Australian Arts in Health Policy 2012

Made 2 Move Performance
Made2Move perform “The Train and Other Flying Fantasies” at the Children’s Festival of the Tableland Folk Festival

The Health Policy Research Institute released its brief on the evidence for the arts and health, in June 2012.

It notes the need for policy to link and coordinate the activities of arts therapists, primary care practitioners, community artists and volunteers.

They recommend that interventions in a comprehensive arts and health program should include:

  1. For the few: individual therapy provided by professional arts therapists; arts strategies for relaxation, pain relief, diversion, and self-management. This may involve improving team coordination around these therapeutic goals, and broadening arts therapist position descriptions to incorporate practice elements suggested by evidence.
  2. For some: targeted participatory arts-based programs based around particular needs such as rehabilitation, reintegration, or return to work. This may involve forming a range of partnerships within and between acute care, continuing care, primary care,community care and arts organisations.
  3. For many: good design, arts in the environment; opportunities to attend performances and participate in cultural events. Access issues should be addressed by institutions and local communities, taking into account social inequity. This may involve improving liaison within healthcare institutions between infrastructure departments and clinical units, and between healthcare organisations and thenetwork of cultural organisations in their neighbourhood.

 

They conclude that the evidence is sufficient to justify healthcare managers incorporating arts-based strategies in strategic plans, and further suggest that:

  • An integrated care model is required to set up referral and consultation pathways between healthcare institutions, agencies and the community. An implication is a shift from project workers to continuing appointments in arts and health staffing.
  • Large institutions or specialised institutions with arts therapists on staff, should consider including education, coordination, and consultation responsibilities inrevised workloads for these specialists. This broadening of the role should allow institutions to attend to the diversity of programs as outlined above.
  • Institutions and agencies without arts therapists on staff should consider engaging a sessional arts consultant/educator from another healthcare institution or from the community.
  • Ongoing training of arts therapists to incorporate new responsibilities, and training of other staff members and volunteers, is needed to implement an integrated model of care. Some staff and volunteers will develop particular skills; others need to become familiar with arts strategies if they are to provide a supportive context for a variety of arts interventions. Skilled supervision is essential for non-specialist staff and volunteers working in the field.
  • Priority should be given to forming partnerships between health care agencies and arts organisations. These partnerships should facilitate sharing knowledge, staff exchanges, and creation of joint arts and health events and programs.

Forgiving Cain – Humanity’s Political Future.

For quite a number of years I worked in an honorary capacity at the rural health interface of national political life in Australia. Last night, two years after I retired from that work, I found myself waking with a flow of thoughts, almost a dream, about the political process. The flow of thoughts seemed to have initiates from several recent ‘soft’ exposures to the political process: a conversation with a retired MP; a working interaction with the Australian Government Arts policy; visions from the ABC TV Q&A program, and even last nights news image of Bob Brown on the environmental activists ship ‘Steve Irvin’ These exposures drew threads of questions around the non-political involvement principle in the Baha’i Faith.

In that twilight wakening I found myself trawling through the disappointments I had with, not politicians, but organisations approaches to the political process. Some status or historically strong organisations approach politics as a stern father lecturing their ignorant son. They avoid close engagement with community or other organisations, seeming to expect that these will ‘do as they are told’. Some organisations bring wealth to bear through the employment of ex-political advisors cum lobbyists who can open the highest ranking doors. Some young strong organisations do draw on a large niche community of support to both build wealth and human resources for political activism which they direct towards political ‘battle’. Many organisations, in this way try to bully a legislative or policy  outcome for their cause.

It occurred to me that there is a cultural trend in Australia, that politics is done by coercing the community to accept  for legislative and policy change. While the heart of legislative and policy change determines the mechanism for the distribution of energy (wealth); a nation’s management of the level of equity and justice; and a nation’s sustainability, it continues to support a framework of ‘lines drawn’ and bullying. The framework for ‘doing politics’ comes originally from the partisan history of the Australian democracy, the establishment of the Labour Party and the Conservative Parties in the nineteenth Century. Add to that the influence of the mass media, and we find ourselves working with significant barriers to the realisation of equity and sustainability.

So, I found myself wondering why we maintain this aggressive tendency in our politics. In Australia, we have largely lost the violence from our political arguments, yet the aggression and anger roils the surface of our peaceful demeanour. Nowhere is this more palpable than in the fight over refugees and the world’s environment. We are at war, constantly at war with each other.

What is the nature of this war? What, then, given Baha’u’llah’s vision of the Most Great Peace, is the nature of peace? Given peace is inevitable but war is habitual, how works the Will of God? As these questions unfolded, I recognised an answer to politics, in the Will of God. Baha’u’llah asks us to be well-wishers of just governments, to obey governments and kings, to avoid political machinations, and to work for the progress of nations. On our work, He directs us to lifelong learning in spiritual attitude, ethics, philosophy, sciences, arts, trades, agriculture, and health, from which we work with a service ethic, expending wealth including our time and skills, on our family and the society. He asks government to be concerned with the equity of their people, solving difficult problems, diplomacy within a consultative, democratic type approach. Yet, it seems that God’s Will is realised through both active conscious voluntary efforts consistent with Baha’u’llah’s teachings, and an unconscious adjustment through society when God’s Will is being ignored. God’s Will, therefore, might be seen as the Great Attractor. It exists in the human condition as a whole. To the extent that the individual works consciously toward the Will of God, they serve the perturbation of society towards its most profound energies, its greatest of possibilities. To the extent that the society as a whole works in ways contrary to the Will of God, determines the extent by which the Great Attractor creates a more extreme adjustment, just as a pendulum, driven far from its sweetest attractor, will perturb in chaotic and extreme patterns. Yet the Great Attractor harbours no malign aims. It just is, always calling with love to the human spirit.

Demonstration of this effect has been shown with extraordinary efficacy in the twentieth century through the two world wars. The first world war destroyed the old empires of the West and Middle East. It restructured the economics of Europe away from the upper classes towards greater equity. The second world war destroyed the old empires of China and Japan, and shifted, once and for all, through the loss of life and the holocaust against the Jews, the mindset of humanity to the elimination of religious and national prejudice. These were crucial principles in the Law of God, extolled by Baha’u’llah.

At this thought, my mind, unbidden, flipped to the heart wrenching conflict of modern Israel in Old Palestine. In that moment, I realised that, all of our aggression is just so much  waste, so much failure to achieve the desire behind our aggression. The Arab and Islamic communities can achieve all their heart’s desire, all that Muhammed and Christ and Moses, and Abraham, desired for them, by that single act which these Revealers of God’s Law all partook – forgiveness. The Arab and Islamic communities shall achieve everything at the moment they forgive Israel. I forgive Israel. Israel will achieve everything when they forgive the Nazi, forgive the anti-semitism that still weaves throughout the world. I forgive them.

We are perpetually given to aggression as we yearn for an unrequited forgiveness. Perhaps ten thousand years ago, as humans first settled from a nomadic lifestyle, we became aware of a new collective power that called for us not to kill our brother. We became guilty of killing our brother, Abel. We have been seeking forgiveness since. Without that forgiveness, through our guilt, we continue to build anger and aggression against ourselves. We project that anger and aggression onto our fellows in many and varied ways. I seek forgiveness for the murder of my brother, Abel, and the murder of my many brothers since, right until this day.

And so, this morning, I came awake that all of our aggressive politics are built with this cry. Those who direct onslaught against fellow citizens, the environment, or the animals. Let us cry back, “We forgive”. And forgive with the deepest tenderness of our hearts. This is the Great Religion of God. This is the most powerful force in human society. It is a force that, like the noon sun, obliterates the self-loathing shadow power of politics. I, who play at the fringes of God’s Law,  who yearn for the vision to see the path closer to the Great Attractor, I forgive every political machination I have been disappointed. I forgive my own machinations

2011 Nobel Peace Prize

Who is this years Nobel Peace Prize winner? I had not even heard the name Tarwakul Karman, so it was with appreciation that I read this Huffington Post article. Sahar Taman reports, “Tawakul was among those who ignited Yemen’s anti-government protests in early 2011. However she did not just start on February 3rd, the Day of Rage, but throughout the year before she had led weekly protests at the Girl’s College of Sana’a University demanding women’s rights and freedoms. Since 2007, even before Tunisia and Egypt, Tawakul’s was a non-violent movement. She organized and led demonstrations of media professionals against censorship and for the right to create a free radio station. The government usually responded with violence, initially showing some restrain by not beating her directly. She told me that it was her husband, Mohamed, who readily agreed to take the blows instead of his wife by walking before her in the demonstrations. Despite the peace movement, Tawakul was arrested for inciting protests, but continued unabated after she was released. Unfortunately, at this time the violence is extremely bloody and hundreds of activists have been shot dead by government forces. For several weeks Tawakul has been sitting in a tent in Sana’a Square witnessing and reporting on the deaths and injuries.”

“Tawakul is a humble woman, choosing to dress simply and modestly. She wears long overcoats and at one time she wore the face veil willing until she just took it off. She said that she was about to address an audience when she realized that it was in the way and needed to go. Tawakul, in her role as advocate for women’s right, does not advocate for women to remove the face veil. She said this kind of focus in diverts from priorities. Instead she advocates for women to be able to do as they wish.

The Transformative Future of the Arts

Until this article, I didn’t realise there was a divide between the creative industries and the arts. My local university trains their performing artists under a degree of creative arts. To be sure, for them it is all about providing training for a self-sustaining occupation in the creative process, however to me the whole artistic process will, like scientific explorations, become more multidisciplinary to make the next great breakthroughs in artistic expression.

There may be more at stake here than just some new exciting art, entertainment, or design. At stake is the transformation of national and global politics. Much of the arts of today hasn’t changed in any essential approach since Shakespeare, DaVinci, Michaelangelo: the artists becomes technically proficient, gets a commission or provides a product for a fee, the work is targeted to a buyer (church, nobility, mass audience) with a specific appetite. The appetite is driven by the political milieu of the time, and that is the single driver behind the development of genre within an artistic field. So, there is a genre change as the dominant political power changed from the Roman Empire to the Kingdoms of the Renaissance to the Early democratic society. However the artistic expression continues to reflect individualisation, argumentativeness, seduction, misogyny, horror, and even paedophilia. This expression reflects, in otherwords, the socio-political mindsets of the recent millenia. Particularly since the twentieth century, that mental landscape has been undergoing dramatic change. Unfortunately, rather than recognise and being at the forefront of that change, both politics and the arts have been scrambling to keep up, to maintain or exact their power, oft-time simply bludgeoning their way into the psyches of the masses.

Yet, steadily, almost mercilessly, the inexorable tide of transformation of the global civilisation on the psyches of humanity, is demanding a new expression, both in politics and therefore in the arts. The new expression is of: a greater individual independence of mind; a greater empathy and cooperativeness; and equality and synergy of men and women; the investigation and clarity of reality; the education of children; the empowerment of youth; a chastity, loyalty, and integrity; and service. The arts have a great opportunity to lead the way. The questions for todays artists and creative industries are not technical, they are philosophical. How will we be independent and cooperative, champion equity and synergies, investigate reality, honour our word, and serve humanity? The extraordinary feat of attempting to extract a minor insight on these questions, into an artistic expression, will revolutionize the arts and the politics of this nation and the planet.

The (20th) Century of Light writes great hope for the future.

Seat of the Universal house of Justice 2007
Seat of the Universal house of Justice 2007

The Universal House of Justice is the world leadership of the Baha’i Faith. In a world administrative system designed by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, it took a massive undertaking by 2 successive individual leaders: Baha’ullah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha, and great grandson, Shoghi Effendi, amidst great constraints placed on them by the political machines of the founding places of the Faith (Persia, Ottoman Empire, Palestine), and two world wars, to build the foundations for the first election of the Universal House of Justice (1963). Since 1963 the Universal House of Justice, that is re-elected every five years, has guided the mission of Baha’u’llah throughout the world. Re-reading it’s 2001 reflection on the Baha’i Mission during the 20th century, “Century of Light”, I came across these two paragraphs (p90) which jumped out at me as a concise answer to the question, “What is the purpose of the Baha’i Faith?”

The first paragraph summarises the destructive effect of materialist philosophy on the world of humanity: “Whether as world-view or simple appetite, materialism’s effect is to leach out of human motivation — and even interest — the spiritual impulses that distinguish the rational soul. “For self-love,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, “is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good.” In the absence of conviction about the spiritual nature of reality and the fulfilment it alone offers, it is not surprising to find at the very heart of the current crisis of civilization a cult of individualism that increasingly admits of no restraint and that elevates acquisition and personal advancement to the status of major cultural values. The resulting atomization of society has marked a new stage in the process of disintegration about which the writings of Shoghi Effendi speak so urgently.”

The next paragraph challenges leaders of thought to be accountable for their evaluation of the causes of the crisis that, not coincidentally, has more severely afflicted humanity over the 10 years since the publication of this commentary. “To accept willingly the rupture of one after another strand of the moral fabric that guides and disciplines individual life in any social system, is a self-defeating approach to reality. If leaders of thought were to be candid in their assessment of the evidence readily available, it is here that one would find the root cause of such apparently unrelated problems as the pollution of the environment, economic dislocation, ethnic violence, spreading public apathy, the massive increase in crime, and epidemics that ravage whole populations. However important the application of legal, sociological or technological expertise to such issues undoubtedly is, it would be unrealistic to imagine that efforts of this kind will produce any significant recovery without a fundamental change of moral consciousness and behaviour.

The Baha’i Faith, from impoverished and threatened roots, has, through its faith in a re-newed covenant with God, kept to a course that has often seemed to be out of step with the revolutions of the 20th Century world. Today, we can look back at that course and recognise, through the failure of all those revolutions, that, indeed, the Baha’i mission is inspired far above the arguments of the world’s most esteemed philosophers. Humanity of the 21st century is given the same opportunity that Baha’u’llah gave the kings and rulers of the 19th century, to opt in to build the Most Great Peace. This can happen rapidly, with the assent of leaders to produce a great consensus with Baha’u’llah’s analysis of the causes and solutions to the global crisis; or it will happen as that agreement is won slowly among the meek across the planet. For those who believe it cannot be done, the ‘Century of Light’ should assure you that a seed that was planted in the 19th century, and was nurtured into a sapling during the 20th century, is, in this century a, yet young but sturdy tree that has no equal on the planet, and will grow exponentially, the sheltering branches and fruit required by humanity. Nonetheless, it will take your effort.