Sunday Service: Social Justice from a Spiritual Perspective

I am going to be participating in a book discussion group over the next few weeks. We will be discussing The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It is a book about the ways the criminal justice system and the prison system in the United States is set up as a racial caste system.

I will probably be posting more about this book in the weeks to come, but tonight I want to talk about working for social justice from my spiritual perspective.

As a Buddhist, I believe that each person is obligated towards compassion towards all other living beings and to help them on the path to Enlightenment. As a human being, I believe that I am obligated to help those less fortunate than I. I read a book like The New Jim Crow, and I feel petrified by the sheer size of the task, to change the basic attitudes of society towards race and create a new society, one in which we no longer need to work for racial justice, because true racial equality has been achieved. Then I open the newspaper, and it seems that every page has an article about a different justice issue.

I feel overwhelmed.

But I am not alone in the struggle for justice. I spent some time today with other people who are working for justice, each in their own way. We will be talking together, and we might end up walking together down a path for justice, working together. I am not alone, and perhaps together justice will prevail.

Corporal punishment in schools is still legal in 19 states #humanrights

I grew up in a state where corporal punishment in the schools was not legal. I assumed that it was not legal anywhere. I just found out today that it is still legal in 19 US states. Idaho is one. Is your state another? Find out here.

Today is September 11

Never forget — the title of someone else’s blog post for today. So many things we must never forget: the American Revolution, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, Jr. Now 9/11. Must we spend our lives remembering atrocities?

I remember September 11, though I was not in New York City or Washington, DC. I remember the terrible sights of that day. I also remember the fear, and the anger, and the awful sensation that the world had been tipped upside down and the future was unknown. I remember another thing, I remember the feeling of patriotism and of drawing together as a people. Somehow, in that terrible day, there was a feeling that we were in it together and it would be alright.

Somewhere along the way, that feeling of patriotism and solidarity got twisted with a desire for revenge and the positive feelings slipped away into a swamp of fear and war-mongering.

We never will forget, but our children will. Even though we tell them to remember, how can they remember something that never happened?

If we only remember the atrocities, how can we find peace? Where is peace in this violent world?

Many religions preach peace, but they have not succeeded in bringing peace to the world. How can we reconcile our need to remember and honor the dead with peace?

If I had a Map: Guest Post

{Note: The following was written by my husband, Josh. It is about the future of humanity and our technology, especially concerning atomic bombs, climate change, and robots/AI. The entire piece is very long, with footnotes, so I have just put a brief excerpt here — the rest is available on his website.}

The dream started out in a hotel lobby with me trying to find my way back to my hotel room. I passed through large numbers of hallways, and stairways that looked sort of like a medieval city, with arches, bricks and even street vendor stalls, but all indoors. I was very lost. My companion asked, why don’t you just use the map, and I screamed back, “If I had a map, I’d already be f-ing using it.” Then I woke up.

If I were a Christian, I would have the Bible as my map. If I were a Buddhist, I could use the Pali Canon as a map. If I were a Muslim I would have the Koran. I’ve tried reading them. There are good parts, such as the story of the good Samaritan[1] and the raft simile.[2]

But try as I might, I have read these books and none of them were satisfactory to me. As holy and wise as I think Ecclesiastes is, I disagree with the author, because there are new things under the Sun. Circumstances have changed in the past two thousand years. Two thousand years ago, there were no nuclear weapons, coal and oil were basically not used as an energy source, and computers were not conceivable. The Romans didn’t even know how to hook a horse up to a wagon without choking the horse.[3, pg 46]

We are living in the here be dragons portion of the map. We are living in interesting times. We are living in changing times.

Many changes have happened in the past two to three hundred years. I will discuss three major changes that have occurred in the past hundred years and are changing humanity’s map of the world.

Read more …


Don’t Care or Already Decided — Which Camp do you fall in for the November Election?

In my newspaper today was a column by Richard Cohen, arguing that the American people have been lulled to sleep by the presidential election. He claims that the only important issue is the economy, and that neither Obama nor Romney is terribly magnetic or charismatic, so people are not paying attention to the election and don’t care. He concludes,

This is a campaign of immense consequence and, paradoxically, torpor. It’s as if it is being conducted by men who will not — or cannot — control events but are waiting for events to control them. They campaign dutifully but dully, going through the motions until Election Day. Maybe then they’ll get the audience back. In the meantime, America has gone for a beer.

I would disagree with Mr. Cohen. I don’t think Americans are torpid, I think they have already made up their minds. Now, having decided, all they have to do is wait for November and vote. In the meantime, there is much more important stuff to do — finding and keeping employment and income in this terrible economy, housing and foreclosures, the hot weather, and summer vacations.

News Round-Up

Summaries of a few news and opinion stories from around the web that I found interesting:

Why you shouldn’t panic about pesticides in foods: Pesticide residues are generally at much lower levels than would be harmful. No mention is made of how pesticide use affects farmworkers. Notable quotation from the article: “No one should stop eating fruits and vegetables because of fears about pesticides.”

How To Stop Science Alienation Syndrome (Split K-12 science education into two tracks, for majors and non-majors): Instead of treating science and math as subjects that children either love or hate, and expecting all of them to pass the same classes, split classes, especially in high school, into specialized classes for children who want to become scientists, and general classes about science in every day life (in cooking, sports, and more) for everyone else.

Up to 27 million people living in slavery: The end of legal slavery did not end trafficking in people, and 27 million people around the world are forced to work for someone else in degrading conditions, deprived of their human rights.

This is So Wrong

Human brain - midsagittal cut

Human brain – midsagittal cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Countdown to a Digital Simulation of Every Last Neuron in the Human Brain

This article in Scientific American is about scientists trying to simulate a human brain on a computer. There doesn’t exist a computer with the necessary computing power yet, but it is supposedly coming soon.

This is so wrong on so many levels. First, let me say I can see the scientific value in this, because it would be good to be able to run experiments on something that wasn’t a real human being. BUT, I believe that if you fully simulate the human brain, you have a real human being. We are human because of our brains — there are plenty of other apes without the same complex, large brains we have — and they are not human. If it is not okay to run certain experiments on non-simulated, physical human beings, it is not okay to run them on a human simulated on a computer. It’s not.

Other posts I have written about artificial intelligence that you may enjoy if you like this article:

Artificial Intelligence

The Singularity is Coming

There is nothing new under the sun

That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a
pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?

Amos 8:6 King James Bible

Are you planning on voting?

Primaries are upcoming here in Idaho, and the general election will be here before we know it (however much we seem mired in campaign slog right now). Many states have passed new laws requiring identification at the polls. This identification must be current and up-to-date, with your current, legal name and address. And before you say that doesn’t apply to you, of course you have current, updated photo identification, an article by The Nation came out last week, and it quotes a Brennan survey that 10% of Americans don’t have it. Most of that 10% are women, who have last name changes due to marriage and divorce. Read the entire article.

Who do we think we are?: A poem on #humanrights

We sleep, safe in our warm houses
Who do we think we are?
We have forgotten the struggle
For our lives and voices.

Who do we think we are,
Scribbling away, warm and safe?
For our lives and voices
We did not pay the price.

Scribbling away, warm and safe
While other women scrimp and hide
We did not pay the price
They still suffer and die.

While other women scrimp and hide,
We have forgotten the struggle
They still suffer and die,
We sleep, safe in our warm houses.

For more information on what this poem is about, see Who are We? a post I wrote earlier this week.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,315 other followers

%d bloggers like this: