Archive for the ‘society’ Tag

Long work hours don’t work for people or the planet   1 comment

Busy? No time? Stressed? Unemployed?

Here’s a possible alternative for our society, so let’s begin talking about how we humanize our time.The David Suzuki Foundation has just published a thoughtful piece that challenges us to think about why we who work for a living, seem to be working long, stressful hours.

In their column, they quote the New Economics Foundation which advocates a 21 hour workweek. Such an innovation would, they argue, address problems such as overwork, unemployment, high carbon emissions and entrenched inequalities in society.

The full column can be found on the Suzuki Foundation website: www.davidsuzuki.org

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Hope in an unexpected place   Leave a comment

The following story – from the U.C. Observer –

( http://www.ucobserver.org/columns/2017/03/spirit_story/ ) –

is one that encourages all of us to remember those basic human characteristics of empathy and hope. Although the writer, and the story, are from the U.S.A., similar stories are happening in Canada too.

iStock.com/fstop123

Hope in a hardware store

By Alicia von Stamwitz

A new immigrant to the United States must enter public areas with caution, alert to hidden dangers. It’s a lesson I learned at a young age when my mother was bullied by a stranger in a grocery store.

So when I spot a Mexican man in a Home Depot store in St. Louis, I am not surprised that he looks anxious, shifting his weight from one foot to another. He’s short — maybe five feet tall in his heavy work boots — with a bushy black moustache. His furtive glances at the overhead signs tell me he does not read English.

I slow my cart, remembering a frightening experience from my childhood.

“Look at the treetops, Alicia!” my mother says as we creep along on shaded streets in our new station wagon. “The American oak trees are so tall and the branches are so wide that they meet at the top, like friends hugging each other.” She speaks to me in Spanish, but she is fluent in English thanks to her American teachers in Cuba. And thanks to American television, I have learned English fast.

We stop at a grocery store and push our cart up and down every aisle. “It’s expensive here,” she whispers in Spanish. As we wait in the checkout line, I notice the man behind us is watching my mother. He takes a step forward and says in a low voice, “What are you doing here?” My mother looks up, startled. “I — I am shopping.” Her English is perfect, but her voice is high, as if she is asking a question.

“You do not belong here,” the man growls. My mother turns to the cashier and holds out a coupon. But the cashier does not take the coupon; her eyes are fixed on the man. Everyone is looking at him. “Go back to where you came from, spic,” he hisses. The word hits my ears hard, like the word “spit.” Nobody moves at first, not even my mother. But when the man pushes past me to force her out of the narrow aisle, she turns to run and pulls me after her. When we are safely inside our car, I push down all four locks. My mother is trembling as we pull away.

This happened over 50 years ago. I want to believe things are better now, but I fear they are worse.

A long minute has passed, and the Mexican man in the home improvement store has not moved. I am about to step forward to help translate when a burly employee in an orange apron appears beside him. I tense. But the employee is a good man. You can see things like this at a glance. The way he ducks his head to meet the Mexican man’s lowered eyes. The way he nods encouragingly and speaks softly. I let out a breath. I did not realize I was holding it.

He gives me hope, this employee. I want to thank him when he is done helping the Mexican man. I want to remember that he and others like him have more collective power than any politician, even a demagogue.

On the way home, I look up at the treetops and repeat my mother’s words, like a poem or a prayer.

Alicia von Stamwitz is a writer and editor in St. Louis.

What Can One Do in These Times?   Leave a comment

Feeling helpless is seldom a solution to responding to what is going on in the world. We all have power, and all to frequently we give that power over to others. The following column was written by Jim Taylor and there are suggestions about how we can act. Taylor suggests that we avoid “wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes”.

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Take Responsibility

A week ago Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business ties. He branded them “evil”.

Two days later, a Canadian with far-right sympathies entered a mosque in Quebec City and shot six men in the back as they knelt in prayer. Eight others were injured.

The timing is too close for pure coincidence. If you’re a white supremacist feeling you should take action against people you dislike, what better justification could you ask for than encouragement from the world’s most powerful person?

Trump called Ottawa to offer his condolences. I think he should be charged as an accessory to murder.

So far, the man charged with six murders and five more attempted murders, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at Laval University, has volunteered no information about his motives. But his Facebook page reveals that he paid attention to Trump’s rants.

The Quebec murders are not an isolated incident — although they are the most extreme example of the anti-feminist, Islamophobic, and homophobic outbreaks since Trump’s election. The same mosque previously had graffiti painted on its walls, and a pig’s head dumped at its door during Ramadan.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Several readers have written, in response to earlier columns, asking “What can we do?”

I hesitate to prescribe anything that I am unwilling — or unable, by my nationality — to do myself.

I know that not everyone can do what Oyama resident Bev Edwards-Sawatzky did last weekend. As a 70th birthday present to herself, she flew to Washington to take part in the Women’s March.

With half a million other women — massively more than attended Trump’s inauguration in person — she pushed her walker through Washington streets. Over a million more joined in marches in 670 locations around the world.

But we can’t all go on marches. And marches in cities Trump has never heard of will have little influence on his policies.
We need to avoid wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes.

WORDS OF WISDOM
The widely known Serenity prayer, written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr back in 1934, offers some valuable advice:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

First, then, accept that some things, we cannot change. Mass protests will not undo an election. Clever placards will not unseat the emperor, with or without clothes. Storming Washington with scythes and pitchforks will not eliminate the electoral college.

We cannot, as individuals, reverse Trump’s immigration bans or reshape international diplomacy. We cannot call back the missiles and drones. We cannot make ISIS vanish.
And it’s futile to reason with unreasonable men.
So we need to focus on things that we can change.

Which means that we start with ourselves. We need to ensure that our words and actions never, never, foster the prejudices we deplore — racism, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry. We must exemplify — nay, incarnate — the virtues we claim to value.

By forcing us to examine what we consider right, Trump may actually have done us a favour. (I don’t recall him ever saying that he would do something because it’s the right thing to do.)

CALLING FOR COURAGE
Doing the right thing might mean offering hospitality to marginalized minorities, regardless of their origins or religions. For me, it requires being scrupulously honest — both with others and with myself. As far as possible, I intend to avoid purchasing products from, or investing in, companies that support Trump’s version of justice.

And I shall try not to remain silent when I hear racial, sexual, or religious slurs.

When the indigenous peoples of Central America were being slaughtered by government-backed death squads, when survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools were being ruthlessly cross-examined in courtrooms, representatives of North American churches risked standing with them. To simply be there.

Perhaps, once again, we need to be companions, to stand in solidarity with those being demonized. A recent report says that Trump plans to change the program “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Islamic Extremism” — despite an FBI report showing that the primary danger to Americans now comes from home-grown white supremacists.
So we may want to attend worship in mosques, with their permission. We could recognize — even celebrate — non-Christian festivals like Ramadan and Divali.

Yes, that may involve some personal risks. That’s why Niebuhr’s prayer asked for courage.

So….
Know what your values are. Do what you can, in accordance with our values. Don’t waste energy on what you can’t change.

But most of all, don’t do nothing.
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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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The Mosquito Manifesto   Leave a comment

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Rose Marie Berger, a Catholic peace activist and poet, frequently asks intriguing questions, rather than providing easy answers. In her reflections on the state of Christianity in the U.S.A., she poses the question: “Are we American Christians or Christians in America?”

There is a difference between these two identities.

Which one is like the mosquito?

Her full column, published in the February 2017 edition of Sojourners magazine, is also available online at: https://sojo.net/magazine/february-2017/mosquito-manifesto

The questions are applicable to Christians worldwide.

 

 

The Gulf Between Macro and Micro   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – January 1, 2017

Another year end, another statutory holiday, and so I’m under no obligation to deliver a column of 750 words focussed on current events to the local newspaper.

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Like most of us, I find myself thinking back over the last year.

Certainly, if you lived in Syria, Yemen, Gaza, or either of the Sudans, it would not have been a good year. And perhaps not in the U.K. and the U.S.A, depending on your political alignment. In the news, too, famous people toppled like ten-pins.

But that’s the macro level. At the micro level, most people I know have had a pretty good year. Stock markets have soared to record levels. Employment has risen, if fractionally. Mortgage rates have stayed low. Even without autopilot features, cars have been getting better and better – economy models now have safety features you couldn’t get on luxury cars 20 years ago.

Here in Canada, we have a federal government that at least seems to operate from an ethical base. Some things move too fast for some, too slow for others. But it seems that we are going to have more humane legislation governing marijuana use; removal of bureaucratic blockage of safe injection sites; maybe even a more equitable system for voting. We already have something closer to satisfactory laws allowing the terminally and hopelessly ill to get medical assistance in dying.

Medical care and treatment have improved. My wife Joan currently benefits from chemotherapy that didn’t exist just 5 years ago.

And over the last year, we have given almost 40,000 desperate refugees a new home. Media reports claim they have integrated about as well as could be expected. It’s not easy, giving up everything you have known to start all over again.

The challenge for the coming year, it seems to me, is to reduce the disparity between the macro and micro perspectives.

On that theme, I think of an article distributed by CounterCurrents, an alternative news source out of India.

Do not lose heart,” wrote Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a certified Jungian analyst with a doctorate in ethno-clinical psychology. (No, I don’t know what that means either, but I like what she says.)

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. It is not given to us to know which acts, or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

“What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up…”

If you’re interested, Ms. Estes best-known book is Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype, which was on The New York Times’ best seller list for 145 weeks. And if you’re interested in CounterCurrents, you can check it out at www.countercurrents.or, or write to editor Binu Matthew at editor@countercurrents.org
Happy New Year!
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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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A Good Surprise   Leave a comment

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“to see with the eyes of faith”

What if you anticipated giving away $2 million, and ended up giving away $10 million?

Here’s a story about a corporation that has done so.

http://www.patagonia.com/blog/2016/11/record-breaking-black-friday-sales-to-benefit-the-planet/?utm_source=em&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=113016_BlackFriday-Shipping&ett=151383347

Posted December 2, 2016 by allanbaker in Environment, Inspiration, Uncategorized

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Humans voted in the U.S.A.   Leave a comment

Over the past week there has been plenty of commentary on the election of Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America.  People are people. What might be a constructive way forward?

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“Human qualities often come in clusters. Altruism, inner peace, strength, freedom, and genuine happiness thrive together like the parts of a nourishing fruit. Likewise, selfishness, animosity, and fear grow together. So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant”, it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony with the interdependence of all things and beings.”

Matthieu Ricard in the book, “Sustainable Happiness”, page 58