Tikkun Daily button

Henry Giroux on the Assault on Youth in the US


by: Tikkun on October 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

Editor’s Note: This article appeared first in the wonderful daily website Truth Out and can be read there also.

Perhaps the most drastic element of the war on youth in the U.S. is the willingness of the powerful to continue to squander the resources of the planet earth and destroy the life-support system of the planet. Having abandoned hope in any real transformation of the world, the powerful are willing to continue to amass wealth and power and to ignore all the scientific data that shows that if we continue in the path that we’ve been on for the past several hundred years, the youth of today will be suffering an environmental catastrophe brought on by the selfishness, materialism, chauvinistic nationalism that together are the consequences of global capitalism. Yet the war on youth today has the consequence of making many of them less willing to embrace the kind of seemingly utopian transformations of our society without which the logic of the capitalist order will continue and may yet yield a fascistic outcome to protect the powerful from the righteous indignation of those who will be suffering through the decline of the earth in the next fifty years. That’s why the ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment is at once so important (read it please at www.tikkun.org/esra) and so frequently dismissed as “too visionary to be realistic.” Yet it is actually the most modest first step in the transition from a capitalist society to The Caring Society–Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner


Henry Giroux on:

Youth in an Authoritarian Age: Challenging the politics of disposability:

Following the insight of Hannah Arendt, a leading political theorist of mid-20th century totalitarianism, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended upon the United States.(1) Thoughtlessness, a primary condition of authoritarian rule, now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism now shapes daily life as adults gleefully take on the role of unthinking children, while children are pushed to be adults, stripped of their innocence and subject to a range of disciplinary pressures that saddle them with debt and cripple their ability to be imaginative.(2)

Under such circumstances, agency devolves into a mind-numbing anti-intellectualism evident in the banalities produced by Fox News infotainment and celebrity culture, and in the blinding rage produced by populist politicians who support creationism, argue against climate change and rail against immigration, the rights of women, public service workers, gay people and countless others. There is more at work here than a lethal form of intellectual, political and emotional infantilism. There is also a catastrophe of indifference and inattentiveness that breeds flirtations with irrationality, fuels the spectacle of violence, creates an embodied incapacity and promotes the withering of public life.


Predators, Near and Far: The Afghan Health Crisis


by: Kathy Kelly on October 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s Note: This piece was written September 21, 2015.

Kabul—Some days ago, at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Borderfree Center, I met Jamila, the mother of a little girl, Fatima, who comes to the Street Kids School, a program designed to help children working on the streets go to school.  Jamila, a young mother of seven, smiles and laughs easily, even though she faces dire circumstances here in Kabul.

Nine years ago, at age 19, she fled escalating conflict in Pul e Khumri, located in the northern province of Baghlan, and moved to Kabul.  Jamila had already been married for 12  years.

Her family, desperate for income, had sold her in marriage to an older man when she was seven years old. As a child, she lived in servitude to the family of her future husband, earning a small income for them through sewing and embroidering.

At age 13, She gave birth to her oldest daughter . With her when we met were two of her middle daughters, Fatima and Nozuko.  Her oldest daughter is no longer with her, as, at age 12, she was given away, six years ago now, in marriage. Jamila is determined not to give her remaining daughters away in marriage while they are still children.

One and a half years ago, Fatima, then aged 9, developed a fever which lasted for about a month. All four of her limbs became paralyzed.  In a hospital at Wazir Akbar Khan, doctors said she was 10 minutes away from death. They treated her for typhoid meningitis and hospitalized her. After a month, the doctors said she was not ready for discharge, but Jamila had other children to take care of and had already incurred huge debt. The doctors made her sign a form saying they were not responsible if Fatima died.  They said Jamila must continue with twice-a-day injections of strong antibiotics.

After being discharged from the hospital, Fatima continued receiving the injections for a year and a half until, one day, about three months ago, Jamila abruptly stopped giving Fatima the injections.  When Fatima developed a fever, Jamila became panicky again.


Helen Diller Family Foundation Seeks Young Applicants


by: Editor on October 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

The Helen Diller Family Foundation is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, a program that recognizes up to 15 Jewish teens annually with $36,000 each to be used in support of a social justice project or to further their education.  This Call for Nominations presents an opportunity for educators, civic leaders, and teen mentors in communities across the United States, to acknowledge Jewish teens whose thoughtful approach to making a difference is creating meaningful change in their communities and the world around them.

Up to five teens from California and ten from other communities nationwide will be acknowledged for demonstrating exceptional leadership and successfully working to make the world a better place. Anyone interested in nominating a teen, or any teen interested in self-nominating, should visit www.dillerteenawards.org to begin the nomination process. The deadline for nominations is December 13, 2015.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards began as the vision of Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller in 2007, as a way to recognize the next generation of socially committed leaders whose dedication to volunteerism exemplifies the spirit of tikkun olam, a central Jewish precept meaning to repair the world. In its nine-year history, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards has given more than $2.5 million to 70 teens from more than 20 U.S. communities.


Meaning Well in a Tough Situation


by: Jeff Green on October 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

Editor’s Note: Directly below is a prayer from Cat Zavis regarding the recent outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine. The piece by Jeff Green follows immediately after.

As we watch in horror as violence in Israel and Palestine escalates and there continues to be needless and senseless killings, we offer a prayer of love, compassion and strength.

May Israelis and Palestinians find the love that resides deep in their hearts and pulses through all of us, the love that cries to us from the loving energy of the universe to love the “Other,” the “Stranger.” This is a love that can be hard to access and find and yet it is a never-ending, all pervasive love that encourages and calls us to stand-up for the well-being of each other, for the security of all, for justice for all, for peace. May the Israelis and Palestinians use this well-spring of love to overcome their fears and stand for a new future.

May the Israelis and Palestinians find the compassion that lives in each person but that is often suppressed in times of fear and anger and learn to ask the questions that so many seem afraid to ask. What would cause a young man or woman to kill a stranger? What fear, what sorrow, what pain lurks in the dark crevasses of their hearts? How can we begin to heal the pain, the sorrow, the loss? Where can we start?

May the Israelis and Palestinians access the strength that permeates the roots of Mother Earth and embolden them to demand a different future. To cross divides and build bridges that flow with human beings coming together opening their hearts to each other with generosity and love and work together towards peace and reconciliation.

We bow our heads in sorrow, in grief, in angst and even in rage that innocent lives are being lost on all sides and pray for a healing and reconciliation.


A Very Convenient Truth


by: Michael N. Nagler on October 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

“Modern scientists recognize the potency of thought…as a man thinks so does he become.”

-MK Gandhi

THERE ARE TIMES when you can see a familiar scene with fresh eyes.  I had just returned to the U.S. when I found myself in a definitely familiar scene: a local shopping center. The night before I had been on a transatlantic flight where I kept catching glimpses, despite myself, of four private viewing screens shimmering in front of my nearest fellow passengers on the long flight home. They sat there watching ten hours of uninterrupted violence: fights, machine guns, wild explosions – all four of them.  You have to wonder, what does that do to a person’s mind?  You have to wonder, exactly, because in the barrage of detail that floods over us in response to “the latest massacre” you will never hear it mentioned.

It’s sometimes difficult for me to contain my anger when people fail to see this obvious connection, but I try turning it into a kind of amazement: how can people of otherwise normal intelligence think that we can absorb images of violence but never act them out?  Is it because so many watch TV without going out to kill?  Perhaps, but consider this:

  • we’ve proven utterly incapable of predicting who will go over the edge, so we know we’re killing some people though we don’t know whom;
  • violent imagery adds to the general atmosphere of demoralization; they devalue life and normalize its wanton destruction – that is the main reason we have not been roused to do anything about gun control.  And finally,
  • these images hurt, whether you act them out or not.  They alienate.  They demoralize.  Psychologists have demonstrated this repeatedly (with no response from policy makers or the general public).


Why Did the Pope Choose Francis as His Name?


by: Stephen S. Bowman on October 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

Watching Pope Francis cast his spell over America last week I found myself recalling the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet asking “What is in a name?”, or more precisely, why did Pope choose Francis to be his new name upon his ascendancy?  The common answer is that he was told by a friend to remember the poor, but that seems too superficial.   And perhaps equally curious, why have no other pontiffs in the past 800 years taken the name before?  It seems that Francis of Assisi, though the most beloved of all Catholic saints, was seen as just too revolutionary in the past, but that zeal is precisely why this pope chose the name, and it is in that spirit that he is leading us today.

To understand our Pope’s mission, one must review the often overlooked facts of the life of St. Francis, which are often obscured by hagiography and superstition.   Today he is often only remembered for taming wild beasts with a blessing and preaching to larks and sparrows.  But this narrow view does both the saint and ourselves a great disservice and diminishes his radical vision.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To understand St. Francis, we must put him in his proper context of the 12th century.  In the Middle Ages, Europe was a highly structured feudal hierarchy, largely illiterate, and struggling in subsistence poverty.   And the Catholic Church, was dominated by a monastic system that kept many priests and brothers locked behind the walls of their monasteries serving their God thru prayer.  The church orthodoxy was colored by St. Augustine who offered a bleak view of both human nature, and the world in which we live.   It was an otherworldly institution.


22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan


by: Kathy Kelly on October 12th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

Before the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, a group of activists living in Baghdad would regularly go to city sites that were crucial for maintaining health and well-being in Baghdad, such as hospitals, electrical facilities, water purification plants, and schools, and string large vinyl banners between the trees outside these buildings which read: “To Bomb This Site Would Be A War Crime.” We encouraged people in U.S. cities to do the same, trying to build empathy for people trapped in Iraq, anticipating a terrible aerial bombing.

Tragically, sadly, the banners must again condemn war crimes, this time echoing international outcry because in an hour of airstrikes this pastSaturdaymorning, the U.S. repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, a facility that served the fifth largest city in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

U.S./NATO forces carried out the airstrike at about2AMon October 3rd. Doctors Without Bordershad already notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical coordinates to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital. When the first bombs hit, medical staff immediately phoned NATO headquarters to report the strike on its facility, and yet strikes continued, at 15 minute intervals, until3:15 a.m., killing 22 people. 12 of the dead were medical staff; ten were patients, and three of the patients were children. At least 37 more people were injured. One survivor said that the first section of the hospital to be hit was the Intensive Care Unit.

“Patients were burning in their beds,” said one nurse, an eyewitness to the ICU attack.”There are no words for how terrible it was.” The U.S. airstrikes continued, even after the Doctors Without Borders officials had notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan military that the warplanes were attacking the hospital.

Taliban forces do not have air power, and the Afghan Air Force fleet is subordinate to the U.S., so it was patently clear that the U.S. had committed a war crime.

The U.S. military has said that the matter is under investigation. Yet another in an endless train of somber apologies; feeling families’ pain but excusing all involved decision makers seems inevitable. Doctors Without Borders has demanded a transparent, independent investigation, assembled by a legitimate international body and without direct involvement by the U.S. or by any other warring party in the Afghan conflict. If such an investigation occurs, and is able to confirm that this was a deliberate, or else a murderously neglectful war crime, how many Americans will ever learn of the verdict?


The Neglected Mass Shooter and His Need to be Seen


by: Cheryl Sheinman on October 10th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

At a vigil to honor the victims of Sandy Hook, I read aloud the piece that Rabbi Lerner wrote on December 14th, 2012, entitled: “Banning All Guns is Necessary but Not Sufficient”, that we also need a fundamental transformation of consciousness both inner and societal. An article in Tikkun‘s spring issue, 2014 entitled, ‘Loving-Kindness to the Thousandth Generation’ by Ana Levy-Lyons mentioned a school administrator, Antoinette Tuff, who persuaded an armed twenty year old who came to her school with an AK-47 to put down his gun by expressing empathy for him. “That’s all?” I thought. Yes, simply empathy. It seems that we have lost that sense of compassion and that we suffer from a collective lack of empathy toward the other. I concur with Rabbi Lerner’s article, I applaud Ms. Tuff, and I believe that we still need to look deeper for, and at, the root causes of this mass gun violence.

In the aftermath of some of the most recent and shocking shootings, the one where the shooter’s intent in Virginia was to have his murders documented on TV and particularly the one at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, we are again appalled that this sort of thing can happen, and at a place of worship or now recorded on live tv. Or are we? Are we surprised anymore when we hear about someone pulling out a gun and shooting people en masse at point blank range, even children, at their schools or has this become commonplace? We have witnessed so much of this violence in our nation alone. In fact, our nation, more than any other advanced country on this planet has been the place of these shootings, they are now just another normalized news story. How can this be?

And, how do we understand the silence, the lack of our country’s response to these shootings? Not one 2016 presidential candidate has even mentioned these shootings. And, absolutely nothing has changed, not a thing has been done to address this pandemic of mass violence. No, excuse me, I learned that one thing was done: Congress’ first vote on guns after the mass shooting in Charleston has been to block federal funding for gun violence research. This is how we respond to violence in this country? That is, ‘let’s just pretend that this never happened and cut funding to find out why’.

I have been involved in fighting for gun control ever since a friend of mine was shot in 1999, in Miami, Fl. He was a physician and a patient of his shot him. Apparently this patient thought that the doctor had not done enough to heal him and he was stalking the man until he snuck into his office one day with a gun. The ninth bullet was the one that killed him.

Since that time and with the slew of mass shootings that have followed, I began to wonder who this shooter is and what makes so many people turn to this kind of violent theater, particularly committed en masse. The largely ineffectual solutions we have sought have been just that: they don’t really address the underlying cause of this phenomenon.


Women’s Rights and the Decline of the Global Culture Wars


by: Jonathan Zimmerman on October 8th, 2015 | No Comments »

Last Sunday, at the United Nations, world leaders marked the 20th anniversary of the landmark Beijing accord on women’s rights. They celebrated women’s progress—especially in education, health, and labor—and underscored ongoing gender inequalities.

But they also condemned the jailing of female political dissidents in China, which co-hosted Sunday’s summit. And, most importantly, they didn’t debate abortion, contraception, or forced marriage. That might signal a decline of the global culture wars about gender and sexuality, which have defined the Beijing legacy since 1995.

The Beijing agreement was the first international affirmation of women’s sexual autonomy, declaring that women have the right to “decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality.” And that was anathema to conservatives around the world, who saw it as a prescription for sexual license and an assault on traditional institutions. If all women were sexually independent, could parents no longer arrange their marriages? And would women also have the right to engage in sex outside of marriage, despite traditional religious prohibitions on the same?

Before the ink was dry on the Beijing accord, delegates from Muslim countries and the Vatican joined hands with American right-wing activists to condemn it. They also forged new organizations like the World Congress of Families, which galvanized conservatives around the globe–“the most orthodox of each group, people that are least likely to compromise,” as the WCF declared—to challenge the Beijing principles.


End the Business of War – An Open Letter


by: Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine on October 7th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

The Jewish New Year arrived last month amidst an explosion of chaos in the UK and Europe. The Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashana and the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur, is a time of deep reflection, repentance and renewal.

At the same time, the photograph of 4-year-old Alan, a Syrian refugee washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach, moved millions around the world. From that moment forward, #Refugeeswelcome was trending on twitter. Demonstrations sprung up in hundreds of cities in Europe demonstrating solidarity with refugees fleeing their countries.

Somehow, in these last few weeks, as the New Year arrived, the world changed. The media, once suffuse with racist propaganda about illegal immigrants, began launching appeals for the refugee crisis. The power of people’s emotions and grief over this topic has turned the tides. It has been devastating and inspiring. We, as descendants of refugees from Eastern Europe who were welcomed into Britain, know too well the importance of offering sanctuary for those fleeing war and persecution.

After endless statements purporting to ensure that Britain would deal with the refugee crisis, not by taking in more refugees but by “ensuring their regions are stable”, David Cameron scurried off to Lebanon in September to visit Syrian refugees living in camps.

But at the same time, Cameron’s UK government recently held the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London, which welcomed over 30,000 attendees, 1,683 global defence and security suppliers from 54 countries and hosting 42 international pavilions. The audience included top-level international military staff, major procurement officials, and the entire industry supply chain, from large prime contractors to supplying companies. This UK arms fair, supported and funded by the government, was pursuing the sale of UK arms and internal security equipment to countries strongly criticized for human rights abuses such as Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. (1)