Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff is the most succinct summary (20 mins) of our complex problem of consumption I have ever encountered. I’m just now discovering it for myself, so I thought I’d share. Over 4 million have already discovered this charming, compelling video narrated by Annie Leonard. Everybody needs to see it. It ought to be shown in schools, even.

A few of the problems addressed in this video include:

  • You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely.
  • People are missing from the cookie-cutter explanations of how we get our stuff.
  • Corporations are becoming more powerful than nations.
  • Sustainable communities become slums over time.
  • Externalized costs — both economic costs and human costs — are killing us.

We need sustainability, equity, and a system of production and consumption that doesn’t kill us and our planet. If we focus on the big picture as well as the specific ways we can take action, then we can solve this crisis.

Seriously, if you only watch one video this week, make it The Story of Stuff.

Words of Hope and Inspiration: Social Justice

I’ve spent some time lately thinking about the idea of social justice, a notoriously difficult idea to pin down. I believe it is something that liberals and progressives spend a great deal of their lives pondering, while conservatives and others on the political right tend to dismiss it or diminish its importance. For example, someone on the political right might say something like, “the free market is social justice,” which I believe to be demonstrably false.

Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction at last week’s Inauguration had some great lines that urge us in the direction of social justice:

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

I believe that the idea of social justice allows for rich people and poor people to exist simultaneously in society. To suggest otherwise (i.e. “we should all be rich,” or “we should all be poor,” or “we should all be neither rich nor poor,”) is contrary to reality. However, a key concept of social justice is that the poor are not exploited and the rich are not shown favoritism. All one has to do is read about another crooked or incompetent CEO with a so-called golden parachute, visit a jail for white-collar criminals, or speak to someone who works 40+ hours a week and still does not receive a living wage to see that we have a long way to go before we achieve this aspect of social justice.

More Lowery:

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

Another cornerstone of social justice is respect for one’s fellow human beings. We have a long way to go in this area as well, as America has shown a tendency to sort itself into demographically homogeneous communities in the last few years. We need institutions that will bring together diverse peoples from across the nation.

At one time, the American military fulfilled this need to a certain extent. I believe that some sort of non-military civil service — a promise of the Obama campaign — will contribute to our capacity to tolerate, understand, and love one another.

By the way, a full transcript and youtube video of Rev. Lowery’s benetiction are available online. I thought it was a beautiful meditation from a man who’s seen a lot of serious stuff in his lifetime.

I’ve only scratched the surface of this important topic with the above two quotes. What are your thoughts about social justice?

Civil Marriage Equality

It’s easy to spend a whole day reading Daily Kos, so on most days I limit myself to only their front-page articles. Today, an article about an EqualityMaine press release caught my eye:

EqualityMaine Announces Bill for Civil Marriage Equality

At a State House press conference today, EqualityMaine and several coalition partners unveiled a bill that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maine.

The bill, titled “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock).

Not only are the folks at EqualityMaine framing this important issue correctly, they are also cutting to the truth of what the commonly-referred-to “gay marriage debate” is all about.

The good framing of the issue is made clear in the title of the bill before the Maine Legislature. “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” does two important things. First, it asserts that one or more groups of citizens are being discriminated against (gays and lesbians, for example). Second, it asserts that the dominant group in this power relationship (i.e. straight people with church marriages) is not going to lose anything as a result of this new law. It’s win-win.

The cutting-to-the-truth is suggested by the bill’s title as well. “Gay marriage” is not about gays or lesbians. It’s not even about marriage. It’s about equal access to the law.

From the EqualityMaine FAQ:

How would marriage equality affect my church?

That’s entirely up to your church. Remember, the issue is civil marriage, not religious marriage ceremonies. Religious institutions are not required to perform civil marriages, and may set their own boundaries for marriage. Some faith leaders will not perform marriages for people who have been divorced, for example, or for people of different religions.

Marriage equality does not challenge the autonomy of religious institutions in any way. Advocates of marriage equality focus strictly on civil marriage, and leave decisions about religious marriage ceremonies to faith leaders.

And that’s the way it oughta be. It’s already the case in America that marriage in the eyes of the law and marriage of the eyes of the church are not the same. To assert that all persons have access to marriage under the law does not threaten any church’s definition of marriage.

I have a hunch that I’ll get some comments about this one. What are your thoughts about the struggle for civil marriage equality in the United States?

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