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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Embracing the Stranger, Part II: Challenging Ourselves to Love Ourselves

Nov1

by: Lauren Bodenlos & Madeline Cook on November 1st, 2017 | No Comments »

AtTikkunMagazine, of the many posters of quotes and inspirational images on the walls in our office, we also find this passage from Exodus. “Do not oppress the stranger,” it says. This passage serves as a reminder that we must work to know and understand the other as our collective liberation is intertwined with others as well. The mission of this series,Embracing the Stranger, is based on the commitment of activists, changemakers, and visionaries across different causes to create a more inclusive and loving world. Through a series of interviews, we worked to explore the personal and spiritual motivations behind their work. With the many issues present in the world, and much to be done, we wanted to know how people became involved in the activism they dedicate their time to. Would there be any connected ideas? Any connected struggles? Would there be commonalities among people even if they differed in identity and origin story? We atTikkunfeel that it is vital to do all in our power to highlight and support individuals and groups that work to heal the World. We hope to further the Movement of healing, repairing, and transforming the world. Through this project, we aimed to paint a picture of the unified human desire to heal pain and turn our world into one of peace, empathy, and love. By discussing the missions of different groups, we hope to discover possible connections across a variety of causes to show where our struggles can be connected, to further the creation of a world influenced by peace, love, and empathy that creates liberation for the diverse world we live in.

Click here to read part I in this series. Stay tuned for parts III and IV!

Challenging Ourselves to Love Ourselves: Reflections on an Interview with JD Doyle from East Bay Meditation Center

In the practices of meditation and mindfulness, there is a component that calls for us to explore how our daily actions affect not only ourselves, but others as well. JD Doyle is currently on the program committee, as well as one of the teachers, at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC), a meditation training and spiritual teaching center based in Oakland, CA. JD has been involved since its opening saying, “It’s kind of like a dream come true to me because I can be whole at EBMC.” JD described that being a part of EBMC is to embrace the possibilities of radical inclusion, along with an invitation to be uncomfortable within spiritual practice in order to grow. As it was founded on the grounds of social justice, EBMC is a place to become more in touch with one’s self while developing a sense of community.

For JD, the practice of meditation began at 35 when they began learning about Buddhist teachings. When I asked them how they began practicing, JD explains, “My first Buddhist teacher was a gay man [and was involved in social justice]. And I say that intentionally because I think [...] being able to hear Buddhism from somebody I could relate to was significant to me. And as I started practicing, I found these tools of how to relate to myself and how to relate to suffering in the world with more compassion and loving kindness and being able to extend that to others more readily, which is transformative.”

Being a part of EBMC and its development has been highly influential in JD’s practice as a Buddhist Beings surrounded by a community of people who have come together with the mindset of wanting to do social justice work has meant that radical inclusivity is integral. Additionally, the ability to fully participate at EBMC is one of its main principles. “I can show up as a white, genderqueer person, coming towards middle aged, having had some health issues [...] and I don’t have to leave out a part of me at all when I walk through the door. I’m asked to step into my wholeness and to allow other people to be whole as well. [...] It’s about creating a space where we all can live into our wholeness .” JD describes that EBMC was originally designed to be an inclusive center. “Most places have to retrofit to include underrepresented communities, people of color, people with disabilities. Part of the vision of EBMC was to be founded to include communities that have been traditionally marginalized or excluded.” With this foundation, this intention would be influential in the practice of meditation and community building. “Inherent in its mission, [EBMC] is to serve communities and focus on social justice. So people who come to EBMC are coming there with that intention, and know they will meet like minded people there. The community practices meditation because it is a way for us to come home to ourselves and work both internally and externally.”

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An Interview with Frankenstein

Oct31

by: on October 31st, 2017 | No Comments »

All Hallows Eve is the time when the thin silver thread that divides life and death, divides fact from fantasy from flesh, disappears. It is a time when imaginary beings come to life. As I write this, that time is almost over in the Central Time Zone. I worried for a moment that I would not be able to finish my interview with Frankenstein before the dividing line returned. However, Frankenstein, contrary to his persona, is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and he made sure to speak to me before the dividing line re-emerged, and we would not be able to communicate again until next year.

I must confess that these last two days have been difficult for me. I have been depressed. Just sad. I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons for my melancholy state. The weather where I live has finally turned to fall, and the past two days have been a gloomy gray. I am sad for my country, heartbroken for the United States of America. The perp-walks have begun. Indictments of people close to the Trump campaign for president are facing charges. One has pleaded guilty. I thought that this would make me happy, but it does not. I am happy that our system of checks and balances on corruption and power is working, or at least, it has the possibility of working if justice is served.

At the same time, it is a sad commentary on the state of our nation. Some of us resist daily the various ways that the United States of America allows injustice. We defend the right to protest, the right of NFL players to take a knee. We question the sanity of John Kelly, Trump’s chief-of-staff when he lies on a member of Congress or “misremembers” in a pathetic attempt to shield Trump. Now he says that the Civil War happened because the two sides could not compromise. What kind of compromise does he imagine? We resist the laws that are being passed under the radar, laws that allow Internet providers to sell our browsing history without our knowledge or consent and without compensation to us. We resist the law just passed that takes away the right of bank customers to join in class action suits. Trump is taking away the requirement that employers provide funding for contraceptives, and we will not begin to think about the various ways that this administration is weakening the EPA and other agencies intended to protect people. Immigration authorities want to hold a sick child in custody, preparing to deport her.

I say and say again that we get the government we deserve.

That was yesterday. Today, another human being decided that it was his duty to commit a mass killing. He thought it was his responsibility to some ideology, to some way of thinking that makes the murder of other human beings not only thinkable, but justifiable. All of this was on my mind when I finally was able to connect with Frankenstein. Here is a portion of our conversation.

VED: Mr. Frankenstein, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. I know that Halloween must be a busy time for you.

FRANKENSTEIN: Please, you do not have to call me mister. Frankenstein is enough. I am happy to be with you.

VED: Let me begin with today’s terrible news about another mass killing in New York City. This time, it was a young man driving a truck in a space for bicyclists and pedestrians. What is your opinion of this type of violence?

FRANKENSTEIN: First let me explain that I have lived many lives. Since I am a character of the human imagination, I come into existence at different moments in history in different forms. I exist to bring certain archetypes into focus so that humanity can see outside its own mind its deepest fears, dreams, desires, and capabilities.

In my first incarnation, in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s novel, I was a murderer. I accidentally killed a young boy. An innocent woman was convicted of the crime. Then I killed as a matter of revenge. I killed my creator’s best friend and his bride. These were not mass killings. I did not kill for ideological reasons. I killed because of my own pain. The old saying is true: “Hurt people hurt people.” Human beings do harm out of their own pain.

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A Reflection on the Promise and Limits of Compassion: One Year Post Trump

Oct31

by: Keri Mangis on October 31st, 2017 | 1 Comment »

THE VALUE OF COMPASSION

As a teacher and dedicated practitioner of yoga, philosophy, and spirituality for over 15 years, I am a vocal proponent of compassion as a daily life practice. Its underlying premise of oneness and solidarity in our trials and tribulations is a trait that, when practiced with intention and offered toward those both within and outside our familiar circles, puts the “human” in human being.

I define compassion as the authentic attempt to wholly grasp another’s situation and resulting emotional state. It is the attempt to feel with passion—(“com”= with “passion” = suffer)—alongside another individual or group. It contrasts with pity in this essential belief of oneness. Compassion says, “I feel the pain of what happened to you, and I understand that if this [disease, loss, trauma] can happen to you, it can happen to me, it can happen to any of us, you are not alone.” Pity, on the other hand, says, “I feel badly for what happened to you, but that could never happen to me, and I hope it’s not contagious.” Pity is thoughts and prayers. Compassion is reaction and response.

Giving and receiving compassion is nourishing and revitalizing to our soul. It keeps us humble, youthful in spirit, and awake to all kinds of human struggles. As a result, it allows us to live our own lives more fully and express gratitude for the gifts in our lives more regularly. It provides the purpose needed to involve ourselves in difficult movements dedicated to equality. Without an internal compass of compassion guiding our lives, we tend towards criticism and judgment: They shouldn’t have bought a house in a flood zone” “Why don’t those people just stay and fight for their own country instead of wanting to come here?” They knew what they signed up for.” Judgment separates us. Compassion unifies us.

I believe compassion strengthens us, connects us, and make us better, more evolved human beings. I have often promoted compassion as something for which human beings have unlimited capacity. I still believe these things. Well…mostly.

In a world over-saturated with pain and suffering, I feel my own capacity for compassion beginning to fray. Both natural and human-born crises—floods, fires, hurricanes, gun violence, genocide—fill the news at unprecedented rates and record-breaking intensities. Hopping from story to story, there seems to be no end to the atrocities that Mother Nature and our fellow human being are willing to unleash upon the world. I’m in a daily battle to stay informed, engaged, and compassionate, while maintaining both my mental and physical well-being. I’m doing everything I can to not numb out and say, “That’s sad.”

And then, dropped right into the midst of all this overwhelming news and my own internal struggle came these comments: “While you were watching x, y happened over here” or “Why do you care about b, when c is just as/more important?” These questions, and the resulting inner trajectory they sent me on, has me reconsidering what I believe about the promise—and limits—of compassion.

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Photo Series, Part I: Hadar Cohen

Oct30

by: Emily Monforte on October 30th, 2017 | No Comments »

This series of portraits paired with interview-based articles attempts to start a conversation about how change makers think about, communicate, and embody their identities; and how this relates to the personal and spiritual motivations behind their work. The intention of the series is to explore our differences and what makes us individual so as to underline a common threat of desire for love, non-violence, generosity, peace, and caring about others that I happen to believe lies at the heart of all activist work. In particular this work attempts to focus on the idea that bringing your own story of how your identity interacts with your activism allows for those looking from the outside in to be touched on a human-to-human level, allowing them to feel compassion for you and the goal of the work at large.

Stay tuned for parts II and III in this series!

Hadar Cohen

Photo of Hadar Cohen holding fruit

Image courtesy of Hadar Cohen

 

Hadar Cohen, a 25 year old feminist and spiritual activist living in Oakland, California began pivot to bloom, a company that works to transform tech companies into safe spaces for people of all genders, after graduating from Cooper Union with a degree in Engineering. Growing up in a particularly capitalistic family, the drive to “make it” deeply embedded itself in Hadar’s ideology in her own personal understanding of success and hard work. Working one’s way to the top of the corporate pyramid is a very linear and singular road, without room for community, or emotions, something she came to reject very recently, only after following it for the first 22 years of her life. “I think basically the crux of where I am right now stems from a lot of frustrations I had in engineering school that I am unpacking now. One big one was rejection of mysticism, that drove me off the walls, and with that, rejection of women.”

In Hadar’s view Cooper Union, like most educational institutions, and the Engineering school on its own leave very little room for non-linear thought and critique, particularly in regards to what academics consider “rational.” This particular consciousness is one that often completely disregards and dismisses the existence of God and religion as legitimate. At Cooper Union, “In the scientific community, people had a lot of God baggage, and instead would turn to science and would come out saying God sucks, Science is great. There was a lot of discomfort around how people were talking about God, and so I was confused about how I could express that part of myself.”

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Religiously Grounded Pipeline Resistance

Oct30

by: Ted Glick on October 30th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Two days ago, on October 27th, Lancaster Against Pipelines in central Pa. organized their third action in the last two weeks at the site where the Williams Partners company is laying pipe for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. At the previous two actions a total of 29 people were arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.

The pipe-laying and the cd is happening on land taken by FERC-approved eminent domain that is owned by the Catholic nuns group, Adorers of the Blood of Christ, which has a lawsuit pending against Williams.

An NBC News story on September 17th summarized the Adorers’ legal case: “that FERC and Williams Partners violated their rights under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act because they are being forced to allow the pipeline to pass through their property, which breaks from their land ethic and deeply held religious beliefs.”

The lawsuit says that this violation: “places a substantial burden on the Adorers’ and Sisters’ exercise of religion by taking land owned by the Adorers that the Sisters seek to protect and preserve as part of their faith and, instead, uses it in a manner and for a purpose that actually places the earth at serious risk,”

The action two days ago was both deeply spiritual, with active participation by Adorers members, and tactically effective. It shut down work on the site for over an hour. It also  directly and personally reached out to the Williams workers, 25-30 of them, who listened quietly to songs, prayers and statements for 10 or more minutes as we formed a circle of about 70 people inside the fenced-off and guarded site where pipeline construction has been happening for a couple of weeks.

The afternoon of effective action began with a rally of close to a hundred people at the outdoor chapel built several months ago on Adorers land in collaboration with Lancaster Against Pipelines. The chapel included a kind of altar in the front and benches where people can sit. The altar is literally a few feet away from the fenced off construction site, and the sounds of machinery moving and welding happening were heard throughout the rally.

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Embracing the Stranger, Part I: Connected in Difference

Oct29

by: Lauren Bodenlos & Madeline Cook on October 29th, 2017 | No Comments »

At Tikkun Magazine, of the many posters of quotes and inspirational images on the walls in our office, we also find this passage from Exodus. “Do not oppress the stranger,” it says. This passage serves as a reminder that we must work to know and understand the other as our collective liberation is intertwined with others as well. The mission of this series, Embracing the Stranger, is based on the commitment of activists, changemakers, and visionaries across different causes to create a more inclusive and loving world. Through a series of interviews, we worked to explore the personal and spiritual motivations behind their work. With the many issues present in the world, and much to be done, we wanted to know how people became involved in the activism they dedicate their time to. Would there be any connected ideas? Any connected struggles? Would there be commonalities among people even if they differed in identity and origin story? We at Tikkun feel that it is vital to do all in our power to highlight and support individuals and groups that work to heal the World. We hope to further the Movement of healing, repairing, and transforming the world. Through this project, we aimed to paint a picture of the unified human desire to heal pain and turn our world into one of peace, empathy, and love. By discussing the missions of different groups, we hope to discover possible connections across a variety of causes to show where our struggles can be connected, to further the creation of a world influenced by peace, love, and empathy that creates liberation for the diverse world we live in.

Stay tuned for parts II, III, and IV in this series!

Connected in Difference: Reflections of an Interview with AnaLouise Keating

Inspired by writers and scholars before her, Professor AnaLouise Keating is developing her lifelong work focusing on the possibilities of change in the midst of difference. She is currently a professor of gender studies, however, “If I could rename my field of study, I would name it transformation studies,” she says, “because my work focuses on discovering and inventing innovative ways to effect personal and collective change, in the service of social justice.” AnaLouise is the author of multiple books on women-of-color feminisms, spiritual activism, transformational dialogue, post-oppositional theory, and the work of Gloria Anzaldúa. Knowing the breadth of AnaLouise’s work, she has immense insight into the possibilities of developing commonalities within a world of difference.

Like many scholars, AnaLouise’s research and teaching has been shaped by her experiences and identities; unlike many scholars, AnaLouise is aware of her own evolution and the unique insights that creates. AnaLouise begins discussing her intellectual development by sharing that she has never been someone who fits in well with any specific group. “I’m a person of color but light skinned. I’m not gay, I’m not heterosexual. I wasn’t comfortable with my family’s very conservative Christian Protestant beliefs. So I just read a lot and tried to figure myself out and find myself. [...] Then I started reading women of color, especially lesbians of color, to find myself, and I was especially drawn to [Gloria] Anzaldúa, [Audre] Lorde, and Paula Gunn Allen. I think it’s because in different ways they didn’t fit into any monolithic race, gender, sexuality, or social justice group.” As outsiders, they could see the limitations in numerous group identities; they learned from their experiences and developed innovative approaches to building radically more inclusive communities.

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Questioning Everything

Oct26

by: on October 26th, 2017 | No Comments »

Questioning Everything

by Madisyn Taylor

Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner’s mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn’t have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t believe in anything at all, and it doesn’t mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.

Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.

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Files Show Extent of US Role in Massacre

Oct26

by: on October 26th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

​Editor’s Note: at the time of the huge massacre of social change activists in Indonesia, many in the New Left argued that this massacre had been part of the U.S. anti-communist crusade. The most recent information confirms those charges. as reported by the Morning Star, a socialist daily newspaper published in the U.K. We do not have the staff capacity to verify the claims made in this or any other article we publish in the Tikkun Daily Blog.
members of the Youth Wing of the Communist Party of Indonesia are watched by soldiers

In this Oct. 30, 1965 file photo, members of the Youth Wing of the Communist Party of Indonesia are watched by soldiers as they await transfer to prison and likely execution in Jakarta. Photo: AP.

Declassified files have exposed just how much the US knew about and supported the massacre of millions of Indonesians in the 1965 anti-communist purges.

The non-governmental National Security Archive research group published 39 documentson Tuesday, out of thousands of pages of newly declassified files from the US embassy in Jakarta.

They cover the period from 1963-66, documenting official knowledge and approval of the army’s death-squad operations to wipe out the three million-strong Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and its supporters.

Up to three million people were rounded up across the country, executed and dumped in mass graves.

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Corporate Tax Cut Propaganda

Oct25

by: Jeffrey D. Sachs on October 25th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

The White House is selling a tax cut designed for the rich as a boost for the working class. Cut taxes on capital, the White House claims, and investors will raise investment, hire more workers, and bid up wages — a.k.a. trickle-down economics. If the real goal is to use tax cuts to boost low wages, then do it directly, for example by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Of course, there is a basic problem with tax cuts now. They will lead to larger budget deficits even before they lead to more growth. They will lower national saving, raise interest rates, crowd out private investments, expand the trade deficit (boosting imports and appreciating the dollar), and signal the need for future tax increases or budget cuts. The cuts in government outlays are likely to fall on critical growth-promoting needs, such as education (human capital), health care, and infrastructure.

Since we already face a large and growing federal budget deficit, we should be talking about selective tax increases, for example by closing tax loopholes such as “carried interest” for hedge fund managers, a wealth tax on ultra-high net worth, and a tax on carbon emissions, in order to reduce the deficit and finance vital public investments and an expanded EITC.

The President’s Council of Economic Advisors is now peddling a shoddy document as part of the Republican Party’s propaganda onslaught. The CEA report purports to show that average household wages and salaries would rise by at least $4,000 as a result of cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. This report is a piece of analytical fluff.

The CEA report is based on a simple idea: that cutting US corporate tax rates relative to those of other countries would shift capital from those countries to the United States. Wages and output abroad would fall while wages and output in the United States would rise, or at least that’s the basic idea.

The policy is what economists call “beggar-thy-neighbor,” meaning that purported gains to the United States would amount to losses incurred by the other countries. Yet other countries could readily protect themselves by cutting their own corporate tax rates further. The result, of course, would be a “race to the bottom” in corporate tax rates, ending perhaps at zero corporate taxation by all countries.

Who would win in a race to the bottom? The capitalists, of course. Who would lose? Workers, future generations, and society at large, who would be deprived of the budget revenues needed to pay for infrastructure, science and technology, clean energy, higher education, and other vital programs.

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Discrimination Against Black Workers

Oct25

by: Los Angeles Black Worker Center on October 25th, 2017 | No Comments »

Los Angeles Black Worker Center
October 5, 2017

Discrimination has created a crisis in the Black community. Although the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids racial discrimination in the workplace, black workers continue to face higher rates of discrimination in the workforce than white workers do. ‘Whether working full-time or part-time, Black workers earn only three-quarters of what white workers earn,’ as stated in the introduction of the brief.

Dear Friends and Allies: The Los Angeles Black Worker Center (LABWC) and National Employment Law Project (NELP) demonstrates the need for California to explore expanded anti-employment discrimination to better protect workers in the era of Trump.

You can read the white paper here.

Los Angeles, California, October 5, 2017 – The National Employment Law Project and the Los Angeles Black Worker Center released a white paper today that offers analysis on why anti-discrimination laws must be strengthened to protect communities of color in the workforce as national civil rights enforcement agencies are threatened with cuts and elimination.  The report is published as a broad coalition of unemployed, underemployed and union workers call on Governor Brown to sign Senate Bill SB 491- The California Anti-Employment Discrimination Action of 2017- a bill that would begin the process of expanding anti-discrimination enforcement authority to local governments to fill the enforcement gap.

Titled, “Ensuring Equality for All Californians in the Workplace: The Case for Local Enforcement of Anti-Discrimination Laws,” this white paper points out the decline in federal investments into civil rights protections comes at a time of by increased civil rights complaints, making imperative that local governments join federal and state agencies in helping to enforce anti-discrimination legislation.. It explores the complexity of 21st century workplace discrimination and how and why local enforcement in California could provide greater opportunity to address  civil rights  violations faced by Black workers and other groups in the workplace.

“The moral and economic crisis of racism affects our entire State,” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, co-founder of the LA Black Worker Center. “It has caused a crisis in the Black community.  We know Governor Brown recognizes that CA must commit to resist the attack on Californians by national forces. Expanding anti-employment discrimination enforcement is needed now more more than ever. We need to build infrastructure to effectively protect workers where the discrimination happens.”

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