Monday, February 25, 2008

The Practice of Hope

I ordered a book online last week and it arrived today: The Practice of Hope, Diversity, Discontent and Discourse by Brij Mohan. I was attracted by the title which I ran across in a Wikipedia article related to Critical Theory. Mojan is a professor at Louisiana State University. The book's back cover announces that The Practice of Hope concludes his trilogy on "The Hermeneutics of Hope." Another interesting title...hmm!

I've just begun to read this book. Its pretty blue cover features a close-up photo of the blossoming branches of a tulip tree in spring. The flowers are fuschia and white, a familiar sight to those of us in Middle Tennessee where the tulip tree is a native plant.

At the book's beginning on page 11 are printed the following three quotes:

"Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger." (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

"There were no slaves in the caves. It took civilization to create the concept of people as property. The supreme paradox of human progress is that it has brought, along with much light, a deepening of the dark." (Ronald Segal, 1995)

"A global human society based on poverty for many and prosperity for a few, characterized by islands of wealth, surrounded by a sea of poverty, is unsustainable." (Thabo Mbeki, 2002)

These quotes may explain my curiosity about this book. I am looking forward to reading it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On "The Buzz is Obama"

My heart is starting to beat again
pushing against the heavy,
leaden weight
that has pressed it down
for so many years
Off and on since 1968.

A weight grown merciless and crushing in this reign
of Bush and Cheney
shuffling their glib and greedy henchmen in and out the doors of power. God’s men drunk with the spoils, sauntering the corridors,
scoffing at our dead heroes,
slamming the door on the dreams of our youth,
selling our songs to the highest bidders...

Dishonor, deceit and greed masked by born again lies
and Sunday School manners.
This has been our tribulation.
Could hell be any worse?
These awful years when wrong has been
called right and royal secrets kept and treachery
baptized by prayers.
When "I don't remember," makes it all
And all the pundits carry on like crows but keep on carrying the tune.

And pretty girls on Fox with flashing eyes and sharpened nails toss their curls and push the truth around. They sit in judgment of the small and fawn and prate before the heartless great.

Will this hopeless horror end?
I do not know.
But I’m beginning to hope

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A father's plea

THIS IS MY WORLD Feb 8, '08 1:06 PM

Friends this is “MY PART OF THE WORLD.”

Greetings of the season. I am father Robin Sahaya, I work as a missionary in the dioceses of Simla Chandigarh. I am appointed in a mission station called Samana-Patran. This Mission station consists of two districts in the state of Punjab in India. I am working over here since three years. Being here for three years I have learned a lot and still learning. Over here I have lot of interaction with non-Christian brothers and sisters. I am involved in the formation of small Christian communities (SCCs or BASIC HUMAN COMMUNITIES (BHC) I am also involved in proclamation of HUMAN RIGHTS. I have formed a district human rights team under United Nations charter.

I am personally very much upset with the way things are happening in my area. The place where I work is under developed area. Only 20% of the total population is educated others are under illiteracy. The very sad part of the story is that more than 90% of men and youth are victim to alcohol and powerful drugs. I found that their way of understanding things are just opposite to the rest of the world.

The situation is even worse when we talk about the poor and the marginalized in this part of the world. The landlords really take the poor laborers and the landless for a ride. The landlords hire the poor men in the beginning of the harvest just for Rs.18000 per annum and the person who is hired has to work for 24 hours a day.

The saddest thing to be noticed is that the landlords make the whole family work at his own desirable time, including the minor children. The landlord can come to this poor man’s house at any time he likes. Can do anything he likes. Child labor is very much prevalent in this part of the world.

If any one dare to question any of the atrocities done by the landlords to any of the poor they plot against you and make sure that you do not enter in the village next time. You are helpless in the entire sphere. You can just observe and cry but cannot do anything to break the situation over there.

The poor man comes to me time and again. I just tell them God is there He sees everything and He will rescue you one day and I console them telling to wait till God comes to rescue him and his family. I feel I am alone and feel frustrated and helpless. I am sure I can do something if you join with me. Are you ready?

Write to me

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On the subject of economic and agricultural centralization

Bringing Morals Back to the Table
from The E. F. Schumacher Society

Many of us are eating locally and organically produced food. From a modern economic perspective, where price is often the paramount consideration, these choices seem illogical.

What accounts for this shift, and does it have the possibility of expanding to all of our economic decisions?

At the end of his 1966 essay "Buddhist Economics," economist E.F. Schumacher asks, "whether modernization as currently practiced, without regard to religious and spiritual values is actually producing agreeable results?"

Economics, practiced as a science, an objective discipline, seeks to reduce relationships to only those that maximize utility. The worker's creativity and spirituality are discouraged, and consumers are asked to put aside their moral considerations in economic decisions.

Buddhist economics is the description of another path in economic reasoning, one that involves people "imbued with a fully developed sense of the sacredness of all existence." Schumacher looked to all faiths to inform his thought about creating a more sustainable economy. He recognized the human as an individual but also as a creative element within a larger system.

The Buddhist economist asserts that a person's work should have a threefold result: develop and use his faculties; join with others in a common task; and create the goods necessary for comfortable existence. Work becomes an act of bringing needed goods into the world with respect for the environment that led to their creation.

For the Buddhist economist this is the process of finding the middle way, with both material comfort and spiritual reverence.

Altering the economic perspective requires replacing an outward reflection of materialism with an inward reflection of morality. In other words, breaking away from a system that asks us to separate ourselves into "the economical man," who cares only about compensation and price, and "the moral man" of compassion and good will. Working in the tradition of the ideas taught by Schumacher, the E.F. Schumacher Society in Great Barrington, Mass., has launched a local currency, BerkShares, for the southern Berkshire region as a means of reconnecting these two sides and implementing our values in economic decisions. We use the local currency because it
represents a support of the local economy that includes our friends and family. BerkShares defines the physical boundaries of our purchases so that we may see their full impact.

As we learn to reinitiate our morality into economic decisions with the help of tools like BerkShares, we will realize the role that locally scaled production can play. Our morals will demand that our purchases be accompanied by a more complete picture of the processes that led to their creation. Therefore, a movement toward relocalizing production must accompany the incorporation of morality into economics.

The American economic system assumes a consumer chooses goods with the lowest price. The decision that many of us are now making to forgo price in favor of local food is based on our values. We believe that food should not travel over vast distances and that a farmer has a right to a living wage. When our purchasing decisions take these value judgments into consideration,
we are willing to pay more for local and organic products. This is the beginning of a new economy that embraces the moral and sacred values in all our purchasing decisions.

No endeavor that involves the interaction of conscious beings with an inherent ethical sensibility can be treated as an absolute science. Working conditions, environmental health and community support can be included in our economic decisions. The E.F. Schumacher Society and many other organizations are working to build the models that can bring together our
economic system and our morals. These models will provide the meaningful work and the awareness of production necessary for a more complete and fair economic system.


Michael Gordon for the
E. F. Schumacher Society
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
(413) 528-1737

This article first appeared in the January 19, 2008 edition of Albany, New
York's "Times Union" newspaper