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Archive for February, 2014



Aesthetics & Sustainability

Feb18

by: on February 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

In my keynote for Staging Sustainability 2014, I was asked to define “sustainability.” “The implicit meaning of the term refers to its opposite,” I told the group. “We fear having damaged ecosystems so much that life on Earth will soon be unsustainable, so sustainability names our search for whatever can heal that damage and allow us to carry on.” But I have some problems with the word’s way of setting the bar too low, of putting a supreme value on continuation.

David Buckland of the Cape Farewell Foundation (which I wrote about in my previous blog) said that he preferred “resilience” and so do I, because it encompasses the thing we must now all do, learning from loss. But Adrienne Goehler, a impressive fellow speaker at the conference, wants to rescue “sustainability” from the various forms of abuse and dilution to which the term has been subjected. She understands it as “continuous renewal.” And I’m down with that, understanding that the process of renewal entails leaving behind whatever no longer serves our capacity to thrive as we carry whatever supports our well-being into the future.

In Conceptual Thoughts on Establishing a Fund for Aesthetics and Sustainability, published by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung and downloadable from their site, Adrienne preferences her mission this way:

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Winners of Prestigious Journalism Award Afraid to Travel to U.S. to Accept It

Feb17

by: on February 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald have both won the prestigious George Polk Award for their investigative work in revealing the NSA’s mass surveillance, both at home and abroad. However, both Poitras and Greenwald, U.S. citizens who respectively live in Germany and Brazil, are afraid to accept their awards in person, fearing prosecution from the U.S. government for exposing documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Let’s unpack this for a moment: two prominent American journalists, winners of one of the most prestigious journalism awards in the U.S., are hesitant to set foot upon U.S. soil for fear of being prosecuted. This fear is in line with Reporters Without Borders dropping the U.S. to 46th place in its World Press Freedom Index for 2014, behind Botswana and Romania, for its prosecution of investigative journalists and whistleblowers. This drop in America’s press freedom ranking isn’t arbitrary, nor an international dig. It’s due to the U.S., in 2013, being a prominent example of a country willing to erode its press freedoms for the sake of national security, surveillance and secrecy.


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The Young Friends Pleasure and Benefit Society

Feb15

by: Eileen Pollack on February 15th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Until last May, I had never visited the cemetery where my mother’s parents lie buried. My grandfather died before I was born. My grandmother helped to raise me; I loved her dearly, but she died while I was living abroad, and I didn’t attend her funeral. All I knew was that the cemetery was called Mount Zion, one of those never-ending seas of graves you glimpse to one side of the BQE or the LIE as you are hurrying to LaGuardia.

“Promise me you’ll never go there,” my mother said. She seemed to believe that if I attempted to find it, I would end up lost, or dead, or both. But how could I live my life without once visiting my grandparents’ graves? And how could I die without knowing I had said goodbye to my beloved Grandma Pauline? Every time I traveled to New York, I vowed I would find Mount Zion. And every time, I had too much to do, or I chickened out.

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Imagining a Moral Economy

Feb15

by: Christine Boyle and Seth Klein on February 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons/The Value Web

Rarely are we invited to consider ethical questions of right and wrong in matters of economic development, particularly in times of economic fragility, when jobs and investment are in high demand.

But as any society debates core economic and policy ideas, the battle for moral leadership matters. And so, at this critical time, it is vital that progressives reclaim some of that language.

For too long, we’ve been told that our values must take a backseat to the imperatives of economic growth and the associated promises of job creation; that what best serves the interests of large corporations will ultimately benefit the rest of us.

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The Way of Peace is the Way of Truth: Interfaith Resources for Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine

Feb14

by: Mary Grey on February 14th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Like readers of Tikkun I am passionate about peace in Israel-Palestine as well as in the wider Middle East. Being a theologian/writer with a background in Jewish-Christian dialogue, I have mainly sought to speak  to peaceseeking Christians—and others—who are willing to look beyond the polarity of being either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli towards envisioning a solution for both communities and building on the prophetic traditions of each other.

I believe—like Gandhi—that you have to look truth in the face, and take the courage to tell it.

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February 2, 2014: Protest by Picnic

Feb14

by: on February 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

"For months activists have been coordinating tent cities in the heart of Bangkok

I’m no expert at Thai politics. But I do know a good protest when I see one.

Let me be more clear on how little I knew about what’s going on in Thailand before this week: My best friend, Ariel Vegosen, and I, having spent the past two months studying Gandhian nonviolence and working with the anti-GMO movement in India, decided we wanted a little vacation to just chill out, so we booked a flight to Thailand. A flight to Bangkok, that is, which would arrive, unbeknownst to us at the time of booking, on Chinese New Year’s Day, one day before the highly controversial national election, on a weekend when the US State Dept. was warning Americans not to enter the country, the BBC was reporting violence in the streets, and protesters were threatening to shut down the entire city. Oh! I thought we were just headed to “Amazing Thailand,” land of tropical beachy paradise, cheap, delicious pad Thai, lush jungles and some elephants. But try as I might to play American tourist while on a short sabbatical from activism, here I was flying directly into the eye of the revolutionary storm. God must be laughing. Real hard.

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AIPAC: Now Stuck With The GOP

Feb14

by: on February 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Suddenly AIPAC is a lobby without a cause.

In three weeks thousands of delegates from all over the country will descend on the Washington, D.C. convention center to get their marching orders but, as of today, AIPAC hasn’t even drafted them.

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Torah Commentary: Ki Tissa- Text and Authority: Sinai and the Golden Calf

Feb13

by: on February 13th, 2014 | Comments Off

Another one of those periodic crises of authority that tend to erupt in the Orthodox world recently captured the attention of the greater community. In this episode, two Orthodox day schools allowed girls who wished to put on tephillin, the ritual prayer boxes traditionally worn by men, the right to put on tephillin during school prayer time. A salvo from the traditionalist camp was quick to follow, focusing not on the question at hand but on the question of authority, with the central argument being that decisions of this sort can’t be made at the local level, but rather require the input from those recognized as long standing authorities. In particular, in this response, the specific argument was that while everyone now has equal access to the full corpus of Jewish legal texts, by way of the internet and the Bar-Ilan database, it doesn’t mean that everyone had the rights of “authority”. I am not going to take sides in this argument, but I believe we get some insight into the problems of a concept like “authority” in both its presence and absence.

The central story of this week’s reading is the well known story of the Golden Calf. Just after all the miracles of the exodus, Moses goes up to Sinai to receive the Torah, and when he is delayed in returning, the people assume he’s dead, have a major freak out, and create an idol of a calf out of gold, which they proclaim the new god and leader of the people. When Moses makes his way back down the mountain with the tablets of the law, the “luhot”, he literally loses it, smashing the tablets. God reveals to Moses that the plan is to wipe out the people and start again, to which Moses regains his composure and advocates for the people. God accepts the appeal and Moses gets a second set of luhot. So was there any lingering result of the sin? We discussed one possible ramification, the idea of a dwelling place, which may have come about as a result of the people’s tragic error. This week we will look at another repercussion of the event, which may give us some insight into the motivations for what appears to us to be a very odd sin by the people given everything they had recently experienced. In other words, why did they make a golden idol of a calf?

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A Not So Modest Proposal: Africa and Homophobia

Feb13

by: on February 13th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

In the last several months I have visited services in several faith communities – Jewish, Catholic and Muslim.  Sunday before last I was in my own house of worship, Union Methodist, a historically Black congregation.  After religious services, we gathered in the basement to discuss the vexed question of whether or not our pastors could or could not officiate over same-sex marriages.  The meeting took no formal vote, but the overwhelming sense of the gathering was that all people had a right to equality.  A thirteen year-old girl stood up and cried when she spoke of the bullying of a boy at her school.  An elderly Caribbean woman denounced gay bashing. A middle-aged father of two spoke of how he had slowly come out to his two daughters.  A Puerto Rican psychologist spoke movingly of how his early view of homosexuality had turned him away from a call to the ministry.  A young man from the Deep South spoke of the long darkness in his soul as he wrestled with demons, sexual and otherwise.  We had church.   

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Staging Sustainability

Feb13

by: on February 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

I spent a chunk of last week in a very cold and snowy Toronto at Staging Sustainability 2014, a conference with the subtitle “People. Planet. Profit. Performance.” It was masterminded by Ian Garrett of the Center for Sustainable Practice in The Arts, who teaches at York University. The University was one of an impressive array of sponsors, reflecting the reality that many scientists took part side-by-side with artists and scholars.

In fact, I began to feel that we are beginning to bridge the gap that C.P. Snow—whose own life braided art and science—wrote about in his important 1959 lecture, The Two Cultures, beginning to achieve a common understanding and discourse. As Snow described the problem more than half a century ago (some of his observations are dated, happily, but sadly not the thrust, I think):

There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with scientists and then gone off at night with some literary colleagues [...] I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures.’ For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups—comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all [...] By and large this is a problem of the entire West.

I’m extremely interested in the way that artists seem to be building—or perhaps the correct word is “living”—the bridge between these realms.

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