judging.  This proceeds for 2 or 3 minutes with Person A saying thank you and repeating the question.  If at any stage Person B does not respond immediately then both members of the pair should just sit in silence until a response from Person B does arise.  Person A offers no comment or appraisal at any stage in this interaction, although often some sort of empathetic response (a smile, a laugh, a nod) may naturally arise.

After the end of the 2 or 3 minutes, each member thanks the other and then the procedure is repeated, with Person B this time being the questioner and Person A the responder.

There may be a series of questions that are used in this technique, in which case allow a minute or twos reflection before moving to the next in the series.

Icebreaker or Introduction Examples

Some examples of questions for icebreaker or introductory games may be:
  • What is here?
  • What is funny?
  • What is a cat (dog, bird or some other animal)?
Concepts and Notions Examples

Some examples of questions to ask to tease out some of the concepts or notions amongst the group may include:
  • What is community?
  • What is fair?
  • What is equity?
  • What is justice?
  • What is power?
  • What is development?
Beliefs and Views Examples

When it comes to exploring some of our beliefs and views we start to go a bit deeper, so it is important that a level of trust has been built up in the group before asking these questions.
  • What is fear?
  • What is love?  (Often it can be useful to follow the question on fear with this one on love)
  • What is spirit?  What is soul? may elicit different responses.  Find out.
  • Who are you?  This last question can go deep within one’s sense of who they are, especially after the first few “surface” responses (e.g. “I am a man,” “I am a woman,” have been said.)
Following the series of questions return to the larger group and ask for reflections, insights, comments.  Did anyone discover something about themselves that they had not been aware of previously?  Did anyone gain an insight useful for the group as a whole to know about?

As you work with this technique you will discover questions that are useful in the group you are working with.  When using the technique to explore beliefs and views it can be useful to ask the participants to spend a minute or two in silence before the questions start.  This allows both members of the pair to become present to whatever may arise for them.  Following the responses from Person B to Person A’s questions it is worth spending another minute or two in silence, to allow for the responses to settle before the pair switch roles.

Remember to advise the questioner in each case to thank the other person before they repeat the question. 

Simple but very effective.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Feminism Had To Happen

Mary Wollstonecraft
Feminism had to happen.  It had to happen for women primarily.  But, it also had to happen for men, for children, for animals.  It even had to happen for the planet.  It still has to happen.  To take just one example.  The World Economic Forum recently published an estimate that it would be another 170 years before women gained pay equality with men on a global scale.  One – hundred – and – seventy – years!! 

Feminism had to happen for men.  That is because feminism didn’t point the finger at men as a gender, it pointed the finger at a system called patriarchy.  Patriarchy, coming from Greek roots, means “rule of the father.”  The term patriarchy has been broadened to recognise that the rule of the father extends beyond the family to the state, to industrial and economic society, and into our cultural arena.  During the 1960s and 70s numerous books were published seeking to unpick how this system operated, who it benefitted, and who it oppressed.

Firstly, women rightly claimed, patriarchy oppressed women and benefitted men.  However, the system also oppressed - or at least marginalised - young men, gay men, men of colour, pacifist men, children, and nature.  Those who mainly benefit from the system of patriarchy are primarily older, rich, white men.  I know that this is stating a huge thesis in fairly blunt and simplistic terms.  I don’t have room for a thorough feminist-patriarchal analysis.  But, that is the basic mechanism of patriarchy.  Consider just three examples.

Take a walk amongst war graves.  Read the epitaphs and inevitably you will notice that the ages of these men are not old,  They are teenagers, or young men in their twenties, possibly into their thirties.  Who sends these young men off to war?  Older men.  Men of power and prestige.  Men with titles such as General, Brigadier, Field Marshall, or perhaps others with titles such as Prime Minister, President, Minister of Defence.  Inevitably, they are older men with authority.  Those young men lying in war graves are the victims of patriarchy.

The slave trade was abolished within the US and Great Britain only fairly recently in human history.  Who did that trade benefit?  The cotton plantation owners in the Americas and the owners of shipping companies.  Who did it oppress?  Men of dark skins from Africa – a continent considered to be backward by men of power and prestige in Europe.  Patriarchy oppressed those slaves.

I grew up in a society that said, often very clearly, that “boys don’t cry,” “put a brave face on it and face it like a man,” “don’t show your emotions.”  I was given cars, aeroplanes, trucks to play with.  When I played with stuffed toys I was looked at askance.  Boys don’t play with dolls – and stuffed toys are only one step away from dolls.  Possible careers for young men then did not include nursing and other caring professions – they were “for girls.”  In short, I was brought up in a culture where I was not supposed to explore my entire human identity.  Many emotions were off limits to me.  I was denied my fullness by patriarchy.

Patriarchy has always been oppressive.  Feminism, rightly, pointed this out.  Feminism had to happen.

Feminism still has to happen.  Today (2016) in the country in which I presently live (Australia) the average full-time wage for a woman is only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.  In other words, a man could take the final 9 or 10 weeks of the year off on an unpaid holiday, and still earn the same as a woman who worked every one of the 52 weeks in the year.  The average superannuation payouts for women are less than 60% that of men in Australia.  Women make up less than one-in-five of the directors on the boards of the 200 largest companies in Australia. 

Perhaps the most damning statistic is that domestic and family violence is the leading preventable cause of death, disability, and illness amongst women aged 15 to 44 years.

Women, particularly feminist women, have been pointing all this out for years - it’s not new.  A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft was published well over three hundred years ago.  Women have been telling men to listen all that time.  Women didn’t suddenly decide to become vociferous in the 1960s or 70s.  Fortunately, some men have listened, but many haven’t.  Some men, notably those belonging to the ill-named Men's Rights Movement, have rejected the basic tenets of feminism and so have come up with an analysis that totally misses the mark.

Where feminism pointed the finger at patriarchy, the men’s rights movement has mistakenly pointed the finger at feminism.  (See diagram below)  This is a big mistake.  Feminism could be a useful tool of analysis for men, but only if men are willing to look.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

I Choose

It’s a world of paradox isn’t it?  A world of seeming contradiction.  If we allow ourselves to get side-tracked by the news on television we will see, night after night, a world of war, terrorism, corrupt politicians, tragic murders, disasters.  The one light in all this may come with a feel-good story of a minute or so right at the very end of the news hour, after the weather report.

If we go outside and watch the sunset, or listen to the birds, or smell the fragrance on the air, we will find the world is full of beauty, wonder, and inspiration.

The reality is, it’s neither one nor the other – it is both.  But, I can choose my attitude towards the world, towards other people, and towards myself.  I’m reminded of the story about two people walking down the road in the middle of a rainstorm.  One of them is huddled over, a grimace on their face, mumbling and grumbling.   The other is skipping along, smiling and occasionally whooping for joy.  Each of them have made a choice.  It doesn’t matter which of the choices are made – both of them get wet.  Given that I’m going to get wet, I think I’d prefer to be the skipper.

So, here are the choices that I wish to make in my life.


Empathy stems from a Greek word – pathos, that can be translated as suffering, feeling, emotion or calamity.  Literally, it means what befalls one.  Empathy adds the prefix em meaning in.  Empathy, then, is the ability to experience the suffering of others.  Empathy allows us to understand what others are feeling either because we have experienced similar feelings or have the ability to step out of our own experience and discover the feeling that the other person or persons are undergoing.  Our brains contain what are known as mirror neurons which effectively mirror what is happening emotionally for another person. Via this mechanism our brains react as if what we are seeing or hearing from another person is actually happening to ourselves, within our own bodies.

Fortunately, our mirror neurons don’t confine themselves just to feelings of suffering. When others are happy, joyful, or having fun, we can feel those emotions also via our mirror neurons. 

It is possible to develop our empathy.  Becoming more self-aware helps.  Being in touch with our own feelings and emotions, being able to identify them and then able to express them increases our empathic response to others. 


Many of us look for happiness in our lives.  We try to find it by looking inside ourselves, or immersing ourselves in material possessions or experiences.  The key to happiness, however, may actually lie in our interaction with others.  The Dalai Lama has eloquently noted that,
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The word itself gives us a clue that this is in fact so.  Compassion is passion with the small prefix com attached.  Com is Latin for with.  So, very simply, compassion is passion with others.


When we are able to empathise and act with compassion then being able to forgive almost follows as naturally as day follows night.  Many of us find it difficult to forgive because we mistakenly associate it with being a subversion of justice, forgetting, weakness, or some sort of quasi-religious righteousness.  It is none of these.  Indeed, forgiveness is often more something we do for ourselves than for the person we are forgiving.  How many of us go through life with some grudge or animosity against another person?  We are trapped.   Trapped by our own lack of forgiveness.   Yet, as soon as we forgive we find that we become free. 


Love?  What is it?  Philosophers, playwrights, religious teachers, poets, musicians, psychologists, and all of us, have sought to understand this emotion over generations.  So, I’m not going to try to define it here.  All I know is that love is something that I choose to bring into my life: unconditional love, fully-embracing love, love for others, love for animals, love for nature, love for the earth.  A love that flows through me and I through it.  That’s all I can say.


Embracing a love that is all-encompassing means that I choose connection.  I choose connection rather than disconnection, rather than separateness.  Indeed, it could be that connection allows us to choose  empathy, compassion, forgiveness and love.  The sense of separateness is an illusion and by attempting to view ourselves as separate beings means that empathy, compassion, forgiveness and love are always going to be difficult to embrace.

Everything is connected, and the more we understand this the more we notice that everything is connected.  Yes, I know that is almost a tautology, yet it is a self-confirming cycle that underpins the whole of life.  Embrace it!

These are the attitudes that I choose for myself.  None of this is suggesting that these are easy to keep in mind or continually act on.  I do choose them though.

When I make these choices there is less room for fear, hatred, anger, and isolation.  I still expect to get wet though.