Which would you rather: more art or more war?

Posted on 18 May 2018 | No responses

The 2018-2019 Australian Federal budget does not include any new cuts to the arts council funding, though that damage was done in 2015 when A$105 million dollars was removed from the already small arts granting budget and the remaining budget was earmarked primarily for artistic institutions like the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Now on a “tight” budget the government magically has: A$13 million to spend on preservation of documents at the Australian War Memorial and is considering a A$500 million redevelopment plan for that memorial.

Australia’s defense spending is expected to increase by over 80 percent—from A$32.4 billion in fiscal year 2016-17 to A$58.7 billion in 2025-26—over the next decade. Australia will spend approximately A$200 billion over the next ten years under the Integrated Investment Program on new military hardware.

In 2015 Australian historian Dr Val Noone gave a speech during the ANZAC Centenary commemorations about how the documents at the Australian War Memorial were being sanitised. Historians were to digitise some documents, but those documents that didn’t paint a pretty picture of war, those that showed soliders who came back from war with parts of their face missing or described their struggles with emotional damage and more, were to be destroyed. Think about that. Think about what anyone in the future will ever be able to understand about WW1 when the documents have been carefully curated to paint only a heroic picture.

“Lest we forget” indeed.

Please think hard about how we are being led to accept a new war.

In peace,


Forgiveness, Apologies, and Just Relations

Posted on 11 May 2018 | No responses

Redfern Sorry


We live in a complex world. We are all learning all the time. Maturity and wisdom are spread across the human population in a lumpy fashion. The children of a loving, respectful, and broadly caring family may be more mature than a much older person who grew up amidst familial or national dysfunction. Sometimes sensitive children escape abusive families and through hard experience learn maturity well beyond their years. Then there are all the people who learn functional toxic behaviour, whereby they are rewarded for behaving in a way that is harmful to other people, and therefore have no reason to seek personal growth. I could name any number of variations on people’s personal and social development, but you get the point.

It’s hard to know where any one person is on their journey through life. Who I was as a child and who I am now are two very distinct people. I was raised by a conservative family. I now count myself as part of those who are typified by people such as Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi. Universal peace and kindness are worthwhile goals. We should not have to be exceptional or born into exceptional circumstances in order to experience love and security.

Under these circumstances we must all extend to one another a certain amount of tolerance. We need to learn how to close our eyes to simple annoying behaviour. Upon occasion we need to take it upon ourselves to help others to learn and to grow. Many times we have to trust that with experience maturity will come. Other times we may recognise that people have a right to their opinion, but we need to gather together to stop the deleterious effects those opinions can have on the well-being of our society as a whole. Finally come those times when actions are outright harmful and someone’s behaviour cannot be tolerated…but done while still recognising their humanity and the circumstances that created their maladjustment.

In all of this we need to learn the capacity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the lubricant that gives a wrongdoer the opportunity to grow and the person wronged a chance to be released from the emotional burden of harm. Forgiveness makes possible reconciliation and the opportunity to heal, not just the lives of single persons, but of whole communities. Nevertheless, forgiveness cannot be relied upon without being partnered with a will to justice.

Easy Forgiveness

Forgive with ease when you have not been wronged. Upon occasion we can become offended when offense should not have been taken. Pride makes it hard to admit that we are mistaken and that we are the ones who should make apology.

Forgive with ease when the other person acted out of inexperience, accident, or non-malicious ignorance. Cultural misunderstandings fit under this category. The trick is to recognise no real harm was intended and no real harm was done. Where this gets tangled is when you have people who are behaving in a passive aggressive manner and are giving themselves plausible deniability. Under these circumstances I would still expect an apology. The nature of the apology will often make clear how genuine a person’s intent is.

Hard Forgiveness

Neither apology nor forgiveness are ways to avoid controversy. Forgiveness is not acquiesence to wrongdoing, nor is it the releasing of a person from their responsibilities for doing wrong.

When someone makes an apology, there is a big difference between remorse and mollification. One seeks growth and reconciliation, the other seeks to manipulate in order to avoid responsibility for consequences and making change. Using “sorry” as a way to simply pacify another is ultimately destructive of social cohesion. Forgiveness is forced, emotions suppressed, and ultimately no reconciliation is genuinely won. Because issues are not resolved, they will continue to bubble beneath the surface until they reach a dangerous boiling point.

If a person intentionally harmed us as a form of vengeance, then it may be worth thinking about our part in the dynamic. Their punishment of us may not fit the crime. This is why we have courts and do not rely on mob justice. However, to find release we must own our actions, make our apologies, then forgive the other person while still seeking just reparation or means by which the person will not continue to harm others.

Forgiveness keeps the bullied from becoming the bully. It keeps us from the felt need for our own vengeance. Not one of us is a bad person for wanting to hurt someone who has hurt us. It is completely understandable. Just don’t do it. At its least harmful this urge is about a desire for empathy. We want the other person to understand the suffering they have caused by experiencing it themselves, then perhaps they would feel remorse and halt painful behaviour. Sadly, not everyone is capable of that sort of empathy. If that is the case, then they need help and they need to be kept from harming others. Find enough kindness to recognise this. You will feel better and behave better than they did.

Other cases of vengeance seeking are more destructive. Sometimes we want to harm a wrongdoer in order to dominate them, and thereby enforce them to behave in a manner that keeps us from harm. Sometimes we want to obliterate a wrongdoer, so that they no longer exist to do harm. No one learns in these situations. We do not create a society where we can feel safer around one another. We create a society whereby we keep walling people off and as their numbers grow, give ourselves even greater reason to be afraid.

The whole point of restorative justice is to move past a prison society where we are all ultimately locked up in some form. We understand that someone has taken a wrong turning in their life. Their circumstances may have made that turning completely valid, if unacceptable to a functioning society. We need to address those circumstances and recognise where we too have done wrong. If they understand the problematic nature of their behaviour and are willing to make change, how much safer is it to rehabilitate people and bring them back into our fold than to create a community of the damaged and desperate.

If the harm was wholly uncalled for, then we will need to recognise its non-personal nature in order to reclaim ourselves. Forgiveness keeps us from running circumstances through our heads over and over again. It makes it possible for us to feel safe, because we aren’t constantly scaring ourselves in order to be ready should someone try to harm us again. When we carry unforgiveness it is all too easy to create psychodramas around ourselves in order to relieve the anxiety. The subconscious thinking is that if I can defend myself or even get some of my own back in these situations, then I must be safe. This will never work. Part of the problem is that we haven’t even forgiven ourselves for being vulnerable.


When the other person has genuinely wronged you:

  • Expect apology.
  • Expect an expression of understanding that you have been hurt and how they caused that hurt.
  • Expect offers of a change in behaviour and possibly recompense.
  • Expect actual change of behaviour.
  • Understand the value of this process.
  • Be prepared to do the same for others.

An apology is not genuine if it ducks responsibility or blames the victim. You are in real trouble if the person who has caused harm insists you apologise to them for making them feel badly.

These are not acceptable apologies:

  • I’m sorry that you felt hurt (nothing is being said about what the person apologising did that was harmful, it’s all on the victim).
  • I wasn’t trying to be mean (the intent is of little consequence at this point, the apologiser must own the damage).
  • Sorry, I was just joking (the victim is still being made responsible for not taking a painful joke).

These would be the correct apologies:

  • I am sorry that I hurt you (then explain how you hurt them).
  • I am sorry, I should have been more sensitive (say more sensitive about what).
  • I am sorry, the joke was inappropriate and at your expense (express your recognition that we are all human and all deserving of equal respect).

If the above is not forthcoming, consider the seriousness of the action and:

  • Decide whether it is likely to happen again.
  • Decide whether speaking to the person would create change.
  • Decide if having an intermediary would create change.
  • Determine if the problem is bigger than this one person: does it come from the values held by this person’s family, friends, or community. Do they perhaps have a mental pathology (consider this with care).
  • Decide if it is worth engaging some form of authority to recover damages, protect yourself, protect others.
  • Decide whether it is worth maintaining a relationship. It’s good when associations can be repaired. Regardless of age, familial connection, or position in society, people from all walks in life can prove toxic and it is completely legitimate to let go of connection with someone doing you harm.
  • Write what you want to say and do down, so you don’t feel the need to run it through your head over and over again.
  • Forgive yourself for being harmed.
  • Feel strong within yourself.
  • See beyond the harm to positive things you are on the way to that are more important.
  • Decide when you are ready to forgive. You need your own time to heal. This is not up to the other person.

Forgiveness can be a recognition of humanity, a willingness to grow together, a healing of connection. When no apology is forthcoming, forgiveness is the means by which we can release ourselves from an invisible but toxic bond with another. Humanity numbers over seven billion. Our living world is in danger. We must seek the maturity that comes with humility, learning better how to get along with one another. With these skills we will be able to cooperate and create a future worth living in.

In peace and kindness,


Better Strategies for Equality

Posted on 4 May 2018 | No responses

Rainbow Lorikeet

Equal consideration of all humanity is necessary for the creating of a sustainable peace, a peace where we can all live fulfilling lives with some measure of contentment. How we endeavour to establish equality says much about our culture. It is also an indicator of how successful we are going to be (or not) in our efforts.

The strategy most visibly used to help give the under-privileged access to the higher levels of our society is to train people in how to be like those in power. We are to give up those things that signify we are part of a lower class. We are to take up the values, aspirations, and culture of the powerful. Women are taught to be ruthless. Non-white people are learning to be cut-throat entrepreneurs.

Maybe this is creating a sort of equality across various types of human being. However, what it is really doing is affirming the believed importance of a broken culture which created this inequality in the first place, one in which the odds will always be stacked in favour of those already in power. If we even managed to overcome things such as racism, sexism, ableism, and the like within this rubric, we would be doing so while entrenching classism.

We have a dominant culture that has not only taken over the world, it is destroying it. Why are all of us who are subject to this system propping it up? We should be burning our black business suits; tearing down the sterile work places and factories; walking away from our TVs, radios, and the like and making our own stories, music,and cultural expression. We must reclaim all that is kind and beautiful and unique about ourselves, holding these things up as critical to our well-being and our very existence.

The dominators have been reducing our lives to where life is about power and cogs: are you powerful or are you a cog? Anything that does not fit into either of those boxes has been subject to a cruel and short-sighted winnowing. Our world is dying because we have lost a sense of community with all that is living. You cannot sense continuity when you are turning others into cogs in order to gain power. There is no equality in that.

Find yourself. Reclaim yourself. And in so doing save the world.

In peace,


Pronoun Progress

Posted on 14 April 2018 | No responses

Clown Fish

In 1997 I had a particular interest in gender free pronouns. I was writing a creative work for my PhD in storytelling for digital media. I decided to base it on The Odyssey, since the structure of that work was relevant to my degree. In The Odyssey divinities are protrayed as sexual in nature, but capable of manifesting themselves in any form or gender. As such it was not accurate to describe them as “she” or “he”.

At the time people were experiencing an upwelling of interest in gender free pronouns. Online communication was taking off and it was found to be, and still is, dangerous at times for people who are not clearly male. Therefore, we had people who did not want to be defined by their gender when in conversation about ideas.

So, I considered all the possibilities I could track down for what a person might be called if they were non-binary, at a time when the non-binary gender concept was not well known. I even made a comparison chart. Looking at that chart twenty years later, I do not entirely agree with myself. However, now I have the benefit of experience.

I rejected zie/zir/zirs and ey/em/eir as non-gender forms of she/her/hers and he/him/his, due to their “unsoundliness”. I then put forward a solution that I felt was just easy enough on the ear to perhaps easily blend into the English language. This idea is not entirely without merit, if you are trying to convince people to let go of an old and ingrained language habit. However, people adapt. New generations can take up new ideas very quickly. Soundliness is not as important as fairness.

Recently, I have had to think about this issue again because we are at a juncture in time when people, the young in particular, are coming to grips with the fluidity of both gender and sexuality. To myself I don’t feel like a gender, I feel like Katherine Phelps. Katherine likes many things, some of which are defined as male and some female. I look in the mirror, I don’t see male or female. I just see Katherine. And whether or not I lean toward a preponderance of female designated things, that still doesn’t make me feel particularly female. Who I am attracted to, my sexuality, doesn’t feel like a gendered decision. Women like men, women like women, men like men, men like women, and people of all sorts like people of all sorts.

The solution people have currently embraced is using they/them/theirs in refering to individuals who are non-binary. I remember in the early 1980s being among those young women who were insisting on using the formation of “one…they” rather than “one…he”; as in “one doesn’t ride a bus in New York, they take a taxi.” An argument given in favor of this change was that “one…they” is a grammatical error in number, and “one…he” is an error in both gender and fairness. I took a more pedantic position. “One…they” was used commonly in English up until the writers of grammar books decided “one…he” was more logical, and changed the language to suit themselves. We need to remember that language is not God-given and written in stone. It is a collective creation. We need to learn how to create better.

I have some concerns about they/them/theirs. I feel I chose a similar route when I decided to use phe/per/pers as the pronouns associated with Greek celestial beings. It’s meant to be an easy solution, but has some of its own problems.

They/them/theirs is being used as the solution for a particular community. That community needs the solution. I am concerned that others also need a similar solution. I want to be heard for the contents of my mind and my heart, not discounted because I am being defined by my sexual function. Other languages have fit for purpose non-gender specific pronouns. We should too.

After some thought I have a new solution. I still believe we should have pronouns that indicate whether we (you, I, everyone) are talking about an individual, or we are talking about a collection of individuals. That is more genuinely useful information, especially in a democracy. However, I say we drop he/his/him and use only she/her/hers: declaring it the official singular pronoun.

If your top just blew off, then you are part of the problem that created this tangle.

Consider this quote:

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough, she answered “When there are nine. For most of the country’s history, there were nine and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange.”

For hundreds of years we have spoken about “mankind”, “manning” workstations, and “man’s” great achievements. We have been told that these words are inclusive. If they are truly inclusive, then surely we can accept an inclusive “she” for our singular pronoun. Perhaps with the use of “she” we can all reclaim those characteristics that have been deemed “less than” because they represent the disempowerment of women, such as: kindness, gentleness, nurturing, empathy, compassion. These characteristics are critical to the functioning of a successful society and have nothing to do with gender.

I know some cisgender men who will shrug their shoulders and say, “Sure, why not?” A few sounds shouldn’t be that big of a deal, especially if they represent a kinder and fairer world. To those of you who will see this as a threat: take a moment to consider whether you honestly feel happy, safe, and loved. If you find a moment of clarity where you recognise this is not the case, then start thinking about what you can do to offer goodwill toward others, such as changing a pronoun, because that’s how you will build a world where you can be happy, safe, and loved.

I am still fond of phe/per/pers. Right now we need to drop judgement of anything that has any “femaleness” about it. We need to reclaim all that has any “femaleness” around it. This is critical to our mutual survival.

In peace and kindness,


You Are Fine Just As You Are

Posted on 4 April 2018 | No responses

Am I the best writer that ever was…no.
Am I the best director that ever was…no.
Am I the best anything that ever was…no idea, probably not.
Am I exceptional in any way…maybe a few things, it’s hard to tell.
Does it matter? Little bit yes and a little bit no.
If I have any special gifts, then these are things I have been entrusted to give to the world. If I’m not so good in some things, then these are places where I have every reason and right to ask for some help.
Should we care any more or less for people, or even ourselves, because they aren’t the best. No!
We value each other for our humanity not our achievements. Achievements are nice, but simply being a kind helpful human being is more than enough!



Managing (theatre) People

Posted on 2 April 2018 | No responses

Public Domain: January 1931 Franz Felix

April and September are major independent theatre months for Melbourne, Australia. I have found myself commiserating with a few people having problems.

  • There’s a difference between kindness and allowing yourself to be walked on.
  • Some people see no difference between kindness and being a pushover. Don’t let them harden you. Like toilet paper it is possible to be both strong and gentle.
  • No one is helped when people who are behaving badly are allowed to continue behaving badly.
  • No person is so talented that it is worth your mental health to hang onto them.
  • The arts attract people who are artists, people who are seeking validation, and people who are artists and seeking personal validation. We all need some validation. People who are addicted to validation can be highly destructive.
  • Many times it’s genuinely hard to tell the difference between skilled actors and skilled manipulators.
  • Just because some people smile to manipulate does not mean you should be defensive toward all people who smile (metaphorically speaking). The manipulators will eventually out themselves. If you are stuck with one, it will be painful removing them. However, you are still better off leaving room to find truly nice people.
  • I do all I can to allow growth, make allowances for people’s humanity, and close my eyes to what might be temporary irritating behaviour. Life is not a straight line and can be quite messy.
  • However, if I am in a position of responsibility over others and someone’s behaviour seems destructive in some manner, then I am obliged to take action to protect my people. I am also one of my people.
  • It is usually best not to wait until you are angry to take action concerning a serious problem. You will feel better about yourself and your actions, if you take steps when you become aware of difficulties.
  • Some things are going to be beyond your control and you will just have to roll with it.
  • It’s impossible not to worry about what others will think of us when taking strong action: especially when they don’t have the full picture. Take action anyway, if you feel it is in everyone’s best interests. You will just have to have faith that people know you well enough to trust your decision. If not, life goes on.
  • It is impossible not to feel a little angry when someone is clearly disrespecting you or people important to you. The pull to hurt them in return is strong. Resist, be as fair as possible while protecting yourself, learn your lessons, and move on.
  • Respect your own humanity, forgive your own humanity, learn from experience, choose to do better, and move on.
  • Know a few people you can hang about with undefended. This will keep you from making a habit of being defended.
  • Find the time to have a good cry upon occasion. You will feel so much better.

In peace,


Want To Be Famous?

Posted on 17 February 2018 | No responses

Hildegard von Bingen, Liber Divinorum Operum

Fame has been the ruination of many a fine soul.

First, humility falls away.

Then the capacity to listen withers as their every word is heard and clung to like gems of supreme wisdom.

Then empathy shuts down as the whole world becomes their adoring mirror.

Soon the person within slowly dies as their god-like image takes over.

They do not concern themselves with responsibility for we have made them free from the consequences of wrong-doing.

And so the public transmutes human gold into lead.

If we the people respected ourselves and loved one another more, would we need make such terrible human sacrifices?

In peace and kindness,


NO War Machine!

Posted on 29 January 2018 | No responses

(In Australia we want to be the good guys!)

2017 Invasion Day Rally

Yesterday Malcolm Turnbull announced his government will be setting up a $3.8bn Defence Export Facility to promote the sale of our “defence” equipment overseas. This comes after Turnbull categorically stated in August 2017 that Australia would support the United States in a conflict with North Korea.

There’s a saying that goes: the way to make money during a gold rush is to sell the picks and axes. Turnbull’s position looks to all intents and purposes to be one whereby he is looking to make “Australia Great” through war-profiteering. In a world that is on the brink of self-destruction, what sort of person rubs their hands together gleefully at the thought of all the money to be made through suffering?

I agree with World Vision Australia’s advocate Tim Costello’s assessment: “The government says this is an export and investment opportunity, but we would be exporting death and profiting from bloodshed. There is only one purpose in making a weapon and that is to kill someone with it. Do we really want that to be what people think of when they see the brand ‘made in Australia’?”

Make no mistake this is not a new direction for the Australian government, who already have been participating as a leading broker of arms sales and providing military training for oppressive regimes.

Australians are getting sick and tired of being made the bad guys by a rapacious and militarily chauvinistic government.

Australians say NO!

NO to being torturers of people who through no fault of their own had to flee their countries.

NO to perpetuating the genocide of our indigenous peoples through impoverishment and mistreatment.

NO to bringing about the death of our Great Barrier Reef and our living world by subsidising failing coal and oil industries, while actively hobbling new renewables industries.

NO to the oppression of our young people, and thereby our future, through making housing and higher education inaccessible.

NO to removing financial safety nets such that our rights are abridged through a campaign of fear. “Don’t step out of line, or you’ll be sleeping on the streets.”

NO to allowing the accumulation of wealth into a few hands through privatisation, rather than enforcing the sharing of that wealth through taxation and fair-paying jobs.

NO to taking our tax paid state and national assets meant to be available to all, and ripping them from us without consultation or realistic compensation.

NO to underfunding, or not funding at all, essential services such as hospitals, medical support, schools, dentistry, mental health programs, country firefighting services, etc.

NO to profiting through turning people into killers and giving them the weapons to wreak misery and death.


Make Australia kinder!

That’s the only true greatness worth having.

Support the little battlers! Give everyone a fair go! Show your love for a sunburnt country by preserving it, not laying it to waste!

I want to feel like an Australian hero! Not ashamed of my country.

Let’s become proper heroes.

In Peace,

Katherine Phelps
BA (Hons), MFA, PhD

Compassionate Risks

Posted on 30 December 2017 | No responses

Sunlight on a lake

We are all expected to function without safety nets. Our governments have been bought and paid for to remove anything that might catch our citizens when they lose work, become ill or disabled, or in any way need help.

Those in work are terrified of looking down…so they are often in denial.

Nevertheless, they end up working long hours and without many workplace rights. Their pool of time and compassion is used up. Therefore, they aren’t available to help those less well-off than themselves. We then live in a downward spiral.

At some point people have to find one another and believe they have everything to gain by demanding that our government does its duty of ensuring the general welfare of the populace: not just that of a few wealthy people.

The problem with waiting to do this when people have nothing left to lose is that change can then become violent. Our culture is teaching people to be complacent, risk averse, and short-term thinking: good consumers. We must hold hands and push past this.

Be active, take compassionate risks, work toward a beautiful future as a lifetime pursuit. Most of all find yourself in relationship to humanity and our living world. Those relationships are what will give you the strength to keep walking firmly toward the light.

In peace and kindness,


By The People and For The People

Posted on 28 December 2017 | No responses

Defund DAPL Protest

Seattle City Council CCBY 2.0 January 2017

Corporate owners have worked hard to divest the public of “big” government and government safety nets. The government has been employing fewer and fewer people, especially in fields that are essential services.

This means that corporate owners largely control people’s ability to make a living. They also control the means by which people can even live.

We then get into a dynamic where people do not want to bite the hand that is feeding them. Corporations have successfully taken over as our new governments.

We are now back in the position of having to reclaim and rebuild a government by the people and for the people. We have separated state and religion, we have separated state and military. We must now separate state and business.

In peace and kindness,


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