Dr David Kyuman Kim on Radical Love

Posted on 19 August 2015 | No responses

What this man has to say about our most powerful bonds and what it can do to help us solve problems is inspiring. It’s well worth the time to watch this talk.

Peace and kindness,


We Need Squishy Feely

Posted on 19 August 2015 | No responses

I want to save the world. I think probably many people do, given the current popularity in superhero movies.

I grew up in the 60s. I remember the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the green movement, Kent State University massacre, and the Vietnam war…from the eyes of a child. What I want more than anything is a vibrant living world rich in living creatures, and a humanity who can live in peace and contentment with itself.

I remember when I was young thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and how I was going to do it. The world has so many issues of concern. It seemed to me they could only be resolved, not by one side of an argument forcing the other side to do as they were told, but by helping everyone to care enough that they want to cooperate to find a solution. I like saying that I am Gandhi left, not Che Guevara left. Arts seemed to me an excellent way to open people’s minds and open people’s hearts. In an age of cynicism this is seen as trivial. However, I know for a fact that the people of Seattle Washington so value their environment that politicians on both the left and the right must include in their platforms green policies.

At this moment the world is facing major concerns. We are finally seeing the wall we are about to hit, if things don’t change. We are looking at climate change, mass poverty, and increased violence. We are looking at a world denuded of life and a humanity creating its own self-destruction. As such people are angry and scared. Angry and scared people like a simple world of black and white, because then the solutions seem simple. Sadly, those “simple” solutions often involve violence. We are seeing people pointing fingers and saying, it’s all your fault: “it’s the government’s fault, it’s religion’s fault, it’s science’s fault, it’s the immigrants’s fault…” And pretty much any dictatorship that ever was has fed upon this anger, fear, and desire for vengeance.

When the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked in 2001, many people decided that the attackers were crazed religious zealots. In their minds it was the terrorists’s irrationality that made them act in this way. However, the attackers didn’t fly their planes into a single church. They aimed at political and corporate centres. If anyone thought more deeply about motivations, they might have to admit some responsibility. The US has been funding dictatorships and the West has been killing hundreds of civilians in cross-fire in the Middle-East. Peoples in the Middle-East and elsewhere have been facing considerable hardship due to the exploitive practices of Western corporations.

The public should have felt horrified that these people felt a need to commit this sort of violence, looked into the reasons for it, then done what they could to help change the circumstances that brought it about. We should have found ways to ensure the peoples were treated well, outlawed government support of dictatorships, and reduced poverty and suffering. Once upon a time the US sent people such as my grandfather to Morocco, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Vietnam to help them to grow crops for themselves. Instead people sought the relief of vengeance (for which no relief ever eventuates) and began broadly recriminating against one another: “all people who look Arab are bad, all people who have a religion are bad, all people who are poor are bad.”

We are currently crawling around in our reptile brains and engaging our reason to find ways to serve all those fight or flight hormones that are charging our bodies. We are also capable of higher emotions from the pre-frontal part of the brain. Higher affective feelings lead to constructive reasoning. All those squishy, touchy, feely emotions are critical to our survival.

Our brains are structured to bond with babies just with holding, seeing, and smelling them. We love them with all our hearts, even though they can make our lives a misery of hard work and sleeplessness. And how much does a baby give us at that stage? Nevertheless, our feelings of connection with this little being help us to nurture them until they are fully grown and can perpetuate the species. We have evolved to bond with one another for survival. Our creative acts such as dancing, singing, telling stories help us to feel good about one another and more likely to support one another. We have an evolutionary urge to bond with animals. They are also critical to our survival for protection, food, and locomotion. There are reasons why we all feel the need to have companion animals.

Cooperation is key to our survival. The answers to resolving climate change and the gap between the rich and poor are not easy, but the first step toward doing so is at least clear. We must learn how to be better friends with one another and with all the beings of this planet. We need to be mature feeling adults who consequently are empathetic, care, and are willing to take compassionate action. We need to remove the baggage of co-dependency and manipulation from the word “love” and nurture a great love of humanity and life. With that love the giving up the odd gadget or sparkly bling in order to ensure everyone has enough will not be so hard. How much do you give up for a baby after all?

Peace and kindness,


Friendship Is Magic

Posted on 13 August 2015 | No responses

In 1989 I joined an electronic bulletin board system (BBS). It was what we had for Internet before the Internet became broadly available to the public. In the years I participated in the BBS community I was impressed by the sheer volume of friendships the system brought into being, and the diversity of those friendships. We had eighty year-olds making friends with eleven year-olds. We had visually unlikely couples fall in love because they shared values and interests. We had people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds making connections without judgement. It was inspiring. I so miss the barbeques we used to have where we would meet the amazing people to whom we had opened our hearts.

These days we have social media as a place to interact, sometimes even find one another. What concerns me is how people seem to be using this media as a place to feel connected without actually going beyond friendly acquaintances to caring companions. Of the people you chat to online, how many of them would be there for you if you were in real trouble? If you needed someone to pick you up and take you to the hospital, would anyone do it? If you were without work, without money, and discovered you were without food, would anyone drop by with a lasagne?

This is an important issue. Our culture seems to be breaking down the bonds humans have enjoyed for hundreds of years, and this doesn’t bode well for our future.

Our culture teaches us to be afraid of one another. We are afraid we will be judged on how we smell, what clothes we wear, what car we drive, what we look like: because feeling afraid in this way sells product. We are fearful for our survival because we are taught competition is an important value, as such everyone is the enemy since one person’s win is another’s loss. We are endlessly instructed in how to manipulate one another in order to succeed, as such it is sometimes hard to know when someone is being genuine and when they simply want something from you.

Much of the cynicism we see today comes from manipulation fatigue. Squishy feely stuff has been used so often to get a marketing result, many people feel more uncomfortable than ever with using the word “love”. A US study found the word is “less likely to feature in popular chart music than at any time since the Beatles.

Human beings are hard-wired to need social interaction. When we aren’t receiving sufficient connection, we start having issues with depression. With a culture that portrays our current distant behavior as “normal”, it becomes difficult for many people to recognise they are suffering from a form of emotional deficiency. Their sense of despair is an alarm that they need to stop focussing on themselves in insecure terror and start caring about others, forming lasting bonds. Healthy bonds with friends, family, community, and humanity is what will ultimately turn the world’s problems around.

If you are unsure whether you are experiencing friend deficiency, then consider these aspects of friendship and whether they are a part of your life.

Shared experiences/regular time together
Online time counts, but it must include genuine face to face time.

Shared values
We all need to regularly reaffirm what is most important in our lives, such as family, the environment, good health, social justice, etc. Having someone who validates our highest values helps us all to become better people.

Sharing of narratives
We all need to share our experiences. This helps us to grow and reaffirms our humanity. We also need to listen to others’s narratives in order to better understand them and to feel empathy and compassion toward them.

Authentic self revelation
This goes deeper than just sharing a narrative. It’s where we talk about our feelings and allow our more vulnerable selves to be known. This is necessary for deep connections. But it cannot be forced.

You and your friends regularly reassure one another as to your value as people. This comes in the form of congratulations, gratitude, “you’re right”, “you’re fine”, and “you can do it” moments. We then need to use this validation to maintain the skill of validating ourselves. Anything less becomes learned helplessness and codependency. Balance is called for.

Everyone needs people they trust deeply enough that they can take honest assessment from them. We are not always able to reflect upon ourselves without positive or negative distortions. Our personal growth relies on friends providing an honest mirror upon occasion. Make sure that you care enough about a person to be honest with kindness.

Respecting boundaries
We must respect one another’s autonomy. If a friend says, “no”, then “no” it is. Trying to enforce ideas, activities, physical attention, etc on someone violates their personhood. People who attempt to take over another’s life are not seeking friendship, but to enlarge themselves.

Respecting freedom
Are you free to come and go from this relationship? Or is your presence considered mandatory? Friendship trusts goodwill is there without having to manipulate for it. Emotional slavery tends to squeeze all the goodwill out of a relationship.

Physical warmth
Medically it has been shown that physical connection is crucial to good health. This must be done with respect to boundaries, but that warmth can include simple things like eye contact, a pat on the hand, a gentle tone of voice, as well as hugs and kisses.

Acts of kindness and support
Remembering a birthday or anniversary, asking about a person’s well-being, being available for a cup of tea, bringing around a bag of chips or a plate of biscuits, being in the audience for a speech or performance: the small things can mean a lot. Sometimes you might be called upon for bigger shows of support. If you have been practising the other points of friendship with someone for some time, the greater acts of compassion are more likely to emerge naturally.

Everyone feels safer when they have built a community where friendship is nurtured and central to our functioning. The world can change for the better in a gentler and more graceful manner when we forge these sorts of bonds, rather than relying on outrage. Rage destroys things. Friendship gives us a vision and a goal for a better future. Make your online interactions a springboard for more community involvement and thereby the means to deeper relations. You will feel better about yourself.

Peace and kindness,


How to Make Change

Posted on 10 August 2015 | No responses

I am in the midst of shifting gears. I still want comedy to be a part of my life, but I want it to be more in service of making larger social changes. As such I have been speaking with academics here and in the US in order to put together a scholar (lecturer/researcher/student) owned non-profit cooperative university. The major emphasis will be learning and researching collaborative skills under practical circumstances.

I have already begun experimenting with this as Friends Institute. It’s a small start, but I’ve been busily tracking down partners in this endeavour.

A year ago I wrote a review which contained in it advice about activism. I am choosing to follow my own advice. As such I feel an independent article is needed, since the advice should be discoverable on its own. So, I am reprinting a version here.

If we are serious about a desire to create change, we need to think about the processes that make it possible. In that way our efforts can be stronger and more useful.

The first step is locating the problem. We all love to think how clever we are, because we know enough to judge others. This is not the same as having insight and recognising the bigger picture. For instance we can get caught in arguing about whose body shape should be considered “beautiful”, when really no one should be judged for the aesthetics or the attributes with which they were born: whether it’s weight, gender, ethnicity, ableism, etc. The quality of a person’s character, something they choose and develop, is much more important.

The next step is to propose and develop solutions. Comedy is good at throwing out ideas that are “so crazy, they just might work”. Because these things are said for laughs, they get past the naysayers. Even flights of fantasy get people’s brain cells working on the problem. This is also the antidote to disempowerment and cynicism. A light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.

The third step is to educate and recruit. Help others to understand the problem and recruit them to implement a solution. It’s no good sitting around in an exclusive group feeling self-righteous. Nothing gets done that way. You have to learn how to reach out and cooperate with others. Be very careful of discussions that serve to further polarise and atomise people, when now more than ever we need people working together to stop environmental and economic disaster.

The final step is to take long term action. You can hold a “we hate Tony Abbott” protest, but if you cause him to be removed as Prime Minister, he may be replaced by another Liberal Party member with equally egregious policies. And what if Labor gets into power and continues human rights abuses against minorities and boat people? Stay focussed on the issues. Know that achieving goals such as fair treatment of gays may be a long haul endeavour. Bolster one another’s efforts. Help one another to find resilience. Regularly partake of tonics such as joy and laughter. Most of all practise universal friendship.

Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of (kinship). If this is to be achieved, (humanity) must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 10, 1964

Peace and kindness,


Sometimes You Are The Answer

Posted on 6 August 2015 | No responses

Sometimes you will sense something is wrong and think—maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m being too sensitive.

But mature sensitivity is part of being a compassionate human being. If you sense something is wrong, then perhaps something is wrong.

Sometimes others don’t seem to notice something is wrong and you may think, perhaps I am the problem.

But perhaps you are the answer and others aren’t prepared to see that. Then great courage is required. But nothing says you have to do brave things alone. It’s okay to find help.

Peace and kindness,


Why Australia Should Care About American Original Peoples

Posted on 3 August 2015 | No responses

People may wonder why they should care about what Rio Tinto is doing to indigenous peoples overseas. What difference does it make to us?

The world has become a very small place. Environmental damage done in one part of the world can and does affect the environmental well being of other parts of the world. That’s how global warming works. We have to see ourselves as one humanity, facing one future, affected by our acts as a species.

The damage we do to one another makes it almost impossible for us to see we are one global family. And as a family we need to cooperate in order to ensure everyone’s survival in the future—and I do mean everyone, privileged white anglo saxon males as well.

Rio Tinto has maintained various “philanthropic” programs when it comes to Australian aboriginal peoples. However, anything they do here is more likely to be seen by Australians, who can call upon the government to curb Rio Tinto behaviour. You can only behave so badly inside your own country. Other people’s countries, on the other hand, have been disgracefully pillaged by various empires since the beginning of “civilisation”. These sorts of circumstances are what brought about the rise of Mohandas Gandhi, as he worked to free India from the British Raj.

What Rio Tinto is doing to the San Carlos Apache is in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In particular

Article 8
States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and
redress for:
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing
them of their lands, territories or resources;

Article 26
Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and
resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

Article 32
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

This UN Declaration was adopted by a majority of 143 states in favour. The deeply saddening fact is who voted against this well thought out document: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. We should be embarrassed and ashamed of our culture.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are signatories to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and it clearly states:

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his [sic] [recte their] property.

The San Carlos Apache are having their sacred ground in Oak Flat Arizona arbitrarily taken without recourse. Whenever anyone is being deprived of their human rights, we should be concerned. Whenever Australians are involved in the abuse of peoples here and abroad, we should be concerned. A national character that accepts abuse as a regular means of relating to people who are “other” is going to ultimately damage everyone’s world.

According to the Museum of Australian Democracy: “Australia’s system of government—its institutions and practices—reflect British and North American traditions combined in a way that is uniquely Australian.” It is important to note that US democracy was in fact modelled not so much on Grecian democracy but upon the governmental system of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy: a group including the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations. Benjamin Franklin in particular was much influenced by these peoples. Whether Australians know it or not, they owe American Indians a certain debt of gratitude.

Peace and kindness,


I recently spent some time in the US. Sadly, not Oak Flat. I did have a chance to meet with the deans at Evergreen State College in Washington State.


This higher education institution has an impressive Native American Studies program and I fell in love with House of Welcome Longhouse Education and Cultural Centre.


Evergreen is an institution of education that conveys the lessons of the past to the leaders of tomorrow. Through Native American and World Indigenous Peoples Studies, Evergreen transcends the limits of education to reach out to people of all backgrounds and beliefs.

—Billy Frank, Jr. (Nisqually), former member of the Evergreen Board of Trustees

Protest on the behalf of the Apaches–Rio Tinto Head Offices, Melbourne

Posted on 7 July 2015 | No responses

Why I am protesting Rio Tinto on the behalf of the Apache:

Singing in protest with a friend. Sadly, two other friends came down with winter colds, but they have stood with me on two other days.

Thank you Andrew Phillips for coming out to film during his lunch break!

Peace and kindness,


Australia: Find Your Heart and Find Your Wisdom

Posted on 7 July 2015 | No responses

This is what we look like in Australia to the rest of the world:

From the Tucson Weekly.

Help protest Rio Tinto’s grabs of indigenous lands here and in San Carlos, Arizona.

Peace and kindness,


A Bigger Picture

Posted on 3 July 2015 | No responses

It is better to simply love, than frantically search for true love.

Better to allow life to unfold, than cling to rituals for controlling outcomes.

Better to visualise peace and sufficiency for all, than imagine Versace handbags and Ferraris for yourself.

Better to take action for a better world, than sit at home waiting for the world to come to you on a platter.

Better to join others and create change with your own heart, mind, and hands, than wait for a chosen one.

Better to share responsibility and power, than make of yourself a chosen one.

Better to show compassion, than dismiss those who are suffering as somehow deserving of their hardship.

Better to create meaning out of your life, than accept an imposed meaning.

Better to live in a complex world where compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness exist, than a simple black and white world with no mercy.

Better to live in a world of kindness and wisdom, than a reductive world of statistics.

Better to see whole human beings, than conveniently definable and useable meat robots.

Better to have the humility to acknowledge truth, than lose one’s self in stubborn religious, political, or scientific righteousness.

Better to care and to act, than to hide inside what is familiar especially when it is unjust.

Better to make friends, than to find fault with everyone and therefore refuse to care or cooperate.

Peace and kindness,


Theatre: Who Pays and Why

Posted on 3 July 2015 | No responses

Traditionally arts have always had a difficult time in gathering money for the creation of new works and the support of our artists. Main sources are governments, rich philanthropists, audiences, and extra jobs.

With governments and benefactors it always feels like begging. Funding through ticket purchases feels like a purer relationship. The problem is that until you are a known quantity, you are back to begging in order to get bums on seats. Working extra jobs gives you less time to develop skills and express your art. I know far too many actors and writers who are chronically deprived of sleep and suffer from extreme stress. The starving artist is a trope people laugh about, but if you live it…it’s absolutely miserable.

For collaborative endeavours such as theatre, the permutations of money gathering are even wider. A producer can pay for production in order to reap a percentage of the profits. A director can pay in order to ensure they get to select the work, the actors, and control the vision. The playwright can pay in order to ensure their vision is abided by one hundred percent. An actor can pay so as to have a leading role, perhaps a specific sort of leading role. A group of actors can pool money so that they have the opportunity to perform.

To a degree all these permutations are valid, provided everyone has equal access to funds and has some choice in the matter. However, we do not live in that sort of world. We live in a world where the “Golden Rule” is largely in force: those who have the gold make the rules. More than that: those who have the gold get to tell the stories.

I sat in on an event where a local playwright was discussing theatrical production. His opinion was that the playwright should pay for putting up his plays and that ethically he should only go forward with a show if he has the money to pay the actors. The actors loved hearing this, and I completely understand why. We all want to make a crust doing what we love. But the position is problematic.

This local playwright had a regular job as a highly paid lawyer. Another self-funded show I saw recently, the playwright was a fellow who was a highly paid IT professional. These white men could afford creating theatre and paying everyone. Because they are both good at what they do, the money mostly comes back. However, not all playwrights have this luxury. And to develop as a playwright, you need people willing to perform in your works from the very beginning, when you aren’t so polished and may not make your money back.

Australian Arts Minister George Brandis has cut $105 million from the arts budget and has stipulated that remaining funds must go to large traditional arts groups such as the symphony or opera. Small to medium arts endeavours are likely to disappear under this arrangement. Those that remain will be the ones where rich white men, who may or may not have any talent, can afford creating something rather than buying a Ferrari.

To be fair some of these rich white men will be on the side of a humane society. However, this means women, young people, elderly, disabled, ethnic, gay, and others who are disempowered will have little opportunity to have their own voices heard, their own worldview understood. Since the 1970s 85% of all Australian films were directed by men. The proportion of men to women screenwriters and directors has not changed much for twenty-five years, with women making up less than 20% of the market in those fields. To say to your culture’s sub-classes that they shouldn’t create theatre, if they can’t afford to pay the actors, is a cool way to knock out competition and ensure only the stories of the dominant class are given public currency while appearing righteous.

I would say what is being done by the Australian government goes further than making it difficult to create art. They are in fact doing what they can to shut down dissent. Dictatorships regularly employ this tactic in order to entrench their power. People find it easy to see art as a luxury, but artists are the people who ring the alarm bells, hold a mirror up to society, create alternatives, and engender resilience, bonding, and cooperation. Healthy societies have a healthy artistic community. If you are seeing less and less new art, local art, community art, then understand you are in a country that is self-destructing. If artists are being silenced, then you are in a country that has turned into a despotic regime.

Let’s start creating change.

Peace and kindness,


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