Last night, Brooklyn College hosted a forum on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – a non-violent initiative targeting Israel’s suppression of basic political rights for Palestinians, particularly those occupied in the West Bank.
In the weeks preceding the forum, Brooklyn College was under intense pressure to cancel the event, pressure spearheaded by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who curiously chose to argue against the concept of academic freedom by claiming the forum would be a “propaganda hate orgy” and should not be allowed.
New York City Council members soon followed, threatening to cut off funding to the college if the event proceeded, with Assemblyman Alan Maisel stating, “We’re talking about the potential for a Second Holocaust here.”
Thankfully, champions of academic freedom stepped in to push back against such bombastic claims, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who bluntly told the City Council:
“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”
by: Miki Kashtan on January 31st, 2013 | Comments Off
Anyone who becomes acquainted with Nonviolent Communication (NVC) quickly learns about the critical role that human needs play in this approach. In my own mind, placing human needs front and center is the core insight around which everything in NVC revolves. This is the aspect of NVC that challenges prevalent theories of human nature; the entry point through which collaboration becomes possible in groups; the engine of the kind of healing that happens through engaging with an empathic presence; the mechanism through which conflict mediation proceeds; and the path to personal liberation. Because of their centrality to my thinking, spiritual practice, and work, I almost invariably refer to human needs in my blog pieces and when I speak.
So I wasn’t surprised that a friend who is not trained in NVC wrote to me with the following question that emerged from his own efforts to write a document relating to human needs.
“I want to include emotional needs on my list. The NVC list that I have seen is long, and I want to know what the mention of ‘basic needs’ means. If we consider, for the moment, that the most basic emotional needs are on the same level as the most basic physical needs (shelter, food, fire, water, air) and that all other needs are ‘useful and beneficial extras,’ what would you consider to be the most basic emotional needs?”
I don’t quite know why it is that this particular question finally got me to realize that with all the writing I’ve been doing about human needs, I’ve never written a piece dedicated to the topic. What an oversight!
Eli Zaretsky is one of many Tikkun Daily bloggers, and the blog posts on Tikkun Daily and articles on www.tikkun.org are all perspectives we value but do not necessarily agree with. For example, in Zaretsky’s recent blog post, “The Obama Presidency: An Assessment,” we think Zaretsky a bit more negative about Obama than we feel. On the other hand, Zaretsky reads as a good counter-balance to the wild claims of the New York Times on Jan. 22, 2013, which stated that Obama’s second inaugural speech presented a progressive worldview. What Obama did was to list a set of liberal issues, including the need for government to play a role, supporting fair treatment for immigrants, and including gay rights — causes that did not get the support they needed through most of his first four years till he started running for reelection.
There was no unifying theme or progressive vision, no critique of the role of corporations in pursuing self-interest at the expense of societal well-being, no challenge to the distorting role of big money in elections and a reiteration of the basic foreign policy that both Democrats and Republicans (but not progressives) have pursued for the past decades in which we (the United States) try to get our way and serve our economic and political agenda around the world without much sensitivity to the need, much less the human rights of others (in fact, Obama may well be remembered for having initiated an extensive use of drones and for signing on to a policy of legitimating lifetime imprisonment without trial of those suspected of being terrorists).
In her interview in the Fall 2012 issue of Tikkun magazine, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein predicted Obama’s betrayal of the interests of poor and working people (the “middle class”) which she now documents in her analysis of “the compromise” between Obama and the Republicans which was worked out as the alternative to “the fiscal cliff” two weeks ago: “The Real Obama Emerges Again.”
“Obama better than Romney?” In regard to the economic interests of the poor and working class, almost certainly. But for those spiritual progressives who voted for Obama (and our information leads us to believe that most did) the ethical question that emerges is: “knowing who he was after close to four years in office, and choosing to vote for him rather than a protest candidate (even in states where the election wasn’t close), what level of responsibility do we have for the programs he is now enacting when they hurt the poor and the most vulnerable in our society, when he continues to support drone killings around the world, when he refuses to push for a carbon tax or other measures appropriate to saving the planet, when he continues to support the jailing of people who use marijuana, when he continues…. (well, you can add your own here)?”
In 1990 I celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the first time, and in the most significant way I remember. The entire day I was sitting with my partner at the time, and we were focusing on our dreams, our big dreams, our biggest dreams, way beyond just ourselves and our own lives.
Although the relationship is long gone, the effects of that day are still with me. It was then that I had the startling realization that there is really no reason why Dr. King did what he did and I, or anyone else, can’t. That may have been the day I took on with explicit clarity the responsibility to do all I can to contribute to the dreams I have, some of which I have carried in one form or another since I was a small child.
Early on Monday morning this week, I received an email from a friend who forwarded a number of Dr. King’s quotes to me, some known to me and some not. I was thinking about them all day, and I decided to dedicate this week’s blog piece to sinking into the depth of meaning some of these quotes have had for me.
by: Stephanie Van Hook on January 25th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
The personal is the political, has always struck me as incomplete. It was Teilhard de Chardin who first said “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” The ‘personal is the political’ assumes an incomplete worldview, a cosmology of separation where the individual is forced to turn to the political as the end we seek – as though we were fundamentally political beings.
Grasping onto a worldview of connection, of interbeing, we hear nature whisper that we are fundamentally spiritual beings, quanta of spirit, mind and body, integrated. We weave our lives as spiders do their webs, out from ourselves and binding us to one another. Our fulfillment is in making these connections, in participating in a whole. That is what I see as spiritual politics: being accountable to the inescapable whole of which my life is just one of many, a unity masquerading as a diversity. When the personal is more than the political, when it is the sacred, I become whole.
Intense and terrible, I think, must be the loneliness
- Edna St. Vincent Millay (untitled)
…by the time [the infant] is taken to his [sic] mother’s home (surely it cannot be called his) he is well versed in the character of life. On the preconscious level plane that will qualify all his further impressions, as it is qualified by them, he knows life to be unspeakably lonely, unresponsive to his signals, and full of pain.
- Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept
I am not a parent, and I cannot speak with the authority of a parent. I closely followed one child’s upbringing, which has been one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had, convincing me, despite being a sample of one, of what’s possible. Sadly, I am limited in my ability to talk about the glorious vision of that possibility of parenting without alienating at least some parents. I am quite concerned that this piece, in which I talk about my own pain about how children are raised, can do exactly this instead of inviting reflection, dialogue, and mutual exploration to find ways of supporting both parents and children to find meaning, peace, and joy in their shared lives.
Before completing this piece, I spoke with a few people, including two parents, about this limitation of mine. I deeply long to find full, vibrant compassion for the extraordinary challenges that parents face, especially in today’s world, where the support systems for parents are so limited, where the harshness of the life we have created is reaching intense proportions, where the entire future of our species is uncertain. I hope very much that these conversations helped me move closer to embodying this understanding, and am explicitly inviting you, the readers of this piece, to give me feedback, especially if you disagree with me.
On Wednesday, January 9, nearly 2,000 people rallied against fracking outside of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, in Albany, New York.
Folks danced, chanted, shouted, drummed, and waved signs. Pete Seeger sang, the Reverend Billy Talen shook and shouted halleluyah, Sandra Steingraber, Debra Winger, and Natalie Merchant spoke. Voices of the thousands rang out loudly for hours.
Activists called (and call) for a permanent ban on fracking in the state of New York.
Geologists, chemists, biologists, and medical doctors argue that fracking is a threat to public health, will produce hazardous air and water pollution, and will endanger the state’s food supply. It contributes negatively to climate change as well, according to Phil Aroneanu, campaign director of 350.org. Of additional concern to many, as reported by Treehugger and the New York Times, among others, is the release of dangerous radiaoactive materials into the ecosystem through the fracking process. As of now, the gas industry has no means or plan to contain such radioactive waste.
by: Miki Kashtan on January 5th, 2013 | Comments Off
Last night I bought my first new car ever – a Fiat 500. I want to share some things I learned about how we approach buying and selling, and about human connection in general.
I went to one dealership (at right) to see if what I had in mind in terms of budget would actually get me a new car. I encountered an almost overly friendly car salesman. I was only mildly taken aback, virgin to the world of car sales. His numbers were higher than I could comfortably stretch into. Thankfully, I remembered a lesson I’ve been working on for so long – that I really never want to make decisions on my own; I want the support of others in my extended circle, always. I am so exhausted by the level of individual responsibility, I yearn for more and more recognition of and reliance on our human interconnectedness. So he gave me two days to consider: so far so good.
I wish I had brought a friend with me when I returned, because this time things didn’t go so well. Whereas before I clearly understood that there was lots of room for negotiation, suddenly there wasn’t, and he said I hadn’t heard him right previously. The whole interaction was back and forth with a manager I never got to engage with directly, the salesman taking long chunks of time where I just sat and waited while he talked with the manager, only to come back and say that I was being unreasonable and offering me essentially no wiggle room from the original offer.
The following is an excerpt from the introduction of my recently published book – Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation. This book is a collection of essays, many of which were first published here at Tikkun Daily. Today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Our country has experienced two major disasters in the past few weeks – Hurricane Sandy that took children away from their parents and left many people homeless and the horror of the mass killings in Newtown, Connecticut.
I am exhausted from grief.
Yet, this is the season of hope in the midst of the gloom. It is the season when we look into the dark days and know that each day following brings more light. It is the season of the miracles of Hanukkah, of praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness. It is the season of peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women. It is the season of remembering the Seven Principles of African Community. It is a season that celebrates a New Year and the gifts the wise men brought to the Christ child.
There has also been much discussion about the end of the Mayan calendar. A Mayan spiritual leader explains that this does not portend the end of the world, but it does signal the end of an era. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/dec-21-2012-marks-the-shifting-of-eras-says-mayan-spiritual-leader/2012/12/19/524a068e-4a23-11e2-b6f0-e851e741d196_blog.html) I say let this be the end of the era of violence and war and confusion and fear. I say let this be the beginning of an era of faith, radical love, and peace.
Unicorns are often used to speak about that which does not exist. However, I say that unicorns exist as a symbol of a utopian ideal of a better world that does not require violence. It is a symbol of the moral “ought” that we imagine when the “is” that we see is not moral enough anymore. The unicorn dances upon the horizon of our righteous dreams, and like the future horizon leads us ever on in our moral evolution to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today.