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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Let’s Make Valentine’s Day Liberating Love Day! The Revolution Begins with Self-Love

Feb16

by: Mordecai Cohen Ettinger on February 16th, 2018 | No Comments »

Some years ago my cousin told me of an interaction she witnessed between my father and younger brother who was about 5 years old at the time. My cousin, now in her 50s was in her mid-20s then. My little brother, knobby-kneed and blue saucer-eyed, with the sweetest freckles you can possibly imagine, approached my father with a dandelion and gave it to him as a gift. My father promptly snatched the dandelion from my brother’s tiny hands, threw it on the ground (they were outside), and exclaimed, “that’s a weed!” Though I didn’t witness it myself, I can readily imagine my father doing such a thing. His behavior generally fell somewhere on the spectrum of violence, and for my father this was somewhat low-key. I can also imagine the sadness, fear, and crushing sense of rejection of my tender-hearted younger brother.

Love, and our expressions of love are policed and defined through this policing from a very young age. The contortion of love into acceptable relationships and expressions often begins in our families of origin, refractions of the oppressive norms and imperatives of our broader society. Our families also often serve as training grounds for these norms, regardless of our race, class, ethnicity, and immigration status. The most radical, iconoclastic, and even wonderful families pass along to us their fears, internalized oppression and limiting beliefs along with their love. Fully loving ourselves and others is complicated from the start, a truth intimately known by so many of us.

Further, in our white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, ableist society, love or its withholding is one of the primary ways in which our behaviors and their underlying and entangled beliefs are conditioned and controlled. For example many male (passing) children must capitulate to the demands of toxic masculinity to maintain the love and approval of their fathers (or mothers or other caregivers who could certainly uphold and engage in these types of behaviors as well).

In this story above, my brother was asked to refute or reject his own tenderness – an expression of his very organic, even inborn kindness –  to protect himself from rejection from one of the few people on the planet,  as a five-year-old, he most needed love, acceptance and protection: his father.

From a very young age the contradictions of our society reflected by and circulating through our most intimate relationships require us to choose between the love and acceptance of others and the love of ourselves. The root of these contradictions can be traced to settler colonialism and the highly instrumentalizing and transactionalizing economic system which co-evolved with it – capitalism.

Capitalism is an inherently disintegrating force; that which is dis-integrated and torn asunder can then be reconstituted and captured in the market for profit. Relationships are re-woven to meet the needs of the market instead of human need and we are set up to be divided against each other and ourselves. This has now been happening for generations. A father, my father, any father, chooses to uphold the demands of regulating masculinity and compulsory heterosexuality rather than honor, rejoice in, and fully receive the authentic kindness and love of his child. A child must hide their vulnerability and gentleness to be treated as a person, even though it is this self-same vulnerability and gentleness that enables us to most deeply connect with ourselves and others, and access our deepest wisdom.

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Belonging Cuts Like A Knife

Feb16

by: on February 16th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I’ve heard it said that belonging sounds kind of soft, but to me, it’s a knife that cuts straight to the heart of our collective challenge. How do we cultivate a society that embodies the right to belong, that offers full cultural citizenship: justice and love, equity and compassion, the right to feel at home in one’s community, to feel safe in one’s school? To belong.

It’s not clear whether school shooter Nikolas Cruz actually trained with the white nationalist militia Republic of Florida (the group’s leader claimed Cruz, then said he’d mistaken him for someone else. But Cruz had been aligned for years with white supremacist views, according to a high school classmate and others: “He would always talk about how he felt whites were a bit higher than everyone,” Charo said. “He’d be like, ‘My people are over here industrializing the world and starting new things, while your people [meaning blacks and Latinos] are just taking up space.’”

When we debate who belongs—about how belonging must be earned and which categories of people are entitled to a say—we had better be ready to tussle with history.Consider a few scenes from the annals of belonging.


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On the Receiving End of Hate

Jan24

by: Phoenix Soleil on January 24th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

My cousin and I were texting about Trumps insult towards Haiti. She said: He’s so disrespectful it is really upsetting and I’m trying to emotionally block him out

This was my response:

 

It’s like a blow

I felt kicked in the stomach,

I felt shame

And then I felt shame about feeling shame.

I know this isn’t true so why am I hurt?

the capitalist life

Many of us give this materialistic socioeconomic system our time and energy so we can stay alive.

I play the game

I try to win

Most of all I want to safe,

And then the spiritual life

Most of us can only give a portion our non working hours to the spiritual life

For most of us that amount gets smaller every year

Of course we get entangled in the material way of seeing things

And when the leader and representative of our economic system insults an aspect of ourselves

We feel it

We’re suppose to better than this

Ideals values integrity

The stuff of children movies, 50s sitcoms and comic books

Believing that good will triumph

That hard work and integrity mean something

But this economic system is rigged

What he says hurts me because he’s voicing a shadow in this culture. From a purely economic perspective, many people can and do dismiss Haiti. It’s because of the popularity of a “might makes right” attitudes like his and historical oppression from the west especially from France and America that Haiti is poor. Because that way of thinking is so prevalent. In this country we’re brainwashed to see things from that kind of materialistic point of view. In most disney movies or superhero stories wining at the end is proof that you are magic, right and good. It’s natural that I would feel anger sadness and shame. It’s painful to be around that ideology and to see it in myself.

Deep down we know that the spirit and spirituality is more important than the money. The art and culture of Haiti is special. Every culture is special. It hurts because that’s not the way a lot of people think. Trump is encouraging people’s worse natures. No one thrives in a culture of bullying and materialism. And the people who are economically disadvantaged will suffer the most.

I understand the urge to block out his words. I encourage you to cry it out and feel the pain because pain has more power the more it’s repressed. Please cry, rather than insult Trump. Strive to understand your feelings. Honor the pain, rather than strike out. By condemning we replicate his emotionally stunted way of being in the world. By crying we release. With time, a more evolved response full of intelligence, action and compassion can emerge.

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Phoenix Soleil  is an artist, activist and teacher. She is passionate about the intersections of community, emotional intelligence and trauma. She is a partner at LIFT Economy where she helps businesses increase their emotional intelligence and collaboration skills. She has led trainings in communication, racial justice and emotional resiliency for individuals, groups, and organizations such as Google, Kellogg Foundation, UC Berkeley, and Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Check out her website for upcoming trainings, and more info on her artistic endeavors: phoenixsoleil.com.

#MeToo and Liberation for All

Jan22

by: on January 22nd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

“I want to kiss you all over your smile.”

The poetic beauty struck me even while my entire body was contracting. The man speaking was drunk. I had asked him several times to stop calling me, at least not so late. He was married, with four children, 20 years my senior, and the president of the company I was working for at the time. I was in my late 20s. It was 1984.

Somehow, between the persistence of the phone calls and my repeated attempts to create boundaries while being human and caring, an unlikely friendship developed. Maybe because I was touched by the vulnerability at his core, or inspired by his brilliance and apparent openness. Slowly and painfully I realized, like so many women before and after me, that maintaining the budding friendship would require succumbing to the sexual overtures. I remember the moment of saying straight into his eyes: “Do you really want me to kiss you even if I don’t want to?” I was so shocked by his insistence in the face of my disinterest, that I lost my will; as if being seen solely as an instrument for his pleasure actually made me less of a person in my own right.

A relationship of two years emerged. It had its moments of true intimacy. And it was a difficult and complicated relationship. When the time came to end it, he predictably asked me to resign. I, unpredictably, declined. I loved my job and didn’t want to lose it. He protested, insisting that it would be difficult for him to see me daily after the breakup. I told him he could fire me, and that I would speak about why. To this day, I am astounded by my matter-of-fact courage.

Two years later, I discovered the literature on sexual harassment. My world exploded in understanding of what had happened; one of my own pivotal #MeToo moments. Even then, I knew I was relatively lucky. No ruined career. No watching him continue, with impunity, to victimize others.

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Fearless Truths, Ruthless Awareness: Into The New Year

Dec31

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

At our Hanukkah party a couple of weeks ago, we asked our guests to each share a way in which they want to bring light into the world in the coming year. Like other festivals that kindle a blaze as the sun’s light wanes—Diwali, Christmas—Hanukkah can be understood as a collective refusal to surrender to darkness, a collective invitation to remember the light even in the darkest times.

My wish was for a pervading awareness, the kind that sees past the conventional categories that constrain thinking. I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been giving my writing attention to a new book which treats this question as a central theme: why have we fallen so much into treating people and issues as toggle switches—#MeToo, for or against?—and what can we do to open the gates of awareness to multiple truths? My wish was for ruthless awareness, the kind that penetrates the surface of what is, allowing layer after layer to emerge and be explored, side-by-side, not always resolving to either/or.

I thought of this again yesterday. It was my task to offer the kavannot (intentions) for aliyot (Torah readings) in services yesterday morning, drawing out underlying teachings of the Torah portion assigned to this past week and inviting all who wished to connect to those energies to come take part in the blessings before each reading.

It felt like a really auspicious occasion: the last reading in the book of Genesis/Beresheit, the last Shabbat of the secular year. In the reading, Jacob prepares to die, offering parting messages to his offspring and blessings to Joseph’s sons, his grandsons. As the reading comes to a close, Joseph dies too. The Hebrew calendar only occasionally matches up with the secular year in this way. But because this is an annual cycle, because many of us have read it countless times, we know the book of Exodus/Shemot is coming next, the story of the long journey out of slavery. Everything ends, yet every ending is also a beginning.

For the second aliyah, I drew attention to the moment that Jacob offers parting words to his sons in Genesis 49:1-29. He speaks fearlessly, telling it as it he sees it, both what has been and the foundation the past has laid for what may come to pass. The passage is quite remarkable as he speaks very hard truths and very great blessings, equally without hesitation. This same capacity is my new year’s blessing for all of you, dear readers, fearless seekers after truth and wisdom, beauty and meaning, love and justice: that all may be able to see truth despite those who seek to obscure it; and speak truth despite those seeking to silence it.

Today we have new names for lies. The sleep of reason breeds monsters such as “fake news,” a club brandished by the Present Occupant of the White House to beat his critics into submission; and also by his opponents to discredit those who reprint his lies without reservation.

Eighty-three years ago, in 1935, the German writer Bertolt Brecht published his essay, “Writing the Truth: Five Difficulties.” To urge you on in the spirit of fearless truth, ruthless awareness, I offer a few of his words:

Nowadays, anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties. He must have the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons. These are formidable problems for writers living under Fascism, but they exist also for those writers who have fled or been exiled; they exist even for writers working in countries where civil liberty prevails.

Here’s a live 1974 recording of Link Wray’s groundbreaking “Rumble,” first released in 1958. An essential part of living into truth these days is unearthing what has been suppressed, resurrecting buried truths. You must see Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, a remarkable documentary on the Indigenous roots of rock’n'roll, released this year and now available for streaming.

Life, Interdependence, 
and the Pursuit of Meeting Needs

Dec18

by: on December 18th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

“Life is arranged to care for all that lives through an endless interdependent flow of energy and resources.”

After years of thinking, reading, writing, talking, teaching, feeling, and communing, that simple sentence came to me in a session I was leading about money at a nine-day intensive training in Chile. Perhaps being immersed in a cultural context that is so much closer to the collaborative, warm, community-based way of living that I am working towards – and that still hasn’t been wiped out fully there – brought this clarity. Or maybe it was the venue, built to mimic the non-linearity of nature. It came. And then the rest followed immediately.


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Anti-Ageism: The Next Big Social Movement

Dec7

by: Ruth Ray Karpen on December 7th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

A Review of Ending Ageism or How Not to Shoot Old People

By Margaret Morganroth Gullette

Rutgers University Press, 2017

 

Forty years ago, Erdman Palmore, a senior fellow at the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, published a series of questions – the Facts on Aging Quiz – designed to provoke group discussions about aging and old age.  To his surprise, the quiz revealed that most Americans knew very little about the aging process and harbored many misconceptions, most of them negative. Among the most common misconceptions were that the majority of old people (age 65+) were bored, angry, irritated and unable to adapt to change and that at least 10% of them lived in nursing homes.  For years Palmore and other gerontologists, used the quiz in classes and public forums to educate people about the facts of aging.  They knew from previous research that the more knowledge people gain, the less negative and the more positive attitudes they hold about aging.

In 2017, Americans still need to be educated, perhaps even more so, if the proliferation of negative behaviors and hate speech toward old people is any indication.   Of all the prejudices that divide us, ageism is still the most universally shared and tolerated.  It can be hostile and overt, like the Facebook comment that “anyone over the age of 69 should immediately face a firing squad,” or more subtle and passive aggressive, like the birthday card that makes fun of getting old, the comment that a retired colleague has “let herself go” or your own disgust at the wrinkles and brown spots on your face.  These are mere bagatelles, however, compared to the most serious forms of age bias.

Consider these facts of contemporary life in America:

  • Midlife men, especially those once considered at the peak of their ability and experience, are now widely discriminated against in the workplace.  In some places, such as tech companies in Silicon Valley, discrimination starts at the age of 35.
  • Among the Facebook groups that focus on older adults – approximately 25,000 members – 74% “vilified” older adults, according to one study, and 37% thought they should be banned from public activities like driving and shopping.
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Redemption

Nov29

by: Michael Nagler on November 29th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

When the US Holocaust Museum was being erected in Washington, D.C., the German government asked permission to create a museum of modern Germany nearby to show that Germany had repudiated its Nazi past.  That permission was denied.  This I regard as a tragic mistake, against an even more tragic background: our mass incarceration and increasingly drastic systems of “justice” that also arise from the failure of Americans – not all of us, but a controlling majority at present – to believe in the possibility of redemption.

Five years before the Museum’s opening in 1993, the U.S.S. Vincennes, operating in the Persian Gulf, mistakenly shot down Iran Air flight 255, killing all 290 people aboard. Minor technical improvements were made to the radar equipment to prevent mistakes of that kind in future (it seems the captain had misinterpreted some radar readings), but nothing was done to address the tragedy that had already occurred.  In fact, the then Vice President, George H.W. Bush, publicly stated, “I don’t care what the facts are; I will never apologize for the American people.”  The statement is as shocking for its jingoistic arrogance as its disregard of truth, but the man who said went on to become President and the posture that it represents is part of our national attitude.  It explains why, for example, it has been nearly impossible to discuss rationally reparations for African American or Native American people.

The refusal to allow Germany to escape from a dark past and the refusal – or inability – to apologize for tragic errors of our own are of course connected.  If you don’t believe a nation or a human being can change, that is, in the possibility of redemption, you will not be emotionally able to take responsibility for your own mistakes (as practicing Jews do annually at Yom Kippur).  In effect, you will deny yourself, as you have denied others, the possibility to grow.  One can almost hear the echo of Martin Luther King’s prophetic words that we may be becoming a nation that is “approaching spiritual death.”  But there is a way out. 

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How to be Effective at Your Thanksgiving Table This Year

Nov21

by: on November 21st, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Ever had a frustrating experience on Thanksgiving with friends or family? Your progressive ideas are dismissed as unrealistic or seem to offend people? Here are some tips on how to navigate that at your Thanksgiving table 2017.

First, remember that there is a lot to give thanks for in our world today.  We ought not let our celebration of all that is miraculous in the universe, our celebration of the continuing bountiful reality of planet Earth, and our appreciation of all the good people in this would be undermined or ruined by having all the conversation focusing on the Trumpists.

So step one: encourage friends and family to spend some time celebrating the good, even at the expense of not watching the t.v. or focusing on everything wrong with the world. Ask your host or your friends to give some time to expressing out loud some of what people assembled appreciate about each other, about themselves, about our mother Earth, and about the tens of millions of people (the numerical majority of voters) who did not vote for Trump and would not support those (in both major political parties) who blindly put the needs of corporate America above the needs of the rest of the population. We can also celebrate the growing outrage at the sexual abuse of women–an outrage that wasn’t there in the past and which is a further testimony to the huge impact of the women’s movement (whose struggle against patriarchy benefits men as well as women, and which is in my view the most important revolution of the past two thousand years at least, even as men must join with women in this struggle because there is so much more to accomplish!).

And challenge those liberals and progressives who are putting down everyone who voted for Trump or didn’t vote. Remind people that a section of those who did vote for Trump were NOT racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.  but people who were voting against the Democratic Party that they perceived as having abandoned them (sometimes with good reason–you can reread Tikkun’s critiques of the way the half-hearted steps taken by Presidents Clinton and Obama, supposedly pragmatic and realistic, actually raised hopes that they did not fulfill and helped create a growing discontent about paying taxes to a government that wasn’t coming through for many many people, e.g. the flawed Obamacare which did not create any serious controls on health insurers or pharmaceuticals or for-profit-hospitals’ ability to raise their charges dramatically, as people have been discovering this year and will feel even more intensely next year).

Ever since the 1960s a growing number of voters have been angry at a Left that looks down on anyone not already in their ranks, assuming that these others are all haters or racists, sexists, homophobes, etc., or that they are all stupid, or that sees them as a ” bundle of deplorables” (in Hillary Clinton’s words). Many of them have experienced liberals and progressives dismissing all people who are religious as ignorant or just plain stupid. The Left reeks of religiophobia, not just from people like Bill Maher but from a pervasive belief that religious people are reactionary or psychologically retarded. This pushes many people who would agree with everything else we stand for into the arms of the Right.

Another problem:  since the election of Trump more and more people in the liberal and progressive world, particularly on college campuses, have turned the important and legitimate struggle against patriarchy and racist practices into a discourse that suggests that ALL men are sexist and have “male privilege and all whites are racist and have “white skin privilege.”. In so doing, they are driving more and more people into the arms of right wing demagogues who use the opportunity this discourse presents to convince people that these lefties are elitists who hate them and know nothing about the real struggles that most Americans face in their lives (even whites and men).

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Nonviolence in the Face of Hatred

Nov16

by: on November 16th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Anita was present at almost every one of the 34-sessions of my online course Responding to the Call of Our Times. I have sometimes wondered what this course would have been like without her steady willingness to explore the depths of nonviolence. I was counting on it as a thread tying us together, inviting others into more willingness, inviting me into more daring capacity to excavate, find truth, find love. I thought Anita could not surprise me any longer. Then, two weeks before the end of the course, she surprised all of us.

Anita was one of very few people of African descent in the group, and the experience she described was totally related to her background. Some weeks before, her one remaining sister shared with her for the first time that years ago, when she was living in the South, there were a few times when the Ku Klux Klan broke into her house and dragged her out into a field towards a burning cross.

Probably 1958, from the North Carolina State Archives

Anita was bringing this up for a very specific reason, fully fitting with the focus on leadership that the course was on. Although this was very tender for her, she wasn’t bringing it up for empathy or sympathy. She was bringing it up because she wanted to find a way to transform her thinking about what her sister had shared with her, so she would know what to do with the violent thoughts that were populating her mind and challenging her commitment. Out of respect for her dignity and choice, I never asked for the specific nature of the thoughts.


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