Progressive Calendar 05.07.08
From: David Shove (
Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 07:40:23 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    05.07.08

1. Burner?/KFAI    5.07 11am
2. Free speech     5.07 1pm

3. New Hope demo   5.08 4:30pm
4. Eagan vigil     5.08 4:30pm
5. Northtown vigil 5.08 5pm
6. MN/McKinney     5.08 6:30pm
7. Children/war    5.08 7pm
8. 9/11 film       5.08 7pm
9. RNC             5.08 7pm
10. Rwanda/film    5.08 7:30pm

11. Ralph Nader   - America's pay-or-die health care system
12. CorpCrimRep   - Corporations are bad for your health
13. Ron Jacobs    - Rosa Luxemburg's shock doctrine
14. Robert Jensen - The yoke of greed
15. ed            - bumper stickers
16. ed            - More Poor! (poem)

--------1 of x--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Burner?/KFAI 5.07 11am

KFAI Radio, 90.3 Minneapolis 106.7 St. Paul  Streamed [at] --

How much is too much? We continue our discussion of the volatile Midtown
Eco-Energy Project, this week concentrating on air emissions - their
composition and their cumulative impact on Minneapolis' Phillips and
surrounding neighborhoods. Also, has Mayor Rybak begun to distance himself
from this project? We'll continue to examine the politics behind the
opposition most of the area's elected officials are turning into policy.

Is this an innovative biomass energy generator in the making? Or yet
another polluting facility among many in the city's already suffering core
neighborhoods? Might this idea be better considered for another venue? Or
is burning any material a danger to populated areas?

What impact does such a heavy financial stake have on Midtown's owners'
lives and future security if this goes down? Does it really matter on

TTT's Andy Driscoll and Lynnell Mickelsen continue to discuss all sides of
the issues with key players and the reporter covering them.

 SCOTT BENSON, Minneapolis City Councilmember, Chair, Energy & nvironment
 KIM HAVEY, Partner, Midtown Eco-Energy Project/Kandiyohi Development
 JULLONNE GLAD, Minneapolis Residents for Clean Air
 CAROL PASS, President, EPIC (East Phillips Improvement Coalition)
 DAVID MORRIS, Executive VP, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

 STEVE BRANDT, Star Tribune Reporter/Analyst
 REP. KAREN CLARK, House District 61A, where the project lives

--------2 of x--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at]>
Subject: Free speech 5.07 1pm

Minneapolis City Council's
PS&RS Committee Meeting
Wednesday, May 7
1:00 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall
350 S 5th Street, Rm 317

The latest free speech restriction proposal under consideration by the
Minneapolis city council is now posted at
along with the agenda for tomorrow's meeting.  Although the proposal has
the title of being voluntary, it is actually a mandatory proposal in that
it requires that "any person or group planning on holding a public
assembly of greater than 50 persons in a location that will prevent other
pedestrians from using the sidewalks and crosswalks must provide notice of
the assembly to City staff and obtain plan approval."

If we act now, we can still stop this bad proposal from being adopted.
And we must.  The "free speech" working group was tasked with finding ways
to IMPROVE the community's ability to exercise our
constitutionally-protected rights.  They could have addressed restrictions
on amplified sound (abused perennially by cops to silence dissent), the
ordinances blocking demonstrations in parks, or several other ominous free
speech restrictions. Instead, the process results in this schlock, which
does nothing to "preserve free speech," adds an unnecessary layer of
bureaucracy, and is little more than a veiled attempt to give the cops
cover for usurping our rights.

The agenda seems to indicate that there will be "limited public input" on
this awful proposal.  It's unclear what that means.  Still, we need to be
there whether we can FINALLY speak about free speech or not - to let it be
known that we won't go along with these plans.

--------3 of x--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: New Hope demo 5.08 4:30pm

NWN4P-New Hope demonstration every Thursday 4:30 to 6 PM at the corner
of Winnetka and 42nd.  You may park near Walgreens or in the larger lot
near McDonalds; we will be on all four corners.  Bring your own or use
our signs.

--------4 of x--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at]>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 5.08 4:30pm

CANDLELIGHT PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest
corner of Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs
and candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends
south of the river speaking out against war.

--------5 of x--------

From: EKalamboki [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 5.08 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at]

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Reminder from: mn4mckinney Yahoo! Group
Subject: MN/McKinney 5.08 6:30pm

Minnesotans for McKinney Meeting
Thursday May 8, 2008
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Trotter's Cafe
Street: 232 Cleveland Ave N
City State Zip: St Paul, MN 55104

Phone: (612) 645-8950

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From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Children/war 5.08 7pm

Interfaith Candlelight Service for Child Victims of War
Thursday, May 8, 7:00 p.m. Plymouth Presbyterian Church (PPC), 3755
Dunkirk Lane North (North of Highway 55 and Co Rd 24), Plymouth.

Mother's Day weekend was chosen to honor and recognize children around the
world who are victims of war and violence in their countries. How do
children cope when faced daily with civil war, death squads, kidnappings,
car bombs, unexploded cluster bombs, rape, untreated illness, and loss of
family members? What will happen to the children in the Congo, Somalia and
the Horn of Africa, Columbia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Darfur,
Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran? Gather in community to remember the children
who have died because of war, through no fault of their own. Our precious
children are the light and future of the world. Sponsored by: the Peace
and Justice Committee of PPC and Northwest Neighbors for Peace. FFI: Call

[KKK - Kill a Kid for Kapitalism -ed]

--------8 of x--------

From: Corey Mattson <coreymattson [at]>
Subject: 9/11 film 5.08 7pm

Experimental College (EXCO) presents...
Rethinking 9/11 Class

As part of the EXCO program, come see Michael Andregg's film "Rethinking
9/11" (1 hour) and participate in a discussion afterward. Michael
Andregg, the filmmaker, will be leading the class discussion.

Thursday, May 8th, 7 PM
Mayday Bookstore (301 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55454 - Below and to
the side of the HUB Bike Coop)

--------9 of x--------

From: Annie Archia <anniearchia [at]>
Subject: RNC 5.08 7pm

The RNC 2008: We're Getting Ready - Are You?
Thursday May 8
U of M West Bank - Blegen Hall 5 (in the basement)

Presentation and discussion hosted by the RNC Welcoming Committee

Come learn about how the spectacle of the RNC will affect our communities,
and how you can plug in to the strategy to resist the Republicans'
invasion of our cities and the accompanying militarization of our
neighborhoods in September.

The convention will coincide with the first week of classes at the
University of Minnesota - but from September 1-4, our real education will
be in the streets of St. Paul.  No matter how you identify politically,
the RNC's coming to our backyard.  We're not invited - but we're showing
up anyway!  This is one of several upcoming presentations from the
Welcoming Committee geared specifically to community members.

--------10 of x--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Rwanda/film 5.08 7:30pm

Thursday, 5/8, 7:30 pm, film "As We Forgive Those" about the
confrontations and sometimes reconciliation many years after the 1994
Rwanda slaughter, Oak St Cinema, 309 Oak St SE, Mpls.

--------11 of x--------

The Story of Lisa Kelly
America's Pay-or-Die Health Care System
May 6, 2008

This is a tale of pay or die that recurs again and again all over our
country and only in our country in the entire western world.

Advised by her physician to go to M.D. Anderson for urgent treatment of
her leukemia, Mrs. Lisa Kelly was told she had to pay $105,000 up front
before being admitted. The hospital declared her limited insurance

Sitting in the business office with seriously advanced cancer, she asked
herself - "Are they going to send me home?" "Am I going to die?"

Time out from her torment for a moment. M.D. Anderson started this upfront
payment demand in 2005 because of a spike in its bad debt load.

The Wall Street Journal explains - "The bad debt is driven by a larger
number of Americans who are uninsured or who don't have enough insurance
to cover costs if catastrophe strikes. Even among those with adequate
insurance, deductibles and co-payments are growing so big that insured
patients also have trouble paying hospitals".

It isn't as if non-profit hospitals like M.D. Anderson are hurting. Look
at this finding in an Ohio State University study: net income per bed at
non-profit hospitals tripled to $146,273 in 2005 from $50,669 in 2000. And
you also may have noticed the huge pay packages awarded hospital

M.D. Anderson, exempt from taxation, recipient of funds from large
government programs and research grants has cash, investments and
endowment totaling $1.9 billion, with net income of $310 million last
year, the Journal reports.

Back to the 52 year old, Lisa Kelly. She and her husband returned with a
check for $45,000. After a blood test and biopsy, the hospital oncologist
urged admittance quickly. Then the hospital demanded an additional
$60,000-$45,000 just for the lab tests and $15,000 for part of the cost of
the treatment.

To shorten the story, she received chemotherapy for over a year. Often her
appointment was "blocked" until she made another payment.

In a particularly grotesque incident, she was hooked up to a chemotherapy
pump, but the nurses were not allowed to change the chemo bag until Mr.
Kelly made another payment.

She endured other indignities and overcharges. Reporter Martinez cites
$360 for blood tests that insurers pay $20 or less for and up to $120 for
saline pouches that cost less than $2 retail.

Imagine anything like Mrs. Kelly's predicament and pressures occurring in
Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Holland, England or
any other western country. It would never happen.

These countries have universal single payer health insurance. No one dies
because they cannot afford health care. In America, 18,000 Americans die
each year because they cannot afford health care, according to the
Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Many more get
sick or become sicker.

None of these countries spend more than 11% of their GDP on healthcare.
The U.S. spends over 16% of its GDP on health care and does not cover 47
million people and tens of millions are under covered

In the U.S. the drug companies charge their highest prices in the world,
even though we, the taxpayers, subsidized them in large ways. In other
countries like Mexico and Canada, they cannot get away with such drug
price gouging, with a pay or die ultimatum.

In the U.S., computerized billing fraud and abuse cost over $200 billion
last year, according to the GAO arm of Congress. In other counties, single
payer prevents such looting.

In other countries, administrative expenses of their single payer system
are about a third of what the Aetna's and other insurers rack up.

In other western countries, medical outcomes for children and adults and
paid family leave are far superior to that of the U.S. The World Health
Organization ranks the US health care system 37th in the world.

When apologists in Washington hear these statistics, they say "but we have
the best medical research centers in the world, like M.D. Anderson".

Clearly much is wrong with the nature of pricing health care.

Like other hospitals, M.D. Anderson is caught in a macabre spider's web of
cost allocations mixing treatment costs with research budgets, cash
reserves, and just plain accounting gimmicks that burden patients.

When a friend showed the Journal's article to a Dutch visitor, the latter
blurted in anger - "you are a nation of sheep". Not a very flattering
description of "the land of the free, home of the brave".

Someday, soon maybe, Americans will finally band together and say "enough
already," we're going for full Medicare for all - without loopholes for
corporate profiteers and purveyors of waste and fraud.

Last month after being in remission, Lisa Kelly's leukemia has come back.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

[We _are_ a nation of sheep - ruling class bred sheep - engineered
cowardly, terrified of pissing off the dollar powers that be. Not free,
not brave. Lesser-evil collaborationist wimps. The saddest excuse for a
citizenry on the face of the globe. The rich have nothing to fear from us
- which means we have everything to fear from them. -ed]

--------12 of x--------

Corporations Are Bad For Your Health
Wiist's Crusade

You hear that cigarettes are bad for public health.

And that asbestos is bad for public health.

And that guns are bad for public health.

And that pollution is bad for public health.

That junk food is bad for public health.

But you rarely hear that corporations themselves are bad for public

That's about to change.

A group of academics and activists are starting to push the idea that
corporations are bad for public health.

At Hunter College, Nicholas Freudenberg has set up a web site to discuss
the issue.

And now comes William Wiist.

Wiist is chair of the Health Sciences Department at Northern Arizona

Last year, he authored an article for the American Journal of Public
Health titled "Public Health and the Anti-Corporate Movement".

And now he's working on a book for Oxford University Press tentatively
titled Bottom Line or Public Health.

"There is a large contingent of people who believe there needs to be
reform of corporations," Wiist told Corporate Crime Reporter in an
interview last week. "There are many campaigns against individual
corporations - trying to get them to behave in a more socially responsible
manner. But corporations operate the way they are supposed to operate -
the way the laws were set up for them to operate. Any particular
corporation may be operating in a way that we may consider egregious. But
they are operating to produce a profit, to externalize the costs, as they
are supposed to, to bring maximum profit. Their officers are supposed to
act in the best interests of the corporation and its investors. So, all
corporations are operating the way they are supposed to. And they operate
in similar ways. So, why attack one corporation for doing this poorly, or
that poorly? We need to look at the underlying foundations of the
corporation and how they operate under the law".

Is Wiist talking about corporations or capitalism?

"Some people would probably extend the argument to say that it's really
capitalism," Wiist said. "But I'm focused on the corporation. It is a
specific entity governed by laws and regulations. And those can be
addressed through the democratic process and through advocacy. Capitalism
is a more nebulous. Corporations are a manifestation of capitalism"

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with William Wiist, see 22
Corporate Crime Reporter 19(14), May 5, 2008, print edition only.]

--------13 of x--------

Rosa Luxemburg's Shock Doctrine
by Ron Jacobs / May 5th, 2008
Dissident Voice

Naomi Klein's 2007 release Shock Doctrine addressed in a rather mild way
the dependence of the capitalist economy on cataclysmic events for its
progress. These events displace millions and cause personal hardship for
an even greater number while they ensure capitalism's survival. A century
ago, there was another woman who took this observation further and devoted
her life to ending capitalism. Her name was Rosa Luxemburg. She was a
Polish woman who dedicated her life to socialist revolution and was
murdered by the 1919 social democratic government of Germany for her
uncompromising belief in that revolution. Haymarket Books of Chicago
recently released a new edition of two of her most well-known essays under
the title The Essential Rosa Luxemburg. The volume is edited by University
of Vermont literature professor Helen Scott and includes several pages of
introduction by Scott. Her historical summaries preceding the two
pamphlets reprinted here not only provide the reader with insight into the
historical moment the pieces were written, they also provide a brief
biography of Luxemburg and relate her political arguments to today's
circumstances. The book includes two of Luxemburg's essays: "Reform or
Revolution" and "The Mass Strike".

While both are historically interesting, it is the first essay in the book
that holds particular relevance for today's world. In particular,
Luxembourg's discussion regarding capitalism and democracy speaks to the
world we live in today. As residents of the nation that never stops
proclaiming itself as the most democratic in the world, it is important to
heed Luxemburg's remarks concerning the nature of democratic forms and
true democracy. As Washington exported its version of democracy throughout
the world in the wake of World War Two, the populations of many third
world nations discovered that this democracy was nothing more than an
election designed to pave the way for imperial exploitation and US
domination. There was no democracy for those not part of the ruling
elites. That is capitalist democracy and that's what Washington brings to
other nations in the name of freedom.

Furthermore, Luxemburg argues that when even those democratic forms run
contrary to the interests of the capitalist elite, they too are disposed
of. Third world nations ruled by military /CIA coups, like Chile and
Greece, know this only too well. Yet, even here in the US those forms are
being undone. Under the guise of homeland security, many of the freedoms
guaranteed in US democracy have been dissolved. Many others disappeared
under the guise of a war on drugs. Indeed, even the US electoral process
was usurped in 2000 under the guise of protecting the supposed minority
rights of George Bush and those that voted for him in Florida. As for
liberalism, once it no longer serves the purposes of capitalism, it is
discarded. The history of the US and Britain over the past thirty years
certainly proves this - a history where even liberals are conservatives
(as in Blair and Clinton) and today's liberal candidates modify their
statements to please the most right wing commentators and networks.

Another topic addressed by Luxemburg and quite relevant to today is the
use of credit to expand the working class's purchasing power. In her essay
"Reform or Revolution", which is written as an argument against the social
democratic reformist Bernstein, Luxemburg mocks his characterization of
credit as an "adaptation" of capitalism. In reality, she argues, credit is
not just an adaptation, but reproduces "all the fundamental antagonisms of
capitalism". Indeed, she writes, it accentuates those antagonisms. Today's
reader need look no further than the current economic meltdown that began
in the housing market because banks and their agencies advanced credit to
people they knew would not be able to complete the agreements they signed
for proof of Luxemburg's statement.

To top it all off, there is imperial war. Luxemburg was clearer on the
role this form of mass murder plays in facilitates the expansion of
capitalism than anything else. She knew and wrote plenty about how war is
essential to capitalist development. Imperial war, she wrote, shows
capitalism in "all its hideous nakedness". This bloody nakedness is not
only essential to capitalist development, but the latter depends on it.
Indeed, it is the most cataclysmic and radical of all capitalist shocks.
As I write, the current regime in Washington is stepping up its
mobilization for war on Iran, while its liberal opponents in the
Democratic party give words of support for this endeavor to gain control
of the grease that runs the engines of capital - oil. Meanwhile, US
imperialism's other wars for energy continue to drag on, in part because
the opposition to those wars is confused and powerless. Like the war of
Luxemburg's time, the current drive towards greater war is primarily about
profit. It is unfortunate (to say the least) that we have yet to learn the
lessons Luxemburg and her contemporaries understood a hundred years ago
about such wars, especially since the weapons used today are even deadlier
than those of the first great war. Equally unfortunate is the fact that
those opposed to imperialist war have to learn the lessons of the
incredible movement against such wars all over again.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew:A History of the Weather
Underground. His most recent novel Short Order Frame Up is published by
Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625 [at] Read other
articles by Ron.

This article was posted on Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 5:00 am and is filed
under Book Review, Capitalism, Socialism. Send to a friend.

--------14 of x--------

The Yoke of Greed
The Selling and Shaping of Our Souls
May 5, 2008

[This is an edited version of a sermon delivered May 4, 2008, at St.
Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX.]

The last time I was in this pulpit to deliver a guest sermon, I spoke of
the need for each of us to take up the role of prophet, to not be afraid
of speaking in the prophetic voice, even when doing so involves risk.

Today I want to talk about the other kind of profit, the allure of which
can so often quiet the prophetic voice within us.

Living in the most powerful and affluent country in the history of the
world, this is not mere word play with homophones (words that sound the
same but have different meanings). Can we resist the seductive nature of
the material rewards that come with profit to find within us the spirit of
the prophetic? If we cannot, what is the fate of this country? What is the
fate of the world that this country seeks to dominate? And my subject
today: What is the fate of our souls?

Let's start with one of the most well-known verses from the gospels, from
Mark, where Jesus says: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain
the whole world, and lose his own soul?" [Mark 8:36]

What do we gain when we covet the wealth of the world that can come with
accepting the systems and structures of power? When feeling
self-righteous, we are tempted to say that we agree with Jesus, that when
we place too much value on material rewards we lose something greater. But
if we are to be honest, we have to acknowledge that those material rewards
in the world can be extremely seductive. If you doubt this, when you leave
church go visit a shopping mall. No doubt we all know where to find one
nearby. Even when the reward is not "the whole world" but just one little
piece of it in a store in the mall, the pull of those rewards can be

That's perhaps the cruel edge of this truth - the fact that in this
culture when we talk about "selling out" or "selling our souls" we realize
the selling price is typically quite low. That's what Robert Bolt was
getting at in his play A Man for All Seasons, in which Sir Thomas More is
convicted of treason on the perjured testimony of Richard Rich, who in
exchange for his capitulation to King Henry VIII is appointed
Attorney-General for Wales. In the play, More asks one final question of
Rich after noticing that the Attorney-General is wearing the medallion of
his new position. The stage directions call for More to look into Rich's
face, "with pain and amusement," saying, "For Wales? Why Richard, it
profits a man nothing to lose his soul for the whole world. But for
Wales?" [1]

I don't we want to take sides in British regional and class conflicts, but
his point is well taken. We can find amusement in the crumbs for which
some people will sell their souls, but there is also much pain in
recognizing ourselves in the mirror that Thomas More holds up for Richard
Rich. For what would I sell my soul? For what have I sold my soul? Do I
ever dream of Wales?

At some point in our lives, we have all sacrificed a principle or
undermined another person to get what we want, though most of us have
never lied under oath and helped send someone to the gallows. But the fact
that there's always a Richard Rich to point to, always someone whose
soul-selling is more egregious than ours, is of little comfort. As Rev.
Jim Rigby reminds us, week after week in his sermons from this pulpit, the
job of theology is not to comfort us in our conceits but to challenge us
to go deeper.

That means not only reflecting on our own failures in such moments, but
going beyond the idea that our souls are at risk only in a single moment
in which we might be tempted to sell out. Just as important is the slower
process by which that state of our souls can be eroded. I want to frame
that challenge in the words of the writer Wendell Berry, using the first
stanza of his poem "We Who Prayed and Wept"[2]:

 We who prayed and wept
 for liberty from kings
 and the yoke of liberty
 accept the tyranny of things
 we do not need.
 In plenitude too free,
 we have become adept
 beneath the yoke of greed.

Berry trains our attention on the day-to-day reality of the world in which
we live, in the most powerful and affluent country in the world, in which
many of us hold the freedom to enslave ourselves. So, let's expand the
question beyond the dramatic moments in which we choose whether we will
sell our souls at what price and focus on how our souls are shaped by the
everyday realities of power and privilege.

My focus today is not on the injustice of this system, not on the
suffering that inevitably results in a world structured by empire and
capitalism. I'm not going to talk about the cruelty of a world in which
half the population lives on less than $2 a day. Of course we should
remind ourselves constantly that our affluence is conditioned on that
suffering around the world, and that we have obligations to change that.
But right now, I'm heading down a different path.

Since we live in a country that seems only to know how to speak in
economic language that assumes capitalism is the state of nature, let's
examine this question in the language of profit and loss. If we live in
"the land of the bottom line," to borrow a phrase from the songwriter John
Gorka, then let's talk in those terms. How might we approach a die-hard
capitalist who cares only about maximizing self-interest and make an
argument that it profits us not to sell our souls for the whole world, let
alone for the shopping mall.

I'm using the mall as a stand-in for the readily available pleasures in a
consumer-capitalist society that absorbs a disproportionate share of the
world's resources, the pleasures that come with what we might call the
cheap toys of empire: big houses, fast cars, abundant food, nonstop
spectacle entertainment, and an endless variety of numbing drugs. When we
capitulate to the system, most of us get some combination of those things.
Maybe there are some among us who have tapped into real wealth and real
power, but my guess is that most of us here today are somewhere in the
middle and upper-middle classes. We aren't the ruling class, but we live
well, at a level that in previous eras only the elite could expect. But
look closer and what do we get? How do we feel when we are alone with
ourselves in our big houses; when we park the fast car in the driveway;
when we push back from the table after eating too much; when we switch off
the television or drive away from the stadium; when the effects of those
drugs - whether legal or illegal, obtained from the pharmacy or on the
street - wear off.

An important note: I don't want to ignore the fact that to those who have
never had much in this world, access to material goods is not a trivial
matter. For those who struggle for the basics, this kind of reflection on
affluence likely seems self-indulgent. But still we have to ask: When we
go so far beyond material security into the level of consumption common in
the United States, and when we are through consuming the things that
profits can buy, where are we and who are we? Do we like where we are and
who we are?

For the moment, put aside empathy and compassion for those suffering with
less. We don't need to be told that the injustice of this system hurts
others and that the fate of those others should be our concern. For the
moment, ask yourself what have been the consequences for you and your soul
of living with the cheap toys of empire.

It's enticing to want to wiggle out of that one by pointing a finger at
those who consume more - Richard Rich in a Hummer, perhaps - but that's
at best a temporary diversion. There are always others making choices that
are easy to critique. I'm suggesting that instead we ask a more troubling
question - not about our empathy for others in the world who suffer with
nothing or our contempt for those wallow in everything - but about
ourselves. How do we feel, deep down in the place where we don't allow
others in, where we often won't go ourselves?

This country is awash in abundance of most everything except the two
things we cannot really live a decent life without - the meaning we
desperately seek in a world of endless mystery, and the sense of real
connection to others that we crave so that we can share that meaning.

There are big moral moments in our lives, times in which we must choose
between allegiance to our principles and our fear of power, between our
obligations to others and our desire for material comfort. In those
moments, we should struggle to make sure we don't sell our souls for the
temporary pleasures of the world. But every day we also recognize that our
souls - our sense of what it means to be human beings - are being shaped
day-to-day by the same systems of power and privilege.

Let me be clear one more time: My pitch today is not just that all this
matters for the sake of justice, but that it also matters for more selfish
reasons. In this system, we lose when we allow systems of empire and
capital to shape our souls, day after day in ways sometimes to subtle to
see. We lose no matter how many toys we accumulate.

This is one of the main reasons I come to church and look forward to Rev.
Rigby's reminders of how hard it is to be a decent person in this world -
not because I'm so noble but because I'm so weak. I need to be reminded,
over and over, that most of the pleasures of the empire are mostly
illusion. The irony is that typically we work so hard for money that buys
those cheap toys, yet we often are unwilling to do the hard work to get
something more. That's why we need some kind of church, some place to come
to support each other in that struggle to be more than the culture expects
of us.

That is always a struggle, even for the strongest among us. Wendell Berry
has done more than most of us to resist this culture of greed through his
efforts not only to theorize about sustainable agriculture and rural
community but to live those practices, yet he reminds us that he
struggles. I'll finish with the last lines of Berry's essay "Feminism, the
Body, and the Machine," in which he asks difficult questions about how we
are to make these decisions. He ends not with a critique of others but an
accounting of his own life. He laments the ways he still is caught up in
the system and its machines, one of which is the chainsaw he uses to cut
wood because of the speed and efficiency. But he also recognizes that it
is "inconvenient, uncomfortable, undependable, ugly, stinky, and scary".
He ends that essay on a difficult, but hopeful, note:

I am not an optimist; I am afraid that I won't live long enough to escape
my bondage to the machines. Nevertheless, on every day left to me I will
search my mind and my circumstances for the means of escape. And I am not
without hope. I knew a man who, in the age of chainsaws, went right on
cutting his wood with a handsaw and an axe. He was a healthier and saner
man than I am. I shall let his memory trouble my thoughts.[3]

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at
Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography
and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the
author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and
Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City
Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins
to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at
rjensen [at] and his articles can be found online at

[1] Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (New York: Vintage/Random House,
1962), p. 92.
[2] Wendell Berry, The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (New York:
Counterpoint, 1998), p. 115.
[3] Wendell Berry, What Are People For? (San Francisco: North Point Press,
1990), p. 196.

[Mark2, where Jesus2 says: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall
vote the lesser evil, and lose his own soul?" [Mark2 8:36] - reverend ed]

--------15 of x--------

                                 Wars R US

                      KKK - Kill a Kid for Kapitalism

                          Misery loves capitalism

--------16 of x--------

 The rich love the poor,
 chant "More Poor!", and every day
 make more of us poor.


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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