Who is Human?

Posted on 19 October 2017 | No responses

A beggar

People who are impoverished are still citizens.
People who are impoverished are still human.
We only have “human rights”, when we include all humanity in the claim of those rights.

When only the poor are required to take drug tests for their livelihood;
When only the poor have no choice with who and where they are employed;
When only the poor have removed through a special credit card their right to choose how they use their livelihood;

Then a whole section of our society is being treated like convicted criminals and are being imprisoned in their circumstances.

When did we go from compassion for those in need to punitive measures for being a social inconvenience?

Poverty is an environmental issue.
It is critical to our collective survival that we address it.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Power Broken

Posted on 9 October 2017 | No responses

Dandelion with butterfly

A dandelion is growing in your garden. If it spreads, it could choke out your newly planted carrots and tomatoes. Cut off its head and leaves, it will quickly grow back. Pull at it and break its root part way and it will also grow back. The only way to get rid of the dandelion is to pull all parts of the plant from the ground and remove it. That’s what getting at the root of the problem means. If you don’t dig deeply enough, you won’t actually rid yourself of some difficulty you are facing.

I remember being at an environmental rally a number of years back. People were running around in “Fuck Abbott” t-shirts. In Australia Prime Ministers represent their party and are not voted into position by the nation. If a party is unhappy with its Prime Minister, they can replace them with a different representative without waiting for a national election.

Tony Abbott was a well hated prime minister. I told people that it was senseless to focus their energy on this one man, because if his party removed him, they would simply replace him with someone else who would continue with the same destructive policies. In the US if Donald Trump were impeached, Michael Pence would be put in his place and continue the classism, race war, and environmental devastation.

We are currently facing two foundational problems to humanity’s existence: mass poverty and environmental crisis. Like leaves on a dandelion, these problems originate from the same root cause.

We have people tearing at a leaf that represents waste, another pulling at equal access to services, still another pulling at a leaf representing police brutality. These are all important, but have we made the culture change that will turn small victories into a world in which we can all live?

The culture change that people may suspect I’m heading for is the removal of capitalism. This certainly needs to happen. It’s part of the root of our problems. Capitalism leads to excessive exploitation of natural resources. It leads to a system whereby some segment of the population will be dehumanised in order to take their money, their labor, and their lives. Capitalism relies on grinding both people and our living world into destitution.

However, capitalism is simply a very effective tool for those who are perpetuating a much worse problem. People rarely want money just to have money. They want money in order to have status. They want status in order to dominate. This is about a toxic will to power.

My will be done.

When every executive act performed by Barack Obama is being systematically undone by the current US president, that’s not about capitalist based policy, that’s about vengeance. That’s about putting someone in their place, so that they are comprehensively invalidated and crushed into dust for daring to claim any power whatsoever.

This sort of power gaming is everywhere. It has even sunk its roots into progressive movements and organisations. Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power. I’ve watched two independent left-leaning political parties go down in flames because power seekers had insinuated themselves into leading roles. I have seen environmental groups, technology groups, and more go down when sexual abuse and threats of violence became part of the dynamic.

We dominate nature. We dominate one another. Soon no one is cooperating because we are all too busy protecting ourselves, and eventually the world can no longer support us. The end.

We must all learn how to take responsibility and how to share power. We must be able to share power with people of colour, women, young, old, people of diverse genders, those of differing abilities, etc. We must be willing to take responsiblity for doing the work to improve the living conditions of much of humanity and to repair the damage we are doing to the environment. These responsibilities will include replacing capitalism with a more equitable, fair, democratic and sustainable means of distributing goods and services.

We have much to do. Remember that the reward will be great: living in a peaceful world where we can all find contentment.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

“artists” and Artists

Posted on 22 September 2017 | No responses

Van Gogh Starry Starry Night

Starry starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey.
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the
Darkness in my soul.

Perhaps I am writing this for myself.

Perhaps this is an unburdening for which I am seeking witness.

Perhaps it is a fit of ego.

Since I was a small child, and I mean around five years old, I saw myself as an Artist with a capital “A”. Some people will make this sort of claim as a sort of justification that they should be endowed with greatness. At that age and for many years it was not about drive and passion and some strange feeling of destiny. It was about both joy and concern.

I find creativity of any sort a deeply ecstatic experience. I used to drive my family nuts when putting condiments on my hamburger because the mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise had to be arranged just so. I love painting, I love singing, I love dancing, I love writing, and more. It is it’s own reward. The feelings that pass through my entire body feel like sparkles of light that then flow out of me to every living thing on the planet. It is glorious. I cannot imagine doing anything else…

I grew up during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. As a deeply empathetic child these events rattled me. When much later I watched the movie Across the Universe, which makes use of Beatles songs in order to portray the events of the 1960s, I came out a complete basket case. In particular I remembered how upset I had been about the Kent State massacre. I would have been six-seven years old when university students were killed for peacefully protesting the war. I had not been born into a safe world where parents listened to and protected their own children.

At some point I had a discussion with myself about what I wanted to do with my life. What I wanted to do was save the world: save animals and trees from destruction, save people from hatred, save the whole damn planet. That’s a big call for a little girl. I thought about politics: the problem with political power is that if you don’t change how people see the world, a politician can only go so far. I thought about various types of helping jobs like conservationist: again, if you don’t change people’s hearts and minds, you can only go so far. Then I thought, Art changes hearts and minds. Art has on many occasions brought people to care and to act on the behalf of what is most life-affirming. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, without being a great book, nevertheless caused people to sympathise with the plight of enslaved peoples and do what they could to end US slavery in the nineteenth century. At the age I had this discussion, I don’t believe I was so eloquent with myself, but the ideas were all there.

For me this was an obvious answer, but it gave me more fervor in selecting my future path.

Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity.
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen,
They did not know how.

On various online publications I see articles on how to become rich and famous as an artist, how to do your work more effectively by doing it like an artist, how to raise your status through artistry. To be an artist has become a feel good commodity and an “easy” path to self validation.

I really wish I could make a living through my art. However, to do it as the gurus say I should quite honestly would kill my soul. I am no angry artist who makes abstract works that make everyone feel confronted. Though, to be honest, there’s a place for that. No, I want to do this in the way Jim Henson did when he told Jerry Juhl and his writers: let’s make a show about world peace and created Fraggle Rock. However, I am a woman and to take this path is to not be taken seriously. And to be honest, I’m still confrontational. I celebrate those who are vulnerable, so that everyone can see their beauty — regardless of gender, color, religion, age, shape, you name it. I bring to people’s attention startling ideas that could potentially change the world, and being who I am, they are often presented like a great big pot of joy soup!

I have chosen to place my time and efforts on my art, and as a consequence I make less than poverty wages. I only get by because I have a partner who is just making enough for the both of us at a social justice nonprofit. This is where people sniff that art degrees are an MRS. The world is falling apart because people have lost focus on such things as kindness and generosity. I am dismissed for reminding people of this. Nevertheless, I tell people that like toilet paper, it is possible to be both strong and gentle.

Artists with a capital “A” rarely know that the rest of the world eventually found them “great”. Many have died in penury. They simply followed their calling. And yes, it’s very much a calling whether or not every such Artist hears angel trumpets. I have had standing ovations, I have had the odd five star review for my work, but quite honestly I have in no way cracked the “1000 true fans” mark. I can only physically do so much. So, I keep creating and keep hoping what I do is reaching even a few people, and like a pebble dropped into a still pond, make the most beautiful silvery waves.

Someone recently sent me this message about a song I published in support of Australia’s queer community during the national marriage equality survey.

Thanks so much for sharing that song. I got goosebumps and cried while listening to it just now, it is beautiful as is the sentiment behind it. It really spoke to me (and I am one of the people feeling devastated about the lack of respect in this so-called debate about my family, community and relationships)

As of this date fifty-five people have bothered to look at it. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking, how can people even know whether my work is good or bad if they don’t even look at it? Sometimes I think, I thought I was all right, maybe I am wasting my life. Then I get a letter like the above.

This is a hard call. It is impossible for me to ever know the value of my own work. But I continue to live my life as an Artist. I continue to care.

Perhaps they’ll listen now.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

Lyrics to “Starry Starry Night” by Don Mclean

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

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