In Defense of Self-Love

I got a bit fired up reading Laurie Penny’s Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. Part way through I found myself writing this short piece. By the time I got to the end of the article I could see that the author might not disagree with me, yet it seemed worth blogging about. That feels like something worth acting on at the moment, considering this is my first blog this year and I have a lot of unpublished work that has been victim to my doona dive.

While I agree that positivity isn’t the answer to a sick society, I think self-care is a worthwhile pursuit on the path to collective wellness. We are more able to collaborate for planetary solutions when we are in a healthy relationship with ourselves.

From my own personal experience in collaboration change agents, I certainly prefer working with people who have a decent relationship with themselves than those whose activism is sourced in misanthropy as a thin veil for their own self-loathing. 

Taking responsibility for our personal wellbeing is the first step, not the only step, toward planetary wellbeing. It can be confronting and our society certainly doesn’t have a lot in the way of role models for taking personal responsibility, much less collective responsibility. And, conversely, of course it’s easier to stay focused on ourselves than trying to make a difference in a world where being able to affect global issues like poverty and climate change seem futile.

Society is mad and messed up, and if we react from despair, what does that lead to? If we can get ourselves from reaction to response, responding with wisdom, it might create a new story, a new future. Easier said than done, I hear you say. But considering our reference point, and taking responsibility for what we bring to the collective table starts with loving ourselves. All of ourselves, including the part of us that has misanthropic tendencies and embracing our darkness/shadow/ego, so we can shine a light alongside those who curse the darkness.

This is also on my mind after reading Umair Haque’s Peace and Violence. If you read it, see my comment at the end.

Drinking Culture

I recently completed an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course, for people working in hospitality to learn about serving alcohol responsibly. It provides a certificate that will enable me to get work in a bar.

On the train to Oakleigh I passed a revolving sign posted above a building, on one side it says “Alcohol doesn’t cause violence.” On the other side it said “Blame and punish the individual.” I’m all about identifying the true cause and would totally agree that alcohol itself doesn’t inherently cause violence. Blaming and punishing individuals, however, negates the bigger picture and the systemic issue of how we as a society relate to alcohol. Australians love to drink and as I learned at the course, 70% of all emergency room visits are alcohol related. This problem is widespread, pervasive and highly contentious.
We were asked to identify the benefits of alcohol in society. What it came down to was economics, huge industry, lots of jobs in hospitality, tourism and entertainment. When we consider the health and social impacts I’m not sure it measures up. RSA is part of the state’s response to dealing with the negative impacts, and intends to reduce the harm. I’m doubtful of how much it impacts, being focused on the service side, but better than nothing. Especially given our culture doesn’t favour personal responsibility. Responsible service is one aspect of the equation. Responsible consumption is another and to expect this in a personal responsibility vacuum is a bit unrealistic.


Could there be better education about responsible consumption and are there vested interests that are all about industry profits? Sure, but where the average person can actually have an impact is not here, it’s in the realm of personable responsibility. How often do we excuse ourselves from stupid things we’ve done while intoxicated? For years I would wake up from a big night out with a feeling of regret, remembering snipets of what I did or said that were shameful or embarrassing!  Did it stop me from drinking to excess? Nope. I do remember occasional strategies like setting myself a limit of 6 drinks or having water after the 3rd. Perhaps these contributed to my eventual shift in consumption and responsibility but I spent a decade partying hard and I can’t imagine the damage it did to my liver and brain! I am responsible for the choices I made and there is also some influence from social norms. It may seem like passing the buck, and maybe I am.
When I think of how blind we are to the relationship we have with alcohol and how easy it is for young people to go out and get smashed, weekend after weekend. They’re so busy trying to be accepted and to look cool, are strategies for responsible drinking going to get a look in?
A few days after the RSA course I celebrated by 40th birthday. It was the first time I really put a strategy in place that worked to limit my drinking after my judgement became impaired. I put two ciders in the main fridge, two in the outside fridge and told myself I’d have two glasses of ginger wine after the (easy to drink) bottles were gone. It worked, I didn’t drink more after that and I was certainly feeling the effects of 6 drinks over 6 hours. I felt proud of myself for achieving this, but when I think about how long it took me and how many people drink to excess in thier 20s & 30s and beyond, I wonder what hope we have of being responsible drinkers.
Wondering what it will take to shift our relationship to alcohol? How has your’s changed?

Unhappy Customer

Rant alert! At Flinders Street Station there are two cafe type vendors on the concourse. Coffee HQ and Baguette. Coffee HQ will happily use your reusable mug, Baguette won’t. Coffee HQ will give you your purchase without a bag if you ask. Baguette says it’s the ‘rules’ and what you do with the bag afterward is up to you and be a jerk about it. It’s nearly 11pm and Coffee HQ is closed, now I know with certainty that I will never give my business to Baguette again.

Whats going on in the world?

I have a cousin with a Hummer in Alberta, an aunt and uncle on either side of Australia that don’t believe climate change is happening despite fires and floods, preferring to leave it up to god. I have an activist friend in California who knows better, but wants to leave the country because of the corruption she sees, unable to appreciate the positive movement afoot. It reminds me of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

Yet we have people in Madison, Wisconsin inspired by what’s happening in Egypt, standing up for their rights. No longer being willing to let cynicism and complacency rule, stepping out into a possibility of the future is that they create not sitting down and letting it happen to them.

So I wonder, where can I stand up for what I believe in and be empowered to create the future I want? Oh yeah, my life! That’s a good place to start. If I am responsible for myself, I am responsible for the world.

Being the worm

One hundred of us in the Channel 9 TV studio in Richmond watched PM Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as the debated Healthcare funding and hospital reform at the Press Club in Canberra.

Each of us had a hand held device with a keypad to record our approval or dissaproval of what was being said by the leaders. 1 being the lowest and 9 for the highest indicator of approval. The data was gathered wirelessly and reflected on a screen we couldn’t see (to avoid influencing our opinions) but was on the screen below the leaders as it aired live. Viewers could see our collective response as “the worm” rising and falling like a wriggler on the screen as we either liked or disliked what was said.

At the end the host and Canberra correspondent noted the times the worm peaked and troughed. I heard from a colleague who watched it live, he said the worm went down most of the time Tony Abbott spoke. It was good to hear, I don’t think I had any thing higher than 5 when he was talking. Sure he was on the back foot to start with, however that position doesn’t come with a license to complain incessantly.

The debate could have been over in 15 minutes, very little new content was contributed by either leader after that point. Repetative mudslinging was the main theme for most of it. Though Rudd attempted to stay positive he did his share of defending and attacking.

It’s a sad state of affairs in australian political leadership. Perhaps it’s the norm but I refuse to be satisfied with mediocre! Today’s display may have been consistent with historical behavior, and that’s no excuse! More of the same produces more of the same. I see little reason for optimism yet I manage to hold out hope that a new kind of leadership is emerging from the shadows. If I can help support this shift you know I will!

being used for a purpose…

The clear & crisp air is stark against the mildly warm train. At least the sun shines bright today. I’m thankful for the warm rays shining on my face. Thinking about the idea of “being used for a purpose”. We humans seem to serve a purpose regardless of our awareness of it. We may aspire to serve some higher good yet our actions, choices, beliefs have us inadvertently serving a purpose that we do without full intention. I aim to serve a world that works for all yet I may be serving the military industrial complex with my mortgage or some other consumer choice i make that has no obvious connection to the arms trade. Digging into the current economic apparatus that appears to hold up our society can get ugly. This is not where I want to focus my energy. It is important to be aware of the reality and equally important to cast our eyes forward. To focus on what we want to create, bringing vision and hope to a future free of the templates of the past. Toward the highest purpose of humanity and the planet we live on with full intention. Our challenge is to live consistent with our values to the best of our ability, striving further to serve the greater good, being used for a purpose that aligns with our visions for a healthy & safe existence for our great grandchildren’s great grandchildren.

home consumed

I just watched a 3 bedroom terrace house sell for $985K looked half decent from the front but a woman I spoke with who had been inside said it needed some work. Insanity! This gnaws at my hope for owning a home. I long for a place to put rain water tanks, a lawn-free yard, big garden fed by gray water…don’t get me started!

Then hearing about the sub-prime mortgage fiasco with the sex-scandal red herring and tent cities of newly homeless, victims of a greed-mongering economic system … Leaves me far from wanting to partake in the property game. But renting isn’t going to get me closer to my desire, and ranting ain’t gona change the system! The economy continues on it’s sucicidal path only because the collective “we” participate in it.

I’ve started to imagine what it might be like if we began to voluntarily scale back our consumption, how we could create it in a workable way that is grounded in love & generosity, ensuring all in our communities had what they needed. I was inspired by a colleague who has significantly reduced her families consumption as a response to the dredging of Port Phillip Bay. That kind of link is vital in these times of blind & conspicuous excess. I was so glad to hear of it! Bring it on! It could be the start of something audacious and innovative. but where does it leave my hope for a home of my own? wafting in the creative responses and new ways of being, living, co-habitating…

If Homer got it, when will the rest of us? Angst & Garnaut

Reading the articles in response to the Garnaut report has me a lil fired up. Here’s a big reality check, and people don’t want to face it, calling it a case of “Global Shock Therapy“. I suppose it’s not surprising that people don’t want to face up to the reality, have faith in science, embrace the paradox and accept uncertainty. But i wonder what it will take, how many people need to die before people wake up? Is it naive to hope that us humans will use our smarts to face the global crisis?

What will it take to have us responding from love instead of reacting in fear? The Boxing Day Tsunami gave us a glimpse of that, clearly we are capable. If Homer Simpson can realize that it’s about community, not individual self-interest in the Simpson’s Movie, then surely the rest of us can come on board and get into being Global Citizens!

Garnaut called for a response “beyond Kyoto”, this was characterized in the “Global Shock Therapy” article as calling for a new mindset. DUH! How many times does it need to be said? Ok, I remind myself that the paradigm shift is happening, the Great Turning is upon us, yet doubt seeps in. Will we make it? Will the shift accelerate in time to prevent catastrophe? This is the greatest uncertainty i must accept, i can’t know, i can only act on my faith and hope that it will, and come from my love for this planet, my larger eco-self, including all who see no need for the shift, all who adhere to the status quo, those holding to “that’s just the way it is”.

It’s not been easy to step outside my comfort zone and look at different perspectives to face this crisis from, so it’s time for compassion, for patience, for trust. Time to balance my feeling of being compelled, obliged to take action to move the paradigm shift along, with trusting that it will happen at the speed it’s meant to, that others are working on it as well, as part of this global eco-system, this global movement toward harmony, instead of focusing just on those who appear as obstacles. It’s not “us and them” it’s all US, WE are all in this together, and to find space in my acceptance and compassion, is vital. Oh grant me the patience!

Stay tuned: A global response to the global crisis is coming to a community near you. We can only hope, well, i guess we could also work toward it, oh, yeah, i already am! Me doing my bit ain’t gona cut it. We are all responsible. Global citizens, stand up & be heard!

spring morning soapbox

A spring morning, withering bottle brush flowers no longer the bright red spectacle of urbanized flora. I wait for the tram among the fumes of commuter traffic. Power tools draw my attention to the new convenience store opening on the corner. Despite my ambivilence about the role of convenience in our culture I hold a small candle of hope that this shop may help foster some semblance of community in this motorized neighborhood. The only other grocery store is a medium sized mall with two supermarkets and lots of cheap crappy boutiques full of stuff made in china. In my disdain I try to recall my connection, my connectedness. Interbeing. To remember the part of myself that is the factory worker in china, the joyous bottle brush flower calling in spring, the disaffected shut-in on my street afraid to answer the door. The joy and the pain is all there, a solid continuum, among vast false dichotomies. The yin and the yang. I need not turn my face away from the impact of the fashionable opulence, it would only deny me access to the reponses that may lead to insight for dismantling economic racism or to laughter offering healing. Gather my strength and courage to face up, to share the responsibility for each shade of gray and of green. Even the black history and the vibrant new growth emerging after a bush fire. Being the green among the charred landscape I can acknowledge my complicity in the shadow of scarcity, to boldly stand in sufficiency and abundance despite all the mass media telling me otherwise. To remember that I have choice and I can choose to stand in the face of the absurdly suicidal culture and hold optimism, dare to have faith in humanity to come thru this great unravelling and to come out the other side. I have no idea what it will look like, how many humans survive if any but I know in my heart that life will go on and i’ll do everything in my power to get there.

Celebrating Destruction

(disclaimer: this was written as a catharsis of my feelings of despair at the time, i have not imposed political correctness on my imagination and some judgemental sentiments arose. forgive me, i am human.)

Thousands of Melbournians flocked to Albert Park to witness the excitement as kilogram after kilogram of carbon dioxide was shamelessly pumped into the overcast skies by the super fuel burning formula one racing machines who sped around the track, in circles, over and over and over… The Grand Prix is big business in Melbourne and Australia, used to sell everything from motor oil to ice cream. Scores of race fans sold thier bodies and souls to the worship of car culture, speed and ultimately and unknowlingly, human and ecological demise. Ferarri hats, jakets, t-shirts and bags made for a sea of red and white as i took the train home from a celebration of international womens’ day at CERES environment park. The rest of the world rushed in painfully as we left the park property. As i changed trains i became innundated by the fossil fuel fanatics returning from the big race.

I saw a young man in his twenties carrying a large toy car, all new and shiny in it’s box. The look of dismay and disapproval on my face must have been evidant as he began to look less proud of his big boy toy. Could he recapture the dream and excitement of the race by playing with his remote controlled car in the parking lot of his housing complex? Will he continue to pump gas for minimum wage and continue to fantasize about the ferarri he’ll never be able to afford? At least he’ll continue to use public transport while he wishes he didn’t have to but because it’s the form of transport that’s most accesible to him.

I’m not sure why i felt so deeply sad as i got home, was it a crying jag born of loneliness, or hopelessness? Was it from the display of people so bent on harming our global ecological system, our air, our life? The masses of ignorant asses finding joy in something i find so abhorent? Or maybe the feeling of isolation, of being such an invisible dissident, the frustration of knowing i cant’ change thier minds, that they’re just gona continue to sit infront of thier TVs and be fed the dream that has put us in such peril. Will i be saying “see! i told you!” when the storms become so frequent that more time will be spent catching upand cleaning up from the disastrous down time than making money from so called ‘progress’? When earthquakes and disease, the wrath of mother nature, begin to curb our population when we couldn’t achieve sustainability our selves will we begin to revere the life on the planet as integral to our own survival, realizing we are not separate or better than the other life forms, and that we have soiled our nest, and the nests of every other living being. Will we wake up when it’s too late? This i fear is the deep seated pain that sprung to the surface today when i got home.