According to today’s San Mateo County Times, a group of students at Hillsdale High School held a rally to protest statewide cuts to public education funding. The Times shows a photo of a group of students marching behind a banner that reads:
“You Don’t Pay For Our Education
We Won’t Pay For Your Social Security!”
Perhaps this is the beginning of a new generation gap, the start of a widening rift between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers?
Various media sources are reporting that singer Marianne Elliot-Said has died of complications of breast cancer at age 53. Elliot-Said was better known under the stage name Poly Styrene, a name she used while singing with X-Ray Spex.
X-Ray Spex had a short career. In 1976, Elliot-Said was taking voice lessons, learning how to sing opera, and recording derivative reggae songs on the side, when she saw the Sex Pistols perform. This exposure to punk rock galvanized her, and she decided to form her own punk band, X-Ray Spex. The band performed together for about three years, recorded a handful of singles and one album, then disbanded in 1979.
Following the demise of X-Ray Spex, Elliot-Said joined the Hare Krishnas — more properly, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a branch of Hinduism that worships Vishnu, and is devoted to bhakti yoga, or expressions of devotion to God. I had not known that Elliot-Said had joined the Hare Kishnas, but I was not entirely surprised. When she was singing with X-Ray Spex, her voice had a transcendent, joyful quality to it — even when she was singing about the horrors of genetic engineering, or screaming (in late 1970s punk vocal style) “Oh bondage! up yours!” Although the punk rock idiom of the late 1970s was fairly limited, as practiced by someone like Poly Styrene the vocal style could approach a raucous and ecstatic transcendence. There was often a hint of rapture in her voice, even a hint of a connection to something larger than herself.
Elliot-Said has been interpreted as an early exponent of what came to be called third-wave feminism; she had a clear influence on later feminist bands like The Slits, and it’s hard to imagine the riot-grrrl movement without her example. She allied herself with the anti-racist forces within punk rock and was bi-racial — a Somali father and an English mother — and perhaps she will be claimed as an early adopter of multiracial identity. She also had a preference for day-glo colors and wore braces on her teeth, though it’s harder to know what to make of those attributes.
But I prefer to remember her simply for her full-throated, no-holds-barred singing, a kind of punk bhakti devotion that invited us all to transform and transcend. The hell with the anemic pablum of praise bands — if you’re gonna make me have amplified music in a worship service, I won’t settle for anything less the raw full-throated raucous singing of someone like Poly Styrene.
Below are my notes from a fundraising workshop led by Kim Klein, author of Fundraising for Social Change, at Starr King School for the Ministry, Monday 25 April 2011. My notes are just a bare outline of the presentation. perhaps the most important part of the presentation was Kim Klein’s straightforward, easygoing, no-nonsense, humor-filled approach to talking about money. She was not in the least uptight when she talked about money. In fact, perhaps the most important thing she told us was that it’s OK to talk about money, that we have to un-learn all the taboos and social constraints we have around money.
That being said, here are my notes:
The key questions nonprofit organizations must ask themselves before beginning fundraising:
— What does your organization most believe? You want to have a short memorable sentence describing what you believe. Example: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
— What does your organization do? You want to be able to talk very coherently about what you do.
— How well have you done? — your track record
— How much? — sources of money: Who gives?
The purpose of fundraising is to build relations.
“We don’t want a donation, we want a donor.” So you build relations with people who will be ongoing donors. Continue reading “Notes from a fundraising workshop”
Before this year, the last time Easter fell on April 24 was in 1859.
If you want to plan ahead, the next time it will fall on April 24 will be in 2095. The latest possible date for Easter is April 25; Easter last fell on that date in 1943, and the next time it will fall on that date will be 2038. The next time Easter will fall on a date later than April 15 will be in 2017.
Sources: Michael P.; Frequency of the date of Easter1875 to 2124; Oremus Almanac.
Carol discovered John Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit,” put out by the new online publisher, Byliner Originals; it’s a 100,000 word non-fiction article about Greg Mortenson, the well-known author of Three Cups of Tea. As you might imagine from the title, Krakauer is critical of Mortenson, and concludes the following:
In all fairness, Greg Mortenson has done much that is admirable since he began working in Baltistan sixteen and a half years ago. He’s been a tireless advocate for girls’ education. He’s established dozens of schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan that have benefited tens of thousands [of] children, a significant percentage of them girls. A huge number of people regard him as a hero, and he inspires tremendous trust. It is now evident, however, that Mortenson recklessly betrayed this trust, damaging his credibility beyond repair. [pp. 67-68]
Krakauer alleges that Mortenson fabricated important parts of his two bestselling books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools. To prove these allegations, Krakauer identifies serious errors in chronology, he finds contradictions between the account in Three Cups of Tea and an earlier article by Mortenson, and he digs up lots of eyewitness testimony that does not agree with what Mortenson wrote.
Krakauer also alleges that Mortenson mismanaged Central Asia Institute (CAI), the nonprofit organization he established to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. To prove these allegations, Krakauer interviewed former employees and associates of Mortenson, as well as former board members of CAI, who claim that Mortenson did not adequately document expenses (in some cases provided no documentation at all), used CAI funds for personal use, and bullied employees. Furthermore, according to Krakauer, Mortenson used CAI monies to promote Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, while keeping the book profits for himself; promotional expenses allegedly included buying copies of his first book to keep it on the bestseller list. While it’s always wise to have some doubt about the opinions of disgruntled former employees, Krakauer managed to find so many disgruntled former employees and board members for such a small, newly-founded organization, that I at least had to doubt Mortenson’s managerial ability. Continue reading ““Three Cups of Deceit””
Carol and I have been talking about happiness, and have decided that human beings are not supposed to be happy all the time, and that it makes life easier if one can accept that.
In a recent comment on a post I wrote about Cornel West, Kim Hampton makes a statement that I quite agree with:
I agree that the biggest reason that West is not talked about [among Unitarian Universalists] is the fact that he speaks from a liberationist standpoint … but I think you may be downplaying the fact part of the reason he is such a liberationist is that he is a forthright Christian. And Unitarian Universalism is still trying to figure out its relationship to Christianity.
This raises another interesting issue for me. In the contemporary theological landscape, socialism is almost exclusively associated with either a Christian liberationist theology perspective (e.g., Cornel West), or a Neo-pagan liberationist theology perspective (e.g., Starhawk). Humanists, by contrast, tend to be associated with a more moderate political philosophy. So humanist William Schulz, former director of Amnesty International, sounds like pretty straightforward natural-law human rights advocate and political liberal; and humanist Sharon Welch, ethicist and theologian, sounds to me like a pretty straightforward second-wave feminist and political liberal. Of put it this way: while I can think of some prominent Christians and Neo-pagans whom I would call socialists or leftist councilists, all the prominent humanists I know of seem to accept late capitalism without making a serious challenge to it.
In addition, it seems to me that much of humanist dialogue in recent years — at least, among the humanists I know — has largely divorced theology and religion from social justice theories. This is not to say that humanists aren’t concerned with social justice; indeed, the opposite is true in my experience, as the humanists I know tend to be strongly committed to social justice and political action. But most of the humanists I know seem to remove ethics from religion, and their theology focuses on ontotheology almost exclusively. Sharon Welch is an excellent example of this: over the years, the trend she has followed has been to remove explicit religious concerns from her ethics, to the point where I would not longer call her a theologian and instead I’d call her simply an ethicist (without a qualifier).
Any thoughts on this from you, dear reader? I’m willing to hear counterexamples that disprove my hypothesis, but I’m far more interested in a broader analysis: are humanists tending to move to the political right of socialist Christians and Neo-pagans? and is there something inherent in the trend of humanist thought today that is moving humanism in that direction? and aside from William R. Jones, is there such a thing as a liberationist humanist thinker?
A newcomer took a seat in one of the pews at First Unitarian. When the minister began preaching about liberal theology, the newcomer became more and more enthusiastic, and finally shouted “Amen!” when the preacher definitively proved the use of reason was essential to religion.
There was a long-time member of the church in the next pew, who leaned over and glared at the newcomer. “In this church, we do not shout ‘Amen’ during the sermon,” hissed the long-time member.
The newcomer, looking flustered, said, “But I’ve got religion!”
“Well,” hissed the long-time member, “you did not get it here!“
Knopf is going to publish a fiftieth anniversary edition of the classic chapter book The Phantom Tollbooth in October. Sometimes I read aloud to Carol before we go to bed, and we just finished with The Phantom Tollbooth. Carol thought it was a little slow, and she kept falling asleep in the middle of chapters. And I realized that it’s really not a good book to read aloud — it’s a book that’s meant to be read to yourself, so you can stop and appreciate all the word play, and think about the story. I also realized that it’s one of those books that if you read it for the first time as an adult, you’ll never like it as much as if you read it for the first time as a child or teenager — I first read The Phantom Tollbooth when I was ten, when I stumbled across a copy in the Ripley School library.
But whatever you adults think of this book, I maintain that it’s one book that religious liberals simply must give to the children in their lives. The Phantom Tollbooth inculcates some of the highest liberal religious values — there are no discussions of God or religion, but the whole point of the book is that in order to be truly wise, in order to live a truly good life, you need wisdom that goes beyond math and science, you need poetry and delight in language, and you need a sense of wonder at the world. The book also points out that when it is your turn to take on the Demons if Ignorance, you just have to do it, even if it is an impossible task. I won’t go so far as to say that anything else we manage to teach our liberal religious kids is icing on the cake, but I will say that if I can inculcate these values in a liberal religious kid, I will feel as though whatever religious education I’ve done has been pretty successful.
And if you want to read what Michael Chabon says about The Phantom Tollbooth, you can read his essay about it in The New York Review of Books. (Thanks for the link, Carol!)
Carol, my sweetheart, has an article in the latest issue of Mother Earth News on recycling human waste. And before you ask, let me provide some answers: (1) Yes, Carol does use urine to fertilize our vegetable garden. (2) No, we don’t have a composting toilet of our own; we rent, and landlords generally don’t like renters to install a composting toilet. (3) Yes, we do celebrate Pee on Earth Day on June 21. (4) Yes, it’s easy to buy Carol’s books, thank you for asking.
Update: Please note that the phrase “Poo Pioneer” was not something Carol wrote; it was added by an editor. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone would put the phrase “poo pioneer” in print, but Mother Earth News is not the magazine it once was.