New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Approaching Spiritual Life

September 25, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

Tackling Mounting Social Problems with Individual Judgment

by Michael N. Nagler

In 1925, Gandhi unveiled what he called the “Seven Social Sins” in his newspaper, Young India: (1) Politics without principles; (2) Wealth without work; (3) Pleasure without conscience; (4) Knowledge without character; (5) Commerce without morality; (6) Science without humanity; (7) Worship without sacrifice.

Today I think we need to add an eighth: “Entertainment without common sense.”  The idea that we can “entertain” ourselves by appealing to the worst we’re capable of is one of the most destructive notions in our rudderless world.  Reams of scientific research have shown that exposure to violent images that paint a demoralizing picture of human nature make us sick and unhappy, and eventually a menace to those around us. (more…)

Roots to Fruits

September 24, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Matt Meyer, Politics

Gandhi, Luthuli, and Contemporary South African Nonviolence

by Matt Meyer

An historic gathering of South African activists, U.S.-based civil rights veterans, Indians involved in various constructive programs, and assorted other internationalists convened in Durban last August for a conference on Roots to Fruits: Nonviolence in Action. Sponsored by the Gandhi Development Trust and Satyagraha newspaper, and organized by Ela Gandhi — a lifelong African National Congress (ANC) leader, former Parliamentarian, and grand-daughter of Mohandas K. Gandhi — the three-day event brought together over one hundred educators, students, community leaders, politicians, and religious figures to discuss the future of nonviolence on a global scale. With a wide diversity of viewpoints on the meaning and contemporary significance of nonviolence — from a tactic for militant resistance to a philosophy which sometimes helps adherents tacitly adjust to the status quo — the best part of the gathering was the networking possibilities amongst a strong and energetic grouping of participants.

One poignant moment which spotlighted the occasionally divergent viewpoints began with a talk from Kirti Menon, Registrar of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Speaking as an administrator about the difficulties of balancing individual rights with the need to maintain a calm space for building higher education, Menon — a great-granddaughter of the Mahatma — noted that often “the room for negotiating is so tight that it is like walking through a tunnel.” (more…)

New Revolutionary Nonviolence

September 06, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Matt Meyer, Politics

Dealing with Errors and Breaking with Empires

by Matt Meyer

In my recent piece Building Bridges between Principles and Practice, I noted that there were “concrete, historical incidents in which principled pacifists stuck to their ideals about not engaging in individual acts of violence, but were blinded to the larger issues of institutional violence being perpetrated against those socially considered ‘others.’” These incidents, I wrote, are seemingly more than simple coincidences:

“They suggest fault lines, especially along race and class, where one set of principles contradicted or trumped another. Sometimes without self-awareness, time and again, pacifist attempts to create a nonviolent culture (especially a single, white-washed or homogenized culture) led to acts which served to solidify institutional violence. Similarly, through ignorance or distance from those oppressed peoples struggling for justice ‘by any means necessary,’ even when they were often predominantly using nonviolent tactics, ‘First World’ pacifists missed — and still miss — the vital lessons offered by people who could easily be our closest colleagues.” (more…)

Collective Rites of Passage

May 31, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Guest Author, Politics

Revolution of Values, or Values for the Revolution?

by Robert Riversong

It has been said that God (good old divinity) is always whispering in our ears. If we do not hear the voice, it becomes a shout. And if we ignore the shout, we get hit over the head. There is so much din in our ever-accelerating culture that the quiet voice has been all but drowned out. For Job, it required the “voice of the whirlwind” (not the commonly mistranslated “voice in the whirlwind”) to wake him. For many of us, it has required the thundering collapse of the World Trade towers, the angry shout of Katrina, the jack-boot stomp of expanding empire and diminishing liberties or the perfect storm of peak oil, climate change, species extinction and ecological devastation to awaken us from our hypnotic trance, our sleep-walking to the edge of the cliff.

But what we seem to agree upon — those of us seeking a way out of the madness — is that the “old story” no longer supports our deepest needs nor any hope for a sustainable world, that we are in a state of Koyaanisquatsi, the Hopi word for “life out of balance.” “Yes, we did produce a near perfect Republic,” said Thomas Jefferson. “But will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction.” (more…)

A Brighter Alternative

January 16, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Michael N. Nagler

Do We Live in a Meaningless Universe?

by Michael N. Nagler

“Ours is not an empty, disorderly world, but an exquisitely structured web whose design embraces and affects all living things.” — Sally Goerner

Western civilization could be considered a grand experiment, culminating in the three-plus centuries of the industrial revolution, to see if the universe could be accounted for without resorting to the concept of a Supreme Being or an overall purpose.  The experiment was a huge success.  It proved without a doubt that the universe can not be accounted for without introducing the concept of purpose; life could not have come about by chance — as Ervin Lazlo puts it, “pure chance … does not appear to be a significant factor in the evolution of life;” the human being cannot be described as a separate, finite, physical fragment doomed to compete for diminishing resources, but a (potentially) conscious actor in the fulfillment of the design that biologist Sally Goerner alludes to above. (more…)

Neither Victims nor Executioners

October 03, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Current Events, Michael N. Nagler

Building a Movement Through Constructive Programs

by Michael N. Nagler

The execution last week of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia on the International Day of Peace was a painful blow to all sensitive people — really to all humanity, not to mention our prestige as a nation. Whatever may have been the “correctness” of the legal procedures leading up to it, it must seem to many no better than a legalized lynching.

Scholar René Girard, with his keen insights into the all-too-prevalent dynamic of scapegoating, ancient and modern (the latter more disguised but no less deadly), often cited lynching as a thinly disguised institutional form of that deadly reflex held over from (even) more barbaric times. By the sheer irrationality of its logic, the death penalty in the United States (and wherever else it is held over) must qualify as ritual. Homicides slightly increase in states where the penalty is reintroduced, and killing in order to show that killing is wrong does not deserve the name of logic. (more…)

Passivity or Violence

September 09, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

Is That the Only Choice?

by Michael N. Nagler

Between Libya, which has endured more than 2,000 NATO bombings, and Syria, where more than 2,000 civilians have been killed by their own government so far, we see the two traditional responses to a perceived need for intervention by the international community in regimes gone wrong. It’s a grim picture — invaded Libya and abandoned Syria — and a sad comment on the paucity of human imagination, at least when that imagination is squeezed into the narrow confines of “realism.”

Fortunately this Hobson’s choice, and the comment it delivers on the creativity of our concern, is not, in fact, all humanity can come up with. (more…)

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