Posted on 11 April 2016 | No responses
The crowdfunding campaign for my musical Heard of Elephants is off and running!
We need people to donate!
We need people to spread the word!
Even small efforts on our behalf are gratefully accepted: from little things big things grow. Donate $2 (or more)! Pass this article onto a friend or family member! Link to us from your favourite social media! Do what you can to help make this happen!
Here’s me pitching:
Here’s me chatting with the lovely Wem Etuknwa (fun interview, including insights into entertainment wrestling!):
Posted on 9 April 2016 | No responses
Of late I hear young people talking about not being very good at “adulting”. Some of this is because what our culture has come to believe is “adult” is a deeply distorted image that serves our society and has to do with power. And what our culture often worships as powerful is usually pathological.
So, I found myself this morning writing something of a Desiderata about growing up. I hope people find it meaningful and of use.
As you grow up and grow old:
* Don’t lose your capacity for joy—especially the joy that comes from simple things.
* Don’t lose your capacity for wonder, curiosity, and acceptance.
* Keep your ability to try and try and try new things until you have cracked their secrets.
* Let your self-consciousness lead you to being a kinder person, rather than leaving you terrified of engaging with others and the world.
* Keep your faith in the general goodness of the world without letting individual instances of meanness close you from genuine offers of love.
* Love freely and deeply, because what is gained will always be greater than what is lost upon occasion…if you let yourself learn.
Too many things are seen as belonging to childhood when in reality they are gifts we are to nurture, develop, and cherish, because they make of us better human beings and help us to enjoy life.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 5 April 2016 | No responses
I’m launching my own crowdfunding event this Thursday! It’s to help pay for my new musical theatre production Heard of Elephants, a musical about elephant conservation. After we have put this show together, we are going to be releasing it to Creative Commons, so professionals, community groups, schools, and the like can use it to help raise awareness about the plight elephants face and raise funds to see something is done to preserve this magnificent keystone species.
The launch will be happening at Lido Cinemas in Hawthorn VIC. For $15 people will be able to watch the Australian premiere of Disney’s The Jungle Book and use our computers to donate.
You can join us by buying tickets here:
More information here:
On Thursday you will be able to make donations here:
Posted on 22 March 2016 | No responses
On the 26 February the San Carlos Apache celebrated one year of standing strong at Oak Flat Arizona. They have been occupying Oak Flat in order to preserve their ancient sacred grounds from the devastation that would come with Rio Tinto mining the area.
News has just come through that Oak Flat will remain listed in the National Register of Historic Places, thereby frustrating Rio Tinto’s plans to move forward with their mine! This is a fantastic step in preserving this sacred site. Our journey isn’t over, but we are making headway.
It was deeply gratifying last week when in Flagstaff Arizona, Bernie Sanders deviated from his traditional stump speech and instead spoke of the injustices America’s original peoples have had to face. The more this issue is raised in the national and international consciousness, the more likely we are to see positive change.
In peace and kindness,
Posted on 21 March 2016 | No responses
With monthly unemployment figures due out this week, the usual attention will be paid to fluctuations up and down. In last year’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook Treasurer Joe Hockey predicted that unemployment could reach 6.5%, which is 0.25% higher than was predicted in the federal budget.
How the unemployment figure is actually calculated became a hot media topic when the Australian Bureau of Statistics was forced to substantially revise its seasonally adjusted labour force figures for July and August. The ABS cited difficulty with seasonally adjusting the unemployment figure, which meant only the raw figure was used. These difficulties were attributed to a variety of factors and are now considered to be resolved.
However these conversations gloss over how the official figure of unemployment underestimates the “real” figure of unemployment. For those of us who are interested in how unemployment contributes to the way we experience ourselves in the world, who is excluded from these figures is just as important as who is included.
So who is missing from this key data set that we have been hearing a lot about recently? To answer this we need to look at definition of “unemployment” more closely.
The International Labour Organisation states a person is unemployed if they have worked less than one hour, have been actively looking for work during the reference week, and could start a job in the week following. Recently, the ABS updated the Labour Force Survey to align “active steps” of job seeking with the ILO definition. Now a person is considered to be actively looking for work if they, at bare minimum, call an employer to ask about a job position as opposed to reading through a job notice board or applying for Centrelink payments.
Here we can see that a person who has given up on the job search, or feels so disheartened by the process that they looked at jobs on a notice board but did not make contact with any employer, are not considered to be unemployed and therefore are missing from unemployment figures.
Economists refer to this cohort of unemployed as the “discouraged”. We consider this term to be a euphemism because when we turn to psychological and sociological studies that examine the experience of unemployment we find paper after paper that discusses the detrimental psychological impact that unemployment has on a person. Such research documents this distress in terms of anxiety, stress, depression, suicide and lower self-esteem – that is, many people can be said to be excluded from the unemployed count because of the psychological impact of unemployment upon them.
The ‘active subject’
What do we do about unemployment, then, if it is so devastating to people’s well-being? “Activation” is one solution favoured by current government figures for the “problem of unemployment” in Australia and has been for some time now.
Activation is not just about active job seeking or actively improving one’s skill base (increasing skills via training etc), it is also about actively working on oneself to improve one’s “job readiness” in terms of self-esteem, resilience and motivation. From this perspective any programs to improve psychological factors like “self-esteem” are to be encouraged.
The problem of the unemployed is (not) the unemployed
The problem with these programs of reformation is that they only contribute to constructing the problem of unemployment as the problem of the unemployed individual themselves, running the risk of becoming a form of victim-blaming which pathologises the unemployed and makes political discussions around the structure of employment, unemployment and the labour market even less likely.
In discussions about unemployment and welfare programs it is rarely mentioned that mass unemployment is required by our socio-political regime, a contemporary form of neoliberal capitalism. The Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment is a term used by economists and politicians to refer to the level of unemployment, between 4% and 6%, considered necessary to prevent inflation taking off.
We need to also consider that there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. Figures in August 2014, for example, showed there were approximately 147,200 job vacancies though unemployment totalled 735,500 people. Clearly unemployment can not be “solved” by unemployed people taking non-existent jobs and it is unreasonable to blame unemployed individuals for unemployment when there is no paid work.
If our politico-economic system needs unemployment, the active labour market vitriol poured upon the unemployed is unjust as well as ineffective.
Posted on 16 March 2016 | No responses
The below is an ad and it ends quite cheesily, but it does make a point (in order to sell Mother’s Day cards). We worry too much about what is the most important job. We justify high wages by assuming something is an important job.
We try to get women and poor people into STEM, because those are seen as offering high wages for important jobs. Traditionally law, business, and medical degrees were seen as THE most important jobs.
When you are genuinely suited for and have an aptitude in other job fields, the judgements range from you are letting the team down by taking a “lesser” job, that you are lazy for taking a “lesser” job (without any understanding of how much work that job really does take), to the ultimate judgement that perhaps there is something wrong with you as a human being.
What if all the sanitation workers all around the world went on strike? What if every farmer everywhere stopped growing crops, tending fields, and managing livestock? What if every woman everywhere stopped giving birth and stopped caring for children? You might find these jobs are pretty damn important. So, why aren’t any of these people fairly paid to insure their security?
And trust me. The word “unemployed” is a fiction. People who are without paid employment work damn hard to survive. They often have to hit more than one food bank a day. They have to find time to hop from one public service group or charity to another in order to get all the medical, shelter, transportation, etc help that they need. They are then required by the government to go to numerous job interviews a week whether or not they are relevant to their skills, taking away time for efforts to achieve immediate survival and take care of the kids. This is done while the government is handing out less than living welfare in return.
You may not understand why a job is important. It may not have much meaning to you. That doesn’t mean it’s not invaluable in some way. Just because you don’t grasp a job’s significance doesn’t mean you treat the people performing that job with anything less then complete respect. Start trying to see beyond all the flattering mirrors with which you have encircled yourself and start recognising the existence and value of other human beings. This is critical to our mutual survival.
In peace and kindness,
Posted on 10 March 2016 | No responses
There was a 1970s badge that declared:
Women who want equality with men lack ambition.
This statement neatly sums up the broad intentions of second-wave feminists to create radical shifts of gender power. On International Women’s Day 2016, looking back, I suggest we failed to pursue that agenda and settled for much less. We achieved formal legal equality over the subsequent decade, but moving past that into wider social equity changes seems definitely to have stalled.
What went wrong?
We knew then that legal equality was only the starting point. We understood that real gender equity would require radical changes to macho cultural power structures. So we planned and discussed the ways we could revalue what matters and eliminate gender-biased, macho-designed cultural dominance.
Despite fixing most of the legal barriers, the cultural changes failed to follow. There were other changes happening. By the 1980s the arrival of neoliberalism as the dominant political paradigm slowed most social progress, as market models took over. These changed the political focus from progressive social change to market choices and individualised material success.
This approach also emphasised machismo and reinforced gender inequities, because market competition rewards materialist views of what matters. The more collectivist social roles that are part of our social infrastructure – and often heavily feminised – are devalued and considered private concerns.
Our early support for increasing the proportion of women in positions of power was not driven by wanting more women sharing male privilege, but a belief that feminists could infiltrate and make the social and cultural changes we wanted. Now, the increasing numbers of women allowed to join men in positions of power and influence are mostly prepared to support the status quo, not to seriously increase gender equity.
So 41 years after International Women’s Year, Australian women are still the very much the second sex, insofar as we are permitted limited share of power and resources in the public sphere, but on macho market terms.
What is the second sex? It was neatly defined in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex analysis of how gender roles were socially designed:
One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.
Still the second sex
In Australia, women are still clearly the “other”. Our once radical social movement has been diverted into good works such as women’s refuges, counting female victims of violence and calling out sexism. While all these are necessary, there is little focus on offering serious alternatives.
Too many women’s groups are plaintively asking for better access to the options open to men, on men’s terms. The current groups seem to have lost the necessary optimism to identify and lead serious changes to the nasty, inequitable and fading market model which not only excludes the social but is showing serious flaws.
The damage to social well-being that results from the reliance on unfettered markets is much wider than just the continued poor status of women. There are clear indications of social distress in many developed countries whose austerity cuts have created serious inequality.
A review of current public policy priorities at the local level shows few social goals and policies that indicate any serious efforts to make Australia fairer and create better social well-being. The long-term over-emphasis on GDP and financial growth is exacerbating inequalities, with changes focused mainly on punishing the unemployed.
The market model stresses paid work only, completely ignoring feminised unpaid, underpaid, often uncounted roles and tasks, most notably the raising of children. These are not included in GDP, but are essential to good social functioning.
This shift is clearly illustrated by proposed changes to the funding of children’s services, whose role will move from complementing community/family to servicing GDP growth. In the process, “progress for women” has been reduced to increasing their participation in paid work.
This pattern appears in parenting payments and other areas where unpaid contributions are ignored. Similar issues arise in Closing the Gap failures, which emphasise white male models and ignore the value of good social relationships that were once also more important in Western societies.
Time for a radical rethink
In the lead-up to the 2016 election, voters increasingly distrust the major parties, whose economic emphasis turns them off. Rather than leave solutions to the current holders of power, or some populist alternatives, we need feminist-led setting of social equity goals.
Can some good feminist ideas reignite the light on the hill to find ways out of current political dilemmas? Let’s commemorate International Women’s Day this year by offering some bold initiatives that show our concerns are universal, albeit from feminist standpoint. Here are some starting points:
devise and discuss good social policy goals, which prioritise gender and other equity outcomes, and make them central to the coming election;
revalue the rewarding the skills and time put into care, relationships, feelings and other social needs that require attention and commitment;
broaden the agenda and revise our assumptions about what matters to make sure that gender biases are removed from roles such as caring;
ensure that men recognise their need to be liberated from the limited assumptions about masculinity that also limit their choices and lives;
abolish the term “women’s issues”: these are social issues that affect everyone, and the label stereotypes women as the second sex who have special interests; and
acknowledge that women cannot “have it all” because men can’t either, but ensure that both can take on fairly shared responsibilities for essential paid and unpaid roles.
These are starting points for addressing deficits in mainstream politics and putting social well-being high on political agendas. We require feminist perspectives to set social goals that are sustainable, and create social resilience.
These necessary strengths are undermined by the macho tendencies in current political directions. We need to recognise the importance of social connections, cultural needs and care of others that economics doesn’t cover; to balance material and social stability.
And, as de Beauvoir said, women need to decline to be the “other”, to refuse to be a party to the deal. This would mean for women to renounce all the advantages conferred upon them by their alliance with the superior caste. That’s feminism.
Posted on 26 February 2016 | No responses
Rio Tinto’s chief office building towers over St Michael’s Cathedral on Collins Street, Melbourne.
The people who worship at St Michael’s do not live in fear that one day Rio Tinto may take their sacred land in order to enrich company stockholders. They do not worry that their lovely cathedral will be knocked down for mining. However, we would all do well to think about what that would feel like.
Such a grab when done without consultation or permission would represent the destruction of a people’s culture and history. St Michael’s is a place where people for generations have been married, had children baptised, and grieved when family and friends have died. This space is a special container for love, family, community, and humanity. For any number of people its senseless obliteration would feel like the violation of a family member.
This is what the original peoples of Australia feel when they are displaced for “the greater good” of white Australia. This is also what the original peoples of North America feel when our Australian company invades their land, destroying sacred space and the environment, in order to mine the copper discovered there.
Right now in Oak Flat Arizona, Rio Tinto is planning on obliterating sacred Apache land. As part of Resolution Copper Mining they will hollow out a vast chamber in Oak Flat park area that, when it caves in, will leave a two-mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep pit.
People are concerned about water contamination from acid mine drainage. Exposure to chronic high levels of copper will increase risk factors for lung cancer and coronary heart disease in their community. These are in addition to losing a place of great meaning to them: a place where they would sing songs, dance, and initiate their young people.
How did Rio Tinto get this land? It wasn’t through purchase, it wasn’t through consultation with those people who have used that land for hundreds of years. It was handed to them by the US federal government when it was put onto a “must pass” military spending bill as a rider. Not even the general US public had a say in this.
Does Australia really want to continue a tradition of destroying lands and peoples for the temporary profit of our wealthiest? When did we decide it was okay to continue colonialist policies of smash and grab? The mining companies are walking all over everyone’s posterity both environmental and cultural. This has to stop, and it is up to us to do it.
This weekend the Apache are holding a massive sit-in at Oak Flat celebrating one year of their protest occupation. Today I stood in protest outside the Melbourne Rio Tinto offices. Perhaps others would like to support the effort. Australia doesn’t have to be the bad guys, we don’t have to act like evil overlords.
In peace and friendship,
Posted on 22 February 2016 | No responses
I’ve given up on fixing the economy. The economy is not broken. It’s simply unjust. There’s a difference.
We have to stop looking at our economy as a broken system, but one that is working absolutely true to its original design. It’s time to be progressive — and this means initiating systemic changes.
For example, Bernie Sanders’ well-meaning calls to rein in the banking industry by restoring the Federal Reserve’s function as a “regulatory agency” reveals the Left’s inability to grasp the true causes for today’s financial woes. We are not witnessing capitalism gone wrong — an otherwise egalitarian currency system has not been corrupted by greedy bankers — but, rather, capitalism doing exactly what it was programmed to do from the beginning. To fix it, we would have to dig down to its most fundamental code, and rewrite it to serve people instead of power.
First off, the role of the Federal Reserve was never to serve as an “agency.” It’s not like the Environmental Protection Agency, which is charged with regulating corporate destruction of the natural world — however woefully it may be carrying out that purpose. Rather, the Fed is a private corporation — a banker’s bank owned by the banks — created to guarantee the value of currency. It was built to serve the dollar and maintain its value by fighting inflation. When the Fed is feeling magnanimous, it can also lend extra money into existence, in the hope that it will be invested in enterprises that employee people.
The actions of the Fed, however, are limited by the way our money, central currency, was designed to work. It was developed back before the Industrial Age, as a waning European aristocracy sought to stem the rise of the merchant middle class. Small merchants were getting rich for the first time since feudalism began, thanks to the spread of the peer-to-peer marketplace and its ingenious new currency system of grain receipts and market money.
At the beginning of the market day, a baker could put receipts for bread into circulation by purchasing his weekly supplies. Those receipts could be spent on other items until a receipt holder actually needed bread, and cashed it in. Other moneys were based on stored grain or hay. They were created not for savings or accumulation, but to promote transactions.
One by one, European monarchs outlawed these local currencies and implemented central currencies that could only be lent into existence, at interest. If a business wanted to use money, it would have to borrow it from the central bank, at interest. This new system helped the rich maintain their exclusivity over wealth. They could get richer simply by being rich.
The monetary system was designed not to help people create and exchange value, but rather to extract value from anyone hoping to transact. It was not designed to promote circulation, but to serve as a drag on circulation.
Making matters worse, central currency requires an economy to grow — and to do so faster and faster. If, for every $100,000 lent into circulation, $200,000 has to eventually be paid back, then where does the other $100,000 come from? Someone has to borrow or earn it.
Now this scheme works fine as long as the economy is growing — as the colonial powers were through their conquest of the world, and even America managed to do through corporate expansion in the decades following WWII. But our ability to grow has reached its limits. There are no more regions to conquer or developing nations to exploit. Efforts to escape into outer space notwithstanding, our planet has been stretched beyond its carrying capacity for additional extraction and growth.
We are moving toward an economic plateau; but, while a steady state economy of slow or no growth is good for people and planet, it is utterly incompatible with the money system on which our economy is still based.
Making matters worse, in the digital age, we have accelerated our stock markets with high frequency trading and our business landscape with steroidal startups and ruthless platform monopolies from Amazon to Uber. These companies are valued less for their ability to turn a profit than to get acquired or reach IPO—and pay up to the institutions who lent them their original capital.
No, charging the Fed with fixing the problems of capitalism is like asking an oil company to help get us off fossil fuels. That’s selling the wrong tool for the job.
As I’ve argued in my upcoming book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, we are running a 21st Century digital economy on a 13th Century printing press-era operating system. The opportunity of a digital age and the sensibilities it brings is to reprogram money to favor transaction over accumulation — flow over growth.
This means experimenting with new, frictionless forms of exchange—from local currencies that increase circulation 10-fold over bank-issued money to Bitcoin, which verifies transactions without the need for an expensive central authority. Already, we see successful implementations of alternative monetary systems not only in progressive coastal cities, but also former industrial cities of the steel belt. Online “favor banks” energize the exchange of goods and services in communities from austerity-paralyzed Greece to recession-devastated Lansing, Michigan. New, investor-proof co-ops — from window manufacturers in Chicago to software developers in New Zealand—consciously optimize for the flow of value through a network, rather than the extraction of value from it.
Platform cooperatives—such the driver-owned, ride-sharing platform Lazooz—utilize the blockchain to assess ownership based on the number of miles driven. Even if the company follows Uber toward driverless vehicles, at least its workers will share in the future earnings their labor has created.
What distinguishes these experiments from traditional Leftism is that they are not attempting to compensate for the inequities of our economic system after the fact. They are not redistributing the spoils of corporate capitalism, as top-down enacted policies would do. Rather, they mean to distribute the means of production and the tools for exchange more widely. From Benefit Corporations to local crowdfunding, the best efforts at forging more equitable financial instruments are characterized by a willingness to reprogram business, currency, and exchange from the inside out.
That’s why, as we embark on another election year, we must stop looking toward candidates to tweak one knob or the other on our existing economy or monetary system. Replacing the members of the Fed won’t change the basic nature of the Fed any more than an incrementally more progressive tax code will change the extractive nature of central currency.
What those who hope to rein in the banking industry must do instead is break its monopoly over value creation and exchange by fostering competitive currencies, alternative corporate structures, worker-ownership, and restored respect for land and labor instead of just capital. If we can’t join ’em, then let’s beat ’em at their own game. We can make our own economy and money, too.
After all, it is a free market.
Rushkoff’s upcoming book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, is available from March 1.
Article via Shareable.
Posted on 21 February 2016 | No responses
• It is better to create allies than to make enemies.
• It is better to educate than to argue.
• If someone is genuinely intractable, do not waste energy on them. State your position clearly and concisely once, and then walk away.
• If someone is causing genuine harm, do your best to get out of their way and/or stop them.
These are mature skills worth developing. There will be times when I can be tired, stressed, or something is simply a hot button and these points are forgotten. Eventually I recognise that it is time to stop. I apologise if need be. I do my best to learn from the experience and move on. For the last one, it’s okay to be scared and seek help or at least support.