On the first official day of the Newkind Festival, I found myself honoring different cultures – and not in a superficial way. It’s lovely that before so many presentations and events in Australia, people pay homage to the native First Peoples who are the original guardians of the land. Remember, said the festival’s founder today, you are just guests here.
Of course, I am a guest everywhere. As a full-time nomad, every country and every culture is foreign to me. It’s easy to see differences, especially during the Aboriginal opening ceremony where men wear traditional loincloths made of animal skin and cover their bodies in clay. But it’s also easy to see similarities with those around me: the man who is playing the ukulele, like I do. The ladies who are also writers. A friend I made at dinner who lives in a bus, just as I live in a tiny home on wheels.
Differences can be a problem when you want to make positive change in the world. Depending on your experience and your learned point-of-view, you may not think some things are a problem at all. Consider, for example, the concept of white privilege. Some people I know don’t think it’s real. They tell me, hey, I had to work just as hard as the next guy. In fact, minorities have it easier because some companies have quotas and concepts of a “diverse workplace” that seems to make it more likely for others to get hired, even if they don’t seem as qualified.
Even if all that is true (which, it’s not … inherent racism that starts early in school and connects economically forces minorities to work harder to achieve the same results), there are certain things white people simply don’t have to think about. Legacy stress, for instance, is only a minority concern. That’s the scientifically proven fact that African-American babies, born to parents of the same socio-economic status and blessed with the same prenatal care, weigh less at birth than white babies in America. The stress that came from slavery days is passed down in the mother’s DNA from her great-great-grandmother. Some say, hey, America elected a black president. But the current president spent years trying to create a false reality that Obama was actually born in Africa and thus an illegitimate president. We all may detest Trump’s policies, low IQ and megalomaniacal, late-night Tweeting, but no one is claiming that he was born in Europe like his wife.
My point isn’t to prove that white privilege exists throughout the world. My point is that some people do not see it as a real problem because that’s the world they come from. It’s why the Aboriginal people are still struggling for equality (read the Uluru Statement to learn more). Every set of eyes has a different set of experiences behind it. We all have a perspective. We all have a story. How married are you to yours? How much do you identify with your story? How willing are you to truly understand where others are coming from?
Until you take time to see through the eyes of another, you won’t be able to work with them for the betterment of your community or your planet. Why would you want to reduce the amount of plastic you have in your life if you refuse to see beyond yourself? You have to want to care for your fellow and future humans–and animals on Earth, of course–to motivate yourself to do anything.
Today, I learned how to make homemade deodorant and toothpaste, so that I no longer have to buy plastic packaging. To make deodorant, mix three parts coconut oil, two parts arrowroot (or cornstarch or tapioca), and one part baking soda. To make toothpaste, mix one part baking soda with one part coconut oil. You may want to add a little lavender to your deodorant or some peppermint oil to your toothpaste. To make mouthwash, just keep two cups of water with a drop or two of tea tree oil and peppermint oil.
In another workshop, I was reminded of the importance of caring for yourself if you feel overwhelmed with differences around you. Take some space. Hold your hand to your heart and deepen your breath with your eyes closed. Reconnect to your heart. Reconnect with your physical presence on the Earth, and remember how gently supported you are by the Earth. Give thanks.
I have a gratitude practice that I do every day, where I list all the things that I am thankful for that day. I have a lot to be grateful for at the Newkind Festival, as I gather experiences and skills that can help me facilitate change in the name of social and environmental justice in my world. I am grateful for all the similarities I share with others around me, and I’m wise enough to know that the differences can serve as stepping stones. I hope, even with those who are very different than I, we can walk the path together.