Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is the right to vote enough to make a democracy?

I'm reposting below, something I wrote last elections - my feelings about people focusing on how important it is to vote have not changed at all in the last 5 years - we are told it is exercising our franchise, but really, it is not that at all. If we are to exercise our franchise, the systems have to allow us ongoing input into governance (thanks Dawn French for that word). And we the people, need to find it in us to change ourselves so that we can contribute something valuable to ourselves as communities and a or don't vote - I understand some people not wanting to give any credence to a system they see benefiting only the politicians, but either way, whether you vote or not, do what you can to make what you do in society matter in-between.
I say that, but at the same moment I am asking myself, how and what? How broken is our system and can we fix it? What can we do to provide people a safe and open space to listen, speak and effect change? These are genuine questions - so if you have an idea, please share!

Voting Is The Least Important Thing You Need To Do

I started writing this as Saint Lucia and a few other countries across the world were going to the vote. I wasn’t at home, so didn’t vote – and for a while, I was saying that I’m glad I’m not home because for the first time, I really would not know who to choose – I am disappointed and do not trust either of our main parties to really govern – it’s that plain and simple – they both did some good things during their stints in power, and they both did a lot of crap – a lot of questionable things – things that seemed downright not in the interests of the people, but rather, in the interests of those who could get away with it or could pay for it.
And now we have an interesting number of alternatives to the historical two parties– but none with enough candidates to form  a new government…we have a Facebook Page “People’s National Movement for Change” – a page set up to encourage non-partisan discussion of the REAL issues…I like that page, though in the weeks leading up to the actual elections the posts have degenerated too often into empty party slogans and colour-bound blind party loyalties…never mind, the fact that people have found it possible to discuss openly is imho, a great start. (EDIT from 2016 - we have a bunch of pages ostensibly for non-partisan nation-building purposes now - some are party initiatives, some not - sometimes they contain useful discussion, sometimes not, but at least it is one more possibility for people to take part in ongoing debate)
And though, in the end, yes, I would have liked to have put my ‘tikwa’ next to a choice out of the 4 that are running in my neighbourhood…I know that it is just not the most important thing to do…whoever wins, not much will change …unless…WE THE PEOPLE CHANGE.
And since I started writing this, the importance of each and every vote has come into fine, fine focus as the elections happened and days of recounts followed; as one incumbent candidate’s 68 vote initial lead turned into a 2 vote defeat, and another’s slim defeat of about 19 votes turned into an even slimmer one of 7…but my belief voting is the least important thing you do, remains pretty much undisturbed…
What I believe is far, far, far more important than the vote – for Saint Lucia and perhaps many other places – is what the people do with their government in-between. In Saint Lucia for sure, we need to complain constructively – with suggestions for solutions (and be prepared to set aside personal  for the greater good), we need to stop being part of the ‘bobol’ (corruption) system, we need to become colour blind – this ‘en rouge’ nonsense (and ‘en jaune’ if there is that one too), and become symbolically challenged – not know a flambeau except for at a beach party, not know a star except for the night sky. We need to clean out our ears and re-learn to hear, relearn a language that does not rely on empty slogans and catcalls, learn to speak our minds and LISTEN to what others are saying and make INFORMED decisions and plans that are based on content not colour, that contain substance not kick-backs…I don’t know, but I’d figure by now people would have started to realize the biggest kickback we all end up with is one in our head to knock us down.
So yes, voting is important, but getting away from the old blind party loyalty system is much more important because unless we do, even the new alternatives will find it more difficult not to repeat history in all its less than glorious moments.  And to do this, we also need to make it difficult, if not impossible for the reins of power to be attached to a golden carriage over which we have no control whatsoever, and which sooner or later flies mud in our faces and breaks our toes as we stand by and let it ride on up  at our expense.
And yes, I did mean it when I said I think each previous government has done some good things as well – so we need to be able to acknowledge those things – without it being a party thing – acknowledge good things with good critique and by ensuring that the good things are available for all to benefit, not just those of one fixation or another.
Does not all this colour branded party fixation not strike you as so ‘Victorian’, ‘Colonial’ ‘divide and rule?’ I know I am not the first to say it. It’s powerful propaganda – playing up people’s insecurities and fears to divert attention away from the things that really matter. It’s a tried and tested (and I think, should be outlawed), method. It does not benefit any of us, the people, truly, in the long run – it benefits just a few – and at a cost we should not be prepared to pay.
So, you have voted…or perhaps you have not…for me, it does not matter anyway near as much as what you do now, what you say now and for the next five, ten, fifteen and forever years– some people have been making these steps, taking up substantive discussions on issues beyond, under, across party lines -so why not more of us? Let’s choose our words and actions as best we can – even each small effort, each small step towards a government of and by the people is a movement for positive change.
What do YOU think?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Access Consciousness and the Artist's Way at Work

Rain Maybe? Or is it sun breaking through (photo finola jennings clark, rights reserved)

Why are bad habits so much easier to get into than good habits? I mean really, usually good stuff is easy to love, right? We don’t have problems accepting affection, enjoying good food, taking an afternoon nap on the sofa…they’re all good things and they’re easy habits to integrate into the daily routine. Why not the same with exercise, writing, painting? It’s not like they’re chores that I don’t enjoy…it’s something almost intangible but very, very real, the reluctance to ‘just do it’. Is it really ingrained lack of confidence from years so long gone by?

The Artist’s Way

I was listening to The Artist’s Way at Work this morning which though I find somewhat less than captivating to listen to because of the narration, has some excellent insights into the creative, productive and non-productive nature we all have within us. I easily recognized other people who’ve been and are in my life and I recognized myself too...happily in some cases it was me seeing my reflection in the good habits, but not in every case! I could see myself in so many descriptions that were about habits that keep us back.

Yes, I would like to say I try to ‘do my best’ at my work but I know that’s not true and as for being really proactive and creative? Am I really or do I allow myself sometimes still to believe ‘my hands are tied’ by other’s bad habits, limited resources, urgent important tasks? How many of us actually really are prepared to step out of our comfortable box with walls papered with excuses and blame – aka – ‘reasons why I can’t’? How many of us consistently find ourselves saying ‘Oh I can’t because so-and-so isn’t/hasn’t/won’t/didn’t …”? But the bigger question is, what did WE do to overcome the challenges the other person’s bad habits create for us? Did we just let ourselves off the hook, comfortable in having a scapegoat to enable our failure? Or did we just dive into the wave and trust that where there’s a will, there’s a way?

Access Consciousness

Recently a bubbly young woman, Christine Caruso, came back to visit Saint Lucia and I decided to let her ‘run my bars’. I was, to say the least, astounded at the effect it had on me – I am pretty sure part of that was that I am in a space where I’m open to any kind of positive vibe – and prior to going, I had no idea about what ‘access consciousness’ was about…I just got a really positive vibe off Christine and decided to go. And it was amazing. The verbal takeaway, conceptual really, was ‘what else is possible’: when we find ourselves butting up, as we so often do, against our tired old assumptions of how things are, or when we find ourselves desperately seeking answers or trying to bend life to our wishes… just stop and ask ‘What else is possible?’ Open yourself up to allow other options to float on in to your life instead of blocking the way with old assumptions that are most often negative.

The physical takeaway for me was also amazing – during the session I didn’t experience much other than becoming very, very relaxed and gradually seeing a rainbow of colour behind my eyes and eventually just lighter and brighter white light. When I got up, I felt physically taller. Really. I really felt taller. I could not wipe the glowing smile off my face either – I felt so much lighter and a deeper peaceful, joyous openness. My friends could not believe what they saw…yes, it was the ‘old me’ but to them I also appeared as I felt.

So, I went back a couple weeks later – and this is after researching what ‘the Bars’ are and realizing it is another of ‘those franchises’ that in principle I SO don’t like (I have a build-up of negative assumptions about them!). But I also realized, whatever the tool, how good it is relies almost entirely on how open we are to letting it work. And then of course, where therapy is going on, it relies also on how genuine the ‘therapist’ is – and with Christine, it was easy to place your trust in her because she just poured out good energy. Not the fake kind of hippy-happy all is light and good kind – genuine good energy – the kind that can exist even in dark places. These two combined, I think, are of fundamental importance for a positive result.

My second experience was completely different, having very physical effects during the session and no light shows this time J It was equally, but very differently, good.
Both the Access Consciousness Bars exercises and the Artist’s Way at Work I realized, work when we are really prepared to let go of our past that is so full of all the stored experiences of failure and denial and can’ts and won’ts and don’ts, should, must, mustn’ts etc and open up and really ask ourselves ‘What else is possible?’ and then, key, key point here…do it and keep on doing it until we have picked down each and every brick of our personal walls and built ourselves a nice sturdy set of steps, climbing as we go. 

What they, and any other system are not, is magic fixes that remove the need for us to take action, so my advice for the road…Open up and step up and keep remembering to actively seek to let go of the millions of assumptions we allow to cloud our good judgement. If you want a better life then you will, at some point has to embrace asking, from the core of your being, ‘What else is possible?’

Skip Monday, Saint Lucian Band - these guys love what they do and it shows! (photo Finola Jennings Clark, rights reserved)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Life in Time-Lapse

Dawn over the East coast Saint Lucia
A day passes by so quickly now. There was a time when hours would stretch beyond anything our imagination could fill them with. But now the years are like a few sleeps before Christmas. There is so much left to do. Like a time-lapse video of the beauty of night into day and spring into summer, autumn, winter, our breathing has sped up. The dawn sun rises in an lcd glow on our face with her sky filled with soft pinks and warm yellows in rgb. The early morning sun only warms our skin through the fading tinted windows of the suv as we ride a stranger’s bumper hard because we’re forced to go slow. Late. Late. Late again. For what?

We tell ourselves how wonderful it is that despite that we don’t see each other for months, years at a time and still find ourselves firm friends, that this is a good thing. It is a good thing, but why? Thank goodness and ever grateful for small mercies. Is it small mercy that we see so many of our friends at other friends’ funerals?
Time well spent

24 little hours, minute by minute, today. In the end, it is all we have and while money can certainly buy it, is it ever a seller’s market? Look around you. Do the math. Tomorrow is nothing but a figment of your imagination and Christmas is but a few sleeps away. Live well.