working together for social inclusion in America

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disturbing News

I recently had occasion to encounter religious bigotry in a family member upset over my past blogging about Pentecostalism in America. As a Pentecostal, this family member is naturally not open to honest inquiry about religious prejudice, so I searched my blogs using the word Pentecostal, and came up with three posts over the last seven years that might have set her off.

The most recent,  Christian Jihad, was about indoctrination through such venues as Good News Clubs, that -- wrongly in my view -- are allowed to use public schools after hours to, "generate support for murder of non-believers worldwide." Another, Satanic Panic, is about the neopentecostal holy war made famous by vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The third, Cashing in on Hate, discussed the charismatic pentecostal network behind lethal homophobia.

Recalling a visit long ago to this family member's home where I shockingly discovered a blackboard in the family room covered in phrases like, "smite the heathens," I began to appreciate the awful burden her children have had to overcome. It also gave me a greater appreciation of the roots of resentment that recently surfaced in her otherwise inexplicable behavior. Sowing discord, it seems, disturbs the minds of the instigators as much as those they target.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Our Way

The American trailer park -- the refuge of seniors, misfortunates and refugees -- is also an incubator of the art of cliche. Hi, how are you? OK, OK. Good, good. Is nice? Have a good day.

Russians, Mexicans, Venezuelans and Louisianans meet and greet at the laundry room, dumpster and mail drop. Share surplus potatoes, tips on public transit, the possibility of getting Internet this year.

We hold longer conversations with each others' dogs. Is poodle? Not so old. Hi, boy! Is smart one, yes?

But in cliche we avoid discussing imbecilities like sports and TV. Too complicated for limited lexicons.

We stick to the essential--polite pleasantries that lift our spirits and get us on our way.

Friday, February 08, 2013

A Labor of Love

In their report Growing A Resilient City, Solidarity NYC examines possibilities for collaboration in New York City's solidarity economy. The ideas and insights of interviewees, who are first responders to the crises confronting their communities, form a pragmatic vision grounded in values of cooperation, mutualism, ecological sustainability, social justice and democracy. This report about another world -- coexisting with the dominant way of doing things -- is their love letter to you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Identity Heritage and Education

Learning who you are makes a big difference in educational attainment. As the The Oregonian reports, the new tribal sovereignty curriculum in Washington state is good for all students, but especially important for kids whose Native American identity and proud heritage were once banished from public schools.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Racially Discriminating Society

During the fossil-fueled extravaganza after World War II, Indian tribes in the United States were still recovering from the traumas of colonization; coerced displacement, religious conversion, and the brutal abuse of their children in state-supported, church-run Indian boarding schools was still contributing to their social, cultural and political dysfunction. Not until the 1970s did tribal communities and Indian nations across America recover sufficiently from their ordeals to begin to assert themselves in reclaiming their identities as indigenous peoples and dignity as human beings.

By the 1990s, the concept of applying the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights to indigenous peoples began to take hold. Still, it would take until September 2007 before international law would extend human rights to indigenous nations. Even then, four members of the UN opposed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Not until 2010 would the US grudgingly and partially endorse the principles of UNDRIP.

Today, as modern states and indigenous nations engage in conflict and negotiation over the implementation of indigenous human rights, many states pay these rights lip service while neglecting to observe them in practice. Witness the hundreds of confrontations worldwide where indigenous peoples' properties and resources are trampled on by insatiable corporations and corrupted states. Even the UN itself -- in the form of its conferences on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development -- excludes and marginalizes indigenous governing authorities, relegating indigenous delegates to the status of powerless observers.

With the resurgence of fossil-fueled extravagance and the reemergence of indigenous nations challenging the power of the state on all continents, civil society has found a new role for itself in both defending democracy and honoring humanity. With the recovered memory of the malign neglect of indigenous peoples by institutions and markets over the five centuries of European colonies and successor states in the Americas, human rights activists have both an opportunity and an obligation to force their dominant societies to make amends. Pretending we can have meaningful reconciliation without cultural restoration is just wishful thinking.

Conditioning the extension of human rights to indigenous peoples on their acceptance of assimilation into European forms of governance, religion and economics is moral fraud. Asking indigenous nations to forfeit their rights to self-determination, cultural preservation and religious freedom as the terms of their right to exist is perhaps the worst form of self-serving hypocrisy invented by a racially discriminating society. But then, what would you expect from a people whose entire social architecture was founded on genocide?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Becoming Real

Over the past five years, I've frequently written about imagination, intellectual development, isolation and public mental health. As part of that discussion, I have posted numerous commentaries on globalization and the widespread loss of faith in progress. More specifically, I explored how the lethal concept of progress perpetuates destructive arrogance.

Searching for a way out of this impasse, I entertained competing perspectives on governance and social evolution. At times, I examined the psychological warfare associated with the concept of progress, and how it has historically been challenged.

In some of these reflections, I observed how progressives are unable to deal with the phenomenon of what some have called culture death, and even noted why progressive values have failed.

But criticism of our dying consumer culture is not enough; to obtain a new balance requires a new proposition. And for that we need a new form of engagement.

What I proposed as a graduate student ten years ago was that we establish humanities laboratories where activists and scholars and concerned citizens could gather face to face to have conversations about social communication, community revitalization, and other aspects of democratic renewal. When I proposed this type of venue, I was thinking of it as an actual physical location where experimentation and workshops could be conducted using communal broadcast, radio and Internet production facilities, as well as recording and editing equipment with technical support.

Since then, breakthroughs in self-publication, video creation and podcast have made individual expression easier, but the issue of interaction leading to deep discussion remains: a world of isolated producers still leaves us isolated. To develop our ideas and bring them to fruition requires that we meet with others in a give and take where the best solutions can emerge, and our communal bonds can be developed in ways that sustain our mental and spiritual health.

In this way, our virtual communities can become real.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Power of Creation

Back in 2001, Tom Goldtooth wrote about the power of creation and human transformation. In his essay In the Native Way, published in Yes! magazine, Goldtooth described how some are finding their way back to sacredness.