Brownies Are Our Future

Posted on 20 July 2017 | No responses

Folklore Brownies

“Brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food…They usually abandon the house if their gifts are called payments, or if the owners of the house misuse them.”
Wikipedia: Brownie

We should start with an acknowledgement that we really have a pretty wonderful living world that deserves our support and protection. We also need to acknowledge that for every jerk on this planet, there are many more genuinely kindhearted people in all shapes and sizes. We are simply poorly trained in fully recognising these people. Humanity is also in need of our support and protection.

The Problem

We as humans are facing two interrelated crises: one to do with the environment, the other to do with our increasing poverty in both goods and political power. In actual fact these are the same crisis. Poverty is an environmental problem. Among other things it is brought about by environmental disaster and it generates more environmental disaster. It finds its roots in a culture that uses people and all living things as fuel for a vast power making machine that is inevitably destroying us all.

Greater numbers of people are having a difficult time accessing what they need to survive—much less live meaningful lives. This is happening at four levels: the unemployed, the underemployed, the overworked and underpaid, and the volunteers.

The unemployed

Unemployment is set to increase at a phenomenal rate. We have already lost numerous clerical jobs to ATMs, grocery check out machines, and the robotisation of many industries such as car manufacture. 3D printers are ready to take over the production of many plastic and wood items. Self-driving cars in particular will wipe out the employment of a whole segment of our populations.

Honestly, we want to eliminate boring and dangerous work. We want to change how things are made in order to reduce waste and pollution. But who is taking care of the human casualties of these changes? Who is being made responsible for their well-being?

When people are left without support they migrate to where they can get help and jobs. If they are all congregating to the same places without relief, you start seeing civil unrest. Civil unrest frequently leads to civil war. We have seen this in Syria and Burundi. We are seeing it in the US with the mass shootings. This is guerilla warfare and is carefully not being named as such. I may be wrong, but I’m afraid we have more of this in the future.

Underemployment

Underemployment is how government and business are masking unemployment and preventing outright social dissolution. You only have to work thirty minutes a week for the Australian government to count a person as employed. In this way they can fiddle the numbers to show how “successful” their jobs policies are.

In Australia anyone having difficulty finding employment is required to take assigned work for the dole positions. These jobs are not paid to industry standard, in fact the wages are below the poverty line, nor are they held to the same health and safety requirements. This is not work, this is government managed slavery. In the US people are thrown into private prisons and required to work—another carefully disguised form of slavery.

At this level of employment people do not receive various benefits such as medical insurance and superannuation. Whole nationally based businesses have laid people off, then rehired part-time and casual workers in order to reap the savings from not paying worker benefits. This leads to seeking multiple part-time jobs, and yet still making less than government payments. Of course governments have made access to social support intentionally degrading, so that working in poverty is better than coping with government bullying. Governments are in no way offering social security these days—they are offering destitution and abuse. No one at any level has a safety net, and those who can’t imagine losing all they have still sense it, and succumb to the pressure to “behave”.

Desperate people make ideal workers and distracted citizens.

Overworked and underpaid

We covered some of this with the people who are taking multiple part-time jobs. Many sense the precariousness of their position. They are willing to work longer hours for less money to make sure they are the ones who are indisposable to their companies. Insecurity leads to fierce competition and a downward spiral in lifestyle and life balance. People are no longer working to live, but living to work.

This can lead to resentment toward those who are “freer”: the poor and the artists. If these people are really living such easy lives—surely people would be leaving jobs en masse and demanding better treatement. Of course that is what large employers are afraid of. With freedom comes empowerment. With empowerment comes the ability to set terms of employment—wealth would have to be shared. If people gave the poor and the artists the freedom they imagine they have, we would all be better off.

In the meantime we have engineers at Boeing who are terrified of striking due to unusually low industry wages, because they do not wish to lose jobs they love. We have authors and creators accepting lower and lower percentages of the profits from their works, just for the privilege of public notoriety. I remember when every university graduate was given a copy of the book Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. Its real title should be Do What you Love and Expect To Be Exploited. Work is seen as something which you need to be coerced into doing through money. Otherwise, if various companies can get you to pay them in order to do the work you enjoy, they will.

Volunteerism

Volunteerism is a good thing—it represents the future. Currently, volunteerism is being grossly abused. Traditionally volunteers filled the few gaps in public services that government could not supply. The volunteers were often home workers such as mothers and the retired. Young people would join these efforts as part of their education in cooperation, community building, and civic responsibility. The unemployed would upon occasion use volunteerism as a way to network and find their way to paid employment.

During the US Great Depression the Works Progress Administration (WPA) turned many essential services that were done voluntarily into paid careers. Writers, artists, actors, architects and more were given the opportunity to enrich their communities with original works that created bonding and a community identity. Their creations became a legacy gifted from their generation to ours.

Volunteerism did not begin to wane due to lack of interest (at least not at first). Volunteers disappeared as more of their lives became taken up with simple survival. Mothers, fathers, the elderly all need to take up long hours and long years of work to get by. Volunteerism is also abused by the government.

Shasta County California has a history of problems with providing sufficient funding for public libraries. When a number of years ago they closed the Redding public library, the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) stepped in as volunteers to keep it running, in particular for the benefit of nearby public schools. The local government was so pleased with the cost savings from these women providing free services that they decided to cut all funding for library employment.

The AAUW had not put themselves forward to be a free source of work but to ensure people, especially young students, had access to critical information. The project was stopped in order to make certain the government did the right thing by its community. In Australia the Federal Government decided to cut the staffing of their unemployment services and replace them with Salvation Army volunteers—thereby creating more jobless. Why is the government leaning on a religious group? Why Salvation Army and not some other religious group? Why were the Salvation Army willing to use their own people in this way? Both of these are examples of gross abuse of public goodwill.

We now have governments who are leaving it up to non-profits and individuals to ensure everyone has essential services, that the environmental commonwealth is cared for, and medical research can go forward. Each person has to decide which of hundreds of charities to give funding and/or personal time. Lots of work is duplicated, as are the facilities to perform the work. The highest duty of a government is to ensure the well-being of the citizens under its care: that’s why we give them the tax dollars. These organisations shouldn’t need to exist. Where are our governments?

The End of Work

As people have less money to spend corporations are beginning to feel the pinch. Our current economic system is a pyramid scheme that is nearly tapped out. People can’t spend money they don’t have.

Community currencies

One solution to this problem are community currencies—only they are barely a fix. I was the founder of the Eastern Area Group Local Economic Trading System (EAGLETS) in Melbourne. I was excited by the idea of self-supporting communities. I still am. We immediately faced a number of problems.

The first problem was that the only thing we could realistically trade was work and/or skills. Any type of growing or manufacture ultimately needed cash flow for items such as fabric, shovels, electrical gear, etc. Not having to pay for labour certainly reduced costs for the poor, but for those who were working and on the financial edge—they couldn’t take the time out to do barter work, even if it meant they could get services in return.

Worse was the community pressure from a transparent system of credits and debits. No matter how many times we told people that being in debit was okay in this system, people still felt guilty when in debit and resentful of those who were in ever more debit. “Who were these people who were using up our community resources?” To make the group look more successful than perhaps it was, I kept underpaying myself to keep the whole thing running—a sure recipe for burnout.

I noticed one LETS started having people apply for entrance, not based on their character, but on what skills and labour they were bringing to the group. So the old, the young, and the disabled were locked out as unproductive community members. Redundancy of skills also kept people locked out. So much for mutual support.

Universal Basic Income

The new solution people are talking about is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). I prefer when it is described as a Guaranteed Living Income (GLI). With this system everyone is paid a living wage without consideration of deserving or neediness. This reduces bureaucracy, the humiliation and bullying of the poor, and helps return the vigorous circulation of wealth.

The two concerns that come up with this system are: 1) how is this paid for, and 2) how do you convince people to continue working? To a degree both of these questions are furphies disguising deeper fears of the establishment.

UBI has been found to largely pay for itself due to the economies of reducing a system of deserving and punishment. What no one has dared suggest is…tax the rich. We are in this crisis because more and more wealth is concentrating into fewer hands, then not re-entering the system. Instead the world is being gripped by the power that comes with holding wealth hostage. Traditionally the wealthy have contributed more to their country. This is when they saw themselves as citizens and community members. They believed they had a certain amount of civic responsibility. We see this in the Batman stories. It was also expected of them.

Now “greed is good”, competition as to who is at the top of the most wealthy list is ferocious, and the wealthy live in stratospheric multinational fantasy worlds where they are completely cut off from the rest of humanity. We are all encouraged to live in that world through gated communities and home shopping, such that we too are disconnected from those in need and our own capacity for compassion. What we see on TV and film is portrayed as “normal”, and we are living such isolated lives, no one dares admit if this normal is true or not.

The wealthy have screamed blue bloody murder at any suggestion of their taxation. They try to make it sound through news and advertising that to tax them is to tax everyone. “The sky will fall!” they cry.

The argument that people will stop working if not forced to it by necessity has also been repeatedly proven false. People don’t generally like sitting on their hands. If given half a chance, they don’t while away the hours eating chips and watching TV. Ethologists, those who study animal behaviour, speak of a concept called “funktionlust”. Funktionlust is the desire of a creature to do what they do well, because it brings with it a sense of pleasure or satisfaction. Doing such things are important for a creature’s ability to maintain emotional and physical well-being. We are creatures: this concept equally applies to humans.

I’ve heard people ask, “How do you get people to do the yucky jobs if they aren’t forced to do it?” This view of work sees human activity as motivated largely through punishment. Without threat of poverty, no one is expected to do anything. So, how is it possible that so many people volunteer to pick up rubbish at public parks? How is it possible that anyone changes nappies or cleans toilets? I also wonder, if these jobs are so horrible why aren’t we attempting to entice people with greater pay?

The question isn’t really how do we keep people working with UBI. The question is: how do we keep people working under abusive circumstances? With UBI people could leave jobs where their safety is at risk, they are overworked, underpaid, and subject to bullying.

Even so, things have gotten sufficiently bad that the elite are beginning to consider UBI. Unemployment is set to skyrocket with the uptake of self-driving cars, and they don’t want to lose their positions through some form of uprising. People need just enough hope to accept a grinding lifestyle. The oddest thing is hearing people in the upper classes talking about “the end of work”.

Whereas thinkers of the industrial era spoke of the working, middle, and upper classes, privileged thinkers are now dividing the world into an upper working class and a lower consuming class. The only work they can see for the consuming class is art—as if that involves no skill or genuine interest. This is a palliative sop: many people like to imagine themselves rich and the centre of attention through some form of creative activity. However, they do not see themselves as taking up years of training, working through years of anonymity, and living with numerous rejections until the zeitgeist is just right and they get noticed by a broad audience. Are these thinkers jobs so facile that anyone off the street could wear the suit, take the money, and become a wealthy social pedant? Why do they think the work of creators is any less difficult than their own job?

Reasonable employment

We have all been brainwashed into thinking that work is that activity which attracts payment. If you aren’t paid a living wage for an activity, it’s believed not to be actual work. This means companies alone define what is and is not work. Anything they can’t control or is of no monetary interest to them is struck from the list of things that are considered “reasonable employment”. They have also convinced governments to sell off or close down public services for the good of the “economy”, but not for the good of the public. Closing government services means companies can offer the same services for a price. They can also withhold services as they see fit. Think about those AIDS medicines that have exorbitant price tags attached to them. Desperate people are easy to manipulate…up to a point.

So for what are our tax dollars being used: to bail out banks but not the homeless, to clean up environmental disasters which corporations take little to no responsibility for causing, to make sure investors in the military industrial complex get their pockets nicely lined? Our governments may be printing the money, but corporations are making themselves the nexuses through which all money flows. As such they hold undue sway over our lives. Big business is by no means democratic, and through threat of poverty have the power to dictate people’s behaviour.

What would people do if their lives were secure? We have no work shortage whatsoever. We have a lack of security shortage. We need people building sufficient housing for all. We need plastics cleaned from the oceans. We need food grown in environmentally responsible ways that is distributed such that everyone is fed. We need people working to conceive of and build a world where carbon emissions are reduced to safe levels. The list goes on. Universal Basic Income is a good starting place to get these things happening, but it can’t sustain these critical activities.

Proposed Solutions

Science fiction has proposed a number of ways in which humanity could get its act together and rescue itself from self destruction. I am more inspired by these works than the limited thinking of many economists.

Sharing

First, we need to do away with money and money-like systems of accounting. Money is used to facilitate trade, but it is mostly about consolidating power. When you owe a big company even a skerrick, they can use the debt to legally take considerably more than they have been inconvenienced by the imbalance. Our society has been convinced that such punitive measures are reasonable deterrents for those acting in bad faith. However, deterrence is impossible if the debt was accrued due to hardship. The company now owns you. However, when a large company owes you a large sum of money which you are relying on for a living—they equally own you. This was the premise of the film Rosalie Goes Shopping. I’ve also experienced this first hand as a small business owner. You have to learn early how to quickly cut off bad debts and move on. Big companies will take your things, then smile like Cheshire cats knowing they have deep pockets to keep you from suing for the return of or payment for your goods. They make sure that even trying is likely to ruin you.

We have have all been fooled into thinking that specie is necessary to function. Specie is necessary to control masses of people. Certainly people can use it in a generally neutral manner, but it is designed to be open to abuse.

The world is not an infinite resource. Excessive consumption damages the environment and puts all our lives at risk. What we need to do is ration goods and resources at local, state, and international levels. It’s not good enough letting one country use up the water of a river, then dump waste products into what is left as it flows onto other countries. The river belongs to everyone up and down stream, and must be respectfully shared by all. The same goes for all other resources we collectively need. Rationing, though not well loved, worked well in the UK during World War II. Everyone was fed, everyone had all they needed to participate in the war effort. Suddenly each person was seen as a critical resource in themselves.

With modern software it is a trivial matter to create a program that records resources and goods, has parameters for how much can be used at what rate, then allocate these goods and resources. This would be done with democratic community input. People would simply ask for what they wanted and needed. If their request is readily available — it would be delivered to them. If many people ask for the same thing, say apples, then perhaps enough is available to give everyone one apple, so this is done. With what apples are left for those who want two, there might also be enough, they all receive a second apple. Now we don’t have enough apples left for those who want three. The community may now become involved in deciding who and why some people will receive more than others. If all needs are met and the community has a surplus, they may also decide upon what to do with the excess: preservation, manufacturing, trade…

This level of involvement in community affairs means part of everyone’s work is civic engagement. Honestly, this should have always been the case in order to vouchsafe our democracies. With our increasing workload, even when the work is searching for paid employment or begging for food, we have all been disempowered.

When we ration things, rather than trading in abstractions, it’s much easier to stay connected to what the real human consequences are from our decisions. If a government cuts food delivery to a rural community, it’s perfectly clear why those people are suffering. The people making these decisions no longer have numbers behind which to hide.

Service

The next proposed solution has to do with work. Work is ennobling, but not just any work. Otherwise, as I have heard it said, working as a hitman would be noble. When work serves the well-being of a community, nation, and/or the world, as well as yourself, then it is ennobling. Any work that serves needs to be respected, not just work that confers status. Work needs to engender self-respect and respect for the world around you. Children need to be taught this from a very young age. In fact school children in Japan are expected to clean up their own classrooms as a form of respect toward their educational institution. There is no shame and everything to honour when people contribute to their homes and communities through cleaning toilets. Such efforts protect our health. Anyone who feels any sort of work is beneath them, and cunningly finds ways to avoid the hard or icky stuff, has serious attitude problems.

Again software could help with creating bulletin boards of things that need doing, indicating which activities are of highest priority at any time. People could volunteer to do things, or simply make their skills available—recording when they have provided goods and/or services. The main reward for doing these things is simply having a functioning society. Part of the reward for doing certain communal employment, like building a house, would also be the social activities associated with it, such as partying together Friday evenings. Small communities and nomadic peoples have functioned in this manner for thousands of years. Ursula K. LeGuin posited this sort of world in The Lathe of Heaven. She also posited that if someone was not socially engaging, then they were assigned a social worker to help (not punish) by finding them some place to fit in.

This world would not look so different from our present world, but given people would choose activities out of their own volition, they would all be a lot happier and feel more at peace. I remember being the editor for a literary magazine. Because I knew everyone well in the group, when people first raised their hands to take certain roles for creating the magazine, I recognised that not everyone was being honest. Some people were offering to do some jobs because they gave them prominence. Others offered to do jobs they felt no one else wanted. When I then had everyone secretly put their names in for the jobs they most wanted to do: like magic every role was filled evenly. Everyone was able to do what interested them most. I teach a unit on collaborative creation in my course on storytelling for digital media. Usually, things fall into place when everyone is honest about what they want to do in their groups. Whenever there is a shortfall, either through interest or skill, one group is usually able to solicit another group to help them. This is all so much easier than people are willing to believe.

Our biggest stumbling block to creating a peaceful and sustainable world is simply our attitudes toward one another and the rest of life. If we let go of felt needs for dominance and control, we wouldn’t waste so much time imprisoning ourselves in the process. Like those fairy creatures the brownies, we need to be working for the pleasure of it, accepting gifts and refusing the ensnarement of wages. Goodwill and friendship should be the principles upon which our culture holds together. Serving the well-being of life makes a person feel good about themselves and others. We should all try it!

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

A Class Act

Posted on 1 June 2017 | No responses

Butterflies

“…and the Universe, … will explode later for your pleasure.”
~ Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

 

A friend of mine was told by Australia’s welfare system that his work as a simulated patient for medical training was “unrealistic”, and that he should find a different field of work.

An article by the Village Voice explains what he does nicely:

The “standardized patient” concept is about fifty years old, developed by Dr. Howard Barrows, a neurologist then at the University of Southern California; he later introduced his proposals at Southern Illinois University. Barrows saw a need for students to learn to problem-solve on their feet. Feeling that mere paper-and-pencil exams wouldn’t, by themselves, create strong doctors, he pioneered a new way to evaluate and build clinical skills: by training actors to simulate patients.

They also explain why simulated patients became a thing:

Why the push for clinical competence…85 percent of all malpractice suits in the U.S.A. are based upon a failure of doctor-patient communication. It’s not that the doctor didn’t know enough… [It’s that] he or she did not communicate well enough with his or her patient!

Zimmer, Elizabeth, “Playing Sick: How Actors Are Making Better Doctors”, The Village Voice, 2016 August 31

In essence the Australian government through their job centres took it upon themselves to decide whose job is worthy and whose not, without consultation. And yet the role of simulated patient is critical to developing competent doctors who are better able to save lives.

Our government’s approach is reminiscent of science fiction writer Douglas Adams’s concept of the “B Ark”.

The Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B was the starship designed to transport a certain segment of one planet’s population to a new world, before their old world was met with some sort of certain doom. The population was lied to about this doom in order to convince a segment of the population to willingly enter the ark and be intentionally crash-landed on Earth.

The population was divided in this manner: all those who ruled, thought, or did what was considered useful work stayed behind, and those who held apparently useless jobs, defined here as the telephone sanitisers, account executives, hair dressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives and management consultants and other such roles, were sent to what might be their final resting place.

This is written to be funny, but even Adams recognises the plan is problematic. We learn that later the planet meets its end when everyone dies of a disease carried by unsanitised phones. In this scenario people are being divided by class almost as if it is a genetic difference. Those who don’t measure up are sent off in a manner intentionally meant to ostracise and potentially kill them. This is in essence what was done from the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century by the British to their own impoverished classes. They tried to cleanse their country of this class of people by sending them to Australian penal colonies.

The German nation experimented with ethnic cleansing and we point at them going, how horrible. However, we should be looking at ourselves because we are continuing systems not only of ethnic cleansing by the way we are treating refugees and the original peoples of the US, Australia, and elsewhere, but class cleansing through severe mistreatment and abandonment of those who are most vulnerable. We are allowing those at the top to hoard more than their fair share of the Earth’s resources, and doom those who are then forced into penury to seriously shortened and painful existences. When Australians are so proud of their convict past, I am dumbfounded that they are allowing these stark class divisions to open up.

Of course I may hear some people from the US in particular wail: but we are a classless society! That has been the propaganda for a very long time, and it has never been true. This is a convenient way to create a blindspot in our view on society, while protecting those in the upper classes. I was disappointed when I found a gaping hole in Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

Our culture emphasizes certain kinds of differences. It tells us that these differences are the most imp[ortant ones, the ones that truly divide us. For these categorizatiosn, we’ve invented the term “ROAARS.” It’s an acronym. ROAARS stands for Race/(sexual) Orientation/Age/Ability/Religion/Sex. ROAARS differences are highlighted by majority culture. You may notice that one profound difference have been left out of this acronym: class. This was a deliberate omission. As we’ve said, the focus here is on those differences that are generally presumed to be important.

Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, p 5, Aqueduct Press, Seattle, 2005

Shawl and Ward are doing important work. This book should be read and understood. It should also be recognised where they have holes in their outlook big enough to drive several trucks through and why.

Both the US and Australia have a bone to pick with British hierarchy. The US are very proud of having knocked the monarchy off their thrones in that country. Of course once you have opened the door to violent overthrow of over-privileged leaders, how do you close it again so that the new leaders have some sort of security? Perhaps you make it seem like it’s the populace who decide that certain people are in control. Perhaps you have elections that are over-ridden by an electoral college. Perhaps you make it easier for the wealthy to run for office and vote, and harder for the poor to do so. Perhaps you spread a myth that this is a land of opportunity. We are all embarrassed millionaires! Therefore, when the upper classes are looking down upon the lower classes: it’s not out of their sense of entitlement, but because of your failure to grasp opportunity. And so long as you believe that, you will accept that judgement.

It has been said you can learn as much about a society by what it doesn’t say about itself, as by what it does. In this case I would say we are dealing with crimes of omission rather than commission. They are still crimes. Those at the top who are afraid of change will want to portray change as something likely to be violent. In this manner they hope to gain allies in suppressing those who are suffering. Yet, the more distance the wealthy try to create between themselves and their self-made enemies, the more enemies they create, and the more likely their worst fears are realised.

Change does not have to be violent. It can be significant like when a caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly. Such a big change can be frightening, but ultimately elating. We just have to keep our eyes on the butterfly. In this case people have to focus on the joy of living in a friendly world: one where we can trust that our needs are met and that most people we meet are going to be friendly. Surely this is preferable to a hostile world where all you have is a house full of stuff, a computer full of numbers, and are surrounded by people who either hate you or want to use you.

My friend should not be punished for taking up an acting job that helps to create better doctors, simply because others are unwilling to pay him properly and still others have decided acting isn’t a “real” job. Next time you have to see a doctor and are trying to communicate your symptoms so as to receive appropriate help, tell me whether or not you really think simulated patients are unnecessary. Also, next time you look in the mirror wonder whether or not you would be put into the “B Ark”. Finding difference where it is not is the sure beginning of unnecessary cruelty. Be the person who chooses to care and to share. Be the person who is willing to respect others work, and more than that, respects everyone’s humanity and right to life.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Faith in Daisy Chains

Posted on 17 May 2017 | No responses

A daisy

I was raised in a deeply right-wing religious family. At first I took their worldview on, because what else is a child going to do? However, with experience and introspection I started to drift. I now jokingly say that “I’m Gandhi left not Che Guevara left”.

The drift wasn’t because I am smart. My whole family is very smart: inventors, scientists (science neither stops a person from being conservative or fundamentalist), university lecturers and researchers, and diplomats. The drift was because I am sensitive and I care.

If people are suffering, myself included, you cannot fully alleviate that suffering until you get at the heart of the problem. You have to be willing to stare the unvarnished truth in the face and go, “Okay, if that’s how things are what can we do?”

Let’s say you have been put into a cage with a group of other people, but the door has been left open. You have been told your whole life that you cannot escape that cage — by both those who put you there and those with whom you are sharing the cage. So long as you believe that, you won’t bother walking out the door. However, once you are willing to go beyond what people have told you and stare at each wall, eventually you may find a wall with an open door.

Of course once you find that door will you dare to walk out? To leave is to go out into the world where all the jailers live. To leave is to separate yourself from the people who have been your friends as you try to live within inhumane circumstances. Never having been in the larger world, it may be hard to imagine that the jailers are trapped by their need to keep you in a cage. They are in an invisible cage and outside of their world is another still larger world.

The first people to walk out into the largest world are going to be very lonely and possibly live a precarious existence. Most people aren’t brave enough to go travelling to new worlds. Nevertheless, some of us have to take that journey before anyone else can possibly follow.

The people who started in the cage understand what cagedness is like. Sometimes they are capable of speaking the language of the caged and draw the caged out with stories of a better world. The problems occur when you have new jailers seducing people into new cages, thereby creating staunch cynicism in the caged.

Cynicism doesn’t mean the largest world doesn’t exist. It just means someone has given up and doesn’t want to be reminded of failures. Just remember, as was said in Mythbusters: failure is always an option. The finding of truth has never and will never be a straight line.

The answer is to keep hoping, keep staring hard to find the truth, keep moving toward open doors, keep holding out hands to help others behind you in the journey, and keep encouraging them to hold out hands as well until in one vast daisy-chain we pull ourselves forward into peace. It is possible!

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Learn Peace

Posted on 10 May 2017 | No responses

Learn how to make peace with yourself.

Learn how to make peace with friends and family.

Learn how to extend goodwill toward all people.

Learn to make peace with the planet.

Peace is the means of love.

Peace is the outcome of love.

 
Peace and kindness,

Katherine

The Cool Outsider

Posted on 30 April 2017 | No responses

CCBY 2.0 Tristan from Luxembourg

I would be very careful of a rebellious transgressive identity. It sounds freeing, but it can be its own prison.

When I was a kid we moved around every three years from small town to small town. At one point I realised that no matter what I did, I was going to be an outsider. So, I might as well dress as I pleased, like what I pleased, do what I pleased. Of course this became exaggerated and outrageous to a certain degree, because you know, “Fuck you” to all the other kids. Only I was too sensitive to go too far down that route.

Nevertheless, there were the “cool” kids who were on this wavelength. They weren’t the “popular” kids, but they held a similar allure and behaved at least as badly. The “popular” kids were out to dominate. The “cool” kids were out to destroy (so, they could eventually dominate). The problem with cool kid destruction is that it often becomes self destructive.

This isn’t entirely self hatred. Though, certainly an element of that creeps in. Sometimes it’s more like holding a gun to your own head saying, “Treat me better, or I get it!” Often it’s to show the rest of the world that you’re strong enough and tough enough to take chances with your life, so people shouldn’t mess with you.

My mother tried very hard to force me into the rebellious kid mould. That way she could justify hating me and putting me down to her friends for not stepping in line with her worldview. When my sister and I were living together at university, my mother would regularly call my sister to check on whether or not I was taking drugs or having sex. It was enough to make me want to go do those things to punish her. However, I refused to let her dictate to me who I was: “good” or “bad”.

Since I chose the arts for my tertiary studies, I met a lot of other young people who went for the “outrageous outsider” role. We were a herd of black sheep, but I could see that we were still sheep. That’s when I stopped trying so hard to be different. I already was different. I didn’t have to do anything special. I just needed to keep affirming the value of my personal choices. I recognised the value in collaborating to create truly awesome art, and that cooperation doesn’t preclude creativity or individuality. What it requires is an emotional maturity that makes interdependence possible.

Some arts friends who succumbed to “coolkiditis” slowly destroyed themselves with cigarettes and alcohol. A few others destroyed themselves quickly through heroine overdoses. One American friend died in Australia from an overdose. The police called me and asked if I would inform his mother and sister about his death. They thought it would be gentler hearing the news from someone with an American accent. It was heartrending. I don’t judge the artists who experiment, but I refrain from becoming close friends, because I don’t want to have my heart broken over and over again in this way.

If someone—or a group of someones—hurts you, then being the things they hate or fear to punish them is a trap. It means you always have to be aware of what they think, value, or feel in order to plot your own behaviour. Often you become their dark side…but not yourself. Much better is to recognise their complexity: keep what is useful to you, learn what is not, then walk away without a second thought. Perpetually feeding an inner fire so that you are ready to attack or counter-attack your enemies will drain your days of joy and grind your humanity to a pulp. We need to learn grace, compassion, and non-attachment. A good start is to forgive ourselves for getting involved with hurtful people. Do not take individuality out to the point of isolation: it’s not who we are as human beings. Take it to the point of having something unique to contribute to this planet.

In peace,
Katherine

Play Rabbits

Posted on 25 April 2017 | No responses

A baby bunny

“The other day when I was walking through the woods, I saw a rabbit standing in front of a candle making shadows of people on a tree.”
~Stephen Wright

Raising Rabbits

I have an aunt and an uncle who to get by used to raise rabbits for food. It was hard to keep my cousins from becoming fond of these animals, and therefore distraught when their favourite bunny was turned into soup. To resolve this problem they kept their rabbits in two separate enclosures. One enclosure was for eating rabbits. Another enclosure was for breeding/play rabbits.

The play rabbits had names. The play rabbits could be brought into the house and allowed to run around. My cousins could tell me about their personalities and the funny things they did. None of this was true for the eating rabbits.

When slaughter days came, no one was happy but everyone understood what had to be done. The eating rabbits were treated especially well for their last moments. They were often given a nice supper. One by one they were brought into the shed, so they were less likely to be distressed, then quickly killed. All parts of these rabbits were used: the meat, the fur, the offal.

The Nature of Empathy

A major survival trait for human beings is our ability to cooperate. We have evolved not just the ability to readily mimic others, but also to recognise physical and emotional feelings as if they are our own. I say “others” rather than people, because our brain’s neurons do not stop at reflecting only human states, but also reflect animal states. This is extremely handy for forming interspecies relations and broadening the field of cooperation. This is how we successfully live with dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and more.

But what if we have to do hard things to ensure our survival? Then we find ways to cognitively shut down empathy under certain occasions. The eating bunnies are kept on the far part of the backyard where we don’t have to interact with them and feel remorse upon their deaths.

We have created a highly competitive society. The competition is exacerbated by a lack of safety nets. If you fail at making a living in a society that only agrees to pay for a certain narrow definition of professional work, then you could end up living in extreme poverty. Look around you. If you see people living in the streets wearing rags, then that is how far you or anyone can fall. This means just about anyone can be your enemy to survival.

Our natural inclinations are to make friends and share. We love seeing people’s faces light up when we give them presents. We love even a few pleasant words from sales staff. People often have favourite cafes based solely on a server who smiles or chats with them. However, when our security is threatened by a harsh system, we feel a need to choose a small group of allies, then find ways to shut down our empathy for everyone else. We have to prepare ourselves for turning other people into eating rabbits.

The Problem of Separation

So, we live in a world where we need a lot of answers fast. We live in a world that needs a lot of repair, nurturing, and healing fast. This can be done when we have a diversity of hearts, minds, and hands working together. Cooperation can save us. But we have been relying on separation.

We see those of different ethnicity, culture, religion, political outlook, weight, age, ability, gender, gender affiliation, class, countries, etc as backyard bunnies. Walking down the street with a friend we came across several rough sleepers asking for change. Her comment was, “That’s disturbing”. She then walked quickly past. So many people I have met feel street people need to be swept away and tidied from the city streets. I can sense the pull of empathy, I can sense the act of shutting it down and wanting the poor to be put where people don’t have to think about them or do anything to help.

I see people struggling with the concept of deserving: I deserve my security, they deserve their penury. I’ve been a pacifist since my early teen years. No one pays me to go out and help with the homeless rallies at Melbourne Town Hall or Victorian State Parliament. Yet, the newspapers describe me as a “professional protester” and that our little group of students, housewives, refugees, transsexuals, etc are somehow magically violent. The portrayals are laughable, but no one wants to know that, because if they did they might feel responsible for the wellbeing of poor human beings.

And what if some of the poor are violent? What if their lives are so desperate that they resort to anything to keep themselves breathing? How is this any different from the cute puppy or kitten that has been abandoned and therefore becomes feral? We rehabilitate feral puppies and kittens by feeding them and treating them well. But in their case we feel safe enough to empathise.

More Play Rabbits

We have to stop being so afraid of one another. We have to stop seeing one another and all living beings as so deeply separate. We have to insist that those with ample means contribute to the general well-being of our planet. Creating categories of humans such as nobility, dictators, or CEOs just encourages them to shut down their empathy for the rest of humanity. Creating categories of humans such as bums, tramps, hobos, etc just encourages us to shut down our empathy for those people who are impoverished. We are all human. “There but for the grace of fate go I”, should be the thought going through our heads whenever we see another person or another creature suffer. Listen to your empathy! Expand your definition of who is a play rabbit! You may save yourself and the world this way.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

We Can Be Light

Posted on 20 April 2017 | No responses

Plasma globe

Light and its characteristics

Light can be demonstrated to behave as both a particle and a wave.

Using the Double Slit Experiment light is found to measurably behave as discrete particles. Light passing through the slits is absorbed on an observing screen at discrete points behind the slits, and when detectors are used, each detected photon of light clearly passes through one slit only.

However, the wave like nature of light passing through the slits creates an interference pattern producing bright and dark bands on the same observing screen, much like that found when two sets of waves on a pond intersect amplifying and deamplifying those waves when they meet. This displays the concept of wave-particle duality.

Okay, that was a bit technical. The point is simply that light simultaneously holds two characteristics which we usually expect to be exclusive of one another: particleness and waveness, singularity and continuity.

I start with this because I want people to hold in their minds the possibility that we can be like light. When we live within a healthy society we will always be mindful of each others individuality, while also supporting the continuity of human and living being. In our case this is something of a balancing act. Our culture has at intervals tipped too far in emphasising either the individual, or human collectives.

Double slit experiment

By NekoJaNekoJa

Humanity as wave

When we overemphasise our wave-like nature, we start demanding conformity. Conformity means that everyone’s behaviour is predictable. Sometimes we want that conformity. Every time we go through a traffic light we want people behaving predictably according to strict road rules. That way we can travel through the intersection safely and not worry about having our lives threatened by someone randomly barrelling through a red light.

What happens when a felt need for conformity comes from a need to dominate or paranoia? This regularly occurs when there are wars. Suddenly people want obvious ways to distinguish who is the enemy and who is not. During World War Two Americans of Japanese heritage were rounded up and put into internment camps. This included children with as little as one-sixteenth Japanese heritage. All American Asians were looked upon with distrust. Survival depended upon how much people could conform to not only European American culture, but physiognomy.

After WWII the Cold War began and ideological conformity became a concern. People who were considered a threat to the power of a white wealthy male hegemony could be accused of communism and imprisoned. People were made to feel afraid of speaking freely about social concerns or defending the rights of the poor, since they could then be accused of being traitors. I remember this still being true in the nineteen eighties when I was taking a course in political science and needed to buy a copy of The Communist Manifesto rather than borrow it from the library. Ronald Reagan had brought in new laws whereby librarians were required to report to the FBI those students who had checked out Karl Marx’s work.

A tactic those in power frequently use is demarking who are “us” and who are “them”. So long as people are focused on keeping safe from “them”, the government can make laws that benefit those in power and look like they are protecting the populace from “them”. These laws can attack freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom to protest, etc. This may look like it’s creating a more secure world for “us”, but those laws will equally apply to everyone.

Australia has been creating more and more laws to protect “us” from immigrants. I will regularly point out to friends that these laws they are seeing as applying only to Asian, African, or Middle Eastern immigrants equally apply to myself and their English, Scottish, German, etc family members. As an example we now have a law that says any immigrant found to have a mental disorder can have their citizenship revoked and be deported. I point out that if the government didn’t like me and discovered that perhaps I was seeing a psychiatrist about depression, they could use that as an excuse to revoke my Australian nationality. The response I regularly receive is, “They wouldn’t do that to you.” The fact of the matter is nothing says they couldn’t or wouldn’t. And why is it okay to have such a law, if it is going to be applied in a discriminatory manner?

So long as we conform to the government’s wishes and the general wishes of our social groups, not only do we often feel like we might be safer, we have more power to enforce our control, dominance, and wishes over other social groups. Though, within such a group we still become afraid of being found out for being different. Outside of such a group it becomes imperative to find a way to fit in so as to garner some safety and avoid suffering. This is when you have women taking on the values of toxic masculinity, people of non-European ancestry taking on Western values of success, etc. This is waveness gone too far.

Humanity as particle

When we start overemphasising our particle-like natures we see the collapse of community and eventually civilisation. Our individuality is exceptionally important to a thriving progressing society. Our differences make us stronger in so many ways. With more diversity more ideas, skills, and perspectives are available to us to create a better world. We know more peace when we are capable of accepting diversity as a mutual act.

However, there is a difference between individuality and individualism. Driving people apart makes the wealthy class wealthier. We are faced with an onslaught of manufactured fear through advertising every day. We are made to feel frightened of differing from others in order to sell clothes, deodorant, etc. We are also made to feel frightened of whether or not we are exceeding one another in the status game, and so are encouraged to buy more and more status symbols for which we need more and more money. So long as we are desperate for money, those in power can manipulate us to jump through hoops and lie to one another.

My partner and I a few years back were looking at a piece of property for sale. The real estate agent told us we had better make an offer fast because someone else had already made one, and we would need to be competitive. The land didn’t interest us enough to bother with that game, so we left it. Six months later that same piece of property was still for sale. I inquired again. The receptionist at the real estate office called the person managing that property and was told to tell me: “I had better make an offer fast because someone else had already made one, and I would need to be competitive.” Over two years later I noticed the property was finally sold. I refuse to have anything to do with an agency of liars.

Sadly, I can’t entirely avoid dealing with companies and shops that are going to be lying, manipulating, and pressurising me into handing over my dollars. In order to function in society I have to have sufficient trust in particular companies to just buy things and get on with life. As fewer paid jobs are available, every time I tell a commissioned sales person, “no”, they are terrified of losing their car, their home, their ability to feed themselves. Without the waveness of general safety nets, the individual becomes solely responsible for their survival. If their boss then told them, they had to work an extra twenty to forty hours a week or they would lose their job altogether, the sales person may very well agree to inhumane working conditions.

Under extreme competitive conditions people regularly have to prove why they are distinctly better than everyone else. They have to learn how to please those above them. This often involves a process of kicking those below them. Add to that a fear that the world is falling apart and we see an upswing in the combined attitudes of YOLO (you only live once) and “every man for himself”. So, the world is used up without care for any other human beings. This goes beyond “us” and “them”. This becomes me against the world. It leads to the three letter acronym MAD: mutually assured destruction—and not a single nuclear weapon needs to be brought out—just mistreatment of one another and the planet.

Individualism is used too often to make ourselves feel bigger, more important, and thereby apparently safer, but it’s not true. The more we isolate ourselves, the more vulnerable we are to danger. We also suffer more from loneliness. We have to learn how to be okay with being both different and the same as everyone else, without having to be “the best” at anything.

Become light

What I am asking of people here is to find our lightness. We have to find the courage to be both individual and part of the continuity of all living beings. We have to look out for the needs, safety, and well-being of all of it: in part and in whole. Probably the biggest “us” and “them” problem we have is how separate we see ourselves from the rest of life, and therefore feel a need to dominate and ultimately destroy life. We are even brighter lights when we include every creature that walks, flies, or swims the Earth; when we embrace all things that grow and breathe after their own fashion. Cultivate an attitude of universal goodwill. Act out of kindness. Commit to being truthful and serving humanity. Love community. Learn to share. Honour life. These are what will create a world where you will know peace and friendship.

Love,

Katherine

Truth and Storytelling Consequences

Posted on 10 April 2017 | No responses

MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh == Kinshasa - 21 March 2015. MONUSCO staff members join together, in spite of their cultural diversity, to mark the International Day for the elimination of Racial Discrimination. Photo MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh CC BY SA 2.0

Much of storytelling is a thought experiment. We develop a collection of characters, put them into particular circumstances and, if we are honest in our storytelling, we allow events to roll out to the most likely conclusions given all considerations. While we are doing this we are inhabiting other people’s lives and other people’s minds…that is, if we are being honest.

Stereotypes

We all rely too much on stereotypes to help tell our stories for us. And yet to do so is highly unjust to those who are being portrayed as mere addendums to the “real” characters. Sometimes this is out of laziness, sometimes ignorance or a lack of imagination, sometimes this is because of anger, bigotry, or any combination of the above. Science fiction and fantasy is often a mass of stereotypes in aid of “cool” ideas which take the fore: what would the future be like if teleportation became a thing, what would the world be like if we had to live with dragons, etc.

Embedded in this problem is a deeper one: what right do we have to represent others stories. If someone living in a city writes a story about someone working as a rancher in the country, they are holding up to the world a manufactured example of what it is like to be a rancher and thereby inform their audience, perhaps erroneously, as to what it is like to be a rancher and what sort of person a rancher might be. This story may romanticise or vilify ranch workers and thereby mould city people’s impressions. This becomes a problem when by sheer numbers city people make electoral decisions that affect those living in the country, who by law are now subject to decisions over which they had little say. In conclusion not only may the city writer have used stereotypes to titillate an audience: they may have misrepresented a group of people and thereby misinformed their audience. From their isolated position the writer may think they have done nothing wrong, because they cannot see the consequences.

Now let’s open these questions up into more dangerous territory. We do not live in a world of pure divisions between peoples, and yet we often try to create such divisions. These divisions often serve as a means to protect ourselves, either by providing a quick way to determine who might be a threat or by informing us who it is acceptable to exploit in order to ensure we have sufficient for our survival. These are the most insidious stereotypes. Living on the blunt end of these divisions makes various people vulnerable to the representations of those who are more privileged. However, the reality that these divisions are arbitrary means many people are both privileged and underprivileged simultaneously.

The Problem of the Historical Fiction Author

Former president Barack Obama is wealthy, male, and once held one of the most privileged positions you can attain within the United States. However, his dark features make him the subject of stereotyping, slurs, and racist behaviour. Writing is not a particularly profitable profession. Let us say that in the future a white, lower middle class woman just barely scraping by writes a piece of historical fiction about the childhood lives of Malia and Sasha Obama. This woman might feel justified because they all know what it is like to be female. She would find challenging not only leaping the ethnic divide to best represent African American culture, but also the divide between lower and upper classes.

If the book about Sasha and Malia were published, it might very well cause an outcry no matter how conscientious the author tried to be. As a child I was crazy about Phillis Wheatley, because she was a poet as a little girl and I was a poet as a little girl. If this author had a genuine affinity for Sasha and Malia, I could understand this author feeling upset that her chosen subject matter was seen as beyond her. However, if Michelle Obama were to write a novel from the viewpoint of a poor white man, I can bet you anything that the outcry would be louder and more vicious.

The answer would seem to be an author should only write about their own people. Who are our own people? Should our historical novelist only write about young, able, white, lower middle class women who live in small towns near Portland Oregon? What about the supporting characters in her novel? Are they also subject to these restrictions? In many ways our problems start increasing.

Write What You Know?

I doubt that our historical novelist lives in a world where she never sees another person who is older or younger than herself, never comes across someone differently abled, of another ethnicity or class, or is of a different gender or gender diverse. Without absolute isolation this is impossible. To not include diversity in her stories is to be dishonest about her experience and the nature of the world. If we all wrote books that narrow in focus, it would become very easy to increase divisions among ourselves. Some people would read books that only reflect their own experience (which already happens but this could exacerbate the issue). Some people would find it harder to make imaginative leaps into recognising shared humanity because of the intense othering. What also concerns me is that we then also have fewer models as to how we can successfully live together.

Okay, let’s soften that barrier. Let’s say she can write about people more distinct from herself, but they can only be the secondary characters. The main character must be someone like herself. Sorry, we still have problems. Reading is an important tool for empathy. People identify with someone unlike themselves in stories and start to care. Some people need our care, but are unable to write for themselves. People with various intellectual disabilities come to mind. People who have been unjustly imprisoned and are being prevented from communicating outside their situation is another example. Intense situations involving children definitely require the writing of an adult to protect the child and inform the public.

I don’t believe there is any way we can tell a story where we aren’t vulnerable to judgement. I would say if we are creating stories, we have to not concern ourselves with the judgement but rather focus on being genuinely truthful, sensitive, and showing due care to the best of our ability. We will still be caught out, but we will need to have the humility to allow our vulnerability and to learn. Some things can be done to make it easier to tell stories that are broad in scope and diversity, which integrate the peoples of this Earth.

More Than One Voice Creating Stories, More Than One Voice In Stories

If only one voice is heard telling their stories we have a problem. If only the stories of wealthy white men and the world of wealthy white men are told, then it’s easy to feel that theirs are the only stories that matter. Worse, many people end up feeling the stories of wealthy white men are the only stories worth emulating, not only in the creation of new stories, but in how our lives are lived. This is happening now and creating a whole world of problems when it comes to rich/poor divide, discrimination, and the damaging of our ecosystem.

If only one voice is being heard telling everyone else’s stories, we have a problem. If only wealthy white males are telling the stories of women, children, people of colour, etc then we have at best limited insight into other people’s lives because we have no way of knowing how fair the portrayal is. How do a people portray themselves? What details do they focus on? What is important to them? For those who cannot speak for themselves, if at least a diversity of voices are telling their stories then we might get a closer approximation of truth. A mother’s story about her child with Down Syndrome may be very different from the father’s story.

We must demand that a fair distribution of voices is heard through a diversity of media, and in our schools from pre-school to graduate school. This is not optional. A world of peace demands such fairness.

Research!

Writers must develop their stories with all due diligence. We must research our subjects with the same care and objectivity as academics. We must do so with an eye to detail and a sensitive concern for the values of those being portrayed. That doesn’t mean backing off from the truth when it’s complex and dirty. In fact that complexity is what the world most needs to acknowledge and accept as part of a genuine compassion for whole human beings. Just make sure the complexity extends to all characters not just one segment.

We must engage and consult with our subjects. This is where we part ways with the academics, because we are about portraying emotional truth as well. To the best of our ability we should spend time with people like those we are creating, or at least watching their vlogs. I don’t ask people to dip into “method” storytelling, that can be immensely damaging to a person’s mental well-being. If people at least seek the help of those they are representing and listen to their opinions before releasing their stories to the world, this would help create greater truthfulness.

The Conversation Begins

I do not believe I have addressed all the problems nor have I presented all the answers here. What I am mostly seeking is to open up a conversation about how we can enter each others worlds sufficiently to create a community of goodwill. I want us engaging in each others stories and imagining ourselves in the positions of their characters. Women frequently experience stories by imagining what it’s like to be the male lead. The same is true of many people who are not of the mainstream storied class. When we have sufficient diversity in the story market that white men enjoy imagining themselves as being one of the rest of us, then we will be within embracing distance of a truly peaceful world.

I want an integrated world of goodwill, so I do my best to write an integrated world of goodwill. If you have any ideas on how we can all do this better, please let me know.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Melbourne City Council vs The Poor and Homeless

Posted on 7 April 2017 | No responses

Public housing rally at Victorian Parliament April 2017

“On Tuesday 7 February 2017, Council endorsed proposed amendments to our Activities Local Law 2009, including a broader definition of ‘camping’.”
Activities Local Law 2009

(This amendment would give the police greater powers to remove the homeless from Melbourne CBD. It is a fineable offense that can result in jail time)

“Unless in accordance with a permit, a person must not leave any item unattended in a public place. If any item is left unattended in contravention of this Local Law, an authorised officer may confiscate and impound the item in accordance with this clause. Any item confiscated and impounded under clause 2.12.2 will be returned to its owner on payment of any fee or charge prescribed by the Council for its release. If the owner of the item has not paid any fee or charge required for its release, the Council may sell, destroy or give away the item. Before exercising the power conferred by clause 2.12.4, the Council must take reasonable steps to notify the owner of the item that the item has been impounded and may be sold, destroyed or given away unless the specified fee or charge is paid within 14 days.”
Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017

The world does not have enough paid jobs to go around.

Manufacturing is largely being done by robots: check any remaining car factories. We no longer have as many bank and supermarket clerks with ATMs and self-checkouts. Malls are suffering from online sales. As media becomes more concentrated because people are visiting only a few online news sites, we have fewer journalists being paid for their skills. When self-driving cars come in we will see people losing taxi and truck driving positions. Governments are shedding many of our assets and services by either selling them off to corporations or relinquishing them to volunteer nonprofits.

The ranks of the underemployed are swelling, as are the ranks of those who are living in poverty. The middle class is collapsing. Are you really surprised in the last two years that Melbourne CBD has experienced a 74% increase in people sleeping rough on its streets?

So you the Melbourne Town Council plan to fine people for cluttering your streets, people who don’t have enough to pay for accommodation and have had to choose food over shelter. They can’t pay and so will be liable for three days of jail time: three days of lodging and food at taxpayer’s expense. At least it’s a roof overhead, but who wants to sleep in a jail simply for being poor?

And what’s the next tactic? You have chosen to confiscate these people’s belongings the instant they have to leave for the toilet—belongings such as blankets, water, legitimate medications. This was done recently to people sleeping rough at Flinders Street Station. You now propose they can then only retrieve these necessities for survival if they pay a several hundred dollar fine they can’t afford.

Now they have less than nothing and can’t possibly beg for enough to get by. That’s a recipe for crime if I’ve ever heard it. But the question is: whose crime is it? Who takes blankets from the homeless? Who takes medication from those who are sick or in pain? Who lacks so much humanity that they believe these are reasonable things to do?

Yet again Melbourne Council is proposing to contravene its country’s human rights agreements. Article seventeen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

This sounds like the Melbourne City Council has taken a leaf from the Federal Government’s refugee policies: make the situation in Melbourne CBD so hostile to the poor that they are forced into surrounding suburbs. What does the state government think of such contentious law-making?

You the privileged are losing the buffer between yourselves and the poor. The top ten percent have been protected by a majority middle class, but so long as we are all slipping into hardship, you are becoming more and more seriously outnumbered. How long can you create and mistreat more poor before the world starts crumbling around you and you have no supporters?

Choose compassion now.

In peace,

Katherine

Are You Tired?

Posted on 5 April 2017 | No responses

“Don’t you think she looks tired?”
David Tennant as Dr Who, “The Christmas Invasion” 2005

These questions are for the people running around in suits today.

  • Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmingly stressed?
  • Do you feel tired, as if life is moving on and on and you can’t make it stop?
  • Are you feeling exhausted as if some sort of threat is constantly looming over your life?

A 2001 Danish study reported in the British Medical Journal found that not only do poor people with mental illness suffer from a higher suicide rate than the general public, but so do the wealthy.

The wealthy know their position in society is precarious. They know they live in a dog eat dog world of their own making, and sometimes even boast about being the top dog—but that still means they are living a life of constant battle.

Someone just below them often wants to knock the crown off their heads for their own aggrandisement. But more than that there are the many many people who may hold bitter grudges against their rich overlords due to mistreatment. The one percent are perfectly aware of their home grown dog pit. They are afraid of being treated as they have treated others.

In 2014 venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote to the Wall Street Journal. In his letter he said that he believed a “progressive war” was being waged against wealthy Americans comparing it to the Nazi persecution of Jews and suggested a Kristallnacht might be coming for the rich. Later he said on television that the poor and middle class have “threatened” the rich with their calls for a more equal society. Such a bizarre and distorted vision of the world is pure paranoia.

We are living in a deeply dysfunctional society. If you know anything about dysfunctional families. It’s easy to see what’s going on. Imagine a family where one or both parents are violent or emotionally abusive. These people still have to function in society to ensure their survival, so all people will ever see are happy smiling faces.

The adults of the family will express their pathologies upon those whom they are most likely to get away with their abuse. This may include low status co-workers, but it will definitely include their children. These children will be instructed to smile and smile, accepting their abuse as normal.

If one of those children starts to sense that something is wrong, they may exhibit emotional problems. The parents “can’t imagine why” their child would have such difficulty, but it must be because of school, TV, or some other external factor. They may try to drug their kid into a semblance of social normality.

If this child starts rebelling, they are seen as “the problem” and are forced to carry the entire family’s guilt. The other children out of fear will then try to be everything their parents want in order to avoid the torture their sibling is going through. Some will even take on their parents’s pathologies to show what good children they are. Does this sound like Trump’s America to you?

So here we are in Australia telling ourselves that we are the lucky country. Our wealthy are taking over the government and convincing people to look the other way as they abuse the poor. And as we all see how far we can fall, rather than fixing the situation we become scared and join in the abuse. We are taking on our parents’s pathologies.

The effort it takes to not care, to turn away from abuse, is brutal. Our fears are not being resolved through “fitting in”, instead we are becoming more and more frightened sometimes to the point of Tom Perkins paranoia.

Making the vulnerable the enemy means we have someone we can more safely kick, but it will never relieve us of fear and rage, and it most certainly will not rescue us from the dangers of accepting dysfunctional social structures.

We must turn squarely toward our systems of hierarchy and wash them away like the flimsy sand castles they are. If you want any sort of security in this world you are only going to find it when you find the strength to stand up for what is kind, what is caring, what will benefit all humanity and all life. We cannot stand by as people are left without food, without homes, without hope.

Dig deep and find a powerful compassion that will remake the world in total.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Speech given 05 April 2017 at the steps of the Victorian Parliament.

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