(Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Creative Commons)
I’m not a sports fan. in fact, I’m so not a sports fan that I can seldom match the team names with the sports they play. But friends have been sharing so many stories and clips about the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin affair – racism and bullying in the Miami Dolphins – that I felt compelled to investigate.
For my fellow Martians, here’s the nutshell: Incognito and Martin are two 320-pound football players who work for the Miami Dolphins. Martin is 24, a Stanford graduate, an offensive tackle and African American. He is the child of a corporate lawyer and a professor, with a stellar sports career and a reputation for intelligence. Incognito is 30, a guard, white, from humbler origins, who trails a stream of suspensions and expulsions, mostly for fighting; he turned pro without completing college. In 2009, National Football League players voted Incognito the “dirtiest” player in the league. After obscene and racist text and email messages, countless locker-room incidents, and a dining-hall prank masterminded by Incognito that evidently felt like the last straw, Martin resigned from the Dolphins and headed into a silence he has not yet broken, although he has met with an NFL attorney and reportedly declared his desire to return to football. Incognito has been suspended indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and has made many public protestations that he and Martin were friends, that the aforementioned messages and texts were merely business as usual in the NFL.
In last week’s piece, I looked at some fundamental questions related to money and resources. Today, I want to move from the general and abstract to the personal and practical. There are various reasons for wanting to make it personal, ranging from my desire to support people in making their own personal choices about money with much more awareness to the modeling of transparency in talking about money. As this mini-series is unfolding, I am seeing just how much ground there is to cover. For today, I am focusing on “just” two questions, central to the process of using money to mediate transactions in which goods or services are offered.
How Much Money Do I Pay?
This is a question that’s been haunting me for years. We are so accustomed to supply and demand logic, that I imagine most of the time many of us don’t even think about it. When I look at it deeply, however, I really cannot understand, on the human plane, why I give the woman who cleans my house less money than the acupuncturist or naturopath who attend to my body. The “obvious” answer is that they invested years of their life getting educated. Setting aside the huge question of who gets to be educated and how that gets determined, there is still an embedded assumption in this answer. As someone on a recent teleseminar based on one of my blog pieces said simply: “Why are people with education more valuable than others?” This is precisely the part that haunts me. In effect, setting up the system in the way that it is means that some people’s needs are valued more than others.
by: Jay Michaelson on November 14th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
(Meditation over the Grand Canyon/ Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Moyan Brenn)
We hear it all the time. Meditation is narcissistic. It’s self-centered; you’re staring at your navel instead of out there fighting injustice. And God forbid it actually works, in which case you’re too happy. Dropping out, calming the mind – this only mutes our righteous political indignation. Because angry activists are effective activists.
Not only is this offensive and inaccurate, it’s not even new. Since the nineteenth century, Westerners have complained that Buddhism is pessimistic, passive, and world-renouncing. In the Victorian period, Buddhism was seen as nihilistic, offering no vision of hope, in contrast to Christianity. Contemporary complaints about Buddhist, Hindu, and other “Eastern” spiritualities are part of a colonialist and orientalist discourse that belies any claim to real progressivism.
To be fair, there are challenges in pursuing a spiritual practice concerned and engaged with problems of justice. There is a tendency in any contemplative practice to focus on one’s own “stuff,” because that’s what contemplatives do: we turn inward. And within Buddhism in particular, one can find world-renouncing and quietistic teachings, especially within the Theravadan tradition; the Buddha warned monks to stay out of politics, for example. Indeed, the very notion of a monastic community implies some degree of retreat from the problems of the world into a cloistered existence focused on other things. These tensions are present in all of us who take seriously the mandates to cultivate both wisdom and compassion. Often, one has to focus on one or the other.
by: Julie Pepper Lim on November 14th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
What is true? I’m fascinated by this idea of “true” and what is true. I just published my first book and many people ask me if it is “true.”
“It’s a novel,” I say.
“But is it true?” they say.
“Is what true?” I say.
“The book,” they say.
“It’s fiction,” I say.
“But, I mean, is it true?” they say.
“What is true?” I think. It’s true that I wrote a book. It’s true that some of the events, people and places in it are very much based on true people, places and things. And for me it is very true. True in its rawness, its voice, the feelings, the thoughts, the place, the characters. But is it true?
The book is fiction, which to me is a weaving together of all sorts of truths and “lies” and stories that are true and not so true to tell a bigger story and the bigger story is very true, but it’s not a true story. It’s a crafted story. It’s a piecing together of lots of different parts that make a story, and different characters that act in that story. I am one of the characters. What I mean is, to write the story, I step into one of the characters and then another and pretty soon all of them so they can move about freely in the story and talk and fight and interact with one another as they move the story forward.
The Guardian’s recent article, “How President Obama can achieve a nuclear deal with Iran,” speaks about why a nuclear deal with Iran is urgently needed, and what Iran must give up. This Guardian piece is a little weak on what the United States and the Western powers must offer as part of the deal. When read by itself, it repeats the “tough-minded” and largely blind to emotional nuance approach that has made the West’s dealings with Iran so fruitless. Here’s what author Tom Rogan writes:
In the cause of peace, the clock is ticking.
Western Intelligence services have delayed a nuclear Iran. Still, the evidence on the ground is unmistakable. Iranian nuclear activities increasingly point to a weaponization agenda. Of most concern: Iran’s soon-to-be plutonium production facility at Arak. As David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security note (pdf), claims of an inherently peaceful nuclear program cannot easily co-exist with a heavy water reactor. Correspondingly, in last weekend’s P5+1 negotiations, the French Foreign Minister suggested that allowing Arak to remain in operation would represent a “sucker’s deal”.
by: Sigfried Gold on November 12th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
Progressives deliver lofty words about embracing people who are different from us, but we often fail to put those words into practice when it comes to religious fundamentalists. In truth, there are many deep forms of spiritual wisdom that fundamentalists could share with us if we approached them with humility, care, and curiosity:
1. Fundamentalists go whole hog. They know what they believe. They know who’s right and who’s wrong. How do they do it? Do they do it about everything? Try asking a fundamentalist: What is it exactly that is fundamental for you? What are the commitments from which you will not budge? Are you able to stay open-minded on religious or political issues outside these commitments? Different fundamentalists will have different answers, of course. But it’s no betrayal of our own commitment to open-mindedness to consider emulating fundamentalists if we find something worth emulating. Which of our own beliefs are we willing to throw ourselves into without reservation? On what are we willing to take a stand from which we will not budge?
2. Fundamentalists have faith. Some of what they believe they believe without objective, empirical evidence, or even against scientific evidence. Are we able to see that they embrace faith not out of stupidity or ignorance but because their faith is confirmed by what they perceive as some deeper spiritual evidence? Can we see the ways that a demonstrably irrational faith can be motivated by entirely reasonable and real concerns and needs? Faith is not simply a choice to believe something without evidence. It begins as an experiment: “What happens if I try believing X?” And when something good happens, it grows. Are we interested in cultivating our own faith? Faith in what?
3. Fundamentalists have been at it a long time. They follow traditions that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years. They’ve had time to build up a vast repertoire of practices, concepts, rituals, bits of wisdom. Their rearguard scramble to defend their traditions from modern threats may keep the most absurd parts of their program in clearest relief, but dig a little and you’ll find the richness of all they’ve built and that has sustained them over centuries.
Text: Isaiah 58: 1-9; Luke 12: 54-59
Forty years ago, in the wake of the rebellion at Attica Prison, Rev. Robert Polk of the Riverside clergy founded the Riverside Prison Ministry. Throughout this past weekend, the Prison Ministry has been celebrating this anniversary by anchoring a year-long campaign to bring light and change to life-destroying parole practices in this state and in this society.
Forty-one years ago, in response to that rebellion at Attica, a Rochester man named Steere began a ministry at Attica prison. It still goes on. Volunteers and men inside join each week in a conversation about one thing only, what it is like to be in your own skin, with your own burdens, and how you learn from it. From what I learned and experienced during ten years with that program, I have brought you a number of things over the years.
Forty years of ministry is a good thing. But let’s let that number, “forty years,” seep into our skin alongside the ancient scriptures we have just heard, for our societies haven’t much to show for long exposure to the word of God; and in these United States, the last forty years have looked more like years of wilderness wandering with no Moses and no true law at all. Since those terrible days at Attica, the criminal American justice system has multiplied its prison population sixfold, from 350,000 to more than two million. Those being watched by parole and probation exceed five million men and women. They are blocked from public housing or help with the price of food. “The box” blocks them from working. It’s that box on employment applications – “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” States block the formerly incarcerated from voting, ever, as if to say you will never have a place among us. It seems that society aims to destroy them.
My vision is of a world in which needs are routinely met, in which the experience of need satisfaction is the norm rather than the exception. Considering how far this vision is from what we mostly know in our modern world, the question of the possibility of meeting human needs takes on a great deal of significance.
In this excerpt, I am skipping the section that deals with some theoretical questions related to this problem, as my intention is to focus on the practicalities.
Ultimately, the question of need satisfaction can only be answered in practice. Unfortunately, as far as I know, no human society has been solely dedicated to meeting human needs, and the data for assessing this question on a large scale simply doesn’t exist. However, on a smaller scale, my work over the years has shown me beyond any doubt for me that more satisfaction is possible even before changing social conditions.
This brings me to some deep questions that so far humanity as a whole has not found a way to answer. What would it take for optimal need satisfaction to become a societal goal? How can we produce and allocate resources in a way that’s most conducive to meeting everyone’s needs? What societal and individual changes are most likely to change patterns of consumption to make resources available more widely? In large part, these are the questions that led me to embark on the project of writing this book and its sister, Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working together to Create a Nonviolent Future, which I imagine will be out in the summer.
by: Amy B. Dean on November 7th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
(Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Doug Geisler)
Jews understand what it means to start a new life in another country. As a nation of immigrants, the US welcomed and protected generations of Jews who fled persecution, famine and poverty in Eastern Europe and the Middle East to begin a new life in the US together with their families. Today, a commitment to the core Jewish mandate of “welcoming the stranger” takes a different form. This year, Jewish activists around the country have mobilized – some even getting arrested in acts of civil disobedience – to push Congress to pass an immigration reform package that would put an end to families being separated by deportation and establish a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
But as progress on immigration reform stalls in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, some hard-line GOP members want to withhold all access to citizenship for one of the most vulnerable groups of immigrants: the undocumented. Moreover, some politically conservative Jews have been quoted in the press as being involved in this push against a pathway to citizenship for newcomers to the US. One vocal opponent to reform is Stephen Steinlight, former director of national affairs for the American Jewish Council (AJC), who in June told the Jewish Daily Forward that he views Jewish pro-immigration reform activists as “do-gooders leaning over backwards for the aggrieved.” Can Jews overcome such political difference within their ranks to achieve justice for immigrants?