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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



“Realism” and Its Discontents

Mar27

by: on March 27th, 2014 | 10 Comments »

This has been a strange time in my little world: I’ve been traveling for work while my computer stayed home and lost its mind. I’m glad to say that sanity (i.e., memory, software, and general order) has been restored, and while I still have the sort of compulsive desire to tell the tale that afflicts survivors of accidents, I will spare you most of the saga.

What both journeys—mine and the computer’s—have given me is the opportunity to reflect on the workings of human minds, including my own. In particular, I’ve had a close-up look at the desire to believe, especially to believe the reassuring drone of those in authority.

Earlier this month, I gave a talk at Harvard that focused on some of the key ideas in The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future. I focused especially on the way Corporation Nation has consigned artists to a trivial and undernourished social role, instead of understanding artists as an indicator species for social well-being akin to the role oysters play as bio-monitors for marine environments. I pointed out how arts advocacy has steadily failed (e.g., President Obama asked Congress for $146 million for the National Endowment for Arts [NEA] in the next budget, $8 million less than this year, when he should have requested $440 million just to equal the spending power the agency had 35 years ago). Yet advocates keep making the same weak arguments and pretending that losing a little less than anticipated constitutes victory. There’s an Emperor’s New Clothes flavor to the whole enterprise, a tacit agreement to adjust to absurdity and go along with the charade.


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A Hundred Years Later

Mar21

by: Uri Avnery on March 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

There is an old Chinese curse that says: “May you live in historic times!” (If there isn’t, there should be.)This week was a historic time. The Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Russia annexed it. A dangerous situation. No one knows how it will develop.

After my last article about the Ukrainian crisis, I was flooded with passionate e-mail messages. Some were outraged by one or two sentences that could be construed as justifying Russian actions. How could I excuse the former KGB apparatchik, the new Hitler, the leader who was building a new Soviet empire by destroying and subjugating neighboring countries?

Others were outraged, with the same passion, by my supposed support for the fascist gangs which have come to power in Kiev, the anti-Semites in Nazi uniforms, and the American imperialists who use them for their own sinister purposes.

I am a bit bewildered by the strength of feeling on both sides. The Cold War, it seems, is not over. It just took a nap. Yesterday’s warriors are again rallying to their flags, ready to do battle.

Sorry, I can’t get passionate about this side or that. Both, it seems to me, have some justice on their side. Many of the battle cries are bogus.

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The Language of Love

Mar19

by: Allen B. Saxe on March 19th, 2014 | 16 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/ abon

American culture needs to develop a new language to describe relationships of love and commitment. Husband and wife are too narrow. Partner too broad. Boyfriend and girlfriend focus on young unmarried people.

For gays and lesbians they have had to rely on the use of “partners” or if gay, “husband,” or if lesbian, “wife.” I feel these are temporary terms as we struggle to find more fitting terms.

This is not just an issue for same sex couples. It is also an issue for heterosexual couples in committed relationships that are not traditional marriages.

My sister-in-law Jacquie and Srulik are in a committed relationship. However they have not married in a religious ceremony or civil ceremony.

When my sister-in-law once referred to Srulik as her partner, she saw either puzzlement or astonishment in the reactions of others. Was Jacquie now a lesbian? To use husband and wife might confuse people who might respond, “So when was the wedding?” or “So why were we not invited to the wedding?” We need to do better.

“Partner” has never reflected the love and commitment that these relationships deserve.

I suggest that we turn to the Jewish tradition of Song of Songs.

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A Literary Meditation on Guatemalan Politics

Mar19

by: Kathleen Alcalá on March 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

La Negra y Blanca
by Deena Metzger
Hand to Hand Publishing, 2011

La Negra y Blanca is a book with several designations on the cover – it’s described as a fugue, a commentary, and a novel.

I had to look up fugue to see what it meant in a literary context, only to find that it is a dissociative state caused by severe mental stress, or a musical composition in several voices, in which the themes are played by all the instruments, sometimes in counterpoint.

La Negra y Blanca is certainly not a novel in the traditional sense of the word, with a protagonist who overcomes obstacles and transforms into a better version of him or herself along the way. The book recently won the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles Awards created to honor writers of exceptional works often not acknowledged by the mainstream literary community.

It is certainly out of the mainstream. Perhaps this is a commentary, but then we would have to decide on what. The politics of Guatemala? The state of literature in Latin America? The life of the author, Deena Metzger?

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What If They Gave a War and Nobody Paid?

Mar19

by: David Hartsough on March 19th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

As April 15 approaches, make no mistake: The tax money that many of us will be sending to the U.S. government pays for drones that are killing innocent civilians, for “better” nuclear weapons that could put an end of human life on our planet, for building and operating more than 760 military bases in over 130 countries all over the world. We are asked by our government to give moral and financial support to cutting federal spending for our children’s schools, Head Start programs, job training, environmental protection and cleanup, programs for the elderly, and medical care for all so that this same government can spend 50 percent of all our tax dollars on wars and other military expenditures.

My wife Jan and I have been war tax resisters since the war in Vietnam. We cannot in good conscience pay for killing people in other parts of the world.

Does it make sense to work every day for peace and justice and then contribute one day’s pay each week for war and war-making? In order to wage wars, governments need young men and women willing to fight and kill, and they need the rest of us to pay our taxes to cover the cost of soldiers, bombs, guns, ammunition, planes and aircraft carriers. The cost of just the wars being fought now is in the trillions of dollars.

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Moving Ahead on Mideast Peace with Land Purchases for Israel and Palestine

Mar19

by: on March 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

In one of his “Early Addresses” titled “Judaism and Mankind,” Martin Buber said:

Every man whose soul attains unity, who decides, within his own self, for the pure and against the impure, for the free and against the unfree, for the creative and against the uncreative, every man who drives the moneylenders out of his temple, participates in the great process of Judaism.

Though I’m Catholic, these words resonate with me and, like much of Martin Buber’s accessible discourse, serves as a reminder of the sheer idiocy of any form of supersessionism: the belief that Christian faith yields a holier heart and mind than what is contained in Judaism. Indeed, Martin Buber delivered those words over a hundred years ago, between 1909 and 1911; just this week, a glaring headline in the National Catholic Reporter read “Vatican office calls religious sisters, priests to live poorly, reject capitalism.”

Perhaps many of the holy rollers of my church, the Roman Catholic Church – the very ones whose high on the hog living is now the subject of Pope Francis’s reforms – would have done well to read some Martin Buber before making bank off the name of a poor first-century Jew who was killed at 33-years-old by Pontius Pilate. But isn’t a slow learning curve better than none at all?

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Israeli Women Who Have Stood Up to the Occupation for 26 Years

Mar13

by: Keren Manor & Shiraz Grinbaum on March 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

A Project by Keren Manor & Shiraz Girnbaum at Activestills.org (Crossposted from +972 Magazine)

In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills paid tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in themain squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at,cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.


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An Invite to Join NSP’s Book Group: Doing Justice in an Unjust World

Mar12

by: Amy Broyles on March 12th, 2014 | No Comments »

You are invited to join a brand new NSP Book group. We’ll be reading the same book and then communicating through email with each other about our reactions. At some point we might want to make it live on a conference call or on a Skype or G chat. And we are starting with a fabulous book,Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological and Economic Vocationby Cynthia Moe Lobeda (a professor at Seattle University ). What is so powerful about this book is that it is grounded in spiritual and religious principles yet is an amazingly powerful critique of capitalism. Let me explain.

The everyday workings of global capitalism are endangering the survival of the planet and perpetrating structural economic violence on many people in the developing world.

How can flawed people like ourselves who are hopelessly entangled in practices and institutions that perpetuate injustice and violence against the earth (and ultimately our own children and grandchildren) possibly live an ethically responsible, justice-promoting life?

(excerpted from Thad Williamson’s review of Cynthia Moe Lobeda’s book–read the review to get a taste of what the book is about and why it’s worth reading:
http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/doing-justice-in-an-unjust-world)

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Hurray! We Have a New Executive Director of the NSP

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Dear Tikkun Ally (aka Tikkunistas–people committed to healing and transforming our world),

I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Cat J. Zavis as Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. As the politics of 2014 unfold in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Russia, the Ukraine, South and Central America, Australia, Israel, Palestine, Africa, Iran, India, and China, you will undoubtedly see how very badly the world needs the ideas and energy of the Network of Spiritual Progressives!

Cat J. Zavis is an attorney who started the Bellingham Washington chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. In the past 7 years, she has focused her practice in the areas of collaborative divorce and mediation for couples considering or going through a divorce process.  She previously served as a staff attorney for the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle, and as an attorney with the Public Defender’s Association in Seattle. She has a Master’s in Gender Studies from the University of British Columbia and teaches Empathic (or Nonviolent, Compassionate Communication) to parents, attorneys, mediators, spiritual centers, teachers, couples and students. In 2009, she won the Whatcom County Peace Builders Award for her business.

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What’s Happening in NC? Faith-Rooted Organizing is Bearing Fruit

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

A few times a week these days I get a call or email from friends around the country who all ask me the same question: so, what’s happening down there in North Carolina?

I’ve taken to telling them that the Civil Rights Movement is getting born again.

Most of them have read a news story or seen coverage of protests against the extremist takeover of NC government in the past year. (If you have an hour, Bill Moyer’s “State of Conflict” is probably the most informative intro.)

But big business is funding quiet extremism everywhere. What my friends want to know is what happened to inspire over a hundred thousand people to rally at the NC Legislature last summer. How in one summer did half as many people (945) get arrested in one state as were arrested nationwide in 1960′s sit-in movement. And how, many have wondered over the past few weeks, did more than 80,000 people march on a state capitol to demand change?

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