Radical Decency is a comprehensive approach to living. It is not about feeling better – or about treating others more decently – or about saving the world. It is about all of these things. The reason? We are profoundly creatures of habit and, as a result, each area of living is deeply and irrevocably intertwined with the others.
Thus, seeking to act differently at home but not at work, or in politics but not in our self-care, we fatally underestimate the extent to which the culture’s indecent values – its predominant habits of living – insinuate themselves into the overall texture of our lives. When we focus our healing efforts on a single area of living, these mainstream values, continuing to operate elsewhere without meaningful challenge, inexorably infiltrate and subvert our more limited islands of decency.
For this reason, healing needs to be “holistic”; a concept that many healers embrace, at least in principle. The problem, however, is that in most cases they fail to follow through on its implications.
by: Mimi Peleg on September 26th, 2013 | 58 Comments »
Mimi Peleg uses cannabis and MDMA to treat PTSD in herself and others. Credit: Ori Sharon.
The issue of drugs, and psychedelic drugs in particular, generally opens up questions which cannot be ignored by anyone seeking a more just and caring society. Current global policies towards psychedelic drugs range from the cruel to the barbaric. Every country in the world, excluding Portugal, currently prosecutes or otherwise severely penalizes individuals who use psychedelic substances.
Since the 1960s, this prosecution has come under question. This is particularly true in the U.S. To many, the pro-psychedelic movement that emerged out of the anti-war movement seems frivolous and non-essential. To observers with these attitudes, psychedelics are viewed as recreational diversions. People who see psychedelics in this way may be bewildered to know that the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization aimed at studying the medical benefits of MDMA (the pure compound in the illegal drug Ecstasy), cannabis, and other drugs, has chosen Israel as a key location for psychedelic research.
To those who follow the growing body of medical research on psychedelics, this choice is much less surprising. Increasingly, scientists have come to view psychedelics as the most powerful tool we possess in treating PTSD, radically changing the old picture of the drug. According to The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP), a group that has been active since 1989 to contend with the growing phenomenon of psychotrauma in Israel, an estimated 9% of Israelis suffer from PTSD. While this is in the mid-range of PTSD rates in areas near Israel, it is three times the rate of PTSD in the U.S. and other Western countries. Israel’s high rate could be due to the many wars, presence of first and second generation Holocaust Survivors, and numerous other factors.
Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.
Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.
Credit: Creative Commons
To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”
Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?
by: Shari Motro on September 3rd, 2013 | 5 Comments »
Credit: Scott Ableman/Creative Commons.
Jewish law requires that all synagogues have windows. We’re not supposed to pray in separation from the world; we’re supposed to pray with the world, conscious of its cycles, in a space that invites connection with them. Unfortunately, most authorities interpret this rule as permitting synagogues to have windows that never open – windows that seal congregants in an air-conditioned bubble, even on days when outdoor temperatures are moderate.
Synagogues, like other houses of worship, are no different from the majority of our secular spaces. Our default building methods presume round-the-clock mechanical air circulation – windows do not open, and natural cooling designs like cross-ventilation, high ceilings, porches, and recessed doors and windows are quaint rarities. The official guided tour of Washington DC’s National Building Museum, built in 1887 and inspired by Michelangelo’s church architecture, features the building’s ventilation system literally as a museum piece. Visitors are informed that the building’s great hall was designed to “create a healthful building with plenty of fresh air” – but in step with the times, the days of natural airflow there too are gone.
Like many Jews, my only visits to synagogue are during the High Holy Days, which begin this week with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is also one of the periods when the ubiquity of air conditioning saddens me most. It saddens me because of the sheer waste. It saddens me because I like to wear white linen to usher in the holiday and walk to services carrying nothing, rather than packing layers fit for the tundra as I do when I go to the office, the megaplex, or the airport. And it saddens me because sealed windows separate me from the signs and wonders with which nature beckons me to contemplate the very same lessons that are at the heart of what Rosh Hashanah is all about.
by: Matt Perry on August 5th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Cross-posted from California Health Report/New America Media)
During his first presidential campaign, Democratic hopeful Barack Obama famously claimed that Americans discussed racial conflicts honestly – behind closed doors. Some experts in aging say it’s now time to break open those same doors and look at America’s caregiving crisis – and its growing issues of race – just as honestly.
The country’s heralded melting pot is quickly becoming a complex racial stew at both ends of the nation’s caregiving spectrum: for those needing care–and for the family members and hired workers providing it.
Undocumented Caregivers in “Grey Market”
As of 2011, 20 percent of the country’s 4 million hired caregivers were foreign-born, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), which represents direct caregivers – hired nurses, home health aides and personal attendants.
Yet that number doesn’t include the “grey market” of workers employed directly by families that include immigrants – among them undocumented workers. Some even suggest the actual number of immigrant caregivers is closer to 50 percent.
While race, culture and religion shouldn’t affect the care provided to older adults, the reality is simple: It does.
by: Michael Cabral on July 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
How can I make anyone understand what it’s like to cling desperately to the hope of someday being heard because that’s the only hope left? That’s one reason why the hunger strike going on across California’s prisons matters. It might just keep that hope alive for prisoners locked down in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing and Administrative Segregation Units (known as the SHU).
At the age of eighteen years, four months, and six days, I was cast into the SHU where I stayed for two and half years, alone, without a window, a television, or a radio. (Mail, when it came, was delayed for months at a time.)
My only real distractions were the terrifying and gut-wrenching sounds and smells of grown men reaching their breaking points: crying, screaming, banging; blood and feces being smeared on walls and bodies; Correctional Officers (C/Os) yelling, shooting pepper spray… and puking.
I found a small measure of comfort in books and in treasured conversations through the ventilation system, with older men whose faces I’d never see (conversing with anyone face-to-face was so rare as to be nonexistent). There was also the sound of my door being padlocked shut whenever there was a tsunami warning, meaning that if a tsunami did wash over us, the inmates’ only hope is that death comes quickly. Maybe that sound was the most dehumanizing of all, because to realize you matter so little to other human beings is not a feeling one gets used to, or ever forgets.
by: Rabbi Jack Bemporad on March 22nd, 2013 | 3 Comments »
The parting of the Red Sea in Cecil B. Demille's "The Ten Commandments."
Few scenes in film are more memorable than the famous parting of the Red Sea, a young Charlton Heston at the helm, in the 1956 Academy Award-winning film “The Ten Commandments.” About this time each year, this magical celluloid moment annually depicts the ability of water to save lives, and to take lives, courtesy of the great Cecil B. DeMille.
The magic of special effects aside, I wonder, if the daily destruction and struggles caused by water were illustrated so graphically in real life as they are in film, would more of us pay attention to the deadly role water plays in millions of lives? More children die from illness and disease caused by the lack of safe water and sanitation than war, or TB, AIDS and malaria combined. The Angel of Death doesn’t pass over 8000 children every day – that’s the number under age 14 who die from water-related disease, every day. Almost a billion people don’t have access to safe water and 2.5 billion don’t have the dignity and safety of sanitation.
Yesterday, Victoria over at Short White Coat, Inc. wrote a penetrating post about the intersection of poverty and health problems in the US, reflecting on her work with AIDS patients who were exiting the criminal justice system, she lamented the reality: despite her training and intentions, these people faced such a host of social, legal, and medical problems that their futures seemed bleak, their challenges intractable:
My patients felt they had paid their debt to society, but society would not give them a chance. Most had limited education and job training, and during the recession, it was difficult enough to find a new job without a conviction. Prior to incarceration, many had suffered mental illness, including substance addiction and depression. All of them now faced complicated HIV medication regimens and doctors’ appointments despite frequently unstable housing, transportation, and employment status. After release, many met criteria for devastating post-traumatic stress disorder, some resulting from horrifying events occurring while under the “care” of the State. Almost all were from poor backgrounds and the majority were people of color. During the interviews, many expressed themes of detachment, a sense of alienation from society starting in childhood. Some intimated a sense that outcomes many Americans view as basic rights or inevitabilities were never options for them, like freedom from an abuser, a safe home and school environment, or deciding what to be when they grew up.
by: Lita Kurth on February 6th, 2013 | Comments Off
I just came back from a superb meeting on affordable housing at Sacred Heart Community Services, an agency known for practical, street-level work. Then I started talking about the issue with friends. Here are a few jolts that stuck with me:
photo by Darafsh Kaviyani
- In Silicon Valley, the greater San Jose area, the list for subsidized housing is around 40,000 names long; it would be longer, but they aren’t taking names any more, so we can’t know the true extent of need.
- Even veterans have been bounced from one agency to another with no one making help a priority. One of them, an articulate person not immediately recognizable as homeless, attended the meeting. He said he had been homeless “only a couple years.”
You may not have caught this news: “L.A. had fewer crimes last year than it did in 1957 – the mayor calls the numbers ‘mind-boggling’.”
But we all know that: “Los Angeles – like other big cities around the country – is in the midst of a crime drop so steep and profound, it has experts scratching their heads.”
And you’ve heard the usual (speculative) reasons. The LA Times sums them up as: “…better policing and more community involvement; fewer drugs and fuller prisons; an explosion in new technology; and the fading profile of violent gangs.”
And in particular you’ve heard about the “broken windows theory” which made Rudy Giuliani and Bill Bratton, his police chief, famous in the 1990s, and “stop and frisk” which is much hated today :
In New York this policy, under which police stop 700,000 residents per year without probable cause, is opposed by a majority of New Yorkers, including 75 percent of African American residents.
… which is highly relevant to Oakland, CA, (near where I live), because Oakland’s crime rate, unlike most cities, has been soaring and the city is now bringing in Bill Bratton to try to fix it.
But did you catch Kevin Drum’s article in Mother Jones on what may be the biggest reason for the rise and fall of crime in our time? Lead. And why is that good news?