Monthly Archives: April 2016

Dancing with speeches #18 Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent a life in exile and lost a lifetime waiting and working for change in her country. She drew on the spirit of her people and the practice of nonviolence to keep her focused on her desire for liberation from military rule. The epitome of grace under fire, Aung San Suu Kyi always appears with a flower in her hair, beauty inside and out, a poetic defiance against tyranny.

Fearlessness maybe a gift, but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’ – grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.

From Freedom for Fear speech, 1990.

The antidotes for fear are truth, justice and compassion and a relentless application of them in the deepest ethical application, even to the cellular level is a vocation for the bravest of souls.  To be brave with yourself first is the first step or perhaps we are just ‘half a shade braver’ as David Whyte suggests.  There is an invocation, a litany of invitations to go further with our truths and stop being delusional – the oppression and failure of human rights is down to us as well, those who are free, it is our privilege to act and address.  We are not separate from the equation, an unholy symmetry until all are liberated.  Fear is the order of the day where human rights are being violated and the stock exchange in fear is alive and well in our nations and in our own hearts.

The fear of betrayal and rejection in our every day lives, hold us to ransom, call out our terrorist traits, bring sabotage and conspiracy.  When there is darkness, and fog it maybe hard to find the sunlight to shine on us and purify our hearts and support our steps to courage born of vulnerability. The spark and flicker of the candle can be enough to hold on to, the half a shade of bravery might inspire others to be a little bit braver too. Never under estimate the smallest act of breaking open the ground for others to follow and add their weight to the ground – every collective action begins with one voice, one simple act.

The fears that kept our ancestors alive throughout the ages have disappeared, yet we are still afraid of the metaphorical mastodon and we haven’t necessarily made our fears as extinct as creatures they were designed to protect us from.  The deepest fear, Marianne Williamson says is fear of our own greatness. Imagine liberation from fear what wonders might be visible, what humanity might unfold and evolution be aroused.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Marianne Williamson

The fear of the other is alive and well in our time, in my country and the fear of a little one on the shores of our land seeking asylum speaks to me of an irrational fear. Speaking truth to power, working for justice and making compassion visible will be both inoculation from further fear mongering and a cure. Freedom from fear is a daily practice and discipline.

Arriving for conference Credit:

Arriving for conference to prepare for government Feb 2016 Credit

Dancing with Speeches #17 Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle’s speech in 1854 in reply to the request from the chief in Washington to purchase the land.  The prophetic voice of first nations will haunt us forever until we learn the lessons aching in all the land and all the elements.  You can hear it here.

“If you contaminate your bed, one night suffocate in your own waste” is the echo we need to hear in my part of the planet.  We are considering to be home to nuclear waste and I wonder how can it be that the best idea we have for our struggling economy is to storage and hold these toxins.  David Suzuki urged us all on his last visit to Adelaide that we only take instruction from Aboriginal elders on whose land this facility is ear marked – is this any way to treat your Mother?

Before the contamination of the land, there is the contamination of the spirit and the mind that gives rise to the thought that having a nuclear waste dump  is a good idea. This is a dangerous and impure idea – one that will lead to more harm of our collective soul and the future generations of species including our own. What is it that allows our minds to go to this dark place?  Do we think so little of our selves? Can we not imagine our great grand children running around and sipping from the sun, dancing with joy of a new day?

Beyond the horizon of an economic forecast and balance sheet, lies a landscape ancient and new being shaped by the decisions of today.  This landscape will be revealed and is coming into focus right now, as we test the ideas and ponder on the thirty pieces of silver (actually $445billion apparently to flow into SA for at least 70 years if it goes ahead). The long term consequences of being contaminated by thoughts of short-term gain fuels its own cycle of destruction of spent ideas and depletes our deepest selves.  

Lift your gaze to the skies and see the stars – the Seven Sisters and Jakamurra – finding their way across the night sky to bring the new season of hope, refreshed thinking deeply connected to all those gone before who have set their eyes to the heavens and those to come who too will find their way home in the dark.

Feel the soft air of your mother’s breath as she holds you and nurses you to sleep and sings her song through the colony of casurina’s and sends a wave for the cockatoos to float down to their nests.

Be warmed from the ground up by the red sand trickling through your toes and reminding you there is no division and we all return to the earth one way or another – united even when set apart by the smallest of grains.  Yes, particle and wave are one in complex simplicity.

Follow the line of the hills as they meander between ridge and valley  calling us to the truth there are always ups and downs and each is a forecast to the other with lessons embedded for us to apply at the next turn.

Don’t be afraid to learn from the land and to ask for her help to discern and guide your steps – she is our greatest teacher, lover and mother.  If we don’t learn and listen, we may well be suffocated by waste.





Dancing with Speeches #16 Ben Chifley

Ben Chifley’s Light on the Hill speech is so simple and really just says the success of the Labor Party on polling day is entirely on the party’s capacity to serve the people who work and a recognition that it is a political expression of the labour movement: “If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labor movement will be completely justified.”

Labour movements around the world need to innovate and organize in new ways, as the economy changes and the capacity to work in new ways with no boundaries in time and space. Joining with other movements like environmental justice, peace, anti-nuclear, human rights, women; the labour movement walks in solidarity and at times fuses and brings strengths to create a single strand of human action for equity and justice. These movements join together on line and have the capacity to create a digital tsunami. The voices on line, matched with feet on the streets can make a difference and highlight what needs to be factored in when you go to the ballot box.

It is no longer enough to be concerned for those who have a job or want to have a job. The labour movement needs to speak up for both the light and the hill. The hill needs to be protected from mining magnates who disrespect traditional owners, the hill needs to be protected from shareholders who will vote in immoral wages for CEOs, the hill needs to be protected for future generations so they can enjoy the oxygen the trees not felled will provide and keep temperatures down. The light needs to be solar power, offered at an affordable price and use to connect to other energy sources. The light needs to shine in the cold and murky places and not just to be on the hill; to bring transparency, make invisible decisions visible and glow in the dark when fear and terror are being traded.

Chifley’s light on the hill has deep biblical roots and reminds me of the duty statement of the Christian to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To change hearts and minds and behavior is to engage those who are comfortable to understand and therefore change their response to those needing comfort. We all know what it is like to feel uncomfortable. There is the restlessness and moving on and off our spot, a queasy feeling in the stomach, a look of embarrassment, a furrowed brow of anxiety – all signs we are not at peace with ourselves and there is some kind of adjustment needing to be made to become more aligned. Gnawing away at the spirit and values to be challenged to bring justice requires a consistent effort over time.   For instance, Wilberforce spent a lifetime as a legislator working to abolish slavery across the British Empire and lived three more days after legislation was finally passed. He campaigned and gradually dismantled the scaffold holding slavery in place, he created a movement and a partnership with a wide base of supporters. Those making their fortunes out of the slave trade were his enemies and they had friends in the parliaments. He had a great partner in his mission with Thomas Clarkson and together they were able to help the comfortable feel uncomfortable. In our time and place there are plenty of rights to be wronged, places where light needs to be shone for justice and also places where are best selves need to rise to the occasion so an entire movement can be a light on the hill for our nation. The plight of the 28,000 people here in Australia in limbo, having arrived seeking asylum and now waiting in no-mans land without any confirmation about their future – surely we could just offer an amnesty? We’ve done it before in our history (remember Tiananmen Square and the Chinese university students, remember the Vietnamese boat people?). To say nothing of the horror of what is being done in our name on Manus and Nauru!

Movements begin, like the light, with a spark and as we know it only takes a spark to get a bushfire going … let’s climb to the top of our hill and light the candle we need to light to bring justice and feelings of discomfort to open the hearts of those who can make Australia a sanctuary, a welcoming place and deliver ourselves as a light on the hill.



Dancing with Speeches #15 Oscar Romero

On March 20 2018 Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass. He broadcast speeches and homilies on the radio and one of his most famous became immortalised by the Hollywood treatment in a movie about his life. This speech called on the solders of the army to stop the repression because they were the brothers killing their own. The speech below is the actor Raúl Juliá recreating (in English) this speech.


To call each other to account, to recongise we are all connected and our liberation is bound to our brothers and our sisters is a call to action every day.It makes no difference if we are in the the informal theatres where terrorism and guerrilla make their home or the clinical formality of technologically driven machines and sophisticated weaponry – the result is the same – war is made.


The word war comes from the late Old English werre, from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old French guerre, from a Germanic base shared by worse. It is our worst selves on display when we make war. Far from the battlefields our taxes are used to build, deploy and send bodies to zones where the only outcome will be destruction. Romero called on the men in the army, it was a direct appeal, not to the chiefs or the captains or colonels, but to the foot soldiers those on the front line enforcing repression through the potent currency of fear.


Communities glue together the self preserving elements of fear and sometimes rise up to remove repression from their lives, but rarely is this done without a leader – I think of Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi. Antidotes to repression are built in movements for change, but if we are not careful, just like the frog in the jar as the water gradually rises in temperature, many societies don’t notice before it is too late and the repression is in full swing. To call out repression early and often is left to the prophets and the poets, the story tellers and the singers. The voices are the first ones to be silenced or to go underground. All the more reason for those with access to microphones to speak into the public space and follow Romero’s example, to name and claim the people as brothers and sisters, one family, naming the divide and relentlessly seeking union.


In psychology the notion of repression is the rejection from consciousness of painful or disagreeable ideas, memories, feelings, or impulses. The acts to bury and hide and cover up what we don’t want to face, making the often difficult and tortured journey to rise to the surface and come into plain view, unfettered. This is an ugly and painful trip from the toxic dump into the light if liberation calls. Romero’s voice was extinguished as other before him and many more to come will be too, but the prophet will not be silenced and is the ultimate guide to release the sticky mess of quagmire where repression is fed by fear.


The ones who take their voice to the streets and speak up are our psychologists dragging what we don’t want to face into the light and sadly it is inevitable that along the way there is collateral damage, there are those who get radicalized (on all fronts) and those who find their home on the edges or in exile.


Perhaps we take an examen of consciousness in the tradition of Romero’s spirituality:

Where is repression making an appearance in my world?

What repression am I stopping?

Where did I experience liberation today?

What holds me back?

What sets me free?

People carry a picture of the late Archbishop Romero during a march ahead of the 34th anniversary of his assassination in San Salvador

(RNS1-feb3) People carry a picture of late Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero during a march ahead of the 34th anniversary of his assassination in San Salvador on March 22, 2014. For use only with RNS-ROMERO-POPE, transmitted on February 3, 2015, Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jessica Orellana


Dancing with speeches #14 Gandhi

Gandhi began a journey to the sea to make salt with a speech. It was a declaration of war with the most powerful of weapons – nonviolence.  It was a call to leadership, duty, responsibility, action.

A Satyagrahi, whether free or incarcerated, is ever victorious. He is vanquished only, when he forsakes truth and nonviolence and turns a deaf ear to the inner voice.

Each step in the journey to the sea is one towards vastness, openness and with a focus on the horizon is a rare clarity – but once seen can’t be unseen. Swaraj (Hindi: स्वराज swa- “self”, raj “rule”) was used as a synonym  for “home-rule” first by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati and then by Mahatma Gandhi, and in turn became synonymous with Indian independence from  British colonisation.  But at it’s heart, swaraj is to be accountable to your true self and that is all about self discipline. It is the quest of the satyagrahi, a  person is dedicated to the campaign for truth.  Like the Quaker maxim to speak your truth to power based on the eternal Christian biblical reference of the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), the quest to be true to yourself and to be truthful with others is indeed a discipline. To speak and act nonviolently requires a deep compassion of yourself as well as others.  Gandhi understood these acts require community and a campaign and a confidence if you felled then others will rise up in your place and carry on the journey.  Civil disobedience in the public domain, begins with accepting your cooperation with your oppressor. Nonviolent direct action of sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, blockades, or hacktivism is organised, disciplined and focussed on the result. This must be matched with a personal practice to support your well-being and to bring no harm to others.

So many systems, in our first world are enslaving the poor in our country and in turn our first world enslaves the third and fourth worlds. Colonisation has deep roots in systems, hearts and minds – we have to be honest with ourselves. I live on land where there was no just settlement and no recognition of the land as mother, I consume more than my fair share of energy and calories and moire often than not,  I often fail to change my behaviour even though all the evidence is in about climate change. Behaving as if I am not connected to others of my species and other species is delusional – we are all connected.

Withdrawing our cooperation from what oppressors us is at the heart of this quest for truth.  What is the truth that sets you free? Removing yourself from what holds you back or worse holds you down, and keeps you enslaved takes just as many steps as Gandhi took to travel to the sea. Each step towards the sea is one more removing you from what is holding you back.  Just as Polonius gave his blessing to his son as Laertes stepped out with humility.

The steps towards our truth are blessed in nonviolence and taken in good company, the path made easier by those who have gone before us and are taken in confidence, knowing others will follow.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82