A small circle: Racism, Oppression, Poverty and Social Injustice    
 Racism, Oppression, Poverty and Social Injustice19 comments
picture20 Jul 2004 @ 00:59, by D

Photo: Jacob Holdt, Poor whites in Mississippi

"Poor whites I always found the hardest to photograph - at least in the USA where they have deeply internalized the prevailing American philosophy—that you are yourself to be blamed for your own misery. Thus they are also robbed of the dignity and pride characterizing the poor in other countries."

——Jacob Holdt, American Pictures



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19 comments

20 Jul 2004 @ 01:15 by i2i : I am dedicating this post to James Weems
James Weems is not an NCN member (but he is a friend of mine.) His comment (19 Jul 2004 @ 16:11,) on an earlier article ("54%") on this Newslog, inspired this entry.

This is the comment:

19 Jul 2004 @ 16:11 by James Weems : The Silent Majority

"There’s that girl, Shirley, behind the counter. Shirley, she’s very much into meditation, the yoga thing and everything New Age (she doesn't vote, she doesn’t care about politics, as long as she’s being left alone and no one drafts her son)"—Aiden

The passionate activists from the Age of Aquarius have grown up to be the new Silent Majority.

If religion is the opiate of the masses, then the New Age philosophies are a better drug, a better "high." But like all ego-emotional "highs" they are really just new lows, in a spiral of evasion, willful ignorance, and passivity.

Why would anyone want you to accept everything as it is? To stop questioning, to give up awareness of social and environmental issues (frowned upon as "perpetuating negative energies"), to renounce activism (derided as "the old ways"), to imagine that everything is right (projecting "positive energies"), that everything is going as "planned" (in accordance with a "greater order") and that everything is wonderful and perfect and that problems will go away without people getting involved in the "outer world" in any way?

Aren't what some trends of the New Age movement are saying suspiciously similar to what Pat Robertson and other religious fundamentalists have been promoting in their own way with their own religious followers?

"Be rich and be happy"
"All that happens to man is a result of his state of consciousness"
"Suffering? Inequities?"
"What suffering? What inequities?"
"Other people's suffering is their own doing"
"You create reality"
"Materialism is spirituality"
 



21 Jul 2004 @ 00:27 by ov : The angels
Yeah, I've been getting those vibes myself lately. There were a couple of comments that Baalberith and Rhamiel made that I can't shake from my mind. One was that all this ascension stuff sure sounded like the rapture. And the other was a quip about trickle down spirituality. Then I pick up these vibes about how we are all one, but if you don't stop thinking right away you will miss the ascension and it will be a long long time before you get another chance, and I'm thinking heh, what about this all is one and one for all three muskeetrs thing we had going for us.

Personally I think that there is an evolution of consciousness happening, and that mentally we will ascend, and then we come back to earth being gone for only a few seconds or less but on a trip that will seem much much longer, and with the new attitude and perspective we will start to see positive results and this will be contagious and we will start to enjoy making the changes here on earth that need to be made. So I am very optimistic, and looking forward to leaving this materialist existence behind, I mean still here doing the chop wood carry water thing, but an enriched public space that keeps getting better because it doesn't have that built in obsolescence built into everything. Where we eat the food that is grown locally and everybody has a garden where there used to be lawn. Where you work ten years of your life doing community chores and paying your dues and then the rest of your life is spent on creation and goverance. It's not utopian, but it would be a lot better than what we have now, and people would receive respect and sustenance from who they are rather than from what they have.  



21 Jul 2004 @ 15:12 by i2i : The Undiscovered Country
Evolution of consciousness and/or Complexification of consciousness? What form(s) will it take? Hypothesis from people who have been speculating about a new civilization (philosophers, scientists, system thinkers of all kind and people of various faiths or confessions—not just the new age movement or people into the "ascension" stuff) as to "if/how/when/what" are many. At the heart of evolution (and quantum physics) there is an element of randomness that I like. Ours, is the gambling universe, and the world, I hope, will forever remain an impenetrable mystery (a mystery that possibly is its intended nature and its purpose—assuming that the universe has a purpose.)

I like ov's image of an "enriched public space," I also like Howard Bloom's way (one way among many ) of looking at things:

"Evolution keeps bumping upward to new levels of creativity and surprise. We're her latest gizmos, her latest toys [her latest manifestation]. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to throw ourselves with all our might and mane into what the universe will do with us or without us---creating new forms, new flows, new ways of being, new ways of seeing."  



21 Jul 2004 @ 17:31 by spiritseek : no big bang
I expect we're excelerating a little faster as time goes on towards a higher dimension but I don't foresee a big bang that will skyrocket us forward. So we will be able to go with the flow comfortably. We will have things rise that will need clearing during this time.  


21 Jul 2004 @ 19:50 by i2i : "higher dimension"
My comment was actually in response to ov's excellent comment above (about the ascension stuff,) and I was in fact trying to move away from such paradigmatic frameworks as "higher dimension" (such as spiritseek just used) not that there is anything wrong with such a paradigm (or people who are into the "ascension" for that matter---just one paradigm amongst many other paradigms---like transhumanism for example) but what I was trying to do is emphasize/acknowledge the simple things achieved by those who independently of their faith whatever it may be (or independently of whether they believe or not in such a concept as the ascension per se) are helping to make the spirit of a new civilization a reality by contributing, each in their own ways, like Howard Bloom says in the quote above, "new forms, new flows, new ways of being, new ways of seeing," like the Co-intelligence Institute or Worldchanging, for instance. Yes?

It is possible that, if given a chance, such changes as will be taking place will expand sentiency in such a way that can be looked upon as accessing a higher dimension in terms of how humankind perceives and relates to the universe, but this was not my point. Spiritseek's comment about things rising to the surface needing to be acknowledged and, hopefully, taken care of, is right on, however, and very much part of what the photo gallery (above) by Jacob Holdt is about.  



21 Jul 2004 @ 20:38 by spiritseek : thanks for the added information
your comment put it in more of a perspective I can understand on the meaning of ascension in the article.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It is I who thank you for helping bring out a point which apparently needed clarifying: It is, indeed, sometimes all too easy to forget that after all NCN is not the Ascension Network and that not everyone interested in a new civilization necessarily subscribes to this one rather very specific spiritual New Age paradigm. There are variations (not all of them New Age) and some people are not even into the ascension thing at all. "NCN is open to people of any belief system, as long as it includes the right for people to have different preferences. NCN encourages people to act based on their inner inspiration and to work for the common good. For some people, that is intimately connected with a spiritual motivation and understanding. For other people it is decidedly not. Thus NCN is neutral in that regard. There is no imposition of any spiritual beliefs you have to have. Likewise, there is no imposition of any belief in the material sciences that you have to have."
~D  



22 Jul 2004 @ 18:38 by quinty : The poor in other countries
"that you are yourself to be blamed for your own misery. Thus they are also robbed of the dignity and pride characterizing the poor in other countries."....

That is so true! I remember once taking a train in Spain and two elderly women approached me, displaying a natural friendliness and curiosity about the foreigner on their train. And telling me about themselves admitted they were "poor," as if they were discussing the weather. With no shame whatsoever. Here in the US, why, that would be unthinkable!

Quinty  



26 Jul 2004 @ 15:37 by E_Johnson @69.33.46.10 : Dogmas:
"The prevailing...philosophy—that you are yourself to be blamed for your own misery."

This reoccuring theme seems to have found its way into some New Age writings and teachings that we are each "personally responsible" for the conditions of our lives. Some New Age systems carry this notion to an extreme, asserting that our physical ailments, and other life situations usually considered beyond our control are our own fault and that our concern ought to be directed "inward" toward our own "spiritual power" rather than "outward" toward "misguided worldly concerns" such as the environment, oppression, poverty or social injustice. While I understand and respect to some degree the spiritual premise on which such approaches are departed (the betterment of the collective through individual growth and "understanding",) I'd also like to point out that this way of thinking has always been exploited politically by those interested in preserving the status quo and that there is a very cynical link between the use of religious symbolism (the New Age is no exception) and existing forms of social inequity and oppression. It's amazing how often religious mobilization serves as a way for the established proprietary dominant economical groups in society to maintain their hold on power. I am sure it is the same in many ways for the Christian Right in the US (which conveniently downplays John 2: 13-22 in favor of a watered-down Jesus who is only "sweetness and light"), or the Wahhabi Saudi Monarchy in Saudi Arabia, or the Bharatiya Janata Party in India: all three regimes mask the exploitation of the public sphere and polity by private interests groups behind a veneer of social values ("conpassionate conservatism"), religious imagery and symbolism, and fundamentalist interpretations of religion.  



26 Jul 2004 @ 18:47 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Narcissism and Spiritual Materialism
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote that we are often “deceiving ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques.” He called this kind of self-deception spiritual materialism.

The following is from "Pitfalls and progress and the path" by Elizabeth Lesser:

1. Narcissism: There’s a thin line between narcissism and "following your bliss." Without some degree of sacrifice for the greater good, self-discovery eventually leads to plain old self-indulgence.

2. Superficiality: Any world view that suggests that thinking positively always protects you from harm, or that there is something wrong with you if you suffer or fail, is offering superficial promises.  

3. The never ending process of self-improvement: You can become so obsessed with your own self-improvement---your story, your victimization, your faults, your fears---that instead of becoming free, you end up caught in a tape-loop. This myopic focus on the self also leads to social apathy. It just isn’t true that your self-empowerment and self-healing will necessarily lead to the health and happiness of others and of society. We have to participate in the improvement of more than just ourselves.  

4. Grandiosity: In democratizing spirituality and bringing it to the daily life of each person, each one of us risks becoming a messianic little Pope or a humorless saint. If you find yourself becoming unbearably profound, feeling that you are somehow different from others and destined for sainthood, perhaps you are suffering from grandiosity.  

5. Ripping off the traditions: Many modern seekers skim off the ritual trappings of a tradition with little respect for the depth behind it. There is a difference between carefully creating a spiritual path that includes genuine practices from a variety of traditions, and flitting from flower to flower like a bumble-bee.  



27 Jul 2004 @ 11:09 by i2i : To be "here and now"
means (to me) first and foremost to be alive. To be actively involved in the world I live in. Thinking globally and acting locally. And thinking locally and acting globally, too. Because there is no more "us and them", no more "here and over there" any longer. To be here and now is to push the illusory boundaries between spiritual detachment and social activism, science, the environment, politics, and more.

"(Wo)Man passes through three stages.
First (s)he worships anything: man, woman, money, children, earth and stones.
Then, when (s)he has progressed a little further, (s)he worships God.
Finally (s)he does not say: 'I worship God'; nor: 'I do not worship God.'
(S)He has passed from the first two stages into the last."
—Jalaluddin Rumi

Yes?  



27 Jul 2004 @ 11:46 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : Yes...
I like that quote in the sidebar: "The eye sees what it brings the power to see."

My mother says that "Vision with action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare."

This whole thread about poverty and the disenfranchised reminded me of Soyini Denise Liburd, "The Invisible Man":

"A funny thing happened to me on my way through the park,
Just before dark – one summer evening....
The smouldering sunset dripped off the leaves – of trees
The beauty of the green and the bright colours, of scented flowers –
danced off my eyes
That beautiful kingdom, that wondrous world was my park.
Matronly trees with full branches hugged close the spirited sparrows
that clung to their leafy breasts,
Carefree birds chirped happily, singing praises to the trees that took
them in…
All around, the truth displayed, was that nature took care of it’s own.
Each survived for - and because of - the other; so that one was never
left alone.

In the background is God’s splendour – intricately wove…
The fore shows man’s feeble attempt at creation…crude next to HIS own
Cold unfeeling benches of stone,
With their inhabitants removed – except one,
A huddled shadow remains; scorned but with nowhere to run.
A shadow; not quite real, not quite loved, not quite understood…
The stars rise as he falls,
Deeper into the corner of the cold concrete bench.

REAL people pass by and make a wide arc around the Invisible Man – whom
they do not see
Conversation falters, eyes start to glance then remember to ignore the
Invisible Man – whom they should not see
They remember to forget to witness the plight of the Invisible Man –whom
they WOULD not see
An old lady’s hand clamps down on that of a curious child who thinks she
sees a human being somewhere in the shadow on that cold concrete bench.
Withered hands pull and withered feet hurry to perform the ritual of
‘The Wide Arc’;
The child’s laughing eyes tries to entice a smile, from the Invisible
Man who, to her, looks like a human being.
As she grows she will learn; that the shadow on the bench is
nothing…just an Invisible Man.

The Invisible Man – real only to himself – lives quietly to himself.
A quivering sigh cries out for my help,
Though I don’t think he heard it go by.
Clutching his rags around him, he settles in for the night
His tired body no longer wishes to witness the sight
Of REAL folks heading home.
Vaguely, an elusive memory tells a tale of the days when he was REAL…
Vaguely he remembers how life used to feel – when people used to care
that he was there…alive.

My turn has come to perform the ritual of ‘The Wide Arc’
I approach the bench wherein resides the Invisible Man – I haven’t yet
mastered the art, I still think I see a Man – a real one.
My conscience hails to me to help - to share the instincts of the rest
of nature…
A withered resolve drags my young conscience along, determined not to
surrender
Unable to satisfy it’s yearning to make his unlife seem easier to bear,

My conscience leaves behind a silent prayer;
That someone will help the Invisible Men out there.

The moment has passed, darkness swallows the Invisible Man
I no longer see what I thought I saw,
All I experience is a curious mixture of relief and shame…
As an afterthought I turn around, walk up to the shadow and toss a coin
His eyes open hold mine and thrusts a message there
I falter backwards from the intensity of emotion that he shares.
His eyes close again, leaving the coin where it lay
As if to say
I don’t need your pity, I want more than your money,
Maybe some RESPECT, perhaps some genuine concern…."

----The Invisible Man (Homeless)
by Soyini Denise Liburd  



27 Jul 2004 @ 12:15 by i2i : More Rumi

"You've flapped and fluttered against limits
long enough.

You've been a bird without wings in a house without doors
or windows.

Compassion builds a door.
Restlessness cuts a key.

Ask!"

—Jelaluddin Rumi

[There is another way]  



27 Jul 2004 @ 18:06 by ov : Social Injustice
So refreshing to read the comments in this log. I like the comments that Hanae has made even though there are a few that push my buttons, like for example, I'd much rather live in a world where the majority aspire to be saints, even at the risk of grandiosity, then the hoardes with their 'I GOT MINE' philosophy of life.

"Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare."

I assume that is 'vision without action'. I think I would rather have a beautiful daydream than a real live nightmare. To me it is not action just for the sake of action, it's just too easy to blow things up when you go down that road, but action that is directed towards a specific and explicit outcome, because then you have the opportunity to evaluate the progress of your action. Burning a bridge is an action, but I've found that usually it is an action that in hindsight would have been better off not taking. So the question as always is what action, because even doing nothing is an action, and the best answer to that which I've been able to come up with so far is to run a simulation and observe what happens. Simulation, the best of both worlds, the real and the imaginary.

Rumi was a wise Persian before us Westerners even knew what wisdom was.  



28 Jul 2004 @ 17:43 by Hanae @69.33.46.10 : "Aspiring to be a saint"
ov's words - not mines.

I do not believe (nor did I say) that anyone at NCN is "aspiring to be a saint." And it's clear from ov's comment that the description was only intended as a contrast to the "hordes with their 'I GOT MINE' philosophy of life." Also, the reference had more to do with an attitude than with a "philosophy" per se. (Threading on thin ice here.)

In any case, I didn't bring up the question and I am not sure what a saint is, but the question (what is a saint?) is a valid one. The easy broad answer is that a saint is a holy man/woman who has attained peace in heaven (with a lot of leeway as to what "peace" and "heaven" might mean, depending on one's system of beliefs.) But if "peace in heaven" were a seeker's only purpose, that would be very much like trying to be a saint for all the wrong reasons, wouldn't it? When people talk of sainthood they usually mean, of course, more than that and sainthood is usually bestowed on people who were not particularly seeking sainthood for its own sake. Saints are remembered as such because their lives have been recognized as an example of the goodness that is possible for a man/woman to accomplish in their struggle to overcome the indifference to suffering and their struggle for the cause of helping others as opposed to just helping oneself (the illusion of self.) QED?

"Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare."  



28 Jul 2004 @ 18:21 by i2i : The secular humanist perspective:
In "The Plague" (by Albert Camus - a symbolical account of the fight against an epidemic by characters whose importance lies less in the success with which they oppose the epidemic than in their determined assertion of human dignity and fraternity) there is a dialogue between a religious believer and an agnostic. The believer says, "I am trying to be a saint." The agnostic says, "I am trying to be a man. The two goals are similar. But what I am attempting is harder."

Most of Camus's writings promulgated the idea that we are each responsible for one another, and that every action matters and reverberates within the universe. It is a kind of existentialism and a recognition of how inertia and neediness undermines the will toward good.  



28 Jul 2004 @ 20:05 by spiritseek : both of you
have said what it is just adding more to the story. Very interesting,now read the two as one and feel it.  


29 Jul 2004 @ 11:34 by James Weems @69.33.46.10 : The ritual of the "Wide Arc"
Institute on Race & Poverty:
"The current emphasis on 'personal responsibility' offers yet another political quick fix to channel middle and working-class fears over socioeconomic changes and absolve society of responsibility for persistent inequities.  It is a catch phrase that precludes a deeper analysis into how poverty is created and sustained by a variety of identifiable and inter-related social forces.  It permits the privileged members of our society to assume that their privilege is merit-based.  It is based on the myth that the market rewards all those who work hard and only punishes the undeserving."  



29 Jul 2004 @ 13:23 by ov : Saint
Saint was probably a bad choice of words, too much religious baggage associated with the term. About the only part of saint that I was thinking of when I wrote that comment was for how saints think first and foremost to the collective good, often thought of as God's will, and as for themselves as an afterthought. This seems to be almost the exact opposite of the modern consumer. I've been a student of sociology almost my whole life, and I understand the socializing techniques of advertising and the mass media, the manufactured consent, so I have a pretty good feel for what the average consumer is like, and it sure wouldn't fall under the aspiring to be a saint category. Difference also between talking like you want to be recognized as a saint, and living your life in accord with those principles, and I think that is where the aspiration lie. Wanting to be a saint makes about as much sense as wanting to have a purple heart, or whatever the medal is that you have to die for to get.

The last little while I've been reading more articles about the criminalizing of poverty. There is an effort in place in Vancouver to get the squeegee kids off the street, and panhandlers have to go as well. Cut 30,000 people off of welfare, gentrify the few affordable housing areas that were left, and then prosecute the people that are left out on the streets because they are reminders that cause quilty conscience, and as the more vocal critics point out, they are bad for business. I guess they should quietly walk back into the moutains and die out of site, where else they going to go, once they have been pushed out onto the street they have gone as far as you can push them, handing them out tickets for being on the street doesn't do anything more than increase the futility of their position. In the real world there isn't a quick and easy block button that makes those undesirables 'go away and leave me alone.'  



30 Jul 2004 @ 08:01 by dempstress : Have just
come across this log and would like to thank contributors and i2i for refreshingly guff-free and thought-provoking input. Also for interesting links.  


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