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, 27 January 2021

Unnatural Us

What drives the development of technology?  Some suggest it is our desire to innovate.  Others claim that it is simply our curiosity.

Or is it something more?  Curiosity may be a driver behind science: the desire to discover how the world works. 

Technology, however, is not about understanding how the world works.  Technology seeks to change how the world works.  Technology seeks to “improve” our lives by making things quicker, easier, better (an ill-defined term if ever there was one), more comfortable.

How did we come to thinking that what the earth provides is insufficient?  How did we decide that the world needs to be improved?  How did we conclude that we (as human beings) needed to be “perfected”?  In short, why do we wish to be unnatural?

Why is it that we want to reconstruct ourselves?  What is wrong with us, as we are? 

What is wrong with taking our lives at a slower pace?  What is wrong with discomfort?  What is wrong with nature, or our “natural” state?

Perhaps in our human evolutionary journey some technology was useful.  Technological innovation allowed us to feed ourselves, shelter ourselves, and provide healing when we harmed ourselves.

But sometime (certainly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in western cultures) we crossed beyond the bounds of useful technology and tipped into unnecessary and unhealthy technological development.  Now, a few hundred years (a blink in the age of homo sapiens) later we are suffering the harmful consequences.

Our communication is quicker, almost instantaneous, yet our ability to understand and empathise with one another is deteriorating.  We can travel from A to B without having to expend human energy, yet our obesity rates are skyrocketing, and fitness levels dropping alarmingly.

We can watch a TV show or a movie anywhere and anytime we like, yet we no longer participate in life’s magnificent opportunities.  We can sit in a factory, a laboratory, or a boardroom for eight or more hours a day, yet we cannot find time to sit beneath a tree, or on a hillside to watch the sunrise or sunset.

Technology has taken us to the bottom of the oceans and out to the moon, yet our rates of depression, anxiety, and alienation show no signs of bottoming-out.

Technology has taught us that we can be in control of nature, and ourselves, yet we have not learnt to let go of the need to control.

How did we come to this wish to be unnatural?  I am reminded Henry David Thoreau’s words, some one hundred years ago:

 “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract us from serious things.  They are an improved means to an unimproved end.”

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Fascism By Any Other Name...

The term eco-fascism has been used as a smear against those who wish to speak of population growth within the debates about the state of the world.  The term suggests that those who propose a curb on population growth are eco-fascists.

However, the term is: unhelpful, oxymoronic, and essentially obfuscating.  Here is why.

The word fascism conjures up images of concentration camps, Nazi rallies, Hitler, Mussolini, and the holocaust.  For many, fascism is a blight on world history, and a social/political/economic ideology that should never again be entertained. 

Fascism

Fascism is characterised by (inter alia):

·       dictatorial power,

·       an authoritarian regimentation of society,

·       a one-party totalitarian state,

·       nationalistic ideals embodied in the Leader (cf. F├╝hrer)

·       belief in a superior, master race,

·       suppression (often by violent means) of any, and all, opposition,

·       State control of the media and judiciary,

·       dominance of the military and security infrastructure,

·       promotion of (toxic) masculinity, and rigid gender roles.

The word itself is derived from Latin.  Fasces is a bundle of rods.  One of the symbols of fascism is a bundle of rods enclosing an axe with the blade emerging (the fascio littorio.)  Benito Mussolini adopted this symbol and founded the movement Fascio d’Azione Rivoluzionaria (Fasces of Revolutionary Action) in 1915.  This later (1917) morphed into the (Italian) National Fascist Party.  An early admirer of Mussolini and the fascist movement was Adolf Hitler.  The rest (as they say) is history.

Fascism has a fairy distinct (recent) history and a reasonably defined set of characteristics.

Ecology

Ecology on the other hand has a lengthy history, defined by complex inter-connections, and sometimes contentious ideas.  The Greek philosophers (especially Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Herodotus) were articulating ecological (and environmental) ideas two and a half thousand years ago.

The word ecology itself was first coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel, a German zoologist and naturalist.1  As a branch of biology, ecology has come to mean the study of:

·       life processes, interactions, and adaptations,

·       flows of resources and energy through ecosystems,

·       how ecosystems emerge, develop, and thrive (or not),

·       connections, partnerships, patterns, in life and ecosystems.

Although identical with, ecology has become associated with environmentalism.  The environmental movement could be summarised (perhaps crudely) as a movement of human stewardship, recognising humanity as a participant, and partner, in ecosystems and the planetary whole.  The environmental movement rejects the notion that nature, and ecosystems, are the enemy of humans (and vice versa.)

Thomas Berry (one of the foremost ecological, environmental, and spiritual, thinkers) puts it well when he says,

“The human is neither an addendum nor an intrusion into the universe.  We are quintessentially integral with the universe.” 2

Ecology then is: non-hierarchical, bio-diverse, recognises uniqueness, co-operative (notwithstanding the existence of food chains), co-evolutionary, and emergent.

Word Meanings

The American science fiction writer, Philip K Dick, warned, in a 1978 speech, that “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words.”

An Australian reviewer, takes this warning a step further and claims that, “Everyone who hopes for better, needs to use terms precisely, especially political language.” 3

With these two cautions in mind, it is the contention of this writer that the term eco-fascist is one of those words that manipulates and is used imprecisely (often by those who seek a better world.)

It is manipulative because it ascribes the possibility of someone with fascist views to simultaneously be an environmentalist.  It manipulates in the opposite direction also.  If the two sets of characteristics described above, for Fascism and Ecology, are laid side-by-side, then it is noticeably clear that they are mutually incompatible.

Hitler’s Vegetarianism

We know that Hitler was a vegetarian and had a love of animals, especially dogs.  This is sometimes used to suggest that it is possible to be both an ecologist and a fascist – in short, an eco-fascist.  However, Hitler was not motivated to invade Poland because of his vegetarianism.  Nor did he command the extermination of Jews, and others, because of his love for the canine species.

Hitler was not an eco-fascist.  Hitler was a fascist.

Similarly, if someone in contemporary society claims that the problems of the world are caused by overpopulation, and that the solution is to cull people, then that person is not an ecologist (environmentalist), that person is enunciating a characteristic of fascism.

By describing such a person as an eco-fascist diminishes their extremism, and allows them to contend that “oh, but I was just doing it for the planet.”

No, the term eco-fascist is oxymoronic, unhelpful, and obfuscating.  There is no sanitising fascism.

A fascist by any other name is still a fascist.

Notes:

1. It should be acknowledged that Haeckel was also an eugenicist and a proponent of scientific (biologic) racism.  This, of course, muddies the water somewhat, as these two patterns of thought underpin some of the characteristics of fascism.  However, it should also be noted that ecology as it developed, shrugged off both these pseudo-scientific notions. 

2. Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our way into the future, Harmony, New York, 1999.

3. Thornton McCamish, reviewing the book Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen, in The Monthly, Issue # 170, September 2020, Victoria, Australia.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Journey of Soul Initiation (Book Review)

This book (Journey of Soul Initiation,1 by Bill Plotkin) should come with a “buyer beware” sticker.  This reviewer considers there to be at least three warnings.  Warning #1: This is not a book to be read in one sitting.  Indeed, it is not even a book to be simply read.  It must be experienced.  The reader must act.

Warning #2: This book describes a journey that very few in contemporary western society will take.  Even less will know the journey is even possible.  Hence, once you embark upon this journey you will find very few fellow travellers with whom to share the pleasures, and pitfalls, of this journey.

Warning #3: This is not a book (let alone a journey) for the faint-hearted.  Acting upon what you read in this book will involve your death.  Not your physical death, but certainly the death of who you were – or thought you were.  The life you have created for yourself will die.  What will emerge is the life you were born to live into.

A corollary of all three of these warnings is a recommendation that some prior reading of Bill Plotkin may be useful.  Especially recommended is his 2013 book Wild Mind2 - his guide to the wholesome Self.  Plotkin himself recommends ensuring a wholesome Self before setting out on the journey to Soul.

Plotkin understands Soul to be our deepest identity.  Soul is our unique eco-psychological niche – our place in the world.  This is not our job or vocation.  It is not even our role in society.  Our Soul’s purpose is to seek to serve the world (human and non-human) rather than to simply live in the world.

The journey, as Plotkin describes it, towards initiating our Soul, is not an easy, nor quick one.  Nor is it the same journey for each traveller.  Plotkin illustrates the variety of journeys possible by telling the stories of the journeys of several people.  Three of these are reasonably well known to most of us: Carl Jung, Joanna Macy, and William Butler Yeats.  Some made that journey with guides, others – such as Jung – had to undertake their journey without guides and without even a map.  At times Jung (for example) thought he was losing his mind.

Yes, this book may describe a personal transformation journey (Plotkin uses the metaphor of a caterpillar becoming a chrysalis becoming a butterfly), yet it is so much more.  In a world seemingly headed for environmental and social collapse, the need for soul-centric Adults and Elders has perhaps never been greater.

The lack of such Soul-infused Adults and Elders means there are few guides in the descent to Soul.  Consequently, most adolescents in todays world remain trapped in adolescence, even though they may move chronologically into older age groups.  Plotkin contends that we now live in a patho-adolescent world and most inhabitants of our world display patho-adolescent behaviours and attitudes.  Very few transition to true Adulthood and thence to true Elderhood.

It sounds (and reads) like a vicious circle.  A merry-go-round that we cannot get off.

Plotkin is an optimist however.  The cycle can be broken.  This book of his, if acted upon, is a cycle-breaker.

P.S. Last weeks Book Review was of a book outlining the dangers of our present western-styled lifestyle.  This weeks Book Review is of a book outlining a journey that, if we took it, would greatly assist in moving away from that destructive lifestyle.

Notes:

1. Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A field guide for visionaries, evolutionaries, and revolutionaries, New World Library, Novato, California, 2021.

2. Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind: A Field guide to the Human Psyche, New World Library, Novato, California, 2013.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Body Count (Book Review)

Body Count summons up images of mortuaries, body bags,

scrolls of war dead, and morbid “bean counters.”  It could easily be a depressing, even fatalistic, read.  Yet Body Count: how climate change is killing us1 is highly readable, even engaging.

Paddy Manning’s 2020 book is set very much in an Australian context, yet the theme, and message, has global reach.

During the southern hemisphere summer of 2019/20 Australia experienced one of its most devastating bushfire seasons.  3,500 homes were destroyed, 34 people died directly, and a further 445 died of smoke inhalation.  Over 18.6 million hectares of land and bush were burnt, and estimates of over one billion animals killed.

Manning begins his book here, amidst the blackened, charred ruins of people’s lives.  Interviews with survivors and relatives of victims give the tragedy a personal, sometimes eerily surreal, presence.

Were these fires caused by climate change?  Or was climate change an exacerbating factor?  Some of Manning’s interviewee’s say ‘yes,’ some say ‘no,’ and others ‘don’t know.’  Such is the problem of attributing single events like this to climate change.  Manning’s scientific references suggest a strong link between climate change and the likelihood of more events such as these bushfires.  Climate change, he says, may not be the cause of a particular event, but it does make the chance of these events significantly greater.

Manning follows these opening chapters with chapters tracing heatwaves, floods, and disease in Australia over the past few decades.  All of these, according to Manning and his meticulous research, have been exacerbated by climate change.

Although Manning cites research and the expert voices of relevant scientists, it is the voices of those affected that give the book its poignancy.  He tells the story of a father and son killed attempting to flee the fires.  He interviews a man devastated by the loss of his wife and two children drowned in flooding.  Manning introduces us to the term thunderstorm asthma, and allows us to glimpse the effect of having their father die from this illness for his two children.  These, and at least a dozen other stories, are brought to life (and death) in Manning’s absorbing style.

As Manning was writing this book the coronavirus pandemic swept the world.  This was no coincidence Manning tells us.  Coronavirus, and other pandemics like it, are symptomatic of the same human-induced ecological breakdown.  Furthermore, his research suggests that climate change is likely to worsen the incidence of pandemics. 

Is there any hope then?  Manning titles one of his chapters that way – Hope.  Reading the chapter however, I did not get a sense of hope.  Rather the chapter gives a sense of wasted opportunities, of prevarication of the part of governments and politicians, and the active campaign of business leaders to misinform the public about the realities of climate change.

Perhaps hope is unhelpful anyway.  Hope suggests that someone, sometime in the future, is going to invent something that will make everything okay.  Manning does not address this specifically.  However, if he does offer any hope, he offers it in his final paragraph.  Hope lies:

“In the way families and communities pull together in a crisis… and that ordinary Australians will help and inspire each other through the tough times to come.”

Indeed, this can be said of communities throughout the world.

1. Paddy Manning, Body Count: how climate change is killing us, Simon & Schuster, Cammeray, NSW, Australia, 2020.