Tuesday, February 2, 2016

... LEADERSHIP (Part 1)

 Long long ago, in the misty dawn of humankind the ancient ancestors of you and me woke in the morning and came together to eat and organize the tribal day.  The tribes had been developing the process of organizing in different ways for many generations, each generation teaching the next and adding new ways to contribute to their mutual needs.  Those needs included safety and protection for everyone, shelter, clothing and food, the making of tools and weapons and the caring for children, the aged, sick and infirm that could not care for themselves. 

Painting of Plains Indian council by George Caitlin (1796-1872)
To facilitate the organization for all their mutual needs they devised councils and chiefs.  A chief would probably have a sub-chief to assist, and a council of advisors.  There might be a council of warriors, a hunter’ council, a council of elders, and if the tribe were large there might be smaller groups, clans, each with a clan chief, and a clan mother who helped the women organize and also advised the men to help them become a useful and valued member of the tribe.  A tribe could be likened to a sports team of today; with coaches guiding players to develop their skills and pull together for the common goals of the team.

"The Historian" 1902 by E. Irving Couse

 In each generation young people learned and stepped into the various leadership roles according to their skills, talents, and interests.  An older family or clan member would take on the guidance of the team.  Every task in the community could be seen as a leadership role, and the primary requisite to be good in that role was to be a good listener. 

In a time of national elections there are debates where the electorate may ponder the records and leadership skills of those who seek election.  There are attacks and counter attacks and appeals for support and unity, but much argument, much emotion, acrimony, anger and the stirring of fear and resentment.  There is much opposition, even bitterness, and little harmony.   Any listening that is done is for negating, not for understanding

Most of that is caused by the inequality of power and wealth in society as a whole.  The wealthy and powerful want to maintain their wealth and power; controlling not only the government, but also the information that is dispensed to the public through education and the media.

Our problems are also caused by sheer bigness.  The scale of the institutions of government and all human activities in medicine and health, education, welfare, justice and so on is so great that we are not dealing with each other as human beings, and we are not met with understanding and compassion.  We have created an inhuman society of isolated and alienated individuals.  All of whom nevertheless need the closeness, support, understanding and acceptance of others, and all of whom who strive for, wish for, but only rarely find that.

We are dependent on governments and businesses that are too big to consider and cherish us.  We struggle with the oppression and isolation yet are often also able to feel the inherent kindness, compassion and helpfulness of individuals.  Those traits we all inherit from our tribal pasts when we actually lived close to and dependent on every one in our community.  We reach out to help those who are hurting.

But also we feel that lack of community in the soulless indifference of our growing cities. Our marriages begun in joy and hope begin to erode under contemporary stress.   Over half are dissolved in divorce with many of the rest only maintaining a civil distance, adjusting to a loss of deep connection and appreciation for each other.  Children, feeling the lack of affection and support, often rebel and leave home without ever knowing the saving grace of unconditional love.
Love, our very center, that we value above all else, is difficult to find and maintain in our individualistic, competitive, materialist, stressful and alienating society.  So for a truly satisfying, meaningful life filled with love, creativity and joy, filled with the support and encouragement of the people we live work and play with, we need to exit the strife, the struggle, the competition and dependence on the institutions of society, and go back to our source.  Back to helping one another, back to opening our hearts and living our authentic selves with each other, back to thinking and creating together, to listening to each other’s needs and helping them all be met.

That means having communities small enough that we can listen to one another and work together.  Those smaller human communities or clans may also band together with other clans into somewhat larger communities or tribes with common interests and needs in the environment, and those tribes can network with other tribes into larger nations with mutual interests in the environment of the whole region.

Living in a close relationship with the natural environment, with our plant relatives, our gardens, our farmlands, our orchards, our forests, our animal relatives, both domestic and wild, with the meadows and plains and deserts, the hills and mountains, the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans, we can agree on sustainable ways of living.  Ways that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren instead of the world we now leave them, a world of violence, war, fear, anger, pollution, ugliness, degradation of soil, water and air, and dire climate changes.

All this is possible when we connect, think and work together.  And that becomes more possible the more we organize.  Which means the more we encourage leadership.  Every community, every movement every positive change of the past was begun by and realized through the energy and inspiration of people exercising leadership in a positive way.

(Photo by Jordi.Stals via Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Poetry: excerpt from "36 Views of Mount Monadnock"

(photo by Hubert Berberich (HubiB) via Wikimedia Commons)

Coming soon: 
Manitonquat's new book of poetry
 Birch Cottage

Excerpt from the poem
"36 Views of Mount Monadnock"

. . . 24.  Around naked boulders April buds
begin to green the skeletal limbs
thirsty arms of winter trees
        stretching to breathe spring

25.  Last night’s snow embroiders the peak
 and treetops with glittering ice
flashing and winking to find
the sleepy blink of dawn . . .

(Follow this blog, for publication date T.B.A.
    and more writings from Manitonquat.)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Poem excerpt from "Birch Cottage"

My new book of poems "Birch Cottage" will be appearing soon. 

   Here's a short excerpt:

. . . No more World News Tonight.
Throw out the TV, smash the radio,
Light the papers in the stove for tinder,
Stop all my subscriptions today,
The lies, the follies of all the nations,
Sinister patterns of greed and malice,
The design of grinning corporations
Black holes of venal avarice . . . 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Respect and feeling safe: means no sexual harassment

Courtesy of www.scoopwhoop.com
The Circle Way is based on respect  
Respect means recognizing that you matter, as a person.  It means that your feelings matter. What kind of living creature's feelings don't matter?  The fact that you have feelings which matter, is what defines you as a human being. 

That doesn't mean everyone agrees with your feeling.  It doesn't mean we can always do just as we feel.  Yet even when we can't follow our feelings with perfect freedom, still our feelings matter.  This means we need to listen to them.  Just listen: to ourselves and to each other, not only to words, but to feelings as well.

Respect means that when we've listened to others' feelings, we try to be sensitive to them. My flatmate might hate my musical taste.  But s/he can still respect my feelings, by not verbally belittling my favorite bands to me.  If my flatmate is a light sleeper, I don't choose his/her sleep time for blasting my favourite records at top volume.  Simple, common sense things like that. 

In an aptmosphere of respect, we feel safe.  Feeling safe is the necessary foundation for everything.  When we are respected, and feel safe, we can trust.  We can open up to each other. 

Without opening up to each other, how are real relationships possible?  Without respect, trust, and openness, whom are we relating to?  How can we even reach each other's real self?

Definition courtesy of Google Search
Sexual harassment is the opposite of respect
If we listen to each other's feelings and treat them with respect,  sexual harassment would not happen.  Certainly not sexual violence.  Sexual harassment or violence means disregarding someone's feelings.  It means not caring how they feel, about the most intimate contact possible. 

Sexual harassment and sexual violence can do grave damage to people, including physical disorders and crippling depression.  In young people, it can be related to teen suicide. 

Connection between sexual harassment and sexual violence
Sexual harassment and violence are among negative patterns from the past, which we are struggling to heal.  They're based on a paradigm in which people's sexual choices were not respected.  In which, as some might put it, the only sex which was prohibited was consensual!

Studies have found that where people in charge turn a blind eye to sexual harassment, there is a higher incidence of sexual violence.  So sexual harassment is not "harmless".  When people in charge foster a climate of mutual respect, sexual harassment and violence are less likely to happen, and more likely to be handled with common sense if they do occur.

If you've experienced sexual harassment or violence:
Here's some info that might be helpful:

Consent matters
Many people feel concerned about how to approach normal sexual relations, without fear of being taken the wrong way.  How do you know when you have consent?
If you feel concerned about how to be sure you have consent in sexual contact:

"Tea Consent" video  https://youtu.be/oQbei5JGiT8  (Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios)
(Sexual consent made simple in under 3 minutes: think of it as a cup of tea...)

If you've inflicted sexual harassment or violence on others
Hopefully what you've read so far might persuade you to re-think what you've done.  Presumably, once you decide it's the wrong thing to do, you can stop.

However, many, if not most perpetrators start out as survivors of sexual abuse themselves.  This is how they got the idea it was OK: because it was done to them.  It is often the case with abusers that it happened to them as children. 

If sexually abusing others is a covert way of dealing with the trauma of having been abused as a child, it can become an addiction.  **

A child who is abused feels terror, anger, powerlessness.  The person abusing them seems to have all the power, while they have none.  Later on, this can become a motive for becoming an abuser themselves: it's a way to quiet the terror of powerlessness, and to feel like the "winner", the powerful one, the one whose feelings matter.

If that damage is not healed, it can define and inhibit your sexual life.  If you connect feelings of pain and anger with sexuality, if you can express your sexuality only toward someone who is not willing, who is not listening, then you probably could use some help to sort out what happened to you when your sexual life was beginning. 

You can break the pattern
These patterns rest on a foundation of silence, disrespect, and dishonesty.  That's why it's possible to break them. 

It can begin with a simple mental process.  The moment an abuse survivor recognizes that what happened to them was wrong, they can begin to break free.  When you understand that you deserved respect, and that no one had the right to abuse you, past abuse can begin to lose its hold on your life. 
For adults who were abused as children:


I hope this is helpful in clarifying these sensitive issues for some of my readers.

Whatever we wear, wherever we go
courtesy of livesrunning.wordpress.com

** (Some studies have indicated that, while most perpetrators were abused themselves, only about 20% of those abused do go on to commit abuse.)  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

There is an alternative: let's build it together

Community Centre at Findhorn (Soulscribe - Wikimedia Commons)

The object of my work here is to inspire, and to help plan an alternative to the world we have been born into.  Not in opposition to this world or any of the people in it; without blame or judgement.  Obeying its laws, being kind, interested, understanding and compassionate to all - making no enemies. 

The lesson is that we are all hurt, and out of that we are all making enemies.  'Love your enemy' Jesus said, and no one really understands that.  It doesn't need a commandment from a supernatural source - we are making our own enemies, and that is isolating us from each other and making us victims of fear and greed. 

We are only really human in small groups where we know and respond to each other's thinking and feeling, where we know the joys of working and playing together, helping each other, growing to old age as we watch our babies grow and take over and care for all life and the Earth.

We have proved we can make communities that are nearly autonomous and self-sufficient, sustainable with the natural systems of life on Earth - there are thousands of them now, and some have been in existence for generations.  The more we create local economies, deriving their sustenance from their local regions and networking with others, creating interaction for mutual support, the more a truly human society will emerge. 

Some may call this aim 'Utopia' as a disparagement - but the word means 'no place' in Greek, and our dream has many places - I have lived in some and am still close to several.  They are no more perfect than we are, but they give us the opportunity to think and build together, to keep making corrections to our errors, and making life more fun and beautiful and loving. 

When we come together we bring old hurts and fears and distrust with us, but by opening our hearts to each other honestly and with compassion we begin to heal from the wounds of the 'old' world and learn how to help each other, to connect with the natural world, to joy in it and celebrate.

Community garden (Klest - Wikimedia Commons)