Stop Exploiting Yourselves

Posted on 4 March 2015 | No responses

In all of the arts we can be so desperate to “make it” that we not only allow ourselves to be exploited, we exploit ourselves.

Add to this all the people who come to us because they see our field as one of the few remaining places where a rag to riches narrative can come true, and the results are a lot of art that neither moves nor uplifts us in any fashion. People of real talent and dedication are smashed against the rocks of desperate wannabes, who will do all they can to block you in order to ensure their own success.

The wannabes have good reason for wanting. All people should be able to contribute to their community and their culture without fear of want. Ambitions spread out more sensibly when people aren’t terrified of starvation.

The art of digital games…is still infused with the dreams of capital; that you must Sacrifice All; family life…, friends not also in the business, sleep, healthy eating habits, other hobbies, interest in things outside of games; in order to Make It Big. Indie Game The Movie, basically: out of immense financial personal and psychological sacrifice, comes fame, fortune, loved ones, being loved…

Stop exploiting yourselves.

It’s not just destroying you, it’s destroying your capacity to make good work, without the space to be a human, you will burn out, you will make mistakes and never have the time to forgive yourself, you will exhaust ideas, you will never replenish the nutrients you need to make fucking great things.

It’s making people leave making work at all, and it’s stopping a million voices who don’t have the money, time, or narrative framework to access making games. It’s making games worse.

~Hannah Nicklin “(Self) Employment Practices in Games”

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Act Without Fear

Posted on 27 February 2015 | No responses

Last year I arranged a Saturday afternoon where a group of my friends who have a photography club and another group of my friends who do comedy came together for a portrait photography day. The photographer friends wanted some practise taking images of human beings, since up until that point most of their work had been with nature and cityscapes. Getting models who were comic performers seemed like extra fun and more interesting than the usual carefully posed pretty people. The comedy friends could always use more promotional photographs and usually live within a tight budget. It was a win-win day.

Typically photographers hire models. Typically comedians pay for stills. If one group felt more desperate than the other, if one group felt fearful that they wouldn’t get what they needed, then it’s possible that group would have been required to pay money, because honestly it could have gone either way. So, the question that comes to my mind is, why do we pay people? How do we decide when numbers need to be passed around to ensure a fair exchange and how much?

Currently, we don’t have enough paid positions for the number of people in this country and on this planet. The number is going to go up with increasing roboticisation and expert systems taking over human employment. However, I would say there is plenty of work, just not enough flow of resources. We need people doing conservation work, caring for the elderly, developing new technologies, creating art, giving birth to healthy babies, etc. These people can be vulnerable enough that it is easy to ignore and abuse them, while they may still be providing essential services. The person who is fearful has to pay.

I remember once thinking that the problem was one whereby people clever at manipulating numbers were locking up currency in the hands of the few. With a community currency that could not be collected in a meaningful manner this problem would go away. I put together the Eastern Group Local Economic Trading System (EagLETS). After running this for a couple years I found some of the same problems that faced the wider community, we were again facing within our community currency group.

We had people join who were fearful that because of a lack of money they would not be able to do the things they loved. They felt so bogged down with the details of survival that they weren’t finding the time to paint, fish, hold barbecues, whatever. So, those willing to offer dishwashing, babysitting, and lawnmowing were in high demand. They could ask for greater pay in our currency because their time was at a premium. Whereas those who could offer handknitted blankets had to work doubly hard to have access to these services. Technically, they could go into debt and just ask for the services. Nevertheless, since we were keeping track of the trades and the numbers were public, it looked to all the world like the knitters weren’t pulling their weight. This generated resentment: the knitters for being valued so little, the rest of the LETS group because the knitters appeared to be a drag on the system.

I now know of LETS groups who make people apply to get in. If you don’t have a skill which the group needs, they will not accept you. So people with no skills, redundant skills, or are too young, old, or handicapped to contribute are left out. We have just re-invented the system as it is.

Keeping people fearful and needy is a good (bad) way to keep them manipulable. You can give fearful people less and less, and they are often willing to accept it. “Dream jobs” are notorious for this. I used to lecture in storytelling for computer game design. I had students who were desperate for jobs in the gaming industry. The poor wages and long hours they were willing to put up with was scandalous. No matter how awesome the job, a company should be obliged to pay people fairly and work people reasonable hours.

My thoughts are that we must stop thinking in terms of exchange. We need to stop thinking about whether someone has earned or deserves a living. We must start with the premise that everyone has a right to their existence. We will do all we can to ensure everyone has what they need. We need to learn how to share resources, then create broad inter-connected systems that make this possible. We also need to learn how to conserve resources, so that they continue to be available for future generations. This would be part of learning how to cooperate.

Cooperation will help us to get beyond just tending to our needs. We would then be able to allocate resources for education, arts, new technologies, and more. Work must become democratised. We are governed as much by our places of employment as we are by a country’s political systems.

When it comes to fairness it’s not exchange that makes what happens among people in a community fair, it’s participation. So long as everyone is participating and everyone is doing their best to ensure the community is surviving and then thriving, it is enough. The expectation of participation should then extend to inclusion…helping all members to contribute without obligation. And that is key: once we fall into obligation and punishment to make this new system work, we are back to more of the old system. We have to eliminate fear from our dealings.

The best way to change our current state of affairs is to learn to care about one another and the planet, then act without fear. Think to yourself, if I didn’t feel frightened or desperate then what would I do? Take that action. It’s the right one.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Not Crossing the Line

Posted on 25 February 2015 | No responses

The more thoughtful comedians will regularly ask themselves with certain jokes, have I gone too far? Have I gone beyond the realms of both good taste and ethics? Am I now part of the problem and not the solution?

Over the last few years we have seen storms flash over rape jokes, racist politcal cartoons, gamer and intellegentsia misogyny. It would be far too easy for people to say that comedy encourages bad behaviour. But comedy is just a tool. You can use a hammer to build a house or to bash someone in the head. Upon each occasion of bad behaviour, regardless of the tool, we need to ask ourselves: how was the tool used and why?

If the tool was used to manipulate, dominate, punish, or control, then we have a big problem.

Emotions are an important part of how we navigate our environment, form relationships, and survive. Anger is part of the emotional tool set. Anger is not a problem, what a person does with it is. Anger is part of our fight or flight response and helps us to act forcefully in the moment to ensure our survival. A person can get angry that a company is endangering our environment by dumping chemical waste, then choose petitions and peaceful protest to see that it stops. A person can also get angry on this occasion, then choose to firebomb a factory, killing workers and stopping the production of those chemicals.

These are very different choices. I would say the second one is wrong. The first method enlists people’s cooperation and provides an ongoing process where further changes can be made. The second method denies the humanity of others and relies on domination and punishment to get its way. Sadly, people of all political persuasions feel it is necessary to use these methods now and again.

Other tools that get used include sex, money, and positions of power. No one should have to feel ashamed of their sexuality, but when sex is used to manipulate, dominate, and worst of all punish…all of a sudden it is very dangerous. The same is true of money and power. People will resort to abusing these tools when they don’t feel safe for some reason: they need emotional validation, they are frightened that their survival is at risk, they feel someone wishes to harm them. This can cause an over-inflated need to control.

If we do not understand why a person has harmfully used a certain tool, if they do not understand why they have wrongly used a tool, we take away the tool and they will just find another one and continue their destructive behaviour. If we punish them without understanding, we are likely to cause a person to feel more insecure and not cure a thing. It has to stop somewhere. It stops with insight and compassion.

As comedians, simply mocking people isn’t going to change the world. We have to look deeper and take aim at the core of each issue. This starts with having better awareness of our own motives and that of our culture, then seeing how that fits into the world picture. Keep questioning yourself, it will make you a more interesting and relevant comedian—someone people will remember and respect.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Sandbox Land Launches!

Posted on 17 February 2015 | No responses

I’m launching a new variety show! Club Voltaire gave me the space once a month to gather together talented people of all sorts to shine like the stars they are. It’s meant to be something like The Muppet Show meets Prairie Home Companion.

To kick off we are doing a show about what life was like in 1915 with the proceeds going to the ANZAC Peace Coalition. We will have storyteller Roz Quinn and comedian Anthony Jeannot performing and more!

When: 7pm Saturday 28 February
Where: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, North Melbourne

Sandbox Land website
Tickets: trybooking.com.au/118054

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Difficult Times

Posted on 17 February 2015 | No responses

Dear Readers,

I have hit a difficult time. Currently, neither my partner nor I have a regular income. We had sufficient savings to keep us going for six months, and now we are running out and about to miss a mortgage payment.

I have a new job putting together workshops for a makers cooperative. However, I will see no money until the workshops are happening and attracting funds. And let’s be honest, I’m in the arts. I’m unlikely to ever make a living wage.

I am currently getting around 160,000 unique hits a month for “Bildung-o-rama in 3D”. I gave up on advertising on either my website or my blog, because advertising usually makes very little money and clutters the site.

I would deeply appreciate it if my dedicated readers pressed the donate button on the right hand side of the page under the “search” field. Even a little bit would help with the groceries. If people would be interested in purchasing a compilation of my articles into a book on comedy, let me know. That might be another good place for grocery money.

Thank you so much for your support and interest over the years.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

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Power and Group Dynamics

Posted on 3 February 2015 | 1 response

Our culture is keen on building up competitiveness, status-seeking, and individualism. These qualities are useful for easily encouraging people to consume. What we need now more than ever is for people to learn how to cooperate and to share. These skills will help us to live in a more balanced, peaceful, and sustainable manner.

Successfully forming and maintaining a group is also a skill. Simply turning up, banging around, then disappearing when things don’t instantly go your way is a recipe for disaster. You have to give yourself time to learn. Then you have to learn things such as flexibility, listening skills, creative problem solving, empathy, resilience, and humility.

At some level we all want to get our way and be the important one. At a more mature level we understand that the final goal and the means by which we get there are more important. Every group needs to be clear on its purpose, values, and goals, then remain focussed.

Because of the nature of our culture people have a hard time being forthright and thoughtful. Some people are motivated to use different tactics to manipulatively control a group, rather than collaborating. Understanding the tactics can help to reduce some people unconsciously slipping into these behaviours. They may even take them to a positive place instead.

Some people will not want to learn, because they feel insecure being in anything less than a controlling position. You will want to recognise what they are up to, see if they can be convinced to learn, and if not, drop them. No matter how high-minded you are, keeping some people on board will destroy a group. It’s okay to let people go upon occasion, we seek freedom as well as community.

Too many generals (not enough soldiers)

We do need considered opinions. We do need the voice of experience. We don’t need people who tell the toilet cleaners how to do their job when they aren’t willing and haven’t cleaned those toilets themselves. Those who do the work need to make the rules about how the work is done.

Entourage vs cheer leaders

We need cheer leaders who are good at bringing in new members. Go team! We do not need people who bring in the numbers (their entourage) just to use them as a way to gain personal power.

Working their way to the top

Some people are very good workers and we need that. Some people take on jobs and take on jobs, until their presence is indispensable. They may then hold the group hostage to their desires.

The bountiful parent

We want people who are warm and generous. It’s what we are all aiming to become. Some people will wrap you in their arms and give you things in order to get you to relinquish your responsibilities/power to them and oblige you to abide by their wishes.

Poor pity me

We do need to be there to the best of our abilities when someone is in trouble. We need to recognise when people regularly create trouble or rely on trouble as a way to function on an ongoing basis. These people need professional help. We need to recognise when this is used by people to be treated in a privileged manner.

Late comers and early leavers

Life is messy and we are all late comers and early leavers upon occasion. We need to be aware when this is being used as a form of passive resistance. Why do some people feel the need to protest in this manner? Is it indicative of a problem the group needs to address? Is it a power play?

Usurpers

We need people who deeply care and have the strength to stand for a better world. We need to be careful of people with dominating personalities who silence others and take over agendas.

Ninjas

Sometimes it’s worth dealing with people in a gentle and sensitive manner. However some people will not speak up about their wishes. They can cause people to hop around trying to figure out what they want. They can undercut people through looks and body language, creating an unwelcoming atmosphere. We need to create a space where everyone feels safe to be forthright about their wants and needs, and then be forthright. It’s unfair making people guess.

Difficult people

Is someone simply being difficult, or are they symptomatic of a larger problem? Dysfunctional families classically point to the member who is struggling to free themselves from dysfunction as “the problem”. However, sometimes a person does have a problem with anti-social behaviour. We need systems in place to ensure they are treated justly, but are not allowed to disrupt the group.

Groups and power

Groups are important. We do not live on this planet alone. We cannot survive on our own. A group is more powerful than one person, of course. The larger the group, the larger the potential power. To quote Voltaire and Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power. Such people may support your cause, and are likely to do so effectively, but they are more dedicated to power and therefore will not always represent your best interests.

Even on the small scale we all seek validation. We can become entangled in our own pet desires and side track ourselves from our own highest vision.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

We will have to remain vigilant of our own behaviour to ensure we are a nexus of compassion. Ask Mohandas Gandhi: compassion is not for wimps. We must withstand bullying that can come from within as well as without. Fear and paranoia are not the answer. Wisdom and discernment are called for. Patience and strength are a must. We must treat one another fairly and with kindness. We must also trust in our ability to face contention and controversy. Together we can change the world.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Females in Family Films

Posted on 31 January 2015 | No responses

Geena Davis makes some excellent points in her article Geena Davis’ Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist. I would make one more point: you are more likely to have fair representation of people in media when those who are doing the storytelling come from a broad range of genders, ethnicities, ableisms, etc. I attended a lecture held by Women in Film and Television (WIFT) which provided evidence that though more women are currently in roles of authority such as producer, fewer are in roles such as writer or director. This makes a big difference in what stories are told and how.

Whose stories are told, whose biographies are published, who is represented in history books: these are all important to how we as a culture see ourselves and one another. These reflections upon ourselves, no matter how distorted, inform our decisions and create the future. Take action and tell a story no one has heard before, one with a currently unexpected shape. So long as you are in the box, it’s hard to see that anything else exists outside, but it does. That’s where the blue skies and sunshine exist.

It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages, and we love when movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen hit it big. It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space. Couldn’t it be that the percentage of women in leadership positions in many areas of society — Congress, law partners, Fortune 500 board members, military officers, tenured professors and many more — stall out at around 17 percent because that’s the ratio we’ve come to see as the norm?
~Geena Davis, “Geena Davis’ Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist“, The Hollywood Reporter

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward All People

Posted on 30 January 2015 | No responses

I am a peace activist. I strongly believe in the value of peace, and taking action to ensure we all can live in harmony with ourselves, one another, and the planet.

For a long time I felt that most governmental and/or economic systems can work provided the people within those systems are caring individuals who consider the welfare of others. With time and experience I no longer see things in this way. People of goodwill can do a lot wherever they may find themselves. Nevertheless, each political/economic system comes with its own values and those values may or may not embrace the importance of each unique individual and the environment we all need to flourish. Some systems are destructive of our sense of self, our relationship with one another, and our relationship with the Earth.

Our planet is in crisis and the issues of poverty and environmental damage are closely intertwined. Most solutions people are putting forward are the same ones we have tried again and again without longterm success. This is because they are palliative and/or superficial.

We currently live in a society where we have to trade in order to survive. We have to sell our goods, our time, our skills, ourselves in order to be assured of a roof overhead and food on the table. Woe to those who are too young, too old, too busy with children, or are facing any sort of difficulty keeping them from trading.

We have a society that values status. So many people actively seek to have more and actively seek to ensure others have less. This puts us in a position whereby we are all actively participating in buying and selling more than anyone needs. We are actively participating in keeping someone somewhere poor.

If we raise the minimum wage in our own country, companies will find a country where people can be paid less, in order to make cheap goods to sell the people in their own country who no longer have jobs and can no longer afford well made products. That company needs poor people to function in this way. They may justify their methods by saying they are bringing more wealth to the poor elsewhere but the instant foreign workers start asking for a fair wage, you haven’t cured anything, you’ve merely created a situation where the problem gets passed on again.

Without a financial safety net people are going to lie, exaggerate, manipulate, and push to make sure they are getting enough to eat. They will tolerate abhorrent behaviour, because they are frightened and desperate. We need to separate work from the getting of a wage. We need people to participate in their society without the need for coercion. We need people to feel secure enough that they are capable of making fair, sensible, and responsible decisions, ones that place the welfare of this planet above personal concerns.

We must make a consumerist society a thing of the past.

We need to focus on raising people’s awareness concerning the issues and their solutions. We need to live those solutions in our own lives, modelling the change we are seeking, so people do not fear the change. If we seek peace and harmony within the world, then we must move forward in peace, harmony, and the strength of compassion.

Peace is not simply a cessation of violence. Peace is living in a world where we need not fear for our existence, where we need not fear our thoughts or their expression, and where we need not fear one another.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Laugh Track Suit

Posted on 23 January 2015 | No responses

I didn’t say “Laugh! Track suit!”, I said “laugh track suit”. This is genius! Awesome way to be a geek AND a comedian.

The Monkeys in The Fruit Tree

Posted on 22 January 2015 | No responses

Once upon a time a tribe of monkeys lived in a fruit tree. The fruit tree was large, and since the weather had been clement for many years, it bore much fruit. So much fruit dangled from each long woody branch that the entire tribe had all they needed and more to feed themselves.

Most of the monkeys would eat until sated and leave the rest of the fruit to whatever other birds, animals, and insects had need of it. A few were greedy and hoarded more than they could possibly consume. However, since the tree was so incredibly fecund and the monkeys were only few, it didn’t really matter. The monkeys lived in peace with one another.

Then one year a giant storm blew through the the little monkeys’s forest. The branches of their tree swayed and whipped around until most of the fruit was shaken to the ground. At first they still had enough, since the fruit on the ground continued to be edible…yet, only enough if they agreed to share. The greedy monkeys could no longer take more than necessary.

At first the greedy monkeys screamed and wailed at having limits put onto their gathering. “This is unfair,” they cried, “We have always taken this much.” Or grunts and hoots to that effect. Some came to realise that too much for them meant suffering for the other monkeys. Some found they could not live without the grooming and companionship of the other monkeys, keeping food from them meant loneliness and suffering for the greedy as well. Some would not cooperate and had to be chased from the tribe.

As fruit on the ground rotted and the fruiting season was nearly done, the monkeys had to live with less and less. One day one cunning monkey had the good fortune of coming upon a hole beneath a bush where many good fruit had rolled and were as yet undiscovered. A couple of the cunning monkey’s siblings wandered over to see what the monkey had found. They were very hungry.

“You have found fruit! Can we have some?” ooked the furry creatures.

The cunning monkey thought about it and asked, “What will you do for me if I give you the fruit?”

“We will give you extra grooming!” said one monkey.

“I will give you my favourite shiny pebble,” said another monkey.

The cunning monkey didn’t care whether it had one piece of fruit or a hundred pieces of fruit. Just so long as it had enough to fill its belly. Nevertheless, it liked the idea of being able to tell the other monkeys what to do. So the cunning monkey agreed to the trades, but only gave each of the siblings one fruit each and kept the rest in order to make other such trades.

The cunning monkey knew that soon the nut bushes that fed the monkeys when the fruit tree became dormant would have ripe nuts. When that happened the cunning monkey could no longer tell the other monkeys what to do. The cunning monkey liked its position of power too much to let that happen.

The cunning monkey found the strongest monkeys in the tribe and gave those monkeys extra fruit to do as they were told. The cunning monkey had the strong monkeys build fences around the nut bushes. When the nuts on the bushes were ready for eating, the cunning monkey gave the strong monkeys first pick. When the rest of the tribe came to the bushes eager to once again know what it is like to be satisfied, they were surprised to find they could not get to their bushes: the bushes they had all planted in previous years.

The strong monkeys were at first happy to keep away the rest of the tribe. They were receiving all they needed and more by following the cunning monkey. When the other monkeys found they no longer had the strength to take back their bushes, in desperation they were willing to do anything, anything at all, that the cunning monkey could possibly want.

The cunning monkey at first had the self control to give the other monkeys enough to keep them coming back for the nuts it now owned. The monkey also came to realise that the other monkeys no longer liked it. The monkey found that whenever the others had a chance they would steal a nut or throw a pebble at its head when its back was turned.

The cunning monkey moved to a nest in a high tree and set some of the strong monkeys around the bottom to guard the nest. Others of the strong monkeys brought the cunning monkey everything it needed, so that it never had reason to leave the tree.

As the cunning monkey started living further and further away from the other monkeys, it forgot what their lives were like and how the tribe functioned. It decided to keep more of the nuts, believing that the new level of desperation the monkeys would feel would convince them to stop throwing pebbles.

The little monkeys did become more desperate, but also realised that appealling to the cunning monkey was no longer going to work. They had to look past their fears and their desperation. They had to stop doing what the cunning monkey said. They had to find food they could once more share.

The monkeys put together what little they had and left their beloved fruit tree to find another equally fecund tree. The strong monkeys, missing their mothers, their fathers, their sisters, brothers, and children, soon decided it was no fun hanging out with the cunning monkey and left to find their families.

In the end the cunning monkey was all alone.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

(originally published 2014 January 14)

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