Sunday, March 25, 2007

When exactly was the 'dawn of civilisation'?

I am an avid reader of the New Internationalist and was particularly fascinated by the latest issue 'Inside Iran' which provides an independent view of what is happening for the people of this war-torn and often vilified country.

I was sad however to find that even in such an 'enlightened' publication as the NI the journalist who wrote the section 'Iran - a history' subscribes to the dominant but debatable view that 'the dawn of civilization' was in the 4th millenium BCE.

Eminent archeologist Marija Gimbutas and others have uncovered numerous sites that show evidence of much older sophisticated civilizations and clearly reveal an ancient widespread culture which flourished throughout Europe between 6500 and 3500 BCE. Gimbutas' work shows a society in which women had high status and power along with men. Egalitarian and peaceful, "Old Europe" existed for thousands of years without war.

Clearly at odds with the images of kings, warriors, and conquering gods that generally dominate our view of the past, this work cuts to the heart of basic questions about human nature. Is war inevitable? Did men always dominate women? It is not hard to see why this controversial information is hotly (but not terribly convincingly) disputed by the current patriarchal paradigm of scholarship. However the evidence of civilized societies much earlier then 4000 BCE is clear. I wrote to the NI and told them what I thought!

For more information see where you can also order copies of 'Signs out of Time' an inspiring documentary on Marija's life and work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Buy local to reduce global warming

I recently attended a discussion called 'Dharma, Gaia and Globalisation' with Helena Norbert-Hodge, a leading analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures around the world and Catherine Ingram an international dharma teacher, leader of 'Dharma Dialogues' - public events inquiring into the possibility of living in awakened intelligence.

The evening was fascinating & inspiring and my hunger for information on how I can, as an individual, support the reduction in global warming and contribute to raising consciousness on the planet was well satisfied.

I'd like to share some of what I heard.

Helena's message was clear and strong. She spoke about the very small window of opportunity that we have to reverse the effects of our lifestyle to date and attempt to restore the planet into balance. She also made the point very clearly that we tend to (and in fact are encouraged to) feel guilty that our materialism has created global warming and the environmental mess we are in. However she referred to evidence that psuedo-scientific research funded by the big energy companies has been actively used to disseminate the idea that climate change was not occurring despite overwhelming evidence that it is. And more poignantly that the rise in consumerism has been systematically created by very effective psychologically based marketing, targeted at all ages, in particular the very young, and designed to turn us into a race of materialistic consumers, discontent with our selves and our lot and carefully conditioned to believe that to be happy we really do need to have the new, the latest, the whatever it is that big business want to sell us!

She says if you are looking for 10 things you can do about climate change, at the top of the list is to support your local farmers and buy local. In fact she suggests that this is probably the top 9 of the top 10 things you can do with setting up local renewable energy resources as action number 10!

On her website - The International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) she elaborates

'Throughout the world, agriculture is in crisis. Farmers are going bankrupt in record numbers, and the rural communities of which they are an integral part are being drained of life.

Meanwhile, international trade in food is booming. Every year, the distance between producers and consumers rises, to the point where the average American meal has now travelled more than 1,500 miles before it arrives on the dinner table.

These two trends are directly linked. The globalisation of the food economy, while enriching a small number of giant 'agribusinesses', is undermining the welfare of everyone else. What's more, it is a major contributor to increasing CO2 emissions, and therefore to climate change.'

Her organisation has been working hard to encourage the creation of local farmers markets. The results have been outstanding with such a boom in some local economies that councils and local government are starting to incorporate market areas into some town planning.

Another valuable piece of information that I gleaned from the evening was the hidden effect that using my credit card was having on local economy. I tend to use my card for all my shopping and pay it off once a month before interest is due. As the discussion pointed out this means I am donating 2-3 percent of my monthly spend to the potentially dubious, and certainly non-local, investment activities of my credit card bank. Money which could be supporting local retailers if I were to pay cash when shopping locally.

The third gem that I gleaned is more difficult to convey. The discussion moved to the urgency for action vs the importance of staying calm and centered and in a place of 'intelligent awareness'. This is a conundrum that I have often wondered about as I try to apply meditation practices in my busy daily life. I spoke to Catherine afterwards about this and she suggested that within the urgency to achieve the work that is to be done one can maintain an inner calm and an inner state of relaxation. Something in her communication touched me deeply and without knowing exactly how I would do this I could feel that this was a practical (and very peaceful) possibility. I'll keep you posted on how I go.

Helena's website again is The International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC)
Catherine Ingram can be found at Dharma Dialogues with Catherine Ingram
And the fabulous Kali Wendorf who compered and co-created the event is the publisher of the independent, cutting edge, parenting and lifestyle magazine Kindred - well worth a read. Find out more and subscribe to Kindred here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

High school girls suspended for saying Vagina!!

TODAY host Meredith Vieira talks with Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues," three Westchester County High School students, who were suspended for using the word vagina during a school performance of her play, and Peter Breslin, school board president.

View the video clip here

In case you do not have a connection that supports video these are the highlights of Eve’s comments.

"I am not shocked that the school resisted saying the word because unfortunately we are still living in a world where people are terrified of the word Vagina!" “Vagina. It’s a body part... Vagina, elbow, hand, Vagina."

"The fact that we still live in a world where saying this word creates such controversy is disturbing to me. Because often it is adult's contaminated projection onto the word rather than girl’s healthy understanding of their bodies."

"If authority gives you a directive that is unwise and inappropriate, to me it is a sign of leadership to refuse the directive."

Eve's response to young people being in the audience and being sensitive to making some people uncomfortable.

"Sensitive to what?" "Hearing Vagina... that they would know that they have one?" "What are we concerned about?" "Heaven forbid.”

"Let's look at why don't we want girls to have language for their bodies!" "Why don't we want girls to have agency over their bodies... to know their bodies, to love their bodies?" Half of the reason why girls end up getting violated, getting disassociated, getting distracted, is because they are not educated about their bodies!" "Why don't we want girls and boys to be educated about their genitals?"

On the fact that the f-word was said at the school open mike night with NO consequence?

"I predict to you that worlds like rape, and war, and plutonium were used. Why are those words less disturbing words than Vagina? Vagina is the place where life comes from; where we all pass through..."

Many thanks to Christie Achor of Badmimi, another dedicated vagina revolutionary, for passing me this information.