We sure miss Tony Judt

October 20, 2014

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Tony Judt died in 2010.A towering intellectual whose book on the 20th century is required reading, he was engaged to the very end a premature demise a victim of ALS. A younger colleague, historian Tim Snyder was smart enough to realize  that one of the brightest lights was about to dim sohe sat down with Judt and let the tape recorder roll. The result was Thinking the Twentieth Century, with Timothy Snyder (2012).

An early Zionist Judt worked as a youth on a kibbutz and served in the IDF he then had an epiphany: he knew no Palestinians! There was no turning back.

In a famous article in 2003 in the NY Review of Books he saw it all too clearly:

 

The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.”

 

The very idea of a “Jewish state”—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.

 

As the prominent Labor politician Avraham Burg recently wrote, “After two thousand years of struggle for survival, the reality of Israel is a colonial state, run by a corrupt clique which scorns and mocks law and civic morality.”1 Unless something changes, Israel in half a decade will be neither Jewish nor democratic.

 

He outraged fellow Jews, American Zionists.

Phil Weiss has clipped this following piece from the book exposing the frequent know nothing columnists  and Israel boosters David Brooks and Tom Friedman who were gung ho about GW Bush’s excellent adventure which has brought total chaos to the Middle East and indeed to the world.
Judt reports that in 2003 he was on Charlie Rose with Brooks and when he challenged Brooks about the effectiveness of international agencies to resolve the Kosovo crisis and by extension the Iraq crisis, Brooks said “I don’t really know anything about that.”

 
Here we had the public intellectual who now occupies not only prominent television space but also op-ed pages of the most influential newspapers in the English-speaking world: and he knows nothing.

 

 
Men like Brooks know, literally, nothing. So I encountered in those troubled months a combination of catastrophic acquiescence in authority and plain, old-fashioned dumb ignorance masquerading as commentary. These were the circumstances which allowed a criminal political action to be pushed through the public space with very little opposition.

 

 
Something else to remember, though, is that the people who did know something just rolled over. I’m thinking of Michael Ignatieff, or David Remnick, or Leon Wieseltier, or Michael Walzer. Instead of asking questions, they all behaved as though the only function of the intellectual was to provide justification for the actions of non-intellectuals. And I just remember being profoundly shocked and also feeling very lonely. Not that I felt comfortable with the isolationists either…

 

 
Brooks is an interesting case because it’s all done with mirrors–there is no expertise. The apparent expertise consists of the capacity to talk glibly each week about any public event in a way that readers have gotten used to as a sort of enlightened commentary. Thomas Friedman, another prominent contemporary “expert,” trades on a slightly different notion of expertise. Notice that pretty much every Friedman column includes a reference to som famous person he’s spoken to. So he makes explicit the notion that your expertise is a function of your contacts… It doesn’t really matter, actually, who it is. It’s the notion of access to something special.

 

 
In Friedman’s case, access to information is very carefully recalibrated as the acceptable middle ground on any given policy issue. And Friedman’s position on the Iraq War was contemptible. Not only did he run along with everyone else, but he actually probably slightly misread the tea leaves and ran along a little too fast on the anti-French, anti-European thing. It was Friedman who ran a column that said that France should be kicked out of the U.N. Security Council for having the chutzpah to oppose the United States on such an important issue.

 

 
Gee, we miss Judt now and the NYT keeps printing folderol from Friedman and Brooks.

Atheist nation leads fight against Ebola

October 13, 2014

Cuban doctors and health workers arrive at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sie

And Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matt. 7:21

 
And the great Christian nation to the south which pours billions into war and whose annual genuflection to Mars equals the sum total of the next 10 nations is asleep at the wheel when it comes to the Ebola crisis.

 
Yes folks meet the tiny island nation of Cuba a nation of 11 million people, with a GDP of $6,051 per capita is leading the effort to halt a potential pandemic.

 

A brigade of 165 Cuban health workers arrived in Sierra Leone last week, the first batch of a total of 461. In sharp contrast, western governments have appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders than actually stemming it in west Africa.

An outbreak which could have been stopped in its tracks at the outset by the great powers now threatens to go viral.

THE USA always the first to go to war and prepare for war seems to be asleep when it comes health sacares like this. With the greatest medical talents in the world it seems to be led by an impotent government and other great powers are not much better. China, Brazil, France and the UK —fellow dozers.

And there’s Cuba always ready with limited resources ready to lend a hand.

Stark panic about to set in —all it takes is a couple of deaths, even one in “the great state of Texas” and suddenly great concern. Thousands of deaths elsewhere, not so much concern.

Cuba demonized consistently in the USA always seems ready to act as a great global citizen

50,000 Cuban-trained health workers are active over 66 countries. Cuba provided the largest medical contingent after the Haiti earthquake disaster in 2010, providing care to almost 40% of the victims.

Makes a person wonder, don’t it?

Bob Carty and Youth Ministry

October 10, 2014

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The death of Bob Carty on September 21 led to several thoughts.

 

First, a life well lived, a committed passionate life on behalf of what the Bible calls the anawim, the little ones.

 

Skilled in many ways, personality and wit , written word and the audioword as well as with guitar, Bobby use his abundant talents on behalf of the kingdom of God. He lived for peace and justice.

 

His solidarity work on behalf of Chilean exiles and his reports from Latin America on public radio were respected by all.

 

A gifted documentarian on the radio waves with the CBC , Bob won all the awards there were to win always holding up the forgotten in a privileged place.

 

But when I think of Bob it struck a chord of sadness. All the lost years of Youth Ministry in the Toronto diocese after the clueless hierarchy ditched the Youth Corps where Bob got his start in the late 60s. As the old folk song said, Wasn’t That a Time.

 

Tommy McKillop hired people like Bob to take the energy of Vatican ll into the world and transform it. What a formidable group, lay and priest, on fire for justice inserted into the body politic as agents of change. Youth ministering to youth. What an original idea—and what great results. Those years were the halcyon days of gospel vitality in the Toronto diocese.

 

Naturally they were under-appreciated by hierarchs and dead heads but loved by the youth they came in contact with,What was there not to love?

 

TOMMY M

The John Paul ll brigade literally threw away a miracle. Youth Corps of which Carty was a dynamic member was allowed to wither on the vine, to be replaced by what? Nada, niente, zip. McKillop was never understood by his fellow priests and like the prophets of old was treated very shabbily. Carty went on to do great things with his life.

 

Gracias for a sterling life, sadness for the lost opportunities to evangelize youth.

Suicide in the IDF: war as a daily diet

October 6, 2014

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War destroyes the oppressor too

The last time I was in israel i was at a friend’s house for dinner. His 22 year old son was recently demobbed from the IDF. His daughter, visibly nervous, was a bout to do her two year stint.

I’ll  never forget the son’s comment.

“What kind of a government  gives a mill;ion dollar tank to a 20 year old kid.”

 

What kind of a government asks young impressionable kids  to betray their humanity on a daily basis and  humiliate another people? It is no wonder that young Jews in the diaspora are bailing out of synagogues when silence becomes the sickening norm, when spiritual leaders are ruled by “cheque book Judaism” and refuse to speak truth to power, in this case an out of control Israeli state.

 

Israeli Defense Forces soldiers have historically had a very high rate of suicides, in spite of the fact that this rate had been improving recently. That improvement, however, took a turn for the worse after the latest IDF military operation in Gaza.

 
Now, the Israeli military police have opened an investigation into what is casing the recent spike in IDF suicides. Three members of an elite military unit recently committed suicide.

 
The soldiers were members of the Givati Brigade, who were directly involved in the Gaza ground operation during the recent War on Gaza.

 

 

One after another, the Givati soldiers began committing suicide after the Israeli operation ended.

 
The Israeli daily news Maariv explained that these were all cases of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, with two of the soldiers shooting themselves near the border with Gaza.

 
Gazans say that they are not surprised, as the brutality that they witnessed from IDF brigades would have, according to Gaza City resident M.A. Hussein, “been impossible for anyone with a conscience to live with.”

 

Yom Kippur and the Palestinians

October 3, 2014

 

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Yom Kippur the holiest day in Judaism’s calendar is today.

The Day of Atonement [Yom Kippur] is the climax of the ten-day period of repentance that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment. These ten days of reflection and inspiration bring us the eternal message that it is possible for human beings to improve their characters. They speak to us about our ethical conscience and moral responsibility, about self-examination and spiritual regeneration.”

 

Such a wonderful serious holy day ending the high holy days which began with Rosh Hashanah.

 

I have no way of knowing what will take place in the synagogues of my city. I wish all of them a good day.

In South Africa a group of Jews are dedicating their fast to reflect on being Jewish in the context of the occupation of Palestine. This seems to be a creative and very contemporary attempt to make the feast contextual and meaningful. All religions of course have similar times of serious reflection on our lives.

Isaiah’s admonition and warnings are germane to the point and this reading I have often used in the Christian period of Lent.

Why have we fasted,’ they say,
 ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
 and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
 and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
 only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
 and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
 and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
 and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
 and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
58:3-9

Then these South African Jews cut to the chase

At the forefront of wrongs we need to right is the ongoing mainstream Jewish support for the Israeli colonization of Palestine, and its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is being done in our name, and we have not done enough to stop it. It is for this reason that we believe that Gaza is the most urgent issue for us to reflect on this Yom Kippur. We will be going out and physically fasting and raising money for those in Gaza who have suffered unconscionable horrors.

 

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Dedicating our Yom Kippur fast to the people of Gaza follows this line of thinking. Unlike the dominant Zionist organizations, some of whom preach ethnic and religious nationalism and the bombing of Gaza directly from the bimah (the Jewish equivalent of a pulpit), our beliefs are based on tolerance, inclusivity and social justice. We think that this is what Judaism, and Yom Kippur in particular, is all about.

This is prophetic Judaism at its best.

As one Jewish woman stated recently “Yom Kippur in Palestine and the Palestinian people are again atoning for Israel’s sin of occupation.”

Torah not the uniting factor?

September 30, 2014

 

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That wonderful reporter from the NY Times Laurie Goodstein was at her best when she sussed out reactions which are simmering in the rabbinate over the stunning disproportionate response in the latest Gaza slaughter(515 Palestinian kids killed.

 

The usual childish responses were in evidence: I quit the synagogue because you criticized israel.(she didn’t but prayed for those dead kids and Israeli soldiers).3 left the synagogue. One said she was spreading Hamas propaganda. What planet are these so called religious on?
Goodstein reported that that many rabbis say it is impossible to have a civil conversation about Israel in their synagogues. Just too hot to touch. And the High Holy days are here!

 

The big problem is that young Jews raised in the USA have an inherent appreciation of human rights and can’t stomach Netanyahu and his coterie of warriors. They have exited the synagogue.

 
On the other hand the Alte kockers, the old folks mit the geld (no translation necessary) are more attached to israel as are the volunteers.
An interesting comment, candid to be sure was from Montreal rabbi Ron Aigen
It used to be that Israel was always the uniting factor in the Jewish world,said the reb who has served Congregation Dorshei Emet in Montreal for 39 years. “But it’s become contentious and sadly, I think it is driving people away from the organized Jewish community. Even trying to be centrist and balanced and present two sides of the issue, it is fraught with danger.”
The worst part of Goodstein’s article was this comment:
Israel is still, without a doubt, the spiritual center and the fondest cause of global Jewry.
The kindest thing you can say about this if its true: this is idolatry, making a state not the God of justice your god.

For young teachers: read the signs

September 22, 2014

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What we saw in New York City  on Sunday and in several other global cities is called “a sign of the times.” During the Second Vatican Council the Church said in Gaudium et Spes (1965): To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

The “signs of the times” was a direct quote from Matthew’s Gospel. He has Jesus saying:
When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 16:3

In other words,  you are pretty good at reading nature’s clues  such as the colour of the sky means fair weather but are clueless at discerning the finger of God in history.

Where is the Divine calling us? What is the holy voice of God saying to us at this moment in time?  What message is he addressing to me while I am on my smart phone, cruising the mall as a fashionista etc

Since the end of the Council 50 years ago there have been many “signs’ or distinctive  messages which are indisputably of God. To name a few: The cry of the poor (as evidence in Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, the growing awareness from new media sources that our human family, largely in the south needs dramatic help while the top 1% are living like gilded royalty; the cry of peace and latterly the  desperate cry of the earth—the tidal waves, the bizarre weather patterns, the melting icebergs etc

As teachers  the above sign is speaking directly to you.
What do students at any level see as they look at you?

 

Are you a mere technician passing on information or are you a committed campaigner for God’s reign on earth (the kingdom)?

 

Are you another adult whose actions do not match the gospel call for transformation?

 

Are you one more reason why the Church  has so little credibility today?
Just what kind of a role model are you?
Rabbi Heschel tells us

 

Everything depends on the person who stands
in front of the classroom. The teacher is either a witness
or a stranger. To guide a pupil into the promised land,
the teacher must have been there themselves.
When asking themselves: Do I stand for what I teach?,
Do I believe what I say?, the teacher must be able to
answer in the affirmative. What we need more than
anything else is not textbooks, but text people.

 

The promised land is not only in the classroom but in the streets.

Stephen Harper ecological outlaw

September 21, 2014

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So there is Barack Obama and UK PM Cameron fresh from the Scottish referendum and isn’t that France’s Francois Hollande—and 150 other leaders in New York City for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate summit. 150,000 are expected to send a serious message to world leaders that their performance on this pressing moral issue is woefully inadequate.

 

And missing in action the international climate scofflaw Canada’s Stephen Harper who is sending his environmental minister the hapless Leona Aglukkaq to the deliberations, She is just the latest  environmental minister sent by the climate denying PM to stall any serious change.

 
The Council of Canadians climate voice Andrea Harden-Donahue, nailed it: “ Our federal government has transformed Canada into a climate criminal. Canada has the worst climate policy of all so-called developed countries – including no plans to curb emissions from the oil and gas sector, despite promising this for years… We can have a livable world or tar sands expansion, not both. It is a key reason why we need to be present in this historic march, to represent the opposition that exists to the Canadian government’s complete failure to address climate change.

 

Last week at the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, Canada was dead last in reducing its production of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

 

 

Here’s Germany which has 25% of its electricity produced by renewable energy and here’s Stephen Harper, defending the biggest scar on nature the Tar Sands.

 
Sadly the PM never understood the fact that the Great Economy is the natural world which sustains everything not what we extract from the bowls of the earth. Real leaders and serious stewards understand this but in a capitalism run amok, greed trumps everything.

 

 

systemchange

 

A rising tide of citizen activism marches through the streets of New York bearing the message ‘People, Planet, Peace over Profit but Canada’s Prime Minister is missing in action.

Peoples climate march but where’s Cardinal Dolan?

September 19, 2014

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“It would be wonderful if there were a strong Catholic presence at the march, to indicate our prayerful support of God’s creation,”Cardinal Dolan of New York said about the huge climate justice walk expected to bring over 100,000 to Gotham City.
Dolan is typical of those John Paul ll prelates ,way behind the curve of where the Holy Spirit is, where too many Catholics are.

 
Some of the religious orders like the Franciscans, Jesuits and female religious have moved on and represent the cutting edge of the church.

 
The major moral issue of our time and the best Dolan can says is “It would be wonderful if there were a Catholic presence”. So much for episcopal leadership when it is most needed.

 

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No pastoral planning, no public leadership on the issue, no personal witness or leadership from a church leader who should be at the front of this march.

 
Like so many other bishops who are absent from such issues, they simply provide links on their websites. Links however are no substitute for personal witness. Dolan is smart enough to know that he better say something or he will become almost totally irrelevant.

 
His absence is a dereliction of duty. It is an old story among Catholics who see the institution arrive a little bit late and a little bit out of breath.

 
Pope Francis is doing his best to goose these recalcitrant bishops but it’s a huge uphill battle.

 

 

Meanwhile with the collapse of institutional leadership there is a greater awareness that ordinary people have a sensus fidei that “the Holy Spirit anoints them and equips them for that high calling, conferring on them a very personal and intimate knowledge of the faith of the Church…As a result, the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel. (Sensus Fidei, 2014) .There is great encouragement for Catholics to go deep, to listen in their depths to what the Spirit is saying and it s obvious that the cry of the earth is addressed to all of us not just Cardinal Dolan.

Climate Justice

September 18, 2014

 

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I have set before you life and death. choose life that you and your descendants may live.
Deuteronomy 30:19

 
Fundamentally the task is not to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism…
Naomi Klein This Changes Everything

 
On the climate issue, the world’s biggest corporate polluters and pushers of unsustainable rates of consumption are hell bent on maintaining ‘business as usual’ and are working alone and in groups [and at the UN] to ensure that climate policies will not interfere with the profitability of their operations.
Polaris Institute.

 

The marvelous pastor and founder of Sojourners Magazine in Washington Jim Wallis struck a deep chord when he said about meetings in parishes: If they are not connected to a movement outside they are wasting their time. It’s like navel gazing. This would describe most of the parishes in Toronto’s GTA and I imagine most cities. There seems to be little awareness that the gospel mandate is to transform cultures and worlds. and this can only be done by movements, and joining with others. Think the abolitionist Movement and Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Pictures of those latter years saw nuns, priests and rabbis marching with Dr. King. Nowadays if Catholics aren’t leading the parade they are not in it. Control is the name of the game.

 
Many years ago a great friend of mine took over a parish and immediately handed the basement over to the Peace movement. He was a sophisticated prelate who understood the above insight. It’s about being the leaven in the loaf, the powerful gospel values of shalom, peace and sustainable creation. Most parishes have no clue. More are depending on foreign clergy who have no sense of Canadian Social Teaching. They tend in varying ways to a sacramental model of church offering religious services but never engaging in a socially prophetic solidarity praxis with other groups. Certainly some good things go on but they offer no challenge to the broader culture and in terms of climate justice, they are ignoring the greatest sacrament of all, planet earth and the damage being done to it.

 
Can they be this obtuse to the ravaging of the climate? Are they not aware that that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased last year at the fastest rate in 30 years, in Naomi Klein’s words “gases that will trap heat for generations to come, creating a world that is hotter, colder,wetter. thirstier, hungrier, angrier.”. Do they watch the news? Are the signs of the times that hidden? Do they really believe that band aids like recycling, changing light bulbs and re-using are the answer? Talk about a parallel universe!

 
This weekend in New York City the biggest climate justice march in history is taking place in New York City. over 1000 groups are backing the march. It would be interesting to see how many parishes are joining in. Why was I not surprised when I found out the Jesuit parish St Francis Xavier was big on promoting the march. In the bulletin I read the following

 
Join Us for the People’s Climate March – Sep. 21st
Let’s participate as a parish to let the world know that we are concerned about climate change as a moral and social justice issue, that we care about creation, and we care about protecting the most vulnerable from extreme weather events and other catastrophes caused by climate change.
This is a model for what all parishes should be doing. Hats off to the Jesuits and also to Pax Christi USA.

 
Certainly in Toronto there is absolutely no episcopal leadership in dealing with the greatest moral issue extant today.  If my friend were alive today he would have a Serra Club or Friends of the Earth club in his basement. He would be connecting with others bringing the gospel mandate of care for creation into the larger stream.

 

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The brilliant secular Jew Naomi Klein in her latest prophetic tome This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate uses language which is deeply religious and which mirrors the fire that the mad followers of the Galilean carpenter exhibited and which inspires engaged Catholics today: the power of ferocious love. It is this power which is beginning to mobilize against the rape of the earth and the depredations of the turbocapitalism we see today. It is this economic model so beloved by our Prime Minister Stephen Harper which is waging war against the common good and against all kinds of life on earth.

 

May the four days of protest in New York keep the fire going

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