Mostly Screwed (part 1: the environment)

Posted on 20 August 2018 | No responses

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise.”
~Earth Charter 2003

How screwed are we?

Very.

But not entirely.

Understand that we have always had to face hardships and in the midst of those hardships found hope, strength, and love.

As I mentioned before, people are in agreement that we are facing problems to do with weather, jobs, and power. I would simplify this to environment and power. The human quest to have absolute power over our fates has put us at odds with our environment and one another. So, I will lay out the problems we have created in these two spheres.

Environment

Humans have been remarkably successful in finding ways to preserve and enhance our lives. So much so that our numbers have been growing at a rate unsustainable for this planet.

However, we have been fiddling the odds, so that we have managed to keep things sustainable for ourselves at great biological losses. This is what is known as postponing the inevitable. Over population of any species is a problem. Our over population is a disaster.

rabbits

(Rabbit plagues have devastated Australian indigenous flora and fauna)

Land

In order to feed, clothe, and house ourselves we have been deforesting the world’s land masses at an alarming rate. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, Globally, around 13 million hectares of forests were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010.

A common scenario that brings about deforestation starts with droughts. Climate change is causing a worsening of droughts. When farmers’s lands dry up they may seek to take over forest lands in order to grow their crops. The soil in forests is rich due to the decaying leaf litter, trees, grasses, etc that they are now removing, and the poop of animals they kill in order to protect their season’s yield. The trees also create a microclimate in the forest whereby more moisture is available in the air and ground. With the removal of all these living things, the crops soon use up the soil’s moisture and nutrients, creating a desert.

Under these circumstances the farmers take over more forest land or they leave for the city, hoping for steadier work. Eventually, faring no better in an urban environment, they become disaffected. This foments unrest and often civil war. To escape violence and starvation, many people become refugees, roaming the Earth hoping to find a peaceful haven. This has happened in both Syria and Burundi.

Another scenario is where big companies sterilise the land by stripping it of mineral wealth. They may not even have a use for these resources immediately, but wish to stock pile them in order to ensure they control their availability. In the meantime they are pouring carbon emissions into the atmosphere through digging and refining, while destroying the forests that provide the world’s greatest carbon sinks. Carbon emissions are our number one enemy when it comes to the health of our planet. We cannot afford to pour so much poison into our atmosphere, and worse, then destroy the very things that help to remove those poisons such as trees and oceans.

Water

According to the United Nations water pollution is on the rise globally. They report that one out of four urban dwellers does not have access to improved sanitation facilities and that 90% of all waste water in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes, and seas.
http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/swm_cities_zaragoza_2010/pdf/01_water_quality_and_sanitation.pdf

When you buy grains and vegetables that food is likely to have had fertilisers and pesticides used for its growth. Some of those chemicals will go into your food and some will be washed out to rivers, contaminating the water. Currently, you are not paying for the full cleanup of these pollutants in the cost of your food. Your tax dollars are being used so that the government can do the cleanup–and not the big agricultural companies. In some countries these companies have a cap on how much they can put into our streams. If they do not reach that cap, they can sell what remaining polluting they are allowed to companies that have passed their own cap.
https://troubledwater.news21.com/

Human induced global warming has been causing more water from the sub-tropical zones to evaporate. This moisture then is moved by the atmosphere to the poles, or carried by trade winds across Central America to the Pacific, where it provides more rain. This increases the amount of salt that is left in the North Atlantic. Salt water moves differently than freshwater. Its higher density speeds the movement of ocean currents from the tropics to the poles and the heat carried in those currents. In this way our climate is disrupted. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090430115909.htm

Extinctions

“Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”
https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published an article about biological annhilation. In this article they put forward evidence that half of all land mammals have lost 80% of their range in the last century. They also report billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost all over the planet, leading them to say a sixth mass extinction has already progressed further than was thought.
http://www.pnas.org/content/114/30/E6089

Some creatures are absolutely critical to the well-being of the entire planet such as bees and plankton. These animals aren’t particularly charismatic, but they are foundational to the health of our biosphere.

Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. We rely on these creatures and yet we have allowed bee colonies around the world to collapse. Our use of insecticides, fungicides, and air pollution is to blame. Sadly, we have been narrowing our focus to how can we grow the most crops the fastest next year, rather than thinking about how what we are doing will create crop failures in the following years.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steinerhas said, “”Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to 7 billion people.”
https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/03/368622-humans-must-change-behaviour-save-bees-vital-food-production-un-report#.WBrx-ndh3Vo

Solastalgia

In 1973 psychoanalyst Erich Fromm coined the term “biophilia”. He described biophilia as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.” We experience that in a small way when we are fond of our cats and dogs. We experience this in a bigger way when we go into nature and experience a natural high from a sunlight induced increase of serotonin, and a burst of oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) from human/animal interactions.

The loss of life on our planet has been causing a wave of ecological grief among many people who work in nature. Sometimes this includes the people who are in nature destroying it through mining and the like. This has given rise to the concept of “solastalgia”.

Nostalgia is when we feel sadness for times and places we can no longer revisit. Solastalgia is like this, only it’s the grief we feel when the environment we have come to know is disappearing in some manner and we feel powerless over the process. Some sense of self-identity is experienced as dying from the loss.
https://theconversation.com/hope-and-mourning-in-the-anthropocene-understanding-ecological-grief-88630

I admit I feel a tremendous sense of loneliness from our losses. All the plants and animals I have spent time with feel in some way like family. The fullness of goodwill I experience simply from association make me feel like a greater being. No longer having access to them feels like I am becoming a lesser being.

Quite honestly, I have only touched on all the ecological challenges we are facing. I feel this is probably enough for you to get the picture that we are in trouble on this front. Please understand the fact that so many people are feeling this is at least a sign that you are likely to find support, if you join with others and take a stand.

Right now numbers of young people have been filing suits against their governments for not abiding by their duty of care toward future generations of citizens. Some of them have been winning. The one to look out for right now is JULIANA v. U.S. – CLIMATE LAWSUIT. Of this case U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has said, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/kids-sue-us-government-climate-change/
https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/us/federal-lawsuit/

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

We Can’t Look Away and We Can’t Give Up

Posted on 19 August 2018 | No responses

We are the forest and each tree.
We’re the ocean and every sweet droplet therein.
We are the flower and the field.
We’re alone, we are all life.

And our hearts call for loving as we are.
And our souls call for oneness in the silence of the night.
We think we are separate when our fates are shared.

The rains fall,
We don’t hear the call:
Be one, be all.

Be all…

Heard of Elephants 2016

The boy asked me question after question. He was curious about my work in theatre. I told him about my latest project to do with elephant conservation. Part of this show had to do with how climate change was pushing our entire biosphere to the limit.

“Elephants poop”, I said. This caught his attention. “Their poop provides the nutrients for the Congo forest to grow. When the leaves fall and other plants reach the end of their lifecycles, they are washed out by the Congo rivers to the ocean where they become food for the plankton. The plankton then creates the oxygen we all breathe. No matter where we are on the planet, we are breathing elephants.” He liked the sound of that.

Sadly I added, because of climate change the forests are being cut down to create new farmland and the farmers are killing the elephants to protect their crops. But who is protecting the elephants and the forests, and feeding the plankton, so we can all breathe?

Next time I met this boy he came up to tell me that his father said climate change isn’t real, and if it is, they will just move to where they can be safe. His family were wealthy and could afford to comfortably translocate to someplace where certain realities were unlikely to touch them.

I was flabbergasted. This was not an outright denial of climate change. It was a denial of its personal relevance, and thereby a denial of the value of all but a few human beings. I so wanted this kid to question his father. I wanted him to be upset because he cared about his school mates. I had scared him and he didn’t want to be scared. His father’s shallow reassurances had the ring of sensibility about them. So he grabbed for that reassurance with a dogmatic intensity.

I had failed in my message, because it is much easier to rely on the opinions of those closest to us. Whether they are right or wrong, at least you have their companionship and acceptance, provided you validate their outlook. Fear makes many people bunch up more closely. They will deny the truth in order to avoid ostracism and isolation. This does not mean they disbelieve you at all. However, they are unlikely to own up to their misgivings.

Most people will recognise that we have three critical problems currently dogging our planet:

~ Chaotic weather.

~ Loss of jobs.

~ Abuse of power.

If we start digging into why we are facing these issues and who or what is responsible, then that’s where opinion becomes divided and over-heated. No one likes giving up privileges or comforts. No one likes shouldering burdensome responsibility. As such blame gets shifted onto convenient targets, or the problems become invisible through denial or deliberate ignorance. “Our challenges must be the fault of refugees, ISIS, people of color, etc. Climate change doesn’t exist, but if it does, it’s the fault of the Chinese, an international conspiracy, or government regulation,” squawk the pundits who are converting fear into paychecks.

We can afford to ignore these pundits. However, when it comes to the dangers facing our civilisation and our planet–we can’t look away and we can’t give up! The change we need is such a momentous task that we must find one another in order to give ourselves strength.

Trying to face the world’s problems alone is a crushing endeavour. My writing this book helps me to find my peeps. Your reading this book helps you to find your peeps. Talking about the ideas you find here will continue the process of discovering our community of peeps. This needs to be done in a manner that respects diversity and creates interdependence, as opposed to the suffocating conformity demanded by fear.

So, when I lay out a few facts here, instead of letting yourself feel overwhelmed: feel the anger and the sadness, recognise where those feelings come from–you care, then find and spend both face and online time with people who share those feelings.

The fact that you care will make it possible for you to gaze deeply into our world’s problems. The fact that you care will be the foundation for finding solutions to these problems, because caring in and of itself is the solution. We don’t need new machines to change the future: we need bigger imaginations, bigger hearts, and better ways to find unity among ourselves and all life!

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

BIG change: beautiful future

Posted on 18 August 2018 | No responses

beautiful future

Preface

If you are reading this book then it’s because, like me, you want a beautiful future. You don’t want a world that is largely dead and at war with itself. You want a world where we can all be at peace with ourselves, each other, and the living world which we all share.

You don’t want a world where you constantly have to worry about: am I attractive enough, am I important enough, am I safe from poverty. You don’t want a world where you have to worry about who is a threat to your well-being through control, competition or violence. You don’t want a world where you must be fearful about the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, or the food you eat. Nor do you want to be terrified of starvation and loneliness as the Earth’s flora and fauna dies off.

The question that must be asked then is: are you or I prepared to face terrible truths which will give us the insight we need to make a difference in all this?

We are all very good at blinding ourselves to painful truths. Of course we are! These truths frighten us because we don’t want to suffer. I certainly don’t want to suffer. However, sometimes the idea of pain is worse than the experience of pain. It’s like being afraid of taking a shot. I can get sweaty and tense as the doctor is about to give me an injection, then in moments it’s over and the doctor is saying, “There, that didn’t hurt so much.”

Let’s say we have to face a truth such as being diagnosed with an incurable disease. It is very human to go into denial. I can’t really have this disease, we may say to ourselves. Some people then choose not to receive any treatment, hoping that their disbelief is sufficient to make that disease disappear. Their fear is so great and their denial so complete that they end up suffering more when the effects of the disease start taking their toll. Parents have done this in relation to their children, they can’t imagine a child having a serious illness. So, they don’t ensure that their child has appropriate treatment and their young one dies. Newspapers regularly carry these sad stories.

We can’t let anything like this happen to our planet.

Of course determining the truth of any situation is a tricky business. It requires strength, humility, and compassion. Anything less and you may find yourself either staring at a rose-colored and convenient illusion or lost in a world distorted by rage. Sometimes people manage both at the same time.

I was raised under very rigid circumstances. It was stifling. Yet, I still believed something better was possible. So, I have been open to changing my mind about things whenever something seemed kinder and more true. I have regularly had to rethink my positions and alter them, even when that meant walking away from people I love, because their presence was destructive of my emotional well-being or they were behaving in ways that lacked compassion for other humans or our living world.

Do I feel stupid and badly about myself for once sharing the darker beliefs with which I was raised such as racism, classism, and the right to be the perpetrators of lethal violence with a gun? You betcha. Sometimes I feel like much of my life has simply been about weeding out ignorance and hatred. And yet, that is an admirable occupation. I regularly remind myself my experience gives me insight. Compassion for my own journey gives me the capacity to show compassion toward others who wish to grow.

Frequently I will think I have found the truth about life, only to find deeper truths later on. This is why I embark on this book with some trepidation. I do not wish to mislead anyone. I do however want to give people the chance to benefit from my experience. I know a useful saying that goes, “Take what works for you and leave the rest”. This saying applies to school teachers, counsellors, books, etc.

Big Change is meant to get at our core beliefs, values, and truths, face up to them and then find a better way forward. What I ask of people may seem hard, may sometimes be hard, but the idea is that ultimately it will make for a much better world than the one we are currently headed for. I don’t want easy answers, I want REAL answers. I don’t want to be dangerously coddled, I want to know exactly what I am facing, exactly what needs to be done and start doing it. By addressing our own individual pain I am hoping we can help to cure everyone’s pain.

We have to start by believing a beautiful future is possible. We then have to fully commit ourselves to creating it. The time is now.

This is the beginning of a book I am writing on Wattpad. I will continue to post each segment here and elsewhere, but it is likely to go up first on Wattpad.

BIG change

Theatre and NPD

Posted on 17 August 2018 | No responses

The US currently has a president with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Three fields of work particularly attract people with NPD: media, politics, and of all things…charity/causes. These are places where people, who demand all attention be focussed on them, can achieve steady ego-supply. In theatre we already have a term for this: Diva. It gets laughed off, but can be incredibly toxic. Sometimes it devolves into sexual abuse.

These people are deeply manipulative and at one moment make you feel like the most amazing person in the world (lovebombing) and the next moment make you feel utterly worthless and insecure (gaslighting). They will subtly recruit people to do their manipulation for them (flying monkeys). They will also find ways to isolate you and turn others opinions against you (triangulation).

As much as 6% of the general population may have NPD. (Please understand that simply being narcissistic is not exactly the same.) When you think that most people have at least 300 friends on Facebook, we are all likely to vaguely know at least one or two narcissists, and probably worse for all my friends given the circles I frequent.

People with NPD are often charming and charismatic: butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. It is easy to be fooled by them, and it is not your fault if you are. If you unmask them, they will try to destroy you. For theatre directors a troubling part of your job is trying to weed these people out before they become a member of your production. Once they are in your production, you may find yourself in the unpleasant circumstances of having to delicately weed them out, so they do not damage your other performers. I don’t think there is any way out without getting burned.

I’ve had to learn how to steel myself with the nerve to simply close a production if someone too toxic has invaded the group. It’s not worth the damage these people can do, and I have the responsibility of looking out for those I bring in. The show does not have to go on, even though it is extremely painful having to drop a project. I regret some of the times I did not just close.

We are about to hit Fringe Festival season. If you have gotten yourself tangled with an NPD performer and you feel trapped, hurt, fearful, and like no one would believe you, I believe you. If you feel like they are about to destroy your reputation and your career, find people who know you well to hold your hand and do not worry too much about what other people are saying about you. The NPD will gossip, you just keep showing the world you are a lovely person and eventually anyone worth their salt will recognise it was just gossip.

Take care. The world needs all the sensitive, insightful artists it can get. Don’t let anyone crush your creative soul.

Lots of love,
Katherine

Germinating Utopia

Posted on 25 July 2018 | No responses

Edward Hicks Peaceable Kingdom

An End

We are without question seeing the end of an era–perhaps the end of a collection of eras: the industrial era, the era of capitalism, and the anthropocene are all on the verge of collapsing. In the stages of grief humanity is feeling, many sense the darkness of ending but are lost in denial. This is not just the anti-vaxxers or the climate deniers, but also the entrepreneurs who think simply greening consumption will be enough, or the technocrats who make pleasant noises that scientific progress and invention will surely sort things out.

These people have blinded themselves to the speed with which we have already used up the planet. Without resources we have no shiny trinkets to sell no matter how recyclable. Without resources we can create no mechanisms by which to enforce our will upon the climate and all life. Scientific advancement will necessarily slow, not due to a lack of intelligence, but means.

We have been pushing our problems onto the future for too long trusting children or grandchildren will wave their magic wands like Harry Potter wizards and save the world.

What The World Needs Now

The biggest breakthrough our planet groans for has nothing to do with jet packs or androids. The biggest breakthrough must be one where we revolutionise our culture, overturning our current ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting with ourselves, each other, and our living world.

Central to this will be a sort of spirituality that challenges us to enlarge both our hearts and our imaginations in order to embrace the inter-relatedness of all life. I’m not speaking of anything spooky, just a conscious anima mundi whereby we make a choice to recognise and understand that the well-being of all living beings is our own well-being. With that vision we must evolve our sense of compassion and responsibility such that we build a renewed foundation of values, which we support through ritual, meditation, and creative expression. These sorts of activities help to bond communities in their commitment to understanding and enacting those values.

We must honour and promote all that is prosocial and life-affirming. This is where we will find utopia.

The materialist vision of the future was always bankrupt. When we learn how to be content with ourselves, we will need so much less of the trappings of our current lives. When we learn how to accept ourselves as limited and flawed beings who nonetheless embrace the wonder of our lives, we will no longer need to indulge in the anxiety that comes from the felt need for status or domination. These two changes alone would finally make possible an equitable society, one where democracy could finally and truly flourish.

Both A Particle and a Wave

Critical to this utopian endeavour would be to mature as interdependent beings: interdependent with one another and interdependent with the web of all life.

Once we relied more collectively on our living world, our communities, our friends, our families, and on our marital partners. Our circle of support has become smaller and smaller until we are held hostage by what few relations we have left. One lover does not have the right to enslave the other. Parents do not have the right to enslave their children. The loyalty of friendship can turn sour through a gripping dysfunction. Governments and corporations can clench us firmly within their fists until we have no choice but to be their captives. Individual relations can become burdensome, but through a web of relation we can more readily receive the sort of support that empowers each and every one of us.

Whole societies do not have the right to hold certain of their members locked into roles and behaviours simply to feel secure in an easily understood and controlled culture. No one should expect to know another simply by looking at them. No one should be able to claim status simply for the circumstances into which they were born. We do not live in a child’s shape sorting ball: square peg goes into square hole, circular peg goes into circular hole…then what do we do with the fact that so many of us are secret tesseracts?

We must embrace the mystery of diversity while acknowledging that we are all one. We need to overcome a desire to privilege one person over another, and simply hold every one in the compass of our goodwill. In this way we find both freedom and connection without putting anyone in the way of ego corruption through too much attention or power.

The Shape of the Future

I can foresee a future where we will have to make some hard decisions or have them made for us. We will have to learn how to share with all of humanity and all the living world. We will have to significantly reduce our numbers. We will have to decide which technologies we are going to keep and which we are going to let go. We are going to have to learn how to live simpler lives.

I can easily imagine a world where we rely on trains, bicycles, and even horses, but only a very few cars. I can see cities emptied of humans and being converted into materials and farming space. Perhaps we will keep internet communication, but we turn into a world of small villages.

Work would change from what we do for money into what we do to maintain the well-being of our planet and ourselves. As such work is a community activity. Together we decide on what needs doing and volunteer to have jobs assigned us as needed. We will also have regular jobs to do with everyone’s emotional wellness, the wellness of our community relations, and our peaceful interactions among nations, including the animal kingdom (and perhaps even plant).

A high level of skilled socialisation is critical to our future survival.

No matter what we do now future generations are going to have to cope with extreme weather events and be responsible for preventing complete ecological collapse. This sounds dystopian, but if we change ourselves, we can learn to live in such times with dignity, grace, and great love. Fulfilling lives will be possible. We must start building this future now.

In love and kindness,

Katherine

Dear Hon Christian Porter MP,

Posted on 22 July 2018 | No responses

The Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018 gives the federal government greater power to use the Australian military (ADF) in the control of its own citizens. This includes the use of lethal force, by which is meant the killing of those citizens.

Your purported reason for this was to support state police in the case of a Lindt Café-style siege. That siege involved one man holding ten customers and eight employees hostage in 2014. Gun person Man Haron Monis killed one hostage, the police killed Monis and accidentally killed another hostage. Police have been criticised for the lack of negotiation during the siege. Hostage Marcia Mikhael called radio station 2GB during the siege and said “They have not negotiated, they’ve done nothing. They have left us here to die.”

In that siege would military presence have actually resolved the issue? Why use that event as reason now for a new extension of miltary powers given to the federal government? Why does the federal government feel it needs to be able to send the miltary with threat of death when dealing with the Australian public?

The bill speaks about being prepared for the sort of violence that has not happened in this country. It states that the ADF who is being used under a call out order must not use force in such a way that is likely to cause the death of, or grievous bodily harm to, a person, EXCEPT where the member believes on “reasonable grounds” that using such force is: necessary to protect declared infrastructure against the domestic violence or threat specified in the order, or when taking measures against an aircraft or vessel (up to and including destroying that aircraft or vessel) or, “reasonable and necessary” for the purposes of giving effect to the order under the authority of which the member is acting.

According to the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Article 3: “The use of firearms is considered an extreme measure. Every effort should be made to exclude the use of firearms, especially against children. In general, firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardizes the lives of others and less extreme measures are not sufficient to restrain or apprehend the suspected offender. In every instance in which a firearm is discharged, a report should be made promptly to the competent authorities.” Your bill steps over this line in order to protect inanimate objects of war.

What are you preparing for that you feel you need to give yourselves the ability to protect military vessels by killing Australians? Does this have anything to do with Federal spending of $35 billion per year or equivalently about $95 million per day on the miltary and promising support to any US military action?

Are you getting nervous because you have given $65 billion in corporate tax cuts, while making welfare assistance harder to access and more punitive in nature, in order to save money by worsening the lives of those suffering in poverty?

The Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018 is unnecessary and raises many questions about the motives of our current government. We Australians are anxious that you will make use of this Bill in order to curb nonviolent protest, when we are concerned that people are being mistreated or our common future is being endangered through environmental devastation. Who decides what is “reasonable and necessary” and how when it comes to sending forces against our citizens? Perhaps one minister with an axe to grind? That is indeed a terrifying thought.

Withdraw The Defence Amendment Bill. It does nothing to make Australia a more secure country.

Thank you.

Regards,

Katherine Phelps
BA (Hons), MFA, PhD

The Burning House
~ or what are we going to do when our world turns to ashes?

Posted on 9 July 2018 | No responses

Burning mansion
Every nation divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

In the mansion of humanity there are three floors. On the top floor live the matriarch and the patriarch of the controlling family. On the middle floor are all the children and grand-children. On the bottom floor are the servants, who come and go to the lands where livestock, wheat, and vegetables are grown.

One day a fire breaks out on the lowest floor. Those on the top floor have not concerned themselves with the state of that floor and have allowed it to become dilapidated. The walls are dry and rotting, and the means to stop the fire have become rusted with age. The servants are, nevertheless, doing their best to quell the flames.

The people on the middle floor start to smell the smoke and wonder where all the servants have gone. When a few begin to realise the mansion is on fire, they rush to the narrow staircase leading to the top storey in order to escape the flames. One or two of those make it to that floor. The patriarch then closes and locks the door, afraid that too many people on his level would endanger his safety.

Those remaining on the middle floor take several actions.

Some of a religious bent begin to pray for the well-being of themselves and their elders, but do nothing to help those fighting the fire. Those of a spiritual bent meditate to find inner peace during this emergency, trusting that ultimately all will be well, but also do nothing to help stop the fire. Some deny that the house is on fire, angrily denouncing anyone who says otherwise. Some claim that it is not their problem, and even worse, that the servants who are risking their lives deserve to burn. All too few run downstairs to take up buckets and axes, and pitch in.

On the ground floor the struggle is hard because they have received so little support. Don’t the people above understand that we all share this house, and the welfare of the lower floors is critical to the welfare of the upper floors?

Some on the lowest floor are so angry and so frightened that they fight among themselves, then run from the house to save their own individual lives, without noticing that the flames are spreading to the fields and villages.

The remaining firefighters cry, “Surely a better way of living would have prevented this tragedy! What are we going to do when our world has turned to ashes?”

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

Big Changes: New America

Posted on 3 July 2018 | No responses

Flag dove

Okay, people! It’s time to sharpen your pencils (or charge up your laptops). Now is the time to think big and make out your wish list. We all need to be ready for the next couple of Federal elections.

Our democracy is seriously broken. Some of it was broken from the beginning. Some of it has been broken through corruption. Some of it is straining to evolve into something better than our forebears could even conceive. A simple patch job is not going to fix this mess. We are going to have to recreate the US from top to bottom (and bottom to top), if we are going to keep this country from imploding or collapsing into irrelevance.

Electoral Reform

Every adult US citizen has a right to vote. Every adult US citizen has a responsibility to vote. Each vote must be given equal weight or we are not living in any form of enlightened democracy. Everyone must be given every opportunity to vote.

Wishlist items:

* Easy national standardized means of gaining voter registration.
* Every US citizen of voting age is required to register and vote. (This is done in Australia and the world doesn’t come tumbling down.)
* Easy access to voting: for one week make available 24 hour voting booths evenly dispersed throughout cities and towns. Ensure that people have the right to petition for a booth to be placed in their community and then get one. Make postal votes easy to access as well.
* Dispose of the electoral college.
* Institute Single Transferable Vote. People can start putting this in place in their local electorates and experience how well it works.

People have a right to have their needs and concerns fairly represented within their government. Currently, we have a disconnect whereby politicians may be more answerable to monied interests rather than their electorate.

Wishlist items:

* Candidates can only accept individual donations: no business or organizational donations. This includes in-kind donations
* Donation caps 1: only so much can be donated by any one individual–cash and in-kind.
* Donation caps 2: all candidates have a cap on how much they can spend on their campaign.
* Anyone who runs for office, and passes a reasonable threshold of signed support, is given campaign resources by the government equal to every other candidate.
* All publicly endorsed candidates must have equal access to media coverage.
* All candidates who are voted into office are given a reasonably generous wage that is pegged to the national minimum wage. They can only ever make twelve times the wage of the lowest paid worker (and now we are aware of just how poor some people are). This includes when they leave office–we do not want them voting for their next job.

Structural Reform

Various governmental systems have been deeply abused. For instance governmental loop holes have allowed the position of president to be disproportionately powerful in relationship to Congress and the Supreme Court. All of these must be answerable to the people and to our country’s highest values.

Wishlist items:

* The powers of the president must be better circumscribed.
* All people involved in governance must be clearly answerable to the law of the land to the same extent as their people.
* A better method of appointing Supreme Court justices must be found, with equal opportunity laws applying in this instance as well.
* Controls must be put on the proliferation of enforcement bodies and the sorts of weapons to which they have access.
* Better oversight of government functioning and better protections for whistle-blowers.

Critical to structural reform would be the updating of the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights. This strikes terror in the hearts of people on both the left and the right. However, I don’t think at this point we have much choice.

Wishlist items:

* The overt inclusion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Bill of Rights.

* The overt inclusion of On Human Rights and The Environment in the Bill of Rights.

NOW is the time to start a national conversation about what we want from our country. NOW is the time to start practicing these ideas on a more local level. If we see these changes happening at the state level in more and more states, you better believe that we would eventually see Federal change as well. NOW is the time we get involved, ensuring everyone can vote and that we have people up for election who are worthy of their vote. Think of this moment in time as an opportunity for a better nation and a better world. Get engaged people!

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

A Bad History of Ideas

Posted on 24 June 2018 | No responses

Mount Olympus by Abraham Janssens

So, we have people who want to convert you to their way of thinking.
This could be for reasons:
Sometimes to make the world a better place,
Sometimes to validate those people’s sense of self.

“Hey! I have great ideas!
You should agree with me, so that I can feel secure that I have great ideas!”

Let’s say a few people convert their thinking to this person’s great ideas.
Then let’s say other people with other ideas also have people converting to their ideas.

But who is right?
Does someone believing in a different idea mean we are wrong?
Does someone believing in a different idea make them wrong?
(No reason to worry about who is right. Not when insecurity is at stake!)
How hard do we want to think about this?
“Surely, the ideas we already have are obviously the best ideas!”

To feel even more secure maybe we convert these people to our ideas as well.
Maybe we start forcing people to agree to our ideas?
Perhaps we should stop people from converting to other ideas?

So certain groups of people convert and dominate other groups of people.
Lots of little groups are absorbed into bigger groups.
No one is allowed to question these ideas, because…scary!
You are even told: question these ideas and scary things will happen!
Gods will punish you!
The world will fall apart!
Someone will come and kick you out, or beat you up,
or just make sure you have a rotten life!

Soon people are converting other people
just to make sure their group is big enough to protect themselves from the other group.
It’s not even about the ideas any more.

Lies are told about the other people and their ideas to keep us scared.
Lies are told about our own ideas in order to keep them intact.
These lies are told from cradle to grave, generation after generation.
No one knows what the truth is any more.

Sometimes some of these ideas could have, at one time, complemented one another.
But we will never know.
Too much is at stake.

Maybe we should be capable of discussing lots of ideas
without freaking out!
Maybe we should be capable of changing our minds occasionally,
without being terrified that something essential about ourselves will die.
Maybe we should find the fortitude to look closely at ideas
in order to better determine their place and value…
perhaps allowing for many ideas!
Maybe we should stop being so scared of one another
and find a little inner security.
Maybe we should stop scaring one another.

Maybe the most important thing is to
JUST BE KIND!

In peace,

Katherine

Posted on 21 June 2018 | No responses

Chocolate oatmeal cookies
I have spent much of my adult life trying to get people activated.
It can be hard and discouraging at times.
People don’t want their lives ruffled.
They don’t want to self reflect and find themselves feeling guilty.
They are scared of the consequences of stepping outside of the norm.

I promise you, if you step outside of the norm toward kindness,
I will be there offering you cookies.
Forget the dark-side.
It’s not worth it.

In peace,

Katherine

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