My “Occupy mind” is moving from plowing (attracting attention through encampment) to planting, even if the seasons belie the metaphor. It’s time to develop concrete actions to match the feelings stirred up in the last two months. A political response is natural, and I expect you to keep pressure on your congregational delegations with respect to the banks, money in elections, student indebtedness and mortgages, among other issues.
But another, more basic issue, is changing our minds about what we really need as opposed to what we think we need. Confusing the famous with the important. Believing the promises made to you by people who have no interest in your well-being. (That thought started as a rejection of advertising, but really it goes much farther.) Thinking that your opinion is false because it is not well-spoken. (You can work on being convincing later.)
Of course, it’s easier to do this when there are concrete examples, and I’ll post good models as I find them.
It’s hard to see the “reeducation through labor” prisons in the People’s Republic of China and not see slavery. These laogai prisons not only detain people — including prisoners of conscience, including in Falun Gong and Christian believers — but then sell their products overseas. So some of those cheap Chinese goods come not simply from an artificially depressed Chinese currency and at the expense of Chinese workers, but from real, live modern slave labor. The EU has no effective law, and the US is toothless.
A documentary on Al-Jazeera — a part of their Slavery: A 21st Century Evil series(watch it online) — brings it home. Or if you’re in Washington, D.C. you can visit the Laogai Museum and see more yourself. I’ve been — it’s north of Dupont Circle — and is worth the visit.
1734 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
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Perhaps instead of “Black Friday”/Buy Nothing Day?
I’d hate for my readers to think that my few comments about the Occupy movement suggests I’m uninterested. Far from it. Indeed, I’m very mad and deeply concerned about yesterday’s pepper-spraying of student demonstrators at University of California Davis. Google for it, if you’ve not seen this now-iconic photograph.
But I comment mostly by Twitter, Identi.ca, Google+ and Facebook. Â And if you have the means to support your closest Occupy encampment, I encourage you to do so.
I had a harrowing day today at the emergency room. All is well — better safe that sorry — but at the very least, let it be said that I should mitigate against eye and neck strain.
Coming home, I re-installed a piece of software I once used: Workrave. It forces you to take short pauses and coffee breaks, and leads you through stretching your arms and shoulders, and refocusing your eyes. You can set the length between breaks and how many times you can defer them, say if you’re on deadline or showing someone something on your computer.
For users of the newest (Oneiric) version of Ubuntu Linux, install the backports repository (Edit > Software sources > Updates tab in the Ubuntu Software Center) and install it there or any standard way.
Linux users who compile from source and Microsoft users can get their software here.
I was reading the Universalist Register for 1912 to plan ahead for blog posts for next year. (What I don’t do for my readers.)
I noted a ministry affiliated with the old Massachusetts Convention: The Bethany Union for Young Women.
Its object is to maintain a home for respectable young women who are forced by the keen competition of a large city, to work for small wages.
Gauging by the horror stories I’ve heard in D.C. about housing, particularly among the 20-something set, even moderate wages get ground to nothing under the weight of student loans and a heritage of real estate speculation. Could use such a ministry in D.C.
It’s moved from its former location in the South End, but the Bethany Union still exists in Boston.
I can think of few medical conditions as debilitating — but treatable — asÂ obstetricÂ fistula, and I’d like to do a part to help.
In the Wealthy West, it doesn’t ordinarily come up in discussions of reproductive health or choice, but that’s what it seems like to me. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum, or vagina and urethra. They’re caused by over-extended labor, which causes the tissues, under pressure, to die. I can only imagine the stigma, the disability and the peril to health.
I know about them from sensitive news reporting, and from them, to organizations that campaign against fistula. One such report is on Al Jazeera, which you can watch online while you keep up with North African and Middle Eastern news: see “Fistula Hospital” in the Birthrights series.
Some organizations or campaigns seem to train midwives to make childbirth safer. Others seem to fund reconstructiveÂ surgery. Others seem to be educational.
Just raising the issue here, but do you know the obstetric fistula organizations and have found one you particularly admire? Is there interest in learning more about how to help?
Today’s the last day of the year: the perfect time to write a check — or checks — to the ministerial discretionary funds of ministers you know or trust. (I make the check to the church, memo it to the ministerial discretionary fund and mail it to the minister.)
These funds are part of an intangible safety net and often fill needs that have no program or public support. I’ve given from, given to, and received from ministerial discretionary funds.
Please consider helping.
Still getting my feet about putting longer-format, more-theological works at my RevScottWells.con blog. That’s where I put
“At Lent: less meat, less Google“
I stand for fiscal responsibility in non-profit organizations. Money entrusted for the common good should be used wisely and efficiently. Donors should — and increasingly do — seek out organizations with desirable missions and with the capacity to work efficiently.
I’ve been critical of churches that function like clubs as betraying this calculus; why, for instance, should a snug and private concern be tax-benefited? Church leaders have a responsibility to review their program against the public good they provide; in other words, through the eyes of taxpayers who support common infrastructure and other good organizations who are natural rivals for contributions. By which I mean general funds, building funds, organ funds.
That said, I have a warm place for ministerial discretionary funds. I’ve given them, given to them and received funds from them. (I graduated seminary so broke I didn’t have gas money from Texas to Georgia. Tough times.) World change won’t be funded through ministerial discretionary funds, but they do (or can do) a good job with the kind of emergencies that need a social net but for which there is often no kind of appropriate service organization. Money to pay for a prescription, travel funds to see a dying relative, transit fare for someone returning to work . . . very often that kind of thing.
As a matter of practice, I’d like to see financial controls in place, but in the end if you don’t trust a minister to be a good steward of the funds, then no amount of control will do much good to what end the funds are used.
So I’m getting my checkbook out and suggest you do too. That said, and not thinking of anyone in particular, there’s no rule you have to give to your minister.
I’m encouraged by a change of tone in the new Unitarian Universalist Association administration. Peter Morales, the new president, has been writing letters to his constituency without them being “pastoral”. This habit of his predecessor — who was never called to be the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Association; no such role exists — grated on me for years. They also struck me as a bit condescending and puffed-up.
I’ll take a letter addressed to “friends” any day. Especially this one on health care.
And I’ll say what he might not say, given the rules about grassroots lobbying: please call your lawmakers and politely insist on a public option for health care, and be clear that you will not be satisfied on a plan that leaves any American without at least basic health coverage. If you have a “Blue Dog” Representative, your input is especially valuable.