Category Archives: Latest Blog

Trumped Out of $20: Psycho Candidate Takes My Money

I lost $20 on the outcome of the recent US election. I had boasted to an acquaintance in a bar, that I would bet money on Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential race. He took my bet and I felt smug in the knowledge that nobody in their sane mind would elect that windbag to public office. I even thought to myself that I would not bother collecting my winnings, but would be magnanimous and take more satisfaction in being right. All the pundits in the media agreed with me; they were sure that the first woman President was a shoe in.

Trumped Out of $20: Psycho Candidate Takes My Money

Watching the ABC’s pre-coverage of the event, Antony Green and his colleagues were equally confident of the outcome. So, I went off and did whatever I had to do that day, and looked forward to returning to the coverage and watching the predicted outcome. Of course, when I got back, hell’s bells were ringing the death knell for Hilary and the Democrats. Trump was only a few electoral votes from taking the Presidency and gob smacked media commentators were doing backflips and rationalising the unthinkable. How could we have all got it so wrong? This question was repeatedly raised by the tired ABC presenters.

Fronting up at the bar the next day my victorious pro-Trump betting adversary, immediately hailed me and demanded his money. Conservatives are not quite so magnanimous when it comes to hard earned cash, I discovered. Blowing his own trumpet loudly, he crowed it was a great victory for the US and the world. I gave him his money, but challenged him on what the cost to the whole world may ultimately be. Mad man in the oval office. A buffoon with his fingers on the nuclear first strike capabilities of the world’s largest arsenal.

Poor old Hillary Clinton had been defeated for the second time. Firstly by Barak Obama, and now, by bloody Donald Trump. How could the Americans vote in such a divisive President? My faith in the common sense of humanity has been badly dented. My wallet was missing $20. My pride around my political awareness had taken a beating. The US has gone from African American to white corn bread. The political agenda is retreating behind an isolationist wall to keep all the Mexicans out, apparently. A psycho candidate has taken my money. What price will we all have to ultimately pay?

 

 

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Hearing Our World: Aural Living

We all experience life through our senses, if our sensory equipment is fully functional and working. Most of us have five senses, a few of us claim to have a sixth sense, and I would say that is a great imagination. We are designed by existence, or god, to operate in this fashion. By touch, by smell, by taste, by sight and by sound, we make our way through life. We meet other human beings and animals, and we employ our senses to enjoy one another; if we are not hell bent on killing or eating this other.

Hearing Our World: Aural Living

What about when one of those senses malfunctions permanently? What then, when colourful sight becomes an unending dark of night? When all taste ceases to inspire and delight? When aroma departs for a distant shore? When touch is dulled to an unregistered numbness? And, when all song is silent forever more? How do we adapt to a loss of a sensory pathway? I have heard it reported that the remaining senses become more acute to cover for the missing sense. Blind people can hear with much greater acuity, so, I am reliably told.

Personally, I identify with my aural sensory capabilities than I do with any other single sense. I listen very carefully to the sound of other people’s voices. I have always thought that I can sense their mood and feeling through the sound of their voice. Whether this skill, imagined or otherwise, has developed from a self-preserving motivation, I do not know. Perhaps, I learnt to listen to the sound of my mother’s or father’s voice to predict their mood and resulting actions. I did not have overly violent or aggressive parents, but you never know the reasons behind a child’s sensitivity.

Because that is what it is really, a sensitivity to the sound of the human voice. It is a useful skill to have when circumnavigating the treacherous seas of human relationship. Not taking things at face value, but sensing some cutting iceberg deep in the depths. It was useful in sales as well, when I was forced to make my living through this means. Sensing when a client was more amenable to my proposal by the sound and tone of their voice.  I remember as a child, attempting to umpire the many disagreements between my mother and father, perhaps, it was then, that I honed my skill in this aural regard.

Losing the ability to hear another human being’s voice must be profoundly disturbing and sad. The arrival of deafness, when one has previously had the ability to hear, must be truly devastating. That there are now a variety of technological aids to help the hearing impaired is in no way a small mercy. The senses are so close to who we believe ourselves to be, that their removal or reduction in facility results in enormous disorientation for the affected individual. It is something to always keep in mind when relating to members of that aurally deprived society. Take the time to consider your actions in regard to their wellbeing.

Comfortable or Stuck? Never Stop Seeking to Learn

It is a fact of life that we as human beings slow down as we age. When we are young adults we challenge ourselves with new sights and sensations. We don’t know the answers to everything, so, we go out and try the experience. Often, things do not work out the way we had hoped, but that is part of life when growing up. As we get older, we begin to limit our experiences to things that we know and are comfortable with. Whether at work, play or in relationships, we choose more carefully what we engage in and with.

Comfortable or Stuck? Never Stop Seeking to Learn

It is very easy during the early middle years and later to stick steadfastly to our comfort zones; which is why we often get fat. Many people think that learning finishes when we leave schools and universities behind. As we become more established at work we refrain from further training unless absolutely necessary. When forced to attend training seminars, we often sneer at the silliness of it all. We imply through our behaviour and body language that we are above all this ‘carry on’ and ‘ra ra ra’.

Before you know it, you are stuck in a rut of complacency. You watch a lot of TV at night; you have become a spectator in your own life to a large degree. Old age is prematurely eating you up like a cancer. You listen to talk-back radio in your car on the way to and from work. Your opinions and attitudes are becoming rusted on; and you complain about the way things are in the world right now. You no longer take risks; wherever possible you avoid any discomfort or feelings of unease.

This is a sure way to an early grave. Your decision to stop learning is killing you. Thinking that you know everything that you need to know to get by, is a delusion. Thinking that you are in control of your life, is another delusion. If you do not challenge yourself on a regular basis, you will slip into a state of inertia. Comfortably numb and uninspired by life. Learning never stops, and we never master this life, it is a constant work in progress. Be humble and challenge yourself to learn new things every day. Go above and beyond what you think that you know; embrace training wherever you can find it. This approach will keep you young and alive; it makes life worth living.

Tuning Into Nature: Listening To the Earth’s Wisdom

By Mitch Given

It cannot be denied that as a race we are pretty much out of touch with our planet. We, as human beings, are primarily concerned with ourselves. Most of us like to keep our circle of real friends around us fairly small. You may have hundreds of Facebook acquaintances, but if you think that they will be there for you when the chips are down you are kidding yourself. Digital friends are like moths around a flame, fascinated by the light, but when a brighter light shines they move on rather quickly.

Tuning into nature: listening to the Earth’s wisdom; can we really do it? Or, is it too late for us and are our heads too full of concepts and theories about things? How do you listen to the earth? Through meditation or something like Qigong? A method or process which can stop us paying so much attention to the endless recycling of thoughts inside our heads? Hugging a tree maybe? Embracing the ancient whorls within the trunk of a silent sentinel, which has stood on this earth for hundreds of years? So many questions and so few definite answers.

Even if we take the time and spend many years tuning into nature: listening to the Earth’s wisdom; do we ever hear anything else but ourselves and our imaginings. Prophets from the religious traditions in the Bronze Age thought they heard the voice of god inside their heads. All of the Judaic Christian religions are based on these revelations; but were they truly prophetic? People, even today, fight wars on the basis of these ‘so called’ revelations. Be careful about the kinds of stories that you put your faith in. Belief in supernatural powers can be a very dangerous thing.

The belief in psychics and channels, who ‘supposedly’ have an innate ability to converse with the wisdom of the ages, is equally fraught with problems. For many New Age folks, they have never left behind the Oracle of Delphi and believe whole heartedly in the words of psychics and spiritual readers. Humankind, it seems, is genetically susceptible to auguries and the belief in magic. We long to listen to the heart beat of nature and to feel the aura of some supernatural force. Does the Earth whisper its secrets so that the human animal can perceive them or is this, merely, our wishful thinking?

 

Horses Deserve Better Than Ending Up as Pet Food: A Gourmet View?

By Simeon Isaker

I will begin this article with a warning that the content that follows contains views and information which some people may find shocking. You may not agree with them but they are put forward with the issue of increased sustainability at the heart of the matter. In my opinion, horses deserve better than ending up as pet food: a gourmet view? Possibly, but more importantly it evaluates their existence at a higher level than the current situation.

The horse racing industry in Australia is estimated to produce fifteen thousand thoroughbred foals each year and at the same time some twenty five thousand thoroughbred horses are sent to slaughter each year; due to injuries and not being economically worth training and racing. The large majority of them end up as pet food. However, two thousand tonnes of horse meat is exported to Japan and Europe for human consumption. Now, ultimately, horse racing should be banned worldwide and the so called ‘sport of kings’ should be consigned to the pages of history. Horse race betting is not an essential entertainment industry in Australia or anywhere. In the meantime, I ask myself why we discriminately eat some animals and not others?

The French and the Spanish value horse meat highly and yet we consign it to the wasteful and misguided use of being pet food. Horses can run fast and they carried human beings on their back for millennia. Is this why we exempt them from our food chain but happily slaughter cows, sheep, pigs and goats (to name but a few) for our consumption? Do we have a psychological affinity with the horse, like the dog, which makes it sacred, so that it ends up in a tin of dog food?

There are, actually, two butchers, one in Perth and one in Sydney, who are licensed to sell horse meat in Australia for human consumption. Twenty years ago lamb shanks were fed to dogs as pet food and now they are valued for their gourmet value. We, now, waste less of the animals slaughtered for food production in this country; thanks to the input of the many migrants who have come to Australia. We use carcasses to make stocks and so, do not waste them. Sustainability within meat processing has increased over the last couple of decades and reconsidering horse meat for human consumption may be a better use of this valuable food source.

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of Eco Living Magazine, but we encourage the expression of new ideas for debate.

Setting Up a Green Business

There are an increasing number of opportunities to set up a ‘green’ business or ‘eco’ business. These businesses are defined by their concern with promoting green issues and the fact that they are being run on ecologically aware principles. An example could be an organic caterer, as this type of business appeals to those people in the market who are seeking a caterer for a wedding, or other event, but who like to eat organically. If you have been paying attention to the rapidly growing shelves devoted to organic produce in your local supermarket you will understand that there is now a substantial market for organics in Australia.

Although, the market for green businesses is much larger and more advanced in the United States, it is also a burgeoning one in Australia. Organic food is in demand and whether you set yourself up as a caterer, or a café, and/or a retail provider this is a niche market on the move. Their customers want clean green food in minimal packaging, which also reflects sustainable practices. Too much packaging choking our waste management processing methods in our cities is a huge problem; more organic food businesses with sound recycling policies can really help in this area.

Another industry, which is converting to green principles, is the beauty industry. There are more and more product lines available within the beauty sphere, which are eco-friendly and organically made. People are not only concerned with what they are putting inside their bodies, but also onto their bodies topically. Women do not want to wear beauty products that are toxic or that have been cruelly tested on animals. Setting up an ecologically aware beauty salon or hair care salon could have a very positive effect on the planet.

Can you get business funding for setting up a green business in Australia? Yes you can, with funding streams having been created for this very purpose by Australian governments. Malcolm Turnbull, our new Prime Minister, has appeared very bullish about supporting new business ideas. Definitely investigate potential opportunities for business loans here and through the private finance market. Business loans are more readily available in the current market than previously considered and it is worth exploring thoroughly all opportunities.

The majority of Australians support a greener economy for the betterment of the planet and for its sustainability; especially in regard for their children and grand children. Setting up a green business is only going to be good for everyone.

 

History Can Tell Us a Lot About Right Now.

The more I delve into history, through my studies, and in my own reading, I am continually amazed at the relevance of it to current affairs. It is like we, as a race, are fated to repeat ourselves. Some do say, that there are only a finite number of stories out there and our worlds are interwoven with these narratives. Language is a symbolic representation of recounted events and we reorder these events to make sense of them; thus creating a story.

It might be your story, involving how you were raised, what your parents were like, when you met your life partner, when you separated from him or her, maybe you didn’t, having children or not, getting older and so on. Alternatively, it may be the story of the Second World War, who started it, who suffered, who was victorious and who was defeated, what were the ramifications. Each story will not be an exact record of events; it will be a version of selected events ordered according to the interpreter. There is no truth, no unquestionable objective reality, in our stories and the stories from history; there is only an interpretation of events.

Autobiography is no longer, really, considered to be non-fiction, likewise memoires, they are the stories we tell others about ourselves and aspects of our lives. As readers and human beings, generally, we love to read stories; to share a journey. The fact that these stories are not exact recordings of lives in real time does not bother us; we prefer the director’s cut, as it is usually far more interesting. Most of us tell stories about ourselves, at various times, recounting stressful events from the safe shores of memory. Often terrible, climactic occurrences become hilarious anecdotes when shared with family and friends. Our stories, when told, become a release valve for escaping pressure; anxieties loosen their hold.

History’s identities are most often long dead and so their stories cannot ease their psychic burdens, but culturally they can have a similar affect upon us, their descendants. Which is why it is important that we continue to seek to unravel the events of the past, using technologies and methodologies to inch ever closer to some approximation of what actually occurred. History is most often told by the victors and the generations that come after them. It is their version of events we are handed down and told, “it is the gospel truth.” Later comes the processes of revisionism and historians are most often at the forefront of that. Then the new views may filter into the arts, as in the case of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and how we now see Thomas More.

We love to learn things from stories, as the King James Bible proves, when all those allegorical stories were translated into the King ’s English by scholars and poets from Oxford and Cambridge; borrowing heavily from Tyndale’s earlier masterly effort, for which he was burned alive for.

My new book of Essays on Ancient History is now available on Amazon Kindle for very little money. If you have an interest in the stories which underpin our lives, the ancient events from the Greek, Roman and Hebrew worlds, I recommend you read it.

Robert Hamilton

 

 

Digital Age of Diminishing Returns

Some say that pornography is demeaning to women, that images of people engaging in sex, both real and pretend, flickering on the internet devalues the real thing. In a similar vein, some also say that online dating is reducing the magic inherent in human relationships; turning shopping for love into supermarket shopping over the internet. The digital age it seems is victim of that truism – familiarity breeds contempt. By making everything easy and readily available, be it music, sex, art, relationships etc we are diminishing the value of these things.

The English language is suffering too, with billions of pages and posts online, and some say that it is getting harder to distinguish between copy written for profit and content written to communicate. Communicate passion, inspiration, love, and all those less commercially definable human qualities. Much of the digital content we read is produced in third world countries by writers who have English as a second language. Many of these writers are quite serviceable in their production of online copy. They are utilised by website owners because they are cheap.

Writers who have more mastery of the English language are not so readily employed by the corporate world because it is harder to pay them a pittance. The result is that, we the reading public, are exposed to more and more denuded language. The written content becomes like a skeleton, barely holding together, hardly making sense, and we read more and more of it everyday. At the same time intelligent journalism is fast disappearing from the print media and its digital equivalents. Consumers have stopped buying magazines and newspapers, thinking that information on the net should be free.

PR is spreading through all forms of media like a cancer. Opinion which is paid for fills our news programs on TV and on radio. PR made to look like editorial is everywhere and many people do not know the difference. The internet is a pretty much unrestricted realm where commercial interests outnumber the alternative by hundreds of thousands, if not much more. Consumerism has created open slather, but we do not value anything which stands for educated objectivity; we doubt its very existence. Which is why the ABC is constantly under fire from those with more clearly defined vested interests.

My children are just making their journey toward books and the English language in its greatest forms; both still at primary school. I wonder at their future in a world where language serves only commercial interests and great writing becomes a historical anomaly. Functional language reduced beyond nuance and any reading between the lines; digital copy produced by slaves and machines.

Goolwa A Natural Holiday Destination

murray

Interacting with nature, away from the technological gadgets which dominate our twenty first century lives, is more important than ever. Goolwa offers a peaceful alternative from the whizz bang of our cities. Walking by the gently lapping Murray River watching the water birds arc and gambol can soothe a frayed nervous system. Sailing or paddling down that same river transports one away from the stresses of urban life. Enjoying children at play on bikes and scooters as they traverse the cycleway at Goolwa is a real pleasure.

Fresh air and a slower pace of life works wonders on troubled souls. Eating simple food and hanging out with family can be a healing retreat from life’s worries. Holidays do not need to be wall to wall entertainment, they can be time at the beach, a stroll through a village market and a quiet drink in the local pub. Goolwa offers all this and much more. There are wetlands for bird watching and coastal whale watching in season. Surfing is very big in Goolwa and a great way to commune with nature.

Fishing is a timeless occupation for the patient person, casting a line out into a peaceful river and waiting for that gentle tug on the line. Personally I never catch anything myself but it is a meditative practice; apart from when your line becomes tangled. Goolwa has lots of jetties and the Hindmarsh Bridge. The Goolwa wharf sees paddlesteamers offering river tours.

Goolwa has a steam train tooting its way down the track. History abounds in the old buildings dotted all around the township. Museums and art galleries are a portal into the places cultural identity, then and now. There is good food in Goolwa, especially at the Farm Shop in Cadell Street. Goolwa find can point you in the right direction.

For a relaxed lifestyle or a natural holiday check out Goolwa.

Solar Power Producing Despite Abbott

Peter Hartcher, international editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, has reported that roof top solar power installations in Queensland and South Australia have on occasion produced so much power that the wholesale price of electricity has fallen below zero. Alternative energy, the conservative’s favourite whipping industry, is getting the job done despite hindrance and negativity from the Abbott Government’s environmental policies. Economist Ross Garnaut was quoted as saying: “If South Australia were a country it would have more wind and solar than any country on earth.”

It is very rare to read positive reports about alternative energy in the mainstream press, Fairfax is to be applauded for commissioning this article. The article goes on to portray Australia, under Abbott, as the last environmental laggard in the world; with even Saudia Arabia preparing for an alternative energy future. The conservative press, led in this country by News Corp, continuely criticise alternative energy and play the anti-Greens card, appealing to the lowest common denominator within the Australian community. However, the truth is that selfish, short sighted, slobs are not going to save the world.

Australian power company AGL has declared it will decarbonise by 2050 and is ramping up its renewable energy plans. Industry is not looking to the Abbott Government and may be seeing this anti-environment administration as a temporary blip on the radar.

ALP Pushes for Coding to be Taught in Schools

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has slammed the Abbott government for not placing a greater focus on introducing coding to schools as part of the 2015 Budget.

Shorten said last week’s federal budget was a “missed opportunity” on Monday, saying it is important that the current education curriculum pre-emptively equip school children with coding skills for future jobs.

“I don’t want our children just playing on apps invented overseas,” he said. “I want Australians to design, create, and operate the apps and the computers and machines of the future.”

Last Thursday, the opposition leader outlined that a Shorten Labor government would turn Australia into a science, start-up, and technology capital of the region. He said he would boost the skills of 10,000 current primary and secondary teachers, as well as train 25,000 new teachers who are science and technology graduates. Additionally, he promised to wipe the university debts of 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) students.

However, Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne hit back saying that work on STEM and computing coding in Australian schools was already well underway. The federal government said it is investing AU$3.5 million to ensure all students will have the opportunity to study computer coding in both primary and secondary school.

According to Pyne, the investment is part of the government’s AU$12 million Industry, Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, which was announced in October 2014. The agenda has been designed to support the teaching of STEM, including implementing online curriculum resources in mathematics; providing seed funding to pilot a US-based ‘P-tech’ styled secondary education initiative; and increasing student participation through ‘Summer schools for STEM students’.

“The Coalition Government is determined to ensure our schools give young Australians the skills both they and Australian businesses need to succeed in the highly competitive, high-tech, 21st century,” Pyne said.

“We know that as computer driven smart-technology expands into every aspect of our recreational and working lives, there is an ever growing need for highly skilled workers in this global growth industry. All children will need to understand computational thinking and how it can contribute to their future.

“We are investing in computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools, and STEM education more broadly to ensure young Australians and our nation can grasp the opportunities the high-tech future offers.”

Last week, during the Microsoft-led WeSpeakCode initiative, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged that the education sector has gone backwards, with the uptake of STEM learning among students having dropped significantly, and believed the way to reverse is to teach students how to code.

“Of our 600,000 workers in ICT, more than half work outside the traditional ICT sector. 75 percent of the fastest-growing occupations require STEM skills, but only half of year 12 students are studying science; that’s down from 94 percent 20 years ago,” Turnbull said.

“That is really a retrograde development, and we have to turn that around.”

City Farm Kitchen Cooking Classes

Farmer’s markets, a kitchen for cooking lessons and a hundred fruit trees will delight Sydneysiders at the City of Sydney’s City Farm.
The farm, located in the heart of Sydney Park, will produce over four tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables a year and cooking classes will be held in the outdoor farm kitchen.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the farm would allow visitors and residents to learn about country life and local food production in the heart of Australia’s global city.

“Many of our inner-city dwellers don’t have a backyard to call their own and this open space will allow visitors to learn about local and seasonal food from paddock to plate,” the Lord Mayor said.

“City farms are great places for growing fruit and vegetables, volunteering within your community, holding farmers’ markets and, with hands-on lessons, helping children learn where food comes from.

“The kitchen will be a hub for food preparation and cooking where people can sit and enjoy the fresh, tasty food they’ve made from ingredients grown and picked.”

The City has been working closely with the community to develop the look and feel of the farm. A recent community consultation open day encouraged feedback on the design and features of the farm.

“We were delighted the feedback on the farm design has been so overwhelmingly positive,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Creating a farm in the heart of Sydney will provide a hands-on experience for visitors, businesses and local school children to learn all about food production and sustainable living in an urban environment.”

The farm will include:

  • A weekly farmers’ market;
  • Up to 300 training and educational workshops a year;
  • 100 fruit trees and crops producing over three tonnes fresh fruit and vegetables a year; and
  • Animal husbandry programs with chickens, native bees and visiting farm animals.

During the consultation period, feedback from the community was included into the new master plan for the farm. A more detailed design is being developed and construction is due to begin later this year.

The farm will be located in the south-west corner of Sydney Park, which receives plenty of sun, shelter, good drainage and access to the wetlands stormwater harvesting network.

As well as promoting agriculture, the farm will include educational, community and cultural activities such as waste and composting workshops.

For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Claire Thompson
Phone 02 9265 9582 or email cthompson1@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au 

Digital Future Nightmares: Childhood Health and Fitness

A “nightmarish” vision of a future in which technology makes physical education more boring, judgmental and narrow is driving a new study by a University of Queensland academic.Associate Professor Michael Gard from the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences has begun a three-year research project on the digitisation of school health and physical education.

The project stems from the assumption that developments in digital technology present exciting educational opportunities but carry a new set of philosophical, educational and ethical questions and dilemmas.

“Will we leverage the power of digital technology to expand student’s minds and open up choices about how to live, or will we use it to monitor students’ behaviour and tell them how to live?” Dr Gard said.

“For example, much of the health-related technology that we are seeing involves asking children to count the calories they consume or expend when they are exercising. Is this this what we want students to be doing at school?

“There is a lot of money to be made from digitising school health and physical education and, make no mistake, companies are already vigorously marketing all kinds of health and fitness technologies to schools.

“Then you have the whole ‘big data’ concern about how your child’s records are used.”

The recipient of a $177,000 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant for the study, Dr Gard is collaborating with academics in Canberra, Melbourne and Illinois, USA.

One aspect of the research sure to raise interest is the potential impact on the career prospects of health and physical education teachers.

“You see gyms already that have replaced human staff with digital screens which either instruct the class or measure the output of the participants,” Dr Gard said.

“Similar things are happening in school physical education programs in the United States.

“Do we need to send someone to university for three-to-four years if they are there merely to over-see children using technology?

“And if you could train a health and physical education teacher in a matter of months, what would that mean for their pay scale?

“Then think of a perfect storm, where performance pay for health and physical education teachers is linked to children losing weight, and you introduce some very tricky ethical situations. Once again, some American states are moving in this direction.”

The study will also investigate how schools use digital technology to measure students, such as their BMI (body mass index), and what becomes of the data once collected.

Dr Gard is interested in speaking with Australian teachers and schools that already identify as being innovative with the use of digital technology in health and physical education.

Media: Associate Professor Michael Gard +61 407 894 607, m.gard@uq.edu.au; UQ Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences Communications Kirsten O’Leary 07 3345 7436 or 0412 307 594, r.burgin@uq.edu.au.

Tomatis Method

The Tomatis Method is an alternatively based sound healing therapy, which was developed by the French ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Alfred A. Tomatis. This process, also known as Audio-Psycho-Phonology (APP), had its roots in Dr Tomatis’ work with opera singers who had vocal problems; his own father was an opera singer. Tomatis discovered that many vocal problems were actually caused by hearing problems and formulated the theory that “the voice does not produce what the ear does not hear”.

Dr Tomatis went on to develop his Electronic Ear, which is a therapeutic device designed to utilise electronic gating, bone conduction transducers and sound filters to enhance missing frequencies. Toning up the muscles within the middle ear, to sensitise the listener to sound frequencies they are currently not hearing, is the aim of this therapy.  The Tomatis effect has helped numerous auditory processing disorders (APD), such as: dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities and autism, to name a few. Children, in particular, have benefitted from working therapeutically with the Tomatis Method.

Famously Dr Tomatis has successfully worked with iconic French movie stars Gerard Depardieu and Juliette Binoche to transform their voices as performers. Musicians, singers and actors around the world have benefitted from the Tomatis Method; improving their creativity and vocal skills. The Tomatis Method has trained practitioners, healing sufferers of sensory processing disorders, globally. Other notable performers who have been treated with the Tomatis Method are the singers Sting and Maria Callas.

The auditory process employs the music of Mozart, some Gregorian Chanting and recordings of the patient’s mother as it tunes up the ear. The theory bases its successful work on the physiological framework that the brain receives its energy through the auditory process. Damage to the ability to listen to, or hear, certain sound frequencies deprives the brain of balanced energetic input. Harmonious auditory sensory input is vital to our sense of wellbeing; distortion and white noise are at the opposite end of the spectrum causing disfunctionality.

The treatments of autism, with therapies like the Tomatis Method, have provoked contentious reactions from sections of the medical establishment, here in Australia and elsewhere around the world. Exclusive ownership of this, currently considered, incurable condition by the medical fraternity is a fairly standard ethical position, when viewed historically. Ongoing scientific studies into the efficacy of the Tomatis Method continue today, to measure its healing value in a number of auditory sensory disorders.

Self Managed Super

Self managed superannuation funds are in the political spotlight at the moment as both sides of the Australian political spectrum debate the merits of the current taxation laws in regard to superannuation. There is a generational divide to this argument, as well, as younger Australians see unfairness in the current Australian economy, which favours wealthier, older Australians, providing them with far more substantial tax benefits through their superannuation contributions.

The statistical data, which shows that richer Australians are getting wealthier and that the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is widening, provides stimulus for those who demand a more equitable Australia. The political debate generally revolves around the differing strategies of the political parties, with those on the right side wishing to reward the ‘producers’ within the economy, and those on the left wanting to redistribute their wealth in search of a fairer economic community. In balance both arguments have genuine merit and Australia is in the process of finding that middle ground in regard to superannuation.

The advantages of self managed super are the investment options, which are far wider; meaning that your SMSF can invest in direct shares, property, cash accounts, unlisted assets and corporate debt. The generous and flexible tax benefits offered by an SMSF to its trustees are substantially superior to traditional industry or retail super funds. The SMSF is not really any cheaper to operate than public superannuation funds but there is a far greater level of control over these costs. Professional specialist advice is recommended when setting up your self managed super fund.

Superannuation is now most Australian’s second largest asset, after the family home, so it is a highly important and therefore emotive topic, when changes to policies are mooted by governments and political parties. Superannuation was implemented by the Hawke/Keating government to head off the looming pension crisis, caused by an ageing Australian population. Economists could see that the worsening ratio of taxpaying workers to older Australians, receiving social security payments through the aged pension, would produce an unsustainable budgetary position over the long term. Forced savings through super was supposed to drastically reduce the number of Australians who would require the support of a full aged pension, but softening asset and income test requirements, over successive governments, has seen sustained levels of older Australians on the aged pension.

Self managed super funds are here to stay and they offer greater control and benefits for their trustees. Adjustments to the levels of taxation breaks on contributions and the amounts of those contributions may occur down the track. The flexibility and autonomy offered by the SMSF will continue to see their popularity rise in the super marketplace.

Green Marketing

Green marketing as a marketing strategy has been with us since the nineteen eighties and nineties, when it emerged, predominantly within developed countries, in response to concerns about pollution, the environment and sustainability of resources. Environmental activists embarked on a strategy to encourage businesses and consumers to show their support for global and local ecological action through the marketplace. Businesses would promote their green bonafides and consumers would purchase their products and services over those of non-ecologically minded companies.

Since those early years there has been an explosion of green marketing in the twenty first century, especially in response to the growing scientific and community awareness around global warming. A sense of urgency entered the environmental debate within governments globally when economists began to plot the costs of global warming to economies around the world. In Australia, the Garnaut Climate Change Review in 2008 enabled the then Australian Government to forecast the dangers of inaction to our economy, and to move toward strategic policies designed to halt its spread. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in his 2007 speech to the United Nations climate change conference in Bali, stated, “that climate change represents one of the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenges of our age”.

Subsequently, the climate change debate has been heavily politicised in Australia, and in countries around the world. Deniers of global warming have made their opinions known throughout the media in questioning the science behind climate change. Funding for climate change deniers has been linked to corporations who would be adversely affected by economic policies such as an emissions trading scheme and a tax on carbon. Conservative political parties have appealed to their voter’s concerns with the short term economic pain in any adjustment to strategies designed to combat climate change. The election of Tony Abbot’s Liberal National Party coalition to government in Australia has flagged a reaction within the community to these economic policies.

Green marketing remains a powerful tool in the marketplace, as consumers continue to patronise companies, which signal their eco credentials. The sincerity behind green branding is at times questioned within sectors of the Australian community, but, by and large, it is seen as a force for positive environmental change. ’Greenwashing’ is a pejorative term used to point the finger at cynical companies and industries, which superficially market themselves as ecologically minded without fundamentally altering their unsustainable business practices.

Products and services aligned with green principles have a trajectory in the marketplace, only matched by the market’s love of technological innovation within consumer devices. The green can, and bottle, of Coke Life illustrates the iconic shift that has occurred within the global market toward environmentally sustainable products and services. Green marketing or Greenwashing? Only you will be able to answer that question!

 

Eco Friendly Waste Management

Eco friendly waste management begins at home, or at your workplace. There are a number of proactive things that you can do to ensure that your waste management practices are eco friendly. A good first step is to take note of the amounts of organic waste/food that you or your household throw out, as compared to recyclable packaging waste. Composting can dispose of a large portion of this organic waste. Basically, just burying your wet rubbish in your garden will take care of the majority of this waste matter.

What if you live in an apartment, as many Australians residing in cities now do?

Here is an opportunity to compost on your balcony, or perhaps, approach friends with houses and gardens and arrange a swap to contribute to their compost levels. Communities deal with issues like waste management much better than individuals, or individual households. Compost can be a valuable commodity to keen gardens; your trash can be their treasure. Enrich a friend’s garden today!

Workplaces offer a range of opportunities to reduce waste matter generally and to create eco friendly outcomes for this shared management of waste. We are all in this together and we need to work together, both labour and management, to take responsibility for our rubbish. Organic matter, once again, is best composted, and setting up a communal compost point can be both fun and productive. Things like this bring people together!

Recyclables, like wastepaper, can be reused in offices and factories to reduce waste matter; and this will reduce costs as well. When recycling empty bottles make sure that they are empty and remove the lids.  Do not recycle paper and cardboard spoiled by food, like pizza boxes and takeaway bags. Help the recycling process along with smart choices.

Plastic bags are a major waste management problem at work and at home; reduce your use of them. Recycle plastic bags for your own personal uses, don’t just throw them out and get another one. Remember to take your re-useable green bags to the supermarket with you; keeping them in the car is a good idea to make sure that they are accessible when needed. Go to supermarkets and shops which encourage re-useable bags. In South Australia the free plastic carry bag has been outlawed at supermarkets, which has reduced the number of these plastic bags in landfill. There is, however, still a very long way to go in the battle against plastic bags in landfill, in Australia, and globally.

The Hands of Time

This story was inspired by a true incident told to me about a relative. A great uncle who had been a local golf professional, now retired and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, was regularly picked up by police whilst lost and out walking, sometimes late at night. This old chap would give the police putting lessons back at the station, whilst awaiting collection by a family member. The issues of ageing and the game of golf’s broad appeal are presented entwined within this short narrative.

Robert Hamilton is a writer, student of history, and a keen golfer. He is currently working on a collection of short stories, inspired by sport, but also dealing with what it means to be alive; to be titled She’ll Be Right Sport. He lives in hope of breaking 80. www.midasword.com.au

THE HANDS OF TIME

By Robert Hamilton

Constable Davis sitting in the front passenger seat noticed the man first. He pointed him out to his partner, Senior Constable Vickery, who was driving the police car. The man was striding down the footpath, which ran adjacent to Stirling Highway. It was not the gait of the man, which drew the attention of Constable Gary Davis, but the fact that he was wearing what clearly looked like pyjamas and that it was nearly three am. The highway and surrounding streets were deserted; Perth was a quiet city after midnight mid week. The police car drew level with the walking man, and Davis could see that he was an older Caucasian white male, winding down his window he hailed the man to stop.

The figure in the blue and white striped pyjamas turned his head and faced the policeman who was leaning his head out of the window. The old man, although bent over a bit, was well over six feet tall and broad chested. His arms hung down by his sides and he looked like a man who had made his living with his hands. His feet were bare, white, hairy, toe nails thick and yellow; there were traces of blood beneath them.

“Excuse me Sir, everything alright? Can we help you with anything? Pretty late to be out and about.”

The old fella was clearly confused. His gaze took in the flashing lights atop the blue and white patrol car, the uniformed occupants of the vehicle, and the sound of the police radio with its staccato blasts of disembodied voices. As his eyes flickered back and forth from face to face, to empty highway left and right, and back to the idling police car time seemed to slow down, stop and start, blinking like the flashing lights.

“Can you give us your name Mister? Where are you going to tonight in such a hurry?”

The pyjama clad man made move to walk away and Constable Davis clicked open his door, and rose out of his seat to prevent the old chap from doing so.

“Steady on old fella. What’s your name? Are you alright mate, can we give you a lift somewhere?”

The words hung in the air seemingly going nowhere. The man squinted his eyes in an effort to concentrate on something fleeting. All these words directed at him and too many shiny surfaces reflecting pieces of light. Where was he going? He knew he had to get somewhere quickly but for the life of him couldn’t remember where.

Gary Davis turned to his partner, Ethan Vickery, and said, “I think that we better take him back to the station, I don’t reckon this old chap knows what’s going on.”

“Yeah Okay Gary I will call it in and let them know we are heading back.”

“Okay Dad we are going to give you a ride back to somewhere nice and warm. Maybe get you a cup of tea or something to warm you up.”

Constable Davis gently steered the pyjama clad man through the now open rear door of the police car and onto the empty seat. A frightened look on the big fella’s face and a raising of his arms caused Constable Davis to increase his hold on the man. The man suddenly spoke for the first time.

“I don’t know who you chaps are but I am really alright…. aah…I really think that I can manage on my own thanks.”

“Well let’s start with your name then Grandad. Can you tell us your name?”

They were back at the station and the old chap, still in his blue and white pyjamas, was nursing a cup of tea, seated at the desk of Senior Constable Vickery. His eyes were red and the large grey skinned bags under them spoke of the late hour, especially under the harsh fluorescent station lights. Nobody looked particularly well under their examining force. Davis thought the bloke must be at least seventy five by the looks of the deeply etched lines on his neck and face. Still had a full head of grey tinged blackish hair though and those arms were well muscled despite the advanced years. His hands were something else again. Davis nudged his partner indicating the old chap’s hands and Vickery acknowledged the tremendous size of the old bloke’s hands. Big hairy mitts with enormous swollen knuckles on each prodigious digit.

“Eric!”

The two policemen broke off their examination of their guest’s phalanges, snapping out of their momentary reverie to process this proffered data. Vickery the more senior of the two policemen was first to respond.

“Okay Eric and do you have a last name?”

The elderly figure smiled at the two coppers and basked for a few seconds in the joyous certainty of remembering his own first name. His gaze then took in an old black and white photograph, framed and hanging on the wall of the station. The image depicted Claremont Railway station sometime near its opening, late in the nineteenth century. He remembered being a boy when things looked like that, the horse drawn carts and the early motor cars. The sound of the steam trains and the smell of horse shit.

“Eric. Eric can you remember your surname, your family name?”

Eric looked vacantly toward the intent faces of the questioning police officers. He wondered exactly what he had done wrong and why he was being interrogated. They did seem to be nice young chaps but with so many difficult questions for him. He was feeling tired and would like to lie down. He couldn’t remember where his bedroom was and which doorway would lead to it. The panic was there again, the unreasoning expanse of nothingness rising up inside of him.

“Eric. My name is Constable Ethan Vickery and this is Constable Gary Davis. And your name is Eric …..?”

Nothing. Nothing was there but a blankness. Eric brought his hand up from the surface of the desk and looked over his hand, perhaps hoping for clues or that the answer might be written on the back of his hand. He remembered as a boy writing important things on the back of his hand, during tests and exams it had been a useful practice. As long as the master did not catch you out, then you were up for six of the best.

“You have a fair pair of hands Eric. They must have come in handy with work and stuff I imagine. Work with your hands did you Eric?”

“I was a golf pro.”

The two policemen glanced impressively at each other.

“A golf pro. And where abouts did you ply your trade Eric? What golf club did you work at?”

“Swanbourne. Cottesloe Golf Club I was the head professional there for thirty years.”

“Now we are getting somewhere I think Gary. We can probably trace Eric’s name from the golf club and get his address.”

“I bet those big hands of his were a sight to see wrapped around a golf club.”

“Were you a big hitter Eric? In your day?”

Eric looked up and held the two young policemen’s appreciative stares in his gaze.

“I was pretty handy of the tee, but as the old saying goes you drive for show but putt for dough. It all comes down to the short stick in the end. You need to roll that ball into the hole.”

“Perhaps we could get some lessons from you while you are here Eric. What do you think?”

“I would be very happy to oblige you officers with a few tips. A smooth stroke is what is required.”

Eric brought his two hands together to grip the handle of his hickory shafted putter. He felt the wound leather grip, which had been specifically tailored to the dimensions of his hands. A golfer’s hands were his real tools in this game of golf. His mentor had emphasised that it was the golfer’s grip which was the most important element in a successful swing. He remembered that overcast day, a rarity in Perth, when his father first took him along to see Mister McDermott the golf professional at the Cottesloe Club. He felt scared as he sat there waiting outside the pro shop, next to where the caddies had a shed. The sweat in the palms of his hands and the rapid beating inside his chest.

“Show me your hands boy. Let’s see how you hold this mashie niblick.”

The tall grey headed man had emerged from his rooms bearing a golf club. Grey woollen knickers and tartan stockings could not hide his lean well muscled legs.

“Come on lad up with you, out of the chair, we don’t have all day!”

Large gnarly hands picked up his own hands and turned them over to examine their constituent parts. The man’s skin felt rough and chapped but his touch was gentle. Eric relaxed a little into the strength of this man.

“Good size. Now grip this club boy. Let’s see how you hold a golf club.”

**********

“Eric. Eric are you okay mate? Want me to freshen up that cup of tea, its looks like it’s gone cold on you?”

Eric smiled at the speaking policeman and shook his head.

“Don’t bother yourself over me. I’m fine, thank you Officer.”

The two constables conferred amongst themselves in the station room, occasionally looking up to see that their guest was alright. They were now the only occupants of the police station at this pre-dawn period, waiting for their shift to end and for the day shift to arrive in another hour.

“I reckon someone will be at the Cottesloe Golf Club in about an hour and we can give them a call and see if they can fill us in about big boy Eric here.”

“Well why don’t I grab a putter and a few balls from my car and we stroke a few putts with Eric.”

“Sounds good to me Gary.”

*******************************

Mister McDermott watched young Eric chip his golf ball to the practice green. Watching carefully how the boy held the club and his stance. The ball tracked toward the hole and came to rest about two feet past. The pro motioned for Eric to join him and waited for the boy to saunter over to him, club in hand, ball in pocket.

McDermott was about six foot two inches and towered over the young boy. He led Eric to a waiting bench seat not far from the first tee, where they could watch a few of the members getting ready to tee off. Caddies were carrying the golfer’s leather bags containing their clubs for their morning round. Everything was very green, the grassy fairways and the bordering foliage and trees.

“I call this my green cathedral,” Mister McDermott suddenly announced.

“A place of prayer, pain and the occasional miracle.” He smiled at Eric as he said this. “And you could be a part of this Master Roberts, if you so desire.”

Eric was silent he wasn’t sure if he was expected to say anything at this point. He looked up at the overcast sky and watched a bird fly low over the gum tree to his right. Everything was slowing down it seemed and Eric was feeling more aware of himself than usual; it was like that final second before you hit your ball.

“Would you like that Eric? Would you be prepared to work hard and make this club proud to have you?”

Eric nodded his head solemnly, or what he hoped appeared that way, and held Mister McDermott’s piercing gaze for at least a second or two. Glancing down at his feet he noticed the scratches that the black boot polish had failed to hide.

“You have a fine pair of hands Eric; golfer’s hands. Your hands and their grip on the club are the most important part of the golf swing. Without golfer’s hands you can never become a player, and as a professional you must be able to play well boy. To teach the members, to advise and if possible inspire them.”

McDermott sat back on the bench and breathed a sigh of, who knows what, contentment, sadness, ennui? Eric definitely didn’t know but he felt at home here, more than that, he felt like he was about to begin here.

“Let me tell you a story lad. A story about a fella called Old Tom Morris. Mister Morris was one of the first golf pro’s in the entire world. He was a denizen of a place called Fyfe in Scotland. Have you heard of Scotland Eric?”

The young boy nodded his assent and watched the whiskers on McDermott’s sideburns twitch as he spoke.

“Old Tom Morris, and the reason why they called him that was because he had a son, also a golf professional, called Young Tom Morris. They both plied their trade at a golf course by the name of St Andrews and this was no ordinary gold course; this was, and still is, the home of golf. The very first golf course and it was marked out by God, with the help of a few sheep and those winds that terrorise a true links course.”

Eric could see the florid skin beneath Mister McDermott’s whiskers glowing brighter as he shared this story. He understood that it was important, somehow, the passing on of this tale about a Scottish golf pro. He looked down at his hands and wondered what made them so special, so different to other boy’s hands.

“Well, Old Tom was the son of a weaver and them weavers needed real good hands too. Strong hands that could weave all day. Tom became an apprentice at St Andrews at about your age. He learnt how to make golf clubs, as you will Eric, and he learnt every single thing about becoming a golf professional, and eventually he became the greatest golf player in the world; winning The Open Championship four times.”

The boy took all of this in and wondered whether he would ever win the Open Championship, or whether he was expected to do so.

“Old Tom Morris worked as a green-keeper, club maker, ball maker, golf teacher, course designer and tournament professional. One day Old Tom was teaching a young apprentice at his course and was having a wee bit of difficulty in instructing the young chap as to the right grip pressure when playing a stroke. He could see that the boy was choking the life out of that golf club handle. and that this was not allowing him to release the club head through the ball. The lad was pulling the shot something awful. Old Tom had pleaded with the boy, “Andrew lad, you must have a light touch on the club.” But to no avail Andrew was determined not to let that spoon even think about slipping out of his hands.

Eventually Tom decided to approach the problem from another angle entirely. Taking Andrew down to the shoreline of the Fyfe of Fief, where there was a birder plying his trade in water birds. After giving young Andrew his solemn speech about the special importance of the hands to a professional golfer and how his grip is the only thing linking him to the golf club, Old Tom, like a West End magician produced from his knickers a warbling duckling. Fluffy in matt grey feathers and somewhat distressed, he held that baby bird before him like some votive offering. He then asked Andrew to place his hands on the throat of the frantic duckling, but before he did so he had to promise Old Tom not to strangle the wee bird and also not to let the bird get away. Faced with this life and death conundrum young Andrew peered into the eyes of the desperate duckling and then into the sage old glare of Old Tom. He gingerly reached out toward the living creature, both of them afraid, and he placed his large golfer’s hands around the delicate neck of this feathered creature and sensitively adjusted his grip pressure before nodding to Old Tom, who then let go. He felt the bird struggle to be free of him and yet he held on, he could feel just how easy it would be to crush that tiny windpipe and break its neck. Andrew found his equilibrium. He found the middle pathway. And Old Tom smiled one of his rare smiles, and told him to remember this moment and this sensation whenever he was holding a club out on the course. It was a Goldilocks moment, a just right sensation. The bird shat on the boy’s golf shoes.

*****************

Eric could see that Constable Davis now had a putter in his hands and that there were several golf balls at his feet on the police station carpet. He rose gingerly, his feet were very sore. He wondered where his Footjoys were, his smart brown brogues. No matter, he reached out for the putter and gently placed his hands on the rubber grip. His thumbs came together, the right slightly lower than the left but both pointing down the club’s shaft. It felt good to be holding a putter again. It felt right.

The two police officers watched as the enormous hands encircled the grip of the putter and emanated a degree of comfort and belonging noticeably absent from their own efforts at gripping the putter. Eric lowered the putter head to the carpet surface and began to brush it with rhythmic movements like the pendulum within a grandfather clock. The two constables were somewhat spellbound in the presence of this aged golf master.

“Putting the golf ball is all about a smooth stroke gentlemen. It is a rocking of the shoulders. A gentle motion, which involves rolling a ball across a smooth surface. Smooth back and smooth through”

Eric knelt slowly down, his aching joints complaining, and placed an empty coffee mug on its side down on the floor some ten feet from the golf balls. Stepping tenderly back to the golf balls he took his stance, the putter at address behind the first of the dimpled white spheres. Both policemen watched intently as the old golf pro took the putter head back and then through the stationary ball, initiating a roll which propelled that golf ball into the open mouth of that coffee cup ten feet away.

“Way to go Eric great stroke!” they chimed in unison. It was like they were children again being initiated into a new game. Watching Eric stroke that ball, the walls of the station seemed to fade and roles were reversing with every roll of that hypnotic white ball.

Eric repeated the process and again that small white ball found its unerring way into the concave cavity within the mug.

“You need to keep your head and body still at the moment of impact. Only the rocking motion of your shoulders direct your arms, hands and the putter toward the target.”

Eric motioned Constable Davis over to him and proffered the putter.

“Here you have a try Officer.”

Awkwardly, the young policeman took the club and began to lay his hands around the putter grip. Eric reached out and placed his enormous old hands over the constables’ grip, delicately adjusting the positioning of the police officer’s digits and gripping of the putter handle. He shyly looked up at Eric, as he would a granddad at Christmas, who had bought him a present.

“Try that, you might find it feels a lot more comfortable. Now have a few practice strokes, rocking your shoulders back and forth. Don’t force anything, just let it happen.”

Constable Gary Davis brushed the surface of the carpet, tentatively at first but more assuredly as he continued. Constable Vickery had removed the putted balls from the coffee mug and now placed them alongside his partner’s putter.

“Now give it a go Son,” Eric instructed the young policeman.

The solid clocking sound of the struck golf ball preceded its rolling journey toward the open coffee mug , time seemed to stand still, the ball turned end over end making its way over the mottled mustard carpet. Existence took a deep breath and held it, and then without further ado that white ball hit the bottom of the cup.

“Way to go Gary?”, whooped Ethan Vickery. “Old Eric here has turned you into a pro on the greens.”

Gary smiled at his partner and Eric, nodding his appreciation of the old pro’s teaching method and the seemingly instantaneous results.

Eric enjoyed the fact that he had made the policemen happier and was at last finding his way in this new universe. Looking around he was unfamiliar with the lay-out and decor of these rooms and uncertain of how he had found himself here. The golf balls and the putter were familiar objects but the setting and characters strangely alien. This bubble of reality was occurring but had no connection with anything else. There were things he knew and much more that he did not. His world was cut into strips and they were flickering like the light on the shiny buttons of the policemen’s uniforms. Eric was often afraid now and uncertain about which direction to head in. The golf course was unfamiliar to him, the lay-out of the holes mysterious. He didn’t know whether he should lay-up or go for the green.

 

©Robert Hamilton

ANZAC Celebration of War

Are We Celebrating War?

Every year, as the ANZAC ceremonies come around again and seem to exponentially grow in stature and public awareness, I ask myself, is the message we are sending our children the right one? Celebrity status to the young is accepted generally without much analysis and the glorious stories of these young men who unwittingly sacrificed their lives may be generating the wrong signals. As a father of two young children I am hopeful that my own abhorrence of war, and more importantly its causes, are still paramount in the minds of my children, and in the greater community. Are we focusing on the resultant individual consequences of great wars to the detriment of understanding and condemning the reasons why we find ourselves at war with, other members of the human race?

As a historian I spend a considerable amount of time analysing past conflicts between nation states and I am amazed at the general ignorance amongst the population about the political causes of the wars Australia has been involved in over its short history. ANZAC day, in my opinion, is an opportunity for all of us to spend some time thinking about these conflicts and the factors that contributed to their emergence. In some way this new found reverence for the fallen participants in Gallipoli, in particular, reminds me of what used to be far more keenly felt about the Christian religious festivals, which also reflects a similar ignorance of the actual historical details by the general population. Many people say they find the study of history boring and or a waste of time but it is an understanding of our past actions and policies, which will save us from repeating horrendous mistakes costing the lives of millions.

ANZAC

Some would say that the commemoration of ANZAC day is precisely about an awareness of our history as a nation, but to me its focus is sentimental and iconic. ANZAC day is creating symbols of nationhood, the sacrificial soldier on the altar of freedom, but isn’t the question why we were fighting in the first place equally deserving of gross public recognition? Why do we send the very youngest men into battle? It is a historical and universal social policy practiced by ancient to modern civilisations to commit young men into the violent service of their state’s militaries. Young men seek glory and fame. Young men act first and ask questions later. Young men are more likely to obey their commanders over their own consciences, than older and possibly wiser men or women. History is littered with nations and kingdoms that have spent the lives of their young men, often cheaply, in search of conquest.

The ANZACS and Australian soldiers in WWII were, we are told, defending our country rather than in search of conquest. Australia in the First World War was tied culturally to mother Britain and it was expected that we would send troops to support Britain’s involvement in this highly dubious, in my opinion, global war. WWI was the catastrophic crowning glory of the Princes of Europe, the egos of Kaisers, Czars and Kings combined with new technologies to fertilise the battlefields with an entire generation of young men’s blood and bones. The resultant victory of the Allies led to the onerous Treaty of Versailles, which impinged greatly on Germany’s future; creating Hitler and WWII. A rather brief surmising of events but true enough in essence; look at how the US handled post war Germany and Japan after their WWII defeats to see how useful the lessons of history are.

Australian soldiers in more recent conflicts are now acting, with other soldiers from developed nations, as more like global policemen in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, supposedly engaging and defeating the forces of tyrants and terrorists. The world is a complex place and the reasons for war are multiple, actions can be both right and wrong, can achieve good and bad outcomes; just look at Iraq. The media coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been micromanaged by the military to avoid the antiwar reaction engendered by the very visual conflict in Vietnam. Countries like Australia, Britain and the US are controlling what their citizens are allowed to see on their television and computer screens when it comes to military actions. Orwell’s 1984 is merely set a few decades early when we consider today’s public presentation of war and the controlled perceptions these governments wish to oversee.

We seem unflinching in our fictional reimaginings of the horrors of Gallipoli on our viewing screens, but it is easy to empathise with the affects of atrocities committed a hundred years ago upon distant relatives or strangers. Real war doesn’t currently touch the majority of Australians, as we are turned away from confronting its direct images by government policy, and only a minority of us have a connection to it through family or friend, or have experienced it ourselves. The Australian identity is linked to that of the iconic ANZACS by the fact of their almost universal presentation as Anglo-Saxon Aussies. The real effects of war upon refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka make little impact on the hearts of Australians, despite the fact that these have just happened or are maybe still happening right now. Our great public sadness is reserved for the ghosts of men and women who died up to a hundred years ago. We are authorised to feel greatly for these mainly white ancestors but actively encouraged to despise and be indifferent to the suffering of men, women and children who are clearly not Australian and thus not deserving of our sympathy. Real war is happening in Africa and the Middle East right now, people being killed and blown up, slaughter and rape everywhere. It is interesting how we rationalise and fit these realities into our ethical positions on what deserves our attention and empathy. Lest we forget.

Kitchen gods and sacrifice

Excerpt from – House Therapy – Discovering who you really are at home!

By Sudha Hamilton

House Therapy is Sudha’s soon to be published new book.

 

The Kitchen

The Ancient Greeks, who gave us many of the founding principles upon which we base our modern societies – democracy; logic; philosophy; literature and poetry to name but a few salient examples, had  a rich collection of gods and goddesses. Hestia was the goddess of hearth and home, older sister to Zeus and first born of the titans Kronos and Rhea – perhaps not as well known today as her siblings Demeter, Hera, Haides and Poseidon.  This may have been due to the fact that she was swallowed first by her titan father Kronos, who in  a bid to avoid being overthrown by one of his children, as prophesied, ate all his children, she was thus the last to be regurgitated, once Zeus had forced his father to do so.

The Romans also worshipped her in their homes and knew her as Vesta. The areas of responsibility for which Hestia was worshipped and sacrificed to, were most aspects of domestic life and in particular what we now call the kitchen. For it is around the cooking hearth or kitchen that a home or house builds up or out. Hestia was always toasted at the beginning of a meal in thanks for the hospitality proffered. She was probably where the early Christians appropriated their ‘saying of grace’ before dinner from.

Homeric Hymn 24 to Hestia (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.) :
“Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet,–where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. And you, Argeiphontes [Hermes], son of Zeus and Maia, . . . be favourable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear. Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together; for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid on their wisdom and their strength. Hail, Daughter of Kronos, and you also, Hermes.”

Interestingly Hestia was a virginal goddess and refused the suits of both Apollo and Poseidon. Perhaps this is where we get the separation of the sexual roles of the wife and mother in the home and the focus on providing nurture and hospitality instead. Hestia was seen as the giver of all domestic happiness and good fortune in the home and she was believed to dwell in the inner parts of every home. She was also the first god mentioned at every sacrifice, as she represented the hearth where sacrifices took place – this is the direct link to our kitchens today and the genesis of the sacred chef. There are very few temples of Hestia extant and this is thought to be because every home was her temple in the Hellenistic world. I think we can draw some intuition from this in our view of our homes being places of divine inspiration.

The kitchen has of late become a popular focus of interest, with TV chefs and groovy restaurants grabbing the public’s imagination. For House Therapy the kitchen represents our centre, our practical and instinctual selves. This is where we prepare food for family and ourselves. It is also often where food is stored in the refrigerator and pantry cupboards. Food is about survival and security. There is no bullshit about these things and the kitchen is a place where the elements of nature still regularly intervene. Fire on the stove and in your oven; water at the sink, earth in the bench tops and structure; and air in the extractor, fan forced oven and all around. You can be hurt in the kitchen if you do not pay attention to what you are about. Unlike the faux furies vented in the kitchens on TV, you can experience some real passions in these hot and pressurised places at home. You might be burning fingers and dishes, dropping scoldingly hot plates and crying bitter tears over chopped onions. The kitchen is where we show our real reactions to strong emotions, pressure in our lives and our appetites and jealousies.

Have a look around now at your kitchen, the colour of the walls and general lay-out of things. What is your first impression? What does it say to you about your instinctive self? Are you clinical or passionate? Are the walls white/neutral or vivid/strong colours? Is it large or small? Is the instinctual, raw and pragmatic you an important part of your life? Or is it hidden away or missing? The trend in studio apartment architecture now, to build them without kitchens and have neutered mini servery’s instead, is a reflection of a missing essential in sections of our culture. Stripping away the practical ability to fend for yourself by cooking your own food and becoming dependent on pre-prepared meals is symptomatic of us having lost our way along the journey. Is your kitchen well equipped? Can you cook? Do you enjoy cooking for friends, family and yourself?

Returning to the rich historical connection our modern day kitchen has with Hestia’s hearth, as mentioned earlier it was the place where the highly necessary ritualised sacrifices took place. These sacrifices usually involved a calf or some other domesticated animal and those involved with the sacrifice would share in eating the meat of the roasted animal. So the power of the sacrifice would be in the ritualised slaughtering of the animal in dedication to the goddess for a particular purpose – to bring good fortune upon whatever was so desired for example. Today the cook or cooks go into the kitchen, risking cuts, perspiration and burns, to prepare a celebratory meal for our friends and or family – Christmas, birthdays and other days of ritualised festivities. We may not consciously invoke Hestia or any other gods but the overall intention is the same, we wish to share good cheer with those we love and bring good fortune upon us all.

It is interesting to ask oneself what is true sacrifice and what does it mean in our lives today? When we think of sacrificing something, we tend to see it as foregoing or missing out on something so as to have something else. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.” Which I have always thought was an incredibly stupid saying, because what is the point of possessing uneaten cake? A sacrifice I hear you say, perhaps a slice for the gods. Interestingly the Greeks and Romans would eat the cooked flesh of their sacrifice, offering the bones and fat to the gods and goddesses, but it was the life itself, that was the real sacrifice in my view. The word sacrifice means to make sacred, so whatever we offer up in dedication to the gods becomes sacred. Actually the word anathema, was the Greek word forlaying-up or suspending something in wait for the gods, and it is has now taken on the meaning of something that is accursed, through its contact, down through the ages, with the jealous Hebrew  god, Yahweh; the Christian god. Our language, and lexicon of words, have taken an interesting journey over the last four millennia, and it is no wonder we are all a little confused at times. So we could make  a correlation between sacrificing something in our life and that thing, which  has been sacrificed becomes anathema to us or accursed. How do you feel about the things you have sacrificed in your life? A person’s love; a relationship; a career; types of food; alcohol; drugs; sex; lifestyle; freedom?  We do not live in a particularly sacrificial age, more of a ‘you can have it all’ age, but can you really enjoy it all and be present for entirely disparate things in your life? Do we appreciate things more when we make room for them in our lives? Perhaps sacrifice still has a part to play in our lives today, better sharpen those knives.

The kitchen is also a place of transformation, where base elements are turned into the gold of love and nourishment. Is your kitchen a space where magic like this happens, regularly or just on special occasions? Domestic kitchens have a great tradition throughout the West of being incredibly impractical, lacking preparation space and adequate and functional cupboards. This is now being addressed in more modern homes, as the passion is returning to the kitchen. I think that we suffered for a few decades from the ‘American wonder of white goods’ syndrome, where no home was complete without these wonderful space and time saving machines and that a mentality of faster was better grew up around them. Fast foods, sliced white bread, whipped cream in a can, all these travesties were accorded the haloed status of modernity and progress. When in actual fact they were soulless short cuts that ripped the heart out of good cooking. Yes we still do have a lot of gadgets in the kitchen but we also now understand that good food still needs dedication and application. Bread makers are great, but bread cooked in a wood fired oven tastes better and if it is naturally fermented sour dough even better. Espresso coffee from your home machine tastes a lot better than instant coffee.

Your kitchen is a place where you can practically respond to the basic needs of living. Is your kitchen letting you do this? Is your kitchen supporting you in feeling centred and secure in dealing with the vicissitudes that life often throws up? Are your knives sharp and well balanced? Do you have enough bench space when preparing meals? Does your stove cook the way you want it to cook?  If not then you are letting yourself down and going around with a bloody great hole where your centre should be. As a member of the human tribe you need to be able to fend for yourself, and the kitchen can empower you to be grounded in the here and now. Not wafting around on the ceiling hoping for the crumbs of human kindness to drop your way.

Things we can do to transform our kitchen

As a chef, who has owned and managed a number of restaurants and cafes, I know all about kitchens and their design downfalls. First and foremost it is about space and in particular bench top space where most kitchens, especially older kitchens, are lacking. Storage space comes a close second and it is in these areas that a solid beginning can be made in transforming your kitchen from a frustration trap into a pragmatic pleasure dome. Cooking is never completely easy, if it is, it isn’t real cooking, in my opinion, there must be some blood, sweat and tears in every great dish but not too much. Unnecessary suffering is not on anyone’s menu by choice.

Buy an island bench if you lack bench top space and cannot easily create more, they are great and I have several of them, and you can take them with you when you move.

Sharp knives, that are also well weighted in the overall heft of the knife, can bring a smile to any good cook and I always say, “happiness is a sharp knife.”

Obviously kitchens need to be clean and cleaned regularly for all sorts of reasons, hygiene, health and happiness. Clutter in the kitchen causes chaos and calamity, food takes longer to prepare and the energy around it is bad.

Trapped dead energy, in the form of rotting and old produce in fridges and cupboards, does not augur well for happy kitchen gods and thus producing yummy healthy and nutritious food; so clean out and clean up.

 

©Sudha Hamilton

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Is Sex A Mystical Gateway?

 

Is sex a mystical gateway, to a boundless place of untold pleasures and exquisite pains, in your life?

Sex, I think, is different things at different times of our lives. It reflects what we are seeking, at that juncture, and therefore, who, we are attracting into our life. For it is a union of energies after all, and as they say in the song, “it takes two to tango, baby.” Occasionally that saying has some negative connotations, and similarly our sexual experiences can at times be defined by our partner’s energies, for good or bad.

Making love, having sex, it is a moment when we return to our interior universe and tune into our sensory responses. It is an intensely personal experience, which is also shared, in an intimate revelation of our essentially animal natures. We roar and groan, grunt and gasp, in a symphony of respiratory action, for our ride to pleasure is carried on each breath. It is that breath, which makes sexual activity a possible doorway to the divine. Reading Tim Winton’s novel, Breath, you can sense the parallels between experiences of the ocean and sexual experiences. Metaphorical language used to describe the tumbling; submerged qualities inherent inside a wave are similar to the ocean of bliss, inside us, which can well up during sex. At times we are letting go to the inextricable force of the sea, as we must’ let go’ to the surging currents within our sexuality. We ride upon, and inside, our wave of ecstasy and our breathing triggers the biochemical reactions, which can awaken orgasmic brain activity.

Sex is most often heightened at the beginning of a relationship, when two individuals come together as strangers and begin a process of removing outer signs of independent identity. Clothing, which like a uniform represents each individuals place and possibly role in society, is stripped away and they stand naked before one another. Clothing can hide essential truths, about who we are, and allow us to pretend to be someone we are not. Sex asks of us, right at the start, to play the hand we have been dealt by nature ( I suppose cosmetic surgery has interjected here).  Sex asks us to bring the bare truth to this union, as the key to opening a doorway to bliss. Our feelings, at the beginning, can be on a knife edge, as we show parts of ourselves, normally well hidden, and vacillate between hopes and fears, regarding our acceptance by the beloved. We are not only showing our arse in public but celebrating its function and uses with another. It is a merging process, as we share and discover our erogenous nooks and crannies with another.  Our normally vigilant guard comes down and our pupils dilate, as we hold the gaze of our lover and drink in the cause of this new delight. There is the magic of the unknown in the air and it is charged with the frisson of the archetypal merging moment. There is glory and boldness, and there is surrender and humbleness, there is the charging of the stag with antlers aquiver, and the dissolving into an endless ocean of energy. There are intense moments of you and equally intense moments beyond you. There is the ride and there is the fall.

Once committed to the fruitful sexual act, and thus rewarded with acceptance by our new sexual partner, we bring a sense of hope and with it the possibility of a clean slate, in regard to an ongoing mutually rewarding physical and emotional relationship. For ‘gateway’ sex, as I call it, is a magical, sacred space and we can only access it when we have hope in our heart. The sexual realm, can ask all of us to embody archetypal energies, no longer displayed by our genders in the modern age. It can create a dichotomy or unresolvable dynamic tension, where what we play out sexually can never quite fit into the rest of our lives. It has a special place and demands distinct rules around it, for it to survive and prosper in the twenty first century. So many relationships break down here, as the magic fades in the harsh light of the day and countless tiny grievances mount up to close his or her heart away. Once that heart and hope are locked away then sex becomes a macabre shadow dance, where the bodies go through the motions but with no soul at play. It can be like someone has switched off all the nerve endings, and more importantly all the meaning, from the activity. It is like making love whilst encased in a thick glove of suspended despair. The individual has returned to that individual space and no merging is possible anymore. When love dies it is a very sad day and our consciousness’s run endless reruns of sepia tinted memories to drive all joy away. Grieving the loss of love is probably the most traumatic experience we all will experience in our lifetimes. Like the bush after a fire, everything is black and burnt away. There are skeletons of trees, which mark how high our joy once reached. The echo of love’s laughter keeps the birds at bay. For a time nothing new will grow here and the skies are always grey.

Many of us have put away the magic of sex into the bottom drawer of an old cupboard, which we never use anymore. Somewhere inside of us we have sworn off this disrupting force and condemned that last great hurt to be the final one. We may masturbate our selves, often or not, but without the emotional commitment of another’s fumbling touch. Sex is a momentary relief to help us get to sleep or a frustrated release that doesn’t stain the sheets. Layers of emotional scar tissue have built up hard upon our souls and the smile we may offer another is firmly closed indoors.  When, and if, love returns to these shores it faces a long thaw and the messianic job of raising Lazarus from the dead. I know from my own personal experience that there can be a physical delay in being able to respond sexually after a long lay-off. It is like those layers of calcified hurt must be given time to melt away before my penis will trust enough to fill with blood and stretch out to meet the new day.

Returning now to that time, when we have just established honest sexual union with our new partner and that sense of being ‘in love’ is reciprocated.  Can you remember what it is like? When every part of their body is simply amazing and emanating some intangible quality. To touch their skin is the greatest pleasure you have ever known and it is all holistically connected with some cosmic secret that you just had no idea about before it happened. When you wake up in the morning and glance over at this beatific being, lying next to you and the realisation hits that you and, he or she, are ‘together’. This is the magic realm and it is often bitter sweet for our cynical selves to recall this state of ‘in loveness’.  We have developed the habit of ‘putting down’ such heightened states labelling them  as ‘the honeymoon period’ and quickly assuring the occupants that it will be over before you know it. You cannot stay too long in fairy land and Peter Pan must grow up to face the grim realities of a real relationship. Yet today, even in the age of ‘fast food’ marriages and divorces, we still clamour to be ‘in love’ and now the Internet has brought the supermarket experience to shopping for love and relationships.  In aisle one, we have forty five year old, divorced Capricorns with a penchant for reading the newspaper on the loo; in aisle two……..

How do we integrate magic into our hum drum lives? How do we honour the gods in our lovers and in ourselves? Can we maintain a sense of reality? Can we go to work; support the family; clean the bathroom; listen to the gripers and whingers in the average world; and still delve into the delicious, dripping divinity of another realm?

Is sex a mystical gateway, to a boundless place of untold pleasures and exquisite pains, in your life?

©Sudha Hamilton

CopyMW

 

Raising Children Consciously

RAISING CHILDREN CONSCIOUSLY

Subheading : Parenting for a peaceful world.

By Sudha Hamilton & Suzy Barry

Is parenting a thankless task of unfathomable consequences or an opportunity to bring a keener light of consciousness to our universe?

Parenting is a state that resides deep within the lands of instinct and tradition. The most common determinant of your parenting instincts is your own parents and how they parented you. Depending on the circumstances you may either repeat that act of parenting or do the opposite in reaction to the unwelcome reminder of your own parent-induced trauma.

This repetition in parenting behaviour patterns is condemning us to keep on making the same mistakes again and again. If you do not take responsibility for raising your children in the most enlightened manner possible then how can you ever expect them to take responsibility for themselves, their health, their state of mind and their ability to love. It is a challenge to stand apart from the ever repeating cycle and honestly ask yourself, “what do I want for my child in every moment?”

It is those moments that make up the whole. So what does it all mean? How can we apply the same level of consciousness to raising our children as we do to our own issues? Here are some practical solutions for ‘aware parenting’.

The “Fourth Trimester”

The first few months of new parenthood can be considered the “fourth trimester” of your baby’s life. For parents they are the most intense, but need not be the most difficult! Humans are born at the earliest maturation of all mammals. Consider other mammals that are born almost as fragile and dependent as humans. A baby orang-utan is carried almost constantly on its mother’s body until it is capable of dealing with life on its own. This is a useful way to look at the early months: it helps to separate the advice based on this premise and the advice characteristic of a fast-paced, ‘get things done’ society.

Controlled Crying

Controlled Crying is an example of a common practice considered to be harmful and unnatural by many. Keeping your baby close is what’s best for baby and your relationship with them. You might say, “There are no predators in the nursery, my baby is safe,” but the hollow sound of a baby’s unanswered anguished cries indicates a type of predator, a human emotional predator, which can engender a sense of abandonment and is extremely distressing for the infant. The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has expressed concern and does not encourage this practice of Control Crying and other variations on the theme, which essentially disregard the only method of communication available to your child. Babies and young children have shorter sleep cycles providing more opportunity for awakening but also more REM sleep and hence, essential brain development. This means that if those inconvenient awakenings that infants are prone to in the first two years or so, are by-products of the short sleep cycles, which are vital for their brain development. Controlled Crying and other sleep training methods designed to keep children asleep for longer periods, must train them out of these shorter cycles, hence rob them of their quota of REM.

Physical touch

English psychiatrist John Bowlby, developed in the nineteen sixties, what has come to be known as attachment theory. This theory holds that babies thrive best on having a secure touch orientated attachment to their parents, being constantly held rather than being placed in a pram or cot. More recently science has detected positive benefits to the babies immune system when they are predominantly held in states of physical closeness to the mother or primary carer.

When you think about it, it is not so surprising, having been inside the womb for nine months, the transition from mother’s body to spending large parts of the day in a pram or cot, away from the reassuring heart beat of the mother does seem harsh. Jean Liedloff in her nineteen seventy five seminal book, The Continuum Concept, named this vital stage in early childhood care the “in-arms phase.” Spending several years in the jungles of South America with a tribe of Indians, she observed a different and decidedly more nurturing way to raise children.

Skin to skin contact is a vital physical reassurance to the newborn child and like our monkey forebears this contact provides a successful two million year old continuum. Strapping the baby to the mother by means of a sling or other similar device allows the child to be part of the mother’s energy field and has been a part of numerous cultures throughout the world; in Africa; Asia and beyond. Through observation the baby is also learning about the mother’s universe, her day-to-day activities. Beware though of the front packs where the legs hang straight down, they are not good for spinal development. [STUDIES?]

Rochelle L. Casses, D.C, taken from http://continuum-concept.org/reading/spinalStress.html

“A baby’s spine is placed in a compromising position in many of today’s popular carriers. If the carrier positions the infant upright, with the legs hanging down and the bodyweight supported at the base of the baby’s spine (i.e. at the crotch), it puts undue stress on the spine which can adversely affect the development of the spinal curves and, in some cases, cause spondylolisthesis (forward slipping of a vertebra on the one below it).

Spondylolisthesis is documented in approximately 5% of white males, but is prevalent in native Eskimos (as high as 60% of the population is affected). There has been much discussion on the high percentage of affected Eskimos as to whether it is a genetic predisposition or related to environmental factors (i.e., papoose carriers). Knowing how dynamic and vital the biomechanics of the spine are, I believe that environmental factors are the cause. If the trend continues in the U.S. to carry infants in carriers (or place them in walkers, jumpers, etc.) that place their spines in a weight bearing position before the spine is developmentally ready to do so, I believe we will see an increase in the incidence of spondylolisthesis”

Breastfeeding

The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for the first two years and beyond. The WHO encourages food as a diet of food and bm after 6 months, exclusive bfeeding up to 2 years and beyond.

“Promoting appropriate feeding for infants and young children

10. Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the

healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral

part of the reproductive process with important implications for

the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation,

infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of

life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.1 Thereafter,

to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should

receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while

breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive

breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical

conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in

ample milk production.”

http://www.waba.org.my/docs/gs_iycf.pdf

The WHO’s recommendation to exclusively breastfeeding to six months should not be mistaken as an instruction to wean at six months. There are wonderful benefits to full term breastfeeding. Six months is such a premature time to wean when the human history is taken into account as is the world’s current population. If you can do it, the best foundation for ensuring your child’s needs are being met is to breastfeed on demand for the first year and as long as is mutually desirable. Some time in the second year, the child’s understanding of others’ needs may grow to allow you to gently begin to assert your own needs, your own instincts and your child’s reaction are the best guides here. Breast milk changes with the growing infant and is undoubtedly the best source of nutrition for a young child.

Toddler Years and Beyond

The toddler years are the beginning of individuation and undoubtedly the most challenging for many parents and children. The toddler is becoming aware that they are separate people and their own desires are emerging and taking control of their body, mind, voice and spirit. The age of the tantrum is upon you! How many of us have looked at or partaken in a sort of release therapy? Toddlers should be release therapy practitioners. They are open valves of emotion, they live in the moment and embody the oneness that so many of us are striving for.

Raising toddlers consciously means not crushing this exuberance, whilst guiding your tremendous toddler in the ways of the world, via your own personal boundaries. To parent authentically is to allow your toddler to express themselves within the boundaries you are comfortable with. There is no benefit to the toddler allowing them to climb on your head, while you patiently wait for their exuberance to change to respect, you need to indicate that you have personal boundaries. They are now ready for them. In teaching them that you need your boundaries respected, they will learn to give this respect and expect the same from others; here we have the foundation of respect for self.

Gentle Discipline

Gentle discipline means respecting your toddler as another human being. It does not mean allowing them to walk all over you as this is rarely what the toddler wants or needs. Gentle discipline involves negotiation from a place of empathy with a view to a long-term goal, as opposed to short-term convenience of an obedient toddler with eyes downcast in shame. Shaming and physical punishment/ solitary confinement (time-out) have become the cornerstone of popular discipline. This is what Robin Grille, psychologist and psychotherapist, in his book Parenting for a Peaceful World terms operating in “Socializing Mode”. The socializing mode is characterized by the preoccupation with social norms and producing children who will function well in society, be employable, polite and well mannered. In order to train children it is necessary to curb their natural desires in some way. Every time we employ these conventional methods, we are attempting to “break” our children. An obedient animal has its sprit broken, and every time this happens to a child, a little of them must surely die.

Redirection

If you see your child becoming aggressive, don’t wait for them to hit someone, and then punish them. Intervene, ask if they are feeling angry and tell them it is not acceptable to hit people, but that it is just fine to feel angry and invite them to belt a cushion to alleviate their frustration. This can be great fun!

Negotiation

Invite and employ negotiation. Think about the wonderful skills you are passing on by respecting their desires enough to negotiate. Blind obedience loses its appeal somewhat after about age 10, then we value initiative. Probably one of the few simple formulas: If your child doesn’t want their nappy changed, but it is stinky and you need to go out. You can say: “We have to change your nappy, but would you like to bring this toy with you, or this one?” Or “We have to change your nappy now, but would you like to do it on the change table or on the couch?” This alleviates the monotony a toddler must feel of not being in charge by giving them a choice within your own boundaries. You need to go out now – that is your boundary – so within that, what can you offer?

Allow Expression

Frustration abounds in the toddler years, they are becoming independent in so many ways, but their natural exuberance means that they are often met with opposition from parents and from their own capacity. Allow and encourage tantrums, they are the toddler’s therapy; they are valid expressions and should be honoured. If your child wants chocolate in the middle of shopping and you don’t want her to have it – fair enough! But…she will be upset and though it wouldn’t distress you that much, it is the end of the world for her, so there is no point telling her it’s not! Let her sit on the ground and have a ‘tanty’, really what’s the big deal, be brave and weather the disapproving glances of the old ladies who ‘never would have had that in their day’ or who would ‘have given them short shrift’. Remember, it is children brought up under that paradigm who pack the waiting rooms of therapists, and whose depression levels have hit record levels. Honour your child and focus on your child and you will be amazed at the transformation after she has grieved the chocolate experience that never was.

Look behind the behaviour

It is important that you delve beneath the behaviour presented by your child and always ask, “Why?” A holistic way is to look at the whole child, not just the behaviour you would like to stamp out. What is happening for your child that is making them react in this way? Can you help them? As we all know; it is always better to deal with the cause than the symptom.

Unconditional Parenting

Alfie Kohn has published works including “Unconditional Parenting” on the problems with a system of punishments and rewards. We are not dealing with a rat, which is what behaviourism was based upon. (The faith in a punishment/reward system is based on studies conducted with rats and morsels of food; not humans).

Withholding love and approval sends a message to our children that they are only lovable if they do what we want, what a concerning idea to take to the world! The idea is to ‘work with’ your children to achieve the best consensus for all involved, instead of ‘doing to’ them – in order have your own laws obeyed. For example, a punishment is something you do to your children; instead consider working out a solution that is acceptable to all parties.

Mutual Respect and Authenticity

These are perhaps the most important elements that underpin all aspects of Gentle Discipline. When your child does something that makes you angry tell them so just as you would your partner. Communicate with your child with respect, but with feeling and authenticity. Your children want to know you. Your needs are also important, a self-sacrificing parent is not being authentic and our children can feel it. If you have had enough of reading “Maisy” after the 50th time that day; stop. Offer another suggestion, or just say, I need a break and offer an alternative activity that doesn’t involve you…or Maisy. Your child should respect your threshold, as you should respect theirs.

The bigger picture

Are we parenting today in a manner today that is all about making things easier for parents or are we parenting for healthier conscious children? Is placing six month old babies in full time childcare in the best interests of that child? Are we relinquishing our parental responsibilities over to paid professionals for purely economic reasons? Economics is after all, about the value of “things”. What is the value of a well-loved child throughout his or her lifetime?

There is a millennium of violent, exploitive and sadistic cultural behaviour towards children entrenched in our collective unconscious, and only a handful of sporadic decades that have been characterised by the desire to nurture and value children. Robin Grille prefaces his book by saying, “The key to world peace and sustainability lies in the way we collectively relate to our children.”

This might not be the first occasion in human history on which this idea has been expressed. Today however, groundbreaking research has brought new confirmation to this ancient idea. Our understanding of early childhood development has grown so rapidly in recent years, that we can now say the following with unprecedented confidence: “the human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy in the critical early years cannot and will not grow to choose a violent or selfish life.” This is Robin Grille. Parenting for A Peaceful World.

There is a link between how we parent our own children and the levels of violence and degradation in our communities. Each moment with our children provides the opportunity to foster respect for self and others, to nurture them with the same enlightened quality of love that you desire in your own life and to above all allow their individual spirit to flourish. When you as a parent are temporarily subsumed by your negative emotions (rage, despair, and the like) find ways to vent these elsewhere away from your children, remembering that in reality they are often just very small children, not the “Toddzillas” they sometimes feel like. As with all moments that seem to be overwhelming remember, “this too will pass.”

There is no future in a return to a spurious golden age of discipline and authoritarian control, as often promulgated by media commentators. This was clearly a time characterised by violence and force. There is no turning back the pages of time and there is no quick fix, raising children consciously is time consuming, challenging and the true consequences of an act of love.

References

Parenting for a Peaceful World

By Robin Grille

Longueville Media 2005

www.our-emotional-health.com

The Continuum Concept

By Jean Liedloff

Penguin Books 2004 reissue

Unconditional Parenting

By Alfie Kohn

Aria Books

The Natural Child – Parenting from the Heart

By Jan Hunt

New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island BC 2001

The Aware Baby : A New Approach to Parenting

By AJ Solter

Shining Star Press, Goleta California 1998

The First Relationship – Infant & Mother

By Daniel N Stern

Harvard University Press 2002.

©Sudha Hamilton

Appeared in WellBeing Magazine

Midas Word

www.sacredchef.com

Materialism Our One God

Today in the harsh daylight of our overcrowded cities, in developed nations around the globe, we are encouraged to worship only one god, the holy dollar. People are rushing about in their cars, and on public transport, to reach their destinations, their places of work and of investment, where labour and lead may be turned into gold. Sitting at terminals, tapping keys, in the hope that interest rates will rise or fall, that the market will strengthen their position; and that bears will turn into bulls. If you can imagine an animated city scene, with hundreds of besuited pedestrians crossing the pavements, all with a cartoon circle above their heads, showing their thoughts as a dollar sign. This is the charge of the light brigade, where horses have become mobile phones and helmets and swords, iPods and sunglasses.

Newspapers, and online sources, today are filled with economic imperatives, and this obsession, which began in the late nineteen seventies, has become the overriding concern for dad and mum; and their kids. Money is on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s mind, how to get it, how to make it, how to keep it; and how to hide it. Everyone’s become  a banker and governments are complicit in this – the tax department has driven these changes , as your tax return became more and more complex, you had to think like an accountant to make sense of it. Paul Keating, as rock star Treasurer, had a hand in it, as he, and PM Hawke, deregulated the banks and made public announcements about “banana state economies.” Suddenly everyone had to get up to speed on the balance of payments and interest rate figures daily made the front page. It was like a crash course in economics, skewed with the dramatics and sensationalism that sells papers.

There are and were positives, about this new found economic literacy amongst the hoi polloi, as people are always empowered by knowledge. In this new era of freedom, individuals and groups, were able to break down decades and centuries of banking obfuscation, to achieve their wants; even women, who had been particularly disadvantaged by the prejudices of this male dominated industry. Economic growth came spurting out, after years of lazy conservative rule, people got money and invested it in new businesses and real estate – the housing market exploded. Of course we got some excessive behaviour, Alan Bond, Christopher Skase etc but generally it was much more for the good, as a greater number and spread of people were enabled to become productive.

However, and I will use a controversial analogy here to illustrate my point, the economic awareness grew and has now become such an overweening thing that it has strangled all other gods. I liken it to the historical journey of Western women, from their hair covered and protected imprisonment in wifely roles, through the suffragettes and then the women’s liberation movement, up until now in their emancipated state from legislated prejudice; but still with the biological necessities to be women. This potentially challenging, dichotomous position is most dramatically seen in the form of the traditionally attired Islamic woman, as she represents the other extreme pole, as if she has just stepped out of the pages of history into the twenty first century. I respect the fiercely won freedoms of today’s Western woman, but also see the conflicting impact that the demands of the world have made upon the inner life of some women. In a similar vein, today’s awareness of the economic imperative has damaged the inner life of us all, removing perceived value from other pursuits not so closely held to the material bosom.

As Science, in the service of money, has slain the Christian religion, condemning it to the irrelevancy of a surfeit of poorly attended suburban churches clamouring for ageing attendees, the great god avarice has filled the breach. Materialism, what you can buy with money, has taken hold of head and heart inside the majority of us all. What is the holiest, most sacred, thing that you can purchase? It is of course the home, a house or flat, villa or apartment, but  a home by any other name just the same. This haloed quest, the often life time journey devoted to owning your own home, is, in Australia anyway, a culturally approved goal that lies beneath the day to day activity of millions. It gives meaning to life to many of these people, and I imagine the banks must really love it. It reminds me of the association between diamond rings and marriage; doctors, pharmaceutical drugs and illness; and other firmly entrenched cultural beliefs. How do you get people to work all the time and do it more or less willingly? By making what they want so expensive that they have to. If the average home is priced around nine times the average income, and you have to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banks at substantial and fluctuating interest rates, then you are going to be tied into working for a very long time. Mentally, by the time you have paid off your house and loan, you are often so brain washed into that behaviour that you go on working anyway. Homes bought as investment properties, charge rentals at a market value so determined,  that they can pay off housing loans and or profit accordingly – thus making shelter/housing expensive for everyone.  The goal for many in owning their own home is financial freedom, which often really means, once achieved, becoming a landlord and profiting from others, for money as they say does not stand still and you will be advised by those who work with money to invest your new found freedom in more real estate; and the cycle continues.

Going to work every week day, and often doing something that you dislike in some way, treating another human being in  a less than  human way by focusing on the money at the expense of everything else, damages the soul some say. You might go to your doctor and complain that you are not feeling, dare I say it, happy, and he most probably will tell you that you are depressed and prescribe an antidepressant.

“Over the last 30 years, rates of depression have been steadily increasing in Western societies. In the last ten years, consumption of antidepressants has doubled in the most advanced Western countries. Today, more than 11 million Americans are taking antidepressants. The estimated number of people in Britain taking antidepressants is two million. In Australia, 66 percent of those seeing a GP for the first time about depression have a chance of being medicated – in most cases with antidepressants. These data are so stark that most of us and our institutions prefer not to think about them.”

Dr David Servan-Schreiber, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University School of Medicine

Author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac, 2004, Rodale.

 

Then, in a tra la la drugged state, not caring so much about a lot of things, unable to achieve an orgasm, you will keep on doing what you were doing, working in much the same way and edging hopefully closer to that nirvana, called financial freedom. When you set out on the journey as a youngish adult, I imagine that the many things you associate with financial freedom will change over the years and that when you get there, often decades later, you will be a completely different person. It is like any long journey, in that it is better to make the experience of your journey your succour than the goal itself. Otherwise you are training yourself, every day, to switch off subtly and desensitise yourself to life, killing yourself a little bit each day in the hope that when you get to the end you will be able to turn yourself back on; and enjoy that wonderful financial freedom you see in the scenes depicted in those TV ads for the banks.

If you read a little history and have a good look at the Christian religion, you will see that belief in god, for much of their sixteen hundred years in power, was not optional. From the time of Constantine, the Roman emperor in the fourth century AD when Christianity became the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church,  if you did not believe in a Christian god, and their version of that Christian god, you were very likely to be put to death. This heavy handed approach began to soften after the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, but life remained very hard for those who did not acquiesce and worship in the prescribed manner. Jews of course were murdered, exiled, banned and generally hated since the time of Christ. The crusades slaughtered millions of Muslims over centuries and religious pogroms have continued the genocide of both Jews and Muslims by Christians. I always smile when I remember Sunday School, and the things I was told about the poor Christians being thrown to the lions by the Romans, of course this was true for the three centuries it happened,  but nobody was teaching the children about the next twelve centuries of Christian atrocities committed against the rest of the world; and also within their own communities in the prosecution of heresies. History always favours the victors.

Within, and despite all this bloodshed, many people had an experience of god being present within their lives. It seems in a lot of instances to have provided these individuals with a sense of belonging to something divine, which was beyond the reach of those with the swords. I would posit that the very threat to some people’s belief in god, through perceived heretical accusations, as in the time of the Cathars in France in the thirteenth century, and in the very bloody later schism between Catholics and the Reformation Church in the sixteenth century, to name but a few, intensified their experience of their religion and god. Nobody loves quite so much as when that love is threatened and or about to go away. Religion, and or belief in god, is always like that enormous elephant in the room, which will not go away.

“Superstition requires credulity, just as true religion requires faith. Deep-rooted credulity is so powerful that it may even, in false beliefs, be thought to perform miracles. For if anyone believes most firmly that his religion is true, even if it is in fact false, he raises his spirit by reason of that very credulity until it becomes like the spirits who are the leaders and princes of that religion and seems to perform things which are not perceived by those in a normal and rational state.”

Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535)

De Occulta Philosophia

I ask myself, a lot, what belief in god really is. Rationally there is no evidence for  the existence of a god, and in my historical search so far, there never has been any evidence. In Christianity’s case, we now clearly know that the gospels in the Bible, which were written between seventy and up to two hundred years after the time of Jesus, are not reliable historical accounts and indeed are more like PR releases or overly favourable biographical sketches, designed to sell Christianity to the Roman power elite and others. The account of Pilate for instance, is completely fictitious and reworked by the writers of the gospels to exonerate the Romans from the execution of Jesus and to put that blame squarely upon the Jews; which has had onerous historical consequences to put it mildly. Christianity is not alone in creating fictions to make it divine and more than merely human, in PR and sales there is a great and long lasting tradition, which is about making your product uniquely special and divinity ticks all those boxes. The tablet which held the ten commandments, where is it and who else but Moses really saw it and if it was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, where is it also? The Mormons then, through their prophet, Joseph Smith Junior, and I imagine from his impression of the historical precedent set by Moses as reported in Exodus, had a solid gold tablet from the Angel Moroni containing their scriptures, which conveniently only Joseph actually saw. Now Christians, who believe in Jesus rising bodily from the dead, often chuckle softly at the unrealistic beliefs of other religions, whilst having no problem with the outlandish collection of miracle stories and the like contained in their Bible. When we inherit beliefs from our parents, these loving and respected beings, and they likewise inherited their beliefs from their parents and so on, it is easy to understand why these often ridiculous beliefs have lasted so long. It is hard to shoot down the firmly held beliefs of your elders and those whom you love; many people choose to turn away from confronting the elephant in the room.

Buddhism, both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, are also a collection of stories tinged with the magical properties of the divine. Siddhartha Gautama, the Nepalese prince  did exist historically and most probably did venture out on a spiritual quest, but then the story tellers take over and we are regaled with unearthly feats designed to impress the uneducated masses. Hinduism is a fantastic collection of wildly colourful stories, creation myths involving gods and demons, many of them extraordinarily beautiful.

“An ancient Hindu warrior-king named Muchukunda was born from his father’s left side, the father having swallowed by mistake a fertility potion that the Brahmins had prepared for his wife; and in keeping with the promising symbolism of this miracle, the motherless marvel, fruit of the male womb, grew to be such a king among kings that when the gods, at one period, were suffering defeat in their perpetual contest with the demons, they called upon him for help. He assisted them to a mighty victory, and they, in their divine pleasure, granted him the realisation of his highest wish. But what should such a king, himself almost omnipotent, desire? What greatest boon of boons could be conceived of by such a master among men? King Muchukunda, so runs the story, was very tired after his battle: all he asked was that he might be granted a sleep without end, and that any person chancing to arouse him should be burned to a crisp by the first glance of his eye.

The boon was bestowed. In a cavern chamber, deep within the womb of a mountain, King Muchukunda retired to sleep, and there slumbered through the revolving eons. Individuals, peoples, civilisations, world ages, came into being out of the void and dropped back into it again, while the old king, in his state of subconscious bliss, endured. Timeless as the Freudian unconscious beneath the dramatic time world of our fluctuating ego-experience, that old mountain man, the drinker of deep sleep, lived on and on.

His awakening came- but with a surprising turn that throws into new perspective the whole problem of the hero-circuit, as well as the mystery of a  mighty king’s request for sleep as the highest conceivable boon.

Vishnu, the Lord of the World, had become incarnate in the person of a beautiful youth named Krishna, who, having saved the land of India from a  tyrannical race of demons, had assumed the throne. And he had been ruling in Utopian peace, when a horde of barbarians suddenly invaded from the northwest. Krishna the king went against them, but, in keeping with his divine nature, won the victory playfully, by a simple ruse. Unarmed and garlanded with lotuses, he came out of his stronghold and tempted the enemy king to pursue and catch him, then dodged into a cave. When the barbarian followed, he discovered someone lying there in the chamber, asleep.

“Oh!” thought he. “So he has lured me here and now feigns to be a harmless sleeper.”

He kicked the figure lying on the ground before him, and it stirred. It was King Muchukunda. The figure rose, and the eyes that had been closed for unnumbered cycles of creation, world history, and dissolution, opened slowly to the light. The first glance that went forth struck the enemy king, who burst into a torch of flame and was reduced immediately to a smoking heap of ash. Muchukunda turned, and the second glance struck the garlanded, beautiful youth, whom the awakened old king straightaway recognised by his radiance as an incarnation of God. And Muchukunda bowed before his Saviour with the following prayer:

“ My Lord God! When I lived and wrought as a man, I lived and wrought – straying restlessly; through many lives, birth after birth, I sought and suffered, nowhere knowing cease or rest. Distress I mistook for joy. Mirages appearing over the desert I mistook for refreshing waters. Delights I grasped, and what I obtained was misery. Kingly power and earthly possession, riches and might, friends and sons, wife and followers, everything that lures the senses: I wanted them all, because I believed that these would bring me beatitude. But the moment anything was mine it changed its nature, and became as  a burning fire.

Then I found my way into the company of the gods, and they welcomed me as a companion. But where, still, surcease? Where rest? The creatures of this world, gods included, all are tricked, my Lord God, by your playful ruses; that is why they continue in their futile round of birth, life agony, old age, and death. Between lives, they confront the lord of the dead and are forced to endure hells of every degree of pitiless pain. And it all comes from you!

“My Lord God, deluded by your playful ruses, I too was a prey of the world, wandering in a labyrinth of error, netted in the meshes of ego-consciousness. Now, therefore, I take refuge in your Presence – the boundless, the adorable – desiring only freedom from it all.”

When Muchukunda stepped from his cave, he saw that men, since his departure, had become reduced in stature. He was as a giant among them. And so he departed from them again, retreated to the highest mountains, and there dedicated himself to the ascetic practices that should finally release him from his last attachment to the forms of being.

Muchukunda, in other words, instead of returning, decided to retreat one degree still further from the world. And who shall say that his decision was altogether without reason?”

Joseph Campbell

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 1993, Fontana Press, pp 194-196.

 

I would say that the original author of this story was probably a new parent, indicated by the hero wishing for eternal sleep over all other riches LOL. What it also tells us, is that the successful religions, which have been taken up by kings and therefore the state, all have messages at their heart which assure the listener that the rewards and sufferings of life are nothing in comparison with the promises of divinity. These are not their only messages, but clearly that message would resonate with the suffering masses – to hear that all life, good and bad, is an illusion, would be a panacea to the many who were decidedly short changed by the distribution of commonwealth. It is kings who have driven religions and enforced participation in their rituals, and kings who have controlled and censored the scriptural content of these religion’s holy books. Kings have had much more need of religion and its ability to control the behaviour of adherents, than have subjects had need of religious beliefs.

The belief in  a god, who will upon the death of the believer, even things up in terms of getting a fair share of the goodies, in heaven or some paradisiacal garden in the afterlife, has had broad appeal among the disadvantaged. I think we see that now in the fervent take up of extremist Islamic beliefs, many of these adherents are poor and have been racially slighted in the countries they reside in, and they believe that their actions and belief in a vengeful Allah will deliver them to paradise. The African American slaves took the Christian message of the meek inheriting the Earth to heart; women, who have been down trodden and abused by men, have found succour in religion, and it is often a belief which burns brightest in the hearts of mothers within a family; perhaps as salve to the tragedies that historically affected women through the deaths of their children. To believe in something better than avarice, competition and bloodshed is an understandable wish, if Darwinian evolution can only provide that the strong/intelligent will prevail, then it is perfectly understandable that humanity would invent a god that possibly offers the mercy of something else with a kinder face. Although the original incarnations of the old testament Judo-Christian religions were decidedly brutal.

“The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – god is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

Gore Vidal

The belief in god has been used by the strong to justify their rule and control over others, the divine right of kings to rule, and the same belief has been employed by the weak to salve their hurts and pains in the hope for  a better deal in the afterlife; it is a flexible beast this elephant. All religions seem to make a heap of promises, which require your extinction before they pay out on them, and as nobody has as yet returned from the dead (Jesus excepting but then he works for them) we are none the wiser when it comes to knowing their truth and efficacy. The poor and down trodden masses, who were forced to subscribe to the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church – would have taken what message of hope they could from their time in church. The church collected taxes from these same people and controlled their lives as much as the king, for hundreds of years people were expected to go on a religious pilgrimage during their lives and if they did not they were expected to pay the church the equivalent amount of money they would have spent on their holy journey. Representatives of the church would sell common folk religious relics, purporting to be splinters of the cross that crucified Jesus and the like, and absolutions; so you could buy a piece of heaven, a bit like you can buy financial freedom through home ownership today.

I would say that in our relationship with the new religion, materialism, we have done away with a good deal of hypocrisy about money and its importance in our lives. When I was growing up it was considered rude to ask direct questions about money, which set me back somewhat for many years when it came to negotiating transactions. It was bad form to ask how much something was worth – shopping could be a struggle – bad manners to ask how much someone earnt for a living – life was a bit less exacting I suppose – I imagine as it was before the advent of the electric light, when the edges of existence were not so pronounced in gaslight and candle light. Not a bad thing sometimes to have a bit more mystery. There was however a great deal of downplaying falsely of the importance of money and this was simple dishonesty in many instances. A bit like not being able to talk about ‘fucking’ and always having to say ‘making love’ when referring to sex, which was also the case when I was growing up, at least in polite society or with a lady. But sometimes ‘fucking’ is a more correct description for the activity and incorporates more of our animal natures, whereas ‘making love’ is a far more ethereal term, non-corporeal in fact; and “fucking” is after all only a small part of making love. There always needs to be black and white in the equation, otherwise if we are forced to pretend to only live in the light, we will get corruption, as we do with celibate priests and all those who deny the darkness and their shadow side.

Similarly we need the balance of spirit, inchoate things inside of us, anti-matter if you like, especially now in the time of money. When the zeitgeist is the passion for money and the things that money can buy and people are marching to the consumerist beat, for technological toys like IPhone’s and other gadgets, then the opposite pole becomes so very important. Familiarity breeds contempt and that is what is happening, and will happen even more, with materialism, its strident voice drowns out the sensitive and the mysterious. Science like a Krispy Kreme doughnut has deliciously explained the how but has nothing at its centre to explain the why – consciousness continues to elude neuroscience and all other branches of material knowledge. We need to realise that just because we have named a street on a map and given a moment in time a precise number, that it does not truly define the reality of that particular space and moment. We have killed the mystery, the unexpected nature of existence, by naming and measuring everything and then agreeing amongst ourselves that this is its only reality – we have turned symbols into things and references into realities. No wonder so many people are depressed, having lost contact with the earth beneath their feet, because they are walking on a line on a map inside their head.

I wonder if you or I were to go and lie in a dark cave for a year, a space with no light whatsoever, but with enough warmth, food and comfort to sustain us, and we had no contact with the outside world for that entire year – how we would be on our emergence from the cave after the year? Would our consciousnesses be changed, affected, transformed in any meaningful way? What would we encounter within our own psyches and would the zeitgeist of the times slip away? I imagine that our thoughts would continue to go around and around, as they do, chasing their own tails and tales. But after awhile, with no points of external reference, with which to reinforce their existence, these thoughts would, I suspect, evolve or devolve. Perhaps as in a spiral motion returning to their points of origin, regressing to where they came from – things someone said that we appropriated; wisdom from mum and dad; teachers and mentors; books that we have read; Sunday School scriptures; and finally back even further as we lie there in the pure blackness. We would, I suspect, begin to break down all thoughts and all the things we live by, our moral compass so to speak, our very own philosophy of life, and things would be reduced to essentialities and much of the guff would simply fall away. Close your eyes now and drift away.

©Sudha Hamilton

Materialism is our god

Today in the harsh daylight of our overcrowded cities, in developed nations around the globe, we are encouraged to worship only one god, the holy dollar. People are rushing about in their cars, and on public transport, to reach their destinations, their places of work and of investment, where labour and lead may be turned into gold. Sitting at terminals, tapping keys, in the hope that interest rates will rise or fall, that the market will strengthen their position; and that bears will turn into bulls. If you can imagine an animated city scene, with hundreds of besuited pedestrians crossing the pavements, all with a cartoon circle above their heads, showing their thoughts as a dollar sign. This is the charge of the light brigade, where horses have become mobile phones and helmets and swords, iPods and sunglasses.

Newspapers, and online sources, today are filled with economic imperatives, and this obsession, which began in the late nineteen seventies, has become the overriding concern for dad and mum; and their kids. Money is on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s mind, how to get it, how to make it, how to keep it; and how to hide it. Everyone’s become  a banker and governments are complicit in this – the tax department has driven these changes , as your tax return became more and more complex, you had to think like an accountant to make sense of it. Paul Keating, as rock star Treasurer, had a hand in it, as he, and PM Hawke, deregulated the banks and made public announcements about “banana state economies.” Suddenly everyone had to get up to speed on the balance of payments and interest rate figures daily made the front page. It was like a crash course in economics, skewed with the dramatics and sensationalism that sells papers.

There are and were positives, about this new found economic literacy amongst the hoi polloi, as people are always empowered by knowledge. In this new era of freedom, individuals and groups, were able to break down decades and centuries of banking obfuscation, to achieve their wants; even women, who had been particularly disadvantaged by the prejudices of this male dominated industry. Economic growth came spurting out, after years of lazy conservative rule, people got money and invested it in new businesses and real estate – the housing market exploded. Of course we got some excessive behaviour, Alan Bond, Christopher Skase etc but generally it was much more for the good, as a greater number and spread of people were enabled to become productive.

However, and I will use a controversial analogy here to illustrate my point, the economic awareness grew and has now become such an overweening thing that it has strangled all other gods. I liken it to the historical journey of Western women, from their hair covered and protected imprisonment in wifely roles, through the suffragettes and then the women’s liberation movement, up until now in their emancipated state from legislated prejudice; but still with the biological necessities to be women. This potentially challenging, dichotomous position is most dramatically seen in the form of the traditionally attired Islamic woman, as she represents the other extreme pole, as if she has just stepped out of the pages of history into the twenty first century. I respect the fiercely won freedoms of today’s Western woman, but also see the conflicting impact that the demands of the world have made upon the inner life of some women. In a similar vein, today’s awareness of the economic imperative has damaged the inner life of us all, removing perceived value from other pursuits not so closely held to the material bosom.

As Science, in the service of money, has slain the Christian religion, condemning it to the irrelevancy of a surfeit of poorly attended suburban churches clamouring for ageing attendees, the great god avarice has filled the breach. Materialism, what you can buy with money, has taken hold of head and heart inside the majority of us all. What is the holiest, most sacred, thing that you can purchase? It is of course the home, a house or flat, villa or apartment, but  a home by any other name just the same. This haloed quest, the often life time journey devoted to owning your own home, is, in Australia anyway, a culturally approved goal that lies beneath the day to day activity of millions. It gives meaning to life to many of these people, and I imagine the banks must really love it. It reminds me of the association between diamond rings and marriage; doctors, pharmaceutical drugs and illness; and other firmly entrenched cultural beliefs. How do you get people to work all the time and do it more or less willingly? By making what they want so expensive that they have to. If the average home is priced around nine times the average annual income, and you have to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banks at substantial and fluctuating interest rates, then you are going to be tied into working for a very long time. Mentally, by the time you have paid off your house and loan, you are often so brain washed into that behaviour that you go on working anyway. Homes bought as investment properties, charge rentals at a market value so determined,  that they can pay off housing loans and or profit accordingly – thus making shelter/housing expensive for everyone.  The goal for many in owning their own home is financial freedom, which often really means, once achieved, becoming a landlord and profiting from others, for money as they say does not stand still and you will be advised by those who work with money to invest your new found freedom in more real estate; and the cycle continues.

Going to work every week day, and often doing something that you dislike in some way, treating another human being in  a less than  human way by focusing on the money at the expense of everything else, damages the soul some say. You might go to your doctor and complain that you are not feeling, dare I say it, happy, and he most probably will tell you that you are depressed and prescribe an antidepressant.

“Over the last 30 years, rates of depression have been steadily increasing in Western societies. In the last ten years, consumption of antidepressants has doubled in the most advanced Western countries. Today, more than 11 million Americans are taking antidepressants. The estimated number of people in Britain taking antidepressants is two million. In Australia, 66 percent of those seeing a GP for the first time about depression have a chance of being medicated – in most cases with antidepressants. These data are so stark that most of us and our institutions prefer not to think about them.”

Dr David Servan-Schreiber, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University School of Medicine

Author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac, 2004, Rodale.

Then, in a tra la la drugged state, not caring so much about a lot of things, unable to achieve an orgasm, you will keep on doing what you were doing, working in much the same way and edging hopefully closer to that nirvana, called financial freedom. When you set out on the journey as a youngish adult, I imagine that the many things you associate with financial freedom will change over the years and that when you get there, often decades later, you will be a completely different person. It is like any long journey, in that it is better to make the experience of your journey your succour than the goal itself. Otherwise you are training yourself, every day, to switch off subtly and desensitise yourself to life, killing yourself a little bit each day in the hope that when you get to the end you will be able to turn yourself back on; and enjoy that wonderful financial freedom you see in the scenes depicted in those TV ads for the banks.

If you read a little history and have a good look at the Christian religion, you will see that belief in god, for much of their sixteen hundred years in power, was not optional. From the time of Constantine, the Roman emperor in the fourth century AD when Christianity became the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church,  if you did not believe in a Christian god, and their version of that Christian god, you were very likely to be put to death. This heavy handed approach began to soften after the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, but life remained very hard for those who did not acquiesce and worship in the prescribed manner. Jews of course were murdered, exiled, banned and generally hated since the time of Christ. The crusades slaughtered millions of Muslims over centuries and religious pogroms have continued the genocide of both Jews and Muslims by Christians. I always smile when I remember Sunday School, and the things I was told about the poor Christians being thrown to the lions by the Romans, of course this was true for the three centuries it happened,  but nobody was teaching the children about the next twelve centuries of Christian atrocities committed against the rest of the world; and also within their own communities in the prosecution of heresies. History always favours the victors.

Within, and despite all this bloodshed, many people had an experience of god being present within their lives. It seems in a lot of instances to have provided these individuals with a sense of belonging to something divine, which was beyond the reach of those with the swords. I would posit that the very threat to some people’s belief in god, through perceived heretical accusations, as in the time of the Cathars in France in the thirteenth century, and in the very bloody later schism between Catholics and the Reformation Church in the sixteenth century, to name but a few, intensified their experience of their religion and god. Nobody loves quite so much as when that love is threatened and or about to go away. Religion, and or belief in god, is always like that enormous elephant in the room, which will not go away.

“Superstition requires credulity, just as true religion requires faith. Deep-rooted credulity is so powerful that it may even, in false beliefs, be thought to perform miracles. For if anyone believes most firmly that his religion is true, even if it is in fact false, he raises his spirit by reason of that very credulity until it becomes like the spirits who are the leaders and princes of that religion and seems to perform things which are not perceived by those in a normal and rational state.”

Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535)

De Occulta Philosophia

I ask myself, a lot, what belief in god really is. Rationally there is no evidence for  the existence of a god, and in my historical search so far, there never has been any evidence. In Christianity’s case, we now clearly know that the gospels in the Bible, which were written between seventy and up to two hundred years after the time of Jesus, are not reliable historical accounts and indeed are more like PR releases or overly favourable biographical sketches, designed to sell Christianity to the Roman power elite and others. The account of Pilate for instance, is completely fictitious and reworked by the writers of the gospels to exonerate the Romans from the execution of Jesus and to put that blame squarely upon the Jews; which has had onerous historical consequences to put it mildly. Christianity is not alone in creating fictions to make it divine and more than merely human, in PR and sales there is a great and long lasting tradition, which is about making your product uniquely special and divinity ticks all those boxes. The tablet which held the ten commandments, where is it and who else but Moses really saw it and if it was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, where is it also? The Mormons then, through their prophet, Joseph Smith Junior, and I imagine from his impression of the historical precedent set by Moses as reported in Exodus, had a solid gold tablet from the Angel Moroni containing their scriptures, which conveniently only Joseph actually saw. Now Christians, who believe in Jesus rising bodily from the dead, often chuckle softly at the unrealistic beliefs of other religions, whilst having no problem with the outlandish collection of miracle stories and the like contained in their Bible. When we inherit beliefs from our parents, these loving and respected beings, and they likewise inherited their beliefs from their parents and so on, it is easy to understand why these often ridiculous beliefs have lasted so long. It is hard to shoot down the firmly held beliefs of your elders and those whom you love; many people choose to turn away from confronting the elephant in the room.

Buddhism, both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, are also a collection of stories tinged with the magical properties of the divine. Siddhartha Gautama, the Nepalese prince  did exist historically and most probably did venture out on a spiritual quest, but then the story tellers take over and we are regaled with unearthly feats designed to impress the uneducated masses. Hinduism is a fantastic collection of wildly colourful stories, creation myths involving gods and demons, many of them extraordinarily beautiful.

“An ancient Hindu warrior-king named Muchukunda was born from his father’s left side, the father having swallowed by mistake a fertility potion that the Brahmins had prepared for his wife; and in keeping with the promising symbolism of this miracle, the motherless marvel, fruit of the male womb, grew to be such a king among kings that when the gods, at one period, were suffering defeat in their perpetual contest with the demons, they called upon him for help. He assisted them to a mighty victory, and they, in their divine pleasure, granted him the realisation of his highest wish. But what should such a king, himself almost omnipotent, desire? What greatest boon of boons could be conceived of by such a master among men? King Muchukunda, so runs the story, was very tired after his battle: all he asked was that he might be granted a sleep without end, and that any person chancing to arouse him should be burned to a crisp by the first glance of his eye.

The boon was bestowed. In a cavern chamber, deep within the womb of a mountain, King Muchukunda retired to sleep, and there slumbered through the revolving eons. Individuals, peoples, civilisations, world ages, came into being out of the void and dropped back into it again, while the old king, in his state of subconscious bliss, endured. Timeless as the Freudian unconscious beneath the dramatic time world of our fluctuating ego-experience, that old mountain man, the drinker of deep sleep, lived on and on.

His awakening came- but with a surprising turn that throws into new perspective the whole problem of the hero-circuit, as well as the mystery of a  mighty king’s request for sleep as the highest conceivable boon.

Vishnu, the Lord of the World, had become incarnate in the person of a beautiful youth named Krishna, who, having saved the land of India from a  tyrannical race of demons, had assumed the throne. And he had been ruling in Utopian peace, when a horde of barbarians suddenly invaded from the northwest. Krishna the king went against them, but, in keeping with his divine nature, won the victory playfully, by a simple ruse. Unarmed and garlanded with lotuses, he came out of his stronghold and tempted the enemy king to pursue and catch him, then dodged into a cave. When the barbarian followed, he discovered someone lying there in the chamber, asleep.

“Oh!” thought he. “So he has lured me here and now feigns to be a harmless sleeper.”

He kicked the figure lying on the ground before him, and it stirred. It was King Muchukunda. The figure rose, and the eyes that had been closed for unnumbered cycles of creation, world history, and dissolution, opened slowly to the light. The first glance that went forth struck the enemy king, who burst into a torch of flame and was reduced immediately to a smoking heap of ash. Muchukunda turned, and the second glance struck the garlanded, beautiful youth, whom the awakened old king straightaway recognised by his radiance as an incarnation of God. And Muchukunda bowed before his Saviour with the following prayer:

“ My Lord God! When I lived and wrought as a man, I lived and wrought – straying restlessly; through many lives, birth after birth, I sought and suffered, nowhere knowing cease or rest. Distress I mistook for joy. Mirages appearing over the desert I mistook for refreshing waters. Delights I grasped, and what I obtained was misery. Kingly power and earthly possession, riches and might, friends and sons, wife and followers, everything that lures the senses: I wanted them all, because I believed that these would bring me beatitude. But the moment anything was mine it changed its nature, and became as  a burning fire.

Then I found my way into the company of the gods, and they welcomed me as a companion. But where, still, surcease? Where rest? The creatures of this world, gods included, all are tricked, my Lord God, by your playful ruses; that is why they continue in their futile round of birth, life agony, old age, and death. Between lives, they confront the lord of the dead and are forced to endure hells of every degree of pitiless pain. And it all comes from you!

“My Lord God, deluded by your playful ruses, I too was a prey of the world, wandering in a labyrinth of error, netted in the meshes of ego-consciousness. Now, therefore, I take refuge in your Presence – the boundless, the adorable – desiring only freedom from it all.”

When Muchukunda stepped from his cave, he saw that men, since his departure, had become reduced in stature. He was as a giant among them. And so he departed from them again, retreated to the highest mountains, and there dedicated himself to the ascetic practices that should finally release him from his last attachment to the forms of being.

Muchukunda, in other words, instead of returning, decided to retreat one degree still further from the world. And who shall say that his decision was altogether without reason?”

Joseph Campbell

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 1993, Fontana Press, pp 194-196.

I would say that the original author of this story was probably a new parent, indicated by the hero wishing for eternal sleep over all other riches LOL. What it also tells us, is that the successful religions, which have been taken up by kings and therefore the state, all have messages at their heart which assure the listener that the rewards and sufferings of life are nothing in comparison with the promises of divinity. These are not their only messages, but clearly that message would resonate with the suffering masses – to hear that all life, good and bad, is an illusion, would be a panacea to the many who were decidedly short changed by the distribution of commonwealth. It is kings who have driven religions and enforced participation in their rituals, and kings who have controlled and censored the scriptural content of these religion’s holy books. Kings have had much more need of religion and its ability to control the behaviour of adherents, than have subjects had need of religious beliefs.

The belief in  a god, who will upon the death of the believer, even things up in terms of getting a fair share of the goodies, in heaven or some paradisiacal garden in the afterlife, has had broad appeal among the disadvantaged. I think we see that now in the fervent take up of extremist Islamic beliefs, many of these adherents are poor and have been racially slighted in the countries they reside in, and they believe that their actions and belief in a vengeful Allah will deliver them to paradise. The African American slaves took the Christian message of the meek inheriting the Earth to heart; women, who have been down trodden and abused by men, have found succour in religion, and it is often a belief which burns brightest in the hearts of mothers within a family; perhaps as salve to the tragedies that historically affected women through the deaths of their children. To believe in something better than avarice, competition and bloodshed is an understandable wish, if Darwinian evolution can only provide that the strong/intelligent will prevail, then it is perfectly understandable that humanity would invent a god that possibly offers the mercy of something else with a kinder face. Although the original incarnations of the old testament Judo-Christian religions were decidedly brutal.

“The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – god is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

Gore Vidal

The belief in god has been used by the strong to justify their rule and control over others, the divine right of kings to rule, and the same belief has been employed by the weak to salve their hurts and pains in the hope for  a better deal in the afterlife; it is a flexible beast this elephant. All religions seem to make a heap of promises, which require your extinction before they pay out on them, and as nobody has as yet returned from the dead (Jesus excepting but then he works for them) we are none the wiser when it comes to knowing their truth and efficacy. The poor and down trodden masses, who were forced to subscribe to the state religion – the Holy Roman Catholic Church – would have taken what message of hope they could from their time in church. The church collected taxes from these same people and controlled their lives as much as the king, for hundreds of years people were expected to go on a religious pilgrimage during their lives and if they did not they were expected to pay the church the equivalent amount of money they would have spent on their holy journey. Representatives of the church would sell common folk religious relics, purporting to be splinters of the cross that crucified Jesus and the like, and absolutions; so you could buy a piece of heaven, a bit like you can buy financial freedom through home ownership today.

I would say that in our relationship with the new religion, materialism, we have done away with a good deal of hypocrisy about money and its importance in our lives. When I was growing up it was considered rude to ask direct questions about money, which set me back somewhat for many years when it came to negotiating transactions. It was bad form to ask how much something was worth – shopping could be a struggle – bad manners to ask how much someone earnt for a living – life was a bit less exacting I suppose – I imagine as it was before the advent of the electric light, when the edges of existence were not so pronounced in gaslight and candle light. Not a bad thing sometimes to have a bit more mystery. There was however a great deal of downplaying falsely of the importance of money and this was simple dishonesty in many instances. A bit like not being able to talk about ‘fucking’ and always having to say ‘making love’ when referring to sex, which was also the case when I was growing up, at least in polite society or with a lady. But sometimes ‘fucking’ is a more correct description for the activity and incorporates more of our animal natures, whereas ‘making love’ is a far more ethereal term, non-corporeal in fact; and “fucking” is after all only a small part of making love. There always needs to be black and white in the equation, otherwise if we are forced to pretend to only live in the light, we will get corruption, as we do with celibate priests and all those who deny the darkness and their shadow side.

Similarly we need the balance of spirit, inchoate things inside of us, anti-matter if you like, especially now in the time of money. When the zeitgeist is the passion for money and the things that money can buy and people are marching to the consumerist beat, for technological toys like IPhone’s and other gadgets, then the opposite pole becomes so very important. Familiarity breeds contempt and that is what is happening, and will happen even more, with materialism, its strident voice drowns out the sensitive and the mysterious. Science like a Krispy Kreme doughnut has deliciously explained the how but has nothing at its centre to explain the why – consciousness continues to elude neuroscience and all other branches of material knowledge. We need to realise that just because we have named a street on a map and given a moment in time a precise number, that it does not truly define the reality of that particular space and moment. We have killed the mystery, the unexpected nature of existence, by naming and measuring everything and then agreeing amongst ourselves that this is its only reality – we have turned symbols into things and references into realities. No wonder so many people are depressed, having lost contact with the earth beneath their feet, because they are walking on a line on a map inside their head.

I wonder if you or I were to go and lie in a dark cave for a year, a space with no light whatsoever, but with enough warmth, food and comfort to sustain us, and we had no contact with the outside world for that entire year – how we would be on our emergence from the cave after the year? Would our consciousnesses be changed, affected, transformed in any meaningful way? What would we encounter within our own psyches and would the zeitgeist of the times slip away? I imagine that our thoughts would continue to go around and around, as they do, chasing their own tails and tales. But after awhile, with no points of external reference, with which to reinforce their existence, these thoughts would, I suspect, evolve or devolve. Perhaps as in a spiral motion returning to their points of origin, regressing to where they came from – things someone said that we appropriated; wisdom from mum and dad; teachers and mentors; books that we have read; Sunday School scriptures; and finally back even further as we lie there in the pure blackness. We would, I suspect, begin to break down all thoughts and all the things we live by, our moral compass so to speak, our very own philosophy of life, and things would be reduced to essentialities and much of the guff would simply fall away. Close your eyes now and drift away.

©Sudha Hamilton

What is it to be human?

Our Posthuman Future – Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution

By Francis Fukuyama

Profile Books, 2003.

Book Review

A disturbing orange cover, with a picture of what looks like a conveyer belt full of robotic looking babies stretching into infinity, possibly delayed my reading of this brilliant book. Its publication date accidentally synchronised with the birth of my own children and perhaps I was too involved in the real thing to have the time to read about biotechnology and its impact on humanity; well I am glad I finally have. Francis Fukuyama likes to invoke the heavy hitters of philosophy right off and Nietzsche’s ominous quotes are littered throughout at chapter beginnings, I suppose it is called getting your attention. Fukuyama weaves around all over the place  a bit at first, delineating things by way of reference to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, before settling down and finding his stride. These two books were the two poles of possible fears for Fukuyama’s American baby boomer generation, representing the futuristic totalitarian IT nightmare in the former and the more creepy biotechnological nirvana in the latter. We have of course now arrived into a world where, both the technologies featured in these two books  are part of our reality, and the author goes on throughout his book to show, that it is the biotechnological possibilities of which we have most to fear.

He classifies biotechnology into three major parts: Neuropharmacology; Genetic Engineering; and Lifespan Extension. Beginning with Neuropharmacology Fukuyama paints  a vivid picture of now, in our Western urban worlds, with facts about the prevalence of antidepressant drug use through Prozac and its many SSRI cousins, and even more disturbingly the massive use of Ritalin being prescribed for our children. We are deeply involved in mind and behaviour control on  a societal level through our complacent acceptance of these drugs. Doctors are prescribing antidepressants and amphetamines to men, women and children at an alarming rate. Why is this happening? Why has something like ADHD suddenly gone from not existing at all to enormous levels within our communities? Fukuyama does not take a moralistic tone in his discussion about this but brings the facts and their ramifications into sharp focus. There are various forces at work within these situations: our expectations regarding happiness are very different now to twenty or thirty years ago and our reliance on medical science has been consistently encouraged by governments and the pharmaceutical industry during the last few decades. Economically we are all expected to provide maximum levels of productivity, whether you are a mother or a teacher, we do not have the same amount of time to devote to the care of our children in many cases and we therefore expect our children to be more cooperative at school and at home. When they are not we now classify them as deficient in attention and drug them.

At the same time, as we are officially giving happy pills to a substantial percentage of our population, we are condemning and prosecuting another large section as illegal drug users. You can see the strange hypocrisy in this fact, as Fukuyama points out the similarities, chemically speaking, between  many of these drugs, like Ecstasy  and the SSRI’s, and that Speed is an amphetamine like Ritalin. It is these fine lines of demarcation within our societies, defining what neuropharmacology is really for, that this book explores. Drugs are OK if we are sick but are bad if merely for pleasure and that certain levels of unhappiness then become sickness (depression), as do certain levels of not paying enough attention (ADHD). Who is deciding the points on the scale? Doctors and the medical industry? Don’t they have  a vested interest in all these matters and indeed a trillion dollar interest in pharmacology? A lot of what this book is about, is asking who in our Western civilised worlds should be making these decisions for society and is it really OK to let the market decide? Being an American, Francis Fukuyama is living in the nation, which has the most avaristic culture in the world, especially around technological developments; as we have seen in the IT industry. He postulates that we as a world need to think about the consequences of these biotechnological developments and legislate for them; for our own protection.

Moving on to Genetic Engineering, and the myriad of biotechnological challenges we now and in the very near future face, Fukuyama shepherds in Dolly the Sheep and its obvious pointer to human cloning. Human cloning is currently banned in most countries and faces a huge amount of legal discussion, as to the rights of  a clone within our societies. The whole genetic question raises the unholy spectre of Eugenics and the Nazis experiments on the weak and their racially judged inferiors. It was not only in Germany and Japan, where these ghastly experiments went on, scientists in the US in a Jewish hospital infected the chronically ill with cancer cells, in another case it was mentally retarded children with hepatitis and the more famous case (they made a movie about it) of 400 black men, many of whom were purposely not treated for syphilis with available medication to record the diseases progression. Fukuyama’s book indicates that this whole racial genetic argument is still very much alive in the US and that the nurture versus nature questions splits the sciences down the middle on political grounds. He states that the Left have always come down on the side of environmental factors affecting intelligence levels within races – not enough to eat so the brain doesn’t develop – where the Right have been firmly on the side of white people being genetically superior in terms of intelligence. Reading all this myself I wondered about the tests being utilised in all this so called intelligence testing, the criteria for intelligence and how it is judged? Scientists, politicians and bureaucrats all testing on the basis of their own preconceived ideas about what it is to be intelligent in a predominantly white Anglo Saxon culture. And even beyond questions of race what is intelligence anyway, is it IQ or Emotional Intelligence or Spiritual Intelligence?

The horrors of rational fascistic science have lodged in the cultural consciousness and so there is a justifiable amount of fear around Genetic Engineering. In contrast to this are the things we now can do about diseases and conditions like cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, which are now being screened for with preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The extension of this will be designer babies, where technology again offers the graduation from avoidance of sickness to ideas of perfection. Introducing questions of who will be able to afford it and will this become the province of the rich, thus increasing the gulf between the haves and have nots?  The author emphasises again that governments must play their part in making sure that genetic engineering does not disadvantage the already disadvantaged within our communities; and goes further to suggest that it could indeed be a technology used to improve things for these sections of the community. Fukuyama recommends international bodies for the guidance of biotechnology and offers the examples in the nuclear industry as proof of possible efficacy in this regard. The dangers of the nuclear industry (as seen by the crisis currently in Japan) are, I think he is inferring, on par with the dangers inherent in the biotechnology sphere.

Francis Fukuyama talks a lot about what it means to be human and the essential qualities of humanness. He invokes Aristotle and a whole pantheon of philosophers and moral judges in answering this question. In the end I think he comes down on the side of feeling, that it is our human feelings which define us as human. So we have the harsh and hostile world of Darwinian evolution and the men in white lab coats on one hand and the subjective consciousness of the feeling world on the other, his book may be an informed cry for help. An Achtung before it is too late and we have sold our humanness for bigger boobs, and smarter and taller, better looking kids. Stem cell therapy and the use of research involving embryos are or have been hot topics recently, with governments voting on legislation, and often doing so as votes of conscience rather than on party policy grounds. The ability to grow new cells and possibly limbs and other organs for the sick versus the rights of the unborn. This takes us back to abortion and how that is still used in many Eastern countries as a genetic engineering tool in favour of males over females in the human species. Abortion is a very volatile topic in the US especially, and anything to do with it opens up that great religious divide and debate. The genetic engineering argument embraces the scientist’s pragmatic view that if we are terminating unwanted pregnancies, and also if there are extra embryos left over from IVF, then we should be using these for embryonic stem cell research. Against this we have the Right To Life religious organisations and also non-religious anti-biotechnology groups, who see this work as a corruption of the rights of the individual, which opens the question –  at what age do we become human?

The third part of this whole dilemma, according to Fukuyama, is science’s work in prolonging our life expectancies. The twentieth century has seen the life expectancies raised in women from 46.3 and men from 48.3, in the US in 1900, to that of 79.9 for women and 74.2 for men in the year 2000. The author points out, when you combine this with falling birth rates in most Western countries we are now facing  a rapidly changing age demographic, meaning that fewer young people will be supporting many more older and infirm people in our communities and economies. In addition to the well publicised affect this will have on social security systems, there will be further ramifications with a growing divide internationally, with developing nations with higher birth rates having younger population demographics; more angry young men. Fukuyama posits that the US will have a decidedly older and more feminine population, as women live longer, and that this will contrast politically with their dealings with these young countries (I think it more likely to be a good thing as grandma is less likely to bomb people). Our Posthuman Future goes onto list many of the possible scenarios related to these population and demographic shifts related to life span extension, and in particular talks about our attitudes to the elderly, facing challenges; when we are forced to care for them on mass and they are taking our jobs – (which the baby boomers have been doing for years in Australia LOL). Fukuyama spells out the medical facts about prolonging life spans and that quality of life experience will not necessarily accompany this extension; and that our cultural worshipping of youth is very much about sexual reproductivity. Lives lived for the majority of years as aged, and non-reproductively,  will present clear cultural and psychological challenges for the participants and for all those around them. Medical science is taking us all down this path because nobody really wants to die and wants to see their parents die, and euthanasia is feared by many within our societies. We do and will need to have these discussions about death and what it means to have a life, beyond the ‘hands off’ and keep everything alive for as long as possible, which is the  current position of governments and medical science. I think we as a community will have to grow up and religions will need to pull their heads out of the sands of two millennia ago – which is when their religious texts were written.

Francis Fukuyama, being an American and working in the US education system, as the Professor of International Political Economy at John Hopkins University, in my opinion shies away from stressing the very large part that the free market in our capitalist economy plays in this. Despite the fact that the overall message of his book is that we need impartial democratic government bodies policing biotechnology, I still think the author misses out on emphasising the fact, that we as a society leave  a great deal of medical science in the hands of a market intent on making as much money as possible out of whatever situation they find or create. Our democratically elected representatives in government are too dependent on popular decisions and election campaign dollars from the pharmaceutical industry. Our scientists are equally dependent on private enterprise funded research grants and even the scientific journals, which publish the reports, are dependent on big pharma advertising dollars. If we value the dollar over everything else how will we ever get any impartiality in any decision making body and if every government department is only potentially lasting four or five years how can we carry out any far reaching legislation?

This is a really worthwhile and enjoyable book to read, drawing on our great Western philosophical canon to pose many of the questions, we as a society face in regard to the biotechnological revolution.

©Sudha Hamilton

Who Murdered Chaucer?

Who Murdered Chaucer?

Book Review

Who Murdered Chaucer? – A Medieval Mystery

By Terry Jones, Robert Yeager, Terry Dolan, Alan Fletcher, Juliette Dor

Methuen, 2004.

 

Geoffrey Chaucer, poet and most importantly one of the earliest literary stars of the English language, was the author of The Canterbury Tales – a celebrated collection of verse pieces which have provided an incredibly rich source of historical information about the types of people inhabiting the Middle Ages. Many of us studied Chaucer at school, and I am afraid, that by dint of either my own shallowness or via unenthusiastic teaching, I was not a big fan at the time– the early English language was quite challenging I seem to remember – he remains however a major influence upon our Western canon. Like much of the history taught at school, a great deal of important information and context was omitted, thus denuding what could have been a powerful lesson about real life. You see, Chaucer seems to have been disappeared, in the same way, that more recently, people in South American countries have been disappeared by forces within their governments.

I don’t know if it is merely that the majority of people who study history and literature are averse to making waves, or that it is something else entirely, but we seem to get a dry, unquestioning version of history being passed down in our educational institutions. I know here in Australia, teaching was always the profession of choice for the less academically gifted and the ones who didn’t really know what they wanted to do at university. Perhaps the title of this essay should really be, Who Murdered History? As one of the primary integral qualities for teaching must be passion, if a teacher’s communication is not imbued with enthusiasm and real care for the topic, then who is going to listen to him or her?

Geoffrey Chaucer was a poet and scholar in the court of the English king, Richard the second, at the close of the fourteenth century. Now if you are at all familiar with medieval history, or Shakespeare, you will know that Richard II has a seriously sullied reputation as the fey, spoilt, generally unloved king, who was usurped by a far more deserving Henry IV. Here however, is a great example of the fact that history is written by the victor, and the disappointing thing in this circumstance is that in this case, it has been unquestionably accepted by historians down the centuries. I personally came across Richard II as an acting student, when I was doing my NIDA audition – I studied Shakespeare’s play of the same name and chose an audition piece, of Richard expressing his outrage and righteous indignation at being deposed. The whole experience made a lasting impression upon me and I found it very interesting to revisit this piece of history. Terry Jones and his co-authors make it abundantly clear, that Richard was not the despot history and Shakespeare made him out to be, citing chronicled evidence to the contrary. More importantly they show that these chronicles, kept by the religious orders within their abbeys (Westminster, Kirkstall), had been doctored and amended once Henry IV had taken the throne.

Richard II had ascended the throne at the age of ten, and so you can imagine the difficulties he had in establishing his authority as he grew into the role, with overweening advisors and power hungry barons all around him. Terry Jones posits, that far from being a weak and corrupt king, Richard was in fact a king who was at the forefront of new royal practises. He suggests that Richard was creating a uniquely English court, and that Chaucer, with his wonderful wielding of the newly flourishing English language(in contrast to Latin and French), was a big part of that. Richard resisted supporting the maintenance of  the military campaigns in France, that his father, the Black Prince, and grandfather Edward III and his forebears had campaigned so vigorously at. Indeed he wished for a peaceful reign and copped a great deal of flak from the more warlord like dukes around him. Similarly today in the United States, great chunks of their industrial wealth is based on armaments and technologies of war, and Presidents are lobbied to support these activities to maintain the economy (Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush in Iraq). Likewise, several of the barons around Richard, depended upon constant military actions for their upkeep and any threat to this was viewed with great resistance, especially by Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, Richard’s uncle and the youngest son of Edward III. Often this military action was portrayed, especially to the poor, as courageous and brave behaviour to be admired in a man and a leader; manipulations utilising cultural assumptions that still exist today. So Richard reigned during a precarious time and his behaviour actually challenged the status quo, in ways, which we would now admire in our modern more peaceful world.

Terry Jones and co-authors make clear that Richard II, once he had taken personal control over the realm in 1389, made the pursuit of peace with France a priority. They cite the influence of Giles of Rome, the Italian theologian and philosopher, in Richard’s education, as a setter of kingly aspirations in the direction of peace. They also suggest that Richard may have been a more intellectual king than his predecessors, and one who fostered and encouraged men of letters; like Chaucer and his contemporaries. Jones makes a good argument for Richard’s court being one of new ideas and creativity; and in a cultural ferment with the recently flourishing English language at its centre.

‘Namoore of this, for Goddes dignitee,’

Quod oure Hooste, ‘for thou makest me

So wery of they verray lewednesse

That, also wisly God my soule blesse,

Myne eres aken of thy drasty speche.

Now swich a rym the devel I biteche!

This may wel be rym doggerel,’ quod he.

The Canterbury Tales, VII, II. 919-25

‘No more of this, for God’s dignity,’

Swore our Host, ‘for you make me

So weary of your total unlearnedness

That, just as God will bless my soul,

My ears are aching with your dreadful speech.

Now such a rhyme I’ll teach the devil!

This may well be doggerel rhyme, ‘ said he.

 

It is interesting to read the early English employed by Chaucer and in particular the spellings of the words – I found it threw new light and understanding about certain words and their origins. The piece above by Chaucer, is in the persona of the character Harry Bailey, and highlights the author’s opinions of the travelling minstrels, who were the traditional courtly entertainers before the advent of the poet/authors. A modern parallel for this evolution in courtly tastes would be the difference between the singer/songwriters of the sixties (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell) and the vocalists or cover bands of the previous decade , who did popular renditions of standards. So Richard II was a new type of ruler and under him there flowered a new language, new expressions and new ideas.

In the book Who Murdered Chaucer? the authors describe the effect this change had on those with vested interests in how things were, and the Roman Catholic Church was one organisation who had deeply rooted and very valuable vested interests in medieval England. The powerful leaders of the Church were busy protecting their own authority against forces for change, like John Wyclif, an Oxford theologian who translated the Bible into English and was against many of the commercial aspects of the Church. Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel, eventually aligned the Church establishment in its reactionary crushing of all dissent and introduced the practise of burning heretics at the stake into England. Terry Jones and co-authors produce evidence, that it was the recently exiled Archbishop Arundel who joined forced with Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, another recently exiled by Richard II, to topple the young king and place Henry on the throne. Together they travelled from Europe back to England illegally, and became irresistible forces of conservatism, appealing to the barons and bishops who had been dismayed and offended by Richard’s new methods and associations. Richard II had been surrounding himself with men of ideas and letters, who were not necessarily from the aristocratic classes, and promoting these men of middle class into positions of power. This is suggested as one reason for the relatively quick and successful usurpation by Henry, as he and Arundel were able to unite the anti-Richard forces together and bring down the king.

Chaucer,  and his literary cohorts, had under Richard II been able to express a number of quite radical ideas in their work, ideas about the role of the Church and State. There are many Wyclifian concepts within Chaucer’s work, and in particular in the mouths of certain characters,  who inhabit The Canterbury Tales. The Poor Parson truly embodies Christ like behaviours in his holy thoughts and good works, and these sit in direct contrast to the avaristic exemplars of what Jones calls the ‘Church Commercial.’ Chaucer parodies other Church representatives,  like Friar Huberd in The General Prologue and the character of the Summoner in The Summoner’s Tale, conveying the well known corruption within the Church, being practised by these ecclesiastical officers. The selling of relics to the general public, pieces of the holy cross which crucified Jesus and a myriad of other bogus bits of rubbish, was rife throughout Christendom. In addition to this, people were encouraged to purchase prayers, and if they did not go on a pilgrimage they were expected to donate the dollar value of the journey to the Church in compensation. The Church collected taxes from everyone in the form of tithes, which could be 10% of their income or more. Basically the Church was  a vehicle for the systematic abuse and exploitation of the population. It was run by the disinherited children of the aristocracy, the sons who were not first born, and became their private fiefdoms – many bishops were ordained at the ages of twelve and fifteen. You had the irony of the Church being run by completely irreligious people, who were more akin to our corporate CEO’s today.

Archbishop Thomas Arundel, was like a Rupert Murdoch of the Church Commercial, conspiring to prevent the radical forces of change from interrupting the control exerted by the Church and the flow of revenue coming to it. Chaucer could be seen as a literary lion, who expounded with humour and style the lie of the land, and told those who would listen, what was really going on. During Richard’s reign this was permissible and Terry Jones would say perhaps even encouraged, but upon Henry IV taking over, it was now an entirely different universe. The rules had changed and it was unfortunate for Chaucer that he had a written body of work out there, which could act as evidence of his heretical beliefs. Like many usurpers Henry IV was insecure, especially just after murdering an anointed king in Richard II, and he looked to secure his newly stolen throne by  a policy of containment and suppression. Apart from the evidence of his sending out a directive to all chroniclers, that he wished to witness what they had written, an unspoken message that said you better write nice things about me and my new rulership of the realm or else, there was also a spate of mob executions of most of Richard’s friends and allies. Henry IV, with the help of the master strategist Arundel, was able to eradicate much of his opposition without directly bloodying his hands. The last known record of Chaucer, was that he had in the year 1400, just taken out a 53 year lease on  a house in the garden of Lady Chapel, in Westminster Abbey.  Westminster was a sanctuary of the Church, which meant that theoretically it was  a place you could go and not be touched by forces of the State, but in practise it did not stop determined agents riding in and dispatching whoever they were really after. Westminster became known as a place where people who were still loyal to Richard II gathered, and indeed the Abbey itself, was implicated in a plot to overthrow the new king and this was discovered by Henry IV not long after the usurpation; and there were deadly ramifications for some of those involved. So it was  a time of secrets and suspicions, a bit like East Berlin during the cold war, and those writers and liberals who had flourished in Richard’s court were under the microscope of Archbishop Arundel and Henry IV.

John Gower, a Chaucer contemporary, managed to rewrite sections of his Confessio Amantis, swapping praise of Richard II to Henry of Lancaster, and this rewriting of history to support Henry IV’s new regime was so successful that it was used by later historians to justify the Lancastrian view of English history. This was one example among many of the exorcising of Richard II from histories warm embrace and his consignment into no-speak and ignominy. Thus we have had six centuries of misinformation and unfounded slander upon Richard II and his reign. This book and its detailed referencing of available records and evidence, really showed me how easily history can be re-edited by those who control the information and records. If we do not ask the question and are not prepared to dig  a bit deeper then we will never know the truth.

There is no clear and incontrovertible evidence that Chaucer was murdered by agents on behalf of Arundel or Henry IV, but there is a long list of unexplainable facts.

  • Why did Chaucer the literary star of his day just disappear?
  • Why did he leave no Will, when he was a meticulous public servant?
  • Why was no monument built to him?
  • Why do none of his own copies of his work survive today?
  • Why is his death eulogised as a tragedy by other poets?

 

It seems as if Geoffrey Chaucer, England’s most esteemed poet and public servant, just dropped off the face of the Earth. It is the very lack of recorded information about his death, which points to something decidedly suspicious having occurred and the likelihood that he may have died in Archbishop Arundel’s prison; like many other perceived heretics of the time. Arundel used the uncertainty of the times to eradicate enemies of the Church at home and managed through the threat of burning heretics at the stake to get many dissenting voices within the Church to recant and retract their statements. William Sawtre was the first man burnt at the stake in this new England, this religious police state. Sir Lewis Clifford, one of Chaucer’s oldest friends and one of the Church’s most outspoken critics , was persuaded to recant under the new regime and to bow before the unholy spectre of an agonising death amid the flames. Chaucer’s fellow poet John Montagu, the Earl of Salisbury, was ripped to pieces by the mob at Cirencester in the wake of an abortive revolt in 1400. This was a very scary time to be alive, if you held to an alternative view about Henry IV’s right to be on the throne and the nature of Church and State.

Nobody knows exactly when Chaucer died, whether it was the year 1400 or 1402, various biographers down the ages have drawn on misinformation and then compounded that by using that as mistaken sources for factual information. Like a few journalists today, I suppose these biographers thought why spoil a good story just because there are no concrete facts about the ending. Most commonly Chaucer is depicted as gently dying of old age, in a state of contentment at his own home, of course there is no evidence for this and a whole lot of holes in the story – what happened to his substantial library (books were very rare and valuable in 1400) and his own copies of his body of work? Why didn’t an old man, well versed in the law as a respected public servant in the employ of a king, leave a Will? Very strange indeed and highly unlikely. Who murdered Chaucer? The most likely candidates, Archbishop Arundel and Henry IV, have swept clean histories trail and left little trace, but the book concludes, that the glaring omissions of any recorded evidence regarding Chaucer’s final days and demise are highly suspicious, and considering that they quietly despatched Richard II with similarly no official announcement- it is, in detective speak, their MO modus operandi.

©Sudha Hamilton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you long for certainty?

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes

First Mariner Books  ISBN 0-618-05707-2

Do you ever long for certainty?

Do you wish that you had a direct line to God, especially during those times when you are really unsure about what direction to take in your life? Would you like to be able to reach deep inside yourself and just know the right answer? Well according to the theory of the bicameral mind, and its part in the origin of consciousness, we all do have that facility within our brains. In fact it was originally all we did have, as it preceded that sense of I or me, our very own subjective consciousness which we all have today. Julian Jaynes published his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, in 1976 and the waves of influence have been spreading out ever since. The first sixty pages of his book are to me, the most immediately confronting and mind expanding – as they focus on what consciousness actually is or is not.

I mean consciousness is not mere reactivity or being awake, it is much more than that isn’t it? Think about what your sense of consciousness is to you. Where is your consciousness located? Is it somewhere on or in your body? What purpose does your consciousness serve? Is it so that you can learn things? Jaynes lists a number of scientific studies showing that our ability to learn things is not dependent upon our sense of consciousness and is actually impeded by it – a perfect example is when we are overly self-conscious we cannot perform basic tasks that involve motor skills, like talking. Try it now, try speaking and at the same time focus on your articulation, bringing your full consciousness to bear on every enunciated syllable. How each vibrational sound is made inside your throat – you will just stop speaking as it becomes overwhelming.

Our consciousness is also not a perfect copy of our experiences; it is not some recording device taking impressions of memories and storing them. You can show this to yourself by asking yourself what information you can remember about walking into the last room you walked into. Try remembering what was in the room and where, get a piece of paper and write down your results. You will find that you have very little to show for it, so our consciousnesses are not providing this service. Jaynes goes on to say, that when we recall a memory, we do not call up the actual physical memory but a generalised version of it largely invented by ourselves to represent whatever it is – swimming or walking in a park. The memory is a construct involving thoughts we have about the activities and often is influenced by how we imagine others see us swimming or walking  – so our consciousness is not a faithful recording of reality.

What Julian Jaynes does posit, is where our sense of consciousness has come about from, and he points the finger at language and in particular languages love of metaphor. In fact he states language is largely metaphor and shows how many words have their roots in metaphor, for example the verb ‘to be’ comes from the Sanskrit ‘bhu’- meaning to grow, or make grow. Similarly our English words ‘am’ and ‘is’ have evolved from the Sanskrit ‘asmi’- meaning to breathe. Think to yourself now just how many times our language references other familiar pictures to describe less familiar things. For example how we use parts of the human body to describe parts of other things, like the face of a clock, cliff, card; and the eyes of needles, storms, potatoes; the lips of cups, craters; and the tongues of shoes, joints; and the teeth of winds, cogs etc. Indeed we reference and compare constantly with language, in the meaning of the words themselves and in the expressions we invent to make metaphors with. The vastness of language over several millennia means that we lose touch with its incredible elasticity and tend to think of it as some solid construct, missing the obvious evidence it has to show us about ourselves and the origin of consciousness.

It is through the ability to metaphor that the modern lexicon of our language is able to remain a reasonably finite collection of words. Otherwise like the Inuit we would have to have 150 different words for snow.  Jaynes talks about the function of metaphor being one of creating understanding through familiarity. We use a familiar example to shine a light on something less familiar, but ultimately this brings us a limited understanding based entirely on the quality of the metaphor employed. I would go on to say that it means we actually know far less than we think we do. An example of this would be our understanding of what happens during an electrical storm, we have learnt at school that it involves air pressure, vacuums and particle friction but we have no real direct experience of what happens and only a theoretical knowledge of it. Our sense of subjective consciousness is based on how we perceive existence through the use of language and referencing through metaphor. It is like the relationship between a map and the geographical reality of what has been mapped. So ultimately our knowledge of reality is a tenuous one at best and it is riddled with theoretical understandings based on metaphorical language constructs. You think you know stuff that you don’t really.

Where does that certainty principle, I mentioned at the beginning, fit into this? It seems like we are getting further and further away from that shore of assurance.  Well Jaynes postulates, that prior to the development of our illusory sense of subjective consciousness, we had a fully operating God spot in the right hemisphere of our temporal lobe and it was here that we received direct transmission from the divine.  He lists a number of studies into the brain, where scientists have removed sections and whole hemispheres to reveal what areas of the brain are responsible for particular functions and how the brain adapts. He gives a fascinating example where a dozen neurosurgical patients have undergone a complete commissurotomy, the cutting of all interconnections between the two hemispheres down the middle, as a treatment for severe epilepsy. For a period of about two months some patients lose the power of speech, but gradually they all return to a sense of being how they were prior to the operation. Normal observation of these patients shows nothing amiss either. However under rigorous study it becomes clear that these people cannot see things on their left side and the dominant left hemisphere projects a repeat of the right side vision to fill in the gaps. Even more astonishing though is that the right hemisphere is actually seeing  what is there on the left side but because of the cutting of the interconnections between the two sides of the brain has no way to communicate it. Tests have shown that these people using their left hand only can point out or draw what is on the left side but have no verbal or cognitive awareness of what is there. It is like there are two separate awareness’s, functioning independently within the same body.

Julian Jaynes goes on, in a satisfyingly erudite manner, to illustrate through countless examples taken from the great recorded histories like The Iliad, The Old Testament, Egyptian Papyruses, Babylonian Cuneiforms and more, how different humankind was at this time. That this difference in how they thought was because of this bicameral mind, that there were literally two separate minds at work within them. A dominant over mind or ‘God speak’ operating from the right hemisphere, which was triggered during times of stress or novel challenges outside the normal demands of the time, and the more prosaic left hemisphere ‘man brain’, which at this time had no subjective consciousness, no sense of I or me. Jaynes takes you on a journey from languages evolution from signalling and intentional calls to the development of nouns. Remember for a long time nobody had a name for things and for individuals. Death was a different beast when the one who died did not even have a name. Try and imagine a time when the sense of self was so small or non-existent and nobody had names. When there were no names for things and no words, how would you think?

It is an incredible theory and explains a great deal about why we worshipped statues of Gods and why we buried dead kings and priests surrounded by things to eat and treasures to keep. If these Gods and their stewards were continuing to speak inside our heads, beyond their allotted life spans, then it makes a lot more sense. Religion has always been about control and if that controlling centre is inbuilt inside our brains, then anthropologically a lot of stuff makes much more sense. It explains why we still cling to religions even now hundreds of years after science had ridiculed their fundamental platforms of belief. We are programmed to believe and to follow instructions, to understand – meaning stand under God. Jaynes maintains an aesthetic appreciation for the many wonders that humankind’s devotion to beliefs in Gods have produced and he is perhaps an example of his Christian American background. Still his insights and his theory are so startlingly original that he may have had no reason to bother with aggravating those of a more narrow minded persuasion.

The modern parallels with those suffering from schizophrenia are explored and Jaynes again proffers numerous scientific studies to illuminate his theoretical claims. Joan of Arc and many of the first testament prophets are prime examples of individuals recorded in history, who heard the passionate and insistent voice of God inside their heads. These individuals often laid down their own lives and willingly would lay down the lives of others to fulfil the ambitions of the voice within their head. Culturally now we have no room for those exhibiting a fully fledged bicameral mind and the voice of God; and so we lock them up and drug them.

Jaynes points out that it is poetry, and poetries link to music, which has been the favoured speech of the Gods, with most of our great and holy missives having been delivered in verse. This fact again links the right hemisphere of our brains with our connection to God, for it is in the right hemisphere where we process music and poetry. Music comes from the Muses, and they were the daughters of Zeus – bringers of divine inspiration; our connection to the Gods. Poets have, down through the ages, often been deliverers of God’s message, and the metre of verse can have a hypnotic, hallucinatory effect upon the listener. So many of the strands of evidence produced by Jaynes, to promote his theory, illuminates these aspects of humanity with a new understanding of where they actually fit in with the greater scheme of things.

What I particularly like about Julian Jayne’s theory of the bicameral mind is that it shatters the safe and often dry outcomes of much of the study of ancient history. We are so far removed from these ancient millennia’s, and the translations of these earliest languages are rife with modern approximations, making so many assumptions about who they were grossly incorrect. This book is a quantum leap into the unknown and really worth reading on so many levels.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

By Julian Jaynes

First Mariner Books  ISBN 0-618-05707-2

©Sudha Hamilton

What is the Wellness Industry?

Heading: What is the Wellness Industry?

Subheading: A look at the health system.

There has been of late, a great deal of talk about the new – “wellness industry” – and I think it might be useful to establish what some of its defining aspects are.

Looking back historically, humanity has always been interested in its own mortality, how to preserve it, improve it and prolong it. At the same time, these primary urges have also often provoked an economic response, as those with the knowledge and/or skills to heal, have sought to be remunerated for their services. A fare exchange being the bedrock upon which we have based our capitalist system, and which allows those so inclined to practice their specialised craft.

For the last hundred years, or so, the state sponsored health industry in our country has been the exclusive domain of those trained via the allopathic school of medicine (defined as the use of opposites in treating disease* and is commonly referred to as ‘modern medicine”). A consequence of this proliferation of a “one school” specialised approach, has been the dis empowerment of the individual in his or her responsibility for their own health. Our failure, to include a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing, when educating our young has further removed the individual’s ability to manage his or her own health.

However, despite some magnificent breakthroughs in the treatment of diseases such as childhood  leukemia, heart disease and many more, there has been a growing general disaffection with modern medicine and its inability to treat chronic illnesses. Perhaps also in part due to its failure to respectfully deal with the mind, as distinct from the body, and science’s continuing inability to understand human consciousness; but also in it’s arrogant dismissal of alternative healing approaches. Modern medicine is after all a big business, and like many big businesses, it prefers a monopoly to competition for those health dollars. Funded by large pharmaceutical corporations it treads a precarious path in its bid to fulfill its Hippocratic oath,** and not be swayed by the often unseen lure of filthy lucre.

It is the general overview of the modern medical/pharmaceutical behemoth, that there will be a pharmacological cure/treatment for every disease/medical condition, if you can find or fabricate the right drug/ingredient. Whether this premise is indeed correct, or not, cannot hide the fact that for many people the current crop of available pharmaceutical drugs is not the panacea that they are searching for right now. Many in the community (a recent Victorian survey confirmed up to two thirds surveyed had consulted an alternative non-allopathic practitioner) have turned away from the local GP, prescribing pain killers and antibiotics, in search of an alternative, that is possibly more inclusive and often gives them more time, care and understanding. In response to this market led shift away from complete dominance of the health industry there has been some small cross fertilisation by doctors learning acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and the like – and the renaming of alternative health as complementary health (proving in business that if you cannot eradicate your competition then the next best thing is to incorporate them into your own business).

This just about puts us where we are, at the beginning of the 21C, and in the midst of a trend or movement toward wellness or preventative medicine, where a growing proportion of the population are self-medicating with vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic food. This is generally, I believe, in the hope that they will avoid many of the diseases, that their parents and grandparents have fallen foul of, and indeed beyond that- to live longer and better lives. Enter the wellness industry with its rapidly growing nutriceutical manufacturers, associated bodies representing natural practitioners, natural health media and a host of astute businesses, recognising a hugely expanding market, that have jumped on the band wagon.

As in many sections within the business community, you can find a mixture of motivating reasons why these people are involved in this particular industry: personal commitments based on health issues that have affected themselves or a close family member; vocational destiny; avarice, pure chance and a combination of the above. However, as more and more existing companies seek to align themselves with this push toward health, the number of people, who will find themselves working in a health related field, will continue to grow exponentially; and these people will need to be educated beyond their current level of knowledge.

The recognition and accreditation, recently achieved by many of the natural health educational institutions, is tantamount to this fact. The establishment of the Complementary Healthcare Council, under the direction of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and the ever growing legislative requirements of this body- is further testament to the size and recognition of the natural health industry. Recent problems, best illustrated by the Pan Vitamin Crisis, saw the largest recall of vitamins ever seen in this country. Hundreds of lines of vitamin supplements were recalled, in defiance of the fact, that Pan, was also a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, and that the Travacalm product, which caused the serious complaints, which led to the TGA action, was actually a pharmaceutical item. This disturbing incident has created a certain unease within the general public and I am sure has had long lasting negative implications for the industry.

However it seems regulation is necessary, and for the industry to continue to grow, certain requirements will need to be met. History shows, that pioneers, who establish new industries will often resent government interference at first, but that it is part and parcel of the natural evolution from small to big business. Of course many of the vitamin manufacturers are primarily pharmaceutical companies, who have developed the vitamins as a side line or who recognising the market growth have bought in. It does raise certain questions about their positions on the Complementary Healthcare Council and could be seen to be somewhat compromised. Who are they representing, and what hat are they wearing, when decisions affecting both the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry and the traditionally less regulated natural health supplement industry are being made. It is in my view, always a shame, when the expense of regulation moves an industry out of the financial reach of many of those who wish to take part in it, but the upside of this is the removal of many of the so called “snake oil” salesmen who inhabit it (the future possibility that snake oil is found to actually contain the ingredients of some wonder drug would render this metaphor obsolete). Welcome to the wellness industry.

* whereas homeopathy uses minute doses of substances that create similar effects to the existing symptoms of the condition.

**Hippocratic Oath — Classical Version

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art – if they desire to learn it – without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfil this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.

©Sudha Hamilton

Books Are They Facing Extinction?

books in article in eco living magazine.

The recent financial demise of Australian book retailers, Angus & Robertson and Borders Books, is a timely reminder to have another look at the effects of the Internet and digitalisation upon the book industry. Coupling this local retail failure with the bankruptcy of the Borders Group in the US, shines a light on how books are now being sold in these developed markets. Time now to see, just what is the long term impact of Amazon and other online suppliers of books on the bookstore concept and retail book chains.

Of course A & R had stopped being an example of a good bookshop years before. Even before it was purchased by the private equity group, Red Group, it was a chain of substandard stores offering a very average range of titles. Indeed that is why it was snapped very cheaply and the new managers accentuated all that was mediocre about A & R, and then had to operate with enormous debt levels . Many will say that bad management is always the true cause of business failure in the marketplace and an inability to respond to technological challenges within your industry is merely an example of this. Borders introduced the super store concept to Australia and in the process contributed to the demise of many small bookshops around the nation.

So we can now purchase a huge range of titles online, relatively quickly and affordably. In Australia we do not pay any GST on books purchased through Amazon or some other overseas online supplier, unless we are spending over a A$1000. Many retailers are now voicing their complaints about this unfair playing field and I would posit that books are one area that the Internet is taking a sizeable chunk of sales, somewhere in the vicinity of 15 to 20%. Retailers do pay proportionately high rents in Australia and then they have to pay staff and all the other infrastructure costs associated with retailing.  So how are they going to be able to compete on price with a GST free online supplier? The consumer gets cheaper books if they are Internet savvy and or have access to online suppliers but they lose a sizeable retail presence in their local shopping precincts.

As a community we lose jobs in the book sector, which is a shame, because having personally come from a family retail book background I can tell you it is a great area to work in – very stimulating and people are passionate about their books. It is in my opinion a bit like the wine industry on many levels, the level of knowledgeable service that customers require is intense and like the wine business you cannot hope to survive as a small retailer without providing this. Fosters has been discovering this in its disastrous foray into the wine business, with massive write-downs on the Penfolds and Rosemount businesses. A & R were treating books and more importantly their customers like they were selling stationary – and they have paid the price. The amount of time in a bookshop spent researching titles for customers on a quest for a specific book, which may indeed be out of print, is enormous and you have to have people who love books working in bookshops. Of course much of this research can now be done online if the customer has access and is trained to do so.

The digital supply of books on tablets like Amazon’s Kindle will be an interesting phenomenon to watch and see whether the take-up will move beyond the initial very small percentage of the reading market. Again however this is something which moves book buying into the home and out of the shoppingcentre, removing jobs and the physical social interaction of the book buyer with the book seller. Passion will have to stay at home and sit in front of that flickering screen and book lovers will have to be satisfied with joining online forums. It is sad to see the demise of a wonderful profession, the book seller, and likewise the continuing eradication of book publishing here in Australia. The life of the mind is moving online.

©Sudha Hamilton

Suicide Rates in Australia

I read with interest a recent report into suicide, published in The Australian newspaper, where it was declared that the rate of annual suicide in Australia is now well over that of road deaths. It was, I think, a feature written with the intent to ring a few alarm bells in this country, amongst leaders and the general population. It seems to me, that despite the wonders of a hundred and one different kinds of mobile phones and the fabulous Internet, the lives of Australians, and in particular our youth, are not all they are cracked up to be. Not as they are portrayed in the countless advertisements for all these apparently necessary, technological accoutrements, which are inferred to guarantee a fulfilling life. The ability to communicate in a nanosecond, eighteen different ways does not come with an automatic application to develop content worth communicating it seems.

Gizmo’s and gadgets are not going to provide meaning to anyone’s life. Waiting for the new IPhone or tablet reader is no anteroom experience on the way to transformation. As a society it seems that we are always helpless to effect any real change in the face of the markets relentless desire to satisfy the inconsequential. The article in The Australian did not address why people and in particular young people are killing themselves, it was all about what could have been done in the period immediately prior to the suicide to prevent such a tragedy.  I always ask myself why are people killing themselves, obviously there are unique situations in each case but I also feel that there are shared cultural reasons why suicide rates are so high. Where is the deep meaning in these people’s lives and where is it rooted in your own life? Ask yourself honestly what you are living for?

  • to live a good life
  • for friends and family
  • to amass a fortune
  • so I can have sex with ______
  • to help others
  • for the love of some god
  • because I love ________
  • I don’t know I have never thought about it

These are some of the answers I have received in answer to this question. We emerge from our mother’s womb and make our way through childhood, having reasons to ‘be’ indoctrinated into us, by everything from the messages inherent within our children’s stories to the modern version of fireside chats with our parents. Early life comes with a moral behind every lesson, in the hope that it will train us to becomes good little boys or girls. But what are we training or being trained for? What is the real core meaning in our lives? What is the bottom line, when everything is stripped away and you are bare of all the palaver? Is it merely a choiceless choice! This is it, you have been born and there is no meaning to it, beyond the obvious experience itself, so just get on and make the best of it.

It seems we in the wealthy West, where we are not generally scrabbling for our very survival, are caught in this intensely materialistic society. A society which celebrates the invention and endless modification of communication devices and holds the purchase of your own home, as the most sacrosanct of all things that can be achieved in a lifetime. So our kids grow up as consumers not creators, coveting sleek, technological gadgets. Believing that liberty and freedom are achieved in the possession of these talismans of ‘cool‘, just like in the ads. Perhaps when things don’t quite pan out the way the advertising  has been assuring them they will  and they are subject to a concerted digital hate campaign via Facebook by their ‘so called’ friends, then these individuals are missing a reason to live for.

The cultural changes and evolution, which are endlessly unfolding, finds us at a time when the meaning of life, seemingly apparent in our parents and grandparents lives, have become a flicker on a screen – an entry in Wikipedia on a Google page ranking list. Belief in god has been subject to the erosion of a full twentieth century’s worth of scientific derision. So many sub-splinters of meaning came from this one awesome god delusion. Millions of people down the ages have been slaughtered in this belief and it emanates in our DNA like a blood disease. So we are left now at the altar of our lives looking around for the next suitor to give our lives something worth living for. Belief in ourselves perhaps?

Well we have become so functional in everything we do and say. Language has become so functional, losing all it’s flowery intrigues of earlier times. Education is so god damned functional, all about jobs and continuous assessments. Love has become pretty functional too, try before you buy living together and fast food divorce. Can functionality alone give deep and true meaning to life? My function in life is to ______________________ insert your own function in the space provided. Will that function give you the meaning you need to cope with tragedy and grief in your life?

If we really want to reduce the number of people killing themselves within our communities, I think we need to ask ourselves about the meaning of our lives. Digging bloody great big holes in the ground and selling ore to the Chinese is not going to provide us all with a meaningful reason to celebrate being alive. Having a new mobile phone is not going to change your life where it matters. How we educate our children and ourselves is going to get a bit closer in that search for meaning. We need to really have a look at our whole education system and see what it provides, beyond the ability to get a job. We need to move the ancient education set-up we have out of the nineteenth century, remove the god botherers from their positions of influence, and ask ourselves some real honest to _____? questions about ourselves and the meaning of life. We can do this we just need to care enough to do something.

Quick and Easy!

Quick and Easy – Transformation Guaranteed!

We have all seen these words splashed across advertisements, books, and websites; and heard them coming out of the mouths of sales people everywhere. There are doctors, naturopaths, therapists, and other ‘so called’ health professionals, extracting dollars through the promotion of pills, courses and products – all claiming to do the hard work for you. Well it’s not true! There are no quick fixes in health, weight loss, and just about anywhere else in life. Ask yourself honestly, have you ever really taken a pill and instantly achieved whatever it claimed to do for you? Of course not, occasionally they have been an accessory and encouragement on the road to your goals – a bit like gym clothes really.

If you want a few guidelines in life that really stack up, this is point one – there are no quick fixes. Now immediately you have one structure in your life to guide you away from delusional situations, involving those who claim to be able to facilitate change in your life, instantly and without some sacrifice. This is not a case of mere exploitation with you and me as the victims; no we are actively involved in the whole fraud, because we want a quick fix too- as we do not want to do the necessary hard work to achieve change. We want to have our cake and eat it too – and we want to be thin and attractive at the same time, as we want to stuff our faces with cake. This is the modern dilemma of humankind in the consumerist age.

Quick and easy meals! Just 4 ingredients! Dinner in 5 minutes! Cookbooks around the globe are emblazoned with these headlines. What is the mass appeal of this message saying about us? Well maybe that we don’t enjoy cooking and that we would rather be doing something else. There are a number of issues here of course – mothers who are traditionally coerced into cooking meals for an often unappreciative family audience; singles who would rather work or play elsewhere and do not enjoy cooking for one; and those who do not know their tastebuds from their haemorrhoids, to name a few. However health is derived from a good nutritional diet and if we continue to take the easy option, popping a few multi-vitamin pills to prop up our neglected nutritional selves, we are heading for a state of disease. Quick and easy cancer in just a few years!

Become a Reiki master in 3 days! Learn to heal your emotional self in one weekend! Re-birthing in a single session! Wow when I flick through the pages of the monthly, throwaway, holistic journals I can see how easy it all really is. World hunger, victims of the devastation of war and suffering watch out – there is a Reiki master waving his hands right now. Refugees from the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, where our Australian soldiers are fighting now, are however not benefitting from these ads for instant transformation – in fact they cannot even get into our country.

Horny goat weed; fat blaster; tiger penis; snake oil – products packaged and sold in pharmacies, multi-level marketing pyramids, and TCM shops around the globe – all promising transformation in exchange for money. The health industry! We have doctors and pharmaceutical companies (who now own all the vitamin producers) on one side, ready to chop you up and medicate you with anti-depressants, and on the other side we have a mish-mash, containing a few good hearted healers interspersed with the providores of the all natural, quick fix, in various forms. The former bunch do not respect you at all and see you as meat, muscle and bone and the latter are predominantly ineffectual and unrealistic in their claims for you and for themselves – because in many cases their training has been as inadequate as the one they are now selling to you.

All however is not lost. Put down the newspaper, magazine, and mouse. Close your eyes and ask yourself – really ask yourself, where do I go next? What is the next step for me? How can I heal myself? Keep asking the questions – this is no quick and easy solution. Meditate upon them and follow your fears into the unknown.  It may take a lifetime but the journey is worth taking, and really you don’t have a choice anyway. It’s your life after all!

Eco Living Magazine

Living Next Door to the Bush.

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Living next door to the bush.

By Sudha Hamilton

With the ramifications of the horrendous Victorian bush fires still traumatising  all levels of the Australian community, it asks fundamental questions of our lifestyles and where we live.  Should we be building houses on the edge of bushland? Is it safe to be living next door to the bush? Are these communities on the outer edges of our big cities – towns or satellite suburbs? Do they have the necessary services to protect themselves and are we letting developers profit too early in the creation of these hamlets? What should we be looking at and planning for, before we rebuild these houses and homes?

Has a tragedy exposed a flaw in our town planning or the lack of it? Is it the case that we have city people, who have had little or no experience of living in the bush, suddenly facing a natural disaster of extreme magnitude but not uncommon in its cyclical appearances, as seen by Ash Wednesday and Black Friday before? Australia is a continent, which experiences seasonal extreme heat and we have vast tracts of dry bushland. Bushland that is widely populated with the brittle and structurally unpredicatable Gum Tree. Fire has a long history in our bushland, with indigenous Australians utilising fire in their land management and hunting practices. Have we become too sentimental about nature in our desire to conserve and protect flora and fauna? This terrible tragedy of never before seen proportions has shocked Australians at all stratas of society. Stunned governments at state, federal and of course local levels, about what to do and what they could have done to prevent it.

There has been an enormous outpouring of compassion around the nation and great generosity, in uncertain financial times, to help stem the suffering that these people have endured. But before we rebuild these houses and small communities lets ask a few important questions about how and where we live. The bush is a fundamentally unregulated place, that is why it is called the bush, and if families are going to live on its edges then they need to be protected. A growing awareness of the dangers of living next door to national park lands has of course already begun. With the government’s recent reluctance to back burn and clear land, because of fears of contributing to drought conditions, coinciding with a prolonged extreme heat wave to produce a well fueled national disaster. How do we fire proof these communities living on the edge in the future?

I think we will see far greater regulatory conditions prescribing where people can live and what needs to be in place before communities can arise. The bush will be treated with a lot more respect and not simply seen as some benign sanctuary. Australia’s sentimental relationship with the bush might undergo a few home truths. Most of us live on the coast in big cities for a reason – the bush is a tough place to live. Beautiful but unpredictable and wildly savage at certain times. This is another example where intelligent government intervention is called for and where the bar needs to be raised for property developers who ply their trade on the outer reaches of bushland.

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Barack Obama the West’s new white knight

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Barack Obama: The West’s new white knight

By Sudha Hamilton

Barack Obama’s Presidency has come to represent, to many people around the globe, the hope for a new future based on fairer principles – after a dark time of ignorance and fear induced US international policy. With the US still seen as the world’s pre-eminent economic and military superpower, it was a frightening time for many, to witness the US under George W Bush, invading Iraq and operating a ‘tooth for a tooth’ style anti-terrorism policy. There has been too much death, flying under the banner of a ‘good old boys’ quasi religious war against Islam.

With the election of the US’s first African American President, it is seen as an almost symbolic shift in consciousness toward disadvantaged minorities and away from the entrenched ruling elite. The hyperbole and fanfare that has accompanied Obama’s rise to the oval office has been quite incredible, and not since the assassination of John F Kennedy has sentiment reached this level of fervor in the US. Of course, for a country founded in part on the slavery of African Americans, it is quite a journey for one stained with that skin to reach the highest office in the land.

Obama enters the office of the Presidency at a time of real crisis, with the US leading the world financial markets down a spiral of unprecedented severity. There will be nowhere to hide, and states of emergency are the making or breaking of leaders. Will the huge expectations be rewarded or will they crush the life out of such a left field candidate running the biggest game in town? President Obama has assembled a quality team to execute government policy and it will be interesting to see what type of CEO he is – consensual or lone ranger? The call to action right now is loud; and it is for decisive and far reaching policy to end the panic, stimulate demand and stop the freefall of markets.

Will the West’s new white knight come to the rescue of a jaded and cynical world? Will Obama be able to restore belief in the US’s democratic quest to bring freedom and enlightenment to parts of the globe ruled by despots? Where are we right now on capitalism’s life cycle, and will the market welcome legislature to rein in its unfettered desire for ever more? Barack Obama comes to town at a time when there are a lot of burnt fingers and I think Wall St will keep its mouth shut for a while anyway. It is a great opportunity to start again – to rebuild a US economy and world economy factoring in things like climate change at the outset. To get carbon credit schemes functioning around the globe and for governments to guide development based on principles of sustainability.

If global capitalism is widely believed to have seen off socialism, then the ‘champ’ has all of a sudden fallen in a big hole of his own making. Where have all the ‘free-marketeers’ gone? We are not hearing so much about how perfect the market is and all that self correcting claptrap. No it is big business with its hand out for government assistance and packages in the trillions of dollars. The US carmakers, which have studiously ignored non-oil dependent technologies for so long, are at the front of the queue demanding bail outs for their failing billion dollar businesses. Perhaps it is time to let go of the status quo and allow real change to take its course. President Obama and his team will be faced with questions like this, and how much damage control will be good for the US in the long run?

I think there is a collective hope for some personified goodness in America’s new leader, and that he will heal some old wounds in the country and in the greater world. Whether this can transmute beyond mere words and sentiment into empowering action will have to be seen. In a similar way to our own PM Kevin Rudd, who came after a decade of self interest under Howard, and had the opportunity to ‘say sorry’ and ratify Kyoto, will they both talk the talk…and walk the walk?

2009 is going to be a fascinating and challenging year to be alive. I wish President Barack Obama all the very best!

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Aspartame – Poisons in our food chain.

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading:  Mad, Bad and dangerous to eat…

The “Poisons in our food chain” Series.

Part 1 Aspartame

By Sudha Hamilton

A recent survey of 166 studies into the safety of Aspartame found that 74 of them had NutraSweet related funding and that they all found that Aspartame was safe. Whereas of the 92 independently funded studies, only 8% of them found that Aspartame did not have safety concerns in humans to answer to.

Aspartame is the technical name for the main ingredient in many artificial non-sucrose sweeteners; including NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal-Measure. It is also at the top of the list of chemical baddies that are still being approved by government agencies for use in our food. You will also find Aspartame commonly used in soft drinks, pharmaceutical products and over the counter cough lollies and syrups. It is said to be an ingredient in over six thousand items of consumer foods/drinks. It is a compound of aspartic acid, phenylalanine (a free amino acid isolate) and methanol (wood alcohol). This combination is subsequently responsible for some very serious negative activity in our bodies, including nerve cell necrosis (death) which can lead to organ system disease and also contributes to dangerous toxic interactions with other pharmaceutical drugs. Aspartame crosses the blood/brain barrier and damages brain tissue and causes lesions on the brain, where the dead cells once were. It also affects the autonomic nerve system located down the spine and the conjunction system of the heart. It is quite simply a neurotoxin.

How, why and when did Aspartame become approved for human consumption? It was discovered accidentally in 1965 by James Schlatter – a chemist working for the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co – and was found to be 180 times sweeter than sugar. Initial safety tests were inconclusive, as to whether Aspartame may have caused cancer in rats and the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) did not approve its use in food for many years. Further testing did not answer why the brain cancer developed in the rats, and the debate raged on until some familiar names entered the scene.

One Donald Rumsfield became Searle’s CEO and Ronald Reagan became US President, and he appointed Arthur Hull Hayes FDA commissioner, who approved Aspartame in the dry goods food category. In 1985 Monsanto bought G.D.Searle and the Aspartame business became a separate subsidiary; the NutraSweet Company.  I would love to tell you that it is not about money or that there was never a suspicion of corruption; but I cannot. In 1995, the FDA Epidemiology Branch Chief Thomas Wilcox reported that Aspartame complaints represented 75% of all reports of adverse reactions to substances in the food supply from 1981 to 1995.

The metabolic journey that Aspartame takes once ingested causes it to break down into several residual chemicals and further break down products include formaldehyde, formic acid and diketopiperazine.  Exposures to very low levels of formaldehyde have been proven to cause chronic toxicity in humans. There has however been scientific disagreement regarding how the body deals with the methanol and formaldehyde produced by Aspartame, and this debate is one of the key reasons why Aspartame has not been reviewed and subsequently banned by regulatory government bodies in the western world.  The phenylalanine component of Aspartame, which is one of the nine essential fatty acids, makes up around 50% of Aspartame’s mass and this is highly unsafe for those with the rare genetic condition known as Phenylketonuria. It is also known that Aspartame can spike blood plasma levels of phenylalanine, as it is absorbed much faster than naturally occurring phenylalanine containing proteins. This has caused further debate into whether Aspartame ingestion by pregnant mothers can harm the safe development of neurotransmitters in the brains of fetuses.  Similarly the 40% of Aspartame broken down into Aspartic Acid also causes large spikes in the level of the acid in blood plasma and these can act as excitotoxins- which can inflict brain and nerve cell damage by crossing the blood/brain barrier. Again there is scientific debate over whether humans are as susceptible to this extensive brain damage as are the rats, for which the research shows conclusive proof. Further concerns regarding Diketopiperazine, which is created in products as Aspartame breaks down over time, can through nitrosation in the body create a chemical which can cause brain tumors.

So we are left with a situation of scientific disagreement paralysing regulatory bodies, and lots and lots of health complaints, ranging from the small, to claims involving hundreds of thousands of possible deaths.  A recent survey of 166 studies into the safety of Aspartame found that 74 of them had NutraSweet related funding and that they all found that Aspartame was safe. Whereas of the 92 independently funded studies, only 8% of them found that Aspartame did not have safety concerns in humans to answer to.  Science may not be as clean and trustworthy as those white lab jackets that so many scientists are fond of wearing might indicate to us. After all, if you ask the right questions in any scientific study you can pretty much get any answer you are after. Omission is as much of a cause of death as anything else.

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Help Save the Orangutan

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: HELP SAVE THE ORANGUTAN

Palm Oil Plantations Threaten Their Survival

By Michelle Walker

Currently, these beautiful, shy and intelligent great apes are on the critically endangered list. They are in grave danger of becoming extinct within the next 10 years unless we all come together to fight for their survival.

The orangutan was once found throughout Southeast Asia, but now the species only survives in relic populations in Borneo and Sumatra. Recent estimates suggest that wild orangutan numbers could be as low as 50,000. Orangutan populations have declined by 50% over the last 10 years and their habitat by 80% over the last 20 years.

The word orangutan is Malay for ‘person of the forest’. The orangutan is 97% genetically the same as humans and has the intelligence of a 5 to 6 year old child. Orangutans are shy, solitary animals that are active during the day and build nests to sleep in at night – these are made from leaves and are high up in the trees. They live alone in large territories – probably due to their eating habits. A large portion of the orangutans diet is fruit and if there are too many trying to feed in one area this may lead to starvation. The only real social group is the mother and her offspring who live together for around 8 to 12 years. When mating the male and female usually only stay together for a few days. The female is capable of giving birth from 12 to 15 years and usually has only one baby about every 8 years. The mother and baby have a very strong bond and the baby depends entirely on its mother for nourishment, protection, to learn what to eat and where to find food, how to climb and swing through the trees and how to make a nest. The orangutan is estimated to live for about 50 years in the wild.

The single most significant threat to the survival of the orangutans is the expansion of palm oil plantations. The beautiful rainforests, in which the orangutans live, are being cleared at an alarming rate. Plantations in Indonesia have expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to an estimated 6.4 million hectares this year. According to the UN, “The natural forests of Sumatra and Borneo are being cleared so fast, up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022”. This is due to the high world demand for palm oil to be used in products such as biofuel, cooking oil, chips, chocolate, biscuits, margarine, toothpaste, soap and much more.

Many consumers are unaware that they are purchasing products containing palm oil as the label usually only states vegetable oil or palm oil derivatives. As the orangutan’s forests are disappearing so is their food supply. This then causes them to go onto palm oil plantations in search of something to eat. The orangutans are then killed by the land owners or the farmers as they are considered to be pests.

As the forests are being cleared and the land burnt to make way for palm oil plantations this is also a major contribution to global warming. Biofuel was developed with the intention of being a greener fuel but bio-diesel containing palm oil is anything but green. Palm oil is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat. Research indicates that the consumption of palm oil increases the risk of heart disease and should be avoided in your diet. This is difficult to do when manufacturers aren’t required to label it.

Another significant factor in the decline of the wild orangutan population is the illegal pet trade. Orangutan mothers are being killed so that the babies can be stolen from them and sold as pets. Unfortunately it is estimated that only one out of four babies will survive this experience.

Other issues affecting the orangutan are legal and illegal logging for timber and pulp for paper, and also gold mining. Even National Parks and protected areas are being deforested by illegal logging and mining.

Fortunately, there is a group of volunteers working very hard to try and save the orangutans and they belong to the Australian Orangutan Project. The Australian Orangutan Project is a non-profit organization and was set up in 1998 by Leif Cocks.  AOP is the Australian contribution to international efforts to save the great apes, and is a partner of the United Nations Environmental Programme, Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP). AOP’s mission is to raise awareness and ensure the survival of both the Bornean and Sumatran orangutan in their natural habitat and promote the welfare of all orangutans.

AOP has been working with in-situ conservation organizations to protect the orangutan in the wild. They provide funds for conservation, protection and education programmes such as –

  • Food, salaries, medicines and equipment for rescue centres.
  • Anti-logging patrols in National Parks.
  • Community based rangers.
  • Safe release sites for ex-pets, orphans and injured orangutans.
  • Support for conservation research.
  • Community education programmes.
  • Community based Eco Tours.

Rehabilitation centres in Indonesia and Malaysia are set up to treat and care for sick, injured, or captive orangutans. The ultimate aim is to return the orangutans back to the forest. Many have been returned successfully, however due to lack of available habitat this process is becoming more difficult.For more information or to get involved please go to www.orangutan.org.au .

For more information about palm oil, the issues and what you can do to help, such as letter writing, please go to www.palmoilaction.org.au

“Every person can make a huge difference to the lives of these beautiful animals”.

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Sustainable Dream Home

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: Sustainable Dream Home

Building and renovating an energy efficient home.

By Libe Chacos

Even Hobart in Tasmania, which has the lowest level of sun of all of Australia’s capital cities, has more than double the average sun hours that much of Germany has, whose long term goal is for a quarter of their electricity to be solar generated.

Intro: Imagine living in a home that stays between 16-24°C all year round and paying just $2 per day for all your heating and cooling costs.  It is easier than you think… but only after you abandon what most people ‘know’ about energy efficient and sustainable homes and follow the simple steps that work 100% of the time, in every style of home, and in every climate.

Ordinary people in ‘apparently ordinary’ homes across the country have already cut 41% and more off their electricity bills, 56% off their homes CO2 emissions, and saved hundreds of litres of water every day. We are all feeling the pressure: electricity prices are going up; petrol prices are going up – add interest rate pressure to that. Your dream home has a place in all of this. This is how.

Maybe you have already read some books, done some surfing on the internet and gone to sites that claim they can help you save water and electricity… Then they tell you to turn the power point off at the wall when you have finished watching TV and have 4 minute showers.

Well those changes are valid and do work, but there is definitely more to it than that. Besides, if you are not one of those people who is able to enjoy a massage every week or so, then a 15 minute shower may be your only escape from the kids, work and stress of every day life.

I’m sure that you are probably aware of some of the obvious fundamentals of energy efficient housing:

P   Lots of Windows to let the sun in to warm you up in winter

P   Insulate the walls and ceilings

P   Use energy efficient appliances

But there are houses being built like this all across the country, and they simply aren’t comfortable to live in. They still need lots of heating and cooling. So what’s the answer then? How do you create a home that is energy efficient, affordable, and comfortable; and one that you can happily have a guilt free spa in?

By following fundamentals and applying them where it counts the most in your home. Though people already follow these principles, but so many don’t  – next time you go for a walk around your neighbourhood, just have a look at how many solar hot water panels there are on the roof tops. Most people know that solar hot water is good for the environment and saves energy. Around 30% of the average Australian electricity bill is taken up by heating your hot water. New evacuated tube solar hot water systems will save around 70% of those costs and more for most Australians.

Now if you live in the shade of a neighbouring building or hill side then you can still save up to 75% off your hot water bills with another great Australian invention: The heat pump hot water system. They work like a reverse cycle air conditioner, and save heaps of energy on your hot water bills.  There are a range of brands to choose from, with two options being from Quantum and Siddons. Although, generally speaking the most effective savings in CO2 emissions are gained with a solar hot water system with a gas back up (for when the sun doesn’t shine). These types of savings will literally put money back into your hip pocket. If you invest in the right unit, it will work financially for you as well as environmentally. I have no interest in selling you a particular model… I’m just sharing what I’ve learnt. I just want you to save money and have a lighter eco footprint.

Did you know that Melbourne gets as much sunshine as the south of Spain and parts of Northern Africa? And most of the country receives more sunshine than Melbourne. Solar power is here now and readily available. We know it works and you can simply buy and have installed a ‘plug and play’ system and continue on with your life as though nothing has changed. There are literally thousands of houses across Australia that are totally solar powered.

What are Photovoltaics?

There is a difference between solar hot water systems and solar power panels – photovoltaics. Put simply, a photovoltaic is a material that is capable of generating electricity when exposed to light.

Is there enough sunshine?

In less than 2 hours of daylight the sun provides us with the amount of energy that is consumed by the entire population of the planet in one year. Even Hobart in Tasmania, which has the lowest level of sun of all of Australia’s capital cities, has more than double the average sun hours that much of Germany has, whose long term goal is for a quarter of their electricity to be solar generated.

Is it really cost effective?

There are four major contributing factors to cost effective solar power: How much sun you receive, the cost of the solar power system, the price you pay for electricity and how much electricity you use.

“…with this new $8,000 rebate when you do the sums, it turns out that if you’re in Alice Springs, Darwin and Perth, you are now economically advised to go and get a solar panel, because the price of electricity from your solar panel will be comparable with the daytime retail electricity price.” Professor Andrew Blakers, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, at the ANU in Canberra.

Perth receives a similar amount of sun hours to Adelaide, Sydney and cost effective, Brisbane; and Canberra is not far behind. Professor Blakers made these calculations before the latest hikes in electricity prices, so the costs are even more favourable now for more of Australia.

The key to the system being cost effective is to ensure that your home is designed and built to be energy efficient. To make solar power more cost effective for your home use natural gas for cooking; solar (including heat pump) hot water systems; passive solar designs and insulation for heating and cooling and an energy efficient fridge. These practices will make the initial cost of your photovoltaic system much more manageable and your return on investment healthier.

To make your home truly sustainable with solar power the following steps will help:

When you are replacing your appliances, choose energy efficient ones.

Replace your light globes with compact fluorescents

Replacing hot water systems with solar or heat pump hot water units.

Improve your insulation and windows

Use skylights effectively to warm and cool your home.

Then you can more cost effectively add photovoltaics to your home and get a real return on your dollar.

What about saving water?

You know the story: “we love a sunburnt country… droughts and flooding plains…” We know that we live in the driest inhabited continent on the planet. And we know that when it rains – it pours. This is not new information; but if you get the chance to have a look at the Bureau of Meteorology website statistics for your area, you’ll likely see some worrying signs for rainfall trends. As a result in many areas it is now mandatory to include a rain water tank when you build a new home. But how big should it be and what else can you do?

Reduce; Reuse; Recycle. Always the best place to start is to reduce. You’ve seen the ads on TV, but they don’t really explain why in this order. The good thing about water is that reusing is recycling and it is safe and easy to do.

Nearly half of all water consumed in the home is used in the bathroom. 20% of that water is literally flushed down the toilet. Now if you’re unsure where to invest money in the current climate here’s a good idea for a tax free return on your investment:

It is now mandatory that every tap sold in Australia is water saving. By buying more water-efficient products, you can save money on water and electricity bills and help the environment. Look for a product that has a high star rating – the more stars, the more water efficient the product. A standard 3-star rated showerhead can save the average home $150 a year in water bills and can be purchased for as little as $50. I’m going to say it again: If you invest your money in the right place to be sustainable and eco-friendly – you will get a financial benefit.

Saving water in the shower…

Showerheads with a 3-star rating use no more than 9 litres of water per minute, while old style showerheads use 15 – 20 litres per minute. If you shower for ten minutes, a water efficient showerhead can save up to 100 litres of water for each shower or up to 36,000 litres of water per person per year. With that amount of water saving you can comfortably have a guilt free spa bath! You can see how it starts to add up. OK we’ve reduced our consumption with water saving showerheads and dual flush toilets.

Now to reuse and recycle – the first step is a water tank. You will collect 1 litre of water for every square metre of roof area every time 1mm of rain falls on your roof. For example, if your home is 200m² and you get 10mm of rain overnight, your tank will catch 2000 litres of water. If you get 60mm of rain in a month then you will capture 12,000 litres (60mm x 200m2). What most people tend to forget is that we want the water more when it’s not raining, so if you have a rainwater tank you want to make sure it can store enough water for a dry spell.

On average, people use around 200L of water a day at home. For a family of four, that’s 800 litres of water a day. If you want to be self sufficient in your water supply, and it doesn’t rain for 30 days at your place then you need 4 x 200 x 30 (4 people x 200 litres x 30 days) = 24,000 litres of storage capacity.

The good news is you can safely recycle most of the water that gets used at home and put it to good use. An easy way to save water is to recycle it. Statistics tell us that in the average urban home we use 25% of our water on the garden. If you water your garden with a sprinkler for just one hour that’s as much as 1000 litres of water! A grey water system will recycle water from your shower (or spa!).  Attaching a grey water system to your shower, laundry tub or spa can be a great way to recycle – generate sufficient water supply for gardens, a great vegie patch, whatever water restriction levels apply! Grey water systems can be purchased from most plumbing stores. Check with your local council to confirm what requirements need to be met and systems should be installed by a licensed plumber.

So by taking the first step and reducing the amount of water you use – by installing water saving taps, dual flush toilets, using drip irrigation instead of hoses, watering the lawn at the right time of day so you don’t lose half to evaporation – you dramatically lessen the water storage requirements to be self sufficient, so you can invest in a smaller rainwater tank to get the same outcome. All without a change in lifestyle.

All it requires is a few subtle changes: the differences that make the difference. The Master Builders Association research tells us that buildings in Australia are responsible for 42% of our emissions. We know we all have a responsibility to save water and reduce our emissions. What you haven’t been told up till now is how easy it is to do!  (Libe Chacos has over 18 years experience in the sustainable building industry and produces manuals on the best way to build a sustainable dream home. See book reviews page 106-8 for more info on these guides).

Breakout box:

Heading: Tips for a happy, healthy hot tub…

  1. Go for an ‘all-in-one’ installation – these have the heater and pump built in under the spa. This shortens the distance the water has to travel, which means that the water stays warmer and takes less gas to keep it at the desired temperature. Better for the environment and easier on the wallet. They are much easier to install and maintain too.
  2. If you are having the heater/pump separate, try and have the water pipes insulated. If they pass through the ground the water will lose a lot of heat, making the unit less efficient and more expensive to run.
  3. Use your hot tub daily? Make sure you keep the cover on as this helps the water stay warm and is quicker to heat up next time you use it.
  4. If your spa is under a roof, consider installing a water tank. You can use this to refill or top up the hot tub (and water the garden) instead of using the mains water.
  5. Avoid showering before getting in the spa – the soap residue on your skin (and bathing suit) can make the water ‘frothy’ and affect the chemical balance.
  6. Try using a natural product to clean your spa to avoid the weekly pH tests and exposure to noxious chemicals. You won’t have wash to off that nasty chlorine afterwards. It’s just like having a nice hot bath and saves you water.
  7. If your hot tub is a few years old, it’s important to flush out your pumps plumbing as there can be chemical & mineral build up. Chose a natural spa treatment; this can eliminate this clogging in your pipes.
  8. Natural products are a great alternative to harsh chemicals – there is less maintenance involved and you can dump the water on your lawn or garden. Chemicals can kill your grass or plants, and definitely can’t be used on a veggie patch. This means it has to go down the drain – what a waste!
  9. Live in a sunny area like Queensland? Consider solar hot water heating for your hot tub. This is a virtually ‘free’ way to heat your water & will keep it nice and toasty all year round.

©Eco Living Magazine.

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Hemp and Humanity.

Eco Living Magazine presents:

Heading: Hemp and Humanity- How Can it Help

By Michelle Stapleton

Hemp food products are widely consumed throughout the world, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand.

Intro: What if someone told you that there was an amazing natural resource that could help feed us, house us, clothe us, make our paper, our fuel, replace plastic with a biodegradable alternative and assist in our personal care? You would be amazed? Read on!

The resource that can achieve this is industrial hemp, and this natural resource has been well tested throughout time for thousands of years, but in the last fifty years it has virtually disappeared from mainstream usage in western society. Hemp is one of the oldest plants used by mankind.  Hemp seeds have been found in archaeological excavations over much of the world. The potential of this resource is now being revisited, developed and adapted to meet 21st century needs, right here in Australia, in several Industry sectors. The industry now needs support from the consumer and the support of Government. The present limitations on its use are environmentally, economically and socially irrational.

Growing hemp was made illegal in the early part of last century due to the economic advantage of the timber, cotton and synthetic fibre industries. The United States of America headed this change and the rest of the “western world” followed their lead. With the greater need for sustainable industries and environmental practices, the tide is turning for industrial hemp – a new evolution is dawning.

Today, one of the main misconceptions with Industrial hemp is the botanical relationship with Marijuana. Industrial hemp has little or no THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychotropic drug) found in high levels in Marijuana. Unfortunately, it has the same botanical name as Marijuana – Cannabis Sativa. Approximately 90% of Cannabis Sativa is industrial hemp and only 10% is Marijuana yet the Marijuana debate dominates the discussions surrounding Cannabis Sativa. industrial hemp and its attributes need to be understood and supported.

Why should we be using industrial hemp?

  • Hemp is the longest and strongest natural plant fibre.
  • Hemp is suitable to be grown in most climates and conditions, including high degree of soil salinity.
  • Hemp can be successfully grown with little or no use of insecticides, fertilisers, herbicides or fungicides.
  • Hemp can be used to produce paper without the use of chlorines.
  • Hemp can produce up to 4½ times more paper per acre then pulped timber.
  • Hemp outgrows all weeds and prevents the growth of weeds leaving the farm paddock clean for the next year.
  • Hemp has a deep taproot, which penetrates the soil raising nutrients towards the surface and aerating the soil.
  • Hemp cloth is extremely hard wearing. It outwears cotton and other natural fibres. The fabric improves with washing and wearing. It rapidly absorbs moisture. Over time it becomes softer without losing its shape or appearance. Hemp offers a high degree of UV protection and has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Hemp seed oil contains a balance of the essential oils required by the human body- all of the Omega Fatty acids in the correct ratios for the human body. The oil is easily absorbed into our skin, and is attributed to assisting medical skin conditions including Psoriasis, Eczema and Dermatitis. Hemp Protein is the best source of plant protein in the world.

Worldwide demand for hemp food and fibre products is growing daily. Unfortunately, most hemp fibre products are still imported due to the fledgling size of the Australian hemp farming community. We have the ability to process and produce a variety of hemp fibre and cellulose based products. We have the industries ready to utilise Australian hemp fibre and seed, all Australia needs more farmers to meet the demand of the industries that require hemp fibre and seed – and for this, all is needed is our support.

Australia is geographically well suited to the commercial production of industrial hemp. Additionally, five states have made the necessary legislative changes that allow commercial industrial hemp farming. The emerging food industry in Queensland is currently providing hemp products for the export industry and pet food sector. Demand for human consumption in Australia is increasing, and needs further support from the public and Government. Hemp food products are widely consumed throughout the world, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand. The legislative power to regulate hemp is held by each state government.

There is a strong demand for hemp fibres also, in various manufacturing industries. Hemp is now being included as a component of current corporate research in Australia, utilising modern techniques and technology within the building industry. There are exciting proposals for a hemp pulp industry underway in Western Australia, which really make sense – a superior paper can be made from the hemp plant. Hemp plastic technology is another emerging industry that needs our support.  State industry representative groups are being formed and are set to play key roles in the growth and development of the Hemp industry.

Due to the overuse of other commonly used natural resources and global environmental pressures, Henry Ford’s visionary construction of a hemp car in 1941 may actually be a reality in mainstream production in the future. This was a car, which was constructed using hemp and other cellulose and resins to make most of the components. Although no one is making automobiles from hemp today, Mercedes Benz has pledged to build parts such as dashboards from it.

Impressively, and importantly, the environmental benefits of the growing of hemp, include, (though are not limited to): less reliance on fossil fuels; more efficient use of energy; water conservation; forest conservation; carbon sequestration; agricultural pesticide use reduction; dioxin and other pollution reduction; recycled end use efficiency and landfill reduction.

Let us take our future into our own hands and make NOW the time to choose wisely to make the power of our dollar really count. With global warming upon us and the need for alternatives, hemp can be a part of the solution to a sustainable future.

The food legislation in Australia needs to be amended to create a viable industry for our farmers. The legalisation of industrial hemp products in the food industry will enable the whole plant to be used, making the industry more profitable as well as ecologically sustainable.

©Eco Living Magazine

Eco Living Magazine

Midas Word

Eco Living Magazine

Welcome to Eco Living Magazine’s Blog.

Eco Living Health Aware is the freshest holistic health and eco magazine now currently available in Australia in print.

Eco Living Magazine is all about vision and sustainability – inspiring all our readers to find and follow their vision and contributing practical advice to help us create a sustainable future. Eco Living Magazine is full of articles that aim to inform and motivate all those who read them to take action in their lives.

In issue 100, currently onsale, we feature Anthony Ackroyd and the power of laughter; Bernie Prior and the dance of love on four legs; building your sustainable dream home with Libe Chacos; spas and retreats are the new holiday; and Wild Borneo – an eco adventure. Great recipes for delicious and healthy food, discover organic wine and regionalism, and get the low down on the poisons in our food chain.

112 pages of transformative eco living health aware content – chock full of positivity and beautiful stories. Reviews, organic skin care tips and dance your way to health with Wu Tao. Save the gentle Orangutans by taking action against palm oil.

Eco Living Magazine great reading for the twenty first century.

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