I first met Father Robert A. Sirico at a conference in western Connecticut 13 years ago. Sirico is a big man who bears a family resemblance to the character Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos – his older brother, the actor Tony Sirico, played the part – and his commentaries have frequented the Wall Street Journal and other high-profile media outlets. His writing sparkles, but the talent is marshaled in the service of basically one thing – promoting pure, unbridled capitalism.
At that conference in the summer of 1999, I interviewed Sirico and asked a question that alluded to his “conversion” – the priest had related that as a young man in the 1970s, he led a dissolute, confused (and left-leaning) life, before committing himself ultimately to the Catholic faith of his childhood in Brooklyn. I was thrown off a little when he replied, “Which conversion?” Sirico had also told me about his turn toward free-market thinking (in his twenties), but I hadn’t realized that he saw this change of political perspective in such a religious light.
As a new Tikkun Daily author, this is an introduction to the themes I will cover in my postings to this blog. Many of these themes are covered in detail in my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, which makes the case that today’s dominant global economic system, based on unrestrained free market capitalism, is damaging the human family and destroying the earth. The book is a call to action and a call to spiritual renewal. It proposes a way for people of faith and conscience to join together to resist corporate domination and to work for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world. My blog postings to Tikkun Daily will touch on these themes and will relate to the following three aspects of globalization:
1) Corporate Globalization: This is the current system of global economic integration, dominated by transnational corporations and based upon the ideology of Market Fundamentalism. The U.S. military/industrial complex enforces this interlocking network of political, economic, military, and ideological institutions, which Walter Wink calls the “Domination System.”
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.”
By March 1, Congress will have had to face the budget cuts mandated by the failure of the Simpson-Bowles commission to come up with a plan of deficit reduction that would satisfy both Republican and Democratic leaders. The failure to come up with such a plan pulled the “trigger” of a gun that is being held to the heads of poor and middle-class Americans. They will see draconian cuts in social services if the Democrats hold true to form and compromise with a Republican Party that puts defense spending and tax breaks for the rich over the interests of the majority of Americans. Predictably, Democrats undermined their own ability to pass legislation protecting the interests of the People over those of their corporate patrons. Having vowed to protect the social safety net, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caved in to conservative Democrats who opposed serious filibuster reform and traded away the power to control the outcome of the latest round of the fight over how to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Now we have a situation where the majority of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle accept the fallacy that the only way out of the debt they created is to impose austerity measures that target Medicare and Social Security. These are the primary protections against the depredations of a system that puts the interests of the rich over those of ordinary citizens. Their proposed solution to the problem of their own making is to protect the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns and neglect the needs of the people who actually elected them. While this strategy has provoked riots and international strikes in Europe, many Americans accept this as a sensible solution. They fail to understand some basic facts.
Obama’s inauguration today provides the opportunity for a tentative overview of his still uncompleted two-term presidency. To be sure, he will always be remembered as the first African-American president, but what else will we remember him for? In this regard let us consider his domestic and his foreign policy achievements separately.
In terms of domestic policy, the main course of Obama’s presidency was set when he fell into the trap, set not just by right wing Republicans but by such false friends as David Brooks and Tom Friedman, of making the budget deficit the overriding issue. Of course, the deficit was unavoidable, but every Democratic president since Roosevelt has understood that this issue had to be subordinated to the larger goals and values of American society. Obama’s failure to grasp the need to rise above the merely economic has meant that his eight years will have been largely dominated by a series of pointless “cliffs,” “grand bargains,” concessions to austerity and the rest. Not only that, but his legacy promises to remain a series of arguments over the deficit, and not a vision of who we are as a people, and where we want to go.
by: Paul Shannon and Charles Derber on December 13th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
The “fiscal cliff” and fixing the deficit are all the rage these days. No sooner is the election over than Washington insiders and media pundits start talking about a so-called inevitable “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security, Medicare and other public programs we all depend on in exchange for modest tax increases on very high incomes. And we are led to believe that those who voted for Obama embraced this “balanced approach” to our fiscal problems.
Not so fast.
The voters -the use of whose money is being bandied about – must have a say in these critical budget decisions. And there are data that actually provide us with their clear message for Washington: “No Grand Bargain.” Period.
Massachusetts has taken the lead in voicing and voting this majoritarian view.
On Election Day over 1 million voters in Massachusetts had a chance for the first time to vote directly on a fiscal plan called the “Budget for All”. This non-binding ballot question called for no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other vital public programs; investment in useful jobs; an end to corporate tax loopholes and to the tax cuts for the highest incomes; the safe return home now of U.S. troops from Afghanistan; and re-direction of Pentagon spending to domestic needs and job creation. It was decisively passed in all 91 cities and towns where it was on the ballot by an average margin of 3 to 1.
The Red Letter Christian movement prescribes a lifestyle that adheres to the teachings of Jesus, which are highlighted in many Christian Bibles with red letters. Jewish people are quite willing to regard Jesus as a great teacher, and Muslims acknowledge Him as a prophet. Of course, Red Letter Christians see Him as more than that because we view Him as the One who saves us from our sins and initiates the Kingdom of God here on earth. In spite of our differences, however, the teachings of Jesus represent a value system that those of us who are spiritual progressives can readily affirm. Almost all of Jesus’s teachings can easily be embraced by the followers of Tikkun.
During the next four years, we pray that the president will address some crucial concerns that we have about what is happening to the poor. There was a lot of talk about helping the middle class, but neither candidate gave much attention to the needs of the poor during the campaigns leading to the election. We want to remind the president that there are millions of Americans who have been left without medical insurance, and millions of children. It is imperative for the president to address this matter.
In the compromises, which are inevitable given the pressure to balance the budget and cut the national debt, we urge the president not to undo the safety net that has enabled the poor to survive in the midst of our affluent society. Food stamps, Pell grants, Support for Dependent Children must not be curtailed. In order to finance these programs, we urge those in government to cut military spending, which is obscenely extravagant and incredibly unnecessary in its present form.
by: Arlene Goldbard on November 26th, 2012 | Comments Off
As I write this, my plane has just taken off from Heathrow, seven hours after its scheduled departure. I spent six of them on the tarmac, trying to soothe the part of my brain that was spinning a story about British Airways’ incompetence. That was fairly challenging: during the previous hour, I’d stood in the aisle of an overheated and airless bus wondering why it was taking so long to board, when it was at last announced that the flight would be a little delayed because the door had been damaged when the boarding stairs were wheeled into place. Through the bus window I could see the hapless ground crew, including the man who towed the staircase, idly ambling up and down the stairs in an unsuccessful attempt to look innocent and helpful.
Resistance finally became futile just before takeoff. I’m seated in the first row of a section, so my TV screen swings up to eye-level on an arm tucked under the seat. Before the security video played, the flight attendant reached over to flip up the screen. Only he used insufficient force, causing it to fall back and hit me squarely on the shin. At my inadvertent “Ouch!” the attendant smiled and said, “Nothing personal.” After ten hours or so, we came in for a landing twice: the first time, the pilot pulled up abruptly, then made a wide circle before returning to the landing-field. Over the intercom he told us it was “nothing unusual.”
Did I mention that some of my best friends are British? Of course, I no more hold this against them than I wish to be held responsible for my fellow Americans’ clumsiness. And yet, I couldn’t help but think of Ashis Nandy’s reference to that “ultimate virtue of aggressive British masculinity, sportsmanship,” which valorizes a stiff upper lip. I’m not suggesting that there’s a better response than acceptance to this sort of careless inconvenience: rioting wouldn’t have gotten us home any sooner. But would it have hurt to acknowledge a little culpability here? Or offer some token of appreciation for our forbearance?
We live in a time of great ingenuity, incredible scientific advances that extend life, repair damaged cells, modify food supplies, expand the limits of our universe and yet we’ve lost touch with the most important thing in life – the thing that keeps us all alive – our humanity. Consider the reality of our world today:
The prison-industrial complex warehouses human beings like animals only to have them either released into society without any greater skills than which they arrived, or left to languish until their final breath
We are warehousing and torturing animals in the name of increasing food supplies without a care for how that impacts the animals, the planet or our own health.
We are destroying our planet, food and water supply
Our corporations’ profits exceed reasonable needs while their employees cannot afford to put food on their tables
1% of the population owns 99% of the wealth
We are buying and building bombs instead of supplying food, shelter, education, and health care
The list goes on and on but need I really say more. We seem to have arrived at a place where getting, achieving, taking and winning are more important than caring, concern, generosity and love. And I am left wondering, “when did this happen?”
We have forgotten that what each and every one of us craves more than the latest generation iPhone, car, tv, stereo, etc. is a life filled with meaning, a life of contribution, a life of connection and love — a life that matters.
Want to give your spirits a lift by doing something different? Put your zip code and email in here today and they let you know where you can turn up to show solidarity tomorrow. Feel good working off a bit of that tofurkey.
Not sure they deserve the help? Check out their video: