100,000 Poets for Change Resistance Poetry Wall … post your poem on peace, sustainability, or social justice


100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) founders, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, have “built” a Resistance Poetry Wall in response to calls from all over the world for a place to post poetry and art in reaction to January’s election here in the U.S.

You do not have to limit your poetry to the situation in the States. You can share work that is relative to your country or your specific concerns. As Michael and Terri state:

The poetry and art posted on the WALL are not limited to the USA elections. There are many issues that concern us all and we welcome your contribution to this page.”

These efforts do have their place and power. So far 190 people have shared work on The Poetry Resistance Wall. I hope to see you there too.

– Jamie Dedes

CALLING ALL POETS, WRITERS, ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS: We Need Your Most Passionate Work

We invite you to share your most passionate works expressing kindness and human connection and the ways that together we might heal the degradation and devastation of wars and genocides; the heartbreak of refugees living in limbo; the desolation of hunger and famine and environmental catastrophes; the insanity of extrajudicial murders; and the disappointing growth in the West of racial and religious tensions and efforts by various administrations to chill dissent.

Please take this opportunity to join hands and hearts in peace and love: TEAM WITH US for The BeZine 100TPC online “live” event this September 30th (our 6th year) to address peace, sustainability, and social justice through poetry, music (videos), art and anything artistic that can be posted online and accessed through a url link or by responding in the comments section of the event post. The BeZine 100TPC is one of hundreds of events that will be held around the world on September 30 under the rubric of Global 100TPC founded by poets Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion.


WE ACKNOWLEDGE that there are enormous theological differences and historical resentments that carve wedges among and within the traditions and ethnic or national groups, but we believe that ultimately self-preservation, common sense, and human solidarity will empower connections and collaboration and overcome division and disorder.

100TPC is just one effort that illustrates the higher possibilities of the human heart.

Let us ply our art, meditations, and prayer toward that tipping point when compromise – an admittedly imperfect peace – will overcome war and respect for life will topple resentments and greed. That may not happen in our time, but it has to start somewhere and sometime. Together let this be our modest contribution toward an end for which diverse people the world over are working and praying.


HOW THE BeZINE “VIRTUAL” 100TPC WORKS … It’s easy and will be intuitively obvious, though we will provide instruction. A blog post will go up at The BeZine blog on September 30 with some introductory material and directions. As with any other blog post, you can respond by putting your poem or other work in the comments section. There will also be “Mister Linky” … a way to put in a link to relevant work on your site. It’s easy to use but if you don’t like it, you can just put your link in the comments section. That works!

American-Isreali Poet, Michael Dickel

American-Israeli poet,Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phore(e)/ Play), is an extraordinary – and at this point very experienced – Master of Ceremonies. He’ll maintain a rolling commentary in the comments section. I’ll be online to fill in for Michael when he takes a break and also to extend the length of the event.We’re in different time zones, though this year not half-a-day apart since he will be in the States. The idea is convenience and inclusively.

All types of artists and friends can participate no matter where they live in the world even if there is no event going on in their neighborhood and even if like me they are pretty much or completely home bound (which was the inspiration for the virtual event). You can participate in our virtual event even if you are at an off-line event. You can do both. We hope that you will not only share your artistry but also enjoy the artistry of others, which is what makes it like a live event. See you then … 🙂 We also hope that you’ll visit The BeZine to read our September edition, a prequel to the 100TPC event.

On behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines (publishers of The BeZine) and in the spirit of love (respect) and community,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor
The BeZine

The BeZine, Vol. 3, Issue 12, 100TPC Prequel Edition

 

1901786_567349210045244_3055969219023926076_nSeptember 15, 2017


Fragments—
Reflecting on anger
a sort of Introduction


i

I am trying to write a social justice-sustainability-peace song. This is as far as I have gotten.

Where have all the flowers gone, since the election?
Where has the dialogue gone, now that we yell and scream?
You may say it’s social media, typing, and not raised voices,
But you know we’re all making some dissonant choices.

This divisiveness, it’s like some sort of infection,
All the medicine won’t do any good, not pill or cream,
You may say it’s someone else, spreading these angry voices,
But you know we’re all making these dissonant choices.

Take care of others now, it’s time to give a helping hand,
Find the empathy in your heart, spread it through the land,
Stand up for justice, peace, sustainability, while you can,
Find the common ground where all of us can stand…

ii

I am searching for interconnections and intersectionality between social justice, sustainability, and peace—how each affects the other. I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I do feel a need to say something that would get at the role of divisiveness and hate in our current anxieties and politics—not just in the November 2016 elections, not just between the camps, not just within the left. It is everywhere, infused with out morning hot drink.

iii

We must reach out our hands to each other. Yes, we can and should express our differences, speak our anger, listen to the anger of others. However, we cannot afford to weaponize that anger, to externalize it into missiles and nuclear warheads. Don’t let anger shoot, stab, run us over in an un-civil war of accusations and blame that wounds our souls. We cannot let this roiling rage keep us from joining together in common cause, which we all have—the need for peace, social justice, and environmentally-sustainable practices. We must use our real angers, somehow, as building tools, to join together to create more humane, just, sustainable, and peaceful structures in our world. We must harness the anger to make love, not war.

Even so, it will be an imperfect world.

But, if we find a way to work together, through our differences, it will be a better world, too.

iv

Audre Lorde had this to say, in her 1981 speech (later printed as an essay), The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism:

Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.

I have seen situations where white women hear a racist remark, resent what has been said, become filled with fury, and remain silent because they are afraid. That unexpressed anger lies within them like an undetonated device, usually to be hurled at the first woman of Color who talks about racism.

But anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies. 

Anger is loaded with information and energy. When I speak of women of Color, I do not only mean Black women. The woman of Color who is not Black and who charges me with rendering her invisible by assuming that her struggles with racism are identical with my own has something to tell me that I had better learn from, lest we both waste ourselves fighting the truths between us. If I participate, knowingly or otherwise, in my sister’s oppression and she calls me on it, to answer her anger with my own only blankets the substance of our exchange with reaction. It wastes energy. And yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another woman’s voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed. 

Why has this passage come to mind? Besides the fact that it remains relevant about privilege, more than 35 years later, it also speaks to the in-fighting among people who want to change the world positively, who have shared goals in making change—activists, if you will. The need to share our “grave differences,” but at the same time to work together as allies to resist—and overcome—”our genuine enemies.”

Audre Lorde | Credit/Copyright: Dagmar Schultz
Audre Lorde
Photo: Dagmar Schultz

v

It seems to me that these are some of the tools and forces of our genuine enemies: greed, oppression, racism, ethnocentricity, genders-based bias, unfettered capitalism, and fascism. Also: war, famine, and destruction of resources. Also: hatred, division, rage. Also…

vi

Right now, my Facebook feed streams with angry posts between Clinton and Sanders supporters and third camp—fourth, fifth, sixth… camps—who attack both and each other, all arguing an election nearly a year old and few looking for ways to work together for the mid-term elections a little over a year away. People argue about the best way to resist, all the while they criticize and attack each other for not approaching a particular issue in the “correct” way.

What I don’t feel is a constructive analysis and dialogue emerging from this divisiveness. I don’t feel that the anger focuses on the genuine enemies. Instead, the angry posts shred our (potential) allies against those who would divide us on the way to grinding us up. At times, my paranoia rings its tocsin, suggesting that those who oppose positive, life-and-humanity affirming change—my genuine enemies—foment the pitched battles (especially those in social media). I feel that too many of us (yes, I would include myself) think we “understand” the problems we face, and that others “don’t get it.” We want to be correct. My way or the highway.

That path only leads to traffic jams.

vii

Lorde tells us, “Anger is loaded with information and energy.” Are we listening? I often bristle and respond with anger—I fire off a few well-aimed zingers, a few capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Or else, I turn away and don’t listen. I miss the opportunity to learn from the information in the anger.

I fight against the energy in the anger, draining us both, as I argue my point of righteousness. I don’t take in the energy in the “anger expressed” to help energize our (potential) alliance. I don’t look for ways to translate it “into action in the service of our vision and our future.”

Thus, by not listening and firing my “defensive” missiles, I miss opportunities for “a liberating and strengthening act of clarification.”

This is critical when listening across the social, racial, economic, regional, generational, religious, gendered, and so many other divides of the world. It is as critical when listening to the anger that appears ready to pull apart groups of people who want to make a positive difference. When we are torn apart from each other. Divided, we will fall.

Yet, to stand together, we will have to listen to each other, to engage in learning from each other, and to find ways to translate our anger, our pain, our fear for the future into “… the painful process” of this translation, so that we identify who are “our allies with whom we have grave differences,” and who are “our genuine enemies.”

viii

A storm hammers my brain—this tide of attacks without engaged dialogue hammers my brain—my brain hammers against the ways in which I fail to do all of the many right things that need doing. And in my frustration, I forget to try to do just some of those many right things as well as I can—even if not to the level of an ideal and perfect world.

And here is where I end up, stalled, frustrated, angry. But where I want to end up is caring for humanity with empathy at the intersections of social justice, sustainability, and peace. The writing, music, and photographs in this issue have at their heart, I believe, empathic caring for all of our fellow humans. This caring motivates the work you will find ahead. Yes, you will feel anger. Yes, you will hear anguish. But all of it comes from hearts full of a desire to create “liberating and strengthening act[s] of clarification.”

—Michael Dickel, Contributing Editor


100TPC PREQUEL ISSUE: PEACE, SUSTAINABILITY, SOCIAL JUSTICE

How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:

Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


Table of Contents

Poetry

Honeymoon’s Over, John Anstie
Refugee blues, W. H. Auden
The Hands Off, Paul Brookes
Prisoner, Paul Brookes
The Stricken, Paul Brookes
Three men,  Rob Cullen
Measuring the Weight of Clouds, Rob Cullen
I Didn’t Apologize to the Well, Mahmoud Darwish
gods of our making, Jamie Dedes
let us now praise the peace, Jamie Dedes
do not make war, Jamie Dedes
Pigeon dreams,  Jamie Dedes
Visions Then and Now / Again, Michael Dickel
Come on up folks,  Michael Dickel
High Technology Death, Michael Dickel
the game of war,  Iulia Gherghei
Peace in the Desert,  Joseph Hesch
genome for survival, Charles W Martin
:: submarine ::, Sonja Benskin Mesher
:: reimagine the world ::, Sonja Benskin Mesher
:: the burning ::, Sonja Benskin Mesher
Building Freedom, Carolyn O’Connell
Another Note in an Endless Melody, Phillip T. Stephens
the places between, Reuben Woolley
virginia’s move, Reuben Woolley
knucklebone excess, Reuben Woolley

Musings

Eclipsed, Naomi Baltuck
~ Gen X Musings ~, Corina Ravenscraft

Music

Waiting on the World to Change, John Clayton
Musical Interlude for Change, The Young Bloods and Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach


Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator


Around the World with 100TPC Posters

Some of them are—like ours—straight-forward with a simple and clear message, some are cluttered with messages, and others are true works of art. No matter which, together they demonstrate the strength of this movement, the passion and commitment.

 

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The BeZine 100TPC Virtual Event

The BeZine September issue previews the themes of the 100TPC BeZine online “live” event we will host 30th September, 2017: peace, sustainability, and social justice. We are particularly interested in a positive focus on the need for human connectedness, healthy human interrelations, and caring for our fellow humans as well as ourselves. Sometimes, it takes clarifying anger. More often, this connectedness comes from listening to and learning from the anger and anguish of our fellow humans.

From police killings of unarmed citizens to governments rejecting immigrants and refugees; from racism to anti-Islam and anti-Semitism; from state-sponsored violence to terrorism—the political and social landscape increasingly values some among humanity over others. Any de-valuing of one human devalues all of us.

Given the rise of anti-humanity activism in struggle for “power over”—militarization of police, white supremacism, NAZIism, KKK, and corporate greed, for examples— as part of the “mainstream” U.S. political landscape that culminated with the election of Donald Trump and in the recent violence in Virginia (among other white supremacist terrorist acts), the focus of this year’s 100TPC live event at The BeZine will be why caring for our fellow human beings is the prime desirable human value, and how social justice, sustainability, and peace arise from that caring and contribute to all of humanity.

Come to the event to browse, view, read, and listen; to contribute your own words, art, music, or links; to comment on what others have posted. Instructions will be available here, beginning at 12:01 AM, 30th September (West Coast U.S. Time). Check in throughout the day to see what new has been posted, to post something new yourself.


CONNECT WITH US

The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be (the subscription feature is below and to your left.)

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines


ripe corn moon

Gretchen’s art and a little story of animal neighbors. Enjoy!

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor 7/2017

Raccoon is a lot of different things to a lot of people. Probably one thing that all would agree is that they ‘get into things.’ They are so curious and resourceful. Years ago I lived in a huge old house in the middle of downtown Mountain View California built in 1906. It was on a big piece of property with a full size barn in back of the house. Located on the large back porch was an enclosed single toilet and a laundry room. There were the resident raccoons and opossums who knew no boundaries and in the middle of the city. My family of raccoons used to periodically raid the bag of dog kibble stored in the laundry room. Then, as it is their habit to clean their food, they would wash the kibble off in the toilet. So resourceful. We coexisted….like I always do with the wild things. My…

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HOW A “VIRTUAL” 100TPC WORKS … It’s easy and will be intuitively obvious, though we will provide instruction. A blog post will go up on September 30 with some introductory material and directions. As with any other blog post, you can respond by putting your poem or other work in the comments section. There will also be “Mister Linky” … a way to put in a link to relevant work on your site. It’s easy to use, but if you don’t like it, you can still just put your link in the comments section. It works! Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phore(e)/ Play) is an extradinary – and at this point very experienced – Master of Ceremonies. He’ll maintain a rolling commentary in the comments section. I’ll be online to fill in for Michael when he takes a break and also to extend the length of the event.We’re in different time zones, though this year not half-a-day apart since he will be in the States. The idea is convenience and inclusivity. People can participate no matter where they live in the world even if there is no event going on in their neighborhood and even if like me they are pretty much or competely home bound (which was the inspiration for the virtual event). You can participate in our virtual event even if you are at an off-line event. You can do both. We hope that you will not only share a poem or two or three but also read the work of others, which is what makes it like a live poetry reading. See you then … 🙂 We also hope that on the 15th you’ll visit thebezine.com to read our September edition, which is a prequel to the 100TPC event.

– Jamie Dedes

Submission deadline . . .

If you have something to submit for the 100TPC Prequel edition of The BeZine, the deadline is tonight at midnight P.S.T. Forward work for consideration to bardogroup@gmail.com Themes: Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice. Don’t forget to mark your calendar to join us on September 30 for 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) for Change.

BEST PRACTICE/STAND UP FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION by expressing yourself and your positions: All writers and poets, artists, musicians, playwrights and film-makers, clergy members and friends are invited to join us on September 30 for our sixth virtual 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) for Change (100TPC) beginning at 12:01 a.m. P.S.T. and extending at least 24 hours. We are doing this in concert with global 100TPC. American-Israeli poet, Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phor(3)/ Play), is Master of Ceremonies. We’ll provide direction on how to join in with us in the blog post that day. Find us at The BeZine.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community and on behalf of the Bardo Group Beguines, publishers of The BeZine,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor of The BeZine
Founder of The Bardo Group, now [with Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) our sister site], The Bardo Group Beguines


A unique collection of contemporary songs by artists who have been censored, persecuted, taken to court, imprisoned and even tortured for a very simple reason – their music.

SEPTEMBER 30 IS 100,000 POETS FOR CHANGE (100TPC), a big month for poets and other artists and friends. In honor of this annual global event, we are dedicating our September efforts to the interconnections/intersections of social justice, sustainability and peace and how each of these affects the others.

All topics related to the 100TPC themes of social justice, sustainability and peace are welcome. However, we are particularly interested in a positive focus on the need for human connectedness, healthy human interrelations, and caring for our fellow human beings.

American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

“From police killings of unarmed citizens to governments rejecting immigrants and refugees; from racism to anti-Islam and anti-Semitism; from state-sponsored violence to terrorism – the political landscape increasingly devalues some among humanity over others. Given the rise of anti-humanity activism in the struggle for ‘power over’ – militarization of police, white Supremacism, NAZism, KKK,and corporate greed, for examples – as part of the mainstream’ U.S. political landscape that culminated in the most recent election cycle with the election of Donald Trump and in Virginia (among other white supremacist terrorist acts), the focus of this year’s 100TPC at The BeZine is why caring for our fellow human beings is the prime desirable human value and how social justice, sustainability and peace arise from that caring and contribute to all of humanity.” Michael Dickel (Meta/Phor(e)/Play), The BeZine 100TPC Master of Ceremonies

THE BeZINE SEPTEMBER SCHEDULE:

  • September 10: deadline for submissions to the September issue. Email them to me at bardogroup@gmail.com by midnight PST.
  • September 15: publication of The BeZine.
  • September 30: The BeZine 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) 6th Annual Virtual Event with Master of Ceremonies, Isrseli-American poet, Michael Dickel (Meta/Phor(e)/Play)

100TPC GLOBAL

Peace, sustainability and social justice are the themes set for global 100TPC by cofounders Michael Rothenburg and Terri Carrion when the event was first started in 2011. I think the number of events scheduled at various places around the world is around 600 for 2017. To find or organize an event in your area link to 100TPC global HERE. I’ve also been posting announcements from around the world on The Poet by Day Facebook Page as they come in but you will find the most comprehensive and up-to-date info at 100TPC.

Russian Theatre Director, Kirill Serebrennikov, Detained … part of a strategy to stiffle artisitic freedom

THE POET BY DAY

Russian Stage and Film Director, Theater Designer, and Artistic Director of the Gogol Center, Kirill Serebrennikov (b. 1969)


The detention yesterday of Russian Stage and Film Director, Kirill Semyonovich Serebrennikov, on dubious charges is part of a concerted campaign to silence dissenting voices in the arts in Russia.

Serebrennikov’s father was Jewish and a surgeon. His mother was from the Ukraine and taught Russian. Serebrennikov was graduated from Rostov State University in 1992. He was a physics major and had no formal theatre education prior to his 1994 debut as a stage director.

According to PEN America, Serebrennikov was detained on and will face trial on embezzlement. He is accused of embezzling 68 million rubles ($1.1 million) of state funding for a project called Platform, the purpose of which was to promote modern dance, theatre, and music to wider audiences. Investigators claimed that part of the project, a production…

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The BeZine, August 2017, Vol. 3, Issue 11, Theatre

August 15, 2017

In the introduction to his translation of Beowulf, Seamus Haney comments that “as a work of art it lives in its own continuous present.” For me, theatre (whether in its broadest or narrowest sense) is very much the same. Theatre always encourages us to be in that continuous present. As an over-arching art form it can integrate every other form of human (and even animal) expression. It usually rewards our engagement and disdains our detachment. Even when a show runs for a thousand performances, it can never be quite as canned, as mass produced as many of our other entertainments. Human variability is on display every night.

More broadly, theatre tends to mean any place in which we think there is a scripted or specialized drama occurring. In that sense it often indicates that we’re seeing a performance driven by an agenda and perhaps designed to deceive. We criticize this as hypocrisy. In ancient Greece, a hypocrite was merely an actor, i.e. one who had made a judgment or assessment of a script when preparing to perform that script for others. At that time, it was also thought unworthy for actors to become politicians since actors were skilled at impersonation. We could not know their true selves.

In the context of our art, we would probably judge this as unfair. We’ve all had the experience of “donning the mask” or crafting a persona as a way of freeing ourselves. In expressing the lie, we hope to tell the truth.

I’m delighted to be Guest Editor this month. It coincides with a production that I’m currently in. This is an experimental production staged as immersive experience. We’re telling the story of a family in crisis (the passing of parents, dealing with aging and the end of life, and the break-up of relationships). We tell this story in a residence where small audience groups (a dozen to two dozen at a time) sit in the “living rooms” of the characters. This intimacy connects us with our audience. They do not participate in the sense of interacting with the actors. But, they are side-by-side with us as we make the journey, watching us, crying with us, laughing with us and even eating with us. Detachment is not an option. We join together in the continuous present.

This month’s pieces remind  us of these connections and touch on so many of the stages on which we act.

Priscilla Galasso speaks of her experience with theatre and its broad impact in her life. “Playing the muck of human behavior” as she says.

Charles W. Martin’s poetry talks passionately of life’s stage, reminding us that, yes, detachment is not an option.

Corina Ravenscraft gets to the root of why we should all spend time in “the seeing place.” It’s a broadside worth taking around when it comes time to fund arts in schools and communities.

Michael Watson recounts an early experience where his personal humiliation also reflected larger and deeper ones around him. He shows us how Playback Theatre is another powerful way to connect.

John Anstie recounts the life of his mother. In reading her story, I think on the many roles we are often forced to play and how we adopt certain personas to help us survive.

I feel that basic joy of theatre in Renee Espriu’s contribution. “The hills are alive…” means a little more to me now than it did before.

Jamie Dedes points us to theatrical entertainment with its golden moments and the theatre of life with it’s chaos and absurdity. [And, seriously, check out Fanny Brice’s physical comedy.]

John Sullivan’s four poems this month are, for me, intriguing and searching meditations on the self. They speak to who we are, the personas we have, the masks we wear, the music we sing. And, he’s allowed us to publish an excerpt from his new play, Hey Fritz, Looks Like You Lost It All Again in the Ghosting.

Naomi Baltuck’s discussion of Come From Away focuses right in on an essential aspect of our experiences both in life and in theatre. Specifically, I’m thinking about what it means to literally commune with strangers, whether it’s the characters in Come From Away or the audience who watches it.

Karen Fayeth shows how, no matter what size or shape the spectacle, there is something profound in the simplest of relationships. Say, between a boy and his horse. Because, whether we’re seeing animals at play or a play about animals we are moved.

In bringing together both her visual art and her poetry, Sonja Benskin Mesher has each explain the other. And, yet, each also enlarges the other and perhaps we see our own actions a little differently, too.

Of course, plays and poetics go hand-in-hand. Michael Dickel thoughtfully discusses how one arises from the other and the personal origins of both.

Paul Brookes’ poems read as very modern, but also touching on things quite old, such as shared rituals and the hypocrisy of actors (in the classical sense).

And, finally, there’s a last word from Denise Fletcher. I hope we’ve achieved a kind of success along the lines of what she describes.

Thank you to all who contributed this month and for letting me join the show. I’m having a wonderful time! I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here. And, to the last one who leaves the theatre, please turn on the ghost light.

Richard Lingua
Guest Editor

THEATRE

How to read this issue of THE BEZINE:

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
  • You can read each piece individually by clicking the links below.
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
  • To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.

Photograph: Gargoyles as theatrical masks above a water basin. Mosaic, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. The piece can be found at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Palazzo dei Conservatori, first floor, hall of the Horti of Mæcenas. From the Baths of Decius on the Aventine Hill, Rome.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Priscilla Galasso

Charles W. Martin

Corina Ravenscraft

Michael Watson

John Anstie

Renee Espriu

Jamie Dedes

John Sullivan

Naomi Baltuck

Karen Fayeth

Sonja Benskin Mesher

Michael Dickel

Paul Brookes

Denise Fletcher


Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator

CONNECT WITH US

The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be (the subscription feature is below and to your left.)

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

swan lake

Today we feature one of Gretchen Del Rio’s beautiful Zen cats. Enjoy the visual and the Rumi quote below …

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor aceo 10/2015 watercolor aceo 10/2015

‘In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you,
but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.’…..rumi

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Millions for Prisoner Rights, March on Washington, Abolish Amendment 13






“And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32).

“Each [hu]man’s step forward is a step forward for all of [hu]mankind.” the great white* brotherhood

* “white” here is not a reference to race but to the Aura of White Light that surrounds the anointed ones, those who have arisen from every race, creed and walk of life to lead others to enlightenment.

– Jamie Dedes

The BeZine, July 2017, Vol 3, Issue 10, Prison Culture, Restorative Justice

July 15, 2017

This month’s publication focuses on Restorative Justice. This is a topic that is dear to me. I am the Director of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition. I have been working with incarcerated folks and those touched by incarceration since 2003. I have seen the ripples of harm that have come. There is harm to the victim, of course. But there is also harm to the person who committed the harmful act, harm to their families, and harm to the communities that encircle all of these people.

Restorative Justice is an en vogue term. Everyone wants it but we don’t know much about how to do it. Most of us look backwards at the ancient ways of first peoples such as the Māori people of New Zealand or the Tagish and Tlingit First Nation people of the Yukon. We lift their practices and bring it forward into a defined court case.

This somewhat misses the point.

The circling process that the first peoples used far pre-dates the term restorative justice. At the same time, restorative justice has become a term to be used by the justice system. And so we create another circling process that is set aside for the courts, jails, and prisons to use.

Circling or Peacemaking Circles, the process given to us by the ancients, is to be used everywhere and with anything: healing, sentencing, discernment. And it involves the entire community. The entire circle of ripples affected by an act. It is a big process. And that’s why we relegate it to the justice system.

Because if we don’t relegate it to the work of the justice system, that means we will have to change and do better. The first principle of the circle: You can only change yourself. As long as we make restorative justice the property of the courts, we don’t have to change. We don’t have to be more welcoming, giving, or inclusive. We don’t have to mentor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. But I have news! Great news of good tidings! Restorative justice, Peacemaking Circles, is, as the ancients say, the wisdom of the universe. It belongs to no one person and is there for all for the healing and transformation—not of the world, but of each one of us.

This issue about Restorative Justice and new forays into restoration is explored by our core team and guest writers. Each brings their own wisdom to the topic.

Writing on aspects of justice and restorative justice are: Myself, James Cowles, and Chris Hoke. Justice oriented creative writers are Lisa Ashley, Carolyn O’Connell, Paul Brookes, Rob Cullen, Charles W. Martin, Marieta Maglas, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Paul Brookes, Jamie Dedes and a short stories by Joseph Hesch, Lisa Ashley and Rachel Barton. Gail Stone offers a video that speaks to her faith and hope in restorative justice. I have also offered a moderated discussion that I led regarding zero incarceration for youth. Denise Fletcher teaches us how to put together Comfort Kit Baskets for the incarcerated.

We hope this issue will give you pleasure even as it provokes you. Leave your likes and comments behind. As readers you are as import to the The BeZine project, values and goals as are our contributors. Your commentary is welcome and encourages our writers. As always, we offer the work of emerging, mid-career and polished pros, all talented and all with ideas and ideals worth reading and thinking about.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,

Terri Stewart, Guest Editor

TABLE OF CONTENTS

How to read this issue of THE BEZINE:

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
  • You can read each piece individually by clicking the links below.
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.

BeAttitudes

Do You Hear What I Hear?, Terri Stewart
Justice the New Old Way, Terri Stewart
Hearing Voice Underground, Chris Hoke
Refuge, Reconciliation, Recidivism, James R. Cowles
Of Pirates and Emperors, Jamie Dedes
Comfort Kits, Denise Fletcher

Videos

Hope and Faith in Restorative Justice, Gail Stone
Zero Incarceration for Youth, Terri Stewart

Music

Room at the Table, Terri Stewart

Short Stories

I Can Trust You, A True Story, Lisa Ashley
Walking Along the Edge, Rachel Barton
Comin’, Joseph Hesch

Poetry

A Child’s Touch, Lisa Ashley
Full Buck Moon, Lisa Ashley

(ANGERONA) Sunstead, Paul Brookes
Prisoner, Paul Brookes

The Boy in the Park, Rob Cullen

Oscar Wilde in Prison, Marieta Maglas

Restorative Justice for Sale, Charles W. Martin
before it began … , Charles W. Martin
teach a man to fish …, Charles W. Martin

#what more do you expect, Sonja Benskin Mesher
.verdict., Sonja Benskin Mesher

Confrontation, Carolyn O’Conner
Sacrificial Lambs, Carolyn O’Conner


Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator


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Soil Isn’t Sexy …. Neither Is War

A dirty argument for sustainability, social justice, and peace

In the late 1980s, one of my guests on a community radio program I hosted came from a soil conservation group. She discussed the importance of soil—healthy, living soil, not chemically-supported but dead soil. She emphasized the importance of developing organic farming and turning back the trend of agribusiness mass farming that depleted soils and then added chemicals back to support the plants—but did nothing for the living soil.

She admitted that “talking about dirt isn’t sexy,” and that her group had a lot of work to do to get people’s attention. A friend of mine told me after the show, which he had listened to, that she was right. Dirt isn’t sexy.

Soil may not be sexy but treating it well could help solve climate change.

Ignoring it could lead to our extinction.

Do I have your attention?


Cracked soil by a village in Iran abandoned by farmers because water reserves ran dry due to overuse. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Cracked soil by a village in Iran abandoned by farmers because water reserves ran dry due to overuse. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Now, 30 years later, The Guardian has run an article about soil as “the best shot at cooling the planet.” In it, Jason Hickel discusses an overlooked, “… simpler, less glamorous solution…” to climate change:

“It has to do with soil…40% of agricultural soil is classed as ‘degraded’ or ‘seriously degraded.’ In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.”

Industrialized forestry and agricultural practices have largely depleted organic material from the soil. The organic materials give the soil life. They also lock in carbon dioxide—second only to the oceans in its ability to do so. Hickel writes that soil “holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world.”

While dirt is not sexy, it is incredibly important.

Hickel goes so far as to say the science about regenerating soil is exciting:

“Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.”


A few years after the radio show, the novelist Nurrudin Farrah and I listened to a National Public Radio program while driving somewhere in the Twin Cities. The man being interviewed spoke extensively about economic colonization of farming in “underdeveloped” countries. He argued that hunger and poverty in the “Third World” was not about a lack of capacity to produce food or other necessities, but about multi-national corporations paying for crops they could sell for maximum profits in the “Developed World” and a system that then sold the farmers food they could have grown instead.

Farrah, a “post-colonial” author exiled at the time from Somalia, turned to me and said, “This man knows what he’s talking about.” The “development” that the U.S. and Europe pushes is an economic colonization of the so-called “under-developed” countries, he explained. The process of “Globalization” serves to develop pipelines of resources to multinational corporations, to develop markets to sell back those resources in the form of those corporations’ products (the push for “open markets”)—and simultaneously to develop cheap-labor markets to do the processing.

It is all about profits, not about providing for the economic needs of the people living there. Or anywhere. It is not about developing the countries into stronger systems for their citizens. It is about taking. Depleting. Degrading. As we are doing with the soil.

Agribusinesses push large corporate farming (and de-forestation) in order to profit share-holders—they have little interest in food production or sustainability per se. Farmers around the world who could grow food for their families and neighbors are pushed to grow cash crops—sugar cane and pineapple are two prominent examples. Beef cattle are grown on deforested lands, with the meat going to developed countries’ groceries and restaurants, with the fast food industry a huge consumer. Cotton is a major crop in some Middle Eastern countries. Cotton fields do not produce food, and do not produce cotton for local clothing needs but for high-thread count sheets and other luxury items sold in other countries.

If the farmers want food and clothing, they need to buy it from other multinational corporations.

This story is well known. It is not unlike the trade triangle England set up between itself, its Caribbean colonies, and its North American colonies. It is run by capitalists now, not governments, but the capitalists often control the local governments. Increasingly, the capitalists influence and control the national governments globally, in both the “developed” and “developing” countries.

This influence includes fighting against environmental regulations.

The “regenerative” farming practices Hickel writes about will not be easy to implement, especially against the will of corporate interests. They could lead to more economic justice globally, deriving from local farmers producing agricultural products for local consumers. This change won’t come about without a fight, though.


That’s half the story. A major effect of the economic displacement that this “development” has on the citizens of the country has been displacement of people.

More and more people move to urban centers, seeking income with which to pay their way into the system. There are increasing social and economic pressures as people press into the cities, increased competition that often fractures along ethnic, racial, and religious division. And increased armed conflict.

The other half of the story of the degradation of healthy soils is war. War results from it. War causes it. And right now, the world is at war.


Last year, almost to the day as I write this, the Middle East and North Africa choked on dust from September 6th to the 9th. An “unusual” storm disrupted normal living, even shutting down the Syrian air force. “The influx of dust triggered a rash of canceled flights, closed ports, and a suspension of daily activities for many people,” according to “Dust Storm,” an article on NASA’s Earth Observatory website.

The street where I live, Sept. 8, 2015
The street where I live, Sept. 8, 2015

People died. The pollution count for Jerusalem was 173 times normal, and the Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel advised everybody to stay inside, according to an article in The Times of Israel. Temperatures also rose to higher than normal, over 100 in Jerusalem in September.

dust-1-web
Out my apartment window

If you don’t know the Middle East, you might imagine that dust storms like this occur daily, weekly, or at least monthly. They don’t. Not like this. I’ve lived in Jerusalem almost ten years now, and I have experienced dust storms. None was this intense. And dust storms are more common in the Spring.

This 2015 storm was unusual for many reasons—scale, intensity, timing, and accompanying heat.

sept-8-storm-map-web
NASA Satellite image Sept. 8, 2015

And, as it turns out, its roots likely were in degraded farming lands related to both climate change and war. And all of this is instigating not only dust storms, but quite possibly the humanitarian crisis of the displaced refugees.


Six month before this particular storm, in March 2015, Craig Welch wrote Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian War, Study Says, for the National Geographic website. It opens with this paragraph, which should give us all pause:

“A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, according to a new study published Monday.”

The authors of the study from The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recognize that many social and political factors contributed to the civil war, of course. However, they “compiled statistics showing that water shortages in the Fertile Crescent in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey killed livestock, drove up food prices, sickened children, and forced 1.5 million rural residents to the outskirts of Syria’s jam-packed cities—just as that country was exploding with immigrants from the Iraq war,” according to Welch.

The severity of the drought and other weather conditions, according to their data, was outside the normal variability of weather in the region.

The social and economic pressures of the urban influx caused by soil degradation likely related to climate change, was probably a major contributing factor to the conflict that has been going on for years now, displacing millions of refugees.

While there are limits to the study, and perhaps the civil war would have erupted had there been no drought—the fact remains that the drought, at the least, increased tensions and the numbers of refugees.

This complicates the arguments about whether the refugees are economic, political, or war refugees. Depending where they come from, they could be all three.

And the three are interwoven—from the economic system that encourages farming practices that degrade the soil, to climate change-drive droughts, to the political climate in the region, there are many lines of connection and interconnection.

The need for sustainability, social justice, and peace weaves throughout this story of soil.


NASA Satellite image Sept. 7, 2015
NASA Satellite image Sept. 7, 2015

Some called the September 6–9, 2015, sandstorm “unprecedented.” It was.

A month after the storm, Zafrir Rinat reported in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, that “Israeli scientists this week confirmed that one factor behind the heavy dust storm that hit the Middle East recently is changes in the use of land in northern Iraq and Syria.”

Two factors were identified—a decrease in farming in Northern Syria, which had preceded even the recent drought, and “military activity, which has caused harm to the soil crust in Syria.” In other words, the already drought-hardened soil was further degraded by tanks, artillery, trucks, bombs pulverizing it.

Instruments recorded the largest dust particles for a storm in that twenty-year time period since they have been in use.

Winds picked up the violated soil. And as they moved along, a dust storm of unprecedented proportions hit the region.

The storm of soil degradation could wipe us all out.


This is not a sexy story. It is, though, an important one.

—Michael Dickel

isadora

It’s that time of month when we share something of Gretchen Del Rio’s healing art to ease the shadows that nip at our heals.

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor aceo 11/2015 watercolor aceo 11/2015

‘Soft hearted people are not fools, they know what people did to them but they forgive again and again because they have beautiful hearts.’

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celestial fox

This month from Gretchen Del Rio … a Japanse myth, a wise fox on her way to enlightenment – be sure to link through to Gretchen’s site to view the narrative and short video.

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

watercolor 6/2017

In Japanese mythology, a fox who lives long enough and gains a great deal of knowledge will reach an enlightened state, the Eastern sense of the ‘fox spirit’. 

I was exploring the spirit of the fox via google and discovered this song in which fox is presented as a kitsune or fox who is trying to reach heaven in the form of a shooting star. 

“To you my beloved to the land that lies beyond. Soaring through the heavens, she is moved to tears. I will fly out, I will dance in the night sky at the moment when this body disappears.”

So that’s what a shooting star is……. the Celestial Fox flying through the night sky.

purchase this painting

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Pondering The Premiere of the Post-Modern Political Paradigm

Today we bring you a special feature by James Cowles, our resident skeptic. You may or may not agree, but you will be forced to think. / J.D.

To a few of you, the following sentence will be like saying “Elvis has left the building”, i.e., old news. But to many others, it will be very much in the vein of “Main bites dog,” i.e., novel to the point of being revolutionary. Anyway, here goes … the European Enlightenment is now officially over.  “Over” as in “dead as last week’s oatmeal” or “as passé as disco fever and bell-bottom pants” or “As useless as invitations to Hillary Clinton’s inaugural ball”. (Yeah, I know … too soon … sorry … apologies!)  Probably many fewer of you are aware of the likely – not strictly certain, but this is the way to bet – replacement ideology:  (some form of) postmodernism.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the operative word in the third sentence (beginning “Anyway, here goes … “) above is officially.  In academe, of course, places like Ivy League English and philosophy and the Frankfurt School, the European Enlightenment has been over for some time, supplanted by some species of postmodernism. Rather, what makes the end of the Enlightenment “officially official” is that, for the first time, it has actually determined the outcome of the election, at the level of retail popular politics, of senior executives in the very nations that originated and sustained the Enlightenment, and whose political and constitutional systems would be unimaginable without it.  You know … nations like the United States. We (meaning “all such nations”) are now not only post-industrial and post-Christian, both of which have been true for some time, but now, in addition, we are increasingly post-modern, even in terms of our “retail politics”. In the following, I will argue that, insofar as it is possible to talk about the “principles of post-modernism,” these principles undergird and underwrite that might accurately be described as a “para-fascist” ideology deeply inimical to the corresponding principles of the European Enlightenment.

“Waterfall” M. C. Escher

In many ways, making sense of post-modernism is like trying to make sense of an M. C. Escher drawing, most of which are “post-perspectival”. So the following will of necessity be only a superficial, hasty thumbnail sketch of three of the more important parameters that distinguish (what I believe to be) the coming post-Enlightenment / post-modern culture, because the following three were especially crucial to the election of Donald Trump as the Nation’s first post-Enlightenment / post-modern President. These factors also bid fair to be important elements in the burgeoning nationalist movements in Europe led by people like Nigel Farage in the UK, Marine LePen in France, and Viktor Orban in Hungary (whose rhetoric on the necessity of “ethnic homogeneity” eerily echoes similar sentiments by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf). In future columns, I will describe the historical and ideological roots in more detail.  But for now …

o The Enlightenment conception of fact as a datum supported and confirmed, usually by multiple independent observers, by actual empirical evidence vs. the post-modern conception “fact” (in quotes) as an expression of what a community needs to be true in order to function

As an example of the latter, there is no evidence whatsoever that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey stood and cheered upon receiving news of the World Trade Center collapsing, nor is there any evidence that Ted Cruz’s father was implicated in the Kennedy assassination. Facts – as in “quantifiable data corroborated by empirically derived statistics” – indicate that, contrary to Trump’s assertion, the United States as a whole — local exceptions like Chicago notwithstanding — is experiencing an almost unprecedented period of law-compliance, not lawlessness.  Despite being corroborated by no fewer than sixteen agencies in the US intelligence community, Trump persists in manufacturing his own “fact” that Russia was not involved in the “cyber-jimmying” of his recent election to the Presidency.  Nor is there any indication – based on actual facts, in the “pre-post-modernist” / Enlightenment sense – that immigrants to the US are exceptionally crime prone, and some evidence indicating the opposite.

What runs as a common thread through all these allegations is that all such assertions involve, basically, articles of faith that Trump supporters, as a community, need to affirm in order to be a community. To be a Trump supporter is to be a member of what is, in all essentials, a fundamentalist religious cult. Given the sheer absence of evidence, affirming that thousands of Muslims cheered the fall of the Twin Towers is in no way essentially different from an observant Roman Catholic affirming that, with a duly ordained priest’s Words of Institution, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Both are about equally contrary to empirical experience, are therefore matters of pure faith, yet both are required – “required” as in absolutely sine qua non — for membership in the community.  Ditto the Virgin Birth. Ditto the Resurrection. Ditto three million fraudulent votes. Ditto 47% unemployment. Religious sects have actually been practicing most of the principles of post-modernism for several centuries, at least 500 years in the case of Christianity. (More about this in the future, too.) Mass politics in established classical democracies is just now belatedly getting the hang of it.

Furthermore, analogous remarks would apply to all authoritarian political and ideological personality cults centered on, e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, with religious equivalents ranging from the Shabbetai Tzvi in the 17th century to Joseph Smith in the 19th to Aum Shinrikyo in the 20th. (The breathtaking devotion of followers of Chairman Mao to Mao’s Thoughts – the little red book everyone carried during the Cultural Revolution – is in no essential way different from the corresponding devotion of fundamentalist Christians for the text of the [usually King James] Bible.) All require a radical sacrifice of the critical faculty and its replacement with the ostensibly a priori true ideology of the group, as defined by its leader. The differences are so trivial as to be beside the point – and all are the diametric opposite of the valorization of the critical intellect characteristic of the Enlightenment. We may reasonably expect the senior leadership of the Trump organization to declare The Art of the Deal literal holy writ.

o The post-modern conception of morality as an “infinitely fungible” and indefinitely negotiable parameter of a community vs. the Enlightenment conception of human beings as embodying a certain ontology – call it “human nature” — respect for the integrity of which is encoded in universally applicable moral principles

I mean fungible in the sense of “one is just as good as another, depending on the end-in-view, hence interchangeable”. For example, I have owned several houses and pieces of real estate in my life, and while I liked all of them for various reasons, all were “fungible” in the sense of being equally subject to sale or exchange, given the exigencies of the moment.  My wife and I liked our house in Wichita, KS, but when we decided to move to Boston so I could go to graduate school, we sold it because the house was less important than the end-in-view (going to grad school). The house / real estate was fungible as a token of exchange.

Franklin Graham
Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Trump’s sexual and commercial escapades have conclusively proven just how similarly fungible conservative Christian, especially evangelical, moral codes are.  No doubt under many circumstances, self-proclaimed arbiters of public morals like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., would condemn men who grabbed women by their genitals and defrauded middle-aged people out of their savings. But when the end-in-view is renewed access to the Oval Office, their version of Christian morality proved eminently fungible, and they were eager to trade in their morality for political leverage. Evangelical morality turned out to be just a rather more genteel form of harlotry. The only difference turned out to be that evangelical-Christian bordellos displayed a Cross out front.

Again, as with virtually all things post-modern, as it was with facts, so it is with morality:  the needs of the community are paramount, even in terms of right and wrong.  The ultimate criterion, with any moral principle, is the principle’s utility for defining and sustaining the community. I find this especially troubling.  If the needs of the community – what the community perceives that it needs in order to be a community – is the supreme defining parameter of permissible vs. impermissible conduct, then, if a given Muslim community decides that, in order to be a community, it must practice, say, female genital mutilation or allow husbands to beat their wives (neither of which is a teaching of qur’anic Islam as I understand it) … well … pubescent girls will be mutilated and wives will be beaten.

By contrast, and as James Madison argued in characterizing the Constitution as a guarantee of the rights of the minority, the Enlightenment idea was that even the needs of the community must often be held as secondary to certain human rights at the individual level. So the community’s felt need for segregated schools vs. “equal protection” of the law, the community’s revulsion at certain religious beliefs vs. the individual’s right of “free exercise”, the community’s disagreement with certain unpopular opinions vs. an individual’s right to free speech, etc., etc., etc.  (Mr. Spock’s Star Trek maxim that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is pristinely, quintessentially post-modern. That distant rumbling sound you hear is James Madison turning over in his grave!) The post-modernist “needs of the community” criterion basically amounts to underwriting mob rule.  What renders this principle acceptable to conservative Christians is that, with Donald Trump in the White House, evangelical Christians may reasonably hope to be the mob. With that change, the moral calculus changes accordingly from one that is recognizably Christian to one that is explicitly post-modern.

The post-modernist idea of the preeminence of the needs of the community is not at the end of the path to, e.g., Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will , but it is headed in that direction. If the post-modernist criterion of the needs of the community is to be the final arbiter of morality, both public and private, then it is not clear — to me, anyway — what stands in the way of a 21st-century version of half-million-strong torchlight parades in Nuremberg, c. 1935.

o The post-modernist conception of science as merely one more “meta-narrative” among many others vs. the Enlightenment conception of science as ascertaining objective truth about the Universe-as-such

This is one we should have — and could have — seen coming, at least those of us who have read, say, the late Jean-Francois Lyotard, who did the most (in, e.g., The Postmodern Condition) to popularize the term, and the late Michel Foucault.  In a nutshell, a “meta-narrative” is a “story about stories”, i.e., an overarching story that validates a given culture’s “sub-stories” that, collectively, lend coherence and some kind of unity to a culture. The Christian meta-narrative unified and made rational the political hierarchy of the Middle Ages whereby the liege lord, like God, was at the top of the pyramid. The Christian meta-narrative even rationalized the horror of the Black Death in the middle 1300s:  God was punishing the human race for its history of infidelity and immorality. Etc., etc.., etc. Under the umbrella of the Christian meta-narrative, history, politics, and morality — and even deviations from those norms — all made sense.

The Christian meta-narrative gave way in the 1500s to the science meta-narrative — the world as a system governed by natural laws discoverable by reason and empirical investigation, and even useful in improving the physical circumstances of life — that has been dominant ever since, at least up until the advent of the post-modernist world-view. (This is how I conceive the contrast between Lyotard’s conception of discourse-as-story vs. discourse-as-science in Condition.) I say we should have seen this coming because we saw early symptoms, even in the popular culture, of the breakdown of the strictly scientific meta-narrative, followed by its replacement among many people by what can only be termed some form of “magical thinking”. (That, in a nutshell, is a good hip-pocket description of New Age culture. Ann Druyan, the late Carl Sagan’s widow, had some trenchant comments about magical thinking when she appeared on Bill Maher’s Real Time a few years ago, and said that a dismaying number of people are convinced that it is possible to effect change in the world just by sitting down, thinking about it, and “sending out good thoughts”.) Perhaps the most recent example is all the kerfuffle about the implications of the Mayan “Long Count” Calendar predicting a dire alignment of planets and the sun with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy that, for all manner of half-baked and misunderstood pseudo-scientific reasons, portended some kind of apocalyptic, perhaps even physical, upheaval on a cosmic scale. Which never happened, of course. But never mind. People still believe Jesus could return a week from next Thursday … and have been saying so for 2000 years.

Jean-Francois Lyotard
Michel Foucault

The difference is that now the post-modernist critique of meta-narratives, hitherto restricted to academic debates in classrooms and proseminar courses – several of which I have facilitated — has escaped from the magic lamp and become a genie that may render impossible meaningful action to mitigate the exhaustively corroborated reality of climate change, to name perhaps the most obvious example. The rational, “pre-post-modern”, Enlightenment-centric response would be that, you are quite welcome to your New Age superstitions, as long as they don’t leave Miami underwater. But that’s just me, still benighted by being caught in the “pre-post-modern” Enlightenment Weltanschauung. The much more contemporary attitude would seem to be the belief, on the part of Trump and his devotees, that the gradual increase in the mean ambient global temperature, even supposing it to be real, is due to China indiscriminately dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere … which, to fit the data, would have to have been happening since, at the very least, quite early in the 18th century. But there I go again. And that is just one example. If you don’t like that one, pick another. A good alternative might be the imaginary link between vaccinations and autism. But again, the question should be “What does the community need?” Certainly not a belief, however well-grounded, in anthropogenic climate change! As the mandarins of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry often told me back in “The Day”,”There goes Jim again, being too left-brained!”

This is one of those rare occasions when academic philosophy — e.g., Lyotard and Foucault — bids fair to destroy one of the cornerstones of Western civilization:  in this case, its characteristic and hard-earned virtuosity with science, and therefore technology. (The last such occasion was Marx / Engels and Marxism.) So, in terms of practical consequences, if a given community — never mind which one — needs to believe that vaccinations cause autism, should that community be allowed to forego vaccinating its kids — who presumably don’t have a choice — thereby penalizing the pro-vaccination community by turning the non-vaccinated kids into tiny biological weapons of mass destruction? Good post-modernist practice, sustained by Lyotard, Foucault, and their arguments of “meta-narrative as instrumentality of oppression,” would presumably argue “Not only ‘Yes’, but ‘Hell yes’.” Thus the slow-motion suicide of Western civilization proceeds apace.

Well … is there nothing we can do? Is there no longer a place for the values, beliefs, and principles of the European Enlightenment? My answer is “Yes but … ” During the early 1940s, there was also a place for the population of London during the German blitzkrieg:  the tunnels and caverns of the London Underground. If we propose to remain a technological civilization, there must be a place — and not just in “science proper,” science in the narrowly technical sense — for the principles of the European Enlightenment. But, at least for a while, that place will not be above ground culturally. The Enlightenment must henceforth be practiced sub rosa, in a clandestine discursive space of intellectual Tube tunnels where it will be safe.

Where might that be?  Funny you should ask …

It is quite possible to critique the Enlightenment as at least implicitly biased in terms of race, culture, and class.  The Enlightenment, like all things human, suffered from its own imperfections. For example, many of the heirs of the Enlightenment among the American Founders were member of the aristocracy (though even the American aristocracy were little more than upper middle class, compared to their British counterparts), were racists and therefore usually slave owners (Washington, Madison, and Jefferson) or former slave owners (Franklin), and most believed in a form of Euro-centric cultural bias.  However, subsequent history shows that the architects of the Enlightenment were these things, not because of the Enlightenment, but despite it, and that their descendants addressed these issues, not by repudiating the principles of the European Enlightenment, but by getting better at practicing those principles. To cite just one example, the ongoing civil rights movement in the United States originates, not from a disavowal of the principles of the Enlightenment, as embodied in the US Constitution, but by implementing those principles more radically and consistently, as with the application of the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment. The flaws of the Enlightenment argue for more of the Enlightenment, not less. When practiced with uncompromising consistency, the principles of the Enlightenment are all self-correcting. Rather like science.

Treaty of Westphalia, 1648

Hence the begged question:  what can we do to “ride out” the current disillusionment with the principles of (classical!) liberal small-“r”-republican and small-“d”-democratic politics, and the concomitant belief in principles like free inquiry, a secular / religion-neutral public square, respect for rational and evidence-based reasoning, equality before the law, and freedom of expression?  The short answer is that the latter-day London Underground I mentioned earlier is us ourselves.  (In fact, before you read any farther in this article, I urgently recommend you read David Brooks’ superlative New York Times column on just this issue.)

Acting to preserve the principles of the European Enlightenment in the shelter of our own intellects and moral consciences is a many-splendored undertaking, involving action on several different fronts.

o Learn

One of the more obvious areas where the Enlightenment project is being challenged today is in the area of science.  The post-modern challenge to the Enlightenment incorporates a certain skepticism about science, the scientific method, the epistemological foundations of science, and consequently the utility  of science as a means of ascertaining true knowledge about the external world.  Post-modernist critiques of science are often written by people – Lyotard, Foucault, et al., come to mind immediately – whose attainments in other fields are undisputed, but whose knowledge of science, and scientific methodology affords them just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  One thinks, in particular, of science skepticism based on the belief that ancient myths and belief  systems, and contemporary spirituality, are just as revelatory of the Universe as empirical science. So learning involves:

“Vitruvian Man” Leonardo Da Vinci

—  Familiarizing oneself with contemporary findings in the sciences, especially biology and physics.

This does not mean becoming a biologist or a physicist, but it does involve cultivating a degree of working-knowledge-level familiarity that enables one to penetrate the superficially attractive but shallow façade of contemporary pseudo-sciences like intelligent design, creationism, and the supposed “proofs” in quantum physics of the existence of God.

— Developing a working knowledge, not of particular sciences, but of the scientific method itself, and the role of data and methodology.  For example, one often hears it alleged that science requires “just as much faith” as religion. Like many other skeptical arguments, this is just true enough to be dangerously misleading.  There is a sense in which science presupposes a certain type of faith, but any attempt to equate the two dies the death of a thousand qualifications, and it is only an unfortunate accident of language that the same word “faith” is used to connote both. Learn and develop an ability to discuss the differences.

— For Americans, one of the most useful elements of learning would be a close and sustained study of how the principles of the European Enlightenment became instantiated, first, in the Declaration of Independence, and later in the US Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. In particular, pay special attention to both “religion” clauses of the First Amendment about the equality of all religious traditions before the civil law, and how such a principle decisively disposes of arguments to the effect that the United States is a “Christian nation” in any sense but the purely cultural. Such a consideration is especially pertinent in light of the “needs of the community” criterion for truth often prevalent in post-modernist writings.

o Contribute

William Herschel’s telescope

There are many worthy causes that are dedicated to upholding various aspects of the Enlightenment consensus.  The following are suggestions only, intended to give you some idea of where one’s monetary contributions could be expected to maximize “bang for the buck”:

— Scientific organizations like the Keck Telescope Foundation

— One’s university and / or various particular departments therein (e.g., my wife and I contribute to my old Oxford University college, Exeter)

— Organizations dedicated to the defense and preservation of the founding principles of various Enlightenment-grounded values and practices like free speech / press, due process, etc., e.g., the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Constitution Center, and the Center for the First Amendment

— One’s local museums, symphony orchestras, and arts organizations as practitioners of First Amendment liberties

o Listen

I have found that one of the most effective ways of catching the overall “flavor” of the European Enlightenment, and catching it on an intuitive and affective level in a way that transcends words and “logo-centric” discourse, is through music.  The music of Enlightenment composers – Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Handel, Telemann … the pantheon goes on … – is, by turns and often simultaneously, elegant, reasoned, passionate, playful, yet always disciplined in a way that flows out of the music itself rather than being imposed extraneously from without.  Listen to the gracefully galloping first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G.  Listen to Franz Josef Haydn’s matchlessly graceful String Quartet in F-Major. (The third movement alone could well serve as a kind of “theme music” for the entire European Enlightenment.)  The hallmark of virtually all the music of the Enlightenment is grace and freedom within the bounds of an intrinsic discipline that does not constrict, but rather liberates … in other words, the diametric opposite of the characteristically post-modern hostility toward all forms of discipline as putative instruments of oppression.

o Read

“The Milkmaid” Johannes Vermeer

Rather than compile a reading list, which would probably stretch for the length of a dozen ‘Zine articles, I will mention a few books, and recommend that those of you who want to do “deep dives” into the history and ideology of the Enlightenment read these books, and then sample the sources, both primary and secondary, in the footnotes and bibliographies.

From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun

Barzun’s book can serve admirably as a kind of Baedecker guide-book to the European Enlightenment, both in the British Isles and on the Continent.  Its bibliography is exhaustive and a comprehensive reading of it would be exhausting.

In terms of the Enlightenment roots of the US Constitution and of American constitutionalism, there are none better than:

America’s Constitution: A Biography by Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale

The Bill of Rights:  Creation and Reconstruction also by Amar

The latter is especially useful in terms of assessing how the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment affected the interpretation of the Constitution “proper” and the Bill of Rights

—  The Invisible Constitution (Inalienable Rights) by Prof. Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law

A very instructive, but eminently readable, treatment of 10th Amendment un-enumerated rights

Proofreading text on an early printing press

On Reading the Constitution also by Prof. Tribe

Very useful “how-to” book on how to read – and not read – the Constitution

Desperately Seeking Certainty: The Misguided Quest for Constitutional Foundations by Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry

The most sheerly entertaining book on constitutional theory – three words I never thought to find in the same sentence – I have ever read, in which interpretation theory is developed in parallel with a recipe for latkes.  Please.  Just read it.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

For my money, the masterpiece of them all in terms of the Enlightenment, especially English / Scottish Enlightenment, roots of the American Revolution and Constitution

A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanley J. Grenz, Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, Theology, and Ethics at Carey Theological College and Profess at Regent College in Vancouver, BC

For sheer clarity of exposition of an intrinsically murky subject, Prof. Grenz’s book cannot be beaten.  The last few chapters are written from a conservative evangelical standpoint, from which those not like-minded may demur, but that does not alter the clarity of the preceding text.

Basically, anything by Prof. Jurgen Habermas of the Frankfurt School

But choose your text carefully.  Habermas is widely – and justly — regarded as the greatest European philosopher since Immanuel Kant, and his texts are about as dense and impenetrable as those of his intellectual predecessor. Habermas is a voice in the wilderness in terms of his withering critiques of post-modernism, especially those written by his Frankfurt School Colleagues Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer.  Good luck with this! When I first encountered the Frankfurt School, I had a full head of hair and weighed 50 pounds less.

o Challenge

Prof. Jurgen Habermas

People who defend the Enlightenment project have to be much more assertive, often aggressively so. This is an unaccustomed stance, because, up until approximately the middle of the 20th century, this consensus was essentially unchallenged. The Enlightenment premises of modernism seemed inscribed into reality like the value of pi.  But now we have to learn to:

— Defend the value of science and the integrity of the scientific method by learning – to cite a few of the more pertinent examples – what the theory of evolution through natural selection really says (Hint:  it does not say “humans came from monkeys” or that “evolution is random”)

— The United States is a “Christian nation” only in a purely cultural sense, not as a matter of law

— Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem is a double-edged sword:  it cuts both ways.   Asserting, as globally true, that verbal and written texts are subject to endless interpretation is itself an example of an attempt to “universalize” a text, and therefore – according to Goedel’s Theorem – render the text contradictory.  Like any other universe of discourse, post-modern ideology is valid – at most – only locally, not as a universal principle.

Karl Marx began The Communist Manifesto with the statement “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism”. My equivalent is “A spectre is haunting the West – the spectre of post-modernist nihilism”. Once contained within the biosafety-level-4 laboratories of English and philosophy departments of the academic world, the virus of post-modernism has escaped into the political ecosystem, with results that are most evident in the election of Donald Trump in the US – the first completely post-modern American President — but that are also afflicting the European nations that nurtured the Enlightenment and the constitutional socio-political order it engendered.  (What a stinging historical irony that the nation that produced Adolf Hitler is also the same nation whose Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is the modern-day Leonidas defending the Thermopylae of the West against the assault of the post-modern Persians.) If the heritage of the Enlightenment is to be preserved, along with the constitutional, latitudinarian, rights-centric socio-political order it engendered, it will be up to the beneficiaries of that order – us – to do so.  No one else will.  No one else can.

James R. Cowles

Image credits:

Jean-Francois Lyotard … Bracha L. Ettinger …  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic
Michel Foucault … Photographer unknown … Public domain
Collatz fractal … Originator unknown … Public domain
“Metanarrative” quote … David Bentley Hart … Public domain
Franklin Graham … “Cornstalker” … Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Jerry Falwell, Jr. … Liberty University … Public domain
Escher waterfall … M. C. Escher … Fair use
“The Milkmaid” … Johannes Vermeer … Public domain
“Flat earth” engraving …  Camille Flammarion … Public domain
“Vitruvian Man” … Leonardo DaVinci … Public domain
William Herschel’s telescope … Artist unknown … Public domain
Johann Gutenberg reviewing a press proof … Artist unknown … Public domain
Treaty of Westphalia, 1648 … Photographer unknown … Public domain
Jurgen Habermas … Wolfram Hake … CC-BY-SA-3.0

The BeZine, June 2017, Vol. 3, Issue 9


June 15, 2017

The environmental  challenges are complex, an understatement I know.

  • Big Ag pollutes our waterways and groundwater, air and soil. Some wetlands, rivers and their tributaries can no longer sustain life. Much pastureland is befouled with pesticides, animal waste, phosphates and nitrates and other toxic residue from unsustainable farming practices.
  • Sudan Relief Fund, World Food Program, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Fund, Buddhist Global Relief, the World Food Program and many other organizations are working to mitigate widespread  hunger, which is a problem of economic injustice as well as environmental degradation and environmental injustice.
  • Drought and resulting famine are devastating the Sudan, the West Upper Nile and Yemen.
  • In many areas of the world, access to potable water is sorely lacking.
  • Lack of access to clean water is exacerbated by a want of toilets for some 4.2 billion people, which has a  huge impact on public health.  The result of poor hygiene and sanitation is Dysentery, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A and death-dealing Diarrhea. More people die of diarrhea in Third World counties than of AIDs.

Our problems are pressing and complex and are made the more difficult as we struggle under a cloud of skepticism and division and the discouraging weight of a Doomsday Clock that was moved forward in January to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in response to Trump’s election.  That’s the closest we’ve been to midnight since 1953.

Access to potable water may be the most pressing of our challenges.

“The world runs on water. Clean, reliable water supplies are vital for industry, agriculture, and energy production. Every community and ecosystem on Earth depends on water for sanitation, hygiene, and daily survival.

“Yet the world’s water systems face formidable threats. More than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions, and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025. Increasing pollution degrades freshwater and coastal aquatic ecosystems. And climate change is poised to shift precipitation patterns and speed glacial melt, altering water supplies and intensifying floods and drought.”  World Resources Institute

The good news is that there are many working conscientiously to raise awareness and funds. Some of our readers and contributors are among them. There are good people offering time and expertise, sometimes putting their own lives and livelihoods  in danger.

This month our core team and guest writers have chosen to focus largely on water, but they also address the need to respect science (Naomi Baltuck) and the need to acknowledge that war is a danger to the environment in general as well as a cause of human hunger. (Michael Dickel). If the Syrian Civil War were to stop right this second, one wonders how long – how many years, perhaps decades – it would take to make that country’s land farmable again.

Michael Watson, Carolyn O’Connell and Joe Hesch touch their experiences of farms before industrial farming.  Priscilla Galasso, John Anstie, Paul Brooks, Marieta Maglas and Rob Cullen speak to us of water.  Corina Ravenscraft and Sonja Benskin Mesher remind us of the element of greed – as does John – and Sonja points to gratitude.  Enough is truly enough.  Charlie Martin’s poems are poignant, making us think about how sad it would be if we lost it all.  Liliana Negoi brings a quiet and practical appreciation of nature.  Phillip Stevens paints the earth in all her delicacy and need for tender husbandry.

Thanks to our core team members for stellar, thoughtful work as always: John Anstie, Michael Watson and Michael Dickel, Priscilla Galasso and Corina Ravenscraft, Charles Martin, Liliana Negoi, Naomi Baltuck and Joe Hesch.

Welcome back to Paul Brooks, Phillip Stephens and Sonja Benskin Mesher and a warm welcome to Marieta Maglas and Rob Cullen, new to our pages.

We hope this issue will give you pleasure even as it provokes you. Leave your likes and comments behind. As readers you are as import to the The BeZine project, values and goals as are our contributors. Your commentary is welcome and encourages our writers. As always, we offer the work of emerging, mid-career and polished pros, all talented and all with ideas and ideals worth reading and thinking about.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor

Photo credit: A Mongolian Gazelle, victim of drought, Gobi Desert 2009 courtesy of Mark Heard under CC BY 2.0


TABLE OF CONTENTS

How to read this issue of THE BEZINE:

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling (now includes this Intro), or
  • You can read each piece individually by clicking the links below.
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.

SPECIAL

Children call on world leaders to save the ocean, World Oceans Day

BeATTITUDES

Walking With Water, Rob Cullen
Water Wishes, Priscilla Galasso
Our Albatross Is Greed, But We’re Not Sunk Yet, Corina Ravenscraft
Close to My Heart, Michael Watson

 POEMS

Let the Rains Fall, John Anstie

The Value of Water, Paul Brookes
WET KILL, Paul Brookes
What Use Poetry When It Floods, Paul Brookes

Hybrid: Warm Hunger, Michael Dickel

Water, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t Blink, Joseph Hesch

The Desert, Marieta Maglas

Postponed Awareness, Charles W. Martin
off course evolution, Charles W. Martin
death by committee, Charles W. Martin

#what more do you expect, Sonja Benskin Mesher

prints, Liliana Negoi
growth, Liliana Negoi
what remains after the tree, Liliana Negoi

Remember the Farm, Carolyn O’Connell

Guerilla Gardening, Phillip Stephens
Resurrection Restoration, Phillip Stephens

PHOTO/ESSAY

That Was Then, This Is Now, Naomi Baltuck

MORE LIGHT

For My Children, Rob Cullen


Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator


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