Monthly Archives: January 2016

Dancing with Speeches #5 Malala

This entry is dancing with Malala’s speech on receipt of her Nobel Prize in 2014.

Yesterday, I sat in a café with a soon to be five year old this week and her mother told me how that very morning they were talking about how some girls can’t go to school and are forced to marry. As the rain came tumbling down on our dry parched earth, it seemed even the sky was underwriting these incredible facts to a young child sitting in the café in Australia. Each drop, a tear of those girls and women around the world unable to reach their full potential. And for us in places where these barriers do not exist, we have a responsibility to speak up for them, work for justice in ways we can to support them and bring equity for all women and girls around the world – hold up our half of the sky.

For every Malala there is another girl who does have these rights – not privileges – rights – to an education and with the key from that door the world will become a different place – not just for a single child – but for all children. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal Number 4 states that by 2030 gender disparities in education will have disappeared. This seems like a long time to wait for the 5, 6, 7 year olds of 2016!

In Australia we still have our own gender inequities as the Human Rights Commission has shared on a number of occasions, but in the scheme of things it is the young women like Malala from whom we need to take our cue.

We need to speak up for education of girls and women in places where this basic human right is denied and do them the honour of investing in programs through our governments, charitable works and our own purchasing power, and make our contribution.  We are part of the picture as well, each time we buy a piece of clothing that has been manufactured with child labour we are contributing to the problem – a cheap t-shirt for our children may be an early death sentence for someone else’s child on the other side of the planet.  When we build a discourse to a level for a five year old to be curious about her life and how it is different to other girls her age, we are gifting a generation with the potentiality of solutions.

The conversations we have with our children and grandchildren about other children just like them who don’t have the same rights will help them build the just world for their generation to live in around the globe. And yes we have our own challenges in Australia and do not invest anywhere near enough in early childhood development and the gap for children in Aboriginal communities are too wide.

The same principles apply at home as they do internationally, invest in education, support girls to get access to the full range of opportunities, make sure the home they are growing up in is safe and free from violence, they have health checks and are developmentally ready to learn when they start school. Tragically in our prosperous nation, this is not true for one in five children.

Malala inspires us in a way no Barbie doll can, she calls us to the biggest of aspirations, not the minimum standards.  In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech she dressed in red and invoked her cultural heritage, a modern day Little Red Riding Hood, brave in the face of patriarchy dressed up as wolves. Ravaged by those wolves she rose to claim the space for her generation and called on us to be more.

The world can no longer accept that basic education is enough.  Why do leaders accept that for children in developing countries, only basic literacy is sufficient, when their own children do homework in Algebra, Mathematics, Science and Physics?

Malala’s gift to us is her challenge to have us all holding up the sky where a generation of educated children will help bring a new wave of equity for the planet and frankly, we can’t do without it, and I don’t think we should be waiting til 2030 do you?








Dancing with Speeches #4 MLK

This week’s speech inspired by Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C, USA.

I am not from the US, I have no right to speak on their behalf, yet the #BlackLivesMatter campaign is ringing in my ears and on my screens it is shaking me up. It is helping me reconnect with my activism. It is sending a message home to my core. #BlackLivesMatter is rebuilding the black liberation movement in the USA and around the world.    is an affirmation and embrace of the resistance and resilience of Black people, founded by

Where we had Charlie Perkins in Australia riding in the freedom run we now have Luke Pearson making strides in the media with IndigenousX, where we had Kath Walker claim her space as poet and her name as Oodgeroo Noonuccal, we have Dr Antia Heiss asking us Am I Black Enough for You? The strains of Yothu Yindi dancing our way into our hearts with Treaty is still part of the soundtrack for action. Dr Gregory Phillips is healing us all as we find the steps towards healing the deepest wounds of the lies of the past and what we need to do to save ourselves and our planet. So I want to stand still and bow to all those leaders and say thank you for teaching me, a white woman, and now taught, my job is to stand in solidarity, to speak up and to invoke the call #blacklivesmatter.

The great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, said he refused to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt. As a non black person I have the responsibility to make deposits into this bank, and even more responsibility to not make withdrawals with my own racism. I need to make deposits to bring equity and make this bank balance grow with interest! My acts should be a sign for others to follow.

There is urgency today as real as it was in the 60s. Children are dying in the streets, mothers are losing their babies, communities are losing their men, we are all losing the talents and gifts of those who fall to drugs, alcohol, violence and preventable diseases. In MLK’s words, the place for the struggle is on the “highest plane of dignity and discipline” and “rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force”.

How do you bring your soul force to the liberation movement? Just like the warrior before battle prepares with exercise and study of the plan, gets to know the enemy and readiness themselves for being wounded and even potentially death. The soul force needs to be fostered to grow strong. The preparation, the plan, the readiness to be knocked down and to get up again is true for all of those who take the nonviolent path. For what is the antonym of warrior? Is it peacemaker? Is it civilian? Is it liberator? Or is it that warriors of the liberation movement are nonviolent activists who recognize the battle fields of policy, of programs, on the streets, in the supermarkets, in the carriages of the trains? The war on equity is everywhere and we are all bound up in it. I live on land that was stolen. I make my home in a landscape where I don’t know its language. I take colonization as a given.

Just as MLK called for the sounds of freedom to be heard from every mountain top, I take tentative steps to build my soul force from the trills and squawks of the birds offering sounds of freedom to be ringing out across this country. The tweets come in new forms and are accompanied with a hashtag #blacklivesmatter and the work to get to that mountain top ‘ain’t done yet!

We are the ones who will make the rough paths smooth, the crooked ways straight and the valleys exalted. The soul force pays attention to our own rough paths, our own crooked ways and our own valleys of despair, darkness and inequity and rises up to the mountain top and bring others with us so we can all get to that mountain top together and leave no one behind. When we stand on that mountain top and see the “oasis of freedom and justice” we will have dealt with sweltering heat of injustice and oppression. In this dreaming we will understand we are owned by Mother Earth and the mountain is holding us up and learnt this from the ones who knew this truth first.

It is then, and only then and because #blacklivesmatter, we will all be truly free, free at last and be able to sing as one voice Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! 



Dancing with Speeches #3 Angelou

 When Bill Clinton invited Maya Angleou to speak at his inauguration in 1993 she stood and raised her voice and gave the gift of this speech a poem, The Pulse of Morning. It is a call to take new steps of change to look up and look out.

The morning comes, each and every day, a fresh invitation to take what is before you, an open page made possible by what has gone before. The aeons of unfolding creation, deep time from the big bang to this moment, your eyes open and you take a breath of the air that unites your breath with all others – regardless of species – our common heritage is the morning, the day greeting us and inviting us to be in the day. Regardless of what and who we are and where we have come from, we owe the day to the rock, the river, the tree, those inanimate objects full of life. They pre-date the dinosaur and our oldest of ancestors they have held the earth together, epic custodians, they have seen it all, the movement of the seasons and tectonic plates, the rise and fall of civilizations, the beginning and ending of beasts and birds. In their stillness they continue to move us.

The good in each and every morning is a whole-hearted act of hope by creation. And how do we respond to this invitation? Can we be trusted with the morning to allow its goodness to pulsate through our veins for the remainder of the day, and each and every day forward? Do we feel that goodness doing us good and making itself visible in how we live with the gift of the good morning past the morning into afternoon and evening, with the remains of the goodness harvested in the evening?

Br David Steindl-Rast instructs us to look up, to see the clouds and the birds and allow ourselves to give thanks for the mantle of the sky. I love our big, blue sky in Australia. It is how I know I am truly home when I have travelled beyond my shores. The Big. Blue. Sky the only place big enough for Zeus’s ego. Magpie’s reveille injects goodness into the soundscape of morning and before long is joined by other creatures in a chorus to the day.

We can travel on the good in every morning from dawn to dusk, and call on it to support our efforts, bring clarity from the first thought having slept on a decision and comfort us in the knowledge there will still be a morning tomorrow if we need to start again despite ourselves. When we greet the morning with our own goodness we unite with all of creation. Looking into the eyes of those we greet with a “Good Morning” lets take this ritual to a spiritual practice greeting one another with the confidence and knowledge that all that is in this brand new morning is indeed good and the good in me is meeting and greeting, acknowledging and bowing down to the good in you.

Good Morning.


Dancing with Speeches #2 Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst’s famous speech in the USA explaining how the UK movement for suffrage had gone beyond advocacy and was now inciting a civil war and revolution. It was a call for freedom or death.

This very week women have been called “f**ing witch” by elected officials and the distance between Lysistrata, Emmeline and our day is very short one! This is not a call to arms, or a call to violence, it is a call out.

We need to call out all the examples of inequity between women and men around the globe – the vote, equal pay, right to participate in all parts of the economy and society. And we need to call out where there is sexism – it is still alive and well.

Soft porn in every newspaper and magazine is a constant reminder – why even as I sat in a doctor’s waiting room yesterday I was shocked to see celebrity magazines images blazing from every page of women selling products designed to continue inequities and copy of exploitation. I fail to see how this is good for anyone’s health.

The war on women is alive and well and close at hand. The young woman refugee who sought to come to mainland Australia for an abortion post rape was refused by the same Minister who described a journalist as a witch this week.   A Prime Minister dismisses a minister for his poor performance representing Australia overseas but not one with poor performance at home. This is the issue at the heart of the war – the old domestic versus public issue. There was a time when hitting your wife at home did not attract the same penalties for hitting a bloke in a front bar… that has not completely changed as women still need to leave their homes to be noticed. No more a striking tale of this than the experience of 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, who for years medical, community, police and justice systems failed leading to the inevitable murder of her son by his father in a public place. Mental health is surely to blame but lets not forget murder is murder, and this week another father murdered his two children and then suicided in the most dramatic ways in public place that will bring the entire community to know that place for these crimes. The media started sharing this horrific tale, as if was a ritualized hara-kiri, the good bloke of the community tormented to the point where his spirit needed to be released, more than once, failing to fully amplify that two little children seemed to be required for the action to be complete. However unwell, the roots of this story will have found nourishment where violence against women is the meta-narrative .

We are living in fantasy land, if we think that the gender wars are over. The number of deaths each year, sadly each week in Australia when men are murdering their children and the women they once loved and even themselves are testimony to this. Just because we don’t see sexism happening in public doesn’t mean it is not happening … and then when we do see it writ large on television screens by a sporting hero to a journalist doing her job it is visible and decried … no doubt the same hero has done it a thousand times in bars and away from cameras and not been rebuked by a fellow patron. What happens in private has a different legitimacy … it was just a joke, it was cultural, it was an isolated incident … the excuses don’t excuse. It is time for a revolution to wake up from this fantasy and recognize we are all connected and as Parker Palmer says :

that a few of us can live secure private lives while ignoring our complicity in conditions that put many others at mortal risk.

Our well-being is caught up with the well-being of everyone of us – men and women, boys and girls. We have to care for one another and while one side of the equation is not fully liberated, all of us our drowning in the ocean, have guns to our heads and going insane. Where is the sanity of our members of parliament who think it is good enough to have laws where children are locked up on remote locations have fled war and terror, when a women sexually abused is refused health services, where protecting reputations of peers behaving badly is met with derision by the analysts and reporters? How is this sane?

We are all complicit in the conditions that put others in mortal risk – and sexism isn’t the only thing! Mrs Pankhurst made suffrage her crusade and it is indeed still a noble one to have and needed in our world and I whole-hardheartedly support. The actions, those of us with plenty, take everyday, contribute to choking the planet for future generations. When we take more than our fair share,  leave the place worse than we found it, we are complicit with creating a future where inequity creates revolutions of all kinds, and terrorism becomes viable option for those who feel they have no where else to go. All the time we watched and saw the signs, while those at home valiantly soldiered on, calling for our help and the help of our systems and somewhere along the line, the response was too late, not often enough or completely absent.

The line between the public and private is very thin indeed. The personal is political and getting to deeply understand and translating this into our everyday practice, embedded institutionally, and enshrined in laws, leads to liberation.

If we resort to violence we are missing the point.This is a call to undertake this quest nonviolently, so sisters and brothers, put out your brooms, call on your inner witch, sweep away sexism, call out the soft porn, name the policy madness and join in a nonviolent revolution to end this war.

Dancing with Speeches #1: Socrates and the price of free speech.



Inspired by Socrates speech in defence of being charged with not believing in the gods of Athens and corrupting youth.

When democracy starts to falter who do we look to blame? Men of Athens put Socrates to the test, the one who was deemed to be inciting the young to join and follow the Thirty Tyrants terrorizing the city and destroying their way of life. Socrates answered what may have been considered trumped up charges of three men with credentials in poetry, political and oratory – all men who knew how to turn a phrase and persuade and persuade they did the 500 strong jury to find Socrates guilty of turning the young against the State and not believing in the gods of the city. Once tried, the sentence was death – by his own hand through drinking hemlock prepared by the State. The first martyr to free speech in the earliest of democracies.

Not believing in the gods of the state, does not mean you have no beliefs, on the contrary, it may well mean you have beliefs that are so strong that you beliefs transcend your desire for your own life. This behavior is well worn in our time – could Socrates have just been an early version of the old men who send the young to do their dirty work against democracy and support the growth of outlaw gangs to bring down those rightfully elected? Whipping up the flames of hatred and war among young men by denouncing the ‘gods’ holding political, economic and social systems together? Does this sound familiar?

Socrates crime may not have been that he gave words meaning and the cause of the Thirty Tyrants legitimacy with his philosophizing on the streets, answering the questions put to him by his fellow citizens – it may have been that he didn’t speak up when those words were used to build the movement that threatened the city’s lifestyle. And when he had the chance to defend himself, he chose to bully and cajole his accusers. He challenged the jury to allow diversity of thought in the city and criticized them for not having the courage to think outside the town square. The cost was too high for the city to have this voice continue to be heard. They valued their lifestyle more … and is that such a bad thing? To say no to terror and to protect what you value. What is wrong with drawing a line in the sand and say we will not be subject to thoughts that turn into words that can be used by those who want to incite terror and destroy a democracy (with all its imperfections – because Athens certainly had some – just ask the women and slaves) ?

This argument has two sides.

In our time, we continue to condemn those whose opinions or prophesies we find uncomfortable, and some like Socrates, find their voice leads them to their death. When we don’t reform and include those who voices are excluded from the discourse we diminish the richness of the struggle to listen harder to learn to understand where they are coming from and why they feel left out. We also run the risk of giving legitimacy to their cause when a martyr is found. And not all causes will martyrdom be the way forward, it may well lead to more destruction and violence. It is the challenge for democracy to find a way to hear the voices and integrate, reform, develop, evolve.

How do we, democracy enthusiasts, include those voices who do incite hatred, who are willing to put their gods above all others, who refuse to come to the table without words of hate, who are willing to die for their beliefs?

This is the challenge of our time, we do not have the luxury of the Men of Athens to bring 500 jurors together and determine a course of action that ended in the state assisted suicide of a thought leader. Bullets and bombs replace words. The clash of gods have the crusades raging again and generations are marching across the planet fleeing from their homelands.

Socrates ingested the poison of the State and died – the most philosophical and poetic of actions. The most complete way of demonstrating what he believed was that Athens was faltering and it is said he looked forward to continuing his conversations with Orpheus and Musæus, Hesiod and Homer in the next world. This feels like only a few steps away from those who pull the thread on a suicide bombing jacket who because of their beliefs are willing to make the sacrifice to go to their maker and their heaven.

From Clementine Ford to Alan Jones – democracies need all the voices, even the ones we don’t want to hear. Being able to hear the voices without resorting to hemlock or jackets packed with explosives as extreme ways for the voice to be visible is the work of those who are seeking better democracies. Those voices who spoke up and charged Socrates were an orator, a politician and a poet. They were not the most reliable, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t have the right to name the problem as they saw it, take it to the jury and let the people decide. Free speech comes with a high price for both buyers and sellers in the market place of the global agora. How much are you willing to pay?

Price of Democracy by Bert Guillermo

Price of Democracy by
Bert Guillermo