Posted on 13 February 2017 | No responses
As a society we are only as safe as the people we treat worst.
Kindness creates security.
Peace and kindness,
2008 May 23 CC BY SA 3.0 unported Artaxerxes
Posted on 8 February 2017 | No responses
Below I have merged two speeches I gave today and yesterday: one was for Protest Melbourne City Council proposed homeless laws and the other Defend and Extend Public Housing.
No society is stable that is built on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable. Universal safety nets are critical to a functioning society.
- There is no freedom for anyone when there are no safety nets.
- There is no security without safety nets.
- And most significantly there are no rights without safety nets.
Anyone can fall from grace. Anyone can go from security to poverty. What people do to the poor and homeless is the pit they dig for themselves. They have to fear the very same abuse they are heaping onto you.
So long as everyone is fearful of becoming poor, it becomes easier for governments and corporations to manipulate and mistreat people.
- With kindness comes freedom.
- With kindness comes security.
- With kindness comes peace.
- We must learn to share.
When we don’t share, when we create a divide between the haves and the have nots, we all live in fear of what violence may erupt. And there is no need for this.
Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 25 states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of themselves and of their family, including
- medical care,
- necessary social services, and
the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.
Australia was one of the eight nations to draft this declaration of rights. We signed this document and have signed subsequent treaties that are meant to show our national and international commitment to being a humane nation. We as a country need to show some self-respect by caring for our people. Everyone who needs a home must be given a home. That is your right.
We must all be willing pitch in to help one another with our collective burdens. Anything less is not only irresponsible, we will all lose this planet—everyone regardless of the numbers in our bank account.
Love your neighbour isn’t just a nice idea…it’s about our mutual survival.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 7 February 2017 | No responses
Too many people send aid overseas and do nothing for the people on their own doorstep. People overseas do not challenge us in any way. We can feel like the good guys without getting our hands dirty, without having to change how we think or how we live. How can we hope to help resolve anyone else’s problems when we won’t even look at our own? I think we flatter ourselves and need to take lessons in the values of simple living and unconditional giving.
Peace and kindness,
Image: CCBY 2012 May 11 Peretz Partensky
Posted on 5 February 2017 | No responses
- It is better to create allies than to make enemies.
- It is better to educate than to argue.
- If someone is genuinely intractable, do not waste energy on them…just walk away.
- If someone is causing genuine harm, do your best to get out of their way and/or stop them.
There will be times when I can be tired, stressed, or something is simply a hot button and these points are forgotten. Eventually I recognise that it is time to stop. I apologise if need be. I do my best to learn from the experience and move on. For the last one, it’s okay to be scared. Seek help or at least support.
I originally wrote this 2016 February 05. I think it was meant to be advice for online discussion. Under current circumstances it is completely relevant to resisting tyranny. We need the patience to create allies and the strength to face down those who seek to harm. As part of the process we have to always recognise the other person’s humanity and act accordingly. Anything less and we lose the humanity we see lacking in others.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 3 February 2017 | No responses
You have rights. You have rights. I was flabbergasted the other day at the homelessness rally when someone said, “We should have a right to a place we can call home.” This is true for both the homeless and refugees. Not only should we have that right, in fact by international agreement we do have that right. It is found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is a serious problem. If people are made unaware of their rights, then they become unaware when their government is abridging those rights and should be called into account. Governments that wish to pass laws and take actions that are outside of their United Nations agreements are often negligent in their duty to inform the public of their rights. The United Nations is not simply picking on Australia and trying to make us feel bad about ourselves when they criticise our human rights violations. Those rights are there for your protection. By protecting everyone’s rights around the world we all live safer more peaceful lives. You cannot hoard safety by mistreating others. Ultimately our fates are tied!
The Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights form the hub of international law. Members of the United Nations are expected to abide by these documents as well as the Genocide Convention and the Refugee Convention. Australia had a significant role in creating the Universal Declaration. We were a founding member of the UN. We were also one of the eight nations involved in drafting the declaration. Dr Herbert Vere Evatt of Australia’s UN delegation was President of the UN General Assembly the year the Universal Declaration was adopted. We should see this document as our own. We should take great pride in abiding by its articles. Instead we are ignoring and hiding the wisdom of our elders.
Some of you may be thinking what good is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it is unenforceable? If you are, you are probably thinking in terms of the International Court of Justice which settles disputes submitted to it by states and provides advisory opinions on legal questions, which may seem narrow and toothless. However, the UN has sent in protection forces such as in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, when they entered the country to ensure safety of peoples regardless of religion and the disbursement of humanitarian aid. The UN has also called for boycotts of countries with gross violations of human rights. Boycotts can be very effective in putting pressure on a leader and a state.
What you also need to understand is that we agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. We later signed the multilateral treaty known as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1972 and ratified it in 1980. Both of these documents represent a commitment on Australia’s part. A couple of legal cases in this country have been won by making reference to the Universal Declaration. So those documents have an effect on our own courts and how their judgements are determined. Also, abiding by our treaties makes us trustworthy in the eyes of other nations. It influences how willing those nations are to cooperate with us. That affects our trade agreements, our military agreements, our agreements to protect the Earth’s biosphere. You cannot cherry-pick which rights you are going to give your own people and others, and still expect the rest of the world to have any respect for you as a nation. Valuing our national integrity is critical to good international relations. It gives us what is known as “soft power”, something the US is swiftly losing.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not written in legalese. It was carefully drafted so that anyone could understand it. The little booklet that I carry around of the Universal Declaration is only fourteen pages long. I also have a copy of We Are All Born Free, a children’s book which easily explains all the rights listed in the Univeral Declaration (and has a foreword by David Tennant!). You can also get posters that condense the thirty articles of the declaration onto a single page. When I first read the declaration, I didn’t find it dry at all, I found it inspirational! Under current world circumstances it behooves us all to learn our rights and to call our governments to account.
I have been trying to get people interested in workshops not only to understand the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but to engage with them. I want to see books, plays, songs, television, comics, films, and more telling stories that illustrate the importance of these rights. Change cannot be made in the world until we all change our values and our priorities. Human rights should be a top priority. Stories help to mould people’s values. If you want to be a part of such a workshop tell me. If you have written a play short or long that deals with human rights, let me know and I will look into producing it. This is now a large part of my mission on this planet. In the coming weeks I will be putting up meditations (not the “om” sort) on each of the rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Keep your eyes peeled!
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 2 February 2017 | No responses
My family like any number of families has some serious problems. One of those problems is a few members have Narcissicistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I will talk about this very broadly and generally, so not everything is about my own experience nor anyone near me. I keep feeling surprised that others are surprised by the actions Donald Trump is taking. His actions are all textbook NPD.
To those of you who are resisting his presidency, let me give you a little insight. He will be using these tactics to control you.
He may be past this phase, but may come back to it to see if he can pacify you. This is where the person with NPD will tell you that you are the most amazing person in the whole world. They will smother you with manipulative warmth, even if they are crossing every boundary you set, because they do not respect boundaries. If your heart is aching for any reason, they may seem like the most wonderful person in the world since they appear to be answering your needs. Think: “I will make America great again.” They may also shower you with expensive gifts and offer to buy the candy shop for you. People who are sexually abused by family members may find themselves abused then treated like royalty before being abused again. Welcome to the crazy house, this is only the beginning.
Gaslighting and Devaluing
I cannot handle the Alice in Wonderland books because they remind me too much of the crazy world you live in when you are living with caretakers with NPD. There is no consistency to the world other than what is convenient to the ego of the person with NPD. You can hear screamed at you “Off with her head!” at any moment for any reason and have no way to behave in a manner to avoid these punishments.
They will also tell you who you are and do everything they can to force you into their convenient boxes. Those boxes will not be good ones. They will tell you that you are intelligent (or beautiful or good at sports, etc) then tell you how intelligent people behave. Then when you behave in an intelligent manner, they tell you how other people’s children are much more intelligent than you and that you aren’t measuring up. If you resist them, they will then want to paint you in a bad light and want to feel justified in doing so. Therefore, they will then push you into transgressive behaviour. This is how they create their own reality. I can’t tell you how many people fall for that one, thinking they are punishing a parent, when in fact they are giving the parent everything they need to cut you off and justify their own bad behaviour. Trump will use this one over and over again. Those of you resisting will be goaded to behave badly in order to justify his use of military forces against US citizens.
If the person with NPD decides they particularly want to punish you, they might get more cunning. They will use a great wave of small put-downs and reality switches. Anything you say, the opposite will be taken as true. You could be on time for things, they will relentlessly complain and joke about how you are always late. You may be very good at something, but they will find a way to put you under so much stress that you can no longer do something you may even love doing. They may achieve this by putting you under unreasonable time constraints, or giving you the wrong ingredients or tools, or finding ways to give you information that is confusing or just plain wrong. Most especially they will try to push you into thinking “what’s wrong with me?” so that you will never ever ask what’s wrong with them. Bureaucracy is often used in this way.
Hoarding What Is Good
The right talk about “real Americans” and are happy to be utterly unamerican in their unconstitutional actions to shove you out of what they like to think of as their country. They have managed to shove anyone who genuinely believes in Christian charity out of what has become the religious country club of the right, where they don’t actually believe any of it. Yet they use it to not only look like the good guys, but to feel like the good guys, while they network with each other to do the cruellest most evil acts. They will steal every word and every institution you think of as good, pervert it, then try to push you away from those things, so you will not rescue them. Imagine someone saying over and over again that they own Peace Day and turn it into an event where military vehicles are paraded around federal buildings. You might come to hate “peace”. The word “love” has reached a nadir in usage by pop songs in the history of recorded music. How can we let people like Trump steal love from us?
Don’t get caught up in the dysfunctional games of the right. Learn how to be healthy people who know how to love, how to cooperate, and how to create change. This will involve learning how to not let government and the media push you into despair and/or cynicism. Those feelings will suck you dry of your ability to act as empowered individuals. Find people who can help you boost your resilience and strength. We have to be in this for the long run. Take care of yourselves and let kindness be your guide.
Image: CC BY SA 3.0 Germany by Benutzer: Nephiliskos 2009
Posted on 27 January 2017 | No responses
I know you are scared and I know you are angry.
I get scared and angry too.
We are all terrified of what the future holds.
We feel so small.
And do all we can to feel big.
We try to push and force and control each other,
Because those feel like answers.
And when we don’t succeed using such blunt instruments,
We howl for punishment.
Someone’s real or metaphorical blood must be spilled.
I understand all these things.
No peace will be found on that path.
I can see the light you hold within humanity:
All of you.
It is real and it is strong.
However, it needs your attention.
Respect what light you find in yourself and in others.
Nurture it, help it to grow.
Feel the rich calmness of a mature love
That wishes nothing but well for all living beings.
You will find a future worth living in that way.
Take care of yourself humanity.
Posted on 14 January 2017 | No responses
Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader—so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang my bells. Not just mine, in fact—read this excellent round-up in The Moscow Times.
Vladimir Putin’s annual pressers are supposed to be the media event of the year. They are normally held in late December, around Western Christmas time (we Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas two weeks later and it’s not a big deal, unlike New Year’s Eve). Which probably explains why Putin’s pressers don’t get much coverage outside of Russia, except in a relatively narrow niche of Russia-watchers. Putin’s pressers are televised live across all Russian TV channels, attended by all kinds of media—federal news agencies, small local publications and foreign reporters based in Moscow—and are supposed to overshadow every other event in Russia or abroad.
These things are carefully choreographed, typically last no less than four hours, and Putin always comes off as an omniscient and benevolent leader tending to a flock of unruly but adoring children. Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook. I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.
- Welcome to the era of bullshit.
Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other. Others will use this opportunity to go on a long, rambling statement vaguely disguised as a question, but that’s also bad tactics. Non-questions invite non-answers. He’ll mock you for your nervous stuttering and if you’re raising a serious issue, respond with a vague, non-committal statement (“Mr President, what about these horrible human rights abuses in our country?” “Thank you, Miss. This is indeed a very serious issue. Everybody must respect the law. And by the way, don’t human rights abuses happen in other countries as well? Next question please”).
But your colleagues are there to help you, right? After all, you’re all in this together?
- Don’t expect any camaraderie
These people are not your partners or brothers in arms. They are your rivals in a fiercely competitive, crashing market and right now the only currency in this market is whatever that man on the stage says. Whoever is lucky to ask a question and be the first to transmit the answer to the outside world wins. Don’t expect any solidarity or support from them. If your question is stonewalled/mocked down/ignored, don’t expect a rival publication to pick up the banner and follow up on your behalf. It’s in this man’s best interests to pit you against each other, fighting over artificial scarcities like room space, mic time or, of course, his attention. It’s getting especially absurd because some—increasingly many—reporters will now come with large, bright placards aimed at attracting the president’s attention to names of their regions or specific issues. This is what it looks like:
Also, some people in the room aren’t really there to ask questions.
- Expect a lot of sycophancy and soft balls from your “colleagues”
A mainstay of Putin’s press conferences is, of course, softball questions. Which also happen to be Putin’s favorites. Mr President, is there love in your heart? Who you will be celebrating New Year’s Eve with? What’s your favorite food? “Questions” of this sort, sure to melt Putin’s heart, typically come from women working for small regional publications. A subtype of this is also statements-as-questions, but from people who really love the man on the stage and will bob their head and look at the stage adoringly and say something to the tune of “Mr President, do you agree that a lot of media are treating you unfairly?”
Another type of softball questions is hyperlocal issues that a president isn’t even supposed to be dealing with. Mr President, our road is full of potholes and local authorities aren’t doing anything about it. Mr President, our tap is leaking. Mr President, how about a chess club in our village. This is a real opportunity for him to shine. He will scold the local authorities and order to have a new road built. All of this, of course, has been choreographed well in advance.
Also, some of these people really love him and will meet his every answer with enthusiastic applause. There will be people from publications that exist for no other reason than heaping fawning praise on him and attacking his enemies. But there will also be one token critic who will be allowed to ask a “sharp” question, only to be drowned in a copious amount of bullshit, and the man on the stage will always be the winner (“See? I respect the media and free speech”).
- You’re always losing
This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t—in Putin’s case—campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking—while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
I could go on and on, but I think at this point you see where this is heading. See if any of this rings any bells if you covered Trump’s presser or watched it online.
P.S. You’re welcome to repost/reblog/republish this if you like.
My name is Alexey Kovalev, I’m a Russian journalist and I’m writing about propaganda, fake news and Russian state media on noodleremover.news. It’s all in Russian, but here’s an example of what I’m doing in English. You can contact me at email@example.com. I tweet as @Alexey__Kovalev.
Images from Vladimir Putin press conference at the World Trade Center 19 December 2013. Source: www.kremlin.ru
Posted on 9 January 2017 | No responses
The question asked was, “What mistakes do new writers often make in their writing?” The answers given to the young writer almost universally had to do with spelling and grammar. I have to admit, I was appalled. What a small-minded approach to art. Were those answering this question nurturing the talents of a young writer or simply teaching them to become literary accountants?
It’s certainly important to gain skills with our tools. However if we get too wound up in the tools and not the art, then we are going to become afraid of making mistakes. That sort of inhibition squelches creativity and innovation. In the ambition to do things “correctly” we lose sight of the beauty to be found in the sounds and rhythms of life. We may not dig into the wisdom of adaptation, variation, and diversification such as that which has been developed in creoles.
Take for example the below:
“April 6—Today, I learned, the comma, this is, a, comma (,) a period, with, a tail, Miss Kinnian, says its, importent, because, it makes writing, better, she said, somebody, could lose, a lot, of money, if a comma, isnt in, the right, place, I got, some money, that I, saved from, my job, and what, the foundation, pays me, but not, much and, I dont see how, a comma, keeps, you from, losing it,
But, she says, everybody, uses commas, so Ill, use them, too,,,,”
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
“Anyone Living in a Pretty How Town” by E. E. Cummings
In the Flowers for Algernon quote we see the world from the character Charlie’s viewpoint. Both the novel and short story versions are written this way. And even though the character goes through personal changes where he can write with greater then lesser grammatical skill, being that up close to Charlie is emotionally affecting. In fact because of the poor English our hearts break for Charlie, due to the empathetic bond the author has created through pages and pages of this sort of writing.
In the poem “Anyone Living in a Pretty How Town” E. E. Cummings is also tossing out grammatical rules in order to get at a more richly emotional palette. Readers have to set aside a rulebound mindset. Instead they are meant to ride a wave of imaginative meaning with better access to sensual feelings.
Nevertheless, both authors are in full command of their communication skills. Words are carefully selected and placed. Even punctuation and lack of punctuation has the polish of deep consideration. That takes time and practice. Why discourage a new writer with dotted “i”s and crossed “t”s when what they need is the inspiration to desire full flight. Wanting to feel the wind beneath their wings will do more for an artist than teaching them aerodynamics. The other will come as their joy gives them the strength to take on more knowledge.
So what do new writers need? This was my answer:
Faith in themselves and their personal creative vision.
Many new writers try to be like someone else, either because they want the status of another author or they have a deep love of that author and wish to emulate them. Emulation is actually a good place to start. It will teach you many things. Just broaden your base of authors you are emulating, so that you can eventually find yourself. Your vision is just as worthy as anyone else’s.
Access to their own feelings and experiences.
This is where the advice “write what you know” comes into effect. You may not know what it is like to fly on the back of a winged unicorn. However, you may remember how thrilling it was the first time you were on the back of a horse. You will remember the sense of elation, the smell of the horse’s body, the sense of so much power beneath your legs as the horse’s chest moves in and out with each breath. That experience is enough to give you believable and engaging details you can mine for creating a similar experience with your unicorn. You will bring reality to each scene you write if you are willing to explore these senses and practice empathy for others.
Committment to being truthful.
Clichés happen when you are relying on other people’s experiences and vision of the world rather than speaking from your own truth. We all know what our culture perceives as a “good family”. Nevertheless, if you are truthful about your family, they will often deviate widely from that expectation. If you are completely honest with yourself, you will recognise that your family has good bits and bad bits, and neither of these may line up with cultural expectations. Truth is complex: it’s not an easy black and white matter. The more you delve into that the more interesting your writing will become.
Humility and patience.
Your first version of a story is unlikely to be great. Your first novel is unlikely to be great. To be honest your third, fourth, and fifth versions may not be great either. You must be willing to set aside your ego, listen, and make the changes that are needed to tell a good story well. This may mean it will take you a lifetime to finally get it right, and you need to be okay with that. Harper Lee really only had To Kill a Mockingbird to her name for most of her life, but was that novel a corker!
Solid motives for becoming a writer.
Do you want to become a writer in order to become rich, famous, or to validate your importance? Then very likely you are going to be miserable. None of us can know when lightning will strike and a work of ours will propel us to fame: it could happen early in our career, late in our career, after our death, or not at all. Do you write because it nurtures you, because you love creating something new and of depth or beauty? Do you have something you feel compelled to say?
I have been a writer, an editor, and a literary judge. Honestly, the grammar issues can be dealt with: those aren’t going to make or break you. What you need is a heart full of story and the will to serve the needs of that full heart. THIS is what will create compelling writing people want to read.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 8 January 2017 | No responses
The first question you have to ask yourself is, are you profound? You are only going to achieve profundity if you are a deep and insightful person to begin with.
If you want to become profound then you have to be willing to do a lot of hard personal work.
Be willing to take a good hard look at yourself warts and all. This is not about tearing yourself to pieces, just understanding. Recognise your genuine strengths, admit to your weaknesses. With compassion and a will to do better consider those times you failed yourself and failed others. This is where writing insight begins.
Experience empathy for others
Recognise the humanity of others. Realise they have reasons for why they do things that feel right to them, whether you agree with these actions or not. We all feel fear, and fear is a powerful motivator. To reach a profound level of empathy you have to be willing to feel your own emotions, even when they are painful. I know of people who have run away from the funeral of someone close, because they were afraid of feeling overwhelming grief. And yet that grief represents a lot of love. When you feel that grief, you can write about it honestly.
If you walk your talk, your writing will resonate with people. Author JK Rowling worked for Amnesty International before writing the Harry Potter series. She knocked herself off the Forbes Billionaires list due to all her charity giving. Author Malala Yousafzai risked her life working to ensure girls had access to education. People respect that sort of consistency and are more inclined to believe you know what you are talking about when you are writing about profound subjects.
Now is an important time for people to think and to care more deeply. It’s admirable that you would want to write in such a way. Just start doing it and see where it takes you. You may find the insight, empathy, and care you need in the process.
Peace and kindness,