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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Project Shows How Twelve People Got Into Debt in San Francisco

Nov10

by: Brittany M. Powell on November 10th, 2014 | No Comments »

The Debt Project

Credit: Brittany M. Powell

Crossposted from The Bold Italic

In 2012, after struggling with a significant loss of income from my photography business following the 2008 economic decline, my debt skyrocketed, and I made the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy. This inspired my interest in investigating how debt affects our identities and how we relate to the world. Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized but is almost always privately experienced. It is in many ways an abstract form without material weight or structure, yet it has a heavy physicality and is a burden in a person’s everyday life.

The Debt Project is a photographic and multimedia exploration into the role that debt plays in our personal identities and social structures. I began the projectby asking subjects to sit for a formal portrait in their homes, surrounded by their belongings, in a way that’s reminiscent of the early Flemish portrait-painting tradition, and answer a series of questions on camera about their debt. I also asked them to handwrite the amount of debt they are in and tell the story behind it.

To see more of Brittany M. Powell’s photos, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.

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The Hunger Games as Metaphor for Youth Oppression and Resistance

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2014 | No Comments »

The Hunger Games

Credit: Creative Commons/MMSC10

I believe one of the litmus tests by which a society can be judged is the ways it treats its young people, for this opens a window projecting how that society operates generally.

Adultism, as defined by John Bell includes “behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.” Within an adultist society, adults construct the rules, with little or no input from youth, which they force young people to follow.

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Hour for Our Campaign

Nov6

by: Tikkun on November 6th, 2014 | No Comments »


As you know, the fundraising drive is heating up and we are getting closer to our $5,000 goal. The “Hour for Our Campaign” asks that you donate the equivalent of what you earn or charge an hour per month to the NSP as a bold statement that you want to build OUR world – a world based on a New Bottom Line.

The average american works more than 160 hours a month. Would you be willing to put one of those hours toward building our better world? To succeed, we need your financial support and involvement – we need each other, we cannot build this world unless we do so together. We hope you will join us.

As part of our campaign and in hopes to double our membership, we ask that when you join (or if you’ve already joined) that you ask 2 friends to join this campaign as well and ask them to ask two friends, and so on and so on! Through this effort, we will easily meet and ideally exceed our goal of doubling our membership. Won’t you join us with one hour to help build our world?

(Click Here To Donate)

And if you need another reason to support us, here is one more thing Tikkun is doing to help change the world: organized conference calls.

These can be costly and time-consuming–after Skype failed us during one call, a valiant Cat Zavis continued the international conference on her cell phone, which isn’t the cheapest method–BUT we are dedicated to our cause and letting peoples’ voices be heard, and we want to continue bringing you quality conversations that are free for you to listen to and even join.

So please consider clicking here to donate (donations are tax-deductible since we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit).

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Post-Election Letter to A Friend

Nov5

by: on November 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Here’s the note a friend sent me on Facebook late last night:

Arlene, now that the midterm results are in, how can the dreams/predictions that you make in your recent books The Wave and The Culture of Possibility come to fruition? How can Citizens United be overturned and democracy be given back to the people?

My dear friend, what a good question! I am sorry for the suffering it reveals, suffering that is widely shared this morning. I woke up with five possible answers jostling their ways out of my brain. I hope one or two of them may help.

1. I never make predictions, but I do write and speak about possibilities. As sad as many of the election results turned out to be, no single phenomenon (such as a seven-seat gain in a midterm election) forecloses possibility. Indeed, the very same information can be given two opposing meanings, depending on what else happens. We know that when a paradigm shifts – when an outdated worldview begins to be edged offstage by a new and more powerful understanding – those who benefit most from the old order tighten their grip. How many times in history have we seen such darkness before something new dawns?

A friend who works closely with elections told me last night that given which seats are up for re-election in 2016, it’s almost a certainty that Democrats will regain the Senate then. That’s his prediction (I don’t make them, remember?). But if two years down the road everyone who is crying this morning wakes up in a celebratory mood, will the nature of reality have shifted? Or just our ideas about it?

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How Storytelling Opens Hearts and Minds

Nov4

by: Isaac Luria on November 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Exodus 33: 13-14

 13 [Moses said], “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

 14 G-d replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

storytelling

Credit: Creative Commons/ Guido van Nispen

On a late Spring afternoon two years ago, I vividly remember watching my colleague Macky Alston hold a room of multifaith movement for justice activists spellbound when he recounted his remarkable religious journey. Macky had grown up religious, realized he was gay, and then worked his way back to Christianity.

While I listened, I felt myself grow jealous, wishing I had a compelling story like Macky’s. Then, I felt empty. I may have joined Macky at Auburn Seminary a year earlier, but I still didn’t have a great understanding of why I had taken this new job in progressive religion.

I knew the answer wasn’t simple. My journey was different, my story hidden from view.

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ISIS Halloween Costumes: Bad Taste or Psychologically Cathartic?

Oct31

by: on October 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Tonight, when Americans open their doors at the sound of “Trick or Treat!” they may be in for a big surprise: a little boy dressed up in a jihadi fighter costume! That’s right, while our planes drop bombs on the real bad guys, our neighborhood children may be dressing up like them. I know that many, Muslim or not, are offended, but I see this Halloween as especially important from a sociological perspective.

First, the usual and necessary disclosures about Halloween: As a Muslim I don’t commend or celebrate a pagan holiday with its roots in worship of the devil and fear of evil spirits. As a Muslim mother I don’t allow my children to wear costumes or go trick-or-treating, for a number of reasons which include not only religious beliefs, but also worry and fear of the times we live in. My children of course, being typically American, never take it lying down. My conversation with them on the days leading up to this year’s Halloween can be read here.

But all day yesterday and today, as I read several reports of this year’s new “genre” of costumes I slowly exited from mother mode or even Muslim mode and started thinking like a sociologist. Halloween costume companies this year are encouraging their customers to really get the crowds buzzing with items like ISIS fighters, Ebola nurses, Hazmat suits and even burka-clad Arab women. WHAT? Is this what we have come to, making fun of our biggest problems? Offending people? Taking serious things lightly? Associating Ebola or war with candy?

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Happy Blog-iversary (and A Half) to Me

Oct25

by: on October 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

I forgot to notice that this past May was the tenth anniversary of my blog, which I started in 2004 to coincide with the publication of my novel Clarity. It has a small but devoted following. And if you’re interested, you can buy it used for a song. I still think it would make a good movie…

I started thinking what I might have learned in this decade-plus.The first thing that came to mind was this: people have been calling me an optimist for most of my life, but I didn’t accept it as one of my true names until quite recently. Partly, that was about expanding my definition of the word. An optimist, I now believe, is someone who sees great possibility in the human project (not someone, as I once supposed, who is certain that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, pace Voltaire).

Still, I don’t totally get this about myself. I grew up in a world of low expectations and lower hopes, where adults understood themselves as refugees from and survivors of history, and I was regularly counseled not to want too much. I asked my husband to help me think about it: why, with my history, am I an optimist when so many others who have walked similar paths are anything but?

His answer made perfect sense to me: “Because you’re all about changing things. You have to believe it’s possible. A person can’t be as oriented to change as you are and be a pessimist. What would be the point?”

True dat.


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Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who Shall Guard the Guardians?)

Oct23

by: Michael N. Nagler on October 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Iguala Massacre

Family members demand justice in Iguala, Guerrero. Credit: Creative Commons/The Yucatan Times

I’ve just come from a three-hour conversation with Pietro Ameglio Patella, prominent Mexican professor and nonviolent activist, and an old friend. He was in the country with his friend Carlos Moreno who has been searching for his son for three years without any cooperation from the official parties – indeed not only that, it has made him a target of death threats himself.

The situation in México is, without exaggeration, catastrophic. Anyone can be taken off at any time, and both drug lords and the government operate with complete impunity. Gangs come and measure your house or your business and charge you for “protection” by the yard, and recently a radio journalist was killed right in the middle of a broadcast by someone who entered the studio, fired four shots point blank and calmly walked out. As Patella told me, “our wives are in a constant panic; we don’t know from which direction the bullets could come.” No government agency offers help to the anguished parents seeking information about their lost children or other loved ones, not to mention doing anything to control the violence, because indeed they are part of it. Patella and Moreno reject the definition of “failed state” for Mexico today. Rather, they told me, it’s a criminal state.

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Tikkun Fall Fundraising Drive: Here’s Our Challenge

Oct23

by: Tikkun Daily on October 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Make a commitment to Tikkun Daily today!

We are launching a donation drive to support the future of this collaborative, multimedia, interfaith project. Tens of thousands of readers show up every month to drink in our spiritual progressive perspective on politics, art, religion, and activism. The sustainability of this project is within reach – to move in that direction we need just 500 people to pledge a $10 donation to reach our minimum goal of $5,000 this season. If you can afford more, we will reach our goal that much faster. Help us make it happen!

Tikkun Daily is subsidized by Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives. For it to continue, we need to ask Tikkun Daily readers to make a significant contribution. We’re looking for 500 people … by year end.

Click here to donate (donations are tax-deductible since we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit).


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The Exacting Discipline of Choosing Based on Needs

Oct22

by: on October 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

This past week, I’ve had three meaningful interactions with friends that complemented my own continued inner journey and, together, led me to want to speak, again and anew, about the tragedy of how we’ve been taught to relate to our needs. On the surface, our stories look so different from each other: being let down by friends at a time of crisis; exploding at a partner in response to a small stimulus; being unwilling to talk to a mother; and finding it exceedingly difficult to maintain a mindful engagement with life. It took some focus to see the theme that ties them all together: they all stem from a pervasive challenge about making our needs important enough.

Is this our view of what "needy" has to mean? Credit: Creative Commons/United Way of Greater St. Louis

In a moment, I unpack each of these (changing details to maintain anonymity) to illustrate the theme. For now, I want to start with marveling at how far we are, collectively, from taking our needs seriously and making them a priority. Instead, we have been trained to view our needs as a sign of weakness or dependence, and as something bottomless that cannot be controlled. We have also been told to view anyone who puts their needs first as inherently selfish. I am happy to say that I have freed myself from this myth. Instead I think of attending to our needs, especially within a culture that so devalues them, as a courageous act that requires commitment, attention, and the willingness to face potential reprimand from others. Because what pulls us away from our needs — habits, impulses, obligations, fear, internalized norms, desire for reward, or belief in scarcity — are so powerful, it takes vigilance to keep our focus and intention in the face of all that’s stacked up against it.

As part of my large vision for what life could be like, how the world could be structured, and what we humans could conceivably be like in such a world, I wholeheartedly want to have millions and millions of people who are as committed to uncovering and cherishing their needs, who keep each other company on the journey to full, authentic, and caring living. If this piece inspires anyone to take their needs more seriously, I will be happy for having written it.

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