by: Aryeh Cohen on April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Credit: CreativeCommons / Dorret.
Watching, reading, and thinking about Baltimore, the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, and the current nonviolent and violent reactions to that killing, I keep going back to Hannah Arendt. Arendt, in her essay on violence, draws an important distinction between violence and power.
Politically speaking, it is not enough to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course its end is the disappearance of power. This implies that it is not correct to say that the opposite of violence is nonviolence: to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it. (Reflections on Violence)
The power that concerns Arendt is the power of political communities. Power is the result of people coming together for political ends. Or as Arendt says: “Power needs no justification as it is inherent in the very existence of political communities.” However, Arendt here adds a supremely important caveat: “What, however, it does need is legitimacy.” Power is dependent on legitimacy. This is why violence is the opposite of power. When the power of a political community is legitimate, when it is recognized as legitimate by those who form the community, then there is no need for the violence of domination. It is only when legitimacy disappears that violence takes center stage.
'For white people who cannot seem to understand reactions of a community to the death of one man, all you have to do is look in the mirror to determine your card,' writes Dr. Blumenfeld. Above, African American pastors cross paths with Baltimore police. Credit: CreativeCommons / Vladimir Badikov.
In virtually all the university courses I teach in the field of education, I conduct what invariably turns out to be a valuable and poignant activity for the pre-service teacher educator enrolled in the course. The simulation represents the ways in which our society, along a continuum of very high to very low, encourages and enhances to discourages and reduces the individual’s motivation to learn and succeed in life.
I begin by alerting students that we are going to engage in a class activity. I travel around the room placing a playing card face down on each student’s desk. (I always include a “Joker” card.) I tell them not to look at their cards. I then stand in front of the room and provide directions. I model by taking a remaining card from the deck, and without looking at it, I place it face outward upon my forehead.
We endorse the statement below from the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Police violence, particularly though not only against African Americans, requires immediate and forceful response at every level of our society. People should be protesting in the streets of our country wherever an ethical consciousness has not yet been snuffed out by cynicism, surplus powerlessness, indifference, or inability to focus due to mind-destroying absorption in the distractions that abound in cyberspace, the media, and the entertainments of contemporary American society.
At the very least, everyone should be writing to all of their elected officials from President Obama to the local city councils and state legislators asking for new laws that require an independent prosecutor in every city and for every state (to be chosen by a panel of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights leaders and lawyers) to investigate every incident of alleged police violence and charged with the ability to directly bring to trial those for whom there is strong reason to believe that they violated the civil and/or human rights of those assaulted, , to penalize through pay reductions every police officer in the district
by: Reid Madden on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
“Why is ‘Social Justice’ a toxic phrase in common conversation?”
My roommate recently showed me something online, but what he said got me thinking. He told me “social justice warriors probably hate this.”
What does that phrase even mean, “social justice warriors?” I decided to look up what it meant on Urban Dictionary – admittedly not the best source for information, but this is what I found: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow and not well-thought-out way.” These people do not “necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.” They do it to be popular.
So how do these people make social justice look bad? After all, protesters all over the world use the Internet to organize and rally support. Social media was a huge force in the Arab Spring protests that eventually toppled regimes. Using these networks at home has created huge firestorms around net neutrality, which recently forced the FCC to adopt net neutral protocols. Using mass media has always been in the toolbox for enacting social reforms. Social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr. are regarded as heroes. Universities from Miami University to Merrimack College to my own, Hamline University, offer majors in Social Justice, training the next generation of reformers.
by: Lydia Gans on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Berkeley City Council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It’s not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within three feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they’re not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building.
Voices of protest are being heard. Members of the interfaith coalition of more than 40 congregations, including Buddhists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, are speaking out against the city’s criminalization of homelessness. On April 9 they held a protest ‘in solidarity with homeless people’ at the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Starting at 5 o’clock with a meal and an interfaith service it concluded with a sleep-out at the Plaza until 6:30 Friday morning.
How will change come about in the systems that govern our world and our daily lives? Will it take many individuals within the system undergoing massive personal change, as so many believe is necessary?
Does the flow go in only one direction? Or in both? Credit: Dave Belden.
I’d like to believe that isn’t so, because I just can’t see how waiting for so many individuals to change would create, fast enough, the systemic changes needed to end poverty, transcend violence, or attend, to any meaningful degree, the spiraling resource depletion and climate change we are creating for ourselves and our children. Perhaps this is why, going back to school in the early 90s, I chose sociology as my field, hoping to gain enough knowledge and insight about an earlier version of that very question.
by: Larry Lerner on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We cannot change the results of the last Israeli elections. Netanyahu will serve another term as the prime minister, only this time of a more right-wing government. This is an unfortunate fact.
Though you can’t change the results of the election, you can still have a say over what happens in Israel.
Just as groups on the Israeli Left face increasing marginalization, so too do progressive Zionist organizations in America. The American Zionist Movement (AZM) is holding an election to determine the views of American Jews for the World Zionist Congress, which takes place in October 2015. Much like Israel’s Knesset, there is a progressive slate of delegates that represents liberal Zionist ideals in the face of hardliners. It is the combined slate of Ameinu, Partners for a Progressive Israel, Hashomer Hatzair, and Habonim Dror. We call this the HATIKVAH slate.
by: Aryeh Cohen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We are on a journey. This period that we are now moving through, the seven weeks that start on the second day of Passover and end at Shavuot or Weeks, the next holiday in the calendrical cycle, is a journey from Egypt to Sinai. It is deeply symbolic that as the first day of Passover was waning this year, we were marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year that anniversary was marked amidst the outcries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, amidst the sounds of gunshots and the cries of unarmed black and brown men killed by officers of the law, of the state.
We are on a journey—but where are we going?
We know where we are coming from. We are coming from the Egypt of the three evils, as Dr. King described them, racism, poverty, and militarism. As the Yiddish proverb goes: any place can be your Egypt, any place can be your Promised Land. Today in the United States we are facing these same interrelated issues. Poverty overwhemingly impacts communities of color. Communities of color are impoverished by mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Those people are then barred from the right to vote, have a harder time getting housing, or a job. As Michelle Alexander has argued, this is the new method of social control, of racist social control. A new Jim Crow in impact even if not in explicit intention. The police and incarceration regime are more and more militarized. While there are exceptions, the pictures that the whole world saw of police officers in Ferguson, MO in camouflage uniforms pointing assault weapons at unarmed civilians, is more often than not the rule.
I’ve heard of love at first sight many times. Friendship at first sight was an unimagined occurrence, and yet it happened to me with Sami Awad, Palestinian nonviolence visionary and founder of the Holy Land Trust, when we met in December 2013. Sami was translating a four-day workshop on Convergent Facilitation I was conducting for Israelis and Palestinians in Beit Jala on the West Bank. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch, dreaming of working together on some project or another, in awe at the alignment of our visions, despite all indoctrination to make us enemies. (If you want to read more about that encounter and that training, it’s called Israel, Palestine, Home, Me.)
by: Mechapesset Atid on April 16th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
"Don't Say We Did Not Know" is the defense invoked by Germans after World War II. Activist Amos Gvirtz's mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians. Credit: Donna Baranski-Walker.
When accused of being a traitor to Israel, as Amos Gvirtz has sometimes been, the sexagenarian activist author responds by advising caution.
“If I am a traitor,” he replies, “then Israel, by its very essence, is against peace.”
Gvirtz, who is careful to describe himself as an activist rather than a journalist, is the author of a weekly email blast called “Don’t Say We Did Not Know.” This title and concept refer to a common defense invoked by Germans after World War II when questioned about atrocities committed by their country. Gvirtz’s mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians.
“I try to tell stories that I did not see in the mainstream Israeli media,” he says. “I think the Israeli media is ignoring the great majority of the daily human rights violations.”
Gvirtz has recently compiled a number of his own essays for a book with the same title as his weekly email. At present, the book is available only in Hebrew, but he hopes to have it translated so that it can reach a wider audience.
“My editor asked me, ‘Who am I writing to?’ and I said, ‘To everybody who wants to know.’”