Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Bobby" - Trailer for the movie

“Bobby” and Love as the Force of Total Revolution

"...heroes were dying from bullets and shrapnel. The ones that made the news were being knocked down by assassins. Each time skin was punctured, air escaped from our collective idealism. John Kennedy's head was blown apart, Malcolm X soaked in his blood as his wife mourned over his body, young Robert Kennedy shot down point-blank range, Martin Luther King Jr. crumpled onto the motel cement walk. All my earliest heroes were assassinated.

White police were kicking Blacks. German Shepherds tore their clothes and skin. Fire hoses plastered Black women and men to slum walls. Yet the riots spread through the country. Watts, Harlem, Philadelphia. Then Kent State. Wow. They kill white people too. Rifles on unarmed students - four dead in Ohio."

I wrote these words eighteen years ago with little emotion, but yesterday as I watched the movie "Bobby," the emotions flooded onto my cheeks. My mom and I paid our $3 at the Village 8 and were swept back to those days of turmoil, when racism and violence oozed out of the pores of our society in a country (then and now) seduced by power and progress. More and more to lose, individual and collective anxiety ever growing.

In our ignorance and arrogance, we divide our world into us and them - American and Vietcong, White and Black, rich and poor - spreading suffering in the wake of our stupidity. Many protested against the Vietnam War but already the violence was in us.

Vimala Thakar explains,

"If we are not romantic and sentimental, and do not feel gratified just by reacting emotionally, by expressing how bad the wars are, but rather go deep, won't we find the roots of war in the systems and structures that we have accepted?"

"We will discover that there are systems and structures that inevitably lead to aggression, exploitation, and war. We have accepted aggression as a way of living. We create and entrench ourselves in structures which culminate in wars. Retaining the structures and avoiding wars is not possible. You and I as individuals have to realize how we are responsible, how we cooperate with the systems and thereby participate in the violence and wars. And then we must begin to inquire whether we can discontinue cooperating with the systems, whether we can stop participating in wars, and explore alternative ways of living for ourselves."

She continues,

"We must go to the roots of the problem, to the core of the human psyche, recognizing that collective social action begins with action in individual life. We cannot separate the individual and the society. We each contain the society when we accept the value structure of society, when we accept the priorities worked out for us by governments and the states and the political parties. We are expressions of the collective, repeating the pattern created for us, and we feel happy because we are given physical security, economic security, comfort, leisure, entertainment. We have been trained to be obsessed with the idea of security;..." (Vimala Thakar, "Awakening to Total Revolution: Enlightenment and the World Crisis")

"Bobby" wove the dramatic stories of Mexican kitchen help ("the new niggers") in the Ambassador Hotel, young RFK campaigners dropping acid, Demi Moore as the singer Virginia Fallon, Harry Belafonte as the elderly and lovable Nelson, a couple marrying to avoid frontline duty (the husband played by Bilbo) into the day 42-year-old Robert Kennedy was shot dead. His nasal, high-pitched words of peace and justice were water to the desert of war and social divisiveness.

Bobby spoke of the violence in downtown Cleveland, "...whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded." And linked it to the killing fields of Indochina:

"...we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire." (Robert F. Kennedy, Cleveland, OH, "On the Mindless Menace of Violence")

Bobby described the humiliation that breeds isolation, suffering and violence, which is either internalized, fought out among the oppressed people, or which lashes out at those that oppress.

"For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter."

"This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all..."

"...When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered."

"Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence."

"We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge."

In a separate speech, Bobby pointed to the deeper challenge, "Violence breeds violence, retaliation breeds retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls."

So, must we first remove the sickness from our souls?

Or should we first cleanse the society that inculcates the sickness in us?

Vimala Thakar, the Indian spiritual leader and social activist, helps us sort this out. She describes how traditionally there have been two separate approaches:

"One approach takes us toward the social, the economic, the political problems, and says, "Look here, unless the economic and political problems are solved, there will be no happiness and no peace, there will be no end to suffering. It is the responsibility of every individual to engage in solving these problems according to some ideology. Turning toward the inner life, the imbalances and impurities of the inner life, that is not so important, that can be taken care of later on, for it is a self-centered, egoistic activity. But the responsibility is toward the society, toward the human race, so keep aside all those problems of meditation and silence, inner sophistication, transformation for inner revolution-keep all that aside. First turn toward this." And the other approach says, "The political and economic problems cannot be solved unless the individual is transformed totally. Be concerned with your psychological mutation, the inner, radical revolution. The political, the economic, the social problems can wait."

Each fragment has its own set of values - and pitfalls.

"Among many social activists, anger, hatred, violence, bitterness, and cynicism are accepted norms, even though the effectiveness of these motivations for peaceful living has been seriously put in doubt. And indifference to the needs of the poor has had shocking acceptance among generations of spiritual people who considered higher states of consciousness much more significant than the misery of the starving millions."

Going Beyond Fragmentation

"A new challenge awaits us at the beginning of the twenty-first century: to go beyond fragmentation, to go beyond the incompatible sets of values held even by serious-minded people, to mature beyond the self-righteousness of one's accepted approaches and be open to total living and total revolution. In this era, to become a spiritual inquirer without social consciousness is a luxury that we can ill afford, and to be a social activist without a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the mind is the worst folly."

With this in mind, let us return to the war. Where is it being waged? Is the war only out there? In Iraq? In the Congo? In Somalia? Thakar says, no.

"Viewing the world as a large pieced-together collection of fragments, some of which are labeled as friend and others as foe, begins internally. We map out our internal territories with the same positive or negative designations as we do external territories, and wars go on there as they do in the world. Internally, we are divided against ourselves; the emotions want one thing, the intellect another, the impulses of the body yet another, and a conflict takes place which is no different in quality, although it is in scale, from that of the world wars. If we are not related to ourselves in wholeness, is it any surprise that we cannot perceive the wholeness of the world? If we believe ourselves each to be a patched-together, unmatched assortment of desirable and undesirable features, motives at odds with each other, undigested beliefs and prejudices, fears, and insecurities, will we not project all this on the world?"

Inner Freedom is a Social Responsibility

The path is described by Thakar:

"...the source of human conflict, social injustice, and exploitation is in the human psyche, we must begin there to transform society. We investigate the mind, the human psyche, not as an end in itself, as a self-centered activity, but as an act of compassion for the whole human race. We must move deep to the source of decay in society so that the new structures and social systems we design will have a sufficiently healthy root system that they will have an opportunity to flourish. The structures of society need to be transformed, but the hidden motivations and assumptions on which the structures rest need to be transformed as well. The individual and collective values and motives that give sanction to the injustice and exploitation of modern society must become the focus of change as much as the socioeconomic and political structures. We no longer will be able to allow the motivations and values that underlie personal and collective behavior to remain hidden and unexamined. It serves no lasting purpose for us to change the surface structures and behaviors while the deep foundations remain decadent and unsound."

Getting at those "hidden motivations and assumptions" requires a practice which will help us 'get over ourselves'. Who are you really? Is your mind yours? Those of us in the West, especially, have much individuation to transcend:

"Those of us who have dedicated our lives to social action have considered our personal morality and ethics, our motives and habits, to be private territory. We not only want our personal motivations and habits cut off from public view, but from our own recognition as well. But in truth, the inner life is not a private or personal thing; it's very much a social issue. The mind is a result of collective human effort. There is not your mind and my mind; it's a human mind. It's a collective human mind, organized and standardized through centuries. The values, the norms, the criteria are patterns of behavior organized by collective groups. There is nothing personal or private about them. We may close the doors to our rooms and feel that nobody knows our thoughts, but what we do in so-called privacy affects the life around us. If we spend our days victimized by negative energies and negative thoughts, if we yield to depression, melancholia, and bitterness, these energies pollute the atmosphere. Where then is privacy?"

From here, Vimala Thakar will have the final words. She presents the choice before us - ultimately one of survival for the human race - and lays out an enlightened path. It leads from awareness of oneness, to love, beauty and truth, to the spontaneous movement of compassion, into the mystery of total revolution of our lives and the world.

“We need to learn, as a social responsibility, to look at the mind as something that has been created collectively and to recognize that our individual expressions are expressions of the human mind.

Inner freedom from the past, from the thought structure, from the organized, standardized collective mind, is absolutely necessary if we are to meet one another without mistrust or distrust, without fear, to look at each other spontaneously, to listen to one another without any inhibition whatsoever. The study of mind and the exploration of inner freedom is not something utopian, is not something self-centered, but it is urgently necessary so that we as human beings can transcend the barriers that regimentation of thought has created between us. Then we will perceive ourselves, each as an unlabeled human being; not an Indian, an American, a capitalist, or a communist-but as a human being, a miniature wholeness. We have not yet learned to do that. We are together on this small planet, and yet we cannot live together. Physically we are near one another, and psychologically we are miles apart.

Clearly the social responsibility for arriving at inner freedom is a very relevant issue. We study the mind because we want the harmony of peace to prevail, because we need the joy of love in our hearts, because we care about the quality of life our children will inherit. We do not undertake such study because we want something new and esoteric for the ego, some transcendental experiences to enhance our self-image. We study the mind as a social responsibility; we recognize that the roots of violence, injustice, exploitation, and greed are in the human psyche, and we turn our clear, precise, objective attention there.

We are related organically, and we have to live that relationship. To be attentive to the dynamics of the inner being is not creating a network of escapes to avoid responsibility. It is not continuing a false superiority that I am sensitive and you are not. It is simply recognizing that our personal relationships and collective relationships are miserable affairs, and that these relationships stimulate fear and anxieties and throw us on the defensive. However much we yearn for peace, emotionally we are not mature enough for peace, and our immaturity affects everything we do, every action we take, even the most worthy of actions.

The elimination of inner disorder takes place in the lives of those who are interested in being truly creative, vital, and passionate whole human beings, and who recognize that inner anarchy and chaos drains energy and manifests in shabby, shoddy behavior in society. To be attentive requires tremendous love of living. It is not for those who choose to drift through life or for those who feel that charitable acts in society justify ugly inward ways of being. The total revolution we are examining is not for the timid or the self-righteous. It is for those who love truth more than pretense. It is for those who sincerely, humbly want to find a way out of this mess that we, each one of us, have created out of indifference, carelessness, and lack of moral courage."

The Choice Is Ours

Most of us are not aware of our motivations for living or our priorities for action. We drift with the tides of societal fashions, floating in and out of social concerns at the whim of societal dictates and on the basis of images created by the media or superficial, personal desires to be helpful, useful persons. We are used to living at the surface, afraid of the depths, and therefore our actions and concerns about humanity are shallow, fragile vessels easily damaged. Ultimately most of us are concerned chiefly with our small lives, our collection of sensual pleasures, our personal salvation, and our anxiety about sickness and death, rather than the misery created by collective indifference and callousness.

We have reached the point, however, where we no longer have the luxury to indulge in self-centered comfort and personal acquisition or to escape into religious pursuits at the cost of collective interests. For us there can be no escape, no withdrawal, no private arena in which we can turn our backs on the sorrows of humanity, saying, "I am not responsible. Others have created a mess; let them mend it." The writing on the world's wall is plain: "Learn to live together or in separateness you die!" The choice is ours.

The world today forces us to accept, at least intellectually, our oneness, our interrelatedness. And more and more people are awakening to the urgency of arresting the accelerating madness around us. As yet, however, our ways of responding are superficial, unequal to the complexities of the challenge. We do not take or even consider actions that threaten our security or alter our habitual ways of drifting through life. If we continue to live carelessly, indifferently, emphasizing private gain and personal indulgence, we are essentially opting for the suicide of humanity.

We can become involved in many acts of social service, according to our resources, without ever moving one inch from the center of our private interests; in fact, the very act of social service typically enhances self-image and self-centeredness. But we cannot become involved in true social action, which strikes at the roots of problems in the society and in the human psyche, without moving away from ego-centered motivation. We must look deep into the network of personal motivations and discover what our priorities are. Our yearning for peace must be so urgent that we are willing to free ourselves from the immaturity of ego-centered action, willing to grow into the sane maturity required to face the complex challenges that affect our existence. If we are motivated by desire for acceptance either by the dominant culture or the counterculture, clarity of right action and passion of precise purpose will not be there. We may be praised for our contributions, but unless there is a deep awareness of the essence of our lives, a penetrating clarity about the meaning of human existence, our contributions will not penetrate to the roots of human misery.

To be ready for social responsibility, we will have to be mercilessly honest with ourselves. Wherever we are, we are responsible to resist injustice, to be willing to put our comforts, securities, our lives at stake in fearless non-cooperation with injustice and exploitation. If we adopt all the habit patterns of the enslaved-the fear, the acceptance of tyranny, the intellectual and emotional blindness to injustice-we deserve the inevitable consequences that are descending upon us in a dark storm cloud. If we are submissive, clinging to our small islands of security, naturally terror will reign. If we are willing to allow all others to perish-the peoples of other countries, races, castes, cultures, religions; the other creatures of the earth-so that we may flourish and endlessly increase our network of pleasures and comforts, obviously we are doomed to rot and decay. The callousness of letting others be abused so that our petty little lives will be undisturbed, so that all the comforts of a lovely home, pleasant meals, and good entertainment will not be threatened, portends doom for us all.

When we come face-to-face with the actualities of human and planetary suffering, what does the powerful moment of truth do to us? Do we retreat into the comforts of theories and defense mechanisms, or are we awakened at the core of our being? Awareness of misery, without defense structures, will naturally lead to action. The heart cannot witness misery without calling the being to action, without activating the force of love. We may not act on a global or national scale; it may be only on a community or neighborhood scale-but act, respond, we must. Social responsibility flowers naturally when we perceive the world without the involvement of the ego-consciousness. When we relate directly to suffering, we are led to understanding and spontaneous action-but when we perceive the world through the ego, we are cut off from direct relationship, from communion that stirs the deepest level of our being.

The Force of Love Is the Force of Total Revolution

A tender, loving concern for all living creatures will need to arise and reign in our hearts if any of us is to survive. And our lives will be truly blessed only when the misery of one is genuinely felt to be the misery of all. The force of love is the force of total revolution. It is the unreleased force, unknown and unexplored as a dynamic for change.

We have moved very far away from love in our collective lives, dangerously near destruction, close to starvation. Perhaps we have the wisdom now, the awareness that love is as essential to human beings as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Love is the beauty, the delicate mystery, the soul of life, the radiant unspoiled purity that brings spontaneous joy, songs of ecstasy, poems, paintings, dances, dramas to celebrate its indescribable, never-to-be-fully-captured bliss of being. Can we bring love into the marketplaces, into the homes, the schools, the places of business, and transform them completely? You may call it a utopian challenge, but it is the only one that will make a significant difference or that is fully worthy of the potential of whole human beings.

Compassion is a spontaneous movement of wholeness. It is not a studied decision to help the poor, to be kind to the unfortunate. Compassion has a tremendous momentum that naturally, choicelessly moves us to worthy action. It has the force of intelligence, creativity, and the strength of love. Compassion cannot be cultivated; it derives neither from intellectual conviction nor from emotional reaction. It is simply there when the wholeness of life becomes a fact that is truly lived.

Compassion does not manifest itself when we live on the surface of existence, when we try to piece together a comfortable life out of easily available fragments. Compassion requires a plunge to the depths of life-where oneness is reality and divisions merely an illusion. If we dwell at the superficial layers of being, we'll be overly conscious of the apparent differences in human beings on the physical and mental level, and of the superficial difference in cultures and behavior. If we penetrate to the essentials, however, we will discover that there is nothing fundamental that differentiates any human being from another, or any human being from any other living creature. All are manifestations of life, created with the same life principles and nurtured by the same life-support systems. Oneness is absolute reality; differentiation has only transitory, relative reality.

It is not sufficient that a few in society penetrate to the depths of living and offer fascinating accounts about the oneness of all beings. What is necessary in these critical times is that all sensitive and caring people make a personal discovery of the fact of oneness and allow compassion to flow in their lives. When compassion and realization of oneness becomes the dynamic of human relationship, then humankind will evolve.

We are suffering throughout the world in the darkness of the misery we have created. By believing in the fragmentary and the superficial, we have failed to live together in peace and harmony, and so darkness looms very large on the horizon. It's in such darkness that common people such as you and I feel the urgency to go deeper, to abandon superficial approaches that are inadequate and to activate the creative forces available to each of us as expressions of wholeness. The vast intelligence that orders the cosmos is available to all. The beauty of life, the wonder of living, is that we share creativity, intelligence, and unlimited potential with the rest of the cosmos. If the universe is vast and mysterious, we are vast and mysterious. If it contains innumerable creative energies, we contain innumerable creative energies. If it has healing energies, we also have healing energies. To realize that we are not simply physical beings on a material planet, but that we are whole beings, each a miniature cosmos, each related to all of life in intimate, profound ways, should radically transform how we perceive ourselves, our environments, our social problems. Nothing can ever be isolated from wholeness.

There is much unexplored potential in each human being. We are not just flesh and bone or an amalgamation of conditionings. If this were so, our future on this planet would not be very bright. But there is infinitely more to life, and each passionate being who dares to explore beyond the fragmentary and superficial into the mystery of totality helps all humanity perceive what it is to be fully human. Revolution, total revolution, implies experimenting with the impossible. And when an individual takes a step in the direction of the new, the impossible, the whole human race travels through that individual."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

at the hermitage

~ ~
~ ~ ~
The lake. Raining. Raining on the lake.

Raindrops, millions, dance geometric.
Each rippling circle,
a life and a death,
immortally flatten
flatten on the lake's skin.

Something pulls my gaze.
or is it condensed life?
bound tighter, clumped together,
entropy defeated for now.

a beaver
scurries along the bank,
pushes into the lake
ducks its head
into the water
arching black back
glistens for an instant
gone beneath the surface.

Lake. Lake.

Then head pops up elsewhere,
an extra splash (it seems to me)
of joy in the task,
absorbed and ecstatic.

V-shaped wavelets
follow him around
around the bend.


Until there,
again. Again.

Raining on the lake. Raining. The lake.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

solar hot water!

A large FedEx truck pulled up with my new solar water heating panels and components yesterday. It took us an hour and a half, a bruise on the shin, two crushed fingers, a popped lens on my glasses, and an aching back today to get those 906 pounds of stuff from the truck into my mom's garage. Actually two solar systems. My mom bought one too.

In the spring, brother David will drive his veggie VW Gulf down from Finland, Minnesota to install the systems. We are his guinea pigs! I'll get to learn how to do it. Or I'll learn how to deal with the sorrow of dropping a 160-pound panel from my 30-foot tall roof peak through the roof below!

Here is the system we bought -

I'll post a picture of the FedEx truck driver later...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Democracy School: An Introduction

Townships in Pennsylvania are taking constitutional rights of personhood away from corporations, and giving those rights back to human beings. The Legal Defense Fund provides the analysis and tools to take back democracy.

Monday, November 20, 2006

footprint of nations

Overshoot: World's Ecological Footprint Exceeds Biocapacity by Nearly 40%

The Ecological Footprint is a measure of the amount of nature it takes to sustain a given population over the course of a year. According to the new 2005 Footprint of Nations report (pdf), humanity’s footprint is 57 acres per person while the Earth’s biological capacity is just 41 acres per person. By comparing a population’s footprint with its biological capacity, Ecological Footprint analysis suggests whether or not that population is living within its ecological means. If a population’s footprint exceeds its biological capacity, that population is said to be engaging in unsustainable ecological overshoot.

The new Footprint 2.0 is a great educational tool created by Redefining Progress to measure how much of the Earth's carrying capacity it takes to sustain humanity's consumption of goods and services. Go to for the full scoop.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Meatrix II 1/2 - the sequel continues

Watch The Meatrix II ½, online now!
What happened to Moopheus after being kidnapped in Meatrix 2?
What really goes on in meat processing facilities? And what can you do?
Answers to these questions, plus plenty of Meatrix action and excitement, can be found online at

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

meta metta: toward sacred activism

"A new challenge awaits us at the beginning of the twenty-first century: to go beyond fragmentation of the inward and outward, to go beyond the incompatible sets of values held even by serious-minded people, to mature beyond the self-righteousness of one's accepted approaches and be open to total living and total revolution. In this era, to become a spiritual inquirer without social consciousness is a luxury that we can ill afford, and to be a social activist without a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the mind is the worst folly. Neither approach in isolation has had any significant success."

This essay - Awakening to Total Revolution: Enlightenment and the World Crisis, by Vimala Thakar - is essential reading. The insights here are central to the shift in consciousness we as a species need to make if we are to survive, much less thrive. Thakar points us in the right direction in figuring out approaches and mindsets that will allow us to live out the changes we, on a good day, can envision.

Print it up, take it home, read it with care...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

habeas corpus suffers ignoble death

Democracy is about to take a big hit when Bush signs the shocking bill passed by Congress last Friday.

Why then am I not out on the street protesting?! And why aren't you? What is the expression about you don't know what you've lost until it's gone?

"With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta."

How could this be when Bush himself said in July 2003: "The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."?

How do you spell hypocrisy? (or is it with 2 'c's?)

Do read Molly Ivins's
Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 - 2006)

Monday, October 02, 2006

meditation as sit-down strike

"It is subversive to gain some control over your desires, especially the excessive kind that have been stimulated by all the advertising messages. It is an act of dissent to sit down and do nothing, to be content with this moment, this breath, this mysterious aliveness. And when you aren't producing or consuming, then you are sabotaging the system. Meditation can be understood as a sit-down strike."

In April of 2001, I did a week-long silent meditation at Spirit Rock led by Joanna Macy and Wes Nisker, and the above is from Wes's book. He is a hilarious Buddhist sit-down comedian. His books are fun and insightful.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

gym teacher secretly hates nerds

Ever felt like you were being singled out for punishment or difficult tasks in gym? Because you weren't as athletic as others? Seems you weren't imagining things. Here is an article that proves it wasn't just paranoia (though people may all be out to get you anyway). The Onion provides the definitive article on the subject.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

metta connection: steiner and buddhism

As soon as I started reading Steiner's How to Know Higher Worlds, I saw the connection. I don't know whether Steiner studied Buddhism or not, but if not, the similarities would be almost miraculous. This essay explains the links -

More on this later...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Who killed the electric car?

Engineers modify hybrid cars to get up to 250 mpg

Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away.

Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.

Read the article from SFGate

Plus, there is a documentary out now called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" playing in the better theaters around the country. Here is a review

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why are Indian cotton farmers committing suicide? And what can be done to help them?

Burning GMO Cotton in India

On January 10 of this year, Jamuna Ramdas Ade decided she’d had enough. The cotton farmer from the Indian state of Maharashtra was so deep in debt that she swallowed a mouthful of monocrotophos, an insecticide so poisonous it is banned in Europe and the United States.

Read the rest of the article and find out how to help.

Also on the cotton squeeze, see the article about Seydou Coulibaly, a cotton farmer from Mali who was recently in Louisville to meet with local farmers and students. By Rasa Zimliki (Oxfam) and Andrew Kang Bartlett. Download the two-pager here.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

post-captivity metta

Problem: How to help prisoners create changes in their behavior that are sustainable upon release, promote a positive lifestyle, and decrease the likelihood of recidivism?

The Upaya Zen Prison Project teaches meditation as a means of ending the cycle of addiction, violence and incarceration for men, women and youth. Through meditation prisoners learn how to examine and eventually transform the unhealthy habits that have governed their lives up to this point. This is a place where Buddhist rubber hits the road.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, which I've been a member of for many years, has an excellent program on prisons. You can also get all your Socially Engaged Buddhist News on their home page.

Monday, May 15, 2006

mercury for dinner

Yes, every body of water in my whole state has a mercury advisory. In fact, Kentucky leads the nation in per capita deaths due to power plant pollution. The following letter to the EPA by Ramish Blatt gives an excellent overview.

And the problem is not just Kentucky. The EPA itself has found that as many as 630,000 children are born each year in the US with unhealthy levels of mercury in their blood.

Administrator Mike Leavitt
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Leavitt:

I am writing on behalf of 4600 Kentuckians who are members of the Cumberland (Kentucky) Chapter of the Sierra Club. We are dismayed that the EPA has proposed an extraordinarily industry-friendly and ineffective mercury rule. These weak regulations will not only perpetuate the negative impacts of the toxic chemical across the nation, but will also exacerbate the existing serious pollution problems in our state. We urge you to rescind this rule and come up with more stringent regulations that will protect Kentuckians and their environment.

Read the rest of this letter

Clear the air puts out excellent fact sheets on air pollution. Clicking here will pull up a PDF of the Kentucky one.

Feel free to visit an earlier post -- "Carving the Flesh of the Earth"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

no burritos?

Demonstrator Lubian Piedras holds up a sign while wearing a sombrero at a planned protest in San Diego, California May 1, 2006. In what organizers called 'A Day Without Immigrants,' rallies across the country closed hundreds of restaurants, shops and factories. Construction projects were disrupted, day labor jobs went begging, children stayed home from school and waves of humanity poured through city streets.

REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Thursday, April 13, 2006

FBI reviews 1946 public lynching case

Nearly 60 years after a white mob lynched two black couples on a summer afternoon and got away with it, the FBI is taking another look at the case.


Read the complete story on the Newsvine -- 1946 lynching case

Monday, April 03, 2006

immigration hypocricy

[Letter to the Editor of the Louisville Courier Journal; April 3, 2006]

How long will the debate on immigration reform carry on without addressing the root cause of the demographic phenomenon that has fueled the migration of millions of undocumented workers into the U.S.?

Ask almost any undocumented worker in the U.S. for his/her story. Ask the right questions, and you will invariably discover that economic conditions in his/her home country have worsened in the last 10 to 15 years, accelerating in our closest neighbor, Mexico, since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

Estimates by reliable sources put the number of Mexicans displaced from their former occupations by NAFTA at several million. The beneficiaries, some who helped design NAFTA, include such mega-corporations as Cargill, ADM and Wal-Mart.

Those living in poverty in Mexico increased from some 56 million in 1994 to more than 70 million today. This is because NAFTA allowed U.S. corn exporters to flood the Mexican market below the cost of production (thanks to corporate consolidation, over-production and massive subsidies of U.S. production), and it allowed Wal-Mart to build an estimated 500 superstores in Mexico and purchase hundreds of stores that do not have the Wal-Mart name on them, displacing millions of small family businesses.

Can we wonder why Mexicans have turned up in virtually every corner of the U.S.? Can we blame these hard-working people? All roads lead to Rome. Let us cease to blame the victims of our own policies and cut the hypocrisy. Demilitarize the border. Repeal NAFTA and other policies of economic predation. They harm workers on both sides of the borders. Cease the war on the poor. That is the only long-term solution.

Louisville, KY

Friday, March 31, 2006

behind closed doors

From "War Plan--Red," a United States plan for war with the British Empire. The plan was first approved at the cabinet level in 1930. The United States is "Blue," Canada is "Crimson," and the United Kingdom is "red."

The most probable cause of war between RED and BLUE is the constantly increasing BLUE economic penetration into regions formerly dominated by RED trade, to such an extent eventually to menace RED standards of living. The RED race is essentially homogenous, more or less phlegmatic, but determined and persistent when once committed to a policy, and is noted for its ability to fight to a finish.

While CRIMSON provides the RED Empire with advantageous bases at such widely separated points as to invite an initial dispersion of BLUE armed forces, CRIMSON itself occupies an extremely weak position with respect to BLUE. While its territory is of great extent, all well-developed parts thereof lie close to the BLUE bborder; hence, they are especially vulnerable to attack from BLUE.


(A) To initiate, at the earliest practicable date, operations designed to sparate CRIMSON from RED. This will include:
--an expedition against Halifax and the Montreal-Quebec area.
--immediate air operations on as large a scale as practicable.
--the establishment of the United States Fleet in the Western North Atlantic to destroy all RED naval forces in that area and to control sea communications between RED and CRIMSON.
(B) To seize RED bases in the western North Atlantic, the West Indies, and the Caribbean Sea.
(C) To make all necessary preparations for the use of chemical warfare from the outbreak of war.
The use of chemical warfare, including the use of toxic agents, is authorized.

-from Harpers, April 2006

Makes me wonder what Cheney and Rove talk about behind closed doors.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

coke's latest pr move

Protest over Coca Cola sponsorship of World Water Forum

The fourth World Water Forum (Mexico City, March 16-22) aims to bring together politicians, water management professionals and NGOs to aid cooperation for "better living standards for people all over the world and a more responsible social behavior towards water issues in-line with the pursuit of sustainable development." Coca Cola's sponsorship of the upcoming World Water Forum, the global summit aiming to improve access to freshwater worldwide, is out of line with the event's stated objective say activists. The Indian Resource Center NGO says that Coca Cola is sponsoring the event as a "publicity maneuver" to whitewash over its record of wasteful water use and pollution. Globally, the company's water use ratio is 2.7 to 1 on average - meaning 63% of the water it takes from the ground is discharged as waste.

See: and more on the World Water Forum at:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

abuses in Colombia: the real thing

Can you imagine a company that makes fizzy sugar water employs anti-union death squads in Colombia to prevent workers from organizing?

Yet, the Campaign for Labor Rights has compiled some damning reports of exactly that.

As the situation in Columbia grows worse, Coke is trying to end-run the demands for justice. They have hired two people who have connections with the International Labor Organization (ILO), one who was an employer representative; the other is a labor representative. Now the company has enlisted the international federation for its company union, the International Union of Food and Allied Workers - IUF, to ask the ILO to investigate the labor situation at Coke in Columbia.

Two things are interesting here. First, despite numerous assassinations of labor activists in Columbia, the ILO has repeatedly refused to launch a general investigation in the country's labor rights situation. Secondly, word has already filtered out of management meetings with workers at Coca-Cola FEMSA to decide which workers will be allowed to meet with any investigators, and which will not. This marks the fourth effort by Coke to set up a controlled "investigation."

The first was their own law firm, the second was by CalSafety (a notoriously discredited company that monitors codes of conduct), the third was with students and university administrators that Coke dumped when they insisted that Coke not be a member of the investigatory team, and now the ILO. Few companies go to such extremes to avoid doing the right thing.

Some universities are concerned enough to ban that corrosive liquid from their campuses. You can read the statement from the University of Michigan if you wish.

For a comprehensive Corporate Profile Report, called "Inside the Real Think" you can see the Polaris Institute's October 2005 publication.

Though your dentist may come after me for saying this, there may be some good reasons for switching to tap!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

their words ~ on mountain top removal

MARIA GUNNOE, 37, Bob White, West Virginia

"With mountaintop removal, the species we are losing is the human species—just because we're hillbillies. Hillbillies are the last people you can make fun of—it's acceptable. We do have educations. We do have lives. There's going to be an uprising here; the coal industry has turned us into activists. I try not to hate, I really do. There's a part of me that feels sorry for them. There's a part of me that would be standing with my foot on their throat and I wouldn't feel sorry for them."

JACKIE BROWNING, 56, Horse Creek, West Virginia

Browning was poisoned by chemicals used at a coal preparation plant. "I thought I was going to lose my mind. I tingled from my groin to my feet, my mouth burned—I felt like I ate a hot coal. I had diarrhea for four years and a severe sore throat for seven months." Browning claims that a Massey representative monitored his medical examination. "Massey is rock bottom. They're cruel people."

Read more in Antrim Caskey's portrait - "We Live It Every Day" Great photos of faces and quotes from West Virginians impacted by mountaintop removal.

carving the earth's flesh

Not since the glaciers pushed toward these ridgelines a million years ago have the Appalachian Mountains been as threatened as they are today. But the coal-extraction process decimating this landscape, known as mountaintop removal, has generated little press beyond the region. The problem, in many ways, is one of perspective. From interstates and lowlands, where most communities are clustered, one simply doesn't see what is happening up there. Only from the air can you fully grasp the magnitude of the devastation. If you were to board, say, a small prop plane at Zeb Mountain, Tennessee, and follow the spine of the Appalachian Mountains up through Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, you would be struck not by the beauty of a densely forested range older than the Himalayas, but rather by inescapable images of ecological violence.

On Thursday, I will fly in a small plane in eastern Kentucky to view the results of our insatiable need for electricity and all the comfort, power, and riches it brings.

The top paragraph is from Erik Reeces article in the new Orion Magazine, which you can see here along with photos of the region by Antrim Caskey. Reece's LOST MOUNTAIN: Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia just came out last month.

Demands on Appalachian coal, millions of tons of which sit beneath the forested mountains of this impoverished part of the country -- poor largely because of this extractive industry -- grow greater every day with the expansion of the economies of China and India, and the rise in oil prices.

What is the answer? Insatiable desire (need?) versus ravaged lands and lives? Who wins may, in part, be up to you and me. Great, huh?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

burning desire

I just started reading The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser. Rolheiser’s grasp of and ability to articulate reality at a profound level is impressive. The other book, described as a precursor, is called The Shattered Lantern. I highly recommend both.

Rolheiser starts Part I of The Holy Longing with this poem of the same name by Goethe. Take a long in-breath, exhale slowly, and read.

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
Because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
What longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "The Holy Longing"

Monday, February 06, 2006

31 days in iraq - a pictoral

The New York Times reports that in January more than 800 people — soldiers, security officers and civilians — were killed as a result of the insurgency in Iraq.

A chart with map, dates and icons for the lives lost depicts the scope and extent in a powerful way.

You can open the link from here

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

the road less traveled (for good reasons)

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Tim Flannery gave Collapse a warm review in Science, writing:

the fact that one of the world's most original thinkers has chosen to pen this mammoth work when his career is at his apogee is itself a persuasive argument that Collapse must be taken seriously. It is probably the most important book you will ever read.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

metta cheese

Well, happy new year. It will be better than 2005. I feel it. In fact, you can start celebrating now because January 15 - 21 is slow . . . down . . . week.

Along these lines, if you haven't heard about Slow Food, this is a great concept and growing movement, especially in Europe but now in the U.S. too. Go to to learn more.

If you're lucky, you can also find Slow Food near you.

The kids are itching to leave the library, so I should sign off here.

* No, that is not a shamanic drum, it is a drum of artisan cheese held by its creator.

P.S. I just discovered that the Polaris Institute has created a colorful map of the major companies that control most of the commerce on the planet.