Tag: compassion

Dec 23

The Invisible Hand: Further Adventures in the Territories of Hope


Who wouldn’t agree that our society is capitalistic, based on competition and selfishness? As it happens, however, huge areas of our lives are also based on gift economies, barter, mutual aid, and giving without hope of return (principles that have little or nothing to do with competition, selfishness, or scarcity economics). Think of the relations between friends, between family members, the activities of volunteers or those who have chosen their vocation on principle rather than for profit.

Think of the acts of those — from daycare worker to nursing home aide or the editor of TomDispatch.com — who do more, and do it more passionately, than they are paid to do; think of the armies of the unpaid who are at “work” counterbalancing and cleaning up after the invisible hand and making every effort to loosen its grip on our collective throat. Such acts represent the relations of the great majority of us some of the time and a minority of us all the time. They are, as the two feminist economists who published together as J. K. Gibson-Graham noted, the nine-tenths of the economic iceberg that is below the waterline.

Capitalism is only kept going by this army of anti-capitalists, who constantly exert their powers to clean up after it, and at least partially compensate for its destructiveness. Behind the system we all know, in other words, is a shadow system of kindness, the other invisible hand. Much of its work now lies in simply undoing the depredations of the official system. Its achievements are often hard to see or grasp.  How can you add up the foreclosures and evictions that don’t happen, the forests that aren’t leveled, the species that don’t go extinct, the discriminations that don’t occur?

The official economic arrangements and the laws that enforce them ensure that hungry and homeless people will be plentiful amid plenty.  The shadow system provides soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support. In the meantime, others seek to reform or transform the system from the inside and out, and in this way, inch by inch, inroads have been made on many fronts over the past half century.

The terrible things done, often in our name and thanks in part to the complicity of our silence or ignorance, matter. They are what wells up daily in the news and attracts our attention.  In estimating the true make-up of the world, however, gauging the depth and breadth of this other force is no less important. What actually sustains life is far closer to home and more essential, even if deeper in the shadows, than market forces and much more interesting than selfishness.

Dec 07

The Fallacy of Privileged Activism

I think what concerns me most about American society these days is how so many wish to commodify everything, especially other people.  The subject has weighed heavily upon me recently because I’m going to get married fairly soon.  I’ve been reflecting back upon the history of those I’ve dated as a means of judging larger trends in my development.  There were a few instances where I was valued more for my potential net worth than for my heart.  It is one thing to see the possibility of personal growth in a partner, but it’s another thing altogether to see them as a stock portfolio which has yet to mature.  People are not savings bonds or bank accounts.  The dreams of some involve the acquisition of funds, and to them, marriage is the perfect merger between conglomerates.  “Our” dreams are, in fact, “my” dreams with your financial assistance.  Woe be unto those whose economic star does not rise.    

Oct 06

well said.

Compassion is the radicalism of our time.

~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Okay … is it just me … ? Since reading and discussing the many concepts in Tocque’s essay the other day, I’m now seeing either the word compassion, or the idea, all over the place! lol.

A scattering of sentences, maybe paragraphs, from here and there this morning, that leaped out at me as being especially well said…  Follow me.

And, please! feel free to add any of your own pearls!

Oct 06

Reform of Any Sort Comes with a Margin of Error

The 1961 Luis Bu├▒uel film, Viridiana, concerns the pious exploits of a young nun who lives in a small village.  Meaning to do good in imitation of Jesus’ ministry, Viridiana leaves the convent and decides to take charge of the moral education of the village’s paupers.  Despite her best intentions, she finds herself exploited, abused, and taken advantage of at every possible turn.  Efforts undertaken to educate the village paupers in morality are an exercise in futility, a clear example of throwing pearls before swine.  After the combined shock of multifarious trauma, Viridiana (Latin for Green) seemingly succumbs to the sin of the world by the film’s conclusion.  Noted reviewer Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote at the time: “The theme is that well-intended charity can often be badly misplaced by innocent, pious people. Therefore, beware of charity.”        

May 04

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – A Cry for Help

Crossposted at Daily Kos

THE WEEK IN EDITORIAL CARTOONS

This weekly diary takes a look at the past week’s important news stories from the perspective of our leading editorial cartoonists (including a few foreign ones) with analysis and commentary added in by me.

When evaluating a cartoon, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does a cartoon add to my existing knowledge base and help crystallize my thinking about the issue depicted?

2. Does the cartoonist have any obvious biases that distort reality?

3. Is the cartoonist reflecting prevailing public opinion or trying to shape it?

The answers will help determine the effectiveness of the cartoonist’s message.

:: ::

John Sherffius

John Sherffius, Comics.com (Boulder Daily Camera)

May 01

Providing a Way to Encourage the Best in Other People

So much of my life I spend cynically griping about the bad side of human nature.  The work I do every day frequently centers around a ceaseless source of constant frustration.  Seeking strategies to reform destructive behaviors is the basic skill set of many professions and basic activism.  Influencing people so that they might understand the correct means of conducting their lives is a substantial challenge and a constant energy drain.  I’m sure many of you understand this quandary all too well.  While it is true that we all possess a dark side, some more than others, recent events in my life have provided a unexpected but welcome sense of clarity and perspective. I note with joy over the past three days that I have, much to my great surprise, seen the very best in people.  Once again I am humbled to have been proven incorrect in my assumptions about others.

Jan 17

Haiti: A Well-Regulated Relief Effort Being Necessary for Everyone’s Security

Earlier today, I was returning from meeting by bus.  After having boarded and taken my seat, I settled in for what I anticipated would be a relatively short ten minute ride.  Instead, the traffic on Massachusetts Avenue over by Embassy Row snarled to a complete halt.  The weather today in Washington, DC, had been dreary …

Continue reading »

Aug 30

WWJD about Health Care? aka. Where are the Good Samaritans?

What would Jesus Do about Health Care?

Good Question.

Well it sounds, like he understood how Sick People need Doctors:

Mark 2:17 GWT

When Jesus heard that, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do. I’ve come to call sinners, not people who think they have God’s approval.”

(emphasis added)

GOP Health Care Obstructionists, are you Listening???

The Pharisees, thought they were doing God’s work too.

Imagine their surprise when this upstart Carpenter, from the old neighborhood, dared to stand up to their blatant self-righteousness … and dish back to them some cold, hard truth …

Jan 27

Trials for Torturers

Re-banning torture is fine – but it’s hardly enough.

The-Whole-World-is-Watching

Torture is one of those words that is just too easy to say.  The facility with which it slides off the tongue belies its terrible gravity.  

The act of torture is cruelty personified.  It is easily among the most horrific deeds of which we are capable.  What could be worse?  Murder and genocide I suppose…but little else.

Oct 25

World Without Tears

I’ve been feeling mournful of late.  Can’t say why.  Well I could but you don’t have all day.  Let’s just say things are catching up with me:  torture, war, theft, lies, fraud, corruption, joblessness, homelessness and doing nothing in the face of ecological disaster.

What a shame that we remain at war without reason.  Shame on us.

And what a shame that we continue to blunder down the path to biospheric disaster defying all logic and denying all science.

What is wrong with us?

There are at least two wars ongoing that our government could stop, and would, if they had an ounce of moral fiber…or a lick of sense.

war-suffering-and-madness

Aug 09

Information Overload is Our Main Problem

I often puzzle over whether I should be concerned with our political situation and write about it or just get on with life. The situation often appears utterly hopeless, not because there’s nothing we can do but because there are so many choices and possibilities as well as too much information to process. Human beings are not meant to have so much stuff to think about which is why, as hard as we try, it feels like we are increasingly overloaded not just with things to do but also the knowledge that problems are multiplying faster than solutions. Any reasonable look at the current state of politics shows that every possible solutions to the critical short, medium and long term problems are just quick-fix-its that are designed to enrich some set of grandees. And knowing that, knowing that to put your faith in Obama or any conventional politician is a sure road to hell just plain hurts. We sit here at our screens and really we are in pain and if we are not in pain then we are largely unconscious or enlightened masters.

Information overload is the most direct cause of our political and social problems. The more intelligent and compassionate you are the worse it is. So how do we create a situation where expanding our knowledge can help us rather than weaken us and make us miserable. Other people just ignore stuff that is difficult or inconvenient to think about–why do we persist? Should we?

What we lack is a positive framework to put our insights and realizations into something we can build on. What that entails I’m not sure–but it’s worth thinking about.

But the first thing we need to do before we go any further is to have compassion for those that choose to hide and not think, yes even the yahoos who believe that the Bible is literally true. What if they didn’t? They don’t have the ability to navigate doubt and intellectual cross-currents–they would be swallowed up and driven mad so they survive by ignoring the blaringly obvious contradictions and clear fictions in the Bible (in fact few fundies actually read anything other than carefully selected passages of the Bible). Few of the people who actually vote for Republicans are bad people who are as glaringly selfish and destructive as the Republican public policy positions would indicate–they just want some sense of security and certainty and belongingness in a world that seems to have gone mad. That the people they are voting for actually seek to create a world filled with war, violence, pornography, materialism and hedonism and then blame others is to painful to look at. To seek alternatives that don’t offer them a place with dignity, that doesn’t offend their sense of public morality as abortion, gay rights and feminism as well as “patriotism” obviously is not going to happen easily. Most importantly these communities in the “red” areas of the country don’t want to move away from prejudices and traditions that make for a common sense of community. Generations ago it would have been far easier for them to stay in traditions because contrary information was not widely available–but today they must make a strong act of will to deliberately pull the wool over their own eyes (as the sub-genius movement suggests).

We may not “like” these people but we are required, if we truly believe in egalitarianism and democracy, to accept them and the fact they will not change sides easily or automatically believe in gay marriage or peace. Cooperation and compromise with them is required (and not with the Republican and some Democratic politicians that run confidence games on them).

Second thing we need to do is have compassion for ourselves and see how hard it is for us to swim against the current and acknowledge that just surviving without running screaming into the street (though some of us may do that from time to time) is quite an accomplishment. So we can pat ourselves on the back for a sec and then start looking for a way to use those muscles we have develop to start swimming with the stream creatively and get something done. With that in mind we must understand that inner and outer work is the same and that for that work to be effective we must, must, must be part of communities focuse on building something. Giving each other insights, keeping the information flowing as we have been doing is part of what we need to do but it is not enough because unless we build something with that information we will just get more and more frustrated–we build and create something. For example, building a wiki or database like this 9/11 timeline. There are other kinds of collective actions we could take as well–if anyone has any suggestions I’d like to hear them.

Jul 04

The Mirrors of Reason

“Modern man likes to pretend that his thinking is wide-awake. But this wide-awake thinking has led us into the mazes of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeated in the mirrors of reason.”

Octavio Paz

WE-DO-NOT-TORTURE

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