Monday, December 31, 2012
Victor Hugo counsels us in Les Misérables that it is so easy for those of us who want a better world to get impatient, to get ahead of ourselves and find ourselves out there on the barricades with out people backing us up. Clearly, Hugo wants a revolution, he sees the oppression, the inequality, the degradation, but he wants the transformation to be thorough going, a spiritual revolution that takes place in each persons heart and soul, a revolution that helps us see, helps us be compassionate, helps us help each other.
Given the current state of our affairs, a revolution of this sort is no less a monumental task now than it was then. So much to do, so many to be transformed especially ourselves. And yet, Hugo took up this task. He wrote a monumental work that brings a God's eye view of his world, (one that still reflects our world when seen deeply), and within that, an encouragement for generations to stand up for humanity. It is not in taking up arms that the revolution is won, but in the small unnoticed, unrewarded, patient transforming work that we help each other with; it is not in cold calculation but in the loving heart that a new day dawns.
As we engage in our work this new year, may each one of us take up life's struggles with Victor Hugo's words in mind, “There is a determined though unseen bravery that defends itself foot by foot in the darkness against the fatal invasions of necessity and dishonesty. Noble and mysterious triumphs that no eye sees, and no fame rewards, and no flourish of triumph salutes. Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields that have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Knowingly or unknowingly, the minority that went on a spree of destruction in downtown Oakland is against us. Our power lies in persuasion based on the truth that big money is destroying democracy, the political system that we hold dear, and that the more the money is concentrated in the 1%, the more our society is affected in numerous negative ways.
The power of persuasion that I am talking about was revealed in the thousands, and those thousands were far more than most of the media or police wanted to admit (they could carry this off because they could focus the next day on the images of destruction). Experiencing that crowd, one knew, We are the 99%!
These petty thugs bent on their fetish of property destruction all too quickly become the focus of the media and especially those purveyors of fear in the media, aka Fox and friends. What we needed the next day were the images of the thousands, instead what most people saw was the images of destruction that told them our movement is something to be afraid of and despised... even something they need to be protected from.
Building the power of the 99% is accomplished in the protracted reasoned persuasions of consensus democracy. Ultimately it creates wisdom, but is a long process. This is why I argue against this urge by some for Occupy Wall Street to define itself, to have a set of policies. Yes, people are impatient. Our generations have been brought up on the delusion of instant gratification. This urge to have our needs met instantly is part of the problem. It is what leads the thug to break the window. The errors of our ways take time to discern. Occupy Wall Street is an opening for the millions of people in America and beyond who long for something deeper. It is a critique of what is. I am encouraged by the idea that people like Slajov Zizek, and Nobel Prize winning economists are going to Occupy Wall Street and taking part in the conversations of where we go from here. I am more confident than I have been for a long time that we will overcome these mistakes and begin to build something better, something more useful for all of us.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
A lesson in values: Governor Schwartznegger's budget for bodyguards has tripled from 14 million to 43 million while he has been in office, meanwhile school budgets have suffered from successive budget cuts. Lets study this in school. (source NPR)
More than $17 billion has been cut from California public schools and colleges in last two years.The Detroit News reports, "48.5% of male Detroiters age 20 - 64 did not have a job in 2008"!!! This is what capitalism and political corruption can do. For those of you who don't know, this is where I grew up. It is a terror to know that half of the men you knew in a once vibrant community didn't/don't have a job. This is a major city in America. It is the Katrina of our time, and yet, it has been shuffled off and hidden. It is a crime/a sin/a scandal.
Who is the real enemy of democracy? Who are the banks, let alone those laughing all the way to the bank? Who creates the wealth? Why are we who are left with a job working so hard and getting so little?
Who is experiencing record profits while education goes wanting, people go unemployed, and communities are destroyed? Who resists the utilization of our country's wealth for medical care for all? Who causes these prices to rise? Wall Street, Big Pharma.Doesn't asking these questions just seem like the honest truth right now? I mean, I'm not so radical. I'm not a communist, I don't think revolution will bring an answer. Revolution sinks toward violence, and Martin Luther King Jr. among others long ago pointed out its destructive consequences. I studied the course of the revolution in China... it turned me into a live and let live, freedom, justice, and human rights kind of a guy. I believe democracy is our greatest hope. But democracy is not working right right now. The twenty first century finds us polarized and confused. If democracy is to work, we need to find an answer to the interference of money. Money has ripped a hole in all of our checks and balances. To resist the destructive tides of the market forces is a matter of survival now. The arrogance of all those bonuses is just astounding to me. We've seen it before with oil companies, and the shame just doesn't seem to occur.
Is it working for us? I don't think so. I don't have the answers. Building a moral force strong enough to overcome the power of forces so flush with money takes time. I also believe we don't have a lot of time; China is waiting in the wings, with answers of its own that will not be satisfying. You have seen my posts about China. Then there's Mother Earth. How long can we go on doing not quite enough by her? Please think about these questions. Let's work together and build that which values people, education, employment, fairness, real democracy and a real future.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Then for no reason that I can explain they arrested me, and I discovered that there was no one left beside me who would say anything. (Credit for this post goes to the German Pastor Martin Niemoller, who first wrote, "First they came for ..." and to one of my friends in China who posted this series of events, but shall remain anonymous. The translation is my own.)
Monday, November 23, 2009
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
在公共生活的私人生活中设身处地地对待他人，避免不断地给他人带来痛苦。 出于恶意，狂热的爱国主义或自私自利而出现极端言行； 剥夺他人基本权利，利用他人的基本权利或否定他人的基本权利；通过诋毁他人－甚至我们敌人－煽动仇恨都是有违于我们的基本人性的。 我们得承认我们的生活中缺乏仁爱，甚至一些人还以宗教的名义给人类增加更多苦难。
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.我们迫切需要 让仁爱成为我们已经极化的世界中一股清晰，引人注意的，动态的力量。因为作为一种本原上就可以超越自私自利的原则性力量， 仁爱可以打破政治，教条，意识形态和宗教藩篱。 生来就深深相互依赖的人类使得仁爱成为人类关系和完整的人性中的基本元素。仁爱是通往启蒙之路， 是创建公正的经济与和平的国际社会所必不可少的。
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Gifts and disabilities, they seem pretty random, not deserved or earned. It is how we respond to them that matters.
Gifts and disabilities, they seem pretty random, not deserved or earned. It is how we respond to them that matters.
When I first became a teacher, I had a principal who focused her attention on my deficiencies, which were numerous. She moved on. The next principal saw my weaknesses, I'm sure, but rather than trying to make me conform, she encouraged me to be innovative, to take risks.
Disabilities are often much easier to spot than gifts, in ourselves and others. We can squander a lifetime trying to become something we're not, to remediate or compensate for our disabilities. On the other hand, when we focus on our gifts, we become so brilliant that our disabilities seem to fade away.
As I heard Mister Rogers say one morning when my kids were small, "Look for what others can do, and when you find it, appreciate it." My life is so much better for the people who saw in me what I had yet to see in myself.
This is one reason you are such a great teacher, Todd. You are able to see what people can do. (Hey, I included this last paragraph not for reasons of vanity, but because it helped me see connections)
Charles' comments are a gift in themselves. As a fellow educator, I appreciate his constant effort to reflect on his own experiences in education. But I also appreciate his comments for more deeply allowing me to ponder even more and draw other connections. He took my thinking to another place, which is why I like talking with Charles so much. He has that gift for lifting thoughts, which is why I think he is a great teacher.
My original comment was generated last night after the Rabbi asked us to ponder why in Genesis 27:32, Jacob is tricking his father by pretending to be Esau in order to gain his father's blessing which "rightfully" belongs to Esau, and then in Genesis 28, Jacob is being blessed by God. Clearly, God can't be endorsing deception as the path to blessing. There are many possible explanations, and Rabbis of the past have not all agreed on one interpretation. My own explanation was that maybe God doesn't play the reward and punishment game; after all, the foremost patriarch, Abraham, also engaged in what appears as despicable behavior (when he went to Egypt for example and claimed that Sara was his sister, so that no harm would come to himself 12:11-). He too was blessed, with progeny (as many as the stars, and to become a father to many nations). I admit the idea that God doesn't engage in reward and punishment is somewhat tenuous given the tenor of some parts of Torah. On the other hand, I find the Torah to contains so much for so many. I take comfort in Rabbi Lawrence Kushner who said both, "If you try to make it all work together, you will 'crash and burn.'" and, "my choice is reverence".
At any rate, I found myself blurting out that gifts and disabilities seem pretty random, as part of my reasoning. For those who take a "God is all controlling view", I think this looks like a heretical claim for a believer. But in life, as in Torah, blessings do seem random, and the sufferings (for example in the case of Job), undeserved. Still, in our arguing with God (Genesis 18:25 Abraham: "The judge of all the earth-will he not do what is just?) and in our wrestling (Genesis 32:21-33 Jacob wrestling with the man/G_d on the verge of seeing his brother again.), God seems to learn and teach with us, granting us the blessing to see blessings. It may not be the only lesson, but it is a good one to take away from Torah. As Charles added later: "It's both a blessing to ourselves and to others when we are able to see blessings."
Which brings me back to my Rabbi, Rabbi Suzy Stone. I laugh as I consider that she changed around some of our local ritual (minhag) last night, so as to talk about what we are thankful for, on this, the last shabbat before a secular holiday, Thanksgiving. She then proceeded to go on about Jacob as if there was no necessary connection. I feel like I am in the presence of a Jewish Zen master when things like this happen. ... As I approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for good friends like Charles, Rabbis like Suzy, my children, my students, Marshall School, and Shir Ami, you all inspire my thinking, hopefully my actions, and are in so many ways, such a blessing.
Friday, November 13, 2009
from the Human Rights in China web site.
November 13, 2009
In early November 2009, at the request of Ding Zilin, a member of the Tiananmen Mothers – a group of families of the victims of the June Fourth government crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement – Human Rights in China translated into English a letter by Ding Zilin, and delivered the letter in its original and translation to President Obama before his visit to China.