recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : confrontation   8

not a contrarian | sara hendren
"From this series of questions to Zadie Smith [https://losarciniegas.blogspot.com/2018/01/zadie-smith-i-have-very-messy-and.html ] comes Teju Cole’s question:

Cole: You must be under some pressure to be agreeable, to agree with the right opinions. But I notice that you think through things, rather than just agreeing to them. How do you defend that space of independent thought?

Smith: I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can."
zadiesmith  tejucole  sarahendren  2018  confrontation  opinions  pressure  contrarians  contrarianism  thinking  dogma  laziness  catchphrases  groupthink  logic  pathos  logos  adhominenattacks  pomposity  ideology  essntialism  technocrats  preachers  preaching  fanaticism  cheerleading  bullying  writing  howwewrote  howwwethink 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Don't Just Sit There, Do Something | Tricycle
“Ever since Western converts began adopting Buddhist traditions, their community has sought a balance between the quest for personal peace and tranquility and the sense of social engagement that has sometimes expressed itself, most recently on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with the well-worn activists’ phrase No justice, no peace.

That seemingly irreconcilable conflict made itself felt when several generations of Buddhists came together for the 2014 National Gathering of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (or “BPF”). That noteworthy group, now 36 years old, congregated during Labor Day weekend at the East Bay Meditation Center, housed in a low-slung, two-story building in Oakland, California’s economically revitalized heart. At the gathering, the fellowship’s newest, post-Occupy incarnation seemed to carry a message for its more solitary, meditation-oriented elders: Don’t just sit there, do something.

The relatively small size of the event, as well as its modest setting, stood in sharp contrast to that of well-attended, corporate-funded mindfulness conferences such as Wisdom 2.0. In a private conversation the first evening of the gathering, I told Thai Buddhist activist Sulak Sivaraksa (addressed “Ajahn [teacher] Sulak”) of my own written criticism of that conference, and of the “engaged Buddhist” teachers who privately thanked me for “saying what needed to be said” but refused to support that position publicly.

“If they can’t say publicly what they feel privately,” said Ajahn Sulak, “we call that ‘being a hypocrite.’ I’ve experienced that myself, many times. Teachers or abbots tell me ‘I agree with you, but I can’t say so publicly.’ That means they have economic interests that prevent them from speaking up. Even Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a friend and whom I consider a teacher, is reluctant to speak as freely as he did before he ran such a large institution.” A good spiritual friend (kalyana mitta), Ajahn Sulak continued, speaks the truth: “That’s why I admire the American Quakers. They tell the truth, no matter what the consequences.”

Western Buddhists have at times been reluctant to speak truth to power. Some Buddhist organizations and entrepreneurs have, instead, unabashedly cozied up to it, hoping some prestige would rub off on them. That practice was perhaps best exemplified by an admiring (some might say “fawning”) interview of Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s “Darling Tyrant,” at the 2014 Wisdom 2.0 conference. Kagame's practice of mindfulness was apparently so inspiring that it allowed his audience to ignore his administration’s involvement in, according to the Spanish government, “crimes of genocide, human rights abuses, and terrorism,” as well as his government’s suspected involvement in the murders of Rwandan dissidents and threats to the journalists who reported them.

Corporate-sponsored “mindfulness” seems to be a growth industry. The Quaker “Religious Society of Friends,” in contrast and as a result of its practices, has “never become large . . . or powerful,” Ajahn Sulak told me. “But they tell the truth. All Buddhists should learn from the Quakers.”

The following morning’s meditation was followed by a plenary session on the “Future of Engaged Buddhism,” with perspectives from “five veteran BPFers”: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Susan Moon, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Martha Boesing, and Donald Rothberg. For the morning breakout session I chose Rothberg’s workshop on “Keeping Cool in the Fire: Becoming More Skillful with Inner and Outer Conflicts.” Drawing extensively on the work of Norwegian conflict resolution expert Johan Galtung, Rothberg may have been unaware how quickly he was to be drawn into a conflict of his own.

The primary goal of Rothberg’s presentation, which included graphic representations and other practical tools, was to offer guidance on how to bring two sides of a conflict into agreement—preferably in a “win/win” scenario. The presentation was engaging and extremely useful. But it quickly drew objections from some of the young activists in the crowd, for reasons I could easily understand.

“This doesn’t apply when there’s a severe imbalance of power between two forces,” said one. My heart was with them—especially since, as Rothberg himself had said, Western dharma practitioners “tend to be conflict-avoidant.”

The conference’s keynote speakers, Ajahn Sulak and American Buddhist writer Joanna Macy, had touched on the same point during their opening addresses the night before. “Western Buddhists . . . are very suspicious of attachment,” said Macy. “They feel they need to be detached . . . so don’t get upset about racism, or injustice, or the poison in the rivers, because that . . . means you’re too attached.”

This causes some difficulty for me,” she continued, “because I’m attached.”

She added: “I think one of the problems with Westernized Buddhists is premature equanimity. When the Buddha said ‘don’t be attached,’ he meant don’t be attached to the ego.”

During our private interview, Ajahn Sulak emphasized many of the same points. “Anger arises,” he said. “That’s okay. But you must learn to translate that anger into change.”

“Some people want to be ‘goody-goody Buddhists,’” Ajahn Sulak continued, “saying nice things all the time and never challenging power. We believe in nonviolence, but that means we cannot ignore the long-term harm caused by structural violence.”

Or, as BPF’s literature says: “The system stinks.”

While the urge to avoid confrontation is strong in some sections of the Western Buddhist community, many of the leaders it reveres have been unafraid to speak bluntly. They’ve even been unafraid to use terms that border on the politically forbidden. The Dalai Lama, for example, has said he is “not only a socialist but also a bit leftist, a communist. In terms of social economy theory, I am a Marxist. I think I am farther to the left than the Chinese leaders. They are capitalists.”

Ajahn Sulak’s teacher, Buddhadasa, said, “If we hold fast to Buddhism we shall have a socialist disposition in our flesh and blood … [an] ideal of pure socialism which must be acted out, not just talked about for political purposes or for selfish, devious gain.” Ajahn Sulak told a group of Japanese Buddhists that “unless we stand united against consumerism and capitalism, we will not be able to create Dhammic Socialism.”

The Peace Fellowship’s Gathering ended with a refuge ceremony. Experienced dharma practitioners will understand that, by this action, everyone who participated became a Buddhist (or renewed their Buddhist vows). It could also be said that the people in attendance took refuge collectively, as a sangha, as a beloved community.

But there was more to come. A smaller group gathered that evening at a park in downtown Oakland. Their purpose was to demonstrate against the Urban Shield conference, which was about to take place. Urban Shield is, in effect, a trade conference for our cities’ increasingly militarized police forces—and for the vendors who profit off their purchase of heavy weaponry, drones, and other tools for the imposition of violence and the removal of personal privacy and autonomy. It was a good choice for protest, sitting as it does at the intersection of violence and capitalism.

A group of demonstrators planned to block the entrance to the Marriott Hotel, where many attendees were staying, while the rest were there to show their support. The Buddhists gathered before the watchful and slightly skeptical eyes of the park’s denizens: urban families, skateboard-wielding teens, and a homeless person or two. Protesters raised their signs: “Make Peace, Disarm Police”; “Marriott, Evict Urban Shield”; “Urban Shield = Urban Warfare.”

After a few minutes of planning and debate the group—a mix of laypeople and monastics—began its several-block-long walk to the Marriott. Accompanied by the monks’ drumming and chanting, the group passed curious pedestrians and drivers honking horns in passing automobiles, the Wells Fargo Bank glittering in the sun’s final late-evening rays. A giant flag waved atop the Oakland Tribune building, but no reporters emerged to cover the demonstration.

Once at the hotel, a dozen protesters unfurled a sign that read “Evict Urban Shield.” Then they blocked the front entrance and sat in lotus position as supporters cheered them on from the sidewalk.

I found myself moved by these young faces, some of which I now knew by name, as they sat before the hotel doors, their faces serene and their meditation posture largely impeccable. That’s Katie, in the white t-shirt. She’s one of the organizers. And that’s Dawn, her colleague. I think I saw that man, the one next to Dawn, in one of the breakout sessions…

I found myself kneeling before them, ostensibly to take their pictures.

They chose not to get arrested that evening, and the demonstration began breaking up as night fell. I walked away through the now-darkened streets of downtown Oakland. I felt a sense of parting, of separation from a community, as I walked back to my car. Outside the Oakland City Center office complex I passed a bicycle, still locked to a pole but stripped of its wheels and gears.

Driving home, I found myself lost in some back streets, passed bars filled with partiers (that’s right, it was a holiday weekend), and made my way back to a borrowed apartment. Once there I thumbed through the pictures I had taken on my phone.

Don’t just sit there, do something. At the close of this gathering, these demonstrators had resolved that generations-old conflict. There, outside the Marriott Hotel, they had done both."
2014  buddhism  richareskow  religion  individualism  socialjustice  activism  mindfulness  sulaksivaraska  thichnhathanh  quakers  truth  truthtopower  corporatism  equanimity  confrontation  socialism  marxism  politics  urbanshield  detachment  attachment 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The NGO-ization of resistance | Massalijn
"A hazard facing mass movements is the NGO-ization of resistance. It will be easy to twist what I’m about to say into an indictment of all NGOs. That would be a falsehood. In the murky waters of fake NGOs set up or to siphon off grant money or as tax dodges (in states like Bihar, they are given as dowry), of course, there are NGOs doing valuable work. But it’s important to consider the NGO phenomenon in a broader political context.

In India, for instance, the funded NGO boom began in the late 1980s and 1990s. It coincided with the opening of India’s markets to neoliberalism. At the time, the Indian state, in keeping with the requirements of structural adjustment, was withdrawing funding from rural development, agriculture, energy, transport and public health. As the state abdicated its traditional role, NGOs moved in to work in these very areas. The difference, of course, is that the funds available to them are a minuscule fraction of the actual cut in public spending.

Most large-funded NGOs are financed and patronized by aid and development agencies, which are, in turn, funded by Western governments, the World Bank, the UN and some multinational corporations. Though they may not be the very same agencies, they are certainly part of the same loose, political formation that oversees the neoliberal project and demands the slash in government spending in the first place.

Why should these agencies fund NGOs? Could it be just old-fashioned missionary zeal? Guilt? It’s a little more than that. NGOs give the impression that they are filling the vacuum created by a retreating state. And they are, but in a materially inconsequential way. Their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. They alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt the edges of political resistance. NGOs form a sort of buffer between the sarkar and public. Between Empire and its subjects. They have become the arbitrators, the interpreters, the facilitators.

In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the phenomenon of the U.S. preparing to invade a country and simultaneously readying NGOs to go in and clean up the devastation. In order make sure their funding is not jeopardized and that the governments of the countries they work in will allow them to function, NGOs have to present their work in a shallow framework, more or less shorn of a political or historical context. At any rate, an inconvenient historical or political context.

Apolitical (and therefore, actually, extremely political) distress reports from poor countries and war zones eventually make the (dark) people of those (dark) countries seem like pathological victims. Another malnourished Indian, another starving Ethiopian, another Afghan refugee camp, another maimed Sudanese…in need of the white man’s help. They unwittingly reinforce racist stereotypes and reaffirm the achievements, the comforts and the compassion (the tough love) of Western civilization. They’re the secular missionaries of the modern world.

Eventually–on a smaller scale, but more insidiously–the capital available to NGOs plays the same role in alternative politics as the speculative capital that flows in and out of the economies of poor countries. It begins to dictate the agenda. It turns confrontation into negotiation. It depoliticizes resistance. It interferes with local peoples’ movements that have traditionally been self-reliant. NGOs have funds that can employ local people who might otherwise be activists in resistance movements, but now can feel they are doing some immediate, creative good (and earning a living while they’re at it).

Real political resistance offers no such short cuts. The NGO-ization of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary."
arundhatiroy  via:dymaxion  2014  charitableindustrialcomplex  governance  ngos  resistance  politics  policy  consequences  speculation  capital  economics  power  control  confrontation  negotiation  salvationpolitics  racism  stereotypes  missionaries  funding  neoliberalism  depoliticization  appeasement  charity  philanthropy  markets  bloodmoney  development  colonization  colonialism  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Revolutionary Plots | Rebecca Solnit | Orion Magazine
"But you can’t have a revolution where everyone just abandons the existing system—it’ll just be left to the opportunists and the uncritical. Tending your own garden does not, for example, confront the problem of Monsanto. … Planting heirloom seeds is great, but someone has to try to stop Monsanto, and that involves political organizing, sticking your neck out, and confrontation. It involves leaving your garden."

"The fact that gardens have become the revolution of the young is good news and bad news. Baby boomers of the sixties revolutionary variety had their hectoring bombastic arrogant self-righteous flaws, but they were fearless about engagement. The young I often meet today have so distanced themselves from the flaws of the baby boomers that they’ve gone too far in the opposite direction of mildness, modesty, disengagement, and nonconfrontation. … The garden suits them perfectly because it is a realm of quiet idealism—but that too readily slides over into disengagement…"
corporations  policalorganizing  gardening  idealism  confrontation  activism  politics  agriculture  sustainability  urbanism  farming  monsanto  2012  via:ayjay  rebeccasolnit 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Phone hacking: British politics has been corrupted by a cosy camaraderie - Telegraph
"Like so many spheres of life in this country…art world…academia & higher reaches of legal profession…it is almost impossible to survive in political journalism as outsider…not to say…that you actually have to have been to school or university w/ people you are trying to engage–can help–but that you must adopt manners which prevail in any club: coded vocabulary, discreet understandings, accepted attitudes…It is this familiarity, intimacy, set of shared assumptions…which is real corruptor of political life. The self-limiting spectrum of what can(not) be said, often patronising preconceptions about what ordinary public will (not) understand & self-reinforcing cowardice which takes for granted that certain vested interests are too powerful to be worth confronting. All of these…constant dangers in political life of democracy…What should worry us are not new, restrictive laws (can be fought out in open) but the old consensual complacency…so familiar that it is almost invisible."
uk  politics  2011  via:preoccupations  consensus  behavior  corruption  statusquo  power  control  democracy  davidcameron  journalism  complacency  janetdaley  press  media  rupertmurdoch  deschooling  unschooling  decolonization  society  cowardice  confrontation  law 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Tracking down my online haters - CNN.com
"Bryant says, “I reply all the time by saying, ‘Thank you for writing, I appreciate your opinion though I don’t know why you needed to insult me.’ The general response is ‘Gee, I didn’t think anyone was paying attention.’ And they want to be pals with you. It’s the kick-the-dog syndrome. People believe no one’s listening; they think we’re not people, they think there are these giant monoliths controlling thought. Then when they realize someone is listening, they rediscover their manners.”
journalism  internet  twitter  privacy  community  anonymity  jeffpearlman  via:coldbrain  manners  etiquette  netiquette  listening  confrontation  behavior  classideas  kick-the-dogsyndrome 
march 2011 by robertogreco
How many people have you upset today? - Walk in the park, look at the sky.
"The world is full of very average things made by people who don't want to upset anyone, or too eager to please their peers. I believe you have to have an opinion - choose daddy or chips, I really don't mind, just don't say "I don't really know". And when you have opinions and strongly held beliefs you've got to be prepared to get some flack - in fact that's part of the deal.You can't have the nice feedback without accepting that some people are going to hate what you do.

So when I see feedback like this, when something we're doing prompts people to get hot under the collar and take the time to write to us, I simply sit back, smile and think to myself "good, it's working"."
brendandawes  meaning  mediocrity  confrontation  opinions  controversy  risk  risktaking  tcsnmy  glvo  creativity  feedback 
september 2010 by robertogreco
The Long Road to Revolution | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters
"Revolution on a worldwide scale will unfold at a very slow pace...beginning to happen...we need to...stop thinking of revolution as...great cataclysmic break...revolutionary action is...any collective action that rejects, & therefore confronts, some form of power or domination...[and thus] reconstitutes social relations...[need not] be so grandiose that it aims only to topple governments...If we accept this definition, then...quiet revolutions have been occurring all over world...important that we begin seriously thinking about how to reconsider the relation of social theory & revolutionary projects now that so many 21st-century revolutionaries are increasingly rejecting idea of seizing state power. Instead they are drawing on ethical & organizational legacy of anarchist tradition. If intellectuals do not constitute a vanguard then what...is their role?...Radical social change will only emerge through the endless interplay of confrontations, withdrawals, foundations & subverisons."
revolution  industrialrevolution  culture  change  gamechanging  society  subversion  confrontation  anarchism 
july 2009 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read