Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Climate, Prosperity, Economic Growth, and Governance

     "It must always be remembered that the greatest barrier to humanity rising to meet the climate crisis is not that its too late or that we don't know what to do. There is just enough time, and we are swamped with green tech and green plans. And yet the reason so many of us are greeting this threat with grim resignation is that our political class appears wholly incapable of seizing those tools  and implementing those plans> And it's not just the people we vote into office and then complain about  - it's us. For most of us living in post-industrial societies, when we see the crackling black and white footage of general strikes in the 1930s, victory gardens in the 40s, and Freedom Rides in the 60s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale. That kind of thing was fine form them, but surely not us - with our eyes glued to our smartphones, our attention spans scattered by click bait, our loyalties split by the burdens of debt and the insecurities of contract work. Where would we organize? Who would we trust enough to lead us? Who, moreover, is "we"?

     In other words, we are products of our age and of a dominant ideological project - one that has too often taught us to see ourselves as little more than singular gratification - seeking units to maximize our narrow advantage. This project has also led our governments to stand by helplessly for more than two decades as the climate crisis morphed from a "grandchildren" problem to a banging-down-the-door problem." Naomi Klein, in The Nation, October 6, 2014

British economist, Tim Jackson writes in last week's Guardian about the conflict between economic growth and climate change. In The Dilemma of Growth: Prosperity vs. Economic Expansion, Jackson asks:

"Rethinking prosperity is a vital task because our prevailing vision of the good life – and the economics intended to deliver it – have both come badly unstuck. Financial markets are unstable; inequality is rising; and despite the 500,000 or so people who took to the streets before Tuesday’s UN Climate Summit in New York, tackling climate change still faces a “frustrating lack of progress”. If this were not enough, the proposition that more is always better has signally failed to deliver, particularly in the affluent west. But questioning these values is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries."

Add me to that list.

But wait, there are signs of hope. From author Terry Tempest Williams blogging at the NYC Climate March, just a week ago -
     "They just kept coming in waves, in torrents, a river of people convening on the streets of New York City in the march for climate justice. They just kept coming, hundreds of thousands of individuals, indigenous, black, white, brown, yellow, and red, a rainbow of colors winding through the canyons of Manhattan.
     This movement of climate justice is no longer segregated, is no longer privileged, is no longer young or old, or the radical fringe moving toward the center. Instead, this movement resides in the core of a collective concern: Earth has a fever. There is no Planet B. What we witnessed on Sunday, September 21, was 400,000 individuals standing in the center of this crisis with love."

Maybe, there is just enough hope, that readers will throw off the shackles of hopelessness and take up the hard and long work of redirecting our future.

An election is only five weeks away. It's not too late or too early to work for a candidate or proposal in your community that can point us in a new direction. Not sure who? LOOK HERE


Now, not tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dangerous Love

 The Sun

The newest (October 2014) issue of The Sun arrived late last week in my mailbox (October issue is not available online as of the time I write this. As of this morning I've read most all of it. Since resubscribing after many years of absence I have found it to be 'soul building' food. The writing, the topics, the diversity all filled with writers sharing their soul. Even the short pieces of the monthly "The Readers Write" section are uniformly moving, thoughtful. It says a lot about the editor, Sy Safransky, who has been publishing this little magazine, AD-FREE, for decades.

There is a lengthy interview in this issues with someone I had never heard of before, Reverend Lynice Pinkard under the title of "Dangerous Love". The interviewer, Mark Leviton introduces the interview -

 "I first encountered the work of Reverend Lynice Pinkard when I read her essay "Revolutionary Suicide" in the magazine Tikkun. Her writing combined fervor and thoroughness with a big heart. Although she is a Christian - she grew up in the African American Church - her analysis of the Hebrew prophets resonated with my Jewish background. When I contacted Pinkard about the possibility of interviewing her for The Sun, she suggested I first listen to some recordings of her sermons, archived on the website of First Congregational Church of Oakland  where she served for eight years as a pastor. I did and was impressed by the passion of her presentation and the rigor of her arguments as she exhorted her congregation to switch from a  typical American life of consumerism to one of giving without expectation of reward."

I have not read the essay Leviton mentions in Tikkun although the link to it above is there and I will read it soon. His interview with Pinkard is compelling and challenging especially for this agnostic, but I feel like I'm a better person for having read it. Below are just two short excerpts that fail to give a full flavor of the interview, but on their own are worthy of sharing with readers of this blog.

"I also believe that what we have loved in our short lives constitutes our legacy, and that we become who we are, with all our flaws and faults, because somebody somewhere loved us and cared for us and sacrificed for us. I have loved some people, and some people have loved me, and that has saved my life." (p.17)

"It is our job to collaborate with each other and activate that love." (p.16)

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Politics of Peace

      "Satish Kumar’s title – Soil, Soul, Society – could hardly be more sparse; yet it represents, he says, a “distillation” of his own lifetime’s thinking and that of his heroes – and the three small words are all we really need to put the world to rights. For our aim should be – should it not? – to create harmony in the world; and this must be achieved at three levels. As individuals and as a species we need to move away from our anthropocentricity – for “humans have come to believe that they are separate from Nature and above Nature” – and to see ourselves once more as part of Nature; and this is the notion symbolised by ‘soil’.

       For this as for all else, we need harmony within ourselves, practising humility and seeking to abandon ego: the idea encapsulated as ‘soul’. Of course, too, we need to seek harmony with the rest of humanity – ‘society’ – and indeed to treat all creatures with the same compassion. 

        All this should be second nature, yet it is the diametric opposite of the worldview that came out of the West and now dominates the whole world: entirely anthropocentric; entirely materialistic; crudely ‘rational’ in a calculating kind of way; employing science to control and even ‘conquer’ Nature; and locking us all into no-holds-barred competition, which in essence and commonly in practice has no truck with compassion at all.

So begins the review of Satish Kumar's recent book by Colin Tudge in the recent issue of Resurgence.
issue cover 286 The issue includes many gems including pieces by Charles Eisenstein and Samdhong Ripoche. The topic of the issue that arrived in my mailbox over the weekend, "The Politics of Peace", has been coursing through my veins more intensely of late, perhaps because of the events in Gaza, Ferguson, Missouri, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and my own involvement with our Peace Education Center.

More likely it's tied to the just completing a short book by Barry Gan, Violence and Nonviolence: An Introduction. In it, Gan, a professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Nonviolence at St. Bonaventure University, succinctly lays out five myths of violence:
  • Myth of Physical Violence
  • Myth of Good Guys and Bad Guys
  • Myth of Necessary Violence
  • Myth of Effective Punishment
  • Myth  of Nonviolence as Ineffective
 Front Cover

Gan sets up this critique of myths of violence with a short story about looking for a missing wallet. After searching endlessly in all the wrong places, they eventually retrace the actions that preceded loss of the wallet.

     "The point is that when we look for something we have lost, we first decide where we might have displaced it, and then begin to search. However, if we are wrong in our assumptions about where we lost it, we fail to find it. Our likelihood of success is determined by our initial assumptions. This observation illustrates the central and noncontroversial point of the first part of this book: that our assumptions govern or direct our individual behaviors, and the assumptions of a community or society govern or direct its social, political and economic behaviors and policies." (p.3)

In the 111 pages that follow, Gan not only addresses each of the five myths (false assumptions) he gives us a concise, jargon-free review of the alternative. Yes Margaret Thatcher, There Is an Alternative!!

Like Satish Kumar's new book listed above, Gan concludes that peace/nonviolence must come from the inside out. There is a fearlessness in this approach that is hard to come by for most of us.

I find it hard to fathom that so little of the curriculum in our schooling from K-12 through PhD really gives much attention to these assumptions about violence or the POSSIBILITY that there might be a better way. As I have written before we spend billions to prepare for war and almost nothing to understand and nurture peace. More money funds university research on weapons than on approaches to resolving conflict. Where we spend our money shows what we believe in.

After reading, Gans, Ripoche, Eisenstein, and  Kumar, and listening to this Tom Paxton classic song over the weekend for the first time in years, I think they have it right! This must come from the inside out. How does our educational system foster that kind of personal development? It's currently all about job and career. So until we fix that, we'll keep churning out 'educated' people who believe that violence is a given and we need to protect ourselves from others - humans, animals, nature. Ah, the myth of independence strikes again.

Now how to live fearlessly, committed to a world without violence, therein lies the rub. One thought at a time. Here's to you dear reader - may you have the strength of your nonviolent convictions!

Peace will
Peace will come
And let it begin with me

We need
We need peace
And let it begin with me

Oh, my own life is all I can hope to control.
Oh, let my life be lived for the good,
Good of my soul.

Let it bring
Sweet peace
Peace will come
And let it begin with me