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 28 March 2018

Risk Perception

Sometimes our psychology gets in the way of what is in our best interests.  We are prone to giving our attention to what is immediate in time and space.  Events or situations that are in the long-term future or on the other side of the world can be put out of mind and ignored.  Yet, these events and situations may be of greater importance (positive or negative) to us.  We may be ignoring them at our peril.

What do I mean?

In the ground-breaking study – Limits to Growth1 – published in 1972, the authors understood this to be a crucial factor in how we approach environmental and social issues.  So much so, that they addressed it early in the book, with a figure similar to that below being the first in the book.

In the figure they plotted the level of concern people had for an event or situation dependent upon how close in time and space it was to them.  As can be seen, there is a concentrated cluster in the bottom left with levels of concern becoming less further away.

Another factor in terms of our level of concern is that we are less concerned about something if it takes a long time to play out, and highly concerned if the duration is short lived.  A graph such as that below illustrates this. 


When Limits to Growth was published the terms and concepts of climate change and terrorism were almost unheard of.  Global warming was just beginning to be talked about.  Terror attacks in Europe were still low, although they spiked in the late 1970s through groups like the Irish based IRA, the Basque ETA and the Italian Red Brigade.

Climate change and terrorism are very good examples of the psychology mentioned here.  Climate change seems to many to be a series of events to come (in the future) and for many the consequences are seen in other parts of the world (from our TV screens.)  Climate change is also something that evolves over a number of years.  Terrorism, however, is an immediate event.  One minute all is normal and serene.  The next moment, a bomb explodes, or a truck slams into a crowd, and all is chaos, carnage, screams and pain.

Today, terrorism is viewed as a massive threat and nations around the world are acting (and spending huge amounts of money) to reduce the risks.

Yet, we may ask: what is the risk?

The number of terrorist attacks in Europe peaked in the late 1970s with over 1,000 attacks in 1979 and for the next two decades averaged around 10 attacks per week!  Since then, the number of attacks has actually decreased.  So too, have the number of deaths.  Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s the number of deaths in Europe because of terrorist attacks averaged around 300 per year.  Over the last two decades the number of deaths has plummeted to an average of less than 100.

We know what happened in 2001 though.  The US was the victim of a terror attack and suddenly terrorism is seen as a major threat on the world stage.  No wonder really.  The US is the home of six of the largest news media outlets in the world.  And, as the saying goes: if the US sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold.

The risk is low, yet the perception of risk is high.

Climate change, on the other hand, is often perceived as being something that takes place over a long time frame and will happen in the future.  The catastrophe here is that this perception increases the risk, rather than reducing it.  In the late 1980s NASA scientist, James Hansen, warned that the earth could be approaching  a tipping point in its climate, and spoke of a need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm).  Three weeks ago (5 March 2018) Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced that the amount of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere reached 408.35 ppm in February.

The risk is high, yet the perception of risk is low.

The message from these two examples is that we need to become aware of how our perception of risk and actual risk can be skewed.  That skewering is the real risk. 


1. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens III, The Limits to Growth, Universe Books, New York, 1972. 

Thursday 22 March 2018

Feminism: What Have Men To Fear? (Part 2)

In last weeks blog I asked whether men had anything to fear from feminism.  In that blog I proposed and briefly addressed two proposals:
  1. Feminism is misunderstood, and
  2. Feminism is not the problem.  Patriarchy is.
In this blog I intend briefly addressing the other two proposals:
     3. Feminism has not achieved its aims, and
     4. Men are also oppressed by patriarchy and stand to benefit by understanding and supporting feminism.

Feminism Has Not Achieved Its Aims

If feminism sought liberation from the patriarchal system, then it has not yet achieved that goal.  In many ways, the patriarchal system has become even more entrenched, with some women participating in it enthusiastically.  The (masculine) values of patriarchy are alive and well:
  • Aggression is still, all too often, seen as the way to achieve what we want.
  • Right and wrong, black and white, good and bad; polarities are still the way the world is portrayed.
  • Adversarial techniques are still the method of choice in our legal system, politics, the media, and our educational system.
  • Self-worth is measured (possibly increasingly so) by economic success, popularity, identification with idols (sports stars and pop idols for instance), strength, power, and influence.
Meanwhile, as patriarchy continues to thrive, the non-human parts of the planet are abused, misused, and exploited.  Other living beings that share the Earth with us are being made homeless, or worse still – extinguished.

The women's’ (and men's’) liberation movement have much to do.

Men Are Oppressed By Patriarchy

When I stated that women sought liberation from the patriarchal system, it is my contention that men could also benefit.  Why do I say that?  Consider these:
  • Under patriarchy, men’s feelings and emotions are stifled.  Most men grew up hearing phrases such as “big boys don’t cry.”  A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend whose father had been in the Australian navy during the war.  His father died young.  A friend of his father’s told him one day that he and the father came back from the war traumatised, yet were told to “go have a beer and get over it.”  Sadly, such sentiments remain today.
  • Stifling of emotion can lead many men to unhealthy coping mechanisms: alcoholism, chronic gambling, and depression to name but three.
  • Afraid to show (or even acknowledge) anything that suggests “weakness” can result in over-compensating by resorting to violence.  This is displayed in everything from schoolyard bullying, to a pub punch-up, through to domestic violence and all the way to the war in Syria.
  • Stifling of emotion is implicated in the high rate of suicide amongst men.  In may parts of the world, men kill themselves at a rate three times that of women.  In Australia, suicide and self-inflicted injury is the third highest cause of death amongst men, behind coronary heart disease and lung cancer,  It ranks higher than such causes as stroke and prostate cancer.
  • Patriarchy coerces men to disconnect from their children, families and community.  The song Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin, poignantly notes the sadness of a man trying to connect with his son late in life, only to find that “my boy had grown up just like me,” and did not have the time, nor the energy, to connect with his father.
  • Patriarchy especially discriminates against gay men, black men, young men and boys, and “weak” men.
  • Patriarchy is implicated in the phenomenon known as “toxic masculinity.”  Toxic masculinity aspires towards toughness, but is based in fear: fear of seeming or looking – soft, weak, tender, less “manly.”  It is characterised by domineering behaviour, the devaluation of women (including misogyny), and extreme self-reliance.
No, patriarchy is not good for men.  I must add a rider here.  This recognition that patriarchy oppresses men should not be read as a devaluation of the role patriarchy has in oppressing women.  The intent is to show that men have nothing to fear from feminism.


  • NO!  Women are not the problem.
  • NO! Feminism/Women's’ Liberation is not the problem.
  • YES! Men and women can be partners and allies.
  • YES! Women and men stand to benefit by a liberation from what oppresses each gender – patriarchy.

Friday 16 March 2018

Feminism: What Have Men To Fear?

Often I hear statements such as these from men:
  • Men don’t know who or what they are anymore because of feminism.
  • Men are oppressed by feminism.
  • Feminism says that men and women are equal, but we’re not!
These, and similar statements, suggest that feminism has been damaging to men, to families, and to relationships between men and women.

Is this so?  What follows is one man’s perspective.  I do not claim this to be truth – simply my understanding.  It is also, by necessity, simplified.

Let me begin by summarising this perspective in four proposals, which I will elaborate upon over the next two blogpieces:
  1. Feminism is misunderstood by men (and some women).
  2. Feminism is not the problem that many men make it out to be.  The problem is patriarchy.
  3. Feminism has not achieved what it set out to do.  It has been (in many instances) diverted from that goal.
  4. Men are also oppressed by patriarchy, and have something to benefit from understanding and supporting feminism.
In this blog I will elaborate upon the first two of these proposals.

Feminism Is Misunderstood

Let’s go back to the 1960s.  In that decade women began to meet together in “consciousness raising” groups.  Out of these groups a movement was born (perhaps better thought of as re-born when we think of the women’s rights movements of the 18th1 and 19th centuries.)  This movement became known as “Women's Liberation.”  Very soon, the (male) media subjected this movement to what the powerful often do – minimise and belittle, and dubbed it “Women's Lib.”  Perhaps because of this, the term “feminism” became the more popular name.  Today, the name has morphed into “gender equality.”

In that naming and renaming journey, “liberation” got dropped and was replaced by “equality.”  Indeed, one of the early feminist writers from the 1960/70s, Germaine Greer, caustically noted that “feminism aimed at liberation, but settled for equality.”  She later expanded on this by saying, “… seekers after equality clamoured to be admitted to smoke-filled male haunts.”

So – how is liberation different from equality?  Equality suggests assimilation.  Women are assimilated into male domains, in much the same way as indigenous people are assimilated into western culture.  Assimilation and equality imply getting rid of difference.  Liberation, however, asserts and celebrates difference.

Furthermore, if feminism means women becoming equal with men, then that implies that men and masculinity are the gold standard to be measured against.  Hardly liberation, and hence, not feminism in its original sense.

Feminism Is Not The Problem

… and nor (I might add) are men, per se.  The problem, according to the early feminist writers, is a system called “patriarchy.”  Patriarchy is a self-referring, self-justifying, and self-supporting system of beliefs, values and power.  Patriarchy asserts that “male” values, qualities and behaviours are paramount.  It rewards those who display and aspire to these.  Furthermore, patriarchy, like most systems, is largely invisible to those within it, because it is portrayed as being; normal, traditional, the-way-it-is, or simply “just because.”

Within the system of patriarchy the lessons we learn accumulate in our lives and we come to internalise them.  The longer this goes on, the harder it is to see that these lessons are not necessarily normal or “the truth.”  Then, not being able to see the system for what it is, it is difficult to gain distance from it.

The early feminists were right to point the finger at this oppressive system and to catalogue the range of institutions and establishments that make it up (e.g. marriage, bureaucracy, business, politics, the media, education, science, religion …)  They were also correct to note that women participating in these establishments supported these establishments, and did nothing to enhance the liberation of women (or men for that matter – but I’ll get to that.)

Two examples from politics serve to illustrate this:
  • Margaret Thatcher became “successful” and powerful because she aspired to be as domineering as men.  Indeed, she became moreso to “prove” her masculine values and abilities.
  • Julia Gillard, on the other hand, attempted to bring her “feminine” values and behaviour into the realm of politics.  She was side-lined and ridiculed within the political arena and by the media circus, and eventually tossed out of politics.2
I mentioned earlier that feminism stressed difference and diversity, rather than equality.  Patriarchy, on the other hand, promotes and exploits difference towards its own ends.  Not only in stressing the difference between men and women in order to suppress female values and qualities, but also in other arenas.  It used difference to justify slavery and to send children down mines.  Patriarchy also used difference to “transport” Britain’s “unwanted” to the penal colonies of Australia.

The next blog will expand upon the other two proposals – i.e. feminism has not achieved its goal, and men are also oppressed under patriarchy.

1. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792.

2. Margaret Thatcher (aka the Iron Lady) was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990.  Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

What If These Words Didn't Exist?

“What an idiot.”
“You ignorant fool!”
“She’s a lazy good-for-nothing.”
“He’s an arrogant, stuck-up know-it-all.”

How many times have we heard, or said ourselves, phrases such as these?  Furthermore, there are many many many such phrases that we hear or say each and every day.  Most are much worse; more defamatory, more insulting, more degrading, or more foul-mouthed.

I wonder what our speech would be like if none of these words existed?  What if we didn’t have in our language words that insult, degrade, or abuse others?  What if we had no judgemental words?

What would we say?  How would we talk to one another?

If we had no words of judgement, what would our speech be comprised of?  Perhaps we would have to be more specific, and maybe more descriptive of what we observed.  Instead of jumping to judgemental conclusions, we might have to describe what we saw or heard. 

If we could not immediately respond with judgement, perhaps we could take a moment or two, reach inside, and discover what it is we feel about the situation.  We may become more in tune with our feelings and not confuse them with thoughts.  Then, we might find that instead of judging someone else, we might respond with how we are feeling which in turn may help us to discover the needs that previously we had not expressed.

Maybe then, just maybe, our speech and our conversations might stand a chance of being of mutual benefit.  Our conversations might become inspiring, encouraging, and even gratifying.

One of the outcomes of using judgemental speech is that we fall into the trap of separation.  We set up a distance between ourselves and others, which may end up as a barrier.
This is not something just to think about in terms of the conversations we have with our friends and family, or our neighbour and those we work with.  We could ask ourselves how we pass judgement upon those who we deem to be on an opposing side.  Unfortunately, politics and social causes tend to cast us into opposing camps.  And from those camps it is very easy to label those in another camp as ignorant, arrogant, or having other disparaging traits.

When that happens we are trapped.  We have created a trap and fallen into it.  In that trap, the accusations and the judgements just keep going round and round, escalating in intensity and animosity.  There seems to be no way out.

The only way out is to - stop!  Stop using judgemental words. 

Start observing what is going on.  Start identifying and expressing our feelings.  Start noting our needs.  Start hearing the feelings and needs of others.  Start empathising.  Start truly conversing.

Yes, I wonder what our conversations would be like if we didn’t have judgemental words in our language?

Thursday 1 March 2018

Prisons: Retribution or Rehabilitation? Part 3, Restorative Justice

Last week I briefly outlined the process of Restorative Justice as an alternative to retributive justice and the use of prisons.  That blogpost outlined 3 lessons that I had learnt from working in the restorative justice arena.  This week I am posting the other 4 lessons.

1.      We All Make Mistakes.

Let’s face it - we all make mistakes.  We make many mistakes in our relationships with one another, especially in our younger years.  One of the most common sentences I heard directed towards offenders in the restorative justice conferences was “we all make mistakes.”  The speaker would then often go on to describe an incident in their youth, or talk about how mistakes can be used as something to learn from.  Many times the conference itself was a vehicle for that learning to take place.  Because restorative justice is a community-based program offenders are often put in contact with agencies, counsellors, psychologists, or other specialists, that can help them learn from their mistake.

Surely, it is far preferable that someone learns from their mistake, and finds ways to ensure that they do not make it again, than it is to dismiss the incident as “youthful exuberance” or, at the other extreme, lock them in jail with other offenders.

The offender learns that their offence isn’t simply one of them and the person they directly offend against.  The direct victim always has family, maybe a husband or wife, or children that are affected in some way.  The victim has work colleagues, or friends that they play sport with or socialise with.  All these people are affected by the single incident involving the victim and offender.  The ripple effects of crime can be extensive.  Many times I saw the realisation of this dawn in the awareness of offenders.  The restorative justice format is an excellent crucible within which these ripple effects can be displayed, heard, and appreciated.  The “normal” court systems, and retributive justice, are unable to do this.

2.      We Are All Human.

In last weeks blogpost I observed that all participants come into the restorative justice process with an array of feelings and emotions, many of them what we could call unhelpful emotions: pain, anxiety, hurt, fear, uncertainty, or anger.  What I noticed was that these emotions were the most often displayed ones, irrespective of the participant’s role.  Victims and offenders were just as likely to feel fearful or anxious.  Supporters also displayed fear and hurt, whether they were supporters of the victim or the offender.

My observations of these universal feelings suggest to me two truths:  First is that we are all human, we all react to trauma, disharmony, and upset in similar ways.  We are not immune to a set of emotions just because we are the initiator of the disharmony.  The second truth is that emotions such as fear, anxiety, and uncertainty suggest that we wish to re-establish order or harmony in our lives.  Human beings desire to live harmonious lives, in concord with one another. 

3.      There Is Always A Bigger Picture.

When people come together to share their story, and to relate how they have been affected by someone’s actions, a bigger picture than the “simple” offence emerges.  Victims share their hurt, their pain, and how the offence impacted their lives in an ongoing way.  Victims get to look the offender in the eyes and tell them how they felt the next day at work, or what it was like to go home and tell their children why they have a black eye.

It does not stop there though.  Often the back-story of the offender emerges also, whether told by the offender themselves or perhaps a supporter.  Often I found that the offender was, at the time, experiencing a low point in their lives.  Sometimes too, the mental state of the offender is discovered to include anxiety, depression, and perhaps even suicidal tendencies.  Maybe the offender was working through some relationship or employment difficulties, with little or no support.  None of this is to excuse the offence, but it does allow other participants to understand, even empathise, with the situation being faced by the offender.

Recognition of the bigger picture is crucial for enabling all the participants in the restorative justice process to recommend, and agree upon, courses of action, or outcomes, that have a realistic chance of making a difference in the offender’s life.  One of the major objectives of most restorative justice programs is to reduce the possibility of re-offending.  A bigger picture makes it more likely that the best possible plan will be forthcoming.  A fine and/or jail sentence is unlikely to do this.

4.      People Are Generous.

People want to help.  I made this simple observation time and time again.  People want to help others fully understand the situation or background.  Often, victims want to help the offender make better choices in life.  Some are able to offer very specific advice, others know of agencies or professionals who can help.  Community representatives in restorative justice conferences can be extremely generous in offering their time, energy and skills for follow-up one-on-one work with offenders.

So much of our cultural and social conditioning tells us that we get ahead by competing with one another, and that the success or failure of others is not our concern.  There is now much research showing that this conditioning provides us with false ideas.  More often than not our happiness and feelings of self-worth are found in our helpful interactions with others.  I witnessed the truth of this often in restorative justice conferences.  I could see it in the faces of all participants when they moved towards grappling with how to make things better in the future.  The frowns, grimaces, and tight jaws, would be replaced by smiles, greater eye contact, and ofttimes even laughter.


Although I witnessed these seven lessons (see last weeks blog also) in almost all of the more than 50 cases I was involved with, it was often not until participants experienced the process themselves that they were able to recognise these outcomes and come to appreciate them.

I could not sit down with a victim prior to a conference and tell them that, as a result of the conference they would come away healed, or perhaps even offering forgiveness.  Creative writing has a phrase, “show, don’t tell.”  It is a phrase pertinent to restorative justice also.  Often I would sit with a victim one-on-one and they would tell me what they wanted for the victim.  Sometimes that was a punitive outcome: “this guy needs to go to jail,” or “I want this person to have a record against their name for the rest of their life.”  I just accepted these statements, without attempting to judge or suggest alternatives.  In all cases where such sentiments were announced to me before the conference, the outcome was entirely different.

I recall one case in which the offender had stolen something from a shopping centre.  Prior to the conference I met with the shopping centre manager who told me that he “wanted this guy locked up and that’s what I will be saying in the conference.”  In the conference itself, he did not make that statement.  By the end of the conference he was saying, as he looked at the offender, “Look mate, I don’t want you to go to jail.  I think you have made some excellent changes in your life since and I support you, and want to encourage you to keep going.”

In at least three instances the victims offered to go along to the offender’s court hearing following the conference to offer support and, if able to do so, tell the Judge that they supported the victim in what they were doing to make changes in their lives.

Such changes can only come about through experiencing the restorative justice process.  Although I have been involved in over 50 restorative justice conferences, I am unable to tell offenders that they will emerge from the process healed and perhaps forgiving.  I can say, however, that by observing this happening, the restorative justice process is of enormous benefit to offenders and victims alike.  It offers healing, and the chance to make better lives of everyone involved.