1/28/2010 1:05:10 PM
Social work for the affluent: It sounds like an oxymoron. Down in Chicago, however, licensed clinical social worker Jinnie English is carving out a valuable new specialty for her profession—and opening the door to talking about the challenges of life after poverty.
English, profiled in University of Chicago magazine, didn’t set out to practice what she refers to as nontraditional social work. Rather, the Chicago alumnus “stumbled across” a niche clientele in the early days of her practice. Her outwardly-successful clients, most of them people of color, “had a lot of psychodynamic issues, masked under a really nice suit, a great haircut, nice home in the suburbs,” she tells the magazine. “They were left with the internal struggle of being poor.”
English herself grew up at times on welfare and “I still feel that shame,” she tells University of Chicago. For those who come from a less-privileged background, success can be a severe culture shock. Many of her clients also grew up in dysfunctional families, and don’t know how to respond to having power, she explains.
Among her colleagues, English often runs into the attitude that helping privileged people “doesn’t count,” but she’s determined to push the conversation forward—pointing out that many of her clients are the “successful products” of traditional social work. Her resolve calls to mind two other conversation changers: Dean Spade and Tyrone Boucher, 2009 Utne visionaries and co-creators of Enough, a dynamic website where people write about and discuss wealth, class, and the personal politics of resisting capitalism.
Source: University of Chicago
Image by *sean, licensed under Creative Commons.
1/26/2010 9:01:06 AM
It is easy to dislike Pat Robertson. One of my favorite responses to his abhorrent remarks about the Haiti earthquake was a message that popped up on Twitter: “Text ‘666’ to donate $10 to buy a hand basket big enough for Pat Robertson.”
Over at Religion Dispatches, Mark Hulsether has assembled a list of the Top Five (Less Sensational But More Dangerous) Things to Remember About Pat Robertson. Among them:
Robertson plays his part in the Iran-Contra scandal.
During the Central American civil wars of the 1980s, Robertson helped fund “cities of refuge” in Guatemala (what were called “strategic hamlets” in Vietnam), and camps for Nicaraguan Contras. Though trivial in scale compared to the policies of Bush and Cheney, allies of Reagan, funded illegally through the Iran-Contra connection and related schemes, were carrying out sadistic massacres in parts of countries they considered to be too leftist. Congressional Democrats were trying to stop the violence; which is what led Reagan, Oliver North, and others to develop illegal channels. Robertson cheerfully presented his piece of this puzzle as an opportunity for Christian mission. He even appeared on camera, with no apparent shame, to pray with Contra troops.
Robertson publishes an anti-Semitic screed and neo-conservative allies yawn.
Robertson’s 1991 book, The New World Order, recycled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and stated that George Bush Sr. was part of a conspiracy to institute “an occult-inspired world socialist dictatorship” (through his work with the United Nations in the first Gulf War). This caused few of Robertson’s neoconservative allies to break with him in any decisive way—although one former neocon, Michael Lind, denounced him in a major exposé in the New York Review of Books.
It goes on and on, just like Robertson himself. “Even if we discount Robertson’s extreme expressions… as harmless free speech, are these not remarkable simply at the level of imagination and hate speech?” Hulsether writes. “What if secular leftists or radical Muslims were to advocate similar scenarios of armed struggle or to use similar hate speech? What if they controlled television networks and were leading presidential candidates? Would federal prosecutors and mainstream news networks tolerate such behavior? Is it not remarkable that we take such things for granted from Robertson? As a wise media critic once said, ‘it’s a joke, but it’s not that funny.’”
Source: Religion Dispatches
1/13/2010 2:51:22 PM
Digital culture pioneer Kevin Kelly is bridging the gap between technology and spirituality. His “techno transcendentalist” philosophy, explained to Orion magazine, acknowledges that all creation and discovery, including the alphabet, the internet, and even the sun, can be seen on a cosmic level as technology. Humans are able to create technology, but our inventions have fundamentally changed the nature of humanity in ways that people cannot control. People are now more distracted, but we’re learning more, too. “You could say that humans are the sexual organs of technology,” according to Kelly, “that we are necessary for its survival. But it has its own inertia, urgency, tendencies, and bias.”
People tend to fear technology, in the same way that people fear all change. Change tends to breed discomfort. But Kelley believes people should not make blanket prohibitions on new inventions, no matter how frightening they may be. “I don’t think technology is neutral,” Kelly told Orion. “But I think the proper response to a bad technology is not to stop it—to stop thinking—but to have a better idea.”
Image by Dominic, licensed under Creative Commons.
1/12/2010 3:22:03 PM
UtneCast 39: Marnita’s Table: Social Networking Across Cultures / Levon Helm's Latest: Hide Player
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In this episode you’ll hear Leif Utne’s recent conversation with Marnita Schroedl, creator and host of Marnita’s Table, a cross-cultural dialogue and social-networking project that is, as she puts it, “spreading world peace, one meal at a time.” Marnita’s Table is the subject of a feature section on conversation in the November/December Utne Reader, including the articles A Feast of Ideas and Dish It Up, the latter about how to host your own dinner-dialogue gathering.
And this week Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman reviews the new album Dirt Farmer from Levon Helm.
Episode Sponsor: Mother Earth Coffee & Tea
1/12/2010 12:26:32 PM
UtneCast 10: Heretics: What If We Trusted Them?: Hide Player
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In Episode 10: Host Leif Utne interviews futurist Jerry Michalski about what we can learn from heretics. Michalski is working on a book about notable outsiders -- like architect Christopher Alexander, child psychologist Alice Miller, teacher John Taylor Gatto, and others -- all of whom were ostracized by their professional peers for challenging conventional wisdom, yet were later recognized for their groundbreaking contributions to their fields. The working title: "What if We Trusted You?"
Also, Keith Goetzman reviews the new album Ghost Repeater, from folk-rocker Jeffrey Foucault.
Episode sponsor: Mother Earth Coffee & Tea
1/12/2010 11:48:56 AM
UtneCast 03: Trauma and Transcendence: Hide Player
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In the third episode of the UtneCast podcast, host Leif Utne interviews Matthew Sanford, author of Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale). A paraplegic who teaches yoga, Matthew explains how trauma can teach us to better integrate body and mind. For more information, check out Nina Utneâ€™s interview with Matthew in the July/August issue of Utne, or visit Matthewâ€™s website, www.matthewsanford.com.
BONUS: For the full 29-minute version of Leif's conversation with Matthew Sanford, check out "UtneCast 03a: Matthew Sanford (extended interview)."
Editor David Schimke reviews the new album "Sigil" from Senegalese bluesman Nuru Kane.
And Street Librarian Chris Dodge reports on his favorite new find from the Utne stacks, a magazine about Middle-Eastern arts and culture called Bidoun. For more recommended magazines, books, websites and films from the Utne staff, check out our weekly online publication From the Stacks.
1/12/2010 11:41:35 AM
UtneCast 03a: Matthew Sanford (extended interview): Hide Player
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This is Leif Utne's full 29-minute interview with Matthew Sanford, a paraplegic yoga instructor and author of the new book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale). For more information, check out Nina Utne's interview with Matthew in the July/August issue of Utne, or visit Matthew's website, www.matthewsanford.com.
1/8/2010 1:05:51 PM
Perhaps our cynical society should learn something from the bird-watchers among us, who have the (sadly) uncommon tendency to trust one another. Alice Morgan writes a lovely piece for the new issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest about the strength of the “unwritten code of honesty” that governs the birding world, which results not only in the truthful intentions of each birder, but also in the trust of his or her peers. (The article is not yet available online.)
Apart from bird-watching, “there are not many situations in which something that matters to the participants is based entirely on individual statements without external monitoring,” Morgan writes. “Even in a sphere that is highly competitive, as birding is for many people, it is rare to encounter skepticism about what individuals say.”
If the trip leader says he has seen 800 species in North America, we accept and admire that. If we hear that a knowledgeable birder has seen a rare bird but no other sightings are reported, our natural response is that this expert may have made a rare identification mistake, but that more likely the bird has simply moved on. We don’t jump to the conclusion that the sighting is a lie, just as we don’t believe that the birder with 800 species has padded his list.
If a reported sighting does seem highly unlikely, Morgan writes, “perhaps someone will believe you were mistaken—that the reported rarity was actually a common bird in a strange light, or a juvenal plumage—but not that you intentionally lied.”
I find this fidelity to the truth to be one of the most attractive aspects of bird-watching. We all like to brag about the birds we see and hear, but we are also united in our rueful admissions that this or that bird has escaped us this season, this year, or even all our lives so far. We look forward to the moment when we can truthfully lay claim to a particular bird, or to a higher tally of birds seen this month or this year, or in this place or that. And when we finally reach our goal, we will tell our friends and fellow bird-watchers, who will share our gratification, because they will have every reason to believe us.
Source: Bird Watcher’s Digest
Image by donjd2, licensed under Creative Commons.
1/6/2010 9:56:42 AM
Radical feminist theologian Mary Daly has died. An appreciation in the independent Catholic paper National Catholic Reporter calls her "a mother of modern feminist theology." What does radical feminist theology sound like? National Catholic Reporter shares an excerpt from a piece Daly wrote for the New Yorker: "Ever since childhood, I have been honing my skills for living the life of a radical feminist pirate and cultivating the courage to win. The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a woman trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin.’" That's classic Daly.
“I urge you to sin,” she once wrote. “But not against these itty-bitty religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism—or their secular derivatives, Marxism, Maoism, Freudianism and Jungianism—which are all derivatives of the big religion of patriarchy. Sin against the infrastructure itself!”
Source: National Catholic Reporter
1/5/2010 4:52:33 PM
Jesus was an activist, according to many activists. He fought for the poor and stood up to authority. But after Jesus was crucified, the Romans were not deposed, and poverty and corruption among the Jews remained. “If Jesus is a model for activism,” Will Braun writes for Geez, “he seems to be a model for failed activism.”
Braun’s interpretation isn’t an attack on Jesus as an inspirational figure. It’s an effort to see him as he was, rather than trying to turn him into a mirror for the qualities we admire. Braun writes, “The story of Jesus did not hold for her the promise that the bad guys would be overthrown but that there were certain things that live on beyond the reach of the destructive powers.”
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