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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Mourning the Parisian “Humorists” Yet Challenging the Hypocrisy of Western Media

Jan9

by: on January 9th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

Tribute to victims killed in Charlie Hebdo shooting

A tribute at the Place de la République in Paris to victims killed during the attack at Charlie Hebdo. Credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty

As the editor of a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine that has often articulated views that have prompted condemnation from both Right and Left, I had good reason to be scared by the murders of fellow journalists in Paris. Having won the 2014 “Magazine of the Year” Award from the Religion Newswriters Association, and having been critical of Hamas’ attempts to bomb Israeli cities this past summer (even while being equally critical of Israel’s rampage against civilians in Gaza), I have good reason to worry if this prominence raises the chances of being a target for Islamic extremists.

But then again, I had to wonder about the way the massacre in Paris is being depicted and framed by the Western media as a horrendous threat to Western civilization, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I wondered about the over-heated nature of this description. It didn’t take me long to understand how problematic that framing really is.

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Vandana Shiva is the new co-chair of the NSP! And a request from her…

Jan8

by: on January 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives are delighted to announce that Vandana Shiva, the internationally acclaimed environmental activist from India has become the international co-chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives along with Rabbi Michael Lerner. Dr. Shiva has contributed in fundamental ways to changing the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Her books The Violence of the Green Revolution and Monocultures of the Mind pose essential challenges to the dominant paradigm of non-sustainable, industrial agriculture. Through her books Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest and Water Wars, Dr. Shiva has made visible the social, economic and ecological costs of corporate-led globalization.

In her letter to us accepting the position of NSP co-chair, Vandana Shiva requested that we send out to you her request that you read the information below, and then sign and send the letter included below to President Obama and President Modi. You can copy and send the letter below to President Obama at the White House website. President Modi will receive messages mailed to the Embassy of India, 2107 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Washington, DC 20008 or by calling (202) 939-7000 or by faxing (202) 265-4351.

In her letter to us accepting this position, Dr. Shiva also enthusiastically endorsed the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution proposed by the Network of Spiritual Progressives. She had previously told us that she was particularly enthusiastic about the section of the ESRA which eliminates all private and corporate money from elections and the part which requires corporations to prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a panel of ordinary citizens in order to get or renew (every five years) their corporate charter. Please read it at www.tikkun.org/esra and help us get your local city council, state legislature, Congressional representatives and U.S. Senators, your local branches of whatever political party you belong to, your church, synagogue, mosque or ashram, your college of university, your union or professional organization, and your local civic and social change oriented organizations to publicly endorse it.

If you have not yet joined the NSP, please do so now by clicking here. Warm wishes for a wonderful New Year. We face immense challenges with a new Congress determined to undo environmental protections and defund social welfare programs for the poor and powerless. Don’t face those challenges alone! JOIN THE NSP!

With gratitude for your support,

Cat J. Zavis

Executive Director

Cat@spiritualprogressives.org

The Perils and Pitfalls of Singing for Gaza: A Review of 2 Unite All

Jan8

by: Robert Cohen on January 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

2 unite all gaza relief album

Credit: 2 Unite All

I was asked to write a review of the new benefit album for the people of Gaza. During the violence of last summer more than 2,000 Palestinian were killed, the vast majority civilians and the casualties included more than 500 children. Many more people were left permanently injured, physically, mentally or both, and thousands lost their homes.

I’d already downloaded all twenty-six tracks of 2 Unite All (126 minutes of music from more than thirty artists) before I realized that the task was impossible.

Writing about a project motivated by peace and love is a complete minefield. What’s the point of saying anything about the music when the real aim is not artistic but humanitarian. In such circumstances, is it ethical to be critical?

But then it occurred to me how much else there was to say about this particular endeavor, even before a single song is considered.

What should the relationship be between the artist and the recipient of the aid that they raise? Is it possible to separate out the humanitarian need from the causes that created it? Is it enough to just sing about peace and love?

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Two Dreams for 2015

Jan8

by: Sharon and Abbsi on January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »

Another Voice

As Israelis and Palestinians, it’s easy for us to become disillusioned and lose the vision for peace. This is especially true after this past year brought us a horrific war in Gaza, followed by a cycle of violence that some have termed a Third Intifada. Tensions have continued to simmer and it seems that even the optimists have lost the ability to hope or dream.

Because of this, we feel compelled to share two short dreams for 2015 and beyond — one written by an Israeli woman and the other a Palestinian. These are both a part of a blogging series by a group of Israeli and Palestinian women, featured on the blog Another Voice.

Sharon’s Dream:

My dream really goes well beyond 2015, but I hope it begins there and that 2015 can be the year that sets a new course for all of us and, especially, my son’s generation.

It seems but a distant dream, one that a few keep trying to grasp but is so elusive. The majority in our societies keeps pushing it further and further away from our children’s reach, carelessly ready to leave them bankrupt and with an even bleaker future than we have.

But I see this dream written on my son’s peaceful face as he sleeps or in the innocent joy of his smile and it gives me renewed hope that it is perhaps possible.  And then I can’t help but dream and think about how I want this place to be for him:

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Journalism and Satire: Critical Forms of Nonviolence Under Attack

Jan7

by: on January 7th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Image Courtesy of KOMUNews

The pen is still mightier than the sword, even in the face of the brutal murders of twelve journalists/cartoonists at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper today. And yes, for those who wonder, Muslim leaders across the globe are denouncing this heinous act of barbarism. I join them in revulsion, shock, anger, sadness, and the hope that the culprits are captured quickly and brought to justice.


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Amadeus: A Tribute to Trinity

Jan7

by: Colin Hannaford on January 7th, 2015 | No Comments »

Towards the end of the summer I was invited to Trinity College in Cambridge for one of its regular gatherings. Naturally I wanted to go.

The problem, of course, was Amadeus.

In 1805, when Lord Byron was told to leave his dog at home, he brought a pet bear instead, taking it for a stroll around the grounds every day on a leash.

Amadeus is no longer the puppy I could carry around in an army medic’s pouch. He is now six feet long from his nose to the tip of his magnificent tail and he weighs over a hundred pounds. I considered, briefly, declaring him to be a bear.

He is, unmistakeably, a dog.

But there was an alternative. Some of my old maths pupils may remember me sitting entirely unperturbed through the ear-splitting clangour of a fire alarm, and demanding, as the entire class began abruptly to decamp: “Just where the Devil do you think YOU ARE ALL GOING!” And being told, in a delighted chorus: “SIR, THE SCHOOL’S ON FIRE!”

I explained to Trinity’s accommodation office that Amadeus is my Hearing Dog. I might be burnt to a crisp unless he slept in my room overnight to warn me of a possible fire. This would reflect badly on the College.

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Happy New Year from Tikkun!

Jan1

by: Tikkun on January 1st, 2015 | Comments Off

All of us at Tikkun would like to wish our readers and contributors a happy New Year, and give a huge thank you to those of you who helped support us over the last few months of our fundraising drive, whether it be by spreading word or giving us what you could. Thank you!

The new year has finally arrived, and we’re so close to our goal. This is our final call for your support, so if you can, please help us out–the finish line is in sight!

If you haven’t yet donated to our cause, now is the time to do it. A $100 donation will get you the following gifts from Tikkun:


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The Year of Whiplash

Dec31

by: on December 31st, 2014 | 2 Comments »

I spent decades denying I was an optimist before copping to it, and now – instead of trying to live the label down, I find myself trying to live up to it. I’d say this year has left me with an acute case of whiplash.

Turn my head one way, and I see activism at a height I haven’t observed since the Sixties (which lasted into the mid-Seventies, by the way). The humongous People’s Climate March in September, the colossal outpouring of sadness and rage at state-sponsored killings of black people: impressive, overwhelming, and even in the face of the devastation being protested, encouraging.

But when I turn in the other direction, it takes a powerful act of will not to be dispirited by the hardening of the hearts of entrenched power. I hear myself saying that I can’t understand how a human being can remain unmoved at the sight of broken-hearted parents consumed with grief at the deaths of their children, at the sight of the fear that evokes in other parents’ hearts.

But really, I think I do understand it. Those with hearts of stone put bereaved parents and dead children in a category marked “other,” marked “less than,” refusing to see the life-spark that mirrors their own faces in the eyes of others. I have been writing for years about the Golden Rule, the universal exhortation to avoid doing to others what would harm ourselves. This is from an essay I wrote for an art exhibit on that subject by Bay Area artist Beth Grossman:

In Deuteronomy, and in Psalms, Proverbs, and Lamentations, the Hebrew bible’s references to the pupil of the eye are almost always translated as “the apple” of the eye, symbolizing what is most precious, most in need of safeguarding. “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,” reads Psalms 17:8.

Literally, though, the Hebrew text reads “bat ayin,” “daughter of the eye,” greatly resembling the English word’s Latin original, pupilla, a diminutive for child. Why? When we gaze into another’s eyes, the etymologists say, we see our own image in miniature reflected there. The Golden Rule is inscribed in the apple of each person’s eye.

Although all spiritual systems exhort us to follow The Golden Rule, I’m not foreseeing a Kumbaya moment in which we all reach across the very real barriers dividing society to join hands. I think there is a price of admission to the full human community that many are unprepared to pay, thinking their special privileges deserved, perhaps, or at least dearer to themselves than justice and compassion.

On this new year’s eve, I want to offer some words from myself and others that may help to diagnose our whiplash. As Gandhi said, “A correct diagnosis is three-fourths the remedy.” And then I want to tell you about something that gives me hope.


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Releasing “The Interview” on Christmas: What Would Jesus Say?

Dec24

by: on December 24th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

Judging from the enthusiastic response on social media, Sony’s decision to release the movie “The Interview” on Christmas day seems to be a victory for the American way of life, but there is a tragic irony in the very truth of that view. For the “way of life” thus vindicated is addicted to a view of freedom as the right to say and do anything one wants, indifferent to the substance of what is actually being said in freedom’s name.

billboardPersonally, I am repulsed by the prospect of a distributor releasing on Christmas Day a public film depicting the assassination of a living person as something “funny.” Apart from the fact that such a film is provocative toward a North Korean leadership and culture that already appears fear-saturated and perhaps dangerous, made by producers and evidently actors who think that it is some kind of progressive political act to engage in this kind of provocation, the theme of the film should be seen as offensive and even shocking to anyone with an open heart and a respect for human life. What is funny about depicting the murder of a named individual who is currently alive? And how is it reflective of any spiritual meaning of Christmas to release such a film on a day celebrating the birth of Christ, or to non-Christians, celebrating at the very least family gatherings based upon loving human connection?

The entire public discussion of “The Interview” has focused not a whit on the actual moral substance of the film and exclusively on the importance of an ideal of free expression, no matter how offensive the expression is. This amoral view of the substance of freedom is reflected not just in relation to “artistic” freedom and the First Amendment, but also in relation to the freedom of a “free market” that sees workers mainly as factors of production-for- profit rather than beautiful human beings deserving of respect and dignity and that exploits the natural world without regard to beauty of creation and the sacredness of all life through which creation, whatever its wondrous origin, is made manifest . Freedom conceived in this way also embraces, in the name of democracy, a political process that vindicates the ability of billionaires to manipulate the consciousness of a society of isolated and socially separated television-watchers in order to influence their voting patterns.

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Racism Reproduced in Social Institutions Like Police Departments

Dec22

by: on December 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

brooklyn shooting of police

Police officers Rafael Ramos (left) and Wenjian Liu (right) fatally shot in Brooklyn over the weekend. Credit: Creative Commons / The Independent

A 28-year-old man identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley apparently shot two uniformed New York City Police Department officers, Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, execution-style as they sat in their marked patrol car in Brooklyn last Saturday. Investigators believe the gunman’s motive for the slayings was to avenge the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown – two black men killed by police officers earlier in the year. Police also suspect Brinsley of shooting his ex-girlfriend in the abdomen previously that day at her residence in Baltimore.

According to NYPD Police Commissioner, William Bratton, the gunman shot the officers with “no warning, no provocation – they were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform.”

Only minutes after murdering the officers, Brinsley turned his gun on himself and died on a subway platform as police began surrounding him.

While allegations of racism against individual officers and entire departments have certainly gained traction across the nation with the high-profile killings of black men and boys recently, no one can condone the random murder of police officers as a solution to this long-standing problem.

In fact, speaking for the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton was emphatic in his condemnation of the events in Brooklyn: “I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today. Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases.”

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