Hold It All

Category: Dissidents

After Sanders Makes His Endorsement, I Turn to Some Great Reminderers

Those who live by compassion are often canonized.  Those who live by justice are often crucified.  –John Dominic Crossan, Scripture Scholar, USA

Don’t mourn. Organize. –Mother Jones, labor activist, USA

The madness of violence must be recognized, its causes removed, and its implements destroyed. But how can it be done? It can be done by one means only: the manifestation of a better spirit. It is a change of character and conduct through a change of ideas, reason, and good will – these are the only agencies in a civilized age for effecting such changes. – Mohandas Gandhi, lawyer, India

The blood is so much, you know, it runs in rivers. It dries up too; it cakes all over me; sometimes I feel that there is not enough soap in the whole world to cleanse me from the things that I did do in your name. –Davison Budhoo, from his resignation letter to the International Monetary Fund

Responsibility for the poor, exterior to the system, exposes the just person to retaliation by the system, which feels under attack because of its dysfunctionality, openness, and exposure.  For this reason, with inexorable logic the totality persecutes those who in their responsibility for the oppressed testify to the necessity for a new order.  Responsibility is obsession for the other; it is linkage with the other’s exteriority; it entails exposing oneself to traumatization, prison, even death. –Enrique Dussel, philosopher, Argentina & Mexico Read the rest of this entry »

Hope’s Beautiful Daughters: A Spring & Summer Class

 

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
— Saint Augustine

Why repeat the facts—they cover up our feelings. The development of these feelings, the spilling of these feelings past the  facts, is what fascinates me. I try to find them, collect them, protect them.
—Svetlana Alexievich

The truth is that I simply did not understand why anyone would want to violate the rights of others or to ruin the environment. Why would someone destroy the only forest left in the city and give it to friends and political supporters to build expensive houses and golf courses?
—Wangari Maathai

Our strategy should be not only to confront Empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer recklessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
—Arundhati Roy

Writing is essential to my life, like breathing. I can live without a husband but I cannot live without writing. By writing I become one with the world and with myself.
—Nawal El Saadawi

In this class we will get (re)acquainted with some of the world’s great writers, activists, dissidents, Nobel Laureates, investigators, critics, chroniclers, and healers of our time. We will meet twice a month on Wednesdays via Zoom over six months, reading and reflecting on one book each month. Among the themes we will explore are reverence for life, compassion/accompaniment, questioning authority, dangerous memory, structural violence, and deep listening.

Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Anarchists

Howard Zinn, Emma: A Play in Two Acts About Emma Goldman, American Anarchist

Those photos of Dorothy Day—
Like the one you saw in the office at the Catholic Woker
Where you were first scouted as a model
By Antoinette six years ago now—
Dotties’s scowling, old, weathered, as if she’s saying,
“Don’t have too much fun
Don’t you know people are being crucified even now
“By this filthy rotten system
While you are playing hackey sack?” Read the rest of this entry »

Women in Black by Hedy Epstein

Every second Tuesday of the month, we hold a vigil of Women in Black in University City.  Usually, these are uneventful. People may support us, some take our flyers and say thank you, others refuse to take them, cars may honk once in a while.  Not much else happens. Cars may honk once in a while.

One time, I was handing out fliers, and a man behind me started talking to me.  He asked me, “Do you know how to solve this problem?” 

I said, “Well, if I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be standing here.”  

He then responded, “Well, I know the answer: Kill all those criminals, those vermin”—I realized he was Jewish and was talking about the Palestinians.  He went on and said, “Throw them all into the Mediterranean. Get rid of them all!” Then, he left. Read the rest of this entry »

There and Then, Here and Now

A lady: Yes, that’s just like what goes on nowadays, and it’s because anyone that is struggling for the liberation of the oppressed, he himself is a Christ, and then here’s a Herod, and what we’re seeing is the living story of the life of Jesus. And more heroes will come along, because wherever there’s someone struggling for liberation there’s someone who wants to kill him, and if they can kill him they will…. it’s perfectly clear that the business of Herod and Christ, we have it right here.

–Ernesto Cardenal, The Gospel in Solentiname

 

Ernesto Cardenal, 1925-2020

Cultivating Attention and Animating Conscience: Reading Thoreau in Desperate Times

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

“Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.”

“On reading the words of Thoreau
I vow with all beings
to cherish our home-grown sages
who discern the perennial way.”
–Robert Aitken

Being a human being means benefiting from rich cultural traditions—not just our own traditions, but many others—and becoming not just skilled, but also wise. Somebody who can think—think creatively, think independently, explore, inquire—and contribute to society. If you don’t have that, you might as well be replaced by a robot.
–Noam Chomsky

In this course we will explore Henry David Thoreau’s prophetic and spiritual writings as a resource for living, in poet Marge Piercy’s words, “consciously, conscientiously, concretely, [and] constructively” in this time of domestic disparities and global crises.

We meet on eight consecutive Wednesdays from February 26 to April 15. We are hosted by Dianne Lee and Bill Quick at their home in Richmond Heights. We gather at 6:45 and go till 8:15. Sessions will have time for paired sharing, writing exercises, discussions of Thoreau’s works, announcements of the local scene, poetry recitations, viewing of documentaries, and more. A class blog will enable us to share our various responses in between classes.

Some Essentials—
An outgoingness of heart
“Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will” [Antonio Gramsci]
A notebook, tablet, or laptop
These two books— Henry David Thoreau, The Higher Law: Thoreau on Civil Disobedience and Reform, with an introduction by Howard Zinn and Tim Flinders, ed., Henry David Thoreau: Spiritual and Prophetic Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters).

Tuition is $150, payable to me by check or Paypal.
Email me if you are interested —markjchmiel@gmail.com.

Perennially Good Advice

“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good—-be good for something.”

–Henry David Thoreau

To Serve Suffering Humanity

Shekhar Ganguly, A Satyagrahi, a Revolutionary, a Communist
People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1995

I recently read Arundhati Roy’s moving essay, “Walking with the Comrades,” detailing her solidarity with the indigenous Maoists of India back in 2010.  Shekhar Ganguly is an ideological antecedent, in some respects, to those women, men, and kids Roy met in the jungles of India.  His book is a straightforward account for the  benefit of the next generation.  Here’s a most important fact: He spent 12 years in jail for his Communist compromismo. 

Ganguly  became a satyagrahi at 13.  He noted the influence of the Ramakrishna movement and Vivekananda and revolutionary politics: “I was torn between two ideas and two desires at that moment. To search out and join the ranks of the revolutionaries, fight the British rulers and die a hero’s death like Bhagat Singh and the other heroes or to join Ramakrishna Mission and spend my life serving the suffering humanity! In those days the first was much stronger than the second.” [9]

He moved away from “Gandhism” because he was “serious”: The British only understood force:  “Hence they will have to be thrown out by force.”  [11] He had to reckon with this question: “Are you ready to sacrifice everything for the freedom of Mother India?” [11] He sealed the deal with an offering of blood to the goddess Kali and “learnt in jail that many others had been tortured much more and for longer period than me.” [25] Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Václav Havel I Think of Gideon Levy

Glucksman says the role of the intellectual is to warn, to predict horrors, to be a Cassandra who tell us  what is going on outside the walls of the city.  I share this notion….I too think the intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden and open pressure and manipulations, should be the chief doubter of systems, of power and its incantations, should be a witness to their mendacity.  For this very reason, an intellectual cannot fit into any role that might be assigned to him, nor can he ever be made to fit into any of the histories written by the victors.  An intellectual essentially doesn’t belong anywhere; he stands out as an irritant wherever he is; he does not fit into any pigeonhole completely. –Havel, Disturbing the Peace

 

 

The Goal Is Justice, the Method Is Transparency

For those who would like to know a little more about  the issues surrounding Julian Assange and Wikileaks, please take two minutes to read and ponder the following passages from Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler’s new book, In Defense of Julian Assange (OR Books, 2019).

Providing information to the citizens of this world has become a dangerous act, but it cannot be stopped, as every authoritarian regime understands. The courageous people who provide this information must be protected.  —Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler, xxvii 

I posed the question of what the most positive trajectory for the future would look like. Self-knowledge, diversity, and networks of self-determination.  A highly educated global population—I do not mean formal education, but highly educated in their understanding of how human civilization works at the political, industrial, scientific and psychological levels—as a result of the free exchange of communication, also stimulating vibrant new cultures and the maximal diversification of individual thought, increased regional self-determination, and the self-determination of interest groups that are able to network quickly and exchange value rapidly over geographic boundaries. —Julian Assange,  212

[Julian] Assange’s agenda is infinitely more noble and infinitely more reviled by the servants of power: to upset the status quo that demands war, corruption, and oppression in order to exist.—Caitlin Johnstone, 195 

As founder and editor of WikiLeaks, [Assange’s] crime has been to make sense of dark times. WikiLeaks has an impeccable record of accuracy and authenticity which no newspaper, no TV channel, no radio station, no BBC, no New York Times, no Washington Post, no Guardian can equal. Indeed, it shames them. That explains why he is being punished.—John Pilger  151 Read the rest of this entry »