Tikkun Daily button

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Increasing Prospects for Collaboration Even before Starting

Oct9

by: on October 9th, 2018 | No Comments »

Graphic from a collaborative Global Governance Model

I’ve been in the collaboration “business” for about 20 years now, working on all levels, from the most internal inner conflicts, to the most ambitious efforts to create at least a model of what local to global collaboration could look like. Up until the last few years, the bulk of my work has been with individuals learning to engage with self and other in ways that have more empathy, compassion, authenticity, and vulnerability. In recent years, I have been focusing more on leadership and on systemic frameworks as well as tools for group collaboration.

I have found that working in the way that I have is like a collaboration gym: exercising our collaboration muscles allows us to regain capacity where we’ve lost it in the centuries since we’ve been torn apart from land and community to create mostly transactional relationships that are based on negotiating self-interest and little more. I have seen people and groups get much better results after applying what they learn about collaboration in workshops and consulting services I have offered.

Something was missing, though, about why, sometimes, even with all the best collaboration tools, individuals or groups don’t get anywhere with their efforts. The beginning clue came to me when I read The Leaderless Revolution by top-UK-diplomat-turned-accidental-anarchist Carne Ross. Ross’s book, which I found remarkable in many respects, got me started thinking about what, ultimately, makes collaboration work. Most especially, how do groups of individuals come into their own power and collectively manage to improve the conditions of their life. For me, it becomes ever more interesting to understand this because I want to learn how, at least locally, we can challenge the larger systems within which we operate.

Read more...

Ejecting The Oppressor: It Takes Earth and Earth and Earth

Oct7

by: on October 7th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Prosper Kompaore shared a proverb from his home country of Burkina Faso: “How is it that sky-high termite mounds can be made by such tiny insects?” he asked. The answer, counseling determination, endurance, commitment and plenty of sustenance: “It takes earth and earth and earth…”

It is not given you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Ancestors) 2:16

In times of great disappointment, the temptation to just react is powerful. I’m as angry, sad, and scared as anyone. But I also know that in the grip of those feelings, my judgment is impaired. My amygdala wants to fight, flee, or freeze, but my neocortex knows now is the time to rein in the reptile brain, reaching for higher ground.


Read more...

An Activist’s Penitence

Sep26

by: Simon Mont on September 26th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Bringing shortcomings to light is a form of self-love. (Image courtesy of Ian Chen)

I long to see a world of justice and joy; a world where all people’s material needs are met, and we lovingly support each other’s emotional, spiritual, and creative flourishing. Though my life is directed toward manifesting this vision, I often do things that subvert it. Though I long to be a force of peace and transformation, I often commit violence and perpetuate societal distortions.

As I walk the path back to love, truth, and unity, I have noticed more and more the ways in which I have missed the mark; ways in which I have fallen short of expressing what is truly in my heart. In the spirit and wisdom of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of return to wholeness and connection, I offer just some of the things I have noticed here. My intention is that by expressing them publicly I will be more accountable to changing my behavior. My hope is that others will see themselves in my confession, and join me on the path back to love. My prayer is that this offering will help us all heal and welcome each other in beloved community.

I have hidden.

I have stayed in the comfort of my own mental constructs. I have dismissed worldviews that contradict my own.

 

I have used thoughts to avoid confronting my feelings; used beliefs to cloak my needs and wounds; and used arguments to mask my fears.

 

I have tried to use my mind to control, predict, and create safety. I have fled from the tender power of my heart, and the truths that compassion makes me confront.

 

I have hated.

 

I have hated patterns of oppression. Hated them when they appeared in me, then hated myself. Hated them when they appeared in others, then hated others.

 

I have branded and shunned people who see the world differently. I have done it in my own mind, and I have done it with my language and my actions.

 

I have frozen people in one moment in time, and not allowed room for their growth, healing, and transformation.

 

I have fully internalized a distorted view of myself, believed myself to be nothing more than my unchosen role in an an oppressive system, and hated myself for things beyond my control.

I have diminished.

 

I have reduced people to nothing more than the distorted societal patterns that manifest in their behavior.

 

I have failed to see people’s true humanity and complexity; and then imagined myself insightful for doing so.

 

I have thought the only truths worth speaking about are pain, oppression, and injustice and have failed to make space for love, transcendence, and hope.

 

I have allowed my understanding of my true nature to be limited to what people around me are comfortable with.

 

I have judged.

 

I have seen people only for the harm or threat they pose, and not the wounds they suffer from.

 

I have interpreted people’s different experiences, understandings of politics, and uses of language as character flaws.

 

I have fixated on people’s missteps and failed to see their humanity.

 

I have reduced people to nothing more than their unchosen roles in social systems

 

I have used my words as weapons.

I have gossiped about people’s political or identity shortcomings and by doing so, trapped them in the box of my limited understanding.

 

I have imagined myself as superior to other people, then leveraged politics to put other people down.

 

I have used an analysis of oppression to display intellectual dominance.

 

I have leveraged my access to various forms of education and mentorship to make other people feel stupid, ashamed, unsafe, and unwelcomed.

 

I have worshipped my own self image.

 

I have imagined a world where some people are morally superior to others. I have enforced that vision on others to inflate my sense of self worth, and avoid confronting my own human struggles.

 

I have been infatuated with my self-righteousness.

 

I have idolized my own understanding so much that I could not see the truths of others.

 

I have used the language of revolution to inflate my ego.

 

I have used politics and social movements as a forum to acquire social status.

 

I have feared.

 

I have remained palatable to enforcers of radical left political correctness because I am afraid of being misunderstood or ostracized.

 

I have clung to my beliefs and not allowed room for contradictory truths to emerge.

 

I have failed to speak my truth because I believe I will be judged or shunned by my progressive/leftist/radical community.

 

I have presented myself as a victim in order to be welcomed as credible.

 

I have limited my circle of compassion to only those who agree with me.

 

I have become attached to mental constructs of justice and failed to cultivate the courage to love and act directly from the heart.

This is an incomplete list of what I have done. I doubt any of it will come as a surprise to those who know me, especially those who have suffered at my hand. I welcome folks to add to this list with things they have observed in me, or in themselves.

I am sorry. My actions have hurt people. I have hurt people I care about. I have slowed the cultivation of the compassionate world that I long to see, and I have done it in the name of speeding it up. I cannot guarantee that I will be able to fully stop behaving this way, will commit myself to doing the best I can, knowing full well that next year will be another Yom Kippur, another time for repentance, another opportunity for a more full return.

I also apologize to myself. I have been so hard on myself; constantly aspiring to an unachievable standard and then feeling bad that I don’t meet it. It is easier for me to see and share my mistakes then to notice and be proud of my successes. The gentle heart that motivates my life often goes unrecognized by the mind that sees nothing but how much more work there is to be done. Tomorrow, when the season turns from repentance to joy, I might just follow my father’s advice and write a piece about how much I’ve grown and transformed. Somehow that feels way riskier for me, so today I’ll just bask in the paradox that bringing shortcomings to light is a form of self-love.

I feel a discomfort in sharing all this, but I feel no shame. We are all missing the mark of what we could be; we are all trying our best to return to our loving and compassionate natures; and we are all walking this path on a landscape scarred by the violence of our times in a world we did not choose to be born into. I feel healing in offering my missteps into the light of repentance. Today, I recommit to loving myself, to loving you, and allowing the light of our hearts to warm us during this cold night of history we find ourselves in.

___________
Simon Mont is an Oakland based artist, healer, facilitator, and organizer. To learn more about Simon’s work consulting to support collaborative leadership for just, joyful, and strategic organizations visit www.Harmonize.work. Simon welcomes opportunities to connect, collaborate, and explore.

A Permaculture for Plants and People

Aug31

by: Hannah Arin on August 31st, 2018 | No Comments »

Elizabeth at Shanti Permaculture Farm by Vinnie the Guy

I took a drive with Elizabeth one of my first days at Shanti Permaculture Farm. We hopped in her grey GMC truck, with raccoon prints on the front window and her two field spaniels curled up in the back and headed for the farm supply store. We wove through the idyllic vineyards and redwoods of Northern California, windows down, tires barely matching the road’s edge. It was one of those rare occurrences in which someone says, “great weather we’re having,” and you can feel, deep in your bones, like wind brushing through pores, that they really mean it. My heart opened. Here was Elizabeth, saying to me the same phrase I’d heard all my life, a phrase which had become nothing more than the white noise of a suburban leaf blower, and returning it to the wind– returning the words to their purpose: to mean what they say.

I’d noticed this about Elizabeth from the moment I met her: they way in which she allows things to breathe their own essence into life. As the owner of a juvenile (3 or 4 years in the making) permaculture/sheep/duck/chicken/singular llama, farm, you’d think she’d have a more set structure to things: a plan for getting from point a to point b, a road set in concrete. And undoubtedly, Elizabeth does have a plan. She’s a woman with a will as stiff as the soil she’s rehabilitating: a woman with a purpose.

Yet the way in which she manifests this purpose is far from the black and white, step one to step two, brick by brick, path to success defined by a system overrun with way points: graduate high school, graduate college, maybe professional school, get a job, find a partner, have children, and so on. It’s a way as different as a weather man, speaking of the weather forecast with the same intonation he would use for a school shooting, is from Elizabeth, sticking her arm outside her truck’s window, looking over fields of sunshine made form, uttering “great weather we’re having,” with a way as simple and strong as the breeze.


Read more...

By Our Dreams Will You Know Us: Impeachment Edition

Aug23

by: on August 23rd, 2018 | No Comments »

“In dreams begin responsibilities,” wrote the poet Delmore Schwartz. What do our dreams reveal about our responsibilities to the body politic?

Everyone I know is ecstatic that two individuals have been definitively revealed as guilty of serious criminal action in direct service to the Present Occupant of the White House. As Michael Cohen’s attorney said, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

The New York Times editorial sums it up nicely and links to the relevant details. Many experts are weighing in to say the grounds for impeachment have been met. There is powerful organizing to impeach this shameful excuse for a president: By The People is well worth following and supporting. You can find a recording of their latest online orientation on Facebook Live.

Impeachment is my dream. Or better yet, the speedier option of a Nixon-style resignation to avoid a long impeachment process. Frank Bruni dreams of Melania Trump as an undercover heroine.

What’s your dream?

This question of our dreams against the depredations of the state has engaged me for decades, ever since I read Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, which braided personal and collective politics in an exciting way, new and complex and deep. The main character, Anna Wulf, works with the British Communist Party. In one of the four notebooks that make up the bulk of the novel, she records a dream she has heard recounted by fellow communists. Here’s how I summarized it in “Our Dreams and the President’s,” an essay published almost exactly 13 years ago (it’s short and I have an idea you may want to read the whole thing):

In The Golden Notebook, her masterpiece of disillusionment, Doris Lessing wrote about the dream of a fellow stalwart of the British Communist Party. The book was published half a dozen years after Nikita Khrushchev’s revelations to the 20th party congress in 1956 of Stalin’s terrible crimes. In the party worker’s fantasy, he goes to Russia, and is called from his hotel to see Comrade Stalin at the Kremlin. The Stalin he meets is a modest and humble man who asks for news of the British labor movement. The visitor, flattered beyond bearing, does his best. Stalin responds with kindly and helpful advice, then returns to his ceaseless labors.

I thought of this yesterday when a friend called long-distance to share her dream, that George Bush had been awakened from his complacency by the events following Hurricane Katrina, and had declared his intention to make t’shuvah (to use the Hebrew term), to turn away from distortion toward healing, to make things right.

I have no love for George Bush, but evidently even he has some shred of conscience, having been moved by our national shame to speak out against this president’s policies.

The point is that even with respect to someone as clueless and corruptible as Bush, people were able to dream of awakening and redemption. Of course, these dreams—whether of Stalin or Bush—did not come true. But it says a great deal about how things have changed that I have not heard a single person share the fantasy that the Present Occupant of the White House will awaken to the harm of his actions and enter the process of t’shuvah—redemption, repentance, reorientation—to transform his presidency.

As he seems unredeemable, even in dreams the body politic has to expel him. Impeachment or resignation are the sweet dreams. All the rest are nightmares.

In Ulysses, James Joyce’s alter-ego Stephen Dedalus says, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” The legacy of our collective history weighs heavily in this moment: an Electoral College put in place to prevent direct democracy and protect slavery states; a money-driven electoral system that supports victory by the highest bidder; a Republican Party that enriches the wealthiest and treats the planet as expendable as it actively campaigns to suppress voting by people of color; a Democratic Party that seeks funding from fossil-fuel corporations, reinforcing our shameful corpocracy…. I’ll stop there. This system doesn’t allow us to impeach a president for willful stupidity, nauseating cupidity, or the other crimes of character so evident in every day’s news coverage. Even if it did, the foundation of honor among thieves is fear of exposing oneself, and I don’t see too many of the elected officials benefiting from the current system willing to risk their own cozy turpitude by speaking out.

So it’s up to We The People. We still have absolute power to break the chain of causality, stepping off this undemocratic, mercenary, and venal path. For some reason, I stopped asking the three questions that for years were my watchword. I think it’s time to revive them:

Who are we as a people?
What do we stand for?
How do we want to be remembered?

As the people who finally drew the line and made the dream of impeachment real.

“Politician,” performed by Los Lobos.

When Two Truths Collide, Part Two: Can You See Yourself as The Accused?

Aug17

by: on August 17th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Something in our body politic is troubling me. I do not think it is possible to have a just society without understanding that every member of society bears the same potential to harm or heal. I do not think we can have just laws and processes without imagining how we would ourselves be treated as either the accuser of wrongdoing or the accused. Yet I hear so many people exempting themselves from these deep truths, advocating positions conditioned on understanding their own virtue as unimpeachable, on seeing themselves as incapable of serious wrongdoing.

The antidote I think we need is perspective, the ability to see our own virtue, accomplishments, or status as subject to change, to braid empathy and imagination with justice.

A few days ago, I wrote about conflicting views of how best to respond to abuse charges leveled against a respected person. As a case-in-point, I explored progressive responses to the charge that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison had abused his former partner, Karen Monahan. Since then Ellison has won the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General. It remains to be seen how whatever unfolds will affect both him and Monahan, but whatever happens, that won’t end the discussion. I could have picked a different example in which any man long regarded as dedicated to equity and justice is publicly charged with abuse. The choice is appallingly plentiful, the debate ongoing.

To reduce the two perspectives I discussed to a few words, I’d characterize them as “Believe Women. Period,” leading to immediate calls for the accused to step down; or “Investigate Before Action,” in which charges are taken seriously, but the call for punishment is conditioned on obtaining full information.

Read more...

When Two Truths Collide

Aug14

by: on August 14th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Minnesota holds primary elections today. One of the most prominent candidates is 11-year congressional veteran Rep. Keith Ellison, running for state Attorney General. A few days ago, first the son of a former partner and then the partner herself, Karen Monahan, accused Ellison of “narcissist abuse,” a term that has come into use fairly recently to describe a pattern of emotional manipulation and bullying in which someone pressures another to ignore one’s own needs to satisfy those of the narcissist, for example. Ellison has denied the charge. Here’s a quick recap.

The charges have ignited a passionate debate among progressives. Many people like Ellison, who has taken consistently progressive positions on issues and who, as the first Muslim elected to Congress, has withstood considerable personal attack himself. So the first contested point is whether the good done by someone accused of bad acts ought to weigh in the balance of judgment.

On one side is a civil libertarian argument that counsels bringing the same commitment to the presumption of innocence that shapes legal proceedings to the court of public opinion. The controversy comes with a raft of text messages and tweets made public by Monahan, some of which allude to a damning video which so far, no one has seen. These voices say that no one should be condemned purely on another’s say-so, that false accusations are possible and to avoid harm, all accusations should be investigated before a determination of culpability and punishment can rightfully be made.


Read more...

The Power of Privacy: A Review of The Oslo Diaries

Aug6

by: on August 6th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

The signing of the Oslo Accords was, to many, a sign that Israeli-Palestinian relations would improve. Photo by Ohayon Avi

After seeing The Oslo Diaries at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I felt inspired to start keeping a diary of my own. The Sundance-selected documentary, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, tells the tense and moving story of the secret 1992 peace talks and their tragic failure, using interviews, reenactments, and primary sources to give us a holistic perspective on the historical moment. I recommend you see it too.

 

The film is named quite literally, as much of the film’s dialogue is taken directly from the diaries of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo Accords. And while their journal entries aren’t in literal conversation, they do provide the inner dialogue of some of the story’s most important characters — and frequently overlap in their subject matter, like two sides of the same coin. Without a doubt, the film holds great emotional power, and even, at one point, brought me to tears. Despite the diaries’ centrality to that power, however, the filmmakers fail to realize their practical and symbolic significance. Ultimately, the film paints a beautiful picture, but misses an opportunity to create something more meaningful, condemning itself to the same fate as the Oslo Accords.


Read more...

Feared Than Loved

Aug5

by: on August 5th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I’ve been thinking about love and fear. Love is a strong force in my life, the thing that heals, the thing that opens my heart to give, the thing that greets me each morning as I open my eyes, grateful for another day. As the Song of Songs – the epic liturgical poem of awe and desire – puts it, “love is as strong as death.”

But love’s opposite – fear, the weapon of the unloved – is swirling all around me.

There’s the ambient fear of racism, violence, poverty, and exploitation, so deeply woven into the fabric of most U.S. cities that it becomes normalized. It takes artists to put a frame around the truth, revealing something of its actual dimensions, actual impact. For a clear-eyed glimpse of the daily fear machine in action and the toll it takes, go see the rich, nuanced, deeply affecting movie Blindspotting, just now in theaters.

There’s the fear that rises in relationship to other threats such as climate crisis. The New York Times Magazine’snew issue consists entirely of a controversial piece, already perceptively criticized by knowledgeable writers such as Naomi Klein and Robinson Meyer for downplaying the economic and power relations behind global scorching. Read all, and do your best not to be overcome by fear.

But my main topic today is another type of fear: the fear that arises in response to extreme state actions, the fear that acts as fuel for fascism.


Read more...

The Coarsening Yet Hope of the American Mind

Aug3

by: Kirk J. Schneider on August 3rd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Babies being wrenched from parents, disquieting authoritarian alliances, alarming levels of civil and political discord–this is our country in the summer of 2018.

To be sure there are also positive developments but are they reliable, enduring?

While many of us are wringing our hands asking “how in the world we got here?” Perhaps the more accurate question is “Why, given our mercantile-materialist past, shouldn’t we have gotten here?”  In his 1978 book The Illusion of Technique, public philosopher William Barrett forewarned of the damage being done through our reliance on devices–rather than people–to staunch our moral predicaments; and we should have paid more attention.

Today we are stained with the legacy of all those who fell –wittingly and unwittingly –under the spell of a “machine model for living.”  This model emphasized efficiency (or what many called efficiency): speed, instant results, appearance and packaging; and it lured millions to the marketplace–or killing fields. The result however was anything but “efficient” in the larger sense. We created ease and convenience, to be sure.  But the advances were largely external–relegated to how fast we drove, how quickly we ate, how many gadgets we owned or people we manipulated; but our interior life, our capacity to feel and reflect and communicate was left bereft.

The result is that, today, too many of us have become calculative and consumerist giants but emotional and imaginative dwarfs, steely and impenetrable, but bereft of nuance, attunement, and depth;  and this is precisely our dilemma.

Read more...