by: Tikkun Staff on December 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
In order to meet our budget for next year we have to raise $15,000 byJanuary 1, 2016.This amount feels so tangible and it’s just within our reach, will you help us reach our goal?
Before we dive into problems with elections, I will say this: there are solutions. I need to pull out this long-time campaign slogan of mine as a reminder to myself and everyone else. You will see the section “There Are Solutions” below. As to the problems…
A friend sent me an Associated Press news article with the conniving title “Opposition gains as Chavez family loses supporters on its home turf.”
They know what they’re doing. By publishing such an article, the super-rich and their media outlets know the value of social approval. People want to fit in with what they think others are doing. The concentrated wealth know that if they say they are winning, people believe it and lose heart. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. They assert, “Everyone is turning away from candidates we don’t support (such as Socialists, Greens, and other alternative parties), and turning toward the candidates we feature. Or they’re not voting at all,” and people fall in line to fit in with “everyone.” I remember leaning about it in school as the “bandwagon approach.”
Associated Press is not on the side of regular people. The corporate press, whether in Venezuela or elsewhere, has never been on the side of presidents like Hugo Chavez. The article’s focus on the wealth of Chavez’ brothers reminds me of Matt Gonzalez and his no-corporate-money mayoral race in San Francisco in 2003. The press tries to turn regular folks against legitimate people’s candidates like Matt Gonzalez and Hugo Chavez by painting them as rich.
Meanwhile, the really rich use their incredible stock of resources, including media, banks and other huge corporations, to create the economic hardships, scarcity, and sacrifices people suffer, whether in Venezuela or elsewhere. Then their media outlets report the crime and poverty as a problem of the Chavez or Maduro government rather than a problem the super-rich are creating.
Starting Monday, November 30, government officials, corporate heads, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will meet for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) for climate negotiations, this time in Paris. World leaders and other official summit attendees will be protected by greatly enhanced security because of the tragic terrorist attacks. Civil society won’t enjoy such protection because demonstrations in Paris have been prohibited. But around the world people will gather to pray for solace for the victims of Paris and other recent attacks, for the success of the climate talks, and for peace. People around the world will also gather to demonstrate and call on world leaders to take strong action to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
There is no such thing as “international terrorism”. To declare war on “international terrorism” is nonsense. Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and probably both. Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at somebody who declares war on “international artillery”. A cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the other. Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war on “international resistance”.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker, famously said that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. If he had lived with us today, he might have said: “Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other means.” Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into surrendering to the will of the terrorist. Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the Germans into giving up.
Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have different aims, often contradicting each other, there is nothing “international” about it. Each terrorist campaign has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever. (I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I invented the formula: “One man’s terrorist is the other man’s freedom fighter”.)
MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the Paris events. “Now those bloody Europeans feel for once what we feel all the time!”
Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.
Editor’s Note: A version of this piece first appeared on the Huffington Post.
At the end of this month, leaders from around the globe will convene in Paris for the latest round of talks to combat climate change and global warming.
For the first time, Hindu teachings will take a prominent role in this effort, as a growing coalition of Hindu organizations, leaders, and interfaith allies are ramping up efforts to protect Matru Bhumi through the Bhumi Devi ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.
The declaration, first signed six years ago, is now back on the frontlines as the majority of world leaders are finally acknowledging the reality of climate change and the urgency of fighting it.
The declaration, authored by the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies and the Bhumi Project, with support from the Hindu American Foundation, is a call to action for the world’s approximately 900 million Hindus to take the lead in combating global warming. As Hindu leaders note, the effort highlights the natural leadership of Hindu scriptures in calling for action.
The declaration, in part, reads:
“Today, with the 2015 Paris Climate Conference nearly upon us, members of the global Hindu community again urge strong, meaningful action be taken, at both the international and national level, to slow and prevent climate change. Such action must be scientifically credible and historically fair, based on deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through a transition away from polluting technologies, especially away from fossil fuels. A transition towards using 100-percent clean energy is desperately needed, as rapidly as is possible in every nation. Doing so provides the only basis for sustainable, continued human development. It is the best hope for the billions of people without electricity or clean cooking facilities to live better lives and reduce poverty.”
How does one love Daesh?
How does one love a racist who uses expletives and excrement to show disrespect for an entire group of people?
Before the tragic terrorist attacks on Paris, Friday November 13, 2015, my mind was occupied with the recent events at the University of Missouri. As a black woman in America, I have been on the receiving end of hateful racial slurs thrown my way, so I know how that feels. I know the sense of vulnerability. However, I must confess the insults never make me feel less about myself, and it always takes a few seconds before I realize that I have been insulted. I am usually lost in thought about what I am doing, where I am going, and what I will do when I get there.
I never feel less about myself because my sense of self is rooted in my faith. When I was a little girl in Sunday School, my teachers told me that I was a child of the king, meaning King Jesus who was one with the Father, the Creator God. I believed them then, and I believe them now. Since then, I have often thought about who or what God is and the character of God’s love for us. I believe that God was before the beginning and will be after the end. God has created all that there is on the earth and in the earth and all the galaxies inside an ever expanding universe. I believe that this creative life force in its essence is Divine Love, and this Love loves me personally. It knows my name and cares about me in the most mundane ways. I pray for God to help me find earrings and parking spaces.
So, I do not take insults personally. I usually wonder: what is wrong with the person who has tried to insult me. Similarly, terrorists do not frighten me. I believe that the same God who protects me every day from “all hurt harm and danger” will protect me from the terrorists, and if S/He does not, I will still give God all the glory and honor and praise. I wonder the same thing about terrorists that I wonder about the racist who wants to insult with words: what is wrong with these people?
What would make a person think it is a good idea to use human excrement to smear a wall at a university dormitory? Do they realize that the first person they must offend is themselves? They have to handle the feces. They have to smell it. They have to lower themselves to pick it up. What do they get in return? Do they think that the insult to another person in any way asserts their own superiority? I do not get the logic because in the end, these actions only make the perpetrator look small and ignorant and more than a little pathetic.
The first I heard of the shootings in Paris was on the email list of the certified trainers with the Center for Nonviolent Communication that I am part of. Someone sent a message of sympathy to the French trainers. I don’t check news, so most often I don’t know the details of what happens. After seeing that message, I looked it up, and then I found out there was a previous and recent such event in Beirut, not nearly as well covered. I instantly felt a pang of wrenching despair about the persistence of these differences in reporting.
I did nothing at the time with that feeling.
Then, when a colleague – Christophe Vincent, originally from France, now residing in Brazil – expressed, in his words, what I experienced as a vastly expanded rendition of my own discomfort, I found my own voice in response to his. This piece emerged from that original response. I am grateful to Christophe for supporting me in this unexpected way, and I quote from his writing, with his permission, later.
Here is how I finally came to understand my discomfort: It is as if the entire world is complicit in some unconscious belief that violence in some parts of the world is unavoidable, part of life, and therefore not important, and only some parts of the world, those that have managed to export violence elsewhere, or created it elsewhere to begin with through the legacy of their actions, those are the parts of the world about whose rare acts of violence news media speak.
When I reached manhood, I saw rising and growing upon the wall shared between life and death, a ladder barer all the time, invested with an unique power of evulsion: this was the dream….Now see darkness draw away, and LIVING become, in the form of a harsh allegorical asceticism, the conquest of extraordinary powers by which we feel ourselves confusedly crossed, but which we only express incompletely, lacking loyalty, cruel perception, and perseverance…. Rene Char, Fureur et Mystere
In the traditional literature, the patriarch most symbolic of the Jewish people is Jacob (Yaakov in Hebrew), who comes into his own in this week’s Torah reading. While more of a passive player in the previous episode, Jacob comes to life- as he is forced into exile. This essay will deal with dreams, the dreams of a refugee. It is not accidental that the first dream recorded in the Torah is associated with a man on the run, who has placed a stone from the road under his head in order to sleep. That dream is the lyrical dream of the ladder which ascends to heaven in which Jacob sees angels alighting and descending, which the Midrash suggests may be read as allegorical for Israel in exile, subject to the rise and fall of nations and circumstances over which they have no control. It is thus fitting that this week we contemplate dreams and exile, and the plight of the refugee. Sympathy for the refugee is a biblical sentiment from the very earliest passages, and that must not be forgotten in these troubled times.
The commentators from the earliest days noted the relationship between place/circumstance and the appearance of the dream. The Midrash latches on to an extraneous word in the verse- “and he chanced upon the place and rested there”. The Midrash explains the word vayifga, “and he chanced upon”, as meaning “he prayed there”, using as a proof text the use of the same term in the Jeremiah 7:16 and 27:18. The Midrash states that there, in that place where Yaakov rested, Yaakov created the evening prayer, the Arvit service, described by R. Shmuel bar Nahman as embodying “May it be Thy will that You remove me from darkness to light”. Exile as night.
A second curious midrash is found on verse 28:16, which reads “and Yaakov awoke from his sleep, mishenato“. The Midrash alters it to miMIshnato, from his studies, from his “learning”. At first glance, one might suspect a surprising anti-study, anti-intellectual message, likening study to sleep, in that Midrashic reading. Why is study like sleep?
The Maor V’Shemesh understands the emptiness of study without dreams. He says that the “Torah spiritual life” is made up of two intertwined elements- study and prayer (compare the Maharal in Netivot Olam A, chapter 7). Neither approach, neither study alone, nor prayer alone, is adequate on its own. This is the lesson of Yaakov’s development as narrated by the midrashic readings. The Midrash narrates that Yaakov spent 14 years in the “Yeshiva of Shem and Ever”, yet he never had a heirophany, a divine revelation, until this episode, which takes place not in a study hall- but on the road, alone, uncertain of the direction his life might take, a refugee, with only stones under his head for comfort. This situation, which moved Yaakov to beseech God for his very survival, is what “awoke his learning” as well, infusing his years of study with the urgency of dreams, transforming study into yearning and a route for redemption.
It is the encounter with the dark silence of reality that is transformative. A refugee sees the world collapsing around them and dreams, urgently, that there must be a better reality where normal life can proceed.
Terror has struck ‘us’ again. I write ‘us’ referring to Westerners who identify with the Paris victims. I feel angry about this attack against ordinary people in a Western city. A terrible destruction of life perpetrated against people who live in a‘normal’city like I do. I am surrounded by outrage and solidarity expressed in French flags, on Sydney‘s Harbour Bridge, the OperaHouse and all over Facebook. But surely, every life of a non-combatant taken violently is an utterly unacceptable violation of the sanctity of life?
I am disturbed to read Facebook posts by my Arab and Muslim friends rightly expressing their hurt at the implication that French lives appear to matter more to Westerners than Arab or Muslim lives. Some posts list the names of places where Arab or Muslim blood has been spilled, including the terrible attacks in Beirut. Yet, none of these posts mention the recent stabbings of Israeli civilians. I feel a deep sadness about the selective empathy so much in evidence right now.
The term ‘selective empathy‘ is almost a tautology because researchers in this field explain that empathy is by its very nature geared toward people we see as being like us. We can overcome this natural tendency to limit our circle of empathy either by calling on increased compassion (which is not naturally restricted to people like ourselves) or by changing our relationships with ‘them’ so that they become part of‘us’.
The inclusion of those we are unfamiliar with and whom we regard as alien can feel quite threatening. After the Biblical Jacob left his village and the people familiar to him he put rocks around his head when he stopped for a nap along the way. This act is considered highly symbolic. Jacob protected his mind from the influences of a new place. Only his hands, symbolising action, were to connect with the new place, but his mind had to remain ‘unpolluted’(1).
Despite the fear some people have about how they might be changed or lose their identity, they do often make efforts to connect with the other. When Jacob met the ‘strangers’ among whom he would live he addressed them as ‘my brothers (2)“.It is easier to regard people as abstract threats when you are not interacting with them face to face.
Today, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) voted, along with 46 other House Democrats, to suspend the acceptance of all Syrian refugees fleeing terror. It was a shameful vote for the 289 members of Congress who chose fear and callous bigotry as expedient political tools. Even more so for the 47 Democrats who joined their fear-mongering Republican counterparts in an attempt to keep desperate Syrian refugees out of our country.
However, the most shameful vote was that cast by Israel, who understands intimately how Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis were turned away by the United States in 1939. See, Israel is somewhat of an expert on the Holocaust. In fact, as Director of the Touro Law Center in the late 80s, he created the Institute for Holocaust Law and International Human Rights. It’s mission reads:
The Institute For Holocaust Law and International Human Rights aims to understand, explore and evaluate contemporary mechanisms for protecting human rights and the role of law in view of the lessons of the Holocaust and its aftermath.
This bears repeating: it’s mission is to evaluate “contemporary mechanisms for protecting human rights and the role of law in view of the lessons of the Holocaust and its aftermath.”
Apparently, Israel did not fully explore “the lessons of the Holocaust” when he voted today to block Syrians fleeing horrendous violence from finding refuge upon our shores. He did not remember how Jewish refugees turned away by the United States were murdered by Hitler’s genocidal machine. He did not evaluate how those Syrian refugees unable to seek shelter within the world’s richest country will likely be murdered as well.