Culture Politics Psychology

Love, power and “othering”

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

Jimmy Hendrix

In this time of increased polarisation and conflict everywhere, a new verb has appeared in the English language. To “other” someone is to stop seeing them as a fellow human who has motives and emotions that are understandable and relatable. The “other” might as well be an alien or a malevolent android: they can be opposed, blamed, hated, even killed – but not understood.

This “othering” is a real problem. It massively reduces our options for dealing with behaviours we don’t like. Here’s why:

Culture Politics Psychology

Monarchy: symbol of belonging – and not-belonging

I have been thinking a lot recently about identity and belonging – two distinct but overlapping concepts.

We are social animals. Evolution has wired deep into our DNA a sense that our survival depends on being part of a group – a tribe, family, nation, culture. Non Western cultures emphasise belonging more than individual identity. Māori writer Owen Eastwood describes the way this is expressed in his culture as whakapapa (pronounced far-ka-pa-pa). As a child searching for his identity in the years following the death of his Māori father, he received a letter from the office of his Māori tribe with the heading “You belong” and including a detailed genealogy tracing every ancestor back through grandparents, great-grandparents back to Paikea – the whale rider – a mythical ancestor who had come from the spiritual homelands of Hawaiki across the ocean to the islands the Māori now call home. This heritage, he was told, is his whakapapa, and it includes not only the names but the stories of those ancestors. And embedded in those stories are the values which describe what it is to be Māori.

Culture Psychology Spirituality

A Return to Conscience

I’m thinking more and more about the importance of conscience as distinct from values.

Values are certainly important. As kids we absorb the values of the adults around us (which may or may not be a good thing!) Part of growing up is finding what our own values are – whether through trial and error or serious inner reflection. Finding people whose values are somewhat aligned with our own is an important foundation of the trust required in all our relationships – whether intimate partners, friends or work colleagues. We could all benefit from some serious reflection about what we value individually and as organisations/institutions.

But conscience is more than just having values.

Culture Politics Spirituality

Live not by Lies

If, like me, you have felt despair and helplessness at what is happening in Ukraine, what is happening to our beautiful planet, what is happening to the world’s indigenous peoples, what is happening to the poor and oppressed around the world, here is an answer. It was written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1974 on the eve of his expulsion to the West. It was written to people who also felt powerless in the face of oppression, state propaganda and violence. Please read and ponder:


Culture Psychology Spirituality

A Dangerous Slide into Unconscious Religion

If we don’t do religion consciously we will do it unconsciously.

A bold statement, I know! – But one that I believe more and more to be true. We are religious animals, despite the brief interlude of The Enlightenment, Modernism and Post-modernism. We are wired to look for a grand over-arching explanation of the world we experience, and our place in it (a meta-narrative) and within that to belong to a community of fellow believers motivated by a purpose bigger than ourselves.

Culture Economics Psychology

The True Power of Money

Imagine I offered you a potion that would give you super-powers to control other people, to bend them to your will. You could use this power however you wanted – for good or ill. You could quit your job, stay in a fancy hotel dining on caviar and champagne and have as much amazing sex as you want. You could help your friends and hurt your enemies. You could use your powers to make the world a better place, ending poverty and hunger and halting environmental destruction.

Would you take the potion?

Culture Spirituality

Bedtime Stories with Mike

I like reading aloud. So during this time when much of Australia’s population is in lockdown I thought it would be a nice offering to record myself reading a book that has inspired me and will hopefully inspire others. I’ve already uploaded a few chapters on my private Facebook profile, but here I’m making them available to everyone. I’ll keep adding a couple of chapters each day until the book is complete.

Health Psychology

Acknowledging Emotions in a Pandemic

We mostly make our choices based on emotions… and then, after we’ve decided, we find a way to justify those decisions rationally.

It’s a secret that marketers and politicians have long known.

We like to think we are making rational decisions. We like to believe we are making our own choices without being emotionally manipulated. But it’s seldom true.

That is why, when it comes to debates around vaccination, appeals to reason are seldom effective.

Culture Economics Psychology

The genius and curse of specialisation

Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

Arthur Schopenhauer

We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully, nor for much longer, unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.

Buckminster Fuller

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.

John M. Culkin (provenance unclear – see here)

The genius of capitalism is also its fatal flaw – and that thing is specialisation. In simplest terms it means that the baker can just focus on baking, the cobbler can just focus on making shoes, the builder can just focus on building and at the end of the day each person gets everything they need – food, clothing and shelter … and much more.

Politics Psychology

When we don’t listen

Violence is often a form of communication born of desperation.

When we don’t or won’t or can’t listen to each other and respond to what we have heard at a human level, there are consequences.

The wisest commentary I ever heard on the Middle East was from a young Palestinian who observed that in her home country there are two peoples crying out in deep pain, desperate for their pain to be heard and acknowledged by the other – and yet each unable to hear and acknowledge the other’s pain. The rocks and rockets, bullets and bombs have their roots in a desperate cry to be heard and seen and acknowledged as fellow suffering humans.