Posted in The BeZine Table of Contents, TheBeZine

THE BeZINE, Vol. 4, Issue 2: Hunger, Poverty and The Working Class as Slave Labor

November 15, 2017


In the four-year history of The BeZine, this is the most significant edition. All of our concerns – peace, environmental sustainability, human rights, freedom of expression – depend on a more equal distribution of wealth, on making sure no one goes hungry and on breaking-down barriers to employment, healthcare, education and racial and gender equity.

This pyramid (courtesy of Wikipedia) reveals that:

  • half of the world’s wealth belongs to the top 1%,
  • top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth,
  • top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth.

We’re all cognizant of that profile, but if you feel you’re sitting pretty and you’re not at risk, you’re employed, educated and middle class after all, you’d be well-advised to reconsider. The middle class is now – and has been for some time – dramatically challenged to find work, to acquire jobs that are fairly paid, offer stability and reasonable hours, and in the U.S., enable them to send their children to college.

The implications of a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the oligarchs and mega-corporations, are horrendous. Not the least is the undermining of democracy. Those who vote for and support the oligarchs because they think that’s where their security lies are victims of propaganda and bound for disappointment. The shadow of catastrophe (not too strong a word) that hangs over us is not due to the poor or the “other” who doesn’t look like us, worship the same God, or speak the same language, but to the 1%.  Huxley was disconcertingly prescient.


This month our core team and guest contributors create a picture that beckons and behoves us to abandon stereotypes and propaganda about the poor, to recognize slave labor in its most absolute terms (human trafficking and prison labor) and more subtly in the conditions faced by workers at almost all levels of the corporate pyramid. We are called to ethically source the products we buy, to study our history, to bravely speak out against injustice and stupidity and, by implication, to shine a light on best-practices, those programs, services and unofficial efforts in your city/town, region or country that are helping and that can easily be implemented anywhere in the world. (You can share these with everyone via our Facebook discussion group.)

Beginning with Juli’s impassioned editorial, The Exponential Demise of Our Well-being, and moving to our BeAttitudes: John Anstie’s powerful Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy; Corina Ravenscraft’s and Trace Lara Hentz’ thoughtful invitations to awareness; Phillip T. Stephens on prison injustice; Sue Dreamwalker’s encouragement to see the homeless as fully human (and she connects us with homeless poets and artists in England); and Joe Hesch’s honest exploration of self, we are called to responsibly participate in history.

We present a memoir from Renee Espriu and a short story from Joe Hesch this month. These are followed by yet another stellar poetry collection from poets around the world, including work by core-team members: Charles W. Martin and John Anstie.

New to our pages, a warm welcome to: Juli [Juxtaposed], Sue Dreamwalker, Michael Odiah, Evelyn Augusto, Michele Riedele, Irene Emmanuel and bogpan. We welcome work from among our previous and regular contributors: Paul Brookes, Trace Lara Hentz, Renee Espriu, Sonja Benskin Mescher, Denise Fletcher, Phillip T. Stephens, R.S. Chappell, Rob Cullen and Mark Heathcote.

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


HUNGER, POVERTY and THE WORKING CLASS AS SLAVE LABOR

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.


EDITORIAL

The Exponential Demise of Our Wellbeing, Juli [Juxtaposed]

BeATTITUDES

Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy, John Anstie
Change Your View and Your View Changes, Corina Ravenscraft
‘Til the Jails Are Empty, Phillip T. Stephens
Blessed Be, Lara Trace Hentz
Homeless, Sue Dreamwalker
Ramble Tramble, Joseph Hesch

MEMOIR

Meeting Poverty, Renee Espriu

SHORT SHORT STORY

And Crown Thy Good, Joseph Hesch

POETRY

As if …, John Anstie

Carolina Oriole, Evelyn Augusto

Ecomium, bogpan

Crow Share, Paul Brookes
Means Tester, Paul Brookes
A Hunger, Paul Brookes
The Good Employer’s Manifesto, Paul Brookes

Bitter limp fruit, Rob Cullen
Life in complicated times, Rob Cullen

Empty Pocket, R.S. Chappell
War Over Hunger, R.S. Chappell

proud at unjustified margins, Jamie Dedes
an accounting, Jamie Dedes

A Thread of Hope, Denise Fletcher

Dustbowl, Mark Heathcote
Humanitarian help worker, Mark Heathcote

Togetherness, Irene Immanuel

a slave’s mentality, Charles W. Martin

#ice&mud, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Nautilus, Michele Riedel

Life, Michael Odiah

EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED,
ALL WORKS IN “THE BeZINE” ©2017 BY THE AUTHOR / CREATOR


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Posted in General Interest, justice

Giving Thanks: An Invitation to Awareness

A Vegan Gratitude Day Dinner, Leek and Bean Cassoulet
A Vegan Gratitude Day Dinner, Leek and Bean Cassoulet, keeping it kind
For Gratitude Day in 2010, Awyn (Jottings) wrote the piece posted below. It has remained with me since then and I asked Awyn for permission to publish it here. Awyn and I met thanks to Sam Hamill’s Poets Against War initiative to which we both contributed. She included two of my anti-war poems in “Salamander Cove,”  her poetry magazine, where I was honored to keep company with such lights as Sherman Alexie and Robert Peake. Wow! The magazine was paused in 2012 but is expected back this December. Awyn (Annie Wyndham) is a former human rights worker and an accomplished poet and writer of conscience. Her poems have appeared in Burlington Poetry Review and Spoonful (Cambridge’s Stone Soup poetry venue). You can sample her poetry on her blog. J.D.

Here’s Awyn:

Happy Thanksgiving! — to all those who celebrate this special holiday.

Last year on Thanksgiving, I itemized all the things for which I was thankful. Here it is that time again, one year later and that still all holds true but no special dinner has been planned. Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving Day in October and it’s nowhere near as big a holiday here as it is in the U.S.

In the U.S., for many Thanksgiving means not only a big family dinner but watching the annual parade or football game on TV, big sales on Black Friday the day after, and the horrendous traffic back for those who came in from out of town. All part of the tradition.

We have plenty of big, sit-down dinners here with my mate’s family, but my fondly remembered American Thanksgivings are now a thing of the past. I don’t know any Americans here, my mate’s not that crazy about pumpkin pie, and I’m a vegetarian, so there’d be no turkey. Turkey is traditional but I’ve had many an untraditional version, with calamari or tofu or soup.  It was still a thanks-giving.  My kids are hundreds of miles away and none of us can afford to visit at this time. Hence no big family Thanksgiving get-together celebration this year. We will share our good wishes over the telephone. As for spectator parade-watching or sports broadcasts or Black Friday shopping, none of that interests me. In that, I guess you could say I’m untraditional. Pumpkin pie, however, is non-negotiable. You absolutely cannot have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It just doesn’t compute.

The most interesting Thanksgiving I ever heard about was from the wife of a former colleague who volunteered at a local soup kitchen. She told me that one Thanksgiving, to raise awareness of all the people who were starving in the world, some organization whose name I can no longer remember invited people to attend a big sit-down Thanksgiving dinner, for $15 per person, proceeds to go towards world hunger.

When you arrived, you were asked to pick your entry ticket out of a box. There were three kinds of tickets.

If you got a green ticket, you would be served the full dinner, with all the trimmings–and be allowed seconds on desert.

If you got a yellow ticket, you would be served what starving people in third-world countries sometimes get to eat–a child-sized helping of rice or thin, watery soup–and nothing else.

And if you got a white ticket–you’d get nothing at all.

So imagine you’re at this banquet and you get the full meal, with all the trimmings, and you’re sitting next to someone who got nothing. Would you turn and give half of what you have to that person? What if you’re one of the unlucky ones who got the thin, watery soup? Or worse, the empty plate. Would you quietly sip your water and listen to your stomach growl, hoping the people next to you might offer to give you some of theirs?

I’m sure a lot of sharing went around, probably immediately, after the initial surprise (and perhaps discomfort) wore off. Giving money to a charity, for which you get a sit-down dinner, is one thing; being invited to dinner and served an empty plate and having it suddenly sink in what real deprivation is like, is quite another. (Well, the invitation did say the theme was Awareness.)  But how uncomfortable to have to sit in front of an empty plate all evening long while others are eating. That glass of water can only go so far.

I went without  lunch yesterday–not by choice.  I simply forgot.  I was working on something and the hours flew and I suddenly realized it was getting dark outside and all I’d had to eat the whole day long was a cup of coffee at 6 a.m.  My stomach began reminding me it hadn’t been fed.  Loudly.  No problem.  I could open my refrigerator or reach for something in the cupboard and solve the problem, instantly.

But what if I couldn’t?  What if, for whatever reason,there was none to be had and no more food would be forthcoming for another day. Another two days. Maybe even a whole week. How would I deal with that?  Certainly, after a day or two, lack of food would make me woozy, lightheaded … lethargic, even.   I’d probably lose weight.  Temporarily fasting is one thing. Starvation, however, is quite another.

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I think that’s what the organizers of that unusual Thanksgiving dinner wanted to convey–that life is not fair.  Some of us get to sit down every evening to a good meal, Every Single Night.  Some can only afford to buy food meant for animals.  Some get somebody else‘s leftovers, fished out of a trash can.  And some get nothing at all.

So many things to be thankful for this holiday.   Awareness–however received–is one of them.

© 2010, essay, Annie Wyndham, All rights reserved; cassoulet photograph courtesy of SarahJane Veganheathen via Flickr under CC A – SA 2.0 generic license; little girl courtesy of Filipe Moreira via Flickr under CC A-SA 2.0 generic license; the sketch that says it all is Awyn’s

Posted in 000 Poets, 100, Musicians

100TPC Event Today … Link in your poems, art, stories, film, music, videos for peace, sustainability and social justice with an emphasis on poverty and hunger

Hand of Fire, Hand of Creation<br/>Moshe Dekel (age 5)
Hand of Fire, Hand of Creation by Moshe Dekel (age 5)

Welcome to the 5th year of 100,000 Poets (Musicians, Artists, Mimes…) for Change, and the 2015 edition of The BeZine Online 100TPC Event! If you’ve done this before and you know the score, skip to the comments or Mister Linky at the bottom of the post and begin. If you are wondering, hey, what are you folks up to then check out some serious non-fiction here:

Our mission here today as poets, writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends is a sort-of fission for change—a burning with and expression of the desire for peace, environmental and economic sustainability, social justice, inclusion, equity and opportunity for all. We seek through our art to do a bit of old-fashioned consciousness raising, to stimulate thought and action leading to the kind of change that is sustainable, compassionate and just, and to engage in the important theme of the issues facing humanity today—but all with a goal to alleviate suffering and foster peace. We don’t want to just “talk about it,” we want words, art and music that help us take action in some way for positive change wherever we are in our lives, in our world.

We see a complex inter-woven relationship between peace, sustainability, and social justice. We all recognize that when people are marginalized and disenfranchised, when they are effectively barred from opportunities for education and viable employment, when they can’t feed themselves or their families or are used as slave labor, there will inevitably be a backlash, and we’re seeing that now in violent conflicts, wars and dislocation. Climatologists have also linked climate change, with its severe weather changes and recent droughts, to the rise violence in the world, and even contributing to inequities in areas – like Syria – where a severe drought destabilized food production and the economy, contributing to the unrest that led to the civil war, according to one study.

Jerusalem in an unprecedented dust storm that engulged much of the Mideast, linked by one climate scientist to the Syrian civial war and ISIS conflict
Jerusalem in an unprecedented dust storm that engulfed much of the Mideast, linked by one climate scientist to the Syrian civil war and ISIS conflict

There are too many people living on the streets and in refugee camps, too many whose lives are at subsistence level, too many children who die before the age of five (as many as four a minute dying from hunger, according to one reliable study—more info), too many youth walking through life with no education, no jobs and no hope. It can’t end well…

Syrian refugee camp, photo: The Telegraph
Syrian refugee camp
photo: The Telegraph

More than anything, our mission is a call to action, a call to work in your own communities where ever you are in the world, and to focus on the pressing local issues that contribute to conflict, injustice, and unsustainable economic and environmental practices. The kind of change we need may well have to be from the ground up, all of us working together to create peaceful, sustainable and just cultures that nurture the best in all the peoples of this world.

Poverty and homelessness are evergreen issues historically, but issues also embedded in social and political complexity. They benefit the rich, whose economic system keeps most of the rest of us as, at best, “wage slaves,” and all too many of us in poverty, without enough to provide for basic needs or housing (including the “working poor,” who hold low-paying jobs while CEOs are paid record-breaking salaries and bonuses in the global capitalist system). We are united in our cries against the structures of injustice, where the rich act as demigods and demagogues. We have to ask of what use will all their riches be in the face of this inconceivable suffering and the inevitable backlash from the marginalized and disenfranchised. We need fairness, not greed.

So, with this mission in mind, and with the complexity of the interrelationships of social justice, sustainability and peace as a framework, we focus on hunger and poverty, two basic issues and major threads in the system of inequality and injustice that need addressing throughout the world.

We look forward to what you have to share, whether the form is poetry, essay, fiction, art, photography, documentary, music, or hybrids of any of these—and we want to engage in an ongoing conversation through your comments on all of the above as you not only share your own work here today but visit and enjoy the work of others, supporting one another with your “likes” and comments, starting or entering into dialogues with writers, artists and musicians throughout the world and online viewers, readers, listeners.

Think globally, act locally, form community.

—Michael Dickel, Jerusalem (with G. Jamie Dedes, California, USA)

DIRECTIONS FOR PARTICIPATION

Share links to your relevant work or that of others in a comment or by using Mister Linky below. To use Mr. Linky, just click on the graphic. (Note: If you are sharing someone else’s work, please use your name in Mister Linky, so we can credit you as the contributor—we will give the author / artist name in the comments, from the link when we post the link in a comment.)

You may leave your links or works in the comment section below this post. If you are sharing the work of another poet or artist, however, please only use a link and not the work itself.

In addition to sharing, we encourage you to visit others and make connections and conversation. To visit the links, click on Mr. Linky (the Mister Linky graphic above) and then on the links you see there. (Some Mr. Linky-links can be viewed in the comments section after we re-post them.)

Thank you! 

All links will be collected into a dedicated Page here at The BeZine and also archived at 100TPC.

Thank you for your participation. Let the conversation begin …

Posted in General Interest

Further Discussions on Poverty – Hunger! – 100,000 Poets for Change

Note: On our (The Bardo Group and Beguine Again, publishers of The BeZine) 2015 Facebook Page for 100,000 Poets for Change, we’ve been discussing poverty, which is our theme for September. I’m sharing some of the conversation there. If you’d like to join us on Facebook, please let us know. All are welcome. For the September 2015 issue of The BeZine, we’ll be exploring poverty and on September 26, we’ll hold our virtual event and we invite reader participation. Instructions will be in our blog that day. Links to everyone’s work will be collected and posted as a Page and also incorporated into a PDF that will be archived at 100,000 Poets (writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends) for Change; i.e., peace and sustainability.

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Thanks to Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) and Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel) for encouraging thought and discussion around poverty and homelessness. How about exploring poverty and hunger, often referred to these days as “food insecurity?” (Better, I think, to call it by its true name.)

One question, for example: How do our consumption patterns contribute to hunger? We first started thinking about and taking action on this (those of us who have been around long enough) with the publication of Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet in 1971 in which she explored the roots of hunger, poverty and environmental crises.

Here is part of an overview of the UN’s 1998 report on inequity in consumption courtesy of Anup Shah of Global Issues :

“Today’s consumption is undermining the environmental resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment nexus are accelerating. If the trends continue without change — not redistributing from high-income to low-income consumers, not shifting from polluting to cleaner goods and production technologies, not promoting goods that empower poor producers, not shifting priority from consumption for conspicuous display to meeting basic needs — today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen.
… The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects.
… Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:
Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%
Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%
Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%
Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%
Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%
Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen.”
Human Development Report 1998 Overview, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — Emphasis Added. Figures quoted use data from 1995

Posted by me last night on The BeZine 100 100TPC 2015 Facebook Public Group Page

Here is some of the discussion that followed. Please add your own thoughts in the comments section below.  

There was a report by Oxfam, a couple of years ago I think, that produced even more extreme statistics regarding the very small percentage of those who own the vast majority of the world’s assets! I shall have to dig it out.”  John Anstie 

“interesting and arresting….but let’s not forget waste….have you ever seen what supermarkets throw away each day? It’s criminal.” Jacqueline Dick

“In a number of urban areas, groups collect “waste” from groceries and even restaurants to distribute to those in need. It should be done more widely. And, for the environment, what is beyond salvage should be composted, not tossed into landfills or incinerators.Michael Dickel

“I wonder how many of us are vegan or willing to go go vegan because land used to feed and raise meat and poultry can be put to better use – and more environmentally sound use – to sufficiently feed the earth’s population on plants? Lappe first brought this to our attention in ’71 followed by many others including John Robbins and Will Tuttle*. There is sufficient body of study to support this, which along with animal cruelty and human health is driving the trend to plant-based food consumption.” Jamie Dedes

* If people don’t have enough to eat, don’t have clean water, and don’t have employment, their anger will foster hostilities. So, for those who feel disconnected from hunger issues because it’s not in front of them and they have enough to eat, I would submit that in the interest of self-preservation world hunger needs to be faced and addressed compassionately and pragmatically.  I don’t know how many people outside the vegan community are familiar with Will Tuttle’s work.  Dr. Tuttle is professional pianist and composer, he’s an eloquent spokesperson for the vegan imperative.  I strongly recommend his book The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Harmony.

The reference to “Earthlings” in the video is about the movie, which I reviewed in 2011 and which I have scheduled to post here tomorrow.

May all sentient beings find peace.

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
– Metta (amity, good will) Prayer (Buddhist)

Photo credit: Jamie Dedes

Posted in Culture/History, General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Music, Peace & Justice

Music, Language of the Soul

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“Music is…a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”
Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Sarajevo under siege…a city in ruins that wakes up on the sound of shelling and bombing and sleeps on that of mourners. This beautiful city, so rich in history, architecture and art suffered the horrors of a four years siege considered the longest in modern history, and became Europe’s capital of hell since the war broke in 1992, to coincide with another atrocious civil war that broke in my own country and lasted almost ten years, what we Algerians know as “the dark decade”.

At 4 pm on May 27, people were queuing in front of a bakery in Sarajevo for bread; a mortar shell dropped in the middle and killed 22 people instantly. A man witnessed the massacre and was so appalled by the sight of blood and torn bodies so he decided to do something.

This man was Vedran Smailović, a widely recognized and talented cellist who went everyday for 22 days to the bombed site the exact time of the massacre and played cello, in honour of those who died in front of him and all of the victims, all those hiding from snipers’ bullets, the refugees, the hungry, the wounded, the destroyed homes and for his smouldering, exhausted city that struggled to survive.

This man sent a prayer of peace through his music, that the city of his heart might witness a brighter future, and he became the symbol of peace all over Bosnia, playing in graveyards and bombed sites, despite the shelling and fired bullets, Smailović was engulfed by light, the light of hope he was spreading all over the battered city. No crowd applauding to his performance, just Angels protecting him.

It’s been years since the dreadful siege and the civil war in my country ended, but did Sarajevo recover from its dark past? Did my people ever forget? the victims, the mass graves, and the fear they lived in all those years…

We are never entirely healed of our memory.

Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus Syria, another Sarajevo, another siege, people dying from a severe lack of food, water and medical supplies, massive destruction of homes and buildings, for weeks the Government forces besieged the camp and starved its people on purpose, the majority of them Palestinians who were exiled from their country in 1948, they found themselves caught against their will in a merciless war that made Damascus, a beautiful and rich city…Middle East’s capital of hell.

History repeats itself, it always strikes me how it does, and not always in the gentlest way, I believed it with all my being when I saw young men with a battered piano in the middle of rubble playing music and singing for peace and freedom, I said: if Vedran Smailović could see those proud and defiant guys whose souls are connected to his, one of them a pianist who started playing since he was six, he used to repair musical instruments with his father and studied music in the university of Homs*, the others, just ordinary people praying for the end of the war, and dreaming of a safe united country again in their own way.

They sang: “Oh displaced people, return; the journey has gone for too long. Yarmouk we are a part of you and that will never change.”

Smailović would have loved what those Palestinians did, because he, of all people will understand the meaning of creating beauty amid destruction, and defying death with the language of the soul…Music

(I would secretly thank that man who set up his piano in front of armed police, a day after protesters in Kiev brought down the statue of Lenin, and played Chopin…he inspired me to write this post)

*Homs: a Syrian city

Editorial note:  A partial translation of the song and apologies for any inaccuracy.
“from among the ruins and under the ashes, the [Palestinian] phoenix sings for life and will rise again for the cause of freedom …”

– Imen Benyoub

© 2014, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; photo credit ~ Rashid Essa (Almadon News), youth in Al Yarmouk Refugee Camp, ” © electronic cities” under CC A-SA, no modification to photograph is allowed

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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Posted in Peace & Justice

From Weaponry to Livingry

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Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The following statistics are courtesy of the United Nations World Food Programme.

* 842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. This number has fallen by 156 million since 1990.

* The vast majority of hungry people (827 million) live in developing countries, where 14.3 percent of the population is undernourished.

* Asia has the largest share of the world’s hungry people (some 552 million) but the trend is downward.

* If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

* Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.

* One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight.

* One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.

* 80 percent of the world’s stunted children live in just 20 countries.

* 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

* WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.

“God is a verb not a noun.” Buckminster Fuller

May our compassion have legs.

Related articles:

* 2013 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by World Hunger Education Service

* An End to World Hunger, Hope for the Future

* How to Help Typhoon Haiyan Survivors

* Help Syrian Refugees

Illustration ~ most likely thelivingmoon.com or, if it’s yours, let us know and we will credit you or take it down. 

– compiled by Jamie Dedes

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer, Peace & Justice

Mindful Steps to End Hunger

Charles W. Elliot

By Charles W. Elliot

Posted here with the permission of Buddhist Global Relief (BGW)

Hunger remains a problem and we think it is not inappropriate to post this again, an essay by Charles W. Elliot that we featured a couple of years ago. On the blog roll to the right, there is a link to BGW ‘s donation page in the event that you are inspired to make a donation. We don’t take donations or any remuneration for the work on this site; but, if you get something out of what is presented on Bardo, we encourage you to support one of the organizations we support or another worthy charity of your choosing. Let’s collaborate to keep the good works going. In gratitude, Jamie Dedes

The simplest act of eating a piece of fruit is inevitably embedded in a complex web of systems: economic, agricultural, financial, and environmental. In attending mindfully to this act, we can discern myriad interdependent phenomena: the beginningless origins of its seeds, the earth from which the fruit grew, the laboring hands that brought the food to our table. The same mindfulness will show how our own lives depend upon the efforts of others, the essential kindness of countless strangers. And in recalling this kindness, we should be ready to take steps to repay it. One such way is to carefully consider the needs of others, and where we find that basic human needs remain unmet because of injustice, we should be motivated to act.

The Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition states that “society today already possesses sufficient resources, organisational ability and technology and hence the competence to [eradicate hunger].” While food supplies are abundant, access to that food is not. In 2010, 925 million people suffered from chronic hunger, representing one in seven of a global population approaching 7 billion.

Access to adequate food, as indispensable to basic human survival, is a matter of social justice. One of the earliest pronouncements of global governance on fundamental human rights was the U.N. General Assembly’s simple declaration: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food[.]” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, paragraph 1, 1948.) If food has been recognized as a human right since the end of World War II, and if society has the resources and competence to end hunger, we should ask ourselves: why are so many millions still hungry?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Like all other phenomena, the persistence and spread of human hunger is a complex dependent-arising involving many interwoven causes. Two disturbing factors are financial speculation, which drove commodity prices sky-high in 2007-2008, and the increasing diversion of crops from food production to biofuel production. Thus, the portion of U.S. corn grown to produce corn-based ethanol rose from 15% in 2006 to an estimated 40% in 2011. Other factors include catastrophic weather conditions such as droughts and floods, and global climate change, which has an adverse impact on water supplies and land, especially in the developing world. At the same time, urban sprawl reduces available farmland, while the urban middle class consumes more meat and processed food, which in turn demands more land, water, and energy.

While resources for food dwindle, governmental policies, particularly in the West, have become increasingly hostile to the poor. The shredding of social safety nets puts at risk an ever-larger number of people who need help in the face of poor economic conditions. Last year, about 25% of the House of Representatives voted to eliminate foreign food aid. Such policies appeal to the notion that the world is a zero-sum game, that any help we offer another family will mean that we get less and that we cannot afford fairness. Here in the U.S. help for the poor is in jeopardy. In my home state of Pennsylvania, food stamp use has risen 50% from 1.2 million people in 2008 to 1.8 million today. Despite the increasing need driven by the Great Recession, the current governor proposes to disqualify anyone with assets of more than $5,500—for example, a bank account or a second car—from food stamp eligibility. As a result, it is estimated that 4,023 Pennsylvania households will lose their food stamp benefits on May 1 of this year.

Battling institutional and entrenched social injustice helps alleviate hunger because poverty is at the root of hunger, and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness: the “powerlessness of those who lack resources such as land and water to grow food, jobs to earn money to buy food, an adequate food safety net and food reserves, and adequate nutrition.” (The Downward Spiral of Hunger: Causes & Solutions)

There are many small steps we can take to end hunger, but we must be prepared to respond to the call of conscience to help others and to restore social justice. A key step is to rebuild and enhance small-scale local food systems and turn away from globally concentrated control of food production and distribution. Ultimately, we should reject the domination of agriculture by large corporate agribusiness, and confront corporate attempts to control the very seeds of life with their patented genetically-modified “single generation” seeds.

At the neighborhood scale here in the U.S., community food gardens are springing up even in major cities like New York City and Detroit. Food waste and post-harvest losses could be remedied to make more food available to those in need. Greater investment in small-scale agriculture in rural areas and urban agriculture in the cities would empower the poor and hungry.

At Buddhist Global Relief, we are taking our own small steps. For example, we provide village-scale training in intensified rice cultivation to rural farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, helping to build their capacity and confidence in applying sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques dramatically boost yields without expensive external inputs. BGR funds tools and seeds to impoverished families in Cambodia to grow cash crops and home vegetable gardens. Following each harvest, each family then gives the same amount of seed they received to another local family, thus establishing a community of mutual support. BGR helps train villagers in Kenya and Malawi in small-scale agricultural techniques that nurture healthy soil fertility, produce high yields, conserve resources, and meet the basic need of people to independently feed themselves.

Such small steps, taken collectively by Buddhist Global Relief and countless others, are helping to empower the poor, reduce poverty, and alleviate the suffering of hunger. Neither the complexity of the manifold causes of hunger nor the daunting statistics of global poverty should deter us from acting out of compassion and generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, the embodiment of compassion, AvalokiteshvaraGuanyin Kwannon, is often depicted not just with a thousand eyes to gaze upon the suffering in the world, but with a thousand hands to aid those who suffer. Of course, not even a thousand arms are enough to help the billion people who suffer from hunger. But if we recognize each motivated human heart as the eyes and hands of Avalokiteshvara, each of us acting in our own way, in our own communities, might yet help to end hunger in our generation.

Charles W. Ellliott, a member of the Board of Directors of Buddhist Global Relief, is a lawyer practicing environmental, land use, and human rights law.

© 2012, photo and essay, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer

GIVING THANKS: AN INVITATION TO AWARENESS

On Thanksgiving Day in 2010, Awyn (The Jottings of an AmeriQuebeckian and Salamander Cove) wrote this piece. It has remained with me since then and this year I asked Awyn for permission to reblog it here. Awyn and I met thanks to Poets Against War. She was kind enough to include two of my anti-war poems in her online poetry magazine, Salamander Cove. Awyn is an accomplished poet and writer of conscience.  JAMIE DEDES
.
This is also the perfect post to add to Amy Nora Doyle’s (SoulDipper) Occupy the Blogospher effort.

MAY WE HAVE MANY REASONS TO GIVE THANKS
AND HEARTS BIG ENOUGH TO INCLUDE STRANGERS IN OUR CIRCLE OF CONCERN

Here’s Awyn:

Happy Thanksgiving! — to all those who celebrate this special holiday.

Last year on Thanksgiving, I itemized all the things for which I was thankful. Here it is that time again, one year later and that still all holds true but no special dinner has been planned. Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving Day in October and it’s nowhere near as big a holiday here as it is in the U.S.

In the U.S., for many Thanksgiving means not only a big family dinner but watching the annual parade or football game on TV, big sales on Black Friday the day after, and the horrendous traffic back for those who came in from out of town. All part of the tradition.

We have plenty of big, sit-down dinners here with my mate’s family, but my fondly remembered American Thanksgivings are now a thing of the past. I don’t know any Americans here, my mate’s not that crazy about pumpkin pie, and I’m a vegetarian, so there’d be no turkey. Turkey is traditional but I’ve had many an untraditional version, with calamari or tofu or soup.  It was still a thanks-giving.  My kids are hundreds of miles away and none of us can afford to visit at this time. Hence no big family Thanksgiving get-together celebration this year. We will share our good wishes over the telephone. As for spectator parade-watching or sports broadcasts or Black Friday shopping, none of that interests me. In that, I guess you could say I’m untraditional. Pumpkin pie, however, is non-negotiable. You absolutely cannot have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It just doesn’t compute.

The most interesting Thanksgiving I ever heard about was from the wife of a former colleague who volunteered at a local soup kitchen. She told me that one Thanksgiving, to raise awareness of all the people who were starving in the world, some organization whose name I can no longer remember invited people to attend a big sit-down Thanksgiving dinner, for $15 per person, proceeds to go towards world hunger.

When you arrived, you were asked to pick your entry ticket out of a box. There were three kinds of tickets.

If you got a green ticket, you would be served the full dinner, with all the trimmings–and be allowed seconds on desert.

If you got a yellow ticket, you would be served what starving people in third-world countries sometimes get to eat–a child-sized helping of rice or thin, watery soup–and nothing else.

And if you got a white ticket–you’d get nothing at all.

So imagine you’re at this banquet and you get the full meal, with all the trimmings, and you’re sitting next to someone who got nothing. Would you turn and give half of what you have to that person? What if you’re one of the unlucky ones who got the thin, watery soup? Or worse, the empty plate. Would you quietly sip your water and listen to your stomach growl, hoping the people next to you might offer to give you some of theirs?

I’m sure a lot of sharing went around, probably immediately, after the initial surprise (and perhaps discomfort) wore off. Giving money to a charity, for which you get a sit-down dinner, is one thing; being invited to dinner and served an empty plate and having it suddenly sink in what real deprivation is like, is quite another. (Well, the invitation did say the theme was Awareness.)  But how uncomfortable to have to sit in front of an empty plate all evening long while others are eating. That glass of water can only go so far.

I went without  lunch yesterday–not by choice.  I simply forgot.  I was working on something and the hours flew and I suddenly realized it was getting dark outside and all I’d had to eat the whole day long was a cup of coffee at 6 a.m.  My stomach began reminding me it hadn’t been fed.  Loudly.  No problem.  I could open my refrigerator or reach for something in the cupboard and solve the problem, instantly.

But what if I couldn’t?  What if, for whatever reason,there was none to be had and no more food would be forthcoming for another day. Another two days. Maybe even a whole week. How would I deal with that?  Certainly, after a day or two, lack of food would make me woozy, lightheaded … lethargic, even.   I’d probably lose weight.  Temporarily fasting is one thing. Starvation, however, is quite another.

I think that’s what the organizers of that unusual Thanksgiving dinner wanted to convey–that life is not fair.  Some of us get to sit down every evening to a good meal, Every Single Night.  Some can only afford to buy food meant for animals.  Some get somebody else‘s leftovers, fished out of a trash can.  And some get nothing at all.

So many things to be thankful for this holiday.   Awareness–however received–is one of them.

© 2012, Awyn, All rights reserved

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

BLACK DAYS IN THE SUDAN


We can run away from bombs, but not from hunger.” Sudan‘s refugees in South Sudan, report of Amnestyus.org 2012

·

I wrote this back in the 80s in response to an essay on the “black days” by someone from the Sudan.  

·

Have you read about them –

“Black Days” in the Sudan?

They are hunger-and-thirst days

When the supply of water –

One liter per person for two weeks

. . . is gone

When their food, one meal a day

For fourteen days

. . . is gone,

and the waiting and wasting begins –

four, five, fifteen days

Until more food and water

then Black Days again –

They are days of laying-in.

Conserving energy.

Some survive.

·

If you want and are able, you can make a donation to the Fill the Cup of the World Food Programme. They say $1 fills four cups.

© 2012, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ mother and malnurished child, Darfur, taken by USAID and in the public domain

Posted in General Interest, Teachers

VEN. BHIKKHU BODHI, on the Buddha’s birthday an update on Buddhist Global Relief

BGR logo

VESAK 2012
Remembering the Buddha and his teachings
with joy, gratitude, and generosity
[I’m sorry that I could not share this letter with you in a more timely fashion. The Buddha’s birthday was on May 6 this year. Nonetheless, the message is an important one. We are committed to supporting this effort and hope to engage your support as well. Thank you for reading …. J.D.]
Dear Friend,
Buddha statue
The most important holiday in the Buddhist calendar, Vesak, is just around the corner. Starting on the full moon day of May, the month of Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. It is a day – and a month – not only for joy and gratitude but also for recollection: for remembering the Buddha’s teachings and making a more earnest effort to practice them.
The first step of Buddhist practice is giving, and the most basic gift is the gift of food. The importance of food can be gauged from the Buddha’s own life story. In the Middle Length Discourses, he tells us that before his enlightenment, he undertook long fasts that reduced his body to a tent of bones. When he saw that the true path to awakening requires deep meditation, he also realized: “It isn’t easy to meditate with an emaciated body.
Boy and girl in Haiti
Let me eat sustaining food such as rice and porridge.” It was only after he regained his strength that he could reach his goal.
Not only is it hard to meditate with an emaciated body, but when one is malnourished it’s hard to do anything – except wait intently for the next meal. Yet close to a billion people around the world endure this fate. It’s to give such people a fresh chance at life that BGR came into being, and this purpose has inspired our work through the years.
We don’t just give handouts. Rather, we seek to make people productive and self-sufficient. We do so in diverse ways: by supporting the education of poor children, especially girls; by creating right livelihood opportunities for women; and by supporting ecologically sustainable small-scale agriculture. In just four years, we’ve already sponsored fifty projects around the world, in Asia, Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Some of our recent projects include:
  • introducing sustainable agriculture techniques to farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, thus increasing the productivity and profitability of their rice yield
  • providing seeds and agricultural tools to 150 impoverished families in Cambodia so they can grow cash crops and establish home vegetable gardens
Intensive Rice Cultivation
  • supplying hot, nutritious meals to hungry children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, through a community-based food program called Lamanjay
  • supporting the education of 200 children in India, mostly girls of the Dalit community, formerly known as “untouchables”
  • training farmers in Kenya and Malawi in ecologically sustainable agriculture
  • teaching breastfeeding practices in the Diffa region of Niger, which profoundly improve survival rates of infants
  • funding the construction of a community garden and orchard in South Africa, in a region stricken by HIV and AIDS
  • providing funds for a greenhouse to grow produce for the poor in the Maryland-Pennsylvania region of the U.S.
White House meeting of Dharmic Religions
Today BGR plays a major role in representing Buddhism on the stage of global giving. In fact, in late April we participated in a historical conference at the White House that brought representatives of the “Dharmic religions” into contact with government agencies in a common commitment to humanitarian service.
We hope to continue our mission long into the future, both in the U.S. and abroad. However, we can’t fulfill our goals without help from friends like you who share our ideals and resonate with our values. Your donations are the key to everything we do: to combating malnutrition, educating poor children, and helping those who cannot help themselves. And because we’re an all-volunteer organization, we use the funds we receive prudently, with care and discretion, to ensure that 85-90% of every dollar goes directly to finance projects.
So, remembering the great compassion the Buddha extended to us, let us extend compassion to others. This Vesak season please bring forth a heart of generosity and support the work of BGR. When you give, you become part of our mission, our partner in giving a helping hand to those who need help. And you experience the joy of knowing that you are truly making a positive difference in this world, a difference that’s transforming lives.
Childen in India
May all blessings be with you and your family, on Vesak and beyond.
Bhikkhu Bodhi's signature
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson
Buddhist Global Relief is a 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations. You can either donate online via PayPal on the BGR web site or send a check to:
Buddhist Global Relief
PO Box 1611
Sparta, New Jersey 07871 USA
If your company has a Matching Gift Program, please enclose the necessary forms as well.
Posted in Guest Writer, Poems/Poetry

SHRED THE SOCIAL SAFETY NETS

shred the social safety nets

by

Marilynn Mair (Celebrating a Year)

Into the Bardo Contributing Writer 

shred the social safety nets
we cannot afford fairness
this is as good as it gets

for the future don’t make bets
poverty powerlessness
shred the social safety nets

any lingering regrets
are pointless though it’s a mess
this is as good as it gets

what ill mechanism lets
governments pleading blameless
shred the social safety nets

as the rich hide their assets
pretending with false distress
this is as good as it gets

and our silence aids abets
while willful lies egregious
shred the social safety nets

is this as good as it gets

© 2012 photograph and poem, Maryilynn Mair All rights reserved

Marilynn Mair – author, world renown mandolinist, and blogger – wrote this beautiful sympathetic villanelle in response to Charles W. Elliot’s piece HERE, “Mindful Steps to the End of Hunger.”

Posted in Buddhism, General Interest, Guest Writer

MINDFUL STEPS TO THE END OF HUNGER

Charles W. Elliot

By Charles W. Elliot

Posted here with the permission of Buddhist Global Relief

 The simplest act of eating a piece of fruit is inevitably embedded in a complex web of systems: economic, agricultural, financial, and environmental. In attending mindfully to this act, we can discern myriad interdependent phenomena: the beginningless origins of its seeds, the earth from which the fruit grew, the laboring hands that brought the food to our table. The same mindfulness will show how our own lives depend upon the efforts of others, the essential kindness of countless strangers. And in recalling this kindness, we should be ready to take steps to repay it. One such way is to carefully consider the needs of others, and where we find that basic human needs remain unmet because of injustice, we should be motivated to act.

The Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition states that “society today already possesses sufficient resources, organisational ability and technology and hence the competence to [eradicate hunger].” While food supplies are abundant, access to that food is not. In 2010, 925 million people suffered from chronic hunger, representing one in seven of a global population approaching 7 billion.

Access to adequate food, as indispensable to basic human survival, is a matter of social justice. One of the earliest pronouncements of global governance on fundamental human rights was the U.N. General Assembly’s simple declaration: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food[.]” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, paragraph 1, 1948.) If food has been recognized as a human right since the end of World War II, and if society has the resources and competence to end hunger, we should ask ourselves: why are so many millions still hungry?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Like all other phenomena, the persistence and spread of human hunger is a complex dependent-arising involving many interwoven causes.  Two disturbing factors are financial speculation, which drove commodity prices sky-high in 2007-2008, and the increasing diversion of crops from food production to biofuel production. Thus, the portion of U.S. corn grown to produce corn-based ethanol rose from 15% in 2006 to an estimated 40% in 2011. Other factors include catastrophic weather conditions such as droughts and floods, and global climate change, which has an adverse impact on water supplies and land, especially in the developing world. At the same time, urban sprawl reduces available farmland, while the urban middle class consumes more meat and processed food, which in turn demands more land, water, and energy.

While resources for food dwindle, governmental policies, particularly in the West, have become increasingly hostile to the poor. The shredding of social safety nets puts at risk an ever-larger number of people who need help in the face of poor economic conditions. Last year, about 25% of the House of Representatives voted to eliminate foreign food aid. Such policies appeal to the notion that the world is a zero-sum game, that any help we offer another family will mean that we get less and that we cannot afford fairness. Here in the U.S. help for the poor is in jeopardy. In my home state of Pennsylvania, food stamp use has risen 50% from 1.2 million people in 2008 to 1.8 million today. Despite the increasing need driven by the Great Recession, the current governor proposes to disqualify anyone with assets of more than $5,500—for example, a bank account or a second car—from food stamp eligibility. As a result, it is estimated that 4,023 Pennsylvania households will lose their food stamp benefits on May 1 of this year.

Battling institutional and entrenched social injustice helps alleviate hunger because poverty is at the root of hunger, and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness: the “powerlessness of those who lack resources such as land and water to grow food, jobs to earn money to buy food, an adequate food safety net and food reserves, and adequate nutrition.” (The Downward Spiral of Hunger: Causes & Solutions)

There are many small steps we can take to end hunger, but we must be prepared to respond to the call of conscience to help others and to restore social justice.  A key step is to rebuild and enhance small-scale local food systems and turn away from globally concentrated control of food production and distribution. Ultimately, we should reject the domination of agriculture by large corporate agribusiness, and confront corporate attempts to control the very seeds of life with their patented genetically-modified “single generation” seeds.

At the neighborhood scale here in the U.S., community food gardens are springing up even in major cities like New York City and Detroit. Food waste and post-harvest losses could be remedied to make more food available to those in need. Greater investment in small-scale agriculture in rural areas and urban agriculture in the cities would empower the poor and hungry.

At Buddhist Global Relief, we are taking our own small steps. For example, we provide village-scale training in intensified rice cultivation to rural farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, helping to build their capacity and confidence in applying sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques dramatically boost yields without expensive external inputs. BGR funds tools and seeds to impoverished families in Cambodia to grow cash crops and home vegetable gardens. Following each harvest, each family then gives the same amount of seed they received to another local family, thus establishing a community of mutual support. BGR helps train villagers in Kenya and Malawi in small-scale agricultural techniques that nurture healthy soil fertility, produce high yields, conserve resources, and meet the basic need of people to independently feed themselves.

Such small steps, taken collectively by Buddhist Global Relief and countless others, are helping to empower the poor, reduce poverty, and alleviate the suffering of hunger. Neither the complexity of the manifold causes of hunger nor the daunting statistics of global poverty should deter us from acting out of compassion and generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, the embodiment of compassion, AvalokiteshvaraGuanyin Kwannon, is often depicted not just with a thousand eyes to gaze upon the suffering in the world, but with a thousand hands to aid those who suffer. Of course, not even a thousand arms are enough to help the billion people who suffer from hunger. But if we recognize each motivated human heart as the eyes and hands of Avalokiteshvara, each of us acting in our own way, in our own communities, might yet help to end hunger in our generation.

Charles W. Ellliott, a member of the Board of Directors of Buddhist Global Relief, is  a lawyer practicing environmental, land use, and human rights law.

© 2012, photo and essay, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

I WOULD BE

·

However, nothing is just what it seems to be.

My objects dream and wear new costumes,

compelled to, it seems, by  all the words in my  hands

and the sea that bangs in my throat.

The Room of My Life by Anne Sexton in The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton

I WOULD BE

by

Jamie Dedes

I would be that ancient red rosebush

sitting in meditation beside the creek

that flows near the home-place and

a belt of vacant land, wide-awake wood

·

I would be a thorn-and-thistle-free me,

a cool, soothing fog, a silken river-stone,

or a whiff of magnolia traveling through

dark night on an aquamarine breeze

·

An old hunger rises in me to rest calm

beside the safe harbor of rambling rill,

days writ in gently cautious calligraphy,

mind as empty and conscious as a forest

·

But rosebush and wood endure winter

and the creek its dry-spell, river-stone’s

silken finish is born of the chaffing wave,

the magnolia was felled by the gardener

·

Photo credit ~ Christine Vincent, Public Domain Pictures.net.

·