Peace Like A River

Posted on 21 September 2017 | No responses

Ansel Adams The Tetons and Snake River

Peace is not the absence of war.

Peace is not an acquiesence that keeps waters still, in order to not rock the boat.

Peace is not reserved for those who meditate long hours. Though, we can all use moments of stillness in order to find ourselves, steady ourselves, and renew our focus on those things that will make for a peaceful world.

Peace is when we live within a certain range of security whereby we have all we need to eat, clothe ourselves, shelter ourselves, and provide for our health needs.

Peace is when our security is in danger, we are confident of the goodwill of our neighbors and our nation to ensure our wellbeing is attended to.

Peace is living in a society whereby difference is tolerated, and discrimination and bullying is not. In fact diversity is embraced as a sign of a healthy, vibrant culture.

Peace is feeling confident that those in positions of power take their responsibilities seriously and act for the wellbeing of their charges.

Peace is living in a society where power is shared. And though any one person may have only partial control over the shape of their country, they take that portion and use it wisely in combination with others to ensure together we are building a peaceful nation and a peaceful world.

Peace is knowing that the value of fairness is resolutely applied whenever and wherever it is needed: everyone has their needs met, everyone has access to justice, everyone’s voice is given consideration, everyone is treated as equally human.

Peace is always working toward wise and compassionate solutions to conflict, whether it is at the individual level, the civil level or the international.

Peace is providing for the world that is providing for us, thereby living in security that our children and our children’s children will be able to enjoy the goodness of our living world.

Peace is fully embracing the values of kindness, compassion, care, service, and cooperation. Peace is ensuring our children are taught these values and their children. We are always caring for those who will care for us.

Peace requires bold and peaceful action. Those who think of peace as solely personal security may use violence in order to block universal peace. Those of us with a larger more encompassing vision must hang on, because the reward will be great: a world where we can all find real contentment.

In the meantime peaceworkers may find themselves feeling anger, frustration, and fear. Sometimes we will be bashed, even killed. No this will not be easy. Yet we will keep responding to that tiny light within that says “love”, purge ourselves of hatred and continue to build peace with peace.

Happy International Day of Peace!

Katherine

Frog in a Pot

Posted on 21 September 2017 | No responses

I left my family. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done: worse than divorcing a husband. I feel like I have ostracised myself. A number of family members have and have had narcissistic personality disorder. They have at times married others with their own pathologies. The more I understand about my family’s interactions, the more I feel like I have escaped a cult.

I am constantly terrified of becoming egotistical and manipulative myself, but have had to learn a certain balance where I accept the importance of being self-confident and the need to convince people to help me upon occasion. The trick is to remain thoughtful of others needs, accepting their boundaries and right to say “no”, and to remain respectful of the value of each person’s humanity.

I’m sure many of you have heard the parable about how you can cook a frog alive. If you put a frog into a pot of hot water, it will jump out. However, if you slowly raise the heat, the frog may not notice that it is in grave danger and will not jump before it has already expired in the bubbling cauldron.

I was born into a very hot pot. When people are born into such situations they tend to accept them, because as a child your family represents to you what is “normal”. Of course as a child you don’t fully feel the heat just yet, because interactions are basic between parent and child. A child can have a considerable inner life that a parent knows nothing about and vice versa. It’s when we all start forming independent opinions that the heat is on to ensure you remain in the boiling pot in order to validate the family world view.

Let’s say we are all frogs in pots and on the outside of each pot is a temperature gauge. A dysfunctional family will always want to be “close”, so that you are always looking inward toward the family, not outward comparing yourself to children in other families. When your pot is considerably hotter than most everyone else’s, an empathetic child will be able to make an imaginative leap that perhaps their lives would not be as emotionally and physically in danger if they were to escape their family.

Of course there are layers to this escape. Children are molded to fit into their families. It’s all too easy to leave a bad situation and land in an equally bad situation because you are now a jigsaw piece that fits into dysfunctional puzzles (sorry, now we have two metaphors!). It takes considerable work and self awareness for a person to retrain themselves under these circumstances. My parents raised me for eighteen years; I have been re-raising myself ever since. Who do I want to be? What do I feel is right? What values do I choose to prioritise?

One of the problems with removing the glamours and illusions that were used to bind me to my family is that I am now aware of some glamours and illusions that are binding other less dysfunctional families as well. We seem to have a whole world whose pots are slowly but surely creeping up to the same intense heat I was born into, but people are incapable of seeing it, because everyone around them is about equally in trouble.

We have a culture that has learned to cultivate narcissism in order to use it as a way to manipulate others. I have in no way been surprised by the rise of Donald Trump. Our capitalist society has warped our evolved intellectual tools for self-preservation. As humans we have unique ways in which we fight, flee, fawn, or freeze to survive: this includes a sense of self-confidence which gives us the space to plan and execute our survival strategies. Our society has replaced self-preservation and self-confidence with anxiety and ego. Ask any marketing company what they use to get people to buy, buy, BUY.

We could get rid of Trump tomorrow, but if we don’t change our culture, we will simply face one Trump after another coming into power, because we have allowed ourselves to become the perfect puzzle pieces for this sort of national dysfunction.

What does a child want most when they are in a family where they are dangled on strings and forced to be exceptional in order to boost the status of their parents? They want to be loved for themselves alone. We have a whole world of people who need to be loved for themselves alone. What kind of family uses a meritocracy to dole out affection and support? What kind of nation only serves those who are exceptional because of their privilege? We need the freedom to protect ourselves from people who are deleterious to our well-being. And yet we must never let ourselves become so consumed by fear that we no longer recognise the humanity of others.

My greatest pain is remembering how much I love my family. My greatest salvation is remembering how much I love my family. They have a right to be who they are. As an adult I have a right to object when they support hatred. I accepted their invalidation of me as an individual. I drew the line when they spoke of harming Mexican immigrants and the local Modoc tribe. It had all gone too far and perhaps I should have said “no” earlier. I understand being frightened. I understand what it is to have no familial safety nets and to be alone. Trust me, complacency doesn’t make it better. Courage is called for. But through friendship, perhaps we can hold hands while demonstrating to the whole world the incredible strength to be found in kindness and compassion.

In peace,

Katherine

Wake Up, Humanity!

Posted on 20 September 2017 | No responses

Golden Sun

I had a short sharp first marriage. The man to whom I was married told me after our wedding that he believed in making anyone who hurt him hurt twice as much, so that the person would never mess with him again. At which point I knew I had made a mistake.

The question that came to my mind was how did he determine how hurt he felt and how did he calculate “twice as much”? He could feel endlessly hurt. His desire for punishment could be a bottomless pit.

In the same manner how do we determine who owes whom and how much? When a wealthy person lends money to a poor person whose work has produced the food, clothing, housing that the wealthy person has, is it right that such a person gets to determine what burden the poor person must bear to simply have a roof over their heads? And when the poor person finds, through no fault of their own, they cannot repay that debt then how moral is it to threaten them with violence, destitution, and/or imprisonment?

Both of these behaviours, that of my ex and of wealthy people, come from individuals who are fearful of suffering and desperate for control. Humanity has achieved what it has out of cooperation and pro-social behaviour, but all too often those achievements are turned in on themselves to destroy the very things that made them possible.

As we become more frightened we start threatening and controlling one another, then wonder why we get caught in a cycle of being threatened and controlled. At some point we have to stop and just choose to offer kindness. The sort of evil we are perpetrating on one another is so deep and so obliterating of our humanity. At some point we have to wake up and actively work for better.

Peace and kindness,
Katherine

(originally published 2017 May 29)

Love is the Sun!

Posted on 19 September 2017 | No responses

Yellow Sunrise

1981: My first year at university. Ronald Reagan comes into power and within a year the streets of the Seattle university district are filled with homeless people.

1989: I flee an abusive marriage and end up having to live out of foodbanks. I was homeless and stood in line with those who were sleeping on the streets. I escape by marrying an Australian.

2016: Those sleeping in the streets of Melbourne Central Business District goes up by more than 70% in the last two years. It looks like the US in the 1980s (not to mention how bad it is now). I felt like drawing a line in the sand: this is not happening in Australia on my watch. Then Donald Trump is voted into office. I find myself writing protest song after protest song. I begin research on my new musical Share, about youth unemployment and homelessness. Sadly, I find those people who are transgender are over-represented among those suffering on the streets.

2017: The Australian Federal Government calls a plebiscite about whether queer couples should have their marriages recognised by Federal law. It is being used to beat up support for the right-wing government and, worse, as a means to oppress part of our country’s population.

I have a song I am making freely available in support of our queer community during a time of intense stress and bullying. Please share far and wide!

Lyrics

Simple words. Simple acts.
Fly like birds, our living pacts.
A light inside says I must care,
And a power within will take me there.

Flowers can break stones.
Raindrops melt mountains.
I will go where Love is the Sun.
I may be small, my heart will be mighty.
Love is the Sun. Love is the Sun.

All your fears, all your tears.
Gently now, hold strong my dears.
You be you and I will be me.
Can we be the people we were meant to be.
Find the light that is our shared humanity.
I will be there for you. I will be there for you.

Flowers can break stones.
Raindrops melt mountains.
You will go where Love is the Sun.
You may be small, your heart will be mighty.
Love is the Sun. Love is the Sun.

Love’s time is now!

Flowers can break stones.
Raindrops melt mountains.
We will go where Love is the Sun.
We may be small, our hearts will be mighty.
Love is the Sun. Love is the Sun .

Love is the Sun!

2016 CC 3.0 BY ND

In love and peace,

Katherine

True Heroes

Posted on 19 September 2017 | No responses

It’s not enough to shake your fist in outrage at the obvious villains of our times. It’s not enough to join a march and feel like you have acquited your duties as a good person. Worse is thinking duties have been acquited with a single monetary donation to this or that cause.

We must actively do what we can to make a better world. Join and change parties from within. Put forward petitions for better systems of voting, then vote. Spend time with the people who are being mistreated. Make them a part of your world. Afford them all the help you can. Get your hands dirty. Do all you can to create an equitable world.

Learn how to shake off the glamours of just going along with what your culture or your circle of friends are doing, when clearly it is harmful. Learn how to find sufficient inner peace, so that you have the strength to overcome your fears and stand up for what is right.

Never ever think that standing up against evil just once is enough. If you mean it, you will have to stand up again and again. You will probably know failure again and again, but you do it anyway. Only the privileged can throw their hands up saying, “It’s all too hard and it will never work. I’ve done my bit and nothing is going to change.” Those people are cowards whitewashing themselves and painting the world with darkness.

Spend time raising your awareness of the nature of life around you. Spend time in self-examination. Learn to be a deep well of compassion prepared at all times to give of yourself. And when you mess up, and we will all mess up, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and choose to do better in the future.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

(originally published 2017 May 23)

It’s Okay!

Posted on 18 September 2017 | No responses

Reflecting lake

It’s okay to not be the biggest or the smallest.

It’s okay not to be the strongest, fastest, or the most aggressive.

It’s okay not to be the most attractive or charismatic.

It’s okay not to be the wealthiest or the most powerful.

It’s okay not to be any of these things: but are you kind?

It’s okay not to be the same: but are you accepting?

It’s okay not to be different: but are you at peace with just being yourself?

And when you take the weight of needing to be exceptional from your chest, do you feel your heart beating once more?

And when you find you can ignore the headlines:
“10 ways to become successful”
“12 ways to attract a partner”
“100 ways to change who you are”…
Do you feel how the crushed essence of your soul revives?

Shut down the inner dialogue of status.
Tear down the outer prisons of status.
Just love yourself and all living being.
It’s okay!

In peace,

Katherine

We Tolerate Difference (not bad behavior)

Posted on 18 September 2017 | No responses

We tolerate difference.
Not bad behavior.

It is reasonable for people who worship cucumbers to tolerate those who worship smooth round stones.

>>It is not reasonable to tolerate those who throw the round stones at cucumber worshippers.

It is reasonable to tolerate the people who are long-hair-sexual.

>>It is not reasonable for the short-haired to enforce shaving these people’s heads.

The one sort of tolerance is critical for a functioning society.
The other is destructive of the same society.

May we all learn healthy tolerance.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

We Don’t Need An Economy (srsly)

Posted on 18 August 2017 | No responses

I lveo humanity! Let's figure this shit out together!

Occupy 28 September 2011 by David Shankbone

We need universal social security as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We need democratic, equitable, and sustainable distribution of goods and services.

We don’t actually need either money or financial institutions. These have been used to concentrate power into a few hands, then manipulate humanity through their desperation for status and survival.

Think for a moment at the sheer magnitude of what Google is doing to help people dig through millions upon millions of pieces of information while selling them things. We now have the computing capacity to simply move goods and services around to where they are needed. We can walk around those armored plated knights who take over a bridge and demand money for passage.

The Earth is not a limitless resource. Economies rely on growth, and for humanity to continue this trend now is to behave like an aggressive cancer. It’s not necessary and it is destructive.

Let’s put an end to “the economy”.

In love and kindness,

Katherine

Charlottesville: Stand with Your Family

Posted on 15 August 2017 | No responses

vigil candle

When I was a child my family moved every two to three years. With these moves my parents tried to keep their children away from cities, because those were places where we might be exposed to drugs (as if alcohol isn’t a drug) and gangs (as if a group of privileged football players can’t form their own school yard junta). Small towns were supposedly where all the wholesome people lived.

As the new kid in town I was always low child of the classroom hierarchy. The bullying in small towns can have very little parental oversight and is sometimes even encouraged. Most kids have already formed impenetrable cliques by first grade.

To make friends I had to circulate among the outcast and leftover children. Among these children were those from migrant worker families, the ethnically diverse, and those with disabilities. These were the kids with whom I played. My best friend Michelle had two deaf parents and grew up with vocal difficulties. My friend Gail’s parents were potters living below the poverty line. Another friend was mocked for living in a trailer. I remember seeing the inside of her house and thinking it was awesome! I still think trailer homes are our future.

I learned to be open to finding beautiful people in all sorts of socially unexpected places. I quickly knew that you can only ever judge a person by their actions. Everything else is peripheral and usually unimportant.

Michelle taught me to love comics. I would go to her place and we would read her Vampirella comic books. The sexual element of the stories meant nothing to me. We were just happy to read about such a powerful female character. When I hit university exciting things began happening in the comic book industry. The stories became more real and political: this is the era when The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen came out. In one of my first writing classes I spoke about this. I was roundly mocked by the other students.

The lecturer on the other hand, Dr Charles R. Johnson, leapt forward in my defence. He had once been a cartoonist. His students mostly knew him as the author of the beautiful and intricate novel Faith and the Good Thing. His kindness and insights soon made him one of my favourite lecturers. Later he was part of the graduate committee for my masters degree. After graduation I have seen him as a spiritual father.

My biological family are white, privileged, and conservative. I couldn’t wait to leave home in order to re-raise myself. I didn’t want to be the person they wanted me to be. However, reinventing myself is proving to be a lifelong endeavour. And no matter how hard I have tried to root out pernicious attitudes and mistaken understandings, upon occasion I will hear something come out of my mouth for which I am immediately ashamed. I feel like those people who talk about themselves as recovering alcoholics. I am a recovering racist. And yet…I am one hundred percent okay with identifying myself in that manner.

To me the point is to care so much about people that I am willing to embrace humility. If I get something wrong then I apologise, learn from the experience, and do my best not to repeat the error. If I need to make some form of personal restitution, then I do it. In this way I know that my soul is as clean as I can possibly make it.

I know people on the left who call themselves allies to the oppressed and vulnerable, not so much because they care, but because they don’t want to be seen as the bad guys. They feel white guilt. That’s not terribly strong motivation. I want life to be better for people like Michelle, Gail, and Charles because I love them. What stronger motivation can a person have?

I continue to spend time with all sorts of people. I flatter myself that it makes me a better writer. More importantly it makes me a better person. I had a bestselling Australian book about the Internet in the 1990s, and let me tell you, being a caring thoughtful person, even if that means you live in obscurity, is so much better for your heart than being famous. It’s also better for the whole world.

The events of Charlottesville are shocking. I understand being scared that the bullies might hurt you if you are seen standing by our African, Muslim, Jewish, and Gay family. But family they are. Take the time to make friends with a diversity of people. You may well find suddenly you want to rush out and stand by your beloved community, facing what needs to be faced, because your heart tells you to and you have taught it to be mighty.

Sometimes it’s easy to be a hero: it starts with love.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Katherine Phelps at Charlottesville Vigil

Charlottesville Vigil at Victorian State Library Australia, 14 August 2017

Cordelia’s Portion: Of Family and Politics

Posted on 10 August 2017 | No responses

Cordelia's Portion by Ford Madox Brown

Cordelia: Unhappy that I am,I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond; no more no less.
~William Shakespeare, King Lear Act 1, Scene 1

When things are going disastrously wrong it is always much easier to find someone or something who represents what is felt to be the problem and make a grand public sacrifice in hopes of turning fate. This is the very definition of a scapegoat. We do this when we say: it’s all the fault of religions, it’s all the fault of our political leaders, it’s all the fault of this ethnic group. Yet, when has cleansing the Earth of a scapegoat ever provided a real solution?

What humanity requires more than ever is a serious cultural change. Playing at the edges where a toe is ventured into something new, but we are still largely invested in deleterious ways of living, because we are terrified of what change will bring, will keep us hurtling into oblivion.

I have written a number of articles about how we need to change the nature of work. So long as we are employed within powerful non-democratic systems, we will not be living within a true democracy. Business must be democratic. Schools also need to be structured so as to ensure we live in a more democratic, compassionate and equitable society. It’s why I have been working to create a scholar owned university where students share in its ownership in the same way that members of a credit union own that institution. An even more basic structure of power that we need to address in order to pull ourselves out of this hole is the family.

The First Triangle

Sierpinski's Triangle

Families are our first experiences of both relationships and power. They set our expectations for “normal”. With such an ingrained and particular understanding of social life, many people find it hard to even imagine what life would be like under different family structures.

As a baby the capacity to recognise the faces of caretakers is critical to survival. We have to bond with those who will see to our needs and seek them out for nurture. We also have to recognise differences, and to be shy of those who do not look like our family since they may be a threat to our well-being. Families can take this shyness further and turn it into fear, disgust, and hatred. This will further the outlook that “What my family does is right. Those who do things differently are wrong”. The bias does not have to go this far, but often does.

Those seeking authoritarian power rely on a cultural structure that will bring support to their position. What they are doing will feel familiar, normal enough that their actions will pass without remark. If it is acceptable to beat a child for unwanted behaviour, it seems acceptable to whip prisoners. If you were raised to obey through fear and domination, then you may even support the use of harsh methods to control citizenry over ideological points. After all, isn’t that how life works?

When political groups start talking about “protecting families” and even naming themselves things such as “Family First”, what they are really about is granular dominance. Their model for power is something like a Sierpinski’s Triangle. They enforce a certain sort of family structure, that family structure indoctrinates the next generation to accept a particular world view and power structure, the next generation then accepts and even supports this structure at educational and governmental levels. The whole thing becomes a self-enclosed machine. Those wanting to break out will have to get extra creative to even conceive of different ways of doing things, and often do so in a partial manner (e.g. “Sure, let’s bring in Universal Basic Income, but punish people when they don’t do the work we assign them”).

Comparing Family Structures

The stereotypical Western family consists of a father who holds all the power and provides financial support through outside work, a mother who is expected to birth and raise children and do all in-house work whether or not she has any outside work to supplement the family income, and a child or children who are expected to obey their parents. Christianity has a similar structure: God the father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit — sometimes called the “Paraclete” which means “helper”. In the US and Australia we talk about “founding fathers”. Authoritarian leaders often speak of themselves as the parents to their countries. Joseph Stalin was called “Dear Father”.

Children need loving responsible caretakers. What that looks like has differed through the ages and across cultures. To this day we can still find places where children are raised directly by their community: not just their parents. Among the Mosuo people of China, a woman gives a man permission to visit her at night. If these visitations result in a child, that child is the responsibility of the mother and her brothers, and not the father. The couple continue to live in their separate households with no financial obligations between them. Both parties are free to have intercourse with whoever they like, and fathers of children are commonly not known. This culture has survived hundreds of years.

Western culture has been experimenting with adult relations most noticeably since the 1960s. However, these experiments are more about broadening sexual access and not about methods of care for resulting children. If a group of married couples have agreed to “open” relations, then what is the norm if a woman becomes pregnant? Is the resulting child the responsibility of herself and her marital partner? Is the responsiblity hers and the biological father? Perhaps the responsiblity is hers and her parents and/or siblings. Sadly, these decisions are usually made after the fact through abandonment or governmental intervention. Women end up single parents with children from more than one father. Biological fathers are forced to make support payments. Sometimes children are taken and put into foster homes. Children who are dealt with as an after thought are rarely treated well. Single mothers and their children should have support made available to them by their government without question. However, they are often treated punitively and not given enough to survive.

The family structure as it stands in the US and Australia is a form of imprisonment. Women traditionally have had to marry in order to survive, because the means of financial survival has been put in the hands of the men. Since governments are unwilling to take responsibility for its vulnerable citizens, men are financially responsible for all children with their DNA. Children have little access to escape if they are in an abusive family. Runaways on numerous occasions end up street beggars. Governments use desperation and dependence to keep people under control, so do families.

Family Break Down

The traditional family is breaking down because it is inherently dysfunctional. For centuries women have been treated like chattel and sold to husbands. Younger children have been outright sold as slaves. People are being treated as possessions even now. I remember as a child some kids sassing their parents by saying, “I didn’t ask to be born.” I was taught it was bad to say such a thing, but it’s a fair enough observation. We speak of children owing a debt of gratitude to their parents…but they were born into this debt without choice. To speak of human relations in this way is debasing of our humanity. This is the birth place of our warped sense of capitalism. Who owes who what? Perhaps caring for one another without burdens of obligation is our reason for being. We have to care for one another, but we can’t enforce making it more specific than that.

The saddest family failure in modern society is how the older generation is divesting itself of responsibility for younger generations. I’ve heard my own parents gleefully saying, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance!” They certainly are: environmentally and economically. The older generation have broken from the tradition of attempting to leave the world a better place for their children and grandchildren. A while back the Australian government paid people to have children to ensure those children were the bottom of a pyramid that would comfortably support the elderly and the privileged.

What We Need

We need to create family communities that don’t entirely rely on biological relation. When they are youngest, children cannot be equal and cannot engage democratically with a family, because they don’t have sufficient experience or understanding. However, the objective of every family must be to lift their children up to become equal members of their family and society. We need to teach and value the skills required for interdependence. We need to support our children learning how to share responsiblity and thereby share power.

Children cannot be mirrors to our egos, they cannot be minions in our personal armies, they cannot be insurance policies for our old age. When they become adults they must have the freedom to make their own decisions and launch themselves into the world. If we have done our job well, many will want to maintain the nurturing connection of a family. If we have not, then it is within their right to leave and never return. Other animals do this all the time. Love is about respect. You cannot be said to love your children, if you do not respect them. A culture cannot survive if it does not respect all its members. Let’s start creating change at this most grassroots of levels.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

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