Flashback: Savage (Separate and Unequal) Inequalities

Over a year ago, Jonathan Kozol came out with a new book, Still Separate, Still Unequal. I had read his previous book, Savage Inequalities and posted this brief intro to the two:

In the summer of 2003, in preparation for working in the public school system, I read the book, Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol. To say that the book changed my view of the public school system would be an understatement. Initially it shocked me that inequalities like this still existed even 30+ years after the Brown Ruling and that I had not heard about these recent (copyright 1990) inequalities. He opened my eyes to this injustice and made me forever an advocate of just public schools. In 1990 Kozol wrote revealing decrepit schools, out of date textbooks, segregated schools, and basically little of the change we thought had come from Brown vs. Board of Education on May 17, 1954.

Kozol has recently published a new book that gives a current account of the public school system, and the picture is not pretty. The Shame of the Nation, with a subtitle that speaks volumes: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

To get more of a taste of Kozol before you go and check this book out of the library you can read an article pulled from the first chapter of the book.

What If We All Did Small Things?

As we talked about a couple days ago, there is definitely a difference between “small things” and “big things” in the lifestyle choices that we make. Yesterday, we talked about, on a practical level, what the day in and day out lifestyle of an ethical person might look like. Today, it’s time to contemplate and consider if all those “small things” really do make a difference. We’ll talk about reducing energy, buying sweatshop-free clothing and fair trade coffee.

What if we all reduced our energy consumption (like turning down our heat)? Instead of using 80% of the world’s resources we take only our fair share? Maybe global warming is true and we save ourselves from utter destruction. Maybe it’s not true and we simply take a step down from our high pedestal and join the rest of the world.

What if we all bought sweatshop-free clothing?
If everyone made a small decision to change the brand of clothing they bought from Hanes to say, Alternative Apparel, it would have a huge impact. Yes, it is true that many pocketbooks would be a a bit thinner, but not that much. Almost overnight millions of once sub-living wage, oppressive jobs and corporations would be lost and other just and fair jobs would fill their places. Communities in the third world would begin to thrive off of fair wages rather then suffer under practical slave wages.

What if we all purchased Fair Trade Coffee?
The impact would be similar to that of the clothing industry, lighter pockets in the USA, thriving communities in the rest of the world. And everyone lives happily ever after.

Ethical Living: Trendy Guy vs. Hippie Gal

trendy guyA Day in the Life of Trendy Guy

  • B-fast: Double Mocha from Starbucks
  • Transportation: Ford Excursion
  • Day Job: Corporate Elite for Walmart
  • Home: High rise Condo in recently gentrified neighborhood.
  • Dinner: Fancy Steakhouse
  • Nightlife: Regularly volunteers at a soup kitchen.
  • Summer: Missions trip in the 3rd world.

hippie galA Day in the life of Hippie Gal

  • B-fast: Free-range eggs from local CSA
  • Transportation: Bike and Public Transit
  • Day Job: Barista for local fair trade coffee shop
  • Home: Commune in the city.
  • Dinner: Potluck with Community Garden.
  • Nightlife: Late night concerts, anti-corporate protest, and other leisure activities.
  • Summer: Road Trips, Music Festivals, and wild parties.

What I would suggest is, a healthy combination of the two. Basically, I would suggest that everything from Breakfast to Summers be made from a thoughtful and ethical standpoint. Below is a brief combination that I think might be ethical (certainly subject to further discussion).

A Day in the life of a World Changer

  • Breakfast: Dumpstered and purchased from a local CSA.
  • Transportation: Biking, Public Transit, Carpooling, and driving less.
  • Day Job: A job that does not contradict your ethics and values.
  • Home: Modest living, shared if possible.
  • Dinner: Community Garden shared with friends and neighbors.
  • Nightlife: Community movie nights, craft nights, scrabble, soup kitchen, playing with the neighborhood kids.
  • Summer: Ethical summer ventures.

Now, it’s time for discussion. Does your life line up with Trendy Guy, Hippie Gal or World Changer? If so were and if not, what areas do you need to change? Or, what areas do you think I’m way off base on. Let the discussion begin.

Small Things Do Not Replace Big Things

This is my response to the comment below that was made on my blog a while back:

My point is that people of faith who ache for a lost, dying, and hungry world ought to spend less time worrying about what soda or coffee to drink, or whether to put on a (“fair trade” wool) sweater or turn up the heat, and saying things like “heres to you” to pizza donating murderers, and more time doing things with a little more substance to help alleviate or solve the problems they lament.

Dear Friend,

If people of Faith, and readers and author of this blog, were spending ALL of their time worrying about what to buy, regulating temperatures and toasting murderers, I too would have a problem with that. From what I can tell you see the above steps and actions to be “little things.” They are things that you see as not having any major significance in the world, effecting no major changes, impacting only a small portion of this “lost, dying and hungry world.” I think to some degree you are right. I am willing to admit my choices not to drink coffee and avoid certain brands of other products are “little things” in the overall impact they have on the world. I won’t disagree with you there. I will say, though, that I think these little things are hugely important and have a much bigger impact then you realize, but that’s a conversation for another time. Today I simply want to clarify that I am in no way suggesting that these “little things” take the place of what you consider “doing things with a little more substance to help” (I’ll consider these ‘big things’).

Little Things should take the place of Little Things
When I write a post about what soda to drink or what coffee brand to avoid, I am not suggesting that we take this up as our life cause, schmoozing in coffee shops and talking to corporate elites about avoiding certain products, while the needy remain hungry and poor. What I’m suggesting is that you replace the ‘little thing’ of your choice of soda (usually based on some brand preference and price) with a new ‘little thing’ of a choice of beverage based on a certain ethical or moral value. When I write about turning down the heat in your apartment, I’m not suggesting campaigning for the removal of all heating units in the USA or even quitting your job to have time to chop firewood. I was simply writing about my “little” experiment with turning down my heat, and considering a “little” lifestyle change as it relates to heat and energy consumption. These are little things, and they generally will remain so (I’ll talk about why they are extremely important in another post).

Big Things should take the place of Big Things
Here’s where I think the clarity needs to be made. Turning down your heat, buying one brand of soda or clothing rather then another, takes very, very little time on a day-to-day basis. Turning your heat down two degrees does not then exempt you from serving soup at the shelter for those that don’t have heat. Buying fair trade coffee does not then exempt you from providing drink for the thirsty in your neighborhood. I’ve never suggested, nor intended to suggest, that you can earn your indulgences with a few strategic ethical purchases. Here, though, is were it gets tricky, because the reverse is also true.
Helping out at a soup kitchen does not free you to oppress, or comply with oppressing, people in your city. Sponsoring a child does not allow for guilt-free purchasing of sweatshop clothing that forces communities into needing sponsors. Planting a tree for a community service project does not give you free reign to use as much energy as you want.

Hopefully this clarified things a bit.

Make way for the Nuns

Nuns in Cars

I was walking to a training for work a while ago. As I was walking a car pulled down a driveway I was crossing and in it sat two Sisters dressed in traditional garb. Immediately, almost instinctively, I had this moment of reverence. I think I almost put my hand to my heart or up to salute, I’m not really sure, all I know is I felt this need to show some sort of respect or honor, as if a King was passing.
A couple days later Mindy and I were driving on the highway and passed another vehicle with four Sisters in it. Again, I felt this sense of reverence and need to show honor. Mindy and I talked about it for a little bit and she helped me decipher a little why we feel so much respect and admiration for nuns.

The commitment to their faith, is almost unrivaled in our culture. Even on my most devote day of religious commitment I seem half-hearted compared to the lifelong commitment these honorable women have put forth. Were does that commitment come from? Why are there so few examples of it in our culture? I really do feel a level of reverence for nuns and monks. I think it should be mandatory to salute them when they come by, or something of that nature.

Maybe I can glean some wisdom from some nuns who blog,
A Nun’s Life and Crossing,

3 Reasons that My Baby Won’t Be Wearing babyGap

It’s a difficult balance, receiving the love and kindness friends and family show you through baby showers and gifts, and expressing to them and yourself your values and convictions, and doing your best to keep those values intact.  It’s tough, but we are making an honest effort at it, and as cute as those babyGap outfits might look, here’s three reasons why my child won’t be wearing their clothes.

  1. It’s way too expensive.  Did you know a cute little dress and matching hat cost $50 at babyGap?! First of all, baby’s grow a ton in the first year so the $50 dress is going to last about a month at best. Second, there are a lot better uses for $50 then on one outfit for your child. I’d rather buy 20 outfits at the Goodwill and use the rest of the money to provide another girl in the world the opportunity to get an education.
  2. Gap continues to abuse Human Rights. Yes, they’ve done a great job marketing their benevolence with the (RED) campaign (Instead, Buy Less Crap, pg-13 link), but they continue to be implicated in sweatshop labor and human rights abuse. I will applaud steps Gap takes to clean up their act, but until I’m confident other children aren’t slaving away making my children’s clothes, they won’t be wearing Gap.
  3. Gap does not own me or my children. When I used to be into brand name clothing and I’d wear a shirt with a swoosh or other logo on it my dad would ask, “Are they paying you to wear that around?” I thought it was a stupid question at the time, now I see the light. The level of intense consumerism in this country is disgusting. My kids going to be cute, I guarantee it, and she doesn’t need a name brand outfit to look it. I’m shocked by how many little ones I’ve seen recently waddling around wearing designer clothing and dressed to walk a runway, rather then play in mud and stink up their diapers. I’m scared about what we are doing to the next generation of children. The corporate gods do not own me or my children, and we refuse to lay our credit cards and cash at their alter.

Love is Patient

If nobody else noticed, this is the third Sunday in a row that I’ll be posting about baby, with no baby in sight. It’s been a good full two weeks since I had full expected the baby to arrive. I don’t know why we were so set on this idea that the baby would come a few days early (maybe cause all the women on her side were early…). Anyways, like many other first babies, ours is still hanging out and getting a few more days of peace before entering this crazy world.

If anything I’ve learned, or have tried in vain to learn, patience. Recently, though she isn’t even 0 days old yet, I’ve felt like scolding her. How do you explain to your in utero baby that she’s really hurting her mommy’s feeling by not coming out when she was expected (she’s hurting her back, ankles, and hips too, but will stick with the emotions). I guess that’s where this idea that patience is really all you’ve got to go on, or develop, or learn to desire. I can’t scold my baby, she doesn’t know any better, and it’s not like she’s really in charge of this whole labor and birth thing anyways. So, what do I do? I love her. I patiently wait for her.

Here’s the crazy thing though. This little love is patient lesson is going to disappear pretty quick, if I’m not careful. Cause pretty soon she’ll be two and I’ll be waiting for her to put her shoes on (which she’ll insist on doing herself) to go to the park, and patience will go right out the window, along with love, if I’m not careful. If’ I’m careful though, I’ll remember I don’t need to be in a big rush anyways. If we are going to the park, the swings will wait. If we are going to Grandma’s the food can be warmed up, and if we were heading to a board meeting, we’ll it’s about time we start loving our kids more then the corporate execs.

Love is patient. It’s easy to be patient with a baby who you don’t put any responsibility on and who isn’t capable or in control of her actions. It’s going to be hard when I can blame her, argue that she’s capable of respecting other people’s time, and insist that it’s her choice and her actions. Don’t throw love out the window then.

So, without baby around it’s time to actually start putting this into practice. I, and you, need to be practicing patient love with the people in our lives. Regardless of how independent and capable the adults around you are, they need to be loved. Be patient with them, gentle, kind. Remember that they too, were once a cute little baby (some of which were one and two weeks late entering the world) and they could use a little loving patience now, as much as they did then.