Not “government”, representation.

This “British” society is not good for anyone. It is not working to anyone’s benefit. The majority (only just) party is working to disassemble the safety net that is the welfare state. They are taking away the means of survival for the most disadvantaged, they are reducing the possibilities for the merely poor, they are making life a misery for those in work, they are reinforcing the mentally (and physically) destructive behaviours that make them think they have a right to destroy other people’s lives.

We need to stop calling them “the government”. They have no right to make decisions that go against their constituent’s interests. They are our representatives. They are supposed to represent us, not work to destroy us. They are not given their positions through god’s will, they are voted for by the electorate. Sometimes the electorate is both misinformed and misguided, we need a more honest and reliable media, one that prides itself on it’s integrity, one that sets itself against abuse in all it’s forms, one that sees titillation for what it is (playing to the lowest common denominator), one that respects it’s readership/viewers. And we need a government that embraces these values too.

We need to work towards a healthy and kind society, one that we can be proud to be part of. We also need a way of triggering a general election when it is obvious that the current majority party is not representing the majority of the population.

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The Preface to “Finding Our Way Home”

A long time ago my mother taught me to read. She thought it was a good idea. So did I. I could lose myself in wonderful stories of other worlds. This world always seemed to be such a disappointment. I still read whenever I can find the time and peace to do so.

Many years ago I became interested in alternative lifestyles. I remember a time when we all thought the world was going to end in a nuclear winter, now everything is going to melt. I suspect every generation has it’s own apocalyptic vision. That said, it is evident that modern western culture cannot continue consuming the world’s resources, at the rate it is, indefinitely.

We have a choice. We can either continue as we are and wait for disaster to force our hand, or we can start trying to change things. One ripple at a time. It seems ridiculous not to. The way British society works at the moment doesn’t seem to be very healthy, or happy. Surely it makes sense to start to make a happier, healthier world if we can.

Not to try isn’t really an option, is it? Anyway, talk is cheap, and this is me, talking on paper (or not, if you’re looking at a screen to read this). I have endeavoured to reference ideas when I could remember where they came from. Some have been with me so long that I can’t remember if I made them up or I read them somewhere.

I have read pretty extensively over the years. In my 30’s and 40’s I studied, and then taught, sociology and psychology. I read a lot of “pop” psychology before that. I’ve also read a smattering of philosophy over and above what was necessary for my degree. I have an abiding interest in media and cultural studies.

But for a large proportion of my life I read science fiction, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson, Katharine Kerr, Anne McCaffrey, Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks, Ursula Le Guin, C J Cherryh, William Gibson, Elizabeth Moon, and many, many more.

In addition to the science fiction I read other fiction writers J R R Tolkein, H G Wells, Daphne Du Maurier, George Orwell, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I even read Proust! So many different ideas, so many different possibilities. The dismal and the uplifting, the hopeless and the hopeful, the difficult and the easy, I read and absorbed as much as I could.

In the meantime I was trying to cope and make sense of life as I was experiencing it. I got involved with running a smallholding, and bringing up my daughter, my normality was very different from most people’s. I read about self-sufficiency, wrote poetry, fed the chickens, discovered permaculture, milked the goats, tried to overcome my aversion to eating meat, learned to spin…

So, it’s not really surprising if I come at things from a slightly different angle from most people. I always have done. I did even before that period of my life. I can remember my college economics lecturer explaining to me once that when he gave our class the choice of two essay titles, the rest of the students would choose one, and I would choose the other.

I guess I might just have been born ornery. Anyway, my mother is still telling me about the way things are, and I’m still saying “but they shouldn’t be”. In these pages I’m explaining why I think they are, and how I think they could be. I really wish they could be…

Blue Pearl

blue pearl 1

We live on one blue pearl of a planet. It gave birth to us. It is our home. We have nowhere else to go. There really is no planet B. If we can’t look after this planet, this beautiful earth, we are all dead. And it’s no good leaving things for the next generation, or the generation after that, we need to live in a way that is right for us and our planet. That is healthy for everyone and everything.

Finding Our Way Home – Helen Ditchburn

What is Home?

On a personal level we all think we know what home is. But home means many things, and for some people it is not a happy place. I believe that home should be a safe place where you can be totally at ease and comfortable.

There is an obvious flaw in this belief. Home is often a place you share with other people, and no one can can always get on with their house mates (family, or otherwise). So, however lovely the people you share your home with are, there will be moments of tension.

But some people live in a state of almost constant tension because of their house mates. This is not a happy or healthy way to live. I, for one, think that most people should be able to have happy and healthy homes.

So, what can we do to help people whose homes are neither. Well, I suppose we could expose them to the idea of a happy and healthy home. But, if we do this, it is important to not judge or put pressure on people who may already feel bad about themselves.

This is an area I have problems with, I have a tendency to be judgemental, and I sometimes forget that my answers might work for me, but they may well not work for other people.

Before I go any further I want to talk about living alone. Living alone is not a bad thing when it is your choice, when it gives you time and space to do things that feed you emotionally, when you still have contact with friends (and strangers who may become friends).

Living alone is a form of torture when it is a choice made from fear or the belief that you are unlovable. No one is unlovable, it is a matter of finding the right person to love you, who you can love back. Coming home to a house that is always empty can be dreadfully lonely, or it can be a haven.

It can be a really useful learning experience to live alone. It is an opportunity to learn about ones own priorities without outside influence. It is an experience that many people would benefit from, even if they only did it briefly.

When living with other people something to bear in mind is that each person experiences their home differently. You might find your home environment happy, warm and nourishing. You cannot be sure that it is the same for your house mate/s.

One person’s delight is another person’s torture. For example: some people like to have loud music playing from the moment they wake up; others like to sit in silence as they come to (of course this could be the same person on a different day).

When someone else in your household does something that you cannot avoid being part of it can either be an inclusive experience, or, a bloody annoyance. This is a frequent experience for parents, it is normal for children to assume your inclusion without seeing a need to check in with you about it’s appropriateness or desirability. Parents can hope that over time their children will learn some sensitivity to other people’s moods and needs.

But many of us struggle with being sensitive right into our adult years, either because we have isolated ourselves as much as possible; or, because the people we have lived with have not been honest with us about their feelings (some times because they are not honest with themselves).

Living happily with other people is partly about choosing the right people to live with, and partly about developing both tolerance of, and sensitivity to, their moods and behaviours. Sensitivity to know when to approach (or not), and also, how to approach. Tolerance, to understand that their behaviour is for a reason, and that reason may have nothing to do with their current situation. And in the hope that they will be tolerant of us.

Wishing happy homes to everyone!

Tradition

Tradition is a good place to start. There is a reason why something has been done by more than one generation, it works, at least a little bit, for some of the people. Is that a good enough reason to keep doing whatever it is? Well, no. Definitely not. Every tradition has it’s day, and then it should be evaluated to see if it really is a good way of doing (or thing to be done)

Many cultures through history have had slavery. I can see no moral, or practical, justification for slavery. I don’t think slavery ever was, and never should be, justified. That it’s not good for the slaves, should be able to go without saying. But neither is it good for the slavers or slave owners. When you brutalise or dehumanise another human being, you also brutalise and dehumanise yourself.

We are all connected, what you do to others you also do to yourself. People who are judgemental, judge themselves first. The sad thing is they are always far harder on themselves than they are on anyone else, and anyone else is on them. People who treat other people as if they aren’t real, do so because they are afraid they aren’t real.

You cannot treat another human being badly without it having a harmful effect on you. And to close your eyes to people being hurt around you is nearly as bad, sometimes worse. When we take responsibility for our own actions, it does not mean that we can them close our eyes to what is going on around us.

It means we have to respect other people’s right to make their own mistakes and find their own answers, but we still have a responsibility to try to get other people to understand what we believe. So that they have that information to evaluate too.

Tradition sometimes lasts because it is a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because no one realises it isn’t a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because people are afraid of change. Why are people afraid of change? They are afraid because they haven’t practised stepping out side of their comfort zone and have not discovered the rewards of trying out their “stretch zone”.

In permaculture there is frequent reference to the value of edges, the edge of your comfort zone is a great place to be. It’s often both frightening and exhilarating, to dip ones toes into new water, to try out a different behaviour, can be quite wonderful. It can also be quite awful, but even that teaches us something new and good about ourselves.

Personally, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of tradition. I don’t like lazy ways of making decisions about people’s lives, our how our society should be run. There is often insufficient flexibility to cater for everyone’s personality or needs.

All women are not the same, neither are all men. Why should they be lumped into one category? That’s lazy stereotyping, it also means that some people never get to find their particular aptitude, because they are told (at a very young age) that they “can’t” do that because they belong to the “wrong” group for that particular activity.

What is particularly worrying at the moment is the disconnect between what is happening in British society (and other societies too) and what the media is claiming is happening. So many people still cannot believe that the mainstream media would lie to them because “someone would stop them if they told lies”. Why they believe this, is a mystery to me.

Our culture has changed rapidly and in an unhealthy direction in the last few decades. We have moved away from the traditional lifestyles that were rooted in a certain common sense, to a society that has little real security or resilience. This Britain could not survive the depredations that were visited upon it during the second world war. This Britain will be lucky if it survives the next ten years.

We need to revisit some of the traditions that our parents and grand parents knew, and see if they might not be more healthy for us to re-embrace now.

Priorities…

I was talking with one of my friends the other day about priorities. We think that Western society has lost it’s way, at least partially because our governments prioritise economics (money) over people. This is a serious mistake for a whole load of reasons, the main one being that money is a tool. It gets used as both a weapon and a god, but only by people who don’t understand it.

Many people have no understanding of economics at all. They think it is incontrovertible, they don’t realise that it is every bit as theoretical as any form of philosophy. It is the philosophy of how financial systems work. It is a science in as far as any analysis of real world behaviour is a science. It is as flawed (if not more so) as any other science of human behaviour.

What economists predict is based on a hypothetical view of the world. Their view is built out of all sorts of assumptions to do with the importance of money and it’s supremacy in every decision making process.

This is not helpful in a world where people starve through no fault of their own and even though there is plenty of food. This is what Looby Macnamara would call scarcity thinking. But we live in an abundant world, which could be even more abundant if people didn’t feel so embattled. If people felt safe and secure they would not need to stock pile so much in the way of material possessions.

We need a serious paradigm shift away from scarcity thinking and economics, to the various approaches that Looby talks so coherently about: Abundance thinking; Solutions thinking; Systems thinking; Thinking like nature; Co-operative thinking; and Thinking for the future.

When we think differently we act differently, some times it works the other way around, but mostly it works best if we change our way of thinking first. The big thing that most people struggle to grasp is that we are part of nature.

We cannot be separated from it in a healthy way any more than any part of our bodies can be separated from us and still survive. Nature, the world, is the big healthy system, we are the malfunctioning kidneys, the dodgy knee, that dreadful headache. Not vice versa.

Yes, I meant that. The world would be fine without us. We would not be fine without the world. We don’t need to save the world. The world will save itself, maybe by getting rid of those pesky humans. If we want a world that continues to nurture and feed humans then we need to look at things a different way, we need to see that we are the guests and a little respect and gratitude would go a long, long way.

Further Reading:

Looby Macnamara – 7 Ways To Think Differently

available from http://www.spiralsofabundance.com/index.php?id_product=469&controller=product