Pronoun Progress

Posted on 14 April 2018 | No responses

Clown Fish

In 1997 I had a particular interest in gender free pronouns. I was writing a creative work for my PhD in storytelling for digital media. I decided to base it on The Odyssey, since the structure of that work was relevant to my degree. In The Odyssey divinities are protrayed as sexual in nature, but capable of manifesting themselves in any form or gender. As such it was not accurate to describe them as “she” or “he”.

At the time people were experiencing an upwelling of interest in gender free pronouns. Online communication was taking off and it was found to be, and still is, dangerous at times for people who are not clearly male. Therefore, we had people who did not want to be defined by their gender when in conversation about ideas.

So, I considered all the possibilities I could track down for what a person might be called if they were non-binary, at a time when the non-binary gender concept was not well known. I even made a comparison chart. Looking at that chart twenty years later, I do not entirely agree with myself. However, now I have the benefit of experience.

I rejected zie/zir/zirs and ey/em/eir as non-gender forms of she/her/hers and he/him/his, due to their “unsoundliness”. I then put forward a solution that I felt was just easy enough on the ear to perhaps easily blend into the English language. This idea is not entirely without merit, if you are trying to convince people to let go of an old and ingrained language habit. However, people adapt. New generations can take up new ideas very quickly. Soundliness is not as important as fairness.

Recently, I have had to think about this issue again because we are at a juncture in time when people, the young in particular, are coming to grips with the fluidity of both gender and sexuality. To myself I don’t feel like a gender, I feel like Katherine Phelps. Katherine likes many things, some of which are defined as male and some female. I look in the mirror, I don’t see male or female. I just see Katherine. And whether or not I lean toward a preponderance of female designated things, that still doesn’t make me feel particularly female. Who I am attracted to, my sexuality, doesn’t feel like a gendered decision. Women like men, women like women, men like men, men like women, and people of all sorts like people of all sorts.

The solution people have currently embraced is using they/them/theirs in refering to individuals who are non-binary. I remember in the early 1980s being among those young women who were insisting on using the formation of “one…they” rather than “one…he”; as in “one doesn’t ride a bus in New York, they take a taxi.” An argument given in favor of this change was that “one…they” is a grammatical error in number, and “one…he” is an error in both gender and fairness. I took a more pedantic position. “One…they” was used commonly in English up until the writers of grammar books decided “one…he” was more logical, and changed the language to suit themselves. We need to remember that language is not God-given and written in stone. It is a collective creation. We need to learn how to create better.

I have some concerns about they/them/theirs. I feel I chose a similar route when I decided to use phe/per/pers as the pronouns associated with Greek celestial beings. It’s meant to be an easy solution, but has some of its own problems.

They/them/theirs is being used as the solution for a particular community. That community needs the solution. I am concerned that others also need a similar solution. I want to be heard for the contents of my mind and my heart, not discounted because I am being defined by my sexual function. Other languages have fit for purpose non-gender specific pronouns. We should too.

After some thought I have a new solution. I still believe we should have pronouns that indicate whether we (you, I, everyone) are talking about an individual, or we are talking about a collection of individuals. That is more genuinely useful information, especially in a democracy. However, I say we drop he/his/him and use only she/her/hers: declaring it the official singular pronoun.

If your top just blew off, then you are part of the problem that created this tangle.

Consider this quote:

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough, she answered “When there are nine. For most of the country’s history, there were nine and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange.”

For hundreds of years we have spoken about “mankind”, “manning” workstations, and “man’s” great achievements. We have been told that these words are inclusive. If they are truly inclusive, then surely we can accept an inclusive “she” for our singular pronoun. Perhaps with the use of “she” we can all reclaim those characteristics that have been deemed “less than” because they represent the disempowerment of women, such as: kindness, gentleness, nurturing, empathy, compassion. These characteristics are critical to the functioning of a successful society and have nothing to do with gender.

I know some cisgender men who will shrug their shoulders and say, “Sure, why not?” A few sounds shouldn’t be that big of a deal, especially if they represent a kinder and fairer world. To those of you who will see this as a threat: take a moment to consider whether you honestly feel happy, safe, and loved. If you find a moment of clarity where you recognise this is not the case, then start thinking about what you can do to offer goodwill toward others, such as changing a pronoun, because that’s how you will build a world where you can be happy, safe, and loved.

I am still fond of phe/per/pers. Right now we need to drop judgement of anything that has any “femaleness” about it. We need to reclaim all that has any “femaleness” around it. This is critical to our mutual survival.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

You Are Fine Just As You Are

Posted on 4 April 2018 | No responses

Am I the best writer that ever was…no.
Am I the best director that ever was…no.
Am I the best anything that ever was…no idea, probably not.
Am I exceptional in any way…maybe a few things, it’s hard to tell.
Does it matter? Little bit yes and a little bit no.
If I have any special gifts, then these are things I have been entrusted to give to the world. If I’m not so good in some things, then these are places where I have every reason and right to ask for some help.
Should we care any more or less for people, or even ourselves, because they aren’t the best. No!
We value each other for our humanity not our achievements. Achievements are nice, but simply being a kind helpful human being is more than enough!

Peace,

Katherine

Managing (theatre) People

Posted on 2 April 2018 | No responses

Public Domain: January 1931 Franz Felix

April and September are major independent theatre months for Melbourne, Australia. I have found myself commiserating with a few people having problems.

  • There’s a difference between kindness and allowing yourself to be walked on.
     
  • Some people see no difference between kindness and being a pushover. Don’t let them harden you. Like toilet paper it is possible to be both strong and gentle.
     
  • No one is helped when people who are behaving badly are allowed to continue behaving badly.
     
  • No person is so talented that it is worth your mental health to hang onto them.
     
  • The arts attract people who are artists, people who are seeking validation, and people who are artists and seeking personal validation. We all need some validation. People who are addicted to validation can be highly destructive.
     
  • Many times it’s genuinely hard to tell the difference between skilled actors and skilled manipulators.
     
  • Just because some people smile to manipulate does not mean you should be defensive toward all people who smile (metaphorically speaking). The manipulators will eventually out themselves. If you are stuck with one, it will be painful removing them. However, you are still better off leaving room to find truly nice people.
     
  • I do all I can to allow growth, make allowances for people’s humanity, and close my eyes to what might be temporary irritating behaviour. Life is not a straight line and can be quite messy.
     
  • However, if I am in a position of responsibility over others and someone’s behaviour seems destructive in some manner, then I am obliged to take action to protect my people. I am also one of my people.
     
  • It is usually best not to wait until you are angry to take action concerning a serious problem. You will feel better about yourself and your actions, if you take steps when you become aware of difficulties.
     
  • Some things are going to be beyond your control and you will just have to roll with it.
     
  • It’s impossible not to worry about what others will think of us when taking strong action: especially when they don’t have the full picture. Take action anyway, if you feel it is in everyone’s best interests. You will just have to have faith that people know you well enough to trust your decision. If not, life goes on.
     
  • It is impossible not to feel a little angry when someone is clearly disrespecting you or people important to you. The pull to hurt them in return is strong. Resist, be as fair as possible while protecting yourself, learn your lessons, and move on.
     
  • Respect your own humanity, forgive your own humanity, learn from experience, choose to do better, and move on.
     
  • Know a few people you can hang about with undefended. This will keep you from making a habit of being defended.
     
  • Find the time to have a good cry upon occasion. You will feel so much better.

In peace,

Katherine

Want To Be Famous?

Posted on 17 February 2018 | No responses

Hildegard von Bingen, Liber Divinorum Operum

Fame has been the ruination of many a fine soul.

First, humility falls away.

Then the capacity to listen withers as their every word is heard and clung to like gems of supreme wisdom.

Then empathy shuts down as the whole world becomes their adoring mirror.

Soon the person within slowly dies as their god-like image takes over.

They do not concern themselves with responsibility for we have made them free from the consequences of wrong-doing.

And so the public transmutes human gold into lead.

If we the people respected ourselves and loved one another more, would we need make such terrible human sacrifices?

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

NO War Machine!

Posted on 29 January 2018 | No responses

(In Australia we want to be the good guys!)

2017 Invasion Day Rally

Yesterday Malcolm Turnbull announced his government will be setting up a $3.8bn Defence Export Facility to promote the sale of our “defence” equipment overseas. This comes after Turnbull categorically stated in August 2017 that Australia would support the United States in a conflict with North Korea.

There’s a saying that goes: the way to make money during a gold rush is to sell the picks and axes. Turnbull’s position looks to all intents and purposes to be one whereby he is looking to make “Australia Great” through war-profiteering. In a world that is on the brink of self-destruction, what sort of person rubs their hands together gleefully at the thought of all the money to be made through suffering?

I agree with World Vision Australia’s advocate Tim Costello’s assessment: “The government says this is an export and investment opportunity, but we would be exporting death and profiting from bloodshed. There is only one purpose in making a weapon and that is to kill someone with it. Do we really want that to be what people think of when they see the brand ‘made in Australia’?”

Make no mistake this is not a new direction for the Australian government, who already have been participating as a leading broker of arms sales and providing military training for oppressive regimes.

Australians are getting sick and tired of being made the bad guys by a rapacious and militarily chauvinistic government.

Australians say NO!

NO to being torturers of people who through no fault of their own had to flee their countries.

NO to perpetuating the genocide of our indigenous peoples through impoverishment and mistreatment.

NO to bringing about the death of our Great Barrier Reef and our living world by subsidising failing coal and oil industries, while actively hobbling new renewables industries.

NO to the oppression of our young people, and thereby our future, through making housing and higher education inaccessible.

NO to removing financial safety nets such that our rights are abridged through a campaign of fear. “Don’t step out of line, or you’ll be sleeping on the streets.”

NO to allowing the accumulation of wealth into a few hands through privatisation, rather than enforcing the sharing of that wealth through taxation and fair-paying jobs.

NO to taking our tax paid state and national assets meant to be available to all, and ripping them from us without consultation or realistic compensation.

NO to underfunding, or not funding at all, essential services such as hospitals, medical support, schools, dentistry, mental health programs, country firefighting services, etc.

NO to profiting through turning people into killers and giving them the weapons to wreak misery and death.

NO! NO! NO!

Make Australia kinder!

That’s the only true greatness worth having.

Support the little battlers! Give everyone a fair go! Show your love for a sunburnt country by preserving it, not laying it to waste!

I want to feel like an Australian hero! Not ashamed of my country.

Let’s become proper heroes.

In Peace,

Katherine Phelps
BA (Hons), MFA, PhD

Compassionate Risks

Posted on 30 December 2017 | No responses

Sunlight on a lake

We are all expected to function without safety nets. Our governments have been bought and paid for to remove anything that might catch our citizens when they lose work, become ill or disabled, or in any way need help.

Those in work are terrified of looking down…so they are often in denial.

Nevertheless, they end up working long hours and without many workplace rights. Their pool of time and compassion is used up. Therefore, they aren’t available to help those less well-off than themselves. We then live in a downward spiral.

At some point people have to find one another and believe they have everything to gain by demanding that our government does its duty of ensuring the general welfare of the populace: not just that of a few wealthy people.

The problem with waiting to do this when people have nothing left to lose is that change can then become violent. Our culture is teaching people to be complacent, risk averse, and short-term thinking: good consumers. We must hold hands and push past this.

Be active, take compassionate risks, work toward a beautiful future as a lifetime pursuit. Most of all find yourself in relationship to humanity and our living world. Those relationships are what will give you the strength to keep walking firmly toward the light.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

By The People and For The People

Posted on 28 December 2017 | No responses

Defund DAPL Protest

Seattle City Council CCBY 2.0 January 2017

Corporate owners have worked hard to divest the public of “big” government and government safety nets. The government has been employing fewer and fewer people, especially in fields that are essential services.

This means that corporate owners largely control people’s ability to make a living. They also control the means by which people can even live.

We then get into a dynamic where people do not want to bite the hand that is feeding them. Corporations have successfully taken over as our new governments.

We are now back in the position of having to reclaim and rebuild a government by the people and for the people. We have separated state and religion, we have separated state and military. We must now separate state and business.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

The Future Is Inside Out

Posted on 19 December 2017 | No responses

Flowers by Katherine Phelps 2017

When I was growing up I frequently asked myself, “What is the most important thing?”

I was looking for direction and clarity in a chaotic world where I was surrounded by inconsistent parenting and inconsistent social messages. My first answer to the question was my religion. Christianity offered a universal outlook concerning my relationship with myself, others, the world, and all eternity. My second answer was “love”. My religion taught me that was the core of all right action. So, it became my duty to understand my religion, but even more important was to understand the nature of love and thereby better guide my actions.

Before long I found many people, my family included, treated their religion like a club, rather than a system of values. I was taught to hate anyone who isn’t Christian. I was taught to hate anyone who isn’t the right sort of Christian. I was taught to hate people for their politics, their taste in music, their choice of clothes, and more. I at first tried to abide by these strictures.

My family moved frequently from small town to small town. As the new kid in these towns I was an outsider. Many people teach hatred toward outsiders. So I was bullied and ostracised. Of the kids who were left, I could technically only make friends with a very few. I would go through the rules in my head as to who was acceptable and who wasn’t and I felt like I was painting myself into a corner. Worse, I felt like I had to paint myself out of my own corner by these very same rules.

It was time to turn the rules inside out!

It was time to see all the places where I would want to include people. Yes, I still needed to exercise some caution, recognising who was dangerous to my well-being in some manner. Nevertheless, it’s astounding how many people from how many places can be gloriously beautiful human beings!

In these days of imminent catastrophe we are all feeling the need to hate more. We are being to taught to:

Hate people of the Muslim faith
Hate people with religions
Hate people who are atheists
Hate people with the wrong color skin
Hate people with the wrong ethnicity
Hate people who are anti-vaccination
Hate people who are anti-capitalism
Hate people who are pro-socialism
Hate people who are communist
Hate people who are business workers
Hate people who are poor
Hate people who are unemployed
Hate people who are wealthy
Hate people who are from the wrong countries, including the US
Hate people who are fat
Hate people who are fit
Hate people who are pro-life
Hate people who are pro-choice
Hate people who are meat eaters
Hate people who are vegetarians
Hate people who are vegans
Hate people who are pro-environmental
Hate people who are using up the Earth
Hate people who are left-wing
Hate people who are centrist
Hate people who are right-wing
Hate people who are activists
Hate people who are complacent

hate…hate…hate

STOP! STOP! STOP!

No grouping of human beings seems to be immune from a felt need to hate. We are drawing each other in such absolutist terms, as if no one can change and no one can grow. This makes apparent solutions to the world’s problems very dangerous indeed.

Aren’t you tired of all the hating? How profoundly dark must your life be, if you have let yourself be sucked into this vortex of fear. Whether our world’s environment collapses or not, the collapse of human kindness will most assuredly mean the end of humankind. Love is not about being nicey-nice and accepting bad behavior. It is about doing the hard work of trying to include everyone and every living being at some level.

These are the lyrics from one of the songs I’ve written for my musical about youth unemployment and homelessness

“I Do Believe”
Katherine Phelps
2017 August 21

I do believe life can be good.
I do believe that people can be good.
I’m told that I’m naïve,
Been tricked and deceived.

I don’t think so…

And yes, I do believe in grace
I do believe that goodwill has its place.
And when they say life is dire,
People consuming fires,

Who are they helping?

…I know suffering finds us at any age.
Hurt ourselves through senseless rage.
Cowards stop looking for the light,
Giving darkness its might.
Behind those clouds are big bright stars,
Each star a burning sun.
Wake up, wake up, so much to be done.

Much to learn and unlearn.
Sometimes change is just a season’s turn.
I’ve lived more experience
Than some have lived in years.
I’ve never forgotten smiles,
Even through all the tears.

I do believe life can be good.
I do believe that people can be good.
I’m told that I’m naïve
Been tricked and deceived

I don’t think so.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

Business Carol

Posted on 19 December 2017 | No responses

Scrooge and Jacob Marley's Ghost

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Artistic Hype Cycle

Posted on 18 December 2017 | No responses

Quantum computing chip
In technology there’s a thing known as the “hype cycle”. It has to do with the progression of new technologies into public use. It seems to me this applies to new talent as well.

  1. The trigger: a technological breakthrough or a successful first outing as a performer.
     
  2. Peak of inflated expectations: people get over-excited by the potential. Performers may experience ego-inflation.
     
  3. Trough of disillusionment: reality sets in. The technology doesn’t provide the expected magic. Performers find they don’t just get rich and famous.
     
  4. Slope of enlightenment: people start recognising the real benefit of a technology. Performers start recognising where respect is genuinely due and are ready to do some real work.
     
  5. Plateau of productivity: a technology is picked up by the mainstream. Performers become a solid part of the artistic community, creating and getting recognition, whether or not they attain “rich and famous”.
     

I’ve seen friends come out with a first book or gain a role in a television show who suddenly fly up to the rafters cawing: “I’m going to be famous forever!” If they then do not put in the work to support that new found visibility, their fame evaporates. You have to keep producing work that is of value to your public. Should their interest wane, you keep at it: improving your skills and working harder to create works of real soul and integrity. In this way your public will eventually return to you, because they trust your vision.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

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