Problems: Victorian Elections 2018

Posted on 23 November 2018 | No responses

by Liam Kay, guest blogger

Where is my Vote?

by Hamed Saber 2009

A few people have asked me why I’m ‘in politics’ but not interested in being a candidate. If it isn’t clear from the past few weeks, politics is a really nasty game. That’s what it is. It’s rarely about genuine leadership or representation for most of the people in politics, it’s about your team winning for 4 years and starting the cycle all over again come next election.

We’re in an unfortunate situation where we want people with totally clean histories, but also people who are real and not groomed from the political class to be politicians. But unfortunately that’s just not reality. Everyone has a past, and I think the people who go to extreme lengths to have no past are people who can’t be trusted to represent us.

Mistakes are integral to learning and understanding. Don’t get me wrong, some mistakes are much much worse than others and I’m certainly not saying mistakes shouldn’t have consequences. But, I think many of us will make (or have made) mistakes that aren’t small, and might hurt other people – even if we didn’t intend it.

Most of us at some point were awful in some way. Whether it was sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, or ableism, part of growing up is understanding the way we think and do things, and how that might affect others. And while most of us will try and do the right thing, this process doesn’t happen without some tension and conflict. It’s just the reality of how we learn and understand.

No matter who you are now as a person, there will be people out there who will want to sift through your entire history to damage your character. This also includes people or groups you have been involved with, be it friends, family, lovers, religious organisations, political groups, etc.

I don’t think I’ve done anything that would damage a career. I’ve had my moments on social media and I’ve been wrong pleeeenty of times on issues I’ve been really passionate about. Many of us have been on social media since MySpace. I think I got my account in 2005 or 2006. I was around 11 or 12.

Can you imagine all the stupid things I put on the internet between now and then? Sure, none of it was criminal or wrong, but embarrassing or cringeworthy? You bloody bet.

So to finally get to the point I wanted to make, I think we’re in trouble right now with our standard of politics and I don’t want to be part of it. Democracy is great when people understand how it’s supposed to function, and it’s great when people genuinely care about the society we live in. Neither of those are the case for us in Australia.

Voting is the bare minimum when it comes to democratic participation, and even then we have people who fail to do that. For a democracy to thrive, we all need to participate. I understand many of us can’t participate fully because of our circumstances, but that’s **exactly what we should be talking about right now**.

I don’t want to put the people I care about in the public spotlight. I’m actually starting to enjoy some privacy since I’ve started to recover from a crippling anxiety disorder and now that I’ve been able to be myself.

I really care about my community, about Victoria, and about Australia. I really want us to do the right thing for everyone and I really want us move in a direction where life is better *for everyone*. But I know the kind of people who may be our future leaders in the two main parties, and it seriously doesn’t look good.

Already we have young people spreading lies, engaging in dishonest politics and moral posturing, and even false allegations of polling day misconduct. It’s really disgusting how far some people are willing to go to achieve a ‘victory’, even if it’s just a fleeting moral victory. Even years later, it’s disappointing that most of these people refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoings.

I’m going to continue doing what I do now. I really appreciate the Greens’ platform and I hope they can continue to expand it. I’m really excited to see how the Victorian Socialists go. I strongly believe the future of left wing politics is through multi-party coalition governments. It’s the best way to ensure we get fair democratic outcomes. Voters also have a role to play in holding people to account for their policies, promises, actions, and statements, but also knowing when someone deserves forgiveness.

Liam Kay is an honours graduate from Deakin University and a member of the Victorian Greens. His passions lie in political activism, grassroots democracy, social justice, LGBTI rights, and global development.

Government Shmovernment

Posted on 3 November 2018 | No responses

UN Security Council

Directing a movie is a little bit like being back in student government and putting on the homecoming dance.
You’re like, “You put up the streamers, and you hire the DJ, and you get the punch bowl.”
Some people are just like, “This dance sucks.”
And you’re like, “No no, this dance is awesome”
You have to be really positive.

~Mike Birbiglia

Human Beings Are Social Animals

We cannot as a species survive utterly independently from one another. We rely on our brains as our primary means of interacting with our environment and caring for ourselves. Our brains are large and take time to develop. Therefore, we are vulnerable as children for a long time and require the support of parents and community.

We build weapons because we do not have particularly sharp teeth or claws. We tame horses for riding because we are not particularly fast, nor do we have the stamina for long trips. Because we are weak compared to other predators, we find strength in combining and coordinating our hunting efforts. We agree to collectively hunt because we agree to share our prizes.

Unique to humanity is the possession of a neocortex markedly larger than that in the brain of any other ape or mammal of similar size. The neocortex comprises of those parts of the brain responsible for higher social cognition such as: conscious thought, language, behavioral and emotional regulation, as well as empathy and theory of mind. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/pascal-vrticka/human-social-development_b_3921942.html

Humans also have a high number of mirror neurons. These neurons are important for both learning and empathy. Mirror neurons fire when they observe action performed by another, as if they had done that action themselves. Action includes emotional responses. We have the second most mirror neurons compared to other animals. Only the Long-finned pilot whale outstrips us.
https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/List_of_animals_by_number_of_neurons.html

Because we rely on a network of relations beyond our families, we have to consider how to manage ourselves such that larger and larger groups of people can successfully live with one another. This is the evolutionary origins of civilisation.

As such we need political systems and government. We also need to think about our political systems and government, because as we consciously evolve, so must the social structures upon which we rely.

The Roles of Government

Democratic governments Exist for two purposes:

* To represent the collective will of their citizens

* To ensure the collective welfare of their citizens

These mandates can be at odds with each other. Sometimes circumstances bring anger and fear to a boil among the citizenry. People may then want expedient answers that are not in fact in their own best interest. This scenario can be made less likely when citizens are well educated and have a good sense that we are all in this together. When three different Australian states were unwilling to share the Murray river in order to meet their water needs, they could have gone to war with one another. Instead the federally elected government stepped in to ensure the water was fairly divided.

To represent the collective will of their citizens.

In a functioning democracy your vote counts for something. Your vote shouldn’t just represent a suggestion to someone, who was appointed on your behalf and who you did not vote for, in order to determine who is president. Pretty tangled, eh? That’s how the US Electoral College works. The government is happy to know your opinion, but then makes up its own mind as to who gets the highest seat of power. This is because in fact they do not trust your opinion. Such a system is not even a representative republic.

In a functioning democracy you have ready access to the politicians you put into positions of responsibility. Yes, they may be busy with work, but you are in fact a top priority and they must, at some point, make time for you. Start asking questions if this is not the case. At no point should any politician be more obligated to a corporation or special interest than to you…ever. They should never feel distant, high, or mighty. You should be the sole source of their power, and you can withdraw that power at any time with the simple stroke of a pen or push of a button when you make your vote.

In a functioning democracy you should feel confident that elections are fair and above board. It should be easy for you to execute your civic duty. Voting is a right and a responsibility. Your government must demonstrate their respect for that by making voting booths readily available, giving everyone sufficient time to vote, and ensuring voter registration is straightforward.

The democratic process and the role politicians are taking must be held in such esteem that it is unthinkable anyone would seek to win by any but the most honorable of means. Everyone should have access to standing for a democratically elected office, not just a select few with enough money and the right connections. Shady dealing should scandalize the public. Such dealing should never be accepted and never normalized. People need to fully express their anger: “this is wrong, this person should be removed from office and never allowed to stand again.” That’s what you do when someone abuses a sacred trust. Would you accept bad behavior from a daycare worker? NO! Children are precious. So is our democracy.

In a functioning democracy everyone will have sufficient education and access to objective reporting in order to make considered decisions when voting. Education is meant to prepare you for life. The proper functioning of your country is part of your life. Whether or not you are paid to understand current affairs and vote, this is important work. This is how you ensure your well-being and the well-being of your children.

To ensure the collective welfare of their citizens.

Countries do this by providing-

* stable rules and regulations, and their enforcement

* goods, services, infrastructure, as necessary.

Each country may need a different mix of these. However, at no point should enforcing rules be made more important than the physical and emotional well-being of citzens.

Stable rules and regulations, and their enforcement.

When you are feeling hemmed in and dominated by your parents, your school system, your government, and ultimately your society, it is easy to believe that all rules and regulations are bad.

Traffic laws are rules that people meet with daily and feel strongly about. Some get angry with speed limits and wonder why they have to wait for someone at an intersection–“I have someplace to go!” However, cars are dangerous equipment. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, “In 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That means that six teens ages 16-19 died every day due to motor vehicle crashes and hundreds more were injured.” In Australia the leading cause of death for children up to fourteen is car accidents and car accidents cause 21% of deaths for 15-24 year-olds.
https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html
https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death

When everyone follows traffic laws, their behavior is predictable. This makes it possible for drivers to figure out what everyone is doing and take appropriate action. Speed limits are set to reflect how dangerous certain sections of road are, either for the driver or for pedestrians. Following those limits means drivers are less likely to lose control of their car or be unable to respond quickly enough to a pedestrian’s presence on the road.

Traffic laws make it possible for us to all arrive home alive. We want them enforced, because we don’t want some jerks thinking they can ignore the law and endanger the rest of us. Having a car can be very much like having a gun.

January 2017 in Melbourne Australia (where I live) a man deliberately drove his car into the pedestrians at Bourke Street Mall. Four people were killed, including a young child; twenty people were injured. I had one friend who saw the event unfold from the window of his office building, and was passing on Facebook updates as to what was going on. It was frightening. Until something disastrous happens to yourself or someone you care about, it can be very hard to understand why something is a problem. Please understand this: some laws are about your safety.

This is where things get tricky: some laws are not made in good faith.

If someone is so poor that they are forced to steal a loaf of bread in order to eat, which is more important: ensuring this person doesn’t starve or punishing them for breaking the law? In such a situation the government has failed in its duty of care towards its citizens and should largely be responsible for the theft.

Beware of countries that remove safety nets for people who have fallen upon hard times. It’s hardly surprising then when people resort to any means available to them just to survive. However, by creating crime these governments can convince the rest of the country that it is in their best interest to beef up police and military forces in order to better control their own citizenry. For those living comfortable lives, this may not seem like such a problem…up until you disagree with your government and your political voice is silenced with an actual gun.

Goods, services, and infrastructure.

In certain countries you are solely responsible for ensuring you have enough to eat. You may also be responsible for your medical care, your education, your ability to travel, whether or not you have clean water and sanitation. Research for various diseases such as bowel cancer may be left to those non-profit organizations who can collect enough money from people like you to pay researchers. Similarly research into the health of the environment may be left to rely on charitable donations. Children living in orphanages and foster homes will need caring donors or face living on the streets. You may also be approached by friends and family on GoFundMe to help when they have fallen on hard times.

This is a lot of work. This is a lot of responsibility that we are all asked to carry every day, all the time. Surely a better way can be found.

A better way has been found. These are all things for which your government is supposed to be responsible. This is what your tax dollars are for…goods, services and infrastructure that benefit you and your community.

When early American settlers took up the cry, “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” they did not say “taxation is tyranny”. They understood the value of taxation when that money became a community resource. What they objected to was having money taken from them without consultation, and to have that money distributed solely to people within England. They were not being taxed so much as being expected to offer tribute.

Let’s say a group of people in a community decide to start their own hospital cooperative. Everyone pitches in money to ensure enough doctors, medical equipment, and medicines are available for whenever anyone is sick. Some people will use the hospital more and some will use it less, but ultimately everyone is cared for. If anything catastrophic happens to anyone, they can feel secure that they will receive all the care they need. The results are a healthier community and peace of mind. More than that, everyone in the community knows that this is their hospital and can vote on who runs it and how.

This is pretty much how government taxation works. However, by paying state taxes you can ensure those people in poorer communities in your state also receive good care. When you pay federal taxes for health care some of that money can go toward medical research, thereby potentially finding cures to deadly diseases.

When hospital care is left to corporations they can ask, “How much is your health worth to you? Are you willing to pay $100 to be well? How about $1000 or $10,000?” CEOs can be sued by shareholders of hospitals for not making enough money. Therefore, it is worth it to them to charge as much as the market can bear. The bottom line is more important to them than your health. They also have the right to turn people away who can’t pay. Some diseases can only be contained when everyone is treated. You can’t play favorites based on wealth. Otherwise, everyone becomes ill, despite the numbers in their bank account.

Anything that is a human right should be made available to everyone through their government. Other people may privately offer similar services. But everyone must receive sufficient support from their government that they can live with dignity. This is already done in countries like Sweden and Norway. Taking so much in taxes that a full life is not possible would be counter to a government’s duty. This only happens when taxes are unfair because not everyone is equally sharing in supporting the well-being of their country.

A country is a collective entity. If you are benefitting from a country in any way, then it is your responsiblity to chip in along with everyone else. Some people with a lot of money go to great lengths to avoid taxes. They dazzle people with their lifestyle and convince people to let them behave irresponsibly. They will use their money to access positions of power and thereby dismantle public services. They will convince you this will lessen your tax burden. What will lessen your tax burden and ensure your personal security is if those with money behave honorably and pay an equal percentage of their wealth, as you do, for our collective well-being.

Government…we need good government. Currently, we aren’t experiencing what that is. That is no indication that good government isn’t possible, just that we have to get off our butts and make big change!

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Reigniting Democracy!

Posted on 3 November 2018 | No responses

“The key to winning: Don’t try to convince anyone. Find people you like and organize!”
~Nicolas Bell

We hear words like “government”, “political party”, “corporation”…and our problems seem so big and we feel so small.

How can we possibly change the world facing such monstrosities?

In France Michel Lotito, more commonly known as “Monsieur Mangetout” which translates as “Mr Eat-All”, is an entertainer who actually ate an entire airplane. From 1978 to 1980 he disassembled and consumed a Cessna 150 one part at a time. It’s amazing he was able to do this at all!

When we want to change “The Establishment” we have to stop thinking about it in monumental terms. Don’t let the big buildings fool you. Bricks are inanimate. They can’t fight you. What you are dealing with is a collection of people. It is entirely possible to take down an establishment one person at a time.

Right now you have people working hard to motivate you into voting. Because win or lose by fair or foul play, your vote nevertheless tells those in power which way the wind is blowing. If you organise enough of your friends to vote together, those in power now know how serious you are and whether they should be concerned.

Some inspiration: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

In June of this year Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a woman still in her twenties, won the Democrat primaries for her district in New York. She is now campaigning for a position in the US House of Representatives. Her success was entirely grassroots and totally unexpected.

When she found that she had been purged from New York voting rolls and could not vote in the 2016 presidential primary, she chose to work as an organiser for Bernie Sanders’s campaign. She learned everything she could about how to run grassroots campaigns. In 2017 she decided to challenge Democratic Caucus Chair, Joe Crowley, to run for the position of New York Congressional District 14 representative. She was the first person to do so since 2004. If she wins the election this November, she will be the youngest woman to ever be elected to the U.S. House Of Representatives.

How did she get this far? She started by speaking with people in their homes and having coffee parties. That’s the very definition of grassroots! With the help of a team of volunteers she made extensive use of social media such Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Her materials were multilingual, reaching out to the many different people who lived in her district. She also made a viral YouTube video.

The majority of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s political contributions were by small individual contributors. She spent $194,000 campaigning compared to her opponent’s $3.4 million. And she won!

Ocasio-Cortez does not come from a wealthy white family. Her heritage is Puerto Rican and she was born in the Bronx of New York City. If she can achieve this much political success, then now is the time for young people everywhere to start flexing their political muscles and create change! You can do it!

Vote Vote VOTE!

Voting isn’t just a right. It’s a responsibility.

Only by voting do you ensure that you are living in a democracy. Only by voting do you protect all your rights. Only by voting are you guaranteed of having your voice heard by your nation.

In Australia everyone is required to vote or face fines. Quite a difference from the US! Some people do feel that their freedom is abridged by forcing them to contribute to political decisions. However, it is completely legal to make a “donkey vote”. This is when a person turns up to a voting station and puts no marks on their ballot. This is a political statement in its own right. It may say that they do not like any of the candidates, or they are unhappy with the system. Of course it can also mean they are a complacent jerk, who likes messing with people! These are things Australia has to consider.

We all need to become used to voting from a very early age and have it mean something. We need parents giving children choices, even if it’s “chocolate or vanilla?” then abide by that choice. We need school elections that are more than just popularity contests: where the elected roles require genuine responsibility and concern for the electorate. Civics classes need to become a thing once more. When a young person comes of voting age, that should be cause for a big celebration!

Become a voting maniac and find ways to encourage others to be voting maniacs!

Voting Clubs

Create a voting club! In this club organise to help register people for the vote, then get them to the polling booths in a timely fashion. Have events where a few individuals present details about the candidates and issues that will be on the ballot, so that people can make informed decisions. Have everyone bring cupcakes for afterward! On election day have all your friends dress up and carry balloons, vote, then go somewhere for a party!

Create a Bingo card where people can mark off squares for voting on local, state, and federal ballots! For extra squares encourage members to become part of credit unions and cooperatives, where votes in these organisations also count toward BINGO!

People will often skip opportunities to vote in midterm elections or local ballots, because they feel they aren’t as worthy of their time. ALL votes are important. In the case of local elections this is where you can feel your power! You can sense that you have made a difference! When enough local governments make the same changes, that informs state government. When enough state governments make the same changes, that informs the federal government. That’s how grassroots politics works! Don’t worry about the smallness of these electorates. Trust me, they can pack a punch under the right conditions.

Join a Party and Vote Some More!

People see political parties as some sort of Medusa released each election. Sure we may see any number of snake-like faces, but it seems to be all one monster. Don’t let anyone fool you by talking about “The Democrats” or “The Republicans”. They are groups of people. It’s not that hard to join them. It’s entirely possible to change their nature from within. When I first moved to Australia I joined a party in order to better understand how politics worked in that country. I volunteered to help write for the science and technology policy development group. After many years of just being there, I started writing more policy at higher levels, until eventually I was helping to set federal policy. Some of my ideas even made it into law!

When you join a political party, you get to vote who runs for various positions before anyone else does. If you don’t like the results, have your friends join you and vote some more in the next primary elections. Don’t be afraid to invade!

Who’s a Loser?

Some people may find voting disspiriting when their side loses. But it is in fact important by what margin someone has won a political position. If they squeaked through by one percent, they know they have to be answerable to their electorate or forfeit their position. You will then have power when you contact them and say, “I want this to happen.” If your side lost by a large margin, please understand that voting is an important part of a longterm process toward change. Your side may have only managed twenty percent of the vote, but if you are seeking social justice, then the most important thing you can do is to keep at it. Your vote gives your position visibility and offers the opportunity for dramatic shifts.

Practice Makes Perfect

In the US it’s very easy to feel that the system is rigged against you. That’s because it is!

Even if we did away with Electoral College, all the elections would still not fully represent the will of the people. That’s because the US relies on a “First Past the Post” voting system–the most simple form of election but not the most fair. If you have ever wondered why the US can only manage two political parties, this is why.

Let’s say we have an election where three parties are vying for the presidency: the Yellow, the Purple, and the Orange. Let’s say 30% of the people vote for Yellow and 30% vote for Purple. Let’s say Yellow and Purple people may not completely agree on everything, but they both dislike Orange. However, 40% of the population have voted for Orange. Under First Past the Post Orange wins. Sixty percent of the people are now unhappy with their leader, even though they are in the majority. The only way to keep this from happening is by having a two party system. This means not everyone’s issues are represented well, but at least they have some power to stop Orange from winning.

Can voting be made better than this. YES! Yes, it can!

Australia makes use of different means of voting that are a little more complex, but result in fairer representation. These systems are why they have multiple parties in that country. Australia makes use of both “Preferential Voting” (AKA Instant-Runoff Voting or Alternate Vote) and “Single Transferable Vote”. (In New Zealand they use “Mixed-Member Proportional Representation”)

With Preferential Voting you number your candidates from your most favorite to your least favorite. In a Yellow, Purple, Orange election you might vote “1” for Yellow, “2” for Purple, and “3” for Orange. If Orange is most people’s least favorite party, then what “1” votes they did receive go to people’s next preference. Let’s say twelve people are voting in this election: three vote “1” for Orange, four vote “1” for Yellow, and five vote “1” for Purple. Since Orange is being eliminated the ballots of those who voted Orange are checked to see which parties people voted “2”. If all of them voted Yellow as their next favorite, that would give Yellow seven votes to Purple’s five, and Yellow would win!

A few US cities and universities use these other methods of voting. If you are not used to them, they can be a little confusing. But honestly, the ballots can be straightforward. It’s the counting that requires careful attention. CGP Grey on YouTube does a great job of making these methods easy to understand. They produce results that better represent the people. If you believe in democracy, then this is what you want!

Should this interest you, I would suggest practice using these voting systems with your friends. Get a feel for how they work, then start promoting their use. Maybe even put up an initiative to have one of them used in your local elections or perhaps your state!

Getting Fired Up

When you become of voting age, you are old enough to start making laws! That’s more power than most people understand they have.

Through initiatives and referendums you can change the shape of your world. Like anything this will take work and perseverance. However given the issues we are facing now and in the future, the work is absolutely neccesary to save ourselves.

Citizen initiatives and referendums are a mixed blessing. They can most assuredly be abused by self-seekers, angry mobs, and manipulative companies. They are also a tool for direct democracy, making it possible to go around stubborn politicians. You can use this tool for good!

Find a group of friends and think hard about what laws could be made to protect your future: laws to do with housing, food security, protection of the environment, fair treatment, and more.

Right now Washington State is voting on a carbon tax to be imposed on companies that are polluting the state. This is the first proposed law of its kind in the United States. Here is the wording: “Initiative Measure No. 1631, filed March 13, 2018. AN ACT Relating to reducing pollution by investing in clean air, clean energy, clean water, healthy forests, and healthy communities by imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution; and adding a new chapter to Title 70 RCW.”

Do not worry so much about knowing what Title 70 RCW means. The rest of the initiative is straightforward and easy to understand. Start by putting together this sort of statement, then begin the process of getting people excited about it. Hold meetings. Contact university law departments to see if any of their law students would be happy to help you put together a full document to submit to your state government.

You may want to start by urging people to approach their state representatives with your document and convince these representatives to put your proposal before the state legislature. This would be a faster and easier method of making your law.

Eventually, you may find you still need to go around gathering signatures. Do NOT rely on online petitions. They have some influence, but are nowhere near as powerful as directly approaching politicians and legislative departments with documents people care enough to sign by hand.

As always, anything that’s going to be a slog requires a light spirit and passionate engagement. Be sure to celebrate every step. Find ways to make what you are doing fun. Regularly congratulate and honor one another. Remind yourselves regularly why you are doing this and how important that is!

Storming the Castle

If you are feeling inspired…if you are feeling REALLY inspired…I would suggest beginning a movement to hold your own grassroots constitutional convention. This is a pretty radical suggestion.

Currently, conservatives are calling for such a convention in order to push through an amendment to give states the power to veto any federal law, supreme court decision or executive order with a three-fifths vote from the states. Take a look through the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Think about what it would be like to have individual states removing your protections, such as freedom of speech or the ability to vote at eighteen. The list could go on and get much worse as to what might be done. There would be no UNITED States.

I don’t think a Constitutional Convention is such a bad idea. Many people in the US find it unthinkable, because what was done at the original convention is seen as sacred. In Australia they have had four Constitutional Conventions. The last two were in 1973 and 1998. We just need to make sure it’s a Constitutional Convention that proposes rights which better reflect our growth as a nation capable of universal compassion.

Schools in Australia regularly run constitutional conventions locally and nationally to help students learn how their government functions. These events also give them the space to discuss current affairs and genuine concerns related to the issues. Students in the US could initiate similar events.

In order to better propose changes and updates to the US Constitution I would strongly suggest young people explore existing documents that will give the changes they seek some weight. The documents I feel are worthy of your time are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a United Nations document that was inspired by the US Constitution but went further, and The Earth Charter which includes economic and environmental justice.

Quite honestly, you can do so much!

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Sources of Power

Posted on 1 November 2018 | No responses

Problems arise when any group holds sources of power hostage. This hostage taking is used to put forward the agenda of a few at the expense of others and our planet. The questions we must always ask ourselves are: who gets to manage these sources, why are they managing them, and how are they using their considerable influence?

These sources are anything we need to exist as living beings within a civilised society:

* Weapons

* Natural resources

* Money

* Jobs

* Information, communications, and culture

Weapons

Weapons are an obvious source of power. They deal in death.

There is power in owning weapons, in owning the most destructive weapons, in building weapons, in stockpiling weapons, and in deciding who has access to weapons.

When people are fearful of one another, they may happily dispense weapons to a police force who they have charged to wield deadly power for their safety. People pay taxes and support laws to make this happen. Someone is then contracted to build the weapons. The police then have power to make lethal threats or outright kill.

People had the power to vote. Governments had the power to pay for weapons and issue them to their forces. Companies had the means to build weapons. Police officers now have a power of life or death. That’s four layers of power.

The most vulnerable layer in this power dynamic is the people. Governments or police could decide to take away a people’s vote and use their guns to enforce tax payment, so as to build more weapons.

When people are fearful of their government, they may make demands to have access to their own weapons. This stands to make weapons manufacturers very wealthy indeed. However, the instant those guns go off, we are talking about civil war. Civil wars tend to take a greater toll on human life than any other sort of conflict. The prosperity this brings the manufacturers gives them the power to pay government officials to do as they say. However, countries are devastated and become of less interest to the wealthy.

What the owners of weapons making companies want is for their country to go to war with other countries. In this way their country can take over someone else’s wealth and pass it on to the company. Even better is convincing other people’s states to fight, then sell weapons to both sides. This must be a carefully calculated game, so that those same weapons are not turned on the country of origin.

Our current arsenal is so powerful that we would only need to set off a few nuclear weapons and the whole world would spiral into environmental cataclysm.

Atmospheric scientist Richard Turco of UCLA has said, “Detonating between 50 and 100 bombs – just 0.03% of the world’s arsenal – would throw enough soot into the atmosphere to create climactic anomalies unprecedented in human history…The effects would be much greater than what we’re talking about with global warming and anything that’s happened in history with regards volcanic eruptions.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/dec/12/nuclearindustry.climatechange

Natural Resources

One of the nastiest things humans have allowed ourselves to do is carve up the world among ourselves, then slowly allow the pieces to devolve into the hands of a few. “This is mine!”

Because less and less can be deemed ours, we lose our right to our very existence.

“You can live, if you can afford to pay for my water. You can live, if you can afford to pay for my land. You can live, if you can afford to pay for the fruits of my land.” If you cannot pay, then your existence is at the sufference of those who have taken what plants and animals have shared for millenia.

In Australia there is a river called the Murray. It runs through three states. During the Millennium Drought, the worst drought Australia had seen in a thousand years, each part of that river was managed as if individually owned. Therefore the state where the source of the Murray could be found used all the water they wanted for their people and the growing of their crops. What was left of the water flowed to the next state, which had less for its people and crops, but took all they could of what they had. By the time the Murray flowed to the third state and out to the ocean, not enough water was making it through to ensure people, native plants and animals, or crops had all they needed.

These circumstances meant that the first state was the richest and most comfortable state and the last state was facing poverty and the destruction of its environment. These are all states of a single country! However, since that river was not managed as a collective resource (my river instead of our river) certain people and the environment were allowed to suffer. If those upstream agreed to more modest use of this natural resource, it is entirely possible that everyone would have had sufficient to avoid anyone suffering. This is why the Murray river had to become a Federally managed resource–in order to keep everyone’s needs in mind.

The Earth is a finite resource. We already have corporations grabbing at various resources in order to gain the power that comes from holding hostage that which other people need.

I did quite a bit of campaigning to stop Rio Tinto from taking San Carlos Apache sacred land. Using modern methods they found copper beneath that soil and felt it should belong to them. Their methods of mining will destroy the local environment…and they do not in fact need that copper at this point in time. They are hoarding in preparation for shortages. So, they found a way through the US Federal Government to just take the land without payment or consideration of the people who have loved and used it for hundreds of years.

When you have a tree full of apples, you can afford to let some people have more than their fair share, if everyone has access to enough. However, when certain people grab more than their fair share and deliberately make use of shortages, they are robbing you of your freedom and your right to a secure existence. They are preparing to bully you and your government through your desperation.

Money

Money is almost entirely abstract.

It is no longer a promissory note for a particular amount of gold. It’s just a means of keeping count of value. This can be done with bills, credit cards, or securely passing numbers between banks online.

Gold itself is of fictional value–anything could have been chosen to represent value–as long as it is desirable and scarce. We could be trading in caviar! Try walking into a grocery store and purchasing a shopping cart full of the week’s groceries with a lump of gold–not going to happen. Someone would have to determine if it was really gold, make a valuation, then upon receiving the gold find a way to use it to pay workers and suppliers. It’s all too much work.

They are likely to tell you to sell your lump at a gold market and come back with cash. Using gold only sounds like a good idea if you have plenty of it and it is of great value. If your lump is meant to only cover your purchases, it won’t be of much interest.

Whether people are saving money (hoarding it as a resource) or spending money affects the financial well-being of a nation. If people are circulating too much money too fast, then a country starts experiencing inflation. You may be able to afford a loaf of bread today, but tomorrow it may be overly expensive. If people feel the need for caution, or are simply without money, and very little money is circulating, then a country starts going into a depression. (Whoops! The “D” word. We don’t use that word anymore, because it is too scary and…well…depressing. The term is now “longterm recession”.)

Because it matters how many units of money are circulating in a country, many countries have a federal (or in the case of the US: semi-federal) reserve bank. These banks will release bills or hold bills, back banking loans, and set lending interest rates. Their job is to ensure the country’s inflation is low and employment high. However, these two ends can be in conflict with one another. Right now in the West we are experiencing both low inflation and low employment.

If many people feel insecure about what their future holds, they may start saving money “for a rainy day”. This can slow the circulation of money, meaning there is less money with which to pay people. Governments and companies may try to encourage people to go out and buy to correct for this. However, that only works if people actually have much money to spend in the first place.

If companies can find ways to have fewer workers and pay the remaining workers less, such as through third world sweatshops or robotization, then they can shift more of their money to the CEO and stockholders. CEOs and stockholders may then remove the money they have earned to offshore banks in order to avoid paying taxes on it. This means vast amounts of money are removed from circulation and aren’t coming back into circulation as either purchases or tax money.

When the country starts to fall into recession because of this removal of money, companies may cry poor. “Not enough of our goods are being purchased, so we must fire more people,” they will say while not acknowledging why people don’t have dollars. Then comes the sucker punch, “Governments should give us more money, so we can create jobs”. This may save a few jobs, but mostly it makes the companies wealthier at the public’s expense.

Under our current system we all need money to survive. However, money is managed such that it is very easy for some to have so much more as to endanger people’s lives and demand their obedience.

Jobs

Many groups, communities, and organisations need your work. They need people to distribute food to the poor, plant trees to clean the air, and even just share insights to help them make good decisions.

You need to find a job in order to make money and then to buy what you and your family need to survive.

Work does not equal money.

Work only provides money when you have people with the means to offer money in exchange. When only certain people have money, they get to choose what gets done in the world–whether or not it is in the best interest of humanity or the planet. This is not an issue among cultures where everyone pitches in and everyone shares.

One of the biggest lies we have been told in recent years is that there aren’t enough jobs.

The truth is we need all hands on deck in order to curb global environmental catastrophe and to save many people who will be suffering from its effects. There are loads of jobs.

So what’s going on here?

When jobs are the only means by which people can make money, then having the means to create jobs is power. People who wish to abuse this power and grab more power for themselves have a few means by which to manipulate people to achieve this.

First, corporate manipulators need an underclass. They need a whole group of people who are an object lesson as to what can happen if you lose a job. To look good companies may give to charities, but they will never give to any program that may actually systemically deal with the problems. They need workers to feel uneasy, even scared, about the consequences of acting out. To make things even scarier, they will do everything they can to remove social safety nets such as welfare payments. They will then do all they can to stigmatise people who rely on welfare. This is a form of propaganda whereby people feel less inclined to help the poor, even if it is in their best interest to do so.

When people are scared they are more likely to accept lower wages, greater work hours, and fewer work rights in exchange for security. These same people who are being mistreated will also fight for the existence of their abusive company, because they feel desperate and can see no other alternatives. Working longer hours also means they do not have the time to politically engage in order to change things.

Corporate manipulators love a slightly unsteady economy. It means they can bully the government. When people start threatening to change their voting alliance because they are facing a scarce job market, then big businesses can put the pressure on federal candidates, saying they could make more jobs available…if. They might as well be mafia members offering a protection racket with that “if”. The list they offer usually includes if the government: lowers corporate taxes, removes worker benefits, sells off public assets, and contracts out federal work.

Nothing says all paid work must be under the control of business. Businesses cry, “It’s unfair having you compete with us!” on the one hand and on the other urge for a “healthy competitive market”. Many countries have both private and public versions of various services: public and private schools for instance. When government does offer certain services, it sets a standard. When public health care is good, private health care had also better be good if it wishes to attract any business. Also in a democratic society government based work is more accountable and must be transparent to the voters whose tax money is paying people’s salaries.

If we rely on money to survive, then our governments are duty bound to ensure everyone, every last citizen, has access to the money they need, and opportunities to contribute to their communities. From 1935 to 1943 the US federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) pulled the US out of the Great Depression by employing 8.5 million citizens. Full employment was reached in 1942 and emerged as a long-term national goal around 1944. We can do this again.

Information, Communications, & Culture

Information, communications, and culture are the glue by which we hold a society together and hold it together over time. These ways that we bond with one another can also be used to enforce a certain type of society, where particular people are in control.

Information

Information is preserved knowledge. You may be familiar with phrase “knowledge is power”. The oldest recorded use of this phrase is in the Biblical book of Proverbs, but it has been used in philosophical treatises and a computer game.

If you know that certain stock is going to gain or lose value before anyone else does, that is power. If you are the only one with instructions on how to build a particularly destructive weapon, that is power. If you alone have the knowledge of how to make a drug that could save people, that is power.

During the Middle Ages guilds protected trade secrets, because for any particular guild, having these secrets meant their members could do more impressive things than those who did not. Magicians guilds, which still exist, insist upon the secrecy of their members as to how their tricks are done. Revealing their tricks would drive away audiences who could no longer enjoy being deceived. Also, those belonging to the guild are literally likely to have a little more up their sleeve than amateur magicians.

Trade secrets today are kept as patents or locked away in academic journals where the papers there are only available to those with sufficient money. In essence information is being held hostage so that only those with access to that knowledge can make a living from it. Sadly, keeping these secrets creates problems.

When the circle of people holding information about some process is small, they don’t have much input to expand upon that information. A small group of people may invent the wheel, but a larger group may start inventing the car.

When that knowledge is important to people’s survival, a reasonable question would be: “Does this information really belong to one person or to all of us?” If only one company has knowledge in how to make a drug to treat a particular type of cancer, is it really all right to let them use people’s desperation to charge a large amount of money? When they charge that sort of money is it all right to let all those who can’t afford it to die? If they do make it financially available to their own poor, is it all right to let them block its manufacture in other countries that may need it?

This is why it is of such concern about allowing some countries to be “information rich” and others to be “information poor”.

Communication

Communication is about the movement of information. Communication is about who we can talk to, whose information we trust, and whether or not what is said is true.

Communication makes it possible for us to share private information, but the very act can make us vulnerable to someone intercepting this information and using it against us.

Communication makes it possible for us to warn people that a storm is coming their way, when we have just experienced it.

Communication helps us to form friendships, form alliances, organise, and initiate action at a particular time and place.

Communication can also be used to manipulate us, making us think and feel things in order to direct what sorts of things we do. On Facebook Russian trolls are blamed for manipulating people on that social media site to vote for Donald Trump, or just give up on voting altogether when Hilary Clinton was chosen to run as the Democratic candidate instead of Bernie Sanders. However, standard outlets such as newspapers and television news have done the same thing.

If your media is concentrated into the hands of only a few people, and even fewer types of people, they are being given a disproportionate power to influence your understanding of the world. You are only being given one perspective and it is the perspective that most favors the people who are communicating it. These communications could be complete lies, but you will have a hard time knowing that since where ever you look, you will be seeing the same lies repeated over and over again.

Culture

Culture is like water to a fish. We are so deeply immersed in our cultures that we may not recognise when our understanding of life is cultural and not factual.

Culture makes it possible for us to preserve those thoughts, ideas, and behaviors we believe to be most important to us. This is why we have things like William Shakespeare’s works still printed, still read, and still performed more than four hundred years after his death. We continue to understand those plays because we have preserved much of how Shakespeare’s world was shaped. And yet, some of his plays are becoming meaningless because culture has changed, such as the relationships between men and women.

Sometimes culture genuinely helps us to bond through celebrations, creative experiences, and traditions of care. Cherry blossom festivals, harvest festivals, music festivals, etc. bring people together under exciting and joyful circumstances where we have a chance to see one another in a positive light, then later give us something we can collectively reminisce about. Even a funeral can bring people together in a constructive manner.

Stories are a particularly powerful part of culture. We learn what is expected of us through stories. We are given a cosmology of what the world is like and what we can look forward to throughout our lives. Stories can provide us with useful templates for who we want to become. But it only works if we are provided with sufficient and flexible enough templates that everyone can find what they need.

When the stories we are told are those where only the privileged have the power to shape their world, we may acquiesce to this state of affairs because we have not been given the means to imagine otherwise. Those who are bold may imagine a world where roles have been flip-flopped, but nothing much else has changed. If the world was unfair before, it continues to be unfair. This just reinforces the status quo.

Nothing is wrong with remembering how things were. It is even useful for understanding how things are. We also need the support to imagine better.

When television, film, and computer games are largely locked up by a few wealthy individuals sending out to the whole world only a small portion of all the stories that could be told, and so taking up people’s time such that they don’t look further, the world becomes very rigid, bland, and incapable of maturing. They have the power to hypnotise your thinking and cause you to lazily rely on their stereotypes, instead of understanding the world for yourself. It is important to not let culture drift into propaganda.

Culture is at its best when it is a living thing shared by everyone.

We should not fear power, but neither should we allow it to be abused. The most effective means to keep power from becoming toxic is by respecting everyone’s individual power. We have to stop wanting a disproportionate amount for ourselves. Sadly, our culture creates a fear within us which seems only quenchable through control. Hoarding power feels like a means to have that sort of control. Culture is probably one of the most important places to start making big change.

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Spheres of Power

Posted on 30 October 2018 | No responses

Certain spheres of human activity tend to give groups even more power. This is due to their centrality to how we see ourselves, how we relate to one another, and how we organise our society for our mutual survival. Most spheres of power we cannot do without, such as government and education. For instance sanitation is for the collective good, so we need governments to build sewerage systems in order to stop the breeding and spread of disease. We then also need people educated in how to design and build that system. Every time you sit on a toilet its worth feeling thankful for the benefits of government and education. Just be aware of where any sphere of power can slip from being benevolent to malevolent.

Primary spheres of power are:

* Education

* Military

* Religion

* Business

* Government

Education

Schools for instance can be about preparing people to successfully contribute to their society. They can be about making fruitful connections with our contemporaries and learning how to collaborate. Education can be about opening minds: learning how to understand, how to think, how to discover, how to create, and how to make decisions. Education should prepare a person to go out into the world and make of it a better place.

Schools can also be a place of indoctrination. They have been used to teach students to value competition, to understand hierarchies, to accept being made a cog in the wheels of their country’s ambitions. Instead of being about knowledge and its thoughtful application, schools may become the tools by which you learn to know your place.

You will know which direction your education is pointing, depending upon how much freedom you have to question authority. Respectful skepticism should be embraced, and teachers should be prepared to challenge and be challenged in a healthy manner. If, on the other hand, students are afraid of asking serious questions, then they are being programmed to serve an authoritarian society.

Just remember that ideas have power. Educational institutions are places where ideas can fruitfully germinate…when you engage with teachers, read books, or have deep and meaningful conversations with your friends. Sometimes an idea can take off and change everything. Certain people will embrace such change, others will be terrified. In some people’s eyes what I am doing here in this book is dangerous, because I am attempting to spread the idea that you have the power to make the future a very different place–a place worth living in.

Military

The military has a tremendous potential for evil. This is because they are given the tools by which to eradicate life.

The citizens of a country rely on their military to keep them safe from outside forces…Sometimes to help restore order in disaster zones, such as by helping with bringing in food and other supplies.

A government can rely on their military to protect their country, to protect their allies, to forward ambitions of extended world control, and to control their own citizens. A properly constituted government should not be able to use its military in an abusive manner. Nevertheless, people regularly come to power who feel it is their right to bully others for their personal gain. Always question whether a person is seeking a role in government because they wish to represent the best interests of their electorate, or because they feel entitled to glory.

However, it is important to remember that it is not the government alone who benefits from a strong military. Various companies stand to make a lot of money every time a military budget is increased. Somebody has to make the guns, tanks, bombs, planes, uniforms, field rations, etc. With the money these companies make provisioning the military, they can create supplies that they sell to the police, security companies, and other countries. The more fearful and dictatorial the world becomes, the more money they make. And money can buy political influence…the influence of people who like the idea of wielding tremendous destructive power and terrifying others into doing exactly what they command.

What has happened in many dictatorships is government and business think because they have big military, they have pocketed all power. That is until people in the military feel misused or an itch for power of their own, at which point they stage a military coup.

It is useful having fire to warm ourselves on cold nights and to cook food. It is not so useful burning down the whole damned forest. We cannot create so much military that we are simply preparing for the complete destruction of our planet. We the public must think seriously about what is a reasonable amount of military power, and we cannot let our fear determine the answer.

Religion

Religion will probably be the most controversial sphere of power listed here. Nevertheless, it needs to be addressed because of the controversy that arises due to its incredible influence, which can potentially be used for good or evil.

Religion is more than just a belief in a God or an afterlife. It is a culture, a system of values, a community, and in a number of cases a transnational organisation.

Religions can promote art. They can train and support people in expressing life-affirming values. They can look out for the welfare of their members, and through charitable acts look out for everyone’s best interest.

People can feel strongly about their religion because it gives them a sense of identity, and gives them a tribe to which they belong. Those are powerful bonds. Making use of those bonds can give a person in authority the ability to enforce their view of the world.

Religion like business has power that goes beyond borders. This makes governments nervous. Sometimes governments will try to make use of that power. Sometimes in fear they will seek to eliminate their competitors.

Power seekers are forever trying to subvert religious power to their own ends. A religion can expressly be about helping the poor but generations of people, who are members simply because their parents were members, can easily forget such values or disregard them, recasting their religion as one where we recognise who is beloved of God by their riches. By gaining influence in a particularly large religion they can influence politics in many countries.

Personally, I do not feel comfortable with any organisation that does not share power with its members. Some religious organisations are democratic and do provide for transparency and oversight of their leaders. Others have been busily giving this whole field of activity a bad name by relying on a publicly unelected elite who see themselves as above and beyond reproach.

This is why separation of church and state became a thing. Any large scale organisation that is not itself democratic will have the power to subvert a nation’s democracy.

Without being expressly stated many countries also have a clear separation of military and state. What we don’t have is a sufficient separation of state and that other transnational sphere: business.

Business

We all need a variety of goods and services in order to survive.

Within a family each family member may contribute to the well-being of other family members in a number of ways: growing a garden, making clothes, cooking food, repairing the roof. No one is necessarily paid. However, all are expected to pitch in as best they can: mom, dad, granny, grandpa, the kids… This works because everyone cares about one another, or at least understands their role.

Many nomadic cultures work in this way as well. Anyone who has ever gone on a group hiking vacation understands why this is so. Once they are in the wilderness, people rely on one another. They must share food and shelter. They cannot afford to deny anyone of necessities, because each person is a necessity to the survival of the group. They need sufficient numbers of people to gather wood, look out for predators, and to rescue one another should anything terrible happen.

Let us say in a hiking group someone accidently breaks their leg. You will need at least one person to stay with the patient and one person to go get help. Imagine what this situation would be like if people had to start haggling as to how much it should cost to save the one hiker’s life, rather than just doing what is needed.

Money was not invented to make trade easier. People have been perfectly capable of sharing among themselves for a long time. Money was invented to make it easier for people to exchange goods and services with other people who they do not know and do not trust.

With money you have a means to standardise the value of any object or service. This is not an absolute standardisation: after all, we frequently comparison shop for things. However, you will find prices for bananas in one area will be roughly the same all over. There is a sense of fairness to this, even if a thing is valued highly solely for cultural reasons. Also, you are now no longer hampered by having to find someone who needs a cow in order to trade for bananas. Sell the cow to the cheese maker, then use the money to buy fruit. Just remember that in a close-knit community that would have been everyone’s cow, and the fruit would have been everyone’s fruit. We would not need this extra step.

However, funny things happen once you introduce money. First of all, people start thinking less about what is ours and more about what is mine. Everything you claim as your own is something you can rent or sell. This is why nations are so keen to be the first to put their flags on moons and planets.

Certainly before there was money people would hoard things in order to manipulate others. However, by abstracting trade from things to markers of value (an apple for an orange vs an apple for two coins), it becomes easier for governments and businesses to streamline hoarding value.

With a sales tax a government takes a little value from everyone for each monetary transaction. This is rent for making use of federally backed markers of value. If you have a benevolent democratic government, whether or not this is a fair means to hoard, ultimately this should be like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter and will benefit everyone.

Now let’s say a business inserts themselves into this dynamic. People find it difficult to carry around the federal markers of value. So, they invent the credit card which is like an electronic purse, only much lighter. More than that, it makes it possible for people to make promises of payment for when they next receive a tally of how much their work is being valued. For managing these numbers for you and creating more trust between yourself and a trader, the business charges rent that it automatically extracts from you on a regular basis.

Money for using the credit card will go toward offices, equipment, and employees. All the employees may work the same amount, but some will be given a much bigger share of the rent than others. Those working in the company have no democratic say in how the money is dispersed. Nevertheless, since we now have a society that relies on markers of value, these people put up with living most of their lives within a feudal society in order to have enough to live.

The money that is being hoarded at the top of the business may even be removed from that country and held or used in another country. Every time that happens a certain amount of value is no longer available to either a people or their government in the originating country. Any number of countries right now have been bankrupted, not because their people did not manage their money well, but because large companies have removed so much value from them.

Money represents your work. Your work is power. Companies can, do, and have hired armies to enforce their will. Hoarding money is not simply about greed, it is about power. Businesses will often buy an even greater share of power from governments or takeover altogether. An example is the Dutch East India Company, which was the first transcontinental company-state.

Government

Government is often seen as the absolute executive of all power.

When people feel oppressed the government is an easy organisation upon which to heap blame. Sometimes, even many times, this is a reasonable summation of where responsibility needs to land. However, if people do not look closely enough at the situation then they may overlook who is pulling the strings and not adequately deal with them. They may even conclude that all government is bad and we should do away with government all together.

The more human beings live in an area, the more their relations have to be managed in order to ensure peace and security. We do not want our government telling us what we can read, what we can say, who we can associate with, etc. We do want our government providing education, health care, clean water, protection from violence, etc. These are critical services.

One sort of government sees its people solely as resources for feeding, clothing, and housing itself and its supporters in style, while having the human numbers to bully other nations. Such a government will tend to its citizens only in so much as it is useful for them to do so. Such a government will want to keep its people busy enough, desperate enough, and disempowered enough to ensure no one is willing or able to counter those in control. This only works up until sufficient people feel they have nothing to lose in rebelling. So, even dictatorships will provide just enough services to keep the populace pacified.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people can only be as successful as people are willing to engage with it and protect it.

First and foremost people need to vote! This must be understood to be a solemn duty. In Australia everyone of age is required to vote. Voting booths are up for a week and are readily available in all districts. People have easy access to absentee ballots. Those who do not turn up to vote are fined. This does not mean people cannot be manipulated to vote for authoritarians, but it means whether they recognise it or not, the power remains in the hands of the people.

To vote intelligently people must have available to them a free and thriving press which keeps them informed of issues locally and across the nation. They must be made aware of how they are being represented by their politicians. They must know who has influence with these politicians. They must be able to expect transparency as to the actions and motives of their government.

To vote intelligently people must also have access to an education. We need people to understand the affairs of their nation and to be capable of participating in its running. People should be capable of grasping the big picture when it comes to their welfare, the welfare of their neighbours, and the welfare of their country’s populace.

If a country begins to fracture along lines of race, religion, class, and the like, it is no longer for the people, but for certain people. This is where injustice and gross inequity creeps in. A government can only ever be as fair-minded as the people who support it.

If a government has become riddled with corruption, then we need to take a good hard look at our cultural priorities and how that has played into creating these circumstances. We must then make cultural changes while retaking our government. That’s pretty much at the heart of what this book is all about.

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Action Expresses Priorities

Posted on 28 October 2018 | No responses

“To be is to do”–Socrates
“To do is to be”–Jean Paul-Sartre
“Do be do be do!”–Frank Sinatra
~Kurt Vonnegut

Sometimes it only takes a generation to create monumental change.

Given the enormity of what we are facing, this generation will have to make that effort.

It’s not fair.

You do not deserve to inherit a world spoiled by the fruits of greed. You will have to learn how to be and to do better than your parents and their parents.

Understand, though, this generation is uniquely positioned to take the task on.

You have had to face death in your classrooms. You know what is at stake. You know how to be strong and how to adapt. You know not to make half-assed excuses, or try to pass off the laziness of defeatist thinking as realism. The people who need to grow up–who need to learn how to “adult”–are the adults themselves. For generations they have not been taking responsibility for their decisions.

Actions express priorities.

It is very easy to throw words into the world as a smoke screen and thereby hide real intentions. By a person’s actions you will know them.

I love this world.

I think it is amazing! I have chosen to live where I can walk out and watch kangaroos eat and play at a nearby paddock. I wake up to raucous squawking of cockatoos and in the evenings enjoy a sunset over wattle covered hills. I once even found a turtle walking along the side of the road on its way to the next nearest pond.

I have had books published by a well known publisher. But saving this beautiful world is so important to me, I am writing this book here for free. I want it to be readily available to all who can use it, regardless if they are rich or poor.

My priority is not to be rich or famous. My priority is our living world. Think about this as a measuring stick of the people you meet.

If someone advertises they are no longer offering straws to show they care, but continue to wipe out forests to grow crops and raise beef to sell cheap burgers–they are “greenwashing” themselves. They are giving with one hand in order to take much more with the other. If someone puts up billboards advertising that with every sale of an item, they are giving a donation to some charity. If they then pay their workers wages totalling less than the poverty line, that is known as “whitewashing”. They are making people feel good about themselves for making a purchase, but it’s a front so that you don’t question, don’t think about, how they are causing tremendous harm to benefit a few.

What you need to ask yourself when it comes to companies, organisations, institutions, and governments is–are what they say consistent with what they do? If you look deeply, will words and actions match up?

No one is perfect. We are all growing. Nevertheless, if it is clear people don’t really care, aren’t really listening, politely or forcefully pushing you off, then their actions are revealing a priority at variance with human and planetary well-being.

Sadly, you will find this sort of hypocrisy in environmental and social justice groups as well. This doesn’t mean they are all bad. It means learn how to recognise when things aren’t as they seem.

These are the sorts of groups you will commonly find and at times need to avoid.

All talk, no do.

These can be genuinely well-meaning groups, but you will terrify them if you ask them to roll their shirt-sleeves up and get their hands dirty.

They can do a good job of raising money, but may not wisely distribute the funds. That’s because they are largely populated by people of privilege who want to think they are good individuals, but live in a protective bubble.

These groups can be useful resources, but they can also be taken over by power-players and narcissists. Their role should be supportive; they should not be allowed to set agendas.

Venting for good.

We all have good reasons for being angry about the state of the world. Many have good reason to be angry with authoritarian parents, schools, and governments.

Groups that are largely about giving their members a place to vent pent-up fury are toxic. The problem is that they aren’t about creating a peaceful world where all living beings exist in harmony–that would be a sustainable goal. They are about punishing someone: they are about tearing things down. They are a thin veneer of goodness to mask a deep well of hatred, including self-hatred. They are a clear case of actions expressing priorities.

If they are shouting at protests, if they are rude, if they wear t-shirts such as “Fuck Tony Abbott” (a former Australian Prime Minister)–they are certainly not expressing a priority for peace. Groups with a sincere purpose sometimes face internal hardship when invaded by the venters.

People then must be strong about insisting that the means to a goal ARE the ends. If we want peace, we must act in peace. We do not allow people within or without to walk all over us. However, we create the future with the determination of a mighty river that carves the countryside, not a raging fire that destroys forests and homes.

We own all goodness.

Most groups have this problem–and it is dangerous.

First, such groups are unlikely to cooperate with other groups.

Simply for being “other” anyone else’s group is seen as suspect, possibly a threat, for competing with them in the goodness stakes. “I want to be the only one who does this; I want all the glory!”

If those of us who are working for peace atomise into many little cults of goodness, we won’t have the power to make change.

Even more dangerous is people not recognising their vulnerability to the same dynamics that have made religious scandals possible. Being part of a “good” group is used as a substitute for cultivating goodness in oneself and doing good deeds.

People will join these groups thinking they can relax and trust all is forever well. Then comes the day someone does something terrible: perhaps one member bullies another, or worse, someone sexually abuses a minor.

At first no one wants to believe it. “We are the good guys…right?” Even the person who perpetrated the terrible act will rationalise to themselves and others: “I cannot possibly have done wrong, because I am a member of this group.”

When the rest of the world starts looking their direction, the group becomes frightened of how they are being portrayed. “We are the good guys! Therefore, what you say are lies!” They may even actively work to hide the wrong-doing, because they cannot abide by it blemishing their perfectly good reputation.

By their own values they may be called to admit error and tend to the wounded–but that’s unlikely to happen.

The greater the status of a wrong-doer, the more opportunities they will be given for doing wrong without consequences. Victims will be terrified of stepping forward, fearful of recriminations and ostracism from friends and family.

Victims will be trampled under foot and forgotten.

A group without humility will eventually eat itself alive. A group that will treat its own members badly will have no compunctions against treating others even worse.

The Power Niche

Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power. Make no mistake, power can corrupt. However, more frequently certain people play manipulative games in order to gain power. They are already corrupt.

I learned this maxim while playing Dungeons & Dragons with my university friends and talking politics. It has served me well in estimating the motives of various groups and their leaders.

Throughout history we have had groups making promises to whatever niche of people will give them sufficient power to take over. We have had lords making promises to other lords in order to depose the king. We have had landowners promising other landowners freedom from foreign taxes in order to form their own nation. Revolutionaries have promised the people bread for the decimation of a country. Ideologues have promised greatness at the genocide of others based on ethnicity, religion, etc.

The sad thing is that these could all be the same people. They will insert themselves, left or right, wherever they can get a purchase on power.

I once wrote policy for a minor Australian political party. What I loved about this party is that we had so many people who genuinely cared. They were more about the issues than the power. Though, power was understood to be useful to protect the leafy seadragon, or ensure a gay lover would have the same access rights to their beloved as any other family member, if their partner happened to be in the hospital. However, this made the party an easy target for power-players.

Someone would join us, smile and nod to all the right people, then when the time came they would raise their hands to run for public office. People were happy for them to take on the job…without questioning their motives deeply enough. Afterall, didn’t they join our party? Shouldn’t they share our values? All too soon people, who only marginally cared for what we stood, made it to the top then began subverting our goals for their personal ends. Eventually, this killed the party.

I still grieve for that group. They had been such bright stars.

Groups That Work

I have participated in, founded, and run groups that have failed and groups that have held together for twenty years or more. Functioning groups are possible. They are also tremendously rewarding. But creating such groups is not easy.

Anytime two or three people get together–there’s power in that. The more people get together, the more power. You can either nurture and direct that power toward life-affirming goals or use it as a tool for self-aggrandisement and control. The one requires a culture of respect, cooperation, and dedication to the values that make goals achievable. The other may appeal to ego, but at a cost to your respect for self, others, and our world. A dominating group may give its members a sense of power and freedom, but it is a fool’s paradise bought at the loss of humanity.

What you have to understand is that no group will be perfect. Looking for purity is a hopeless journey. All groups will have all the weaknesses of humanity. We all do. We must learn a modicum of patience for ourselves and others as we all learn and we all grow. What I am writing here is to give you enough awareness to recognise which groups will be a waste of time and when a group is heading toward trouble. If you see trouble brewing, do your best to call it out with courage, clarity, and compassion. If that does not work, move on.

Any group hoping to make the long haul must be wise, insightful, and tolerant of difference. It must also have courage to face injustice and bad behavior within its numbers, as well as without. Of great importance is a sense of self awareness of both strengths and weaknesses in ourselves and others. A strong desire to work things out keeps a group humane. Maintaining a focus on goals and values is perhaps the best social glue there is.

Life is dynamic. What we want is peace like a river. A river allows for movement and growth. The peace of a still pond is stagnant and ultimately toxic to life.

Your commitment is important to the success and health of the groups you join. The need for functional groups is so important that I will come back in later chapters to a more in depth look at how you can form your own groups.

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Mostly Screwed (part 2: power)

Posted on 26 October 2018 | No responses

Mostly Screwed

Oh we are young,
But what will we inherit?
The Earth slips away.
Can we even bear it?

Why bring us here?
Support your own child.
Love what is meek, please.
Love what is mild.

We’ll learn the lessons that
You did not.
And we can be kind.

Bring back the love.

Oh we are young,
Our hearts are our gold
Old hearts are cold
So we must learn sharing

Why don’t you care?
We’re Earth’s own child
We’ll save what is meek,
We’ll save what is mild.

We’ll learn the lessons that
You did not.
And we can be kind.

Bring back the love.

“And We Can Be Kind” (lyrics)
~Katherine Phelps 2016

I wrote the song “And We Can Be Kind” the day after it was clear Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. I then wrote one protest song after another. What had we just done to our next generation? What had we just done to anyone who is vulnerable for any reason? What had we done to all living things?

I usually start with a story when I write my musicals. This time Share: the youth issues musical began as a long tuneful yowl for everything that is worth saving in this life. All of our advancements in science, technology, and human engagement have given us power, power that could have been used to make a better world, but instead has been warped and twisted to serve the darkest human rapaciousness for control.

In the west we have been told we live in the best of all possible worlds. We live in a world where we have freedom, democracy, and the ability to better our lives.

In actual fact, we are losing on all three of these fronts across the globe. Michael Abramowitz, Freedom House’s president, says that “political rights and civil liberties around the world (have) deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade.”

Abramowitz further states, “For the 12th consecutive year, according to Freedom in the World, countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. States that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories–Turkey and Hungary, for example–are sliding into authoritarian rule…The challenges within democratic states have fueled the rise of populist leaders who appeal to anti-immigrant sentiment and give short shrift to fundamental civil and political liberties.”
https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2018#anchor-one

There are reasons why this is happening now.

Boom Times

The post Second World War boom was both in childbirth and in wealth. The atrocities of WW2 shook people to the core. Worse, the atrocity of unleashing the vast destructive power of nuclear weapons loomed darkly over people’s heads with a sense of catastrophic finality. Many were made aware that they owed a debt of gratitude to the diversity of people, who despite their oppressed condition within our culture, agreed to lend their hearts, minds, and hands toward the success of our war effort. More than that, these people willingly gave their lives.

After being respected contributors toward international security, these individuals found it difficult to go home and return to a second-class existence. We seemed to have entered a world where potentially enough was available for all: if we cooperated, if we shared–things we agreed to do for the greater good in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Women’s rights, black rights, and eventually gay rights became part of the public agenda in western nations.

The baby boomers were so numerous that when they were conscripted to fight in the Vietnam war, after observing the black civil rights movement, they knew exactly what to do. They took to the streets, protested, and won.

Marvellous! When the public finally engages with issues, we can make change! We are not at the mercy of governments, corporations, or an older generation entrenched in destructive attitudes.

But power is a tricky thing. The baby booners shouted for freedom. Yes, freedom from becoming killers in a senseless war, but also freedom to do whatever caught their fancy–freedom without responsibility for consequences.

I grew up in the generation that immediately followed this lot. We worshipped the hippies. We saw them as they wanted to be seen–the generation that broke through conformity, broke through inhibitions, and celebrated the unencumbered id. Because of their numbers, they could give themselves permission to do anything. Many continue to see themselves as trailblazers–and many were. Many also see themselves as the end of social evolution. I have had the honor of working with some amazing people from this era–close enough that I started seeing flaws and weaknesses.

In 1966 John Lennon of the Beatles said, “We’re more popular than Jesus.” A generation later in 1987 Ivan Doroschuk of the new wave band Men Without Hats wrote in his song “Walk on Water”, “They said we could walk on water…They said we were the second coming.” There is a word for this sort of self assessment: hubris.

When I was about to graduate from university I was given a book with the title Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. Up until the 1980s the post war boom made it very easy for the previous generation to make money off the next generation. They were in positions of power and could use their position to make money off the sheer numerousness of the next generation. The baby-boom generation were also in a good position to make money off of each other. More services needed to be built in order to look after their wants and needs. It was all very simple for them. So simple that it seemed magical.

They could effortlessly believe that things came to them because they deserved it: either because they were the right sort of person (white, educated, American, middle class, etc) or they thought the right thoughts (magical thinking). Those of us graduating in the eighties found that the sales niche that was the baby boom had now been filled, and there was no room for us. We were told we couldn’t find work because we didn’t deserve it. Bantu Stephen Biko, South African anti-apartheid activist, has said, “Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security, and prestige, it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.”

The Concentration of Wealth

At the close of the US depression era and after the war, genuine strides were made toward wider distribution of wealth. The wealthy were getting wealthier off the backs of the baby boom, but so was everyone else. Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman write in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, “We find that wealth concentration was high in the beginning of the twentieth century, fell from 1929 to 1978, and has continuously increased since then.” In another article from this journal Zucman and Thomas Piketty write, “We find in every country a gradual rise of wealth-income ratios in recent decades, from about 200-300% in 1970 to 400-600% in 2010. In effect, today’s ratios appear to be returning to the high values observed in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (600-700%).” So, what happened to bring back a trend toward wealth concentration?
https://academic.oup.com/qje/article/131/2/519/2607097
https://academic.oup.com/qje/article/129/3/1255/1818714

In 1940 the wealthiest 0.1% kept about 20% of all the money earned. The poorest 90% kept about the same. By the mid 70s the slice kept by the 0.1% had dipped to around 7%, while the slice kept by the 90% had climbed to over 30%. The wealthiest felt uncomfortable to threatened by an increasingly empowered public. This has happened on a regular basis throughout history. Their solution this time around was a political ideology that they then sold to others.

Sadly, it was an easy sell.

Marketing largely sells you stuff based on fear and/or ego. Their pitch this time was that the government is evil and greed is good. The government gave us Vietnam, the free market gave us incredible wealth. Seems pretty simple, yes? It’s an oversimplification that has led us into devastating times.

Those in power were able to bolster this outlook through Cold War fear campaigns. West vs East, US vs USSR, proved very convenient pairings. We were taught that our stuff was good: most especially capitalism and democracy. We were then taught their stuff was bad: most especially socialism and communism. We were then NOT taught what these terms meant nor where the distinctions lay. We are taught that democracy is about voting, but those votes have to mean something. When other bodies can intervene on a public vote and put someone, not given the dictate of the people into power, we aren’t really talking about a democracy any more. This is what the Electoral College is doing to people in the US.

Socialism and communism are not synonymous. We were told socialism is bad while some of our greatest allies, such as the Scandinavian countries, have been successful socialist countries for some time. We were told socialism is bad while having our own social services such as a free education. We were told socialism and communism are despotic, impoverishing, and remove freedoms. Capitalism, socialism, and communism can all be approached as economic systems which are attached to either dictatorial or democratic government systems. The very idea of communism from the beginning was that it would be democratic. Neither the USSR nor the People’s Republic of China have ever been truly communist and only very weakly socialist. In China you have to pay for medical health care. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, etc all have socialised health care. The leaders of various eastern countries offered social support to their poorest in return for putting them into power, then reneged on their promises. These words have become meaningless due to manipulation.

We have all been taught to want our slice of prosperity pie and to fear government getting in the way of that. So, we have been colluding with big business through our votes or lack of voting.

When we vote for the size of the state to be reduced, the number of people on public payroll to go down, the elimination of public education, healthcare, housing, transport, energy, etc we are voting away our power. When these things are transferred into the hands of business, you no longer have a say in how your world is ordered, and what is being done to you no longer will be as transparent. When was the last time you were able to vote a bad boss out of power? When was the last time the employees of a company were able to vote and say, “no” I do not want my company destroying the environment? When businesses control education and health care, your right to these things is taken away. Either you can pay or not.

Worse, when big business convinces us to vote away social safety nets, we aren’t simply punishing the poor for “being lazy”, we are taking away our own right to protest poor treatment by our employers, our right to change jobs, our right to fair pay and a safe working environment.

Here are the terrifying results of the prosperity pie campaign:

“Of the richest 400 people in the world. Ten years ago, their combined wealth was $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars). Now, after a world wide crash and all sort of bailouts, their combined worth is $2,000,000,000,000. They have doubled their money.”
https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/empire/rise-of-the-oligarchs/2014/05/it-just-money-it-power-201452412128351328.html

“Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam.”
https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2017-01-16/just-8-men-own-same-wealth-half-world

These people are wealthy beyond the needs of greed. This is all about power. One thing is clear from these reports, if only eight men own the majority of the Earth’s wealth then we can easily knock them over with a feather. No violence at all is needed, just the cooperation and goodwill of humanity. Yes, governments can be corrupted. We will always have to engage with our society to ensure it becomes and remains a place of kindness and mutual support. We need to find one another to do this and fast.

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Mostly Screwed (part 1: the environment)

Posted on 20 August 2018 | No responses

Mostly Screwed

“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.
http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/40893/icode/

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

Baby Elephant

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

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